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Monday, June 17, 2019

Trader Joe's Ube Purple Yam Flavored Ice Cream


Ice cream: one of the staples of summer. I won't say I don't eat it year round, because I do, but it's one of those things that's just part of most Americans' arsenal of beat-the-heat foods. Fortunately, we haven't needed much in the way of "beat-the-heat" this year so far since we've been meandering around the Pacific Northwest. It's our first time here, and we've just been in Oregon for the past 3 weeks or so, heading into Washington. We had one 90 degree day last week, and when we really needed ice cream, we didn't have any, and we didn't feel like driving into town from our campground to get it. Now we have some and it's in the 50's outside. Go figure.

But like I said, I'll eat ice cream in pretty much any weather. So I did.


First impressions: it doesn't taste like a vegetable. Didn't really think it would. Yams are pretty desserty to begin with. There's almost a cake batter vibe to the taste in my opinion. Maybe that's just a subliminal notion bubbling up to the surface since it's my 40th birthday today and I'm in cake mode. Although, Sonia didn't disagree with that assertion, either.

First thing that popped into her head: taro. That's probably a more accurate assessment since taro is also a root vegetable that's frequently used in frozen desserts. I remember having it when Yogurtland and its myriad imposters were all the rage like 10 years ago. I know they still exist, but I haven't been to one in quite a while. Also boba tea and other Asian novelty foods are often taro-flavored. This flavor does taste similar to taro if memory serves me correctly. I wanna say this flavor is slightly less floral...?


The taste is nutty, lightly sweet, subtly earthy, and vanilla-esque. There's nothing "purple" about it if you're like me and think everything purple should taste like grapes or berries. There might be a slight pistachio-esque vibe here, too. Cream and sugared egg yolks add to the density and richness of the ice cream.

$2.99 for the pint. It's not dairy-free or vegan or anything—just pretty decent ice cream with interesting ingredients and a unique flavor. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Trader Joe's Patio Potato Chips

Eating outside in the summer is pretty great, isn't it? I think so. A couple times already this not-quite-summer, Sandy and I have pulled our kitchen table out to our smallish back deck and piled everyone out there for a laidback "snacky dinner" - veggies, fruit, chips, hummus, cheese, etc. More times than not, something off the grill, which i'll fire up as the kids are playing in the sprinkler. It's great. Everyone gets to eat what they want, avoid what they don't.

In a similar vibe, here's Trader Joe's Patio Potato Chips. Everything about them evokes that eating outside, picnicky, snacky feel, from the name to the illustrations to the fun concept of four flavors of chips all mixed together. They're kinda like a summery-choose-your-own adventure package, right? And chips! Show me a decent picnic without chips...tough to do!

So, how these TJ's tangled taste taters fare?

Well, like many things, the concept is brilliant but the execution is a bit sloppy. There's four flavors here - salt and vinegar, dill, ketchup and barbeque. I can't tell the ketchup and barbeque ones apart after multiple tastes, and it takes a little discernment to tell the vinegar and dill ones apart, too. Part of the issue is, of course, they're all mixed up with flavor seasonings rubbing off on one another all the way from point of manufacture to point of consumption.

This leads to another point, sort of: if eaten all together, really the only flavor that stands out is, well, vinegar. It's probably because it's the punchiest of the varieties. But if there's a few dill chippies, there's more of a pickley taste, and if there's any of the other ones, they take one more of a sweet pickle type flair. That's not necessarily awful but perhaps not what everyone would be looking for.

Other than that, for the most part, they're pretty good chips. All of the chips are ridged and crispy with a little of the requisite greasiness that define high levels of snackitude. I mean, even when unsure how well all the flavors really melded together, I was downing way too many of them, so there's that. Sandy said she would have preferred if they different types were differently textured, so as to more easily tell them apart. I could be down for that as well.

Overall, the patio chips are an okay pickup. Chances are we'd buy again, but our girls weren't the hugest of fans so maybe not. Sandy gives them only a 2.5 for their flavor identity uncertainty issues. That's a touch low but not too far off the mark. I'll go with a 3.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Trader Joe's Mini Gummy Bears on a Chocolate Pool Day


Years ago, Sonia and I were invited to a game night of sorts at another couple's apartment. The main event of the evening was a competition involving the construction of graham cracker houses, the most creative of which would win a prize. There were four other teams, with our gracious hosts serving as the judges. There were dozens of elements at our disposal: graham crackers, marshmallows, frosting, gumdrops, cookies—pretty much any snack you can think of was present. Most other teams tried to go big—they were aiming to construct the tallest candy towers that gravity would allow. We went a different route.

Our house was a mere two graham cracker widths high. Not impressive at all on the macro scale...but to a family of gummy bears, it was an elegant mansion with all the comforts of a modern home. There was a big puffy couch comprised of full-size marshmallows across from a flat screen HDTV made from a miniature chocolate bar. The yard was full of vanilla icing snow and a few snowmen made of mini marshmallows stacked on one another. The bear children playing in the yard had warm hats made of M&M's bitten in half. There was even a bathroom. Mini marshmallows made a fine porcelain toilet and a nearby bathroom sink. A thin layer of frosting made a mirror. A green gummy bear faced the mirror—I bit off a thin slice of another green gummy bear's face and stuck it on the mirror so it appeared the bear was actually looking at his own reflection. There were even a couple chocolate shavings in the marshmallow toilet to represent...um, bear movements. We made lamps, trees, and shrubbery out of gumdrops and bed sheets out of mini chocolate bar wrappers. Ultimately, we won the competition and went home that night with a $20 Target gift card and a sense of accomplishment and teamwork. Our judges applauded, "You thought of everything!"


Well, almost everything.

Our happy gummy bear family lacked a pool. Until now. Obviously, we don't still have our graham cracker house. In fact, I think the children present consumed the entire thing before we even left our friends' apartment that night. But this gimmicky new item from TJ's would have been the perfect addition to the bear family's backyard.

So...obviously, this is a fun item for the young and the young-at-heart, but how does it taste? It's an odd mix-up of gummy bears and milk and white chocolate. Sonia remarked that the milk chocolate overshadowed the white chocolate, while I was actually surprised I could taste white chocolate at all. The bears add sweet, fruity, citrusy elements to the flavor. It works, at least marginally. I mean, chocolate covered fruit is a thing. Chocolate orange is a thing, right? This isn't a completely foreign concept. I'm honestly surprised how much I do like the flavor here.


Sonia wanted more gummy bears, even though she admitted their texture was a little too firm and chewy in the mix. The chocolate's nice and smooth, and it inevitably melts in your mouth much faster than the gummy bears. I was happy with the chocolate to gummy bear ratio, but I must say breaking the bar apart was frustrating. The bears wanted to hold certain pieces of chocolate together, and as you'd pull the piece off, the bear would stretch a bit and then snap in the manner of a rubber band, sending a crumb or two of chocolate flying off into space...or onto your khaki pants.

It's $1.99 for the bar. I'd rather pay half that for a silly, fun impulse buy like this, but there's an undeniable childlike joy that accompanies opening a package of candy that has illustrations of bears with pool toys on it. If it weren't packaged and presented so cleverly, it would be easier to pan this product for its only partial success in the flavor and texture departments. As it stands, we're looking at about three and a quarter stars each. 

Do note: this product isn't even vegetarian by virtue of pork gelatin in the gummies. I thought that green bear on the packaging looked a little like one of the pigs from Angry Birds...

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.