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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Friday, July 27, 2012

Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn

Growing up, my family definitely went through a Smartfood* popcorn phase. But it wasn't just my folks and us four kiddos. Our cat loved it, too. I'll admit, I don't recall if it was Greta or Cleo, but whichever feline it was, she couldn't get enough of it. She'd almost beg like a dog for it, and if you dropped a kernel on the floor, you had no chance (we were all strong proponents of the five second rule). Know Cartman's cat and his chicken pot pies? Totally plausible, except for our cat it was Smartfood. Back then, Smartfood would put little customer stories on the back of their bags, and so we wrote the company about it, along with some photgraphic evidence. I don't believe our story was ever deemed baggy-reading-material-worthy (probably because I wrote it, and it was way too long. Go figure.), but they still sent us a whole case of Smartfood. A whole freakin' case. We ended up eating so much of it (we also believed in not wasting food) that by the time the last little crumbles in the last sackfull danced down into our tummies, I don't think we ever bought it again. I certainly haven't.

Anyways, sorry to continue the snack food phase we're doing here, but as the pile of other folk's ceramic dishes and Tupperware on our kitchen table attest to, we're being very well fed right now as Sandy, Baby M and I are adjusting to being a family of three. Such a blessing. I'm loving all the homecooked meals made in somebody else's oven. We would've had kids earlier if we knew we'd be eating so well.

My one buddy (same guy who tipped me off to the best chocolate bar in the world) and his wife stopped over a few nights back, and, among the homebaked bread, fresh fruit and chicken avocado spread (delicious!), they snuck in a bag of Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn. Even though it's not something I wouldn't have bought on my own, I figure, it's in my house, it's a freebie, it's probably good, so why not review it?

I'll start with the good...not that there's really anything bad. It's perfect texture-wise - kinda pillowy, kinda Styrofoamy, and very munchable. That I like. Cheddarwise, it's alright, too. Kinda sharp but...there's just not enough. I seem to remember Smartfood being coated all over the place, with the white powdery residue caking onto your fingers no matter what you did. These kernels have one foot in the plain world, the other in the cheddar world. It's true as we get towards the bottom of the bag, that may change. I suppose one could choose to have the snooty, pinkie-in-the-air attitude that the popcorn is so much more refined this way. I choose not to, and that's coming from a guy who hasn't had white cheddar popcorn in years, and pretty much hates the orangey cheesy variety. Maybe I miss Smartfood more than I thought. Maybe I'll check the vending machine at work sometime and find out.

There's nothing all that bad with the popcorn. Sandy and I will eat it all and be happy enough. It's just there's not enough right with it. I think that may be a classic Trader Joe's problem with some products - they pull off enough unexpected surprises that it's a bit of a letdown when one of the more basic items is average at best. Sandy said she'd like it more if they were either more or less cheddar. I think I'd side on the "more" side. There's enough other Trader Joe popcorn varieties that you'll find another one or two that might fit the bill a little bit better. Put the two of us down with some matching 3s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's White Cheddar Popcorn: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
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* Why the heck is it named Smartfood anyways? It's packaged powder-cheese popcorn for goodness sake. While not a dumb idea, that doesn't seem overly intelligent, either. Does buying it make you a genius? Did Einstein invent it? What a silly name. Next thing you know they'll name something Skinny Fries...wait, what?

3 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, my cat Fluffy LOVES smartfood too. It's like his crack. So funny!

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  2. I love popcorn and cheddar cheese. I just haven't had them together. I haven't yet tried this but will do so after reading your review. :-), Susan Cooper

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  3. You said it perfectly! I just bought these this week. And with every bite I think that something is off. It's gotta be in the flavoring. Their movie butter one or whatever it's called was really good. Congrats by the way!

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