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, November 25, 2015

Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe-Joe's Ice Cream

Yes, I have ventured back into the dangerous realm of reviewing frozen peppermint products just before Thanksgiving. Why exactly is it dangerous? I'm glad you asked.

It's "dangerous" because I risk being lynched by the huge, uncompromising camp that will insist this is a Christmas product and should not be reviewed until after Turkey Day. While I understand where these folks are coming from, I must argue that it's not me that should bear the brunt of their indignation, but Trader Joe himself for offering this product so far ahead of the official Yuletide season. Furthermore, one should consider why, in the first place, peppermint must be associated solely with Noel and not any other holidays or seasons. I think at this point in our culture, Thanksgiving has been inextricably woven into the beginning of the Christmas season and should begin to reflect its standing as the kickoff of Pre-Advent and the full-contact shopping season. But that doesn't give us an excuse to skip over the giving thanks part. We should be thankful in all circumstances. And trust me, there is always something to be thankful for.

So..there's that. Aaand there was also this incident...er, I mean post, two years ago about another peppermint product, the name of which I shan't even utter on here. It's a "please don't click that link" type of situation, indeed. But I know the more I tell you not to click it, the more you'll be inclined to do so anyway. The post was declared "immature," "particularly gratingly snarky," and "far from your best writing." One reader even stopped reading our blog because of it and stopped listening to the podcast at the mere mention of this most-horrific post! Well, Karen, I encourage you to come back and give us another chance—for Russ's posts, if not for mine.

But, thankfully, history did not repeat itself. Here, we find a perfectly pleasant peppermint product completely free of gelatin and made with milk from cows not treated with rBST. Sound delicious already? It is. It's got swirls of pork-free pink peppermint ice cream and good old, classic cookies n' cream ice cream. And it's chock-full of large chunks of actual Candy Cane Joe-Joe's, a product so popular, it has its own Facebook fan page. I really like the blend they put together here. It's one of the best mint ice creams I've ever had—right up there with Bittersweet Mint from the dear old PSU creamery.

Both Sonia and I are huge fanatics of cookies n' cream, and both of us agree that's the best part of this ice cream. Sonia thinks there's a little too much peppermint ice cream. I kind of agree, although I don't think the peppermint ice cream ruins the mix by any means, particularly if you're in the mood for mint. I wouldn't have been completely heartbroken had it been Candy Cane Joe-Joe's in cookies n' cream ice cream, with no peppermint ice cream up in there, but that's probably because I'm such a big fan of cookies n' cream. 

The only other negative I can think of is that they did sneak some carrageenan into this ice cream, unfortunately. I realize there's a debate about just how harmful carrageenan is, if at all, but if I don't point it out, someone will call me out on it in the comments section below. It's something I'd just as soon avoid if there were a carrageenan-free option readily available.

But whether you save it for December or have it for dessert over Thanksgiving weekend, if you're into mint ice creams at all, I think this is a worthy purchase. I give it four stars. Sonia's gonna go with three and a half again. Happy Thanksgiving, and THANK YOU all for reading.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Trader Joe's Sriracha Potato Chips

Over the past year or so, Trader Joe's has been releasing a steady stream of sriracha products, starting, of course, with Sriracha Sauce. We've also seen Sriracha Ranch DressingSriracha Garlic BBQ Sauce, and even Sriracha Bacon

On parallel, yet completely unrelated lines, TJ's has offered us a line of fancy potato chip flavors, including Turkey and StuffingGhost Pepper, and South African Style Seasoning varieties. I guess it's inevitable that the two would eventually meet, join forces, and yield the sweet love child of sriracha and potato in the form of these delicious, spicy chips.

The bold red packaging features a familiar, menacing dragon that some TJ's fans think resembles a cat. Sure, I can see where they're coming from. If the lion is the king of the jungle and the housecat is the king of the internet, then perhaps Trader Joe's just latched on to those concepts of royalty in an attempt to create the "king of the cupboard." And they put forth a brilliant effort in this foodie-hack's humble opinion.

