There's a lot of perks to being one of the world's foremost amateur-hack foodie reviewer of all things Trader Joe's. I love whenever Sandy and I walk into the local store, we're greeted by the cashiers ringing their bells to the glorious tune of "Ode to Joy" as one of the stock boys approaches us both with a lei to place around our necks and gives us a hint to where the stuffed elephant is this week. Well, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. What isn't, though, is the sheer influx of all sorts of recommendations to try this or try that. In fact, one of our best finds was pointed out to us by a friend of mine, and further confirmed by lots of Facebook comments to the general effect of "You gotta try the chocolate caramel sea salt bar! OMG!!!" I'll admit that I generally love all the recommendations we receive, even though it makes our "to try" list almost as long as the tax code but far, far tastier.
Anyways, one item that's come up over and over and over again is Trader Joe's newish Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. I get the appeal. Sandy and I were making a quick trip for some chips and hummus before heading to a friend's get-together, she saw the new bright shiny display, and immediately looked at me, eyes wide open, strained cheeks, teeth slightly bared. I can be a little slow on the uptake, but the meaning was quite clear: Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseplease pleaseprettyprettyplease we should eat these in the car plllllllease. Well, okay. You can tell our rush to try them out as Sandy quick snapped the picture on my iPhone after quickly plopping them on a windowsill inside the store. And sorry, we neglected to get the nutriotion info snapshot as enough employees were already giving us the stink-eye. We'll remedy this soon.
I'm not sure they were worth the rush, hub-bub and hype. I mean, they're good and all, don't get me wrong. They're just not as good as I hoped. First off, they have way too much chocolate and not enough chip. You know how, if you order a plate of nachos, and there's always one or two that have all the melty cheese attached to them? Think of every chip in the bag, except it's chocolate. It's good, tasty chocolate, to be sure, but it's just too much. Also, consider the chips. On the plus side, they're big, crunchy, full of ridges and definitely noticeable even in the cocoa flux. I like them, but there's two problems: First, namely, there's not enough of them. And second, well, I don't think they're salted, which I was kinda expecting. These are like the polar opposite of the Sea Salt Brownie Petites, which were way too salty. Not to go all Goldilocks on you, but these weren't salty enough (the aforementioned sea salt/caramel chocolate bar? Just right).
Sandy and I pretty much agree on these: not a bad munchie, but there's better irresistible snacks at TJ's. Sandy goes with a respectable three, I'll go with half a spoon better.
Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Annnnnnnnnd....here's a quickie bonus review of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cheesecake, another well-recommended item from our readers. Not that I'd recommend combining the chocolate potato chips and the cheesecake into one dessert...that's a combo even I wouldn't try...but if it's your thing, well, who am I to judge? This was another quick stop pick-up for a family dinner on a day when we didn't have a chance to make a homemade dessert. However,as you can see by the far-snazzier looking picture, Sandy had much more time to make it look all fancy on her iPhone. It's in the freezer section, and the instructions say something to the effect of thaw for an hour or two at room temperature and it'll be good to go. Well, like other TJ desserts of this ilk, the results left a little to be desired. We waited the two hours to slice it up, and there were still some frozen bits here and there, and it had the unmistakable just-frozen taste to it. That's not a huge minus to me. I quite enjoyed it, actually, as it was tart, tasty, and kinda creamy, though it could have been creamier (see: just frozen). And kinda like the pumpkin pancake mix, the cheesecake was sort of pumpkin-pie tasting, while probably erring on the side of not pumpkinny enough, which I can appreciate. The graham cracker crust was pretty good, too, and for $6.99, not a bad price for a family-sized dessert. Most of our clan liked it enough, with even an enthusiastic "five" rating from the under-six crowd, while the rest of us gave a few satisfied Mmms. Only my dad had any mildly negative flavor comments ("not pumpkin pie-like enough"), and if you knew how well he's been spoiled over the years by tasty homemade desserts, you wouldn't blame him. I'll go ahead and give it a four, I think, while Sandy sticks with a three for mostly texture-related issues (related to being just frozen, of course). I'd say it's worth getting for a easy dessert to share if you don't have the time for homemade goodies, just give it plenty of thawing time before serving.
Bottom line: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons