So, this morning, for the first time since getting them from the Pennfield Middle School vending machine in roughly seventh grade, I ate an Andy Capps Hot Fry. One of my coworkers inexplicably bought a bag of them somewhere and was eating them for breakfast. It wasn't even 8 a.m. yet. I saw this, recalled not really liking them that much even in my more pimply faced days, and was just intrigued enough by the sight of my otherwise normal, relatively sane coworker munching down on them. This wasn't the first time I've seen people eating this type of stuff for breakfast. Six or seven summers ago, I came to Pittsburgh to work for the summer at an innercity youth day camp, and there was a sizable contingent of kids who would ignore the breakfast made for them and instead plow through small, quarter-priced bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Anyways, I hate those, and when I crunched down on that Andy Capps Hot Fry, I was pretty glad to have some boss-bought chocolate chip cookies on hand to get that taste out.
And right around then, I remembered why I like TJ's Baked Jalapeño Cheese Crunchies so much.
Don't get me wrong, I love hot, spicy stuff. Ask any survivors of my death chili, they can attest to that. But too often, when attempted to be formulated into crunchy snack form, as in the case of the Capp fries and Flamin' Cheetos, the results are not so good. Instead of actual heat, they're just overly salted with red junk, or even worse, blasted with vinegary crap. I can pass up that stuff any time and not feel anything amiss in my life.
TJ's crunchy guys get the job done, and they do it right. The smallish jalapeño bits add just enough heat to be noticeable without trying to assault the tastebuds. Definitely some bits are more blasted with the green goodies than others, but it's balanced enough. I'd say they'd be agreeable to most palates heatwise, which I think is one of the major strengths of them. It's easy to be too spicy or not spicy enough, and alienate an audience either way. It's much tougher to try and strike the right balance, and Trader Joe does just that in this instance. As far as other flavor goes, it seems they opt to feature the jalapeño more than whatever type of cheese is on there, so if you're expecting a Cheeto clone in this regard, well, you may be disappointed. But in pretty much every other way, they're very Cheeto-like in appearance and crunch, which makes it pretty easy to gobble down more than intended. As a plus, there's no fake orangey dusty residue to scrub off or get all over your paperwork later. They're just a good, honest, crunchy, semi-hot snack.
Both Sandy and I like these quite a bit, and get them fairly often. With them being baked, they are a decent alternative healthwise to chips while still being a little naughty ... so yeah, they're a winner in these parts. Anything that tastes good and can make a claim to be healthyish (or at least "healthier" than an alternative) without sacrificing taste and goodness is something we'll continually deem worthy of our grocery dollars. That's how we roll.
When I asked Sandy for her rating, she simply said "Mmmmmm .... four." That seems a pretty worthy rating. If the cheese flavor was a little stronger, it'd be enough to bump the rating up another notch or two, but they're good enough as is to not quibble too much.
Bottom line: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons