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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Hold the Corn! Appetizers



Hold the corn! That must be a pun on "Hold the phone!" But wait, that doesn't rhyme—not even close. Ah, Trader Joe's must be making a play on "Hold the cone!" which is, in turn, a pun on "Hold the phone!" I guess TJ's is making fun of themselves. Unless this is somehow a play on "Hold the horns!" you know...like you "hold the bull by the horns," buuut that's a stretch.

The inspiration behind the title of this product means nothing if the product doesn't taste good. Fortunately, it does. Oh how it does.

The rice wrapper here is crispy, dry. The veggie-based filling is moist and fairly rich, but not overpowering in any way. The primary flavors are sweet corn (imagine that) along with some onion, the rice from the shell, and juuust a hint of spice from the red chili powder, green peppercorns, and garlic.


I could have sworn I detected the taste and texture of quinoa up in the mix, but alas, there is none listed on the ingredients. They aren't excessively greasy or oily. The nutrition info here is very reasonable, considering how utterly delectable these things are.

There's also the slightest suggestion that these are somehow veggie spring rolls that want to be dipped in a sweet and sour sauce of some kind. I might have tried that pairing if we'd had any packets laying around. Most people might not have that inclination—Sonia certainly didn't—but I'm big into condiments, and I always want to dip my appetizers in something—maybe an avocado salsa or chipotle sauce would have worked here...? I would have even slathered them with melted cheese of some kind—not that they really needed it. They didn't last long enough to be experimented upon. Perhaps we'll try them with dips upon the next purchase—and there will be a next purchase.

Served as appetizers, these will certainly make your guests ready to eat more food. The only problem I can foresee is that the only thing they'll want to eat is more of these delicious cones of corn. Each one is like a mini cornucopia, perfect for Thanksgiving...or any other time for that matter. $3.99 for 12, found in the frozen section. Two big thumbs up and a very high recommendation from this nomadic half of WG@TJ's. Four and a half stars from me. Five stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Rose Fingerling Potato Chips

Ooooh la la. Don't these sound fancy now? They're not just Trader Joe's Rose Fingerling Potato Chips, they have French Grey Guerande Sea Salt sprinkled on them! Never heard of that? Me neither! But sounds so fancy!

And look at them! They're called rose for a reason - they're pink! Well, they have pinkish swirls in them, at least. As the only male inhabitant of my household, I can attest to the fact that this only adds to the excitement of the purchase for most of my crowd, particularly the younger constituents.

Sound fancy, look fancy...do they taste fancy?

Mehhhhhhhhh.

In a blind taste test, I don't think I could tell these apart from any other crunchy kettle cooked chip. There's really nothing overly special here that I can detect. Crunchy, earthy, a little greasy, salty - yep, a good chip, for sure, but really not anything more than that.

Couple points though. First, either my local store's shipment had a particularly harrowing journey or these must be very fragile chips. I say this because the bag we bought was only about half-full, with lots of spud shards at the bottom. This seemed more than the norm. It's a good thing my girls and I like the little crumbies in our tummies because there were ample to go around.

Also: the price. It's not too horrible at $2.99, but that's more than the average bag at TJ's. It's also much smaller. Portion-wise, you're not getting as much bang for the buck as you could with other chips, which would be fine if the fingerlingers were a little more unique.

It's possible that maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to fully appreciate the divine nature of these chippies, but neither would be my lovely bride, who is usually more attuned to those type of things. She took a bite or two and promptly labelled them as mediocre then let me and the kiddos squabble over the rest. 

We're unlikely to repurchase, as we don't buy chips too often anyways, and these were just meh at best.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Rose Fingerling Potato Chips: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 15, 2019

Trader Joe's Advent Calendar For Dogs


Do furry animals that sniff each other's butts, chase their own tails, and sleep at least 19 hours a day really need a countdown calendar to the wildly speculative birthdate of the central figure of a human religion? Probably not. But their owners definitely do—particularly ones that failed to procreate human offspring and fantasize about their canine "kids" being their actual children and spoil them with all manner of toys, clothing, and now decorative day-by-day treat-filled chronologies of the Yuletide season.

Like TJ's other advent calendars, the art work here is whimsical and cute. And like human advent calendars, there are 25 little perforated windows to open from December 1st until Christmas Day. Most of the doors have writing on the outside—blurbs from some very strange dog's Christmas list, including things like "my very own pet orca" and "a play date with Kwazi." Kwazi is apparently a gray parrot. Don't ask me.


Unfortunately, there's only one kind of treat within—the previously-reviewed salmon and sweet potato dog treats. I was hoping they'd throw our pooches a proverbial bone and mix it up a bit from day to day. Half the fun of an advent calendar is the surprise of what's behind the door. But I suppose the dogs don't know that. At least the treats are in different shapes and sizes—that is, some days have two treats, some have square treats, some are star-shaped, and Christmas Day has a big bone-shaped treat, but they're all the same flavor.