The attack is salty and sweet, and a moment later, a big, fearless wave of tangy sriracha flavor bowls your tongue right off its feet. I mean, tongues don't have feet...but if they did, boy. The spice level is nice and strong, as someone who likes a little heat. As mentioned in a recent podcast episode, the only weakness I, personally, saw with the Turkey and Stuffing chips (reviewed here by my courageous culinary compatriot, Russ) was that they were flat, kettle-style chips rather than firm, ridged or lattice-style chips. The potato chip gods heard my cries and graciously lavished me with some super-crunchtastic, ridgey, lattice-cut chips. I think the texture of these chips is just about perfect. Not too long ago, I reviewed some other very decent sriracha potato chips. But as good as they were, these Trader Joe's chips are most definitely superior.

The first chip or two out of the bag doesn't blast your tongue with pain, but after snacking for a while, the spiciness builds up and—while not anywhere close to the realm of "I'm in pain, I can't eat anymore!" —one might find him or herself craving a glass of water or milk. People with particular sensitivity to spicy foods may want to steer clear completely. I can't compare these to the Ghost Pepper chips because, once again, Russ beat me to the review, and they're currently not available at any of our local TJ's. (Nor are the Turkey and Stuffing chips, FYI.) My friendly Trader Joe's checkout clerk today said that every month or two, a new chip flavor would appear on TJ's shelves—and she didn't come right out and say it, but she implied that an old flavor would disappear just as frequently. Well, Big Joe, my vote is that these particular chips stay. Year round. Please. They're not Thanksgivingy or Christmassy at all...so maybe keep them around just to see how they do in other seasons, hmm?

Sonia wasn't as impressed as I was. Her comments: "They remind me of Chinese food, but they're not spicy." Three and a half stars from her. Four and a half stars from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Let's see...Nathan has had some very favorable reviews recently on products that predominantly feature apples or bourbon, so how about something that has both apples and bourbon?

Indeed, there just may be a small revolution or passing trend going on with TJ's products: bourbon. First, there's that pecan pie filling (which of the many things my Aunt Brenda puts in hers, I am quite sure that bourbon is not one of them). I've also seen a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup which I haven't had the occasion to pick up yet, but really, I should (here's a quickie review here). And for those fortunate few who live in the right areas that fully recognize the 21st Amendment, TJ's actually has a pretty decent housebrand bourbon as well.

Now, there's Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce. You can't tell me that doesn't sound gooooood. I'm not  huge condiment guy - I like food to taste how it "should" taste - but I'll admit to a little puddle of drool when I first heard the word. I was due for a good mix up from my go-to barbecue sauce of choice anyways.

Gotta say I'm pretty well pleased overall. This is some thick, goopy, slow-movin' sauce, which is how it oughtta be. "Pretend there's a 57 on it and tap it!!!" Sandy cried out when I was trying to pour the first load onto my plate one night. If you have no idea what that means: here. I hate ketchip, but yeah, that method got the proper flow going. This was also when I first noticed little apple tidbits flinking around here and there - not enough to add any crunch, but a slightly noticeable textural variant.

And there's definitely more apple than bourbon going on here. In a lot of ways, this sauce tastes mostly like a pretty solid, decent barbeque baste with a hefty dose of added appley awesomeness. There is a soft bourbony undercurrent, but there's certainly not enough to make it terribly boozy by any stretch - it's possible I would have missed it if I knew not to try and find it. Sandy said she didn't really taste any, but then again, she's pretty much never had bourbon. There is a little added acidity to it, which looking over the ingredients, could be the somewhat curious inclusion of both apple cider vinegar and pineapple juice. Regardless, the emphasis should be on sweet and apple more than bourbon or smoky if doing it straight up.

Just wish we gave ourselves the chance to really try it out with some good pork. Not like the sauce didn't make our grilled chicken and fries taste fairly delish, but after first taste, my immediate thought was ribs followed quickly by pulled pork. I then wondered about the best way to try to incorporate it with some bacon. But alas. We also enjoyed it in place of ketchup in some homemade meatloaf (although Sandy's mom hated it, probably because it had actual flavor), and with some meatballs as well. Cooking with it certainly mellowed out the sweetness a touch while bringing other flavors to the surface.

No real complaints - it's a worthy pickup, for sure. Not the best out there, but pretty decent, so here's to hoping it'll stick around for a while.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Bourbon BBQ Sauce: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Rustic Apple Tarte

Rus·tic
/ˈrəstik/
adjective
  1. 1.
    of or relating to the countryside; rural.


  2. 2.
    constructed or made in a plain and simple fashion, in particular.

