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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