Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trader Joe's Rice & Bean Chips

When talking about finances and stuff while undergoing some premarital counseling with a great couple from our church, Sandy and I realized that we wouldn't exactly be the richest kids on the block. I mean, we wouldn't exactly be just scraping by, but it was fairly apparent that we'd have to clip some coupons and look for some ways to save when we could, especially if we wanted to do some things we said we wanted to. One of the ways we figured we could save was on food costs, and it quickly became a joke between us that we'd have to eat a lot of beans and rice, or mac and cheese, and when we got sick of those we could have rice and beans or cheese and mac instead. It's a good thing we like them, we said.

Well, it's also a good thing we finally discovered the goodness of Trader Joe's. Shopping there saves us easily (at minimum) about $30 a week on average versus the big local chain even when we shopped the specials and stuff. Now, we still eat plenty of beans and rice (and for that matter, rice and beans) just because we really do like them, and we're usually looking for some ways to chomp them down in some different, tasty forms. So when we spotted these on our last go-around, we figured they'd be a likely winner and a worthy purchase.

A likely winner and a worthy purchase indeed.

Unlike a lot of actual rice and bean dishes which can be heavy and filling, these are pretty light, crispy, almost flaky chips. They're made primarily of rice flour which gives them a unique texture and taste - if you've ever had a rice crust pizza, think of that crust and a tortilla chip having a love child, and that's about what they are. TJ's mixes in some corn flour to make them a little more chip like. The package proudly claims that they're made with adzuki beans. I found a website that proclaims them as the "Mercedes of beans" ... that's kind of interesting, because the name conjures up an image to me of an semi-beat up Aerio plastered with bumper stickers, not the Benz I'll be rolling up in after the Lord buys it for me despite me not having any friends who drive Porsches. But they're good. They're the beans commonly used in red bean ice creams if you're familiar with those (I'm not), which I understand are semi-sweet and nutty. I got the sense of nuttiness from them but not really the sweetness, which is probably a good thing. Between the crispiness of the rice texture, the nuttiness of the beans, and the slightly salty spiciness of whatever they put on these guys, they made a great snack.

Which isn't to say they were perfect. One of the things I look for in a chip is how well they work with salsas and dips. These were really made to be eaten on their own. They're about one inch square so they're not conducive to any load bearing of much consequence in the salsa department. That doesn't mean I didn't try, and at least with the salsa we had on hand, the flavor of the chip kinda screwed with the salsa to make it an awkward mishmash of taste jousting on my tongue. Still, they're pretty good and flavorful as is, so no need to dress them up too much.

Sandy broke these out for a girls night she had this past weekend. With the ones I wolfed down before she booted me out down the street to help a friend drink his PBR, I'm surprised they survived until the next dawn, but was definitely glad they did. It's even more surprising given that Sandy voted them a fivespot in our Golden Spoon ranking. I'll chip in with a more modest 3.5 ... they're pretty good, but just not quite pantheon-level great. No shame in that.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

6 comments:

  1. Rice & Beans, what a great marriage. I'm a big snacker, so I am really looking forward to trying them. Not to mention Gallo Pinto will forever bring me back to my days in Costa Rica and anything that can be reminscent of that must be good!

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  2. I have yet to find rice and beans in a combination that isn't enjoyable! Had to look up what "Gallo Pinto" is, and man, looks great! There's something to be said for staple foods in classic combinations.

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  3. TJ's totally suckered me in by having these at a tasting station yesterday. As I am NOT a fan of rice & beans, it's a good way to trick me into eating that combo, because I love chips.

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  4. I just tried these yesterday and I ended up eating the entire bag. In one sitting. Probably the best chips I've ever eaten. Could. Not. Stop. However, their deliciousness is a liability since I obviously cannot keep them in the house.

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  5. It's been a while since we got these...hmmm...I think they'll be in the cart again soon. Yes, they can be addictive, even for non rice and bean fans :)

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  6. Yes, these are absolutely delicious!

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