I'd say both definitions of "rustic" apply pretty well to this apple tarte. Sonia and I, now residing in rural South Jersey, have never lived anywhere more rustic in our lives. And as chance should have it, we got a free slice of homemade apple pie from a local roadside produce stand just the day before we heated up our Trader Joe's Rustic Apple Tarte. The farmers' apple pie was scrumptious. Absolutely amazing. 

Sonia and I both agreed it was possibly the best apple pie we had ever had. Granted, nether Sonia nor I grew up in homes with mothers or grandmothers cranking out fresh-baked apple pies at all...like, ever. Sadly, McDonald's apple pies in the little green cardboard boxes were about the best we had ever had as kids. But we were in absolute agreement that this roadside stand had just set the bar for near-perfect country-style apple pie. 

But the very next day, TJ's gave our local farm market a run for its money. We could get into the semantics of how tartes (or tarts) are very different from pies, but if we're honest with ourselves, we'll all agree that their similarities outweigh their differences. They're basically the same animal as far as I can tell—at least when comparing this tarte with this most recent sample of apple pie.

Trader Joe's offering would never have stood out in our minds had it not looked, felt, and tasted homemade. But it did. Straight out of the oven, the smell was heavenly. I was shocked how soft everything was when I cut that first slice. The crust was buttery and flavorful, and there was just the perfect amount of it. It was perfection in and of itself, and yet it took nothing away from the apples. There were tons of apple slices and slivers throughout the pie. In my mind, they were definitely the main attraction. They still had enough crispness to feel like apples, but they were supple and sweet enough to feel like a delicious baked dessert. The syrup was very sweet, and if anything, was the weakest part of the pastry. It was just a tad too sugary, even for me. And I feel like had it been just a mite bit less overpowering that it could have let the natural apple flavors through even more. But to complain about it would be unfair, since it is dessert after all, and is meant to be quite sweet.

The most pleasant surprise—and in many ways the most "TJ's-esque" thing—about this tarte was the layer of candied almond slivers on the top of the confection. At first, I thought it was granola of some kind, but upon closer inspection, they proved to be little pieces of almond. They added a welcomed crunch to the texture and...well, a nuttiness to the flavor. Also the use of "Northern Spy" apples prompted a Google search for the origin of the name. It conjured up images of Civil War treachery in my mind, perhaps the 1860's version of TURN. But, alas, I found nothing so dramatic—just that they're native to New York state and frequently used in making pies.

The only other complaint we might make about this product is that there's a significant amount of saturated fat and calories...if we wanted to be picky. But, as mentioned before, it is a dessert after all, and both Sonia and I will tell you that it's worth a few extra minutes at the gym. It's another item you might bring to your family's Thanksgiving Day dessert spread in lieu of something made by hand, and it might just make you the hero of Turkey Day. It's absolutely delectable. Four and a half stars from me. Perfect five from Sonia.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Turkey Kit


 Editor's note from Russ: We have a special guest blogger today - my wife Sandy! Yes, she exists, and not just when I make fun of her mercilessly. Enjoy!
 
I love Pinterest, and I’ve spent a lot of late nights pinning away. Recipes, sewing projects, cleaning tips...you name it, I’ve pinned it. Now, if you’ve ever actually read half of the blogs that are most often pinned, you’ll notice that most of them are by stay at home moms with a bunch of kids and they all somehow live in spotlessly clean houses, and are able to get a three course meal ready for dinner, while still having time to be elaborate crafters and top notch photographers.

I’ve recently joined the SAHM ranks. It’s been exactly three months since I’ve left my job. My house is not spotless. Russ is lucky to get a hot dinner with some frozen peas (M’s favorite) when he gets home. And, with my new birthday gift of a craft table, I’m working on the elaborate crafts, and you’ve all seen my photographs - well, they're better than the ones Russ used to snap with his crappy phone. I have a board of projects that I’ve actually tried out and most of them have been successful. One of the things that I have not ventured into is cookie decorating. M loves watching cookie decorating videos with me at night. These ladies that we watch are amazing. I’d love to figure it out, but it’s just not going to happen. That’s where our good friend Trader Joe comes in, with his Turkey Kit.

Oh Joe, you’re going to help me make my preschooler’s dream of being a master cookie decorator come true! This kit contained everything that we needed for this adventure, without having to turn the oven on!



Sprinkles, gummy fruits, ‘buttons’ (non M&M’s M&M’s) and icing...sugar. What, no little piping bag of premade frosting? Simple enough to make though - box of sugar, one egg white and a bit of lemon juice if it wasn’t sticky enough.