However, half the fun of a canine advent calendar is the thrill the pups' owners get when opening the door each day. I wish there were at least different bible verses or funny jokes behind the doors. They could have done something delightfully blasphemous like changing the passage about the three wise men into a story about a pug, an akita, and a Chinese crested from the east that came to admire a magical puppy in Bethlehem. Even if they had put the items from the dog's holiday wish list on the inside of the doors rather than the outside, at least there would have been some greater element of surprise.


Alfred and Sadie like the treats pretty well. They're not super picky when it comes to between-meal snacks—dog food, yes. They'll turn their noses up at anything that's not Fresh Pet these days.

There's little competition in the world of advent calendars for canis lupus familiaris, so these things apparently sell out very quickly from most Trader Joe's stores. There are cat calendars, too. 

At $5.99 for 25+ treats, it's not a bad value. When we reviewed the salmon treats before, Sadie seemed a little more eager to eat them than Alfie. This time around, Alfred didn't hesitate at all. In fact, he tried to break open the calendar for more. So...we'll say four paw prints a piece from Alf and Sadiebug.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls

Every holiday meal we get together with my family, no matter all the other awesome stuff my family makes, it's always her cheesebread I look forward to the most. Philly cheesesteaks aren't Philly cheesesteaks if not on an Amoroso roll. Sandy's homemade rolls really make a great compliment to whenever I smoke some pulled pork.

There's just something about great bread that really makes a meal complete. Evidently it's called "breaking bread" for a reason.

In stores now, for those times you need a festive bread but are in a pinch, is Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls.

Naturally, I'm not gonna tell you these rolls are as good as any respectable homemade bread. "Decent" is about all most rolls like these can aspire to. I don't feel like a snob in saying that, but maybe I'm just spoiled by too many good bakers.

Dinner last night was these savory rolls, sandwiching turkey, provolone and cranberry sauce and warmed in the oven. Nomnomnom. Thanksgiving in a sandwich, practically. Karen, our favorite TJ's employee, made that suggestion and my goodness it was another winner.

Ingredients, herbwise: parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme. Like the lyrics to "Scarborough Fair", except these rolls just also have to have marjoram as well - oh well. Let's not quibble too much here - the spice blend works very well all together, and compliments the enriched wheat base well.

Heated up in the oven, these savory herb rolls got a little crispy/toasty on the outside and filled our kitchen with their herby aroma. Inside the rolls, the dough still remained soft and chewy when eaten - perfect. My kids loved them, even my oldest who randomly decided she didn't like cranberry sauce. Sandy loves anything with rosemary, so these were a win with her, easily.

Easy rolls for a festive get-together in a busy upcoming holiday season - they're worth a buy at only about $3 for a dozen pull apart rolls. Likely, these rolls will pair well with most meals or menus. For those times when homemade just isn't possible, these should do just fine.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Holiday Herb Rolls: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Fall Zucchette Pasta

In the whitebread central Pennsylvania neighborhood I grew up in, there weren't a whole lot of Italian folks. I had a long-time babysitter with the last name "Capriotti," but minestrone soup was probably the extent of Italian culture I experienced under her care. Of course, every American eats his share of pizza and spaghetti throughout childhood and beyond, but even now at forty, I'm still learning about Italian pastries and pastas that are completely new to me. "Zucchette" is a prime example.

Googling the term wasn't much help in this case. There's not even a wiki for zucchette pasta as far as I can tell. In fact, this Trader Joe's product is one of only a handful of references on the entire internet. I'm gathering that "zucchette" might just mean the pasta is inspired by or contains gourds, pumpkins, or squash. This product does both—that is, it contains butternut squash, and its shape is evidently inspired by pumpkins.


The taste is quite a lot like any other pasta I've had, with just the slightest hint of something earthy. That subtlest hint of extra richness must be, I guess, from the dehydrated butternut squash within. It's a shame we only had traditional marinara sauce on hand. I would have liked to try this with the Autumnal Harvest Creamy Sauce. Its squashy flavors may have helped bring out the butternut squash flavor in this pasta here. As it stands, any squash taste is completely and utterly overshadowed by whatever cheese or sauces you might serve this with. 

Still, it's a bag of decent pasta, each little pumpkin shape a substantial bite. Sometimes a dab of sauce and cheese fills the void in the center of the pumpkin, and you get a particularly robust forkful of flavor. 

For $1.99, this isn't a bad purchase at all. It's plenty for a meal for two adults, or as a side for four or so. I'm guessing this product might be done for the season already, unless there are a few specimens lingering on the shelves in your area for some reason. In all likelihood, it will be back circa September 2020. Or...maybe not.

There's not much improvement here over traditional shells or what have you, but nothing is taken away, either. If that butternut squash flavor were a bit more potent, we might have had a real winner here. Four stars from me. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Trader Joe's Focaccia Bread

When/where/how did the term "Karen" become such a pejorative?

"Ugh...she was a real Karen."

"She's got that Karen haircut."

"I'd like to speak to the manager...oh."

We can get our laughs, but know this doesn't apply to everyone named Karen. Especially Karen, who works at the Pittsburgh North Trader Joe's, the one my family and I happen to shop at the most.

She's awesome.

Understatement? Yes. She recognizes us everytime and asks how we're doing. My kids love her. She's always full of recommendations and if she happens to be working the sample station, she'll sneak me and the kids extra. Always friendly, and it's not just to us. A few years ago, she was recognized for outstanding service TJ's by getting to ride their float during the Rose Bowl Parade.

So, when Karen sneaks a loaf of Trader Joe's Focaccia Bread into your cart and says "this one's on me," you go with it, review it, and give her a little shout out. Thanks, Karen!

Solid recommendation here. I'll admit, stuff like this isn't on our usual radar. But man, it should be. This bread is awesome.

Opening the bag lets out a hearty aroma of roasted tomato, parmesan, a little olive oil and carby goodness. It's intoxicating. And it gets even better when warming up in the oven, if that's your thing. Anticipation levels were running high.

When ready...oh man. Super crusty outside, warm soft inside, doughy, full of bite...it's got the feel that literally says nomnomnom.

The parmesan and roasted tomatoes add a mild flavor that doesn't overpower the bread. It's a light and pleasant flavor, perfect for spreading on a little butter or dipping in some olive oil. Or you can be weird like my almost five year old and put strawberry jam on it....okay maybe not that last one. Whatever, she was happy.

I'm not sure how this tastes so fresh, without there being an instore bakery, because it really does have that freshmade feel. In all honesty, this is one of the best store bought breads I've had in quite some time. The TJ's focaccia is pale in comparison to anything homemade, so don't worry Mom, your cheese bread is still king, and Sandy, I'll nom on your challah anytime. But I'm so happy with this.

This focaccia admittedly was a freebie for us, so I can't tell you a price. But I'll tell you I'm being honest in my assessment. Four spoons from both my lovely bride and me. Even the Karen-est of Karens (which our Karen is not!) can live, laugh and love with this loaf.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Focaccia Bread: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Trader Joe's Mixed Mushroom & Spinach Quiche


Yes, yes. I know, I know. I shouldn't review something with an ingredient I don't like. 

I've confessed on this blog before that I don't like mushrooms very much. I even have a mild allergic reaction to most mushrooms. But every once in a while, I'll eat them anyway—like, just because they're there and I'm too lazy to go to the store and purchase a mushroom-free alternative. Sonia used to have weird reactions to certain species of mushrooms, too, but she seems to have outgrown that sensitivity. That's one of the many reasons why she purchased this product.

I'm pretty much okay with this quiche, because, as Sonia noted, there aren't a ton of big mushroom chunks. There's a moderate amount of shroomy bits floating about the mixture, but they get overshadowed by the spinach, cheese, and buttery crust.


"Shouldn't the word 'spinach' go before the word 'mushroom' if there's more of it in the mixture?" asked the wife. "I guess they were listing them in alphabetical order," she mused.

I think they were going for alliteration with the pairing of "mixed" and "mushroom" side by side and also, perhaps, mushrooms are a bigger selling point for most people, so they wanted to lead with that. Whatever. Doesn't matter. We both agree there's more spinach than mushrooms. I guess that's the point I'm trying to make.

The overall flavor is eggy, cheesy, and buttery. It's nice—kinda typical for a quiche, I guess, but since I don't have quiche all that often, it still feels like a treat in a way. It's fairly rich, but when you consider the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, I'm actually kind of surprised it doesn't taste even more indulgent.


In light of the nutrition facts, I'd say a couple should split this one quiche between the two of them and pair it up with some sides, rather than eating it as a single serving as the package suggests. That's basically what we did, except if I tell you what we had as our sides, you'll never ever read my reviews again because you'll realize how far from foodie-hood we really are. What do you even serve quiche with? A salad? Soup? I don't even know. Okay, I'll tell you what we had it with. Sonia had it with a bowl of blueberry Kashi cereal and I had it with a piece of peanut butter toast. Don't judge.

And in case you're wondering, no, I do not recommend either of those sides as a pairing for this quiche.

The price is right at $2.49 for the fairly filling dish, but I don't think we'll buy it on the regular because atherosclerosis doesn't sound like fun. Three and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl

For a dude who's been co-writing this blog for over eight years now, you think I'd have a better pulse check on the new products pipeline for Trader Joe's. Lol. Nope, not at all. It's not accurate to say "painfully oblivious" as TJ's tends to be quite secretive about things, but normally I don't hear or see anything new until my lovely bride tells me about an Instragram or Facebook post she saw. That makes me about 1,876,542nd in line to hear about anything.

I'd settle for just jumping her place and finding out about anything before she even has a chance to tell me about it.

And finally, I got my chance with the new Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl.

Ha! I told her about it! I'm the one who tagged her and got her to say "oooo" with that gotta-try-that inflection. I'm the one who went to the store and hunted it down while corraling our Halloween costume-wearing kiddos, not her. I won. O'Doyle rules! This has got to be a winner....right?

Right?

Only kinda sorta, unfortunately, if only for spousal bragging rights.

Let's look at the premise here. Plentiful chicken bites - I don't mind dark meat if it means a few more bites. Seasoned yellow rice - likely means turmeric. Black beans and plantains - two of my favorites. Zesty citrus and garlic sauce - sounds intriguing. Looks like some bell pepper and some other goodies in there too. Looks like a Cuban one way ticket to Flavortown, sans Guy Fieri. 

But for all of that, there's just not much flavor. "Bland" isn't the right word. It's more perhaps "understated" or "muted." Most of the mix doesn't taste like much except a faint hint of orange and some subtle, subtle heat. Really, the only bites that pop are the plantains, which there were far too few of. With their natural sweetness and earthy starchiness, the plantains made a perfect platform for the spices and flavors to really come out and play, especially the garlic which I detected nowhere else in this dish.

That doesn't make the TJ's Cuban bowl a bad dish, it just could have been better. My suggestion; more plantains! Heck, I'd even sacrifice the chicken if it meant room for more plantains. That's saying something here.

As usual, my lovely bride may have put it best. "For all the salt and calories and everything else in there, I just felt it wasn't worth it," Sandy said. I'm inclined to agree. At $3.49 for a one serving microwavable paper dishful, there's certainly far worse options out there, but there's better ones too. This TJ's Cuban bowl seems like one of those products teetering on the fine line of flash-in-the-pan and longterm staple product availability, so if you see it, give it a try, but don't expect to be wowed.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Bagels

Apparently, you can't find gluten-free pumpkin spice bagels on every street corner. Just Google the name of this product, and you'll see countless blogs and websites from the gluten-free, celiac, and Crohn's communities absolutely rejoicing that FINALLY there's a gluten-free version of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Bagels.

Honestly, I feel like pumpkin spice is on its way out, and the poor gluten-free folk are a little late to the party, by no fault of their own, of course. But if this product floats your boat, I definitely don't want to rain on your parade. These aren't a bad purchase at all. But our job as folks who aren't on a strict gluten-free diet is still to give it to everyone straight: what we think is working here and what we think isn't. So here goes...


Flavor-wise, they're virtually identical to regular glutenful bagels. Sonia was a little dismayed that "there wasn't enough pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavor." I'll admit, they aren't bursting with either real pumpkin taste, despite displaying a few visible specks of pumpkin puree throughout, or pumpkin spice flavor, despite smelling of it quite a bit. But my reaction was more along the lines of, "That's good they didn't overdo the pumpkin spice thing." If you're really craving pumpkin spice, you might be disappointed, but thankfully, there's a remedy: pumpkin cream cheese.

Texture-wise, they do that gluten-free thing, where they want to be chewed like regular bread, but there's something just ever so slightly off-putting about the mouthfeel. It's just a tad chewier, rubberier, and stiffer than what we're used to. For people who are strictly gluten-free, you'll likely be just fine with it. It's not a deal-breaker even for me. Sonia and I often do gluten-free because we are both gluten-sensitive, while neither of us is totally gluten-intolerant.

Not that I'll be craving pumpkin spice bagels any time soon, but if I do, I'd just as likely reach for these puppies again, rather than the forgettable non-gluten-free pumpkin bagels from TJ's—which have mysteriously never been reviewed on this blog. Neither version is a real show-stopper in our opinions, but at least these are appropriate for a group of people with significant dietary restrictions, and they can feel like there's one less gimmicky, pop-culture food they're missing out on, for whatever that's worth.

Me? I give 'em three out of five stars. Sonia will go with three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Trader Joe's Philly Cheesesteak Bao Buns

Happy Halloween everyone!

Hope yours is less rainy than here in the Pittsburgh area. Trick-or-treating got bumped back a few days. My lovely bride and I will probably have to figure out some fun evening plans for the kids to make up for not tramping around the neighborhood including up the hill to the "good street" where every house gives out full sized candy bars. I think we'll manage. Maybe we'll make some mummy hot dogs for the kiddos, but for us we're gonna need something else. Something spooky and seasonal...

Hrmm, maybe another box of the Trader Joe's Philly Cheesesteak Bao Buns.

 What? Huh? Seasonal and appropriate? How the heck is that?

Oh, you of little imagination. Just look at them.

Obviously, it's little cheesesteaks wearing ghost costumes! And maybe we'll get goofy and call them "boo buns" too.

These new TJ's snackitizers are definitely kinda interesting. On first impression, the bao buns sound like some crossover gimmicky food truck type deal - the crosscultural mixup of an American and Asian classic. Intriguing idea, for sure, but how does it work?

On one hand, surprisingly well. If you've had a true Philly cheesesteak - I'm talking a "wiz wid" versus  an "authentic Philadelphia-style steak-and-cheese" - it's been on an Amoroso roll. They're tough but doughy and chewy and perfectly made for holding meat, cheese and onions and whatever else. Obviously, there's nu such bun here, but the bao dough does a surprisingly decent job of mimicking the taste and feel. No, it's not spot on, but reminiscent enough, especially if steamed for a tad bit longer and browned.

On the other hand...out of all cheeses TJ's could have used, they chose AMERICAN? What the what? No. No no no. It's either Cheez Wiz or provolone, not American cheese. Also, bell peppers? Kinda weak. If you're gonna put peppers on your steak, they gotta be the spicy type.

Every thing else is decent enough. The meat is well seasoned and feels about right, being chipped and all. Bites that are more dough-heavy tend to be a little more towards bland, but the meaty bites are close with the exception of the wrong cheese and other fillings. There's a little onion and garlic and spices and whatnot.

All this being said, we liked 'em but there's something amiss. The cheesesteak bao buns seem to be two different things mixed into one without really being any of them, if that makes sense. Some key details are off for the cheesesteak, as already covered...but other than the form, what's the bao element here? A couple Asian spices could have spiced it up and made the crossover more apparent.

It's $3.49 for a box of four. Decent and filling, and a good enough buy. Sandy likes them a bit more than me, but she grew up right outside Pittsburgh and I grew up right outside Philly, so I'm a bit more of a cheesesteak snob than her. Four spoons from her, three from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Philly Cheesesteak Bao Buns: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trader Joe's Spider Gummies


Ah, it's almost Halloween. And it's time to eat some spiders. Whenever I think of our eight-legged friends, I think of that age-old fun fact that Debbie Downers are so fond of sharing—the one about how the FDA allows X number of insect and arachnid body parts in your grains, cereals, and spices. Also, there's rodent feces.

Then I also think of that ridiculous urban legend about the average American ingesting 8 spiders per year during sleep. I never believed that one. I mean, if you want to freak out someone gullible, you might as well tell them they eat rats while they're asleep. It's about as believable...and far more startling.

While the FDA fun fact is completely true, fortunately, spiders are generally too smart to wander into a human's gaping oral cavity at night, and that statistic about 8 spiders walking into your mouth per year is patently false.


These gummy spiders, however, aren't intelligent at all. And they'll wander into your mouth one right after another. I mean, granted, they need a little help. They won't do it all by themselves.

The question is: do you really want to shovel them into your mouth en masse? Their texture is fairly firm. Chewy, gummy, but still somewhat stiff. Maybe that's just by virtue of the lower temperatures we've seen around the Omaha area lately. Gummies are so much softer in the heat.

The sugar coating is a little crunchy. It's not over the top, though. It's not like crunching an exoskeleton...you know, in case you were wondering about that. Each spider is too big for a single bite in my opinion. They're each two bites if you ask me.

And the flavors...hmmm? There are no specific flavors listed anywhere on the bag. Even the ingredients list is mysteriously mum about which "natural flavors" are employed here. I've detected two distinct tastes. The lighter (orange and yellow) spiders taste like peach bellini to me. They flaunt a light, sweet peach and champagne essence. Okay, not so much champagne. But peach for sure. But not exactly peach. It's like peach...with a little extra something, so—peach bellini. Overall, it's a nice, sweet, fruity flavor that I enjoy.

The darker spiders (purple and green) are a totally different story. They taste like nasty raspberry or something. It's like raspberry...with a little extra something. What is that extra something? Spider guts? I don't know. I don't like them, though. I like raspberry flavored candy if it works, but in my opinion, this one definitely does not.

I wish there were at least two more flavors. Variety is the spice of life as they say. And assorted gummy candies should always bring at least four distinct fruit flavors to the table.

Not sure if they're still around, but I'd take last year's Halloween Gummies over these guys. These would be better if they were all the orange and yellow flavor. Or if they had four or more flavors. Sonia basically agrees, but she likes the darker spiders more than I do and thinks the green part might be apple flavored. Three and a half stars from her. Just three from yours truly.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Trader Joe's Plantain Crisps

"Crisps."

Ugh. Hate that word.

It's even worse than a word like "moist" - like, yeah, that's not pleasant, but at least it's easily pronounceable. That -sps at the end is tough. I usually end up adding on an extra S or 3 so it ends up kinda almost rhyming with however Smeagol would say "princesses." I don't like it, no sir, not at all.

But Trader Joe's Plantain Crisps? Heck yeah, I can put up with my dislike of the name for a bag of these any old time.

Holy cow. Love 'em, as I do most anything plantainesque. These crisps, however, are definitely not like the average plantain chip, which are still extremely delectable. Instead of being kinda soft and somewhat Styrofoamy, these crisps are incredibly crunchy. There's as much crunch to these as a thick cut kettle potato chip, except in a lighter form. It's almost unbelievable how crunchy they are.

And oily. Very oily. You'll get greasy fingertips for sure. And there's a lot of salt. If you were thinking these plantain chips might be a healthier alternative to regular ol' spud based chippers, well, I got bad news for ya. it's so not the case. The back of the bag mentions something along the lines of these being twice fried - given the crunch, that wouldn't be surprising. But that definitely adds some calries there as well.

Earthy, crunchy, with a hint of sweetness but not overly so, these chips taste a lot like normal potato chips, except better in a way that I can't quite easily quantify. I could easily eat the whole bag myself - I'd feel awful yet accomplished afterwards, for sure. Good thing is, everyone in the family loved 'em, even the kids were clamored for more and more of them despite snacking on them as I cooked dinner. Fortunately it didn't spoil anything for us.

The bag's about $3 I believe, so it's a good deal. Lots of munch and crunch for your money, and I can't think of a single complaint. I can't quite place them in the panteon of all time great TJ's products but I can put 'em on the doorstep.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Plantain Crisps: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bisque

I've whined enough times about the discontinued tomato bisque. Amy's brand is pretty darn close, so I won't harp on about that in this post. But I will say I'm always on the lookout for a bisque experience on par with that superb—ahem, "soup herb"—tomato version.

This offering comes close in terms of quality and taste, but it's really a whole different animal altogether. It's not like tomato bisque with pumpkin instead of tomato. It is what it is, if you know what I mean. No?

Let me describe it for you. This bisque is smooth. There are no chunks of squash or pumpkin. There are tiny flecks of something—pumpkin puree I assume—but nothing to really add any body or texture. I really don't like perfectly smooth soup unless I have something to dunk into it...or crackers to crumble into it.

The flavor is shockingly sweet—honey sweet. Almost too sweet for my taste. There is a savory aspect to it, and you can definitely taste the squashy pumpkin flavor, but it needs something to balance out its sweetness in my opinion. It's creamy, and there are plenty of secondary herb flavors to keep it interesting: garlic, tahini, and onion to name a few.


Fat content? Oh my. One jar has well over a day's value of fat, saturated fat, and sodium. If this isn't one of your favorite fall items, it might not make your shopping list every time you head to TJ's just because it's on par with an indulgent dessert as far as those stats are concerned. And I should point out that this jar is more like two servings instead of the three they're claiming on the nutrition label.

After trying it by itself, I decided to mix it with some leftover potatoes O'Brien. It worked for me better than the plain bisque did. The taters added some starchiness and firmness to the texture and the flavors blended pretty well, with both elements featuring garlic, onions, and salt. It might seem an odd combo to some, but I'd prefer a potato pumpkin bisque to something totally void of veggie chunks.


Overall, it's good. It's not what I expected. Crazy sweet in my opinion. Sonia liked it a lot more than I did upon first impressions. She was torn between four and a half and four stars, but opted for the latter in the end after she glanced at the nutrition info. It took me quite a while to decide how I feel about it. I was torn between three and three and a half, and I went with the lower of those two since it's just so cloyingly sweet, especially when eaten by itself. But I must admit, it's a unique flavor: sweet pumpkin that's nothing like pumpkin pie or traditional pumpkin spice. I'd say a more fitting name for this product would be "Honey Harvest Bisque." $3.99 for the jar. 

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili

There's nothing quite like making homemade chili. I love it all...chopping veggies, browning the meat, tasting and adding spices while it simmers in a crock pot. It's so relaxing and one of my favorite cold day activities.

Unfortunately I don't make very good chili.

Or so I gather. No one else in my family touches mine. I've put forth a great amount of effort into various chili cook-offs over the years and have always come in last, or close to it. I don't know what anyone else's problem is, it's perfectly good...but it leaves a lot for one guy like me to eat.

Fortunately, when the chili bug hits me, I now have Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili.

Oh, I'll still make my own, no doubt, if for no other reason than spite all you haters. But for a quick, ready to heat, no hours of preparation needed bite, this stuff'll do just fine.

Let's see, what's to like here....pretty much everything. Angus beef is the number one ingredient, so there's plenty of meat here, in small soft pieces. It's not quite ground or shredded...it's just pieces. And it's delicious. Lots of beans, beans, the magical fruit too to really fill it all out. And it's all a pretty smooth, go down easy blend, without any big chunks of anything. Most of the beans seem to have disintegrated into the final product which is alright by me.

The pepper spice indicator on the side says this is about medium heat. Seems accurate to me. It could be spicier, but I didn't need to add anything to enjoy the chili, either. There's plenty of peppery garlicky tomatoey spicy goodness as is, which blends well with any fixin's like cheddar or cornbread. Heck, one morning last week when it was just me around I hardfried a couple eggs and had this over top. Delish.

Plenty filling. Plenty warming. Plenty good. The tub says it's a two serving container....seems low to me. I could have made this into three or more meals. Good stuff. And at a decently reasonable price (either $3.99 or $4.99) it's a good buy for when I don't need a crockpot of literally my own jamming up the fridge for a couple weeks. It's just me here grading this, so I'll go double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, October 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Alfredo Sauce


Ah, there's nothing like the savory flavors of fall...squash, pumpkin, spices. Each year, we enjoy them all season long, from the first chilly autumn evening until well after Thanksgiving. They're delicious by themselves or all mixed together. Throw them all in a white pasta sauce and what do you get?

A disappointing bland paste that'll coat your dinner with sadness.

I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel. Sonia was thoroughly disappointed, too. There's very little in the way of squash flavor here. Simply eating an actual squash is far more flavorful. Absolutely none of the flavors come through the way they should. Parmesan and gruyere cheeses? I mean, parmesan, pumpkin, and squash can all be subtle essences, but, I mean...they're usually not THIS subtle.


This product isn't even that creamy. It's not super thick, it doesn't taste like milk, cream, or cheese. It's just a medium-thin, smooth pasta sauce with minuscule granules of butternut squash throughout. They're too small to be called "pieces." I mean, I know the word "pieces" doesn't really carry a size value innately, but a term like "bits" would seem a little more accurate somehow.

Salt, shallot, parsley, nutmeg, and black pepper should yield something with a little more flavor. We served it with brown rice pasta. We cleared our plates, but it was one of the most unsatisfying pasta dishes we've had in a long time. Not that we'd purchase it again, but if we were ever to try this sauce in the future, it might go with spaghetti squash better than any actual pasta. At least in that case, you'll taste squash.

This product should not be confused with the delightful red autumnal pasta sauce. That one's as surprisingly good as this one is surprisingly not.


On the upside, there's nothing particularly offensive about the taste or texture of this sauce..It's not rancid or gag-worthy. They just need to amplify the flavors a hundred-fold. $4.99 is way too much for this tub, in my humble opinion. Two and a half stars from Sonia. Two from me.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup and Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich

Soup and sandwich. Sandwich and soup. It's a classic lunch combo for a reason: it's nearly perfect. Can't argue with it.

Trader Joe's just so happens to have a new ready-to-grab sammich as well as a delicious looking new soup, which I just so happened to pick up and enjoy for lunch the other day, and since I don't really have enopugh to say about them seperately for a full out review of either, may as well make it a combo on here too.

Objections?

Didn't think so. Here we go...


First up: let's soup it up. Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup. It's in the refrigerated section, plastic tub, costs about $3.99 for a two serving container. Heat and eat, easy as that. And man, if you need a change up from some ol' can of the usual, here you go. It's legit good. There's a lot of flavor depth here, from sweetness from the coconut milk to a slight touch of heat from the red curry and spices, to a certian earthiness form the potatoes and carrots. Overall, it's smooth and not too thivk, with only small diced crrots in there. It's got kinda the overall texture of a decent tomato soup, but tastes way better. The spice does tend to ramp up but never to the point of unpleasantness, maybe registering a three overall on the mild-o-meter. It's warming and filling without being heavy like regfular potato soup, and could potentially be the rare soup that's worthy of all seasons. Solid, solid soup, and a great addition to the line-up, TJ's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

And now it's sandwich time!


Yup, Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich. That's a pretty apt and straightforward description for this sammie. And it works, precisely because it's so simple: couple slabs of smoked turkey, a slice of sharp cheddar, about a third to half an apple's worth of sweet wedges, a little arugula, small dab of dijon mayo, all served on a pretty earthy multigrain roll. Excuse me, it's "rustico"...whatever that means but it sounds good. There's nothing utterly standout about it, but it's just a tasty sandwich that costs $5. I'd gladly pay that for this precise item at like a little cafe somewhere, so it strikes me as a good deal. I wish there were a more definign characteristic for this sandwich to really hang its crust on, but alas. That being said, it'll be a glad rebuy at anytime.


Bottom line: Trader Joe's Turkey Apple Cheddar Sandwich: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Boo Bark


I just happened to Google the name of this product to refresh my memory on the price of the item, and I came across some people selling it on poshmark for $20. Twenty friggin' dollars! I mean, I knew there was a kind of Trader Joe's black market out there for discontinued and hard-to-find items, but my goodness. That's highway robbery. It's normally $2.99 in the store. I'm guessing it's either done for the season already or it will be very soon. So, unless you're willing to pay an absurd markup to the online scalpers, most of you won't get your hands on this product until fall of 2020, assuming TJ's brings it back.

Also—I love how it's described as "used" by the online re-seller. Lol! I wonder if that means it's half-eaten when you get it.

Anyway...is this product really worth $20? Is it even worth $2.99. I'd say NO to the former question and yes, perhaps, to the latter.

It's mostly milk chocolate. There's also a fair amount of white chocolate in the form of swirls on top of the base, as well as white chocolate eyeballs. It flaunts four or five pieces of candy corn and a bunch of orange "candy gems," AKA generic M&M's. Last but not least, there are Joe-Joe's cookie pieces in the mix.

I was surprised how well all of the elements blended together, to be honest. I feel like somebody somewhere had to put candy corn and chocolate together previously. This can't be the first time it's been done. I was shocked how much I liked it. It doesn't sound good: sweet, waxy triangles with smooth, creamy milk chocolate. But in my humble opinion, they taste pretty darn good together. Sonia's not a fan, but then she hates candy corn.


The cookies, the eyeballs, the M&M's—they all work somehow. Sonia wishes there were more cookies, since they yield a more interesting texture than simple chocolate on chocolate. All of the elements are nothing but sweet, sugary, desserty things—all things kids might get on Halloween. Why not smoosh them all together and make a single slab of chocolatey candy?

For parents that don't let their kids trick or treat, this might be a way to smooth things over with Junior if he just wanted some good candy on All Hallows' Eve—a peace offering, if you will. Sonia thinks this product would be a great favor for fall parties. There's a fun theme going on, and the presentation factor is nice. It's really just a big block of chocolate and Halloween-themed sweets, but if you're not expecting anything more than that, you won't be disappointed. Four stars from me. Sonia was grumpy when she ate her half, so she said "three stars." I know her well, and I'm certain she'd give it a better score had her mood been a little better. So put her down for three and a half, at least.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Cookies

Can there be anything better than some good ol' apple cider?

Drink it cold. mmm, refreshment. So much more refined than apple juice. All that pressed apple goodness...but cold. Sweet and a little spicy from nutmeg and cloves and whatnot. I could guzzle it by the gallon.

Drink it hot. Oh goodness. Perfect for those times when coffee wouldn't be right but a cup of tea just wouldn't do. Let those flavors expand and deepen and warm ya up on a cold windy fall day.

And it goes practically without saying that hard apple cider or even apple cider-flavored bourbons are pretty darn good for their own reasons as well.

And then there's apple cider cake, apple cider donuts....and things like Teader Joe's Apple Cider Cookies. Apple cider in edible, crunchified, not drinkable form. What a wonderful world in which we live.

Not gonna lie: as a family we LOVE these cookies. My one daughter wants to give them 245 golden spoons if she could, which I'm fairly certain would be a blog record. Practically every one of us fervently begs for them, and I may or may not have eaten half the container yesterday.

There's no mistaking the true apple cider taste of these cookies. They're apple-y sweet, with a small bit of tartness, just like a good regular apple cider. There's a small touch of the usual cider spices to round them out. Pretty awesome, although a bit hard. I would have preferred a crumblier cookie for more of a "melt-in-your-mouth" feel but seeing as that apple puree is an ingredient here, that may not have been possible. They're also a bit on the dry side, but there's a perfect remedy for that...

Yes, they do combine well with milk, but that's not what I had in mind. If you happen to have a little TJ's cinnamon bun spread, or even better, maple butter on hand, put a little dab on and make a little sandwich cookie. You'll thank me. It's like a full taste of fall, completely sans basic pumpkin spice craziness. Awesome.

We love 'em. $3.49 for a good sized tub. Go get 'em. Cidertastic.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Cider Cookies: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Trader Joe's Fall Leaf Corn Tortilla Chips

I'll never forget my 9th grade biology leaf project. We had to collect and meticulously preserve dozens and dozens of leaves from different tree species around our area. The process involved begging one's parents and/or older siblings to drive all over Franklin County, PA looking for various types of trees, plucking a number of pristine specimens from the branches, and then painstakingly placing them between construction paper and contact paper. We had to label them, write about them, be able share several facts about them, and we most definitely had to know their scientific binomial nomenclature.

"Mr. Rodgers!" Mrs Grove's voice boomed. "What is the common name for Acer Rubrum???" If I'd have said anything other than the correct answer, I'd have been humiliated in front of my classmates. There'd have been some insult to my intelligence as well as a personal slander of some sort. Tidbits of local gossip were fair game. It was terrifying. Fortunately, I'd studied the night before and remembered that, in fact, Acer Rubrum meant "red maple."


Unfortunately, that's about all I remember from Louise Grove's Advanced Biology class. And knowing the binomial nomenclature for various trees has come in handy exactly zero times in the real world. I mean, I might have impressed a nerdy girl or two in college as we walked around campus at Penn State in the fall, but nothing ever came of those moments, either. I can confidently say that some of these chips are shaped like maple leaves and oak leaves. What that third kind is—that kind of ovally, rounded one with a pointed tip—well, your guess is as good as mine.

In the end, it doesn't matter. The colors and shapes all taste the same. Fortunately, they all taste like good quality stone-ground corn with some salt and oil. They're not too thick, not too thin, and nice and crunchy. 

They're perfect for dipping, or as the back of the bag states, "for awesomely autumnal nachos." We've been having them with the harvest salsa, and the pairing works very well. They'd go well with just about any kind of salsa for that matter, but you know, we're just sticking with the fall theme we've got going on here. The chips are prone to getting stale rather quickly. We stored "in a cool, dry place" as per the bag, but they're noticeably less fresh after having been open just a day or so. Maybe we should've poured the remainder of the bag into tupperware...?

Fun fall-themed snacks. No pumpkin, no apple, no maple flavor. Admittedly, they're a bit gimmicky, but they don't disappoint as far as flavor and quality are concerned. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from this guy.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.