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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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Don't ask me why, but I don't think was even cognizant of the existence of sweet potatoes until I took up a high school job slingin' chicken thighs 'n sides at Boston Market. I'm pretty darn sure that my mom was way too busy making so many other great dinners that she never got around to making them, and while I'm sure they were probably present in some form at family Thanksgiving, I'd be too busy stuffing my face with mashed potatoes and/or my Aunt Brenda's pecan pie (easily the best in the world, and way better than any TJ knockoff) to notice. I'd have to come up for air for that. Anyways, at the Market, I saw them one day with the marshmallows and brown sugar on top, and figured, well, why not. I now know that those aren't even all that close to being an actual real sweet potato, but man, I got hooked. I think I nearly got fired from there from trying to sneak bites here and there while I thought the manager was too busy smoking in the back to watch. Since then, I've come to like practically anything sweet potato-related - fries, chips, casserole, heck, even the sweet potato/meat/onion/green pepper foil packs my dad, my brothers and I made on our Man Weekend last weekend. In fact, I've come to think with just an exception or two here or there (say, mashed potatoes and gravy), sweet potatoes are by in large superior to their regular homefriable homeboys.

Well, let's make another exception with the Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi. Let's just say this isn't TJ's finest effort. Let me explain. I haven't eaten a lion's share of tuber-based gnocchi in my day, but I've given it the ol' college try on enough occasions. Every single time, it's been firm, kinda chewy, doughy yet solid, tasty ball of goodness. Not these, and it's not even particularly close, either. Think mushballs. That's the best way I can think of describing the texture. Really, the gnocchi seem more stuffing-like than anything else. I began to have a feeling they'd be like this while cooking them up in my fry pan. Yep, fry pan. You don't boil these frozen guys, you heat them up in a lightly oiled pan, and as the gnocchi warmed up, they all began to fall apart, especially when I got the spatula involved. Texturewise, they just weren't there. Just look at the picture up above - that oughtta give you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about.

As for taste...eh...I'm kinda split on it. I enjoyed the first couple bites well enough, but before too long, they just didn't taste quite as good. The law of diminishing returns shouldn't work so quickly. I mean, they taste alright, kinda mildly sweet potato-ey, with the included butter and subtle sage sauce, but after a while, it just wasn't too terribly interesting any more, at least not to me. Sandy was a little more blunt and blurted out, unprompted, "These just don't really taste like anything." I'd disagree, but I understood what she was saying, too.

"I don't know why Trader Joe's is calling these gnocchi, because they're not really close to any gnocchi I've ever had," Sandy said. I could tell my girl meant business because with each bite her face just showed more and more displeasure, and I'm pretty sure she pushed her plate away more than once, which honestly I'd never seen her do before. That's why I was kinda surprised when Sandy said she'd give 'em a two. Not that I'm one to question her judgment (that's straight to sleeping on the couch territory there), but, uh, since I assume she's rounding up I'll go ahead and round down my score. Make a firmer, boilable version of these sweet potato gnocchi, Trader Joe, and this score could definitely rise. 'Til then, you gotta settle for 1.5 from me, buddy.

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Gnocchi: 3.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

22 comments:

  1. Thanks for saving me a few bucks. I had these in my hand a couple of weeks ago. I'm a sucker for gnocci and for sage and butter.

    Then again, I completely disagree with your Morningstar sausage patty assessment. Those TJ's ones were awful! ;)

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  2. I totally get what you're saying about these not conforming to standard gnocchi form, but heaven help me, I love them for what they are. As you say, after being cooked up in the pan, they resemble a big pile of stuffing, or some kind of sweet potato hash, and I LURV it. But contrary to the directions on the package to cook them in butter and your comment about a lightly oiled pan, these are already in so much butter, they NEED NO MORE! Just plop the frozen hunk into a pan and as the butter starts to melt it is more than sufficient to cook up this delicious mess. Mmmm...

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  3. I loved these, also... My husband brought them home for me when I was pregnant, and I devoured the whole package.

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    1. haha it's funny you say that because I'm pregnant and this is my very first time trying them. They're not that bad except when they start to cool down.

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  4. Wow, low score. I am glad it's not gluten-free.

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  5. Wow! That's so strange. When I tried these awhile back, they didn't fall apart at all like in your picture. Mine stayed together as little gnocchi. Maybe there's a regional difference? I'm sorry you had such an unpleasant experience!

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  6. I tried these last week and enjoyed them. Mine didn't fall apart, and rather kind of puffed up into fluffy pillowy morsels. Then again, I cooked them in the microwave... Maybe that could contribute to the texture difference?

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  7. I picked these up the other day for my toddler, and put them back once I looked at the nutrition facts. I cannot for the life of me figure out why a product that is supposed to be made of sweet potatoes could have so little vitamin A!

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  8. Mine also turned to mush and it was gross. Yuck.

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  9. Cool website, just started reading a few weeks back. I admit to buying these after reading your review, because I love sweet potato. While mine didn't get nearly as bad as your picture, they were still very gummy and the texture made it difficult to chew and swallow. They kind of muck up your entire mouth. Definitely not worth it, especially with that much saturated fat. Lesson learned... I'll trust your review next time!

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  10. Oh I love these! They do cook like stuffing at times but honestly I still love the flavor!

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  11. I LOVE THESE! i cook them butter side down and soak up the butter with a paper towel as it starts to pool. I think there is way too much which makes them greasy and hard to finish. BUT if you soak up the butter, and LET THEM FALL APART ON THEIR OWN, (that way they don't crumble) as the block melts, they turn out incredible. Let them get a little brown and crispy on the edges.

    I know you end up soaking up a bunch of the seasoning while soaking up the melted butter, but they still taste great in the end. I never add anything to them and my boyfriend and I seriously love them.

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    1. Do you mean you soak up the butter from in the frying pan? Or are you opening the package at the front then microwaving them upside-down? (If so, why not use scissors to open from the back?)

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  12. I cooked mine in the microwave and they looked nothing like your picture and they were actually really good... maybe you should give them another try using the microwave??

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  13. I agree, part of the trick is not to try to force them apart; just let them melt and then fry up in the pan. We also add some thyme or rosemary to the pan. Cook them until they get brown and crispy and you'll have delicious amazing gnocchi!

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  14. i loved these little babies. i just ate a little bit at a time (to extend the package as long as possible), and ate 'em hot or cold... sometimes mixed into a fresh iceberg salad... i'm weird. i'd give these a 4.3/5 if i could

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  15. Make them in the microwave and they're amazing!

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  16. My pan of gnocchi got even more mushy than yours. I also wondered how they have so little vit A. I like them okay and if I ever bought it again would try to microwave prep.

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  17. I love love love these things! For something so buttery and pasta-y they're not TOO high in calories (1/2 package is 7 WW points). And I agree, nuke 'em for best effect. Yum. One of my TJ's favorites.

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  18. I loved these (before we went gluten-free.) But I'm too lazy to pan-fry. I always microwaved or did part microwave-part oven bake. Yum!

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  19. They don't get mushy if you follow the microwave directions

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  20. I LOVE the sweet potato gnocci! No it's not like traditional gnocci as it does turn into a stuffing-like consistency but the flavor is delicious! I fry them in a little bit of olive oil and YUM! To anyone who hasn't tried them, give em a shot. You might be surprised!

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