We’ve watched enough videos that I could tell that it wasn’t going to be thin enough to flow, so I added the tiniest bit of water to get it to what I thought would be the right consistency. “Hey that looks like a piping bag!” M exclaimed as I filled the bag up. We laid all of our pieces out and got to work.


Even with my slight thinning down, it was fairly hard to get the icing out. I started with the base and even though I don’t believe that you have to do things the way the box says, I thought that it’d be easiest to put all the non-pareilles on the bottom. M happily sprinkled away...only to have most of the sprinkles fall off. Russ started helping and they got quite a few on, but nothing like the box shows. I outlined the rest, while they worked on the sprinkling and then the turkey body was assembled. “Let’s move on” I told M, and she happily told me where to put dots of icing for her to add on the gummies and buttons. We of course had to sample them to make sure they were good. 

 
The buttons were similar to M&M’s and the fruits, which we thought were fruit snacks, were actually a fairly decent gummy. M’s only complaint was that she wanted to put more fruits on and there weren’t anymore. We ended up supplementing with some Costco fruit snacks we had on hand.


Here’s our finished turkey cookie (M pretty much says the word turkey just like cookie. We try to make her say turkey cookie all the time). I’m pretty sure this is meant to be a decoration, but how do you tell a three year old they can’t eat the cookie they just made? M wanted to eat the head, I grabbed a foot and Russ grabbed a bit of tail feather and we all took a big bite. Umm, I now know what fluffy, gingery cardboard tastes like. I think we know why…


We didn’t make a gingerbread turkey, it was a ginderbread turkey. The rest of the box was right, I wonder how they missed this one? Does anyone else’s box have this typo?

All in all, this was a pretty fun family project, worth the $7.99 price tag. In fact, we’re planning on getting another one to take back to Russ’ folks and make with M and her bigger cousin C for Thanksgiving. M gave it a five. I give it a 4, for the gummies and the family fun factor. If it weren’t for that, it would rate much lower.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turkey Kit: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 13, 2015

Podcast Episode 12: Stiff Dessert




In this episode we talk about some of TJ’s newest products like Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips, Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie, Peppermint Joe Joe’s Ice Cream, Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread, Pecan Pie Filling in a Jar, Rustic Apple Tarte, and much more.

Click here for MP3 link!

Click here for Stitcher link!

Click here for show notes!

Thanks for listening! If you’d like to help the show, we would appreciate it if you rated or reviewed us on iTunes.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti

Before this pumpkin season is officially over, I wanted to throw a review of this biscotti out there for you. It's not new and it's not exactly a Thanksgiving-themed product, but I really wanted to take a look at it and let you all know about it because it's actually very good and it's never really had its day in the sun. It's one of those "under-the-radar" kind of products.

This stuff makes me wish I were a coffee drinker. It's so good when dunked in any kind of coffee. I mean, the biscotti sticks are perfectly delicious by themselves, but the pairing of these with coffee is absolutely scrumptious. Yes, I did go ahead and pour myself a "cuppa" or two while enjoying these biscottis because no matter how much I tried to enjoy it, they simply didn't pair up well with my usual morning sugar-free energy drinks.

It was more natural for Sonia, because she is a daily coffee drinker. And she loved them just as much as I did—maybe even more. As she observed, the pumpkin spice level in these is just about perfect. The package also mentions real pumpkin puree, which can just barely be detected by the tongue. All the flavors are well-balanced, and the textures are even better than other types of biscotti I've tried...biscotti cereal included. The sticks are firm and crispy, but they break apart easily enough when you go to bite a piece off. They aren't rock solid like some other varieties. Also, they're a good value at $4 for a sizable tub with nine servings.

We're pretty much in agreement about this one—except for maybe the pronunciation. She insists on saying "bis-coat-y," while I say "biz-cott-y." Not that it makes any difference. Four and a half from Sonia. Four from me.


Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread

Very controversial past couple days here in the Pittsburgh home base, and nothing to do with Starbucks cups. Nope, it's all about Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread.

Let's see: Sandy says I shouldn't have thawed it out by slightly preheating an oven, then turning it off, and trying to let the bread rise...even though that's exactly what I did last weekend while making homemade pizza dough and it worked like a champ. Instead, I should have just sat it on the counter. Directions stated to let rise in a warm place, and the heat ain't on yet (two things I don't allow on before Thanksgiving: furnace or Christmas music), so the counter in a cool kitchen didn't sound great, and it's not like I could tell a lump of frozen dough to put on a layer and run a lap to warm itself up. We've gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth....

