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, November 7, 2011

Trader Joe's Organic Tortilla Longboard Chips and Organic Tomatillo & Roasted Yellow Chile Salsa

Ok, so I'll admit it. I was kinda tempted to look up some surfer lingo for reviewing the Organic Tortilla Longboard Chips to drop in and make myself sound cool or something. Thing is, Sandy and I aren't even close into fitting into the surfer crowd, and me trying to sound like I do would, like, totally sound bogus or something. Busted, man.* All it took was a couple short hours at Huntingdon Beach in California on our September vacation to confirm that, during which time due to a sunscreen spray snafu I ended up with a second degree sunburn on my back. Unrighteous, dude. But I guess that's just the price I pay for my pale ginger beauty. Sunburns at night are a real thing and those who suffer from them shouldn't be mocked.

Okay, I made that up. It's better than me trying to make up too many other surfing similes while trying to review a bag of chips and jar of salsa. Other than being shaped vaguely like surfboards, there's no relation I can make from these chips to surfing at all. I can't even say that Sandy and I channel surf while munching on these, because we decided to not have cable and any shows we watch (currently "Law & Order: SVU" and "Phineas & Ferb" ... interesting combo...) we stream from Netflix via our Wii. I thought couchsurfing might be a term, and it is, but not what I thought it was (although fortunately a work-safe link to click).

So yeah, anyways, the tortilla chips. Pretty decent, actually. They're long, flattish ovals (hence the "longboard") made from stone-ground white corn and lightly salted. There's not much to them tastewise, of course, which isn't a bad thing. They're really not too much different from a typical crunchy, salty, fried, tortilla chip aside from two things: 1. They're organic and 2. The shape. Somebody thought, apparently that these were an ideal shape for dipping, which I can see if you're going for the bottom half of a tall skinny jar of salsa or something. Dump your dip in a bowl, though, and it loses that advantage and makes it no more and no less than just a chip. They're all kinda wrinkled and crinkled a little differently, so I don't see what makes these so exceptional for dipping. Also, I'm not sure if it was directly because of its long slender shape, but there seemed to be an inordinate amount of busted-in-half tortilla chips in our bag. The Tostito Tortilla Scoops seem to be the best for salsa-bearing capacity and capability, though I like the overall taste of the TJ tortillas better and appreciate that they're organic and lower sodium per serving (as if we can stick to those, unfortunately). For a bag of chips in the $2-$2.49 range, they won't change your life or anything, but chances are you won't be too displeased.

And of course, a good tortilla chip needs a good salsa. I could make a joke about TJ's Organic Tomatillo & Roasted Yellow Chile Salsa bringing in a "tidal wave of taste" bringing in a "flavor wipeout" or something, but nah. What I will say is, darn good salsa. Let's see, first ingredient is tomatoes, which are generally red, tomatillos, which are green, and yellow chiles, which my sources tell me are, in fact, yellow. Add them all up with some onions and other stuff like garlic and cilantro, and it makes the greenish reddish brownish jar of tastiness. Everything seems fairly well pureed so it lacks any big chunks, much to Sandy's delight, and goes down easy. The tomatillos, which salsa verde is made from, adds some mild depth to the flavor while the yellow chile adds some roastedness and a kind of sweetness. It's far from being a spicy salsa, but it seems to me to be one of the most flavorful of the Trader Joe salsas, and for once not in a nasty overly vinegary kinda way. It's so good I can eat it by the spoonful, and I'm already envisioning using it in some of our soup recipes which call for a jar of salsa. We made some tortilla soup a week or so ago that I put just plain salsa verde, and that lacked a requisite snap. This salsa won't have that problem. I just went shopping again yesterday and have already made it a repeat purchase. For $2.29, it'd be hardpressed to be beat, although a little more spice would make it absolutely killer.

Sandy and I ate quite a bit of the chips and salsa few nights ago while relaxing, and this was a definite winning combination for the both of us. Neither one of us have anything too bad to say about the chips, nothing overly affirmative either except hey, they're organic, so they must be good for you or something. Or at least better, so we can feel less guilty while chowing down. I think we settled on matching 3.5s for the surf-inspired longboard chips. The salsa? Sandy's judgement: "Mmmmm it's sooooo goooooood...let's eat more tonight!!!!" That translates to a four. My call is, I really like it, quite a bit, actually, but wish it ended on a slightly less sweet/spicier note. Really, just a tidbit more spice, and we got ourselves a pantheon candidate here. As is, I'll give it a 4.5 just to taunt it a little bit.

Bottom lines:
Trader Joe's Organic Tortilla Longboard Chips: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Organic Tomatillo & Roasted Yellow Chile Salsa: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
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*See what I mean?

2 comments:

  1. I'll have to try this combo. My kids (ages 8 & 10) cannot get enough of the falafel chips with garlic hummus. Trader Joe's is the ONLY grocery store I shop at where I'm happy to say, "By all means, kids, put it in the cart." Because, honestly, how many 8 year olds do you know that BEG for falafel chips?! ;)

    Keep up the GREAT blog!

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