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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Monday, October 24, 2011

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips and Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake

There's a lot of perks to being one of the world's foremost amateur-hack foodie reviewer of all things Trader Joe's. I love whenever Sandy and I walk into the local store, we're greeted by the cashiers ringing their bells to the glorious tune of "Ode to Joy" as one of the stock boys approaches us both with a lei to place around our necks and gives us a hint to where the stuffed elephant is this week. Well, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. What isn't, though, is the sheer influx of all sorts of recommendations to try this or try that. In fact, one of our best finds was pointed out to us by a friend of mine, and further confirmed by lots of Facebook comments to the general effect of "You gotta try the chocolate caramel sea salt bar! OMG!!!" I'll admit that I generally love all the recommendations we receive, even though it makes our "to try" list almost as long as the tax code but far, far tastier.

Anyways, one item that's come up over and over and over again is Trader Joe's newish Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. I get the appeal. Sandy and I were making a quick trip for some chips and hummus before heading to a friend's get-together, she saw the new bright shiny display, and immediately looked at me, eyes wide open, strained cheeks, teeth slightly bared. I can be a little slow on the uptake, but the meaning was quite clear: Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseplease pleaseprettyprettyplease we should eat these in the car plllllllease. Well, okay. You can tell our rush to try them out as Sandy quick snapped the picture on my iPhone after quickly plopping them on a windowsill inside the store. And sorry, we neglected to get the nutriotion info snapshot as enough employees were already giving us the stink-eye. We'll remedy this soon.

I'm not sure they were worth the rush, hub-bub and hype. I mean, they're good and all, don't get me wrong. They're just not as good as I hoped. First off, they have way too much chocolate and not enough chip. You know how, if you order a plate of nachos, and there's always one or two that have all the melty cheese attached to them? Think of every chip in the bag, except it's chocolate. It's good, tasty chocolate, to be sure, but it's just too much. Also, consider the chips. On the plus side, they're big, crunchy, full of ridges and definitely noticeable even in the cocoa flux. I like them, but there's two problems: First, namely, there's not enough of them. And second, well, I don't think they're salted, which I was kinda expecting. These are like the polar opposite of the Sea Salt Brownie Petites, which were way too salty. Not to go all Goldilocks on you, but these weren't salty enough (the aforementioned sea salt/caramel chocolate bar? Just right).

Sandy and I pretty much agree on these: not a bad munchie, but there's better irresistible snacks at TJ's. Sandy goes with a respectable three, I'll go with half a spoon better.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Annnnnnnnnd....here's a quickie bonus review of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake, another well-recommended item from our readers. Not that I'd recommend combining the chocolate potato chips and the cheesecake into one dessert...that's a combo even I wouldn't try...but if it's your thing, well, who am I to judge? This was another quick stop pick-up for a family dinner on a day when we didn't have a chance to make a homemade dessert. However,as you can see by the far-snazzier looking picture, Sandy had much more time to make it look all fancy on her iPhone. It's in the freezer section, and the instructions say something to the effect of thaw for an hour or two at room temperature and it'll be good to go. Well, like other TJ desserts of this ilk, the results left a little to be desired. We waited the two hours to slice it up, and there were still some frozen bits here and there, and it had the unmistakable just-frozen taste to it. That's not a huge minus to me. I quite enjoyed it, actually, as it was tart, tasty, and kinda creamy, though it could have been creamier (see: just frozen). And kinda like the pumpkin pancake mix, the cheesecake was sort of pumpkin-pie tasting, while probably erring on the side of not pumpkinny enough, which I can appreciate. The graham cracker crust was pretty good, too, and for $6.99, not a bad price for a family-sized dessert. Most of our clan liked it enough, with even an enthusiastic "five" rating from the under-six crowd, while the rest of us gave a few satisfied Mmms. Only my dad had any mildly negative flavor comments ("not pumpkin pie-like enough"), and if you knew how well he's been spoiled over the years by tasty homemade desserts, you wouldn't blame him. I'll go ahead and give it a four, I think, while Sandy sticks with a three for mostly texture-related issues (related to being just frozen, of course). I'd say it's worth getting for a easy dessert to share if you don't have the time for homemade goodies, just give it plenty of thawing time before serving.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

7 comments:

  1. i bet the cheesecake is good... try the pumpkin cream cheese! its good too.

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  2. The pumpkin cream cheese is not pumpkinny enough for me. Maybe the cheesecake is just right! LOL

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  3. I'm not so sure about chocolate covered potatoes chips...but it may be worth a try. The cheese cake on the other hand I do like.
    Susan Cooper

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  4. I tried a sample of those chocolate covered potato chips (I didn't think they sounded good to me) last time I was at Trader Joe's...and they are SO so good. I'd give them a 9 out of 10.

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  5. I was so excited to see this...years ago I discovered by accident that one of the bestest combo of foods is chocolate chip cookies(Famous Amos) and plain potato chips (Lays). Oh the sweet and saltiness of it all. Chocolate covered pretzels just don't do it as well. Thanks for the review though I will probably pass on this one

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  6. I know we're out of the season now, but when it comes around again, do try the pumpkin cream cheese with their triple ginger snaps. Dip, enjoy, repeat...

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  7. I really was not a fan of the pumpkin cheesecake. I thought it was too bland and not creamy enough. After a few slices it ended up in the garbage. I should have tried doctoring it with salted caramel sauce!!

    I'm absolutely going to try pumpkin cream cheese and ginger snaps. Great suggestion!!

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