...but not nearly as much as we have about the silly little flimsy plasticky bundt pan the monkey bread comes in: To bake the bread in it, or not to? Here's, TJ's really should have thrown us a clue and stated SOMETHING about it somewhere. Take out of box: Duh. Remove plastic film/baggie surrounding it: Check. Nothing about the pan. No "oven safe" label. No "Hey dummy, don't bake plastic" sticker. This is actually a legitimate TJ's question as evidenced by Nathan's Sad Pot Pie Fiasco of 2013. I say we should have baked in it, Sandy insisted we didn't, and we sided with the risk of slightly suboptimal chow versus poisoning ourselves, and went sans the pan. Was this the right call? I have no idea. But maybe you do. Help.

And no great way to really segue this in, but mid photo shoot, our subject box o' bread took a dive off the back deck, about 15 feet down and splat into the withered remains of our tomato plant in our garden below. I guess it just had enough of our shenanigans right then and there. 

Anyways, the outcome, perhaps not surprisingly after all that, was perhaps a little sub-optimal. But I'll do my best to be fair here. Let's see: The idea of a savory monkey bread was pretty intriguing. My only previous experiences have been of the sweet and cinnamony type, so a herbed garlic with cheese one sounded like a worthwhile try. Problem is, very heavy on the rosemary, not so much the garlic. I had to pick out the "weird little green things" for my normally carb-crammin' three year old to even think of touching these, which I don't blame her for (this was after her first bite). So. Much. Rosemary. But doable, especially with the dough, having been rolled in parmesan cheese, getting an outer, crispy, burnt-cheesy bite. Nice touch there.

But for the texture: I'll own whatever portion of the blame is for any of our potential missteps. But when I think "monkey bread" I think light and fluffy, only a little bready...not dense and chewy and grainy. But that's what we had here. Part of the blame has to go to the wheat flour, at least, though. Normally I'm not terribly opposed to it, but it just didn't work here. Another point: monkey bread to me is a bunch of little pull-apart bites all stuck together, not 10 or so dinner roll sized buns to break off one another. So "monkey bread" seems to be a bit of a misnomer.

I think we all, in the end, enjoyed it enough to warrant buying again with perhaps some clarification of the rules of engagement here. Sandy said she wished it came with a little dipping sauce, suggesting some marinara. For the $4.99 price point, I think a little pouch could be included. For all the clamor this product has caused - I doubt a single food item has ever caused as much ongoing debate as this silly thing - it's a sign of our overall union when we both gave it a matching 3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Friday, November 6, 2015

Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Filling in a Jar

Here's another $7 item from TJ's. One might justify that lofty price tag with the added bonus of a quality mason-esque jar you can keep long after the pie filling has been consumed. One might also justify that seven dollar premium with the notion that this stuff is pretty tasty. Because it is.

After making the purchase, Sonia and I mused about whether or not we'd need to employ the recondite prowess of one skilled in the culinary arts in order to enjoy this unique delicacy because, unfortunately, neither of us are particularly gifted in that department—at least as far as pies are concerned. Sonia can make some tasty Mexican dishes thanks to some family recipes handed down to her from her parents, who, incidentally, were in town this past week. They brought delicious, authentic Mexican sweet breads from a bakery in Los Angeles. It seemed an obvious pairing to me, if perhaps nobody else, so of course I slathered a piece of the bread with this sweet blend of nuts and syrup: Mexican-American fusion at its rarest and finest.

It worked. As long as you didn't mind the moderate alcohol essence from the bourbon in the pie filling. Other food pairings yielded similar results: ice cream, pancakes—and I can only imagine with cheesecake as well, as mentioned on the packaging—all super sweet and super tasty, but there was still that alcoholic kick. I'm well aware that the bourbon is less harsh after baking, and for that reason, I decided to try my hand at whipping up something in that big, hot, bakey thing in the kitchen that's not a microwave. What's it called again? "Oh-ven" or something like that?

My baking experiment was a reasonable success, as I modified the pie recipe on the jar to use the filling in little crescent rolls instead. The process of baking and a good bit of butter certainly helped to mellow out the bourbon zing, and the pecans were even more tasty, as they picked up a lightly-toasted flavor and slightly crispier texture in the oven. 

Straight out of the jar, it's extraordinarily sweet—and bourbony, as mentioned before. The first and fourth ingredients are both types of sugar. So yeah. Hope you brought your sweet tooth. It's really just a jar of rich, luscious, maple-esque syrup and a boatload of whole pecans. Between that Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie and this, Trader Joe's must be single-handedly keeping the pecan farming industry afloat. 

I think this product is vastly more enjoyable and successful after baking, but Sonia is perfectly happy with it as a raw topping on just about anything. She gives it four out of five stars. Because it's expensive, wants to be baked, and a little too much like drinking pecan-flavored whiskey, I think I'll keep my score to a modest three out of five. But don't let this average-ish rating scare you away, particularly if you're blessed with mad baking skills.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

Well, hope you all had a happy and safe Halloween. We sure did out here in the 'burgh, although our kiddos were too smart to fall for the Jimmy Kimmel "we ate all your candy" bit we tried to pull on them. Too smart, those kids. Anyways, on to the next holiday (and my personal favorite) - Thanksgiving!

One thing I'm thankful for, as triflingly unimportant in the grand scheme it is: Seems to me we're in the midst of a potato chip renaissance going on here. For the longest time, the only kind of chips out there, that I could think of anyways, were: plain, sour cream and onion, barbecue, and salt and vinegar, with the occasional rogue bag of cheddar and sour cream, but who really liked those, anyways? Maybe some slight variations in there, but all that there really was. Then....Lay's kicked up their "Do Us A Flavor" campaign and BAM. I didn't know that you could make chips taste convincingly akin to biscuits and gravy, or Reuben sandwiches, or a gyro, or...well, yeah, let's forget those cappuccino ones, shall we?

Now, just as November rolls in, a new entrant: Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips. I'm kinda surprised that they didn't go for a name like "Holiday Dinner", "Gobbler Goodies" or "Thanksgivingesque" - the name as is just sounds too straightforward. But too awesome to not try.

And not disappointed one bit. Not. At. All. Cracking the seal unleashed a very savory aroma much like a fresh dish of stuffing waiting to get devoured....yum. Salivating already. Quick visual scan: very much like sour cream and onion, but okay, who has time for that, it's munch time...oh goodness. The first taste that hits is hard on the stuffing. Very upfront. Sandy and my brother both said, independently, that it tastes very much like Stove Top brand stuffing - I'm picking that up, too, but I think that's mostly because that's what I first think of when I think of stuffing. There's the taste of celery and slight herbal bite of rosemary and thyme in there that really seals the deal.

That's fine, but....what about the turkey? It's present, but more subtle. The best way I can think of to describe it, there's a certain roastiness to these chips that slowly builds with each chip, and is more apparent on the aftertaste. It'd be impossible, probably, to perfectly replicate the juicy joy of fresh roasted turkey on a dry, crispy potato chip - but to the extent that a chip can, it's there. If you've tried the Lay's Reuben chips, for example, the "corned beef aspect" is perhaps the subtlest, but still present - these TJ turkey tater tidbits are similar in that regard.

Really though, in all, the stuffing and turkey flavors come together very well, and of course, some potato flavor pokes through as well to sell the "Thanksgiving dinner on a chip" idea even better. Now, some might say "well, you'd need gravy and cranberry sauce to really make it Thanksgiving dinner....." Look. There's enough salt on them, with enough taste, that adding just a little more to add a gravy spin would be a misstep. And adding something tart and sweet to them, like cranberry, would throw it all off. IT'S A POTATO CHIP, not meant to replace your holiday meal, or to be some Wonka-gobstopper-esque concoction that will taste like an entire holiday dinner, because then they'd have to include pecan pie and wine too, and now we're just getting carried away.

And they're perfect just as they are. No, I mean that. Perfect. Perfect turkey and stuffing taste. Perfect kettle chip crunch. Perfect for the snack budget at only $1.99 a bag. Just perfect. I love them, and I don't say that about chips often - I'm a guy who most days would prefer a handful of raw spinach over a baggie of average run-of-the-mill chips. I'm going to say these are now my favorite potato chips I've ever had, which will make their logical seasonal demise all the sadder. So, in the meantime: Indulge! Sandy and I polished off one bagful already, and went back for more - self control might kick back in at one point, but until then: Gobble gobble.

Bottom line:  Trader Joe's Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons