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Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips

Trader Joe's Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet 'taters? What is sweet taters?

Another sweet and salty chip, but do these rather more sanely presented chips have anything on the milk chocolate potato chips?

I am, in no uncertain terms, a sweet potato lover, the oranger the better I say, but I’m an old school sweet potato lover. Give me ‘em whole and baked or smushed into Thanksgiving casserole and I’ll eat until I’m sick and all dieting resolutions have been obliterated. While I do enjoy sweet potato fries, I have to wonder if we need to sweet potato-ify everything once made from the common Idaho.

I was ready to abandon this idea when I bought Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips. It was the “ridge-cut” modifier in particular that caught my attention. Ridge-cutting is, and has always been, the domain of Ruffles (and Ruffle’s knock-offs). A ridge-cut (or crinkle-cut, in more proper kitchen nomenclature) potato chip is saying one thing to me – this is some serious snacky junk food. Ridge-cut chips are not bought to be rationally portioned out, they are bought to cram into your gob in handfuls while sitting in a darkened room, illuminated only by the flickering pale light of a TV screen playing a show designed to insult your intelligence. Also for picnics.

To achive this sort of status, however, a junk food needs to be straight forward and unengaging – not to challenge your taste buds, but to allow your body to slip steadily toward a sort of waking coma. What’s so strange about the sweet potato chip is that it doesn’t allow you to do this. The mild sweetness of the potato mingles strangely with the mild saltiness of the chip. Neither one is particularly forceful, and they allow the natural flavors of the sweet potato to come out. To me this was a disadvantage.

The chip had a strangely confused taste- leading my taste buds partly down one path, then partly down another. The overall effect was that it never really took me anywhere, not clashing, but not quite in harmony either. Because of the flavor mixture, I couldn’t find a dip or condiment that would suit them. Too sweet for ranch or salsa, too salty for a desert dip, it felt like these things were just meant to be eaten plain, but without a single strong taste to suck me in I couldn’t imagine snacking on them over a nice salty chip like Ruffles.

I know there is a lot of love for sweet potato products out there, but this product failed to win me over. It seemed to me it would have been a better product if it had been salt-free, letting the natural sweetness of the potato speak for itself.

 

Would I Recommend Them: No.

 

Would I Buy Them Again: I can’t think of a reason why.

 

Final Synopsis: A novel approach, but fails to do anything better than your average potato chip.

Trader Joe's Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips - Nutritional Facts

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Trader Joe’s Unflavored Organic Coconut Milk Beverage

Trader Joe's Unflavored Organic Coconut Milk Beverage

Can this possible be as good as it sounds?

Nothing ever sounds so good to me as coconut milk. I don’t know why this is, because every time I have some I’m inevitably disappointed. I blame cultural indoctrination for my consistently high hopes – mainly Sesame Street.

As a child I remember watching one of the recurring animated segments that would run from time to time on that saintly old show, the simple story a little boy in Jamaica (or some such Carribean Island) who wants nothing but a nice glass of coconut milk before bed time, receives it, and becomes infinitely content. What was coconut milk, I wondered, watching this little drama unfold, and how good must it be? I supposed it to be something unearthly sweet and creamy and delicious.

Alas, I grew older. And as I grew older it came to be that I would taste coconut milk. And through tasting it I came to know the bitter world of disappointment that comes to claim us all. Coconut milk, I learned, basically tastes like water diluted with milk, nothing so exotic as I had dreamed.  And so I turned my attention to other things, and experienced much and forgot coconut milk, forgot it until today.

Trader’s Joe’s Unflavored Organic Coconut Milk Beverage lured me with that same exotic appeal from my youth, and while it does not redeem those lost childhood dreams, for what it is it is quite good. This coconut milk beverage, and note the addition of the word beverage here, is basically just a soy milk substitute. The taste is very close to the taste of ordinary soy milk (essentially undetectable to a regular guy like me), but is noticeably thicker and creamier, and leaves a mellow, lingering taste in the mouth.

This creaminess is due to the ingredients behind the coconut milk beverage, which is not actually coconut milk per se, but coconut cream mixed with water. To me, this would seem to be basically the same thing as coconut milk, seeing as that coconut cream is just coconut milk that has had the water simmered out of it. Evidently that’s not the way the truth in labeling division of the US Gov’t sees it though.

At any rate, the main audience for this product doesn’t seem to be me so much as it does those people whose stomach’s are quite prickly when it comes to milk and/or soy based products. I can’t speak for those fine people, but as someone blithely lactose tolerant I thought this product was a bit nicer than ordinary unflavored soy milk for my cereal, but still no replacement for the good ol’ cow.

 

Would I Recommend It: Only to those on the look for something other than soy milk.

 

Would I Buy It Again: Sorry, but it just doesn’t fill any needs in my life.

 

Final Synopsis: A good go to for the soy-sensitive, it not the childhood dreamers.

Trader Joe's Unflavored Organic Coconut Milk Beverage - Nutritional Information


Arabian Joe’s Spicy Spinach Pizzas

Trader Joe's Spicy Spinach Pizza

These puppies are all halal and no haram

One of the little touches that so endears me to Trader Joe’s is the way they slightly tweak their brand name on certain products in order to, I don’t know, infuse it with whimsy or something. What ever the reason, I sorta love it a lot. Whether it be Trader Giotto’s bruschetta or Jo Jo’s Animal Crackers, everytime I see one it gives me that little inward thrill of smug pleasure. “If you look closely you’ll see those taco’s say Trader Jose,” I feel like pointing out to everyone, “I’m pretty clever, so I notice those sorts of things.” Yes intellectual self-wankery, one of the many perks of visiting my neighborhood store.

That said Arabian Joe’s Spinach Pizzas might be slightly too erudite for me, for I did not know previously know that tiny spinach and onion pizzas intersected with the Arabian peninsula. The connection is a little easier to spot when you realize these aren’t actually pizza’s in the sense that most American’s conceptualize the food.

Trader Joe’s Spicy Spinach pizzas are more of a pre-made snack bread, than a mini pizza. Rounds of flat bread, rubbed with olive oil, are topped with a minimal (but still delicious) amount of chopped spinach, onion and spices. Instructions call for a very quick jaunt in the oven (about 3 minutes) and result in some delightfully crispy, deliciously snackable food. Delicious en mass as a meal, or excellent one at a time as an appetizer or meal-rounder-outer (if there is a pretentious French word for that term, by the way, please let me know).

The “pizzas” are flavorful by themselves and, as advertised, a little spicy, but not particularly filling. The bread crisps up well, and makes a good base for additional pizza modifications. I topped one with a bit of prosciutto, which was the tits, and I bet garnishes of olives and feta would be about the same. Live it up – or not. Between their small size (6” diameter) and sparse toppings, they are about the healthiest pizza option as you’re likely to find.

Don’t be put off by the unusual packaging. It looks like you’re just buying a bag of blank pitas, but the toppings are packed facing inwards on both sides for some reason. Check ‘em out in the refrigerated food aisle.

 

Would I Recommend Them: Go at ‘em, they’re good.

 

Would I Buy Them Again: Yep – cheap, tasty & easy to make.

 

Final Synopsis: A tasty alternative to the shlumpy pizza bagel, with the potential to be customized.

 

Trader Joe's Spicy Spinach Pizza - Nutritional Facts


Trader Joe’s Pear Cinnamon Cider

Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider

Yeah, why not pears?!

For me, nothing says it’s the holiday season like a little spiced apple cider. I live in Los Angeles now, a place as inimical to the change of seasons as you are likely to find, where the only difference between summer and winter is that it rains sometimes, but a single sip of mulled apple cider makes me feel like I can smell the first snow flakes on a lonely north wind.

I know that’s a tall order to ask of a simple juice, but I’ve never had an apple cider that fails to deliver that chilly, first sensation. So it was with great interest that I picked up a jug of cinnamon spiced pear cider from Joe’s today. To be honest, I didn’t even know there were ciders other than the apple kind, but just as ketchup is in no way bound only to tomatoes so too is cider as much a method as it is a product.

So what exactly is the difference between a cider and a juice? The internet abounds with non-answers on the subject. Both are made from the same apples in the same way, with their being some contention over whether or not cider has to be made from young apples, or if it has to be unpasteurized. Effectively, the only difference between the two lies in how it’s marketed to you. For my two cents, I always consider it cider if it’s a bit opaque, comes in a big jug and, most important of all, is spiced. With such easy prerequisites its a surprise that I’ve never seen the juices of other fruit sold as cider.

Now that said, I obviously have high expectations for my cider, and I’m happy to say that pear cider fills apple cider’s ample shoes perfectly. From the very first sip I felt myself transported to a chilly hillside strewn with colorful leaves, an overcast sky just about to bring snow down from the mountains. I could go on about the delicious taste of cinnamon and other spices, etc.., but for me it’s already fulfilled the all important “autumness” criteria. That said, spiced pear cider doesn’t really offer me anything all that different from spiced  apple cider. The degree of pearness that comes through is heavily masked by the bouquet of spices. It’s a fun item, and well executed, but not much different than anything you’ve had before.

 

Would I Recommend It: Yeah, give it a shot.

 

Would I Buy it Again: Over regular spiced apple cider, probably not.

 

Final Synopsis: A good spiced cider, but it doesn’t offer anything new.

Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider - Nutritional Facts


Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

After yesterday’s disastrous beet and purple carrot juice, I thought I finally thought I had had enough of seemingly preposterous food pairings. Why not judge a book by its cover? You might be wrong every now and then, but you’ll be right about 95% of the time. Surely I could live with that, right? I was fooling myself, of course, as I said before the unknown allure of seemingly insane couplings holds an irresitable draw for me. Here it is, the very next day and I’m back at it again with a treat that couldn’t sound worse to me on paper.

Chocolate covered potato chips. Honestly, I’m surprised this combination even crossed anyone’s mind to begin with. The name easily evokes the sloppiest