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Friday, March 29, 2013

Trader Joe's Garlic Fries

I have random pictures on my iPhone. Take, for instance, this lovely looking picture of Trader Joe's Garlic Fries. I don't remember taking it. It might have been a few weeks ago when we had them last. It might have been any one of the several times Sandy and I munched down on them over the past couple years. About a year ago at this time, we were eating a lot of fries. Pregnancy and sympathy can certainly do that. While we favored the sweet potato frites, these were a common-enough pick up...I think her watching the Twilight movies and her strong desire to not  have a vampire baby might have had something to do with that. Eh well. Stumbling across the picture was a little bit of providence, as our latest trip to TJ's produced much of the same staples as usual without much of anything new to review, so here we go.

They're not bad. These fries are the type with a little extra batter on them to make them a little extra crispy and greasy even straight from the oven. They're also pretty generously cut. I approve of that. I'd recommend baking them a little longer to make sure they're a little extra crispy, because the garlic goop comes in a little pouch on the side that you swish your fries in a bowl once baked. That leaves the potential for a plateful of limp, very non-crispy fry. That's not good. That brings us to the garlic's decidedly very garlicky. You've got to like roasted garlic to like these, because man, it's strong. We've used the whole pouch and have found that the "less is more" approach works better. Also, in retrospect, I wonder if drizzling the garlic oil on the fries then baking for an extra couple minutes might not be a bad approach to try and avoid the inevitability of a few less-than-perfunctory spuds. Anyone try that method?

That biggest gripe I have, though, is if you follow the instructions and pay attention to the labeling, you have to bake the whole bag at once (I guess because of the one pouch of oil), and that's seven servings. Maybe that works well for the seven dwarves, but for just me and the wifey (Baby M's still a bit too young), that's a lot. Granted, I think the serving sizes are small, because, um, well, we can eat the whole bag (not that we should, but we can). There's probably some sort of creative solution that doesn't involve reheating them, because that's gross.  Also, it'd be preferable if it involved not storing the excess oil in my fridge, because knowing us it'd end up going bad and making a nasty piece of Tupperware we'd fight over cleaning up (I always lose those).

To wrap it up, the Trader Joe's garlic fries aren't necessarily fantastic, but they're not terrible either. I'm "borrowing" the packaging picture from a veritable fry expert, French Fry Diary, and their review, while a bit more harsh than ours, isn't too far off the mark either. They're not bad, and they're worth the occasional pick-up, but not much more than that. Split our score as you see fit.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic Fries: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trader Joe's Organic Creamy Tomato Soup

A couple weeks ago, we reviewed Trader Joe's Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. In that post, I brooded sufficiently over TJ's discontinuation of their Organic Tomato Bisque, so I shan't do so any more in this post. But man, I really miss that bisque!

I should also point out that a reader mentioned in a comment that Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions makes a brilliant companion for the aforementioned red pepper soup. I would think this creamy tomato soup would work well with it also. Or try dipping Piccolo Paninis in one of those tasty TJ's soups.

All that being said, I guess you're wondering what this soup is actually like...

Well, it's got the texture of typical creamy tomato soup. Think Campbell's. Or think TJ's Roasted Red Pepper Soup. 'Nuff said.

As for the taste, it's not as good as TJ's Tomato Bisque. But nothing is. Furthermore, Sonia and I both agree that the Roasted Red Pepper Soup has a bit more flavor and uniqueness than this product. But if you're a fan of just plain old, traditional, classic tomato soup, then check it out. It's organic, so that puts it one step ahead of Campbell's, and it doesn't contain anything nasty like high fructose corn syrup, so that puts it two full steps ahead of Campbell's right there. And it tastes like creamy tomato soup. Pure and simple.

I only use Campbell's as an example since it's the archetype for all American soups, the wrapper of which is worthy of Warholian pop-art. It is the standard by which other soups are often measured. That doesn't mean there aren't other brands of healthier tomato soups out there. Amy's comes to mind. And word on the street is that she offers a chunky tomato bisque, comparable to Trader Joe's...I'm'onna check that out!

All in all, we can't complain. But I usually reserve the really high scores for weird stuff with bells and whistles. 4 stars from Sonia. 3 stars from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini

So, I get why Sandy and I picked up the box of Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini a few nights ago. We were both in the mood for an easy dinner, and definitely not in the mood to go grocery shopping, yet we felt compelled by the power of our rumbly tummies and empty fridge. Normally, in this kinda situation, the veggie corn dogs and some Trader tots would be high on our list, but we've had that dinner a few times recently, and wanted something different. For whatever reason, this caught our eye, and for the $3.99 for a box of 16, we figured, why not. One can do much worse for a midweek dinner, I suppose.

But I don't exactly get the point of these overall. Now, I'm not that dumb. These are obviously meant more as a snacky hors d'ouevres than an actual dinner dish. I get that. But even in that regard, that kinda fall a little bit short. It's not that they taste terrible, because they don't. It's kinda of everything else.

For a few small bites, the preparation is kinda silly. You have to take them out of the package, let them thaw out for 20 to 25 minutes, bake them for about 15, then let them sit for a few before eating them, leaving a small window of time before they get cold and not as appetizing. Maybe that doesn't sound that bad. But let's talk about that, with the theoretical happenstance you're making these for a shindig at your house. Perhaps you're much different than my wife and I, but the last few minutes before any guests arrive, we're usually shoving plates, pots and random doodads into the dishwasher and tossing all of our dirty socks down to the basement and out of sight. There's not much time to be spared for panini prep time management, assuming we'd want these on the menu.

Plus, kinda the whole point of a panini, at least to me, is having a big ol' oversized sandwich. The piccolo squares are teeny little bites, maybe two midsized nibbles each square. It just doesn't have the same kind of satisfaction. Maybe that sounds like a silly thing to say, in light of the fact we purchased them, knowing what they are and their size and all, but while eating these, we just became that much more aware of that fact.

Buuuuttttt....they tasted okay enough. The bread got nice and reasonably toasted and crispy on the outside, and while the pesto and red pepper spread were nothing special, they weren't terrible by any means either. They made a good enough side dish for some orzo and peas. The panini bits even made a decent enough leftover lunch, even though the bread got noticeably chewier and denser overnight. But all in all, they're just very much in the middle - nothing that bad or too wonderful to say about them. Sandy's reaction summed it up about perfectly when I asked for her opinion: "Mmmmeeehhhhhhhh...". I interpret that as a three. Mark me down for that too.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Piccolo Panini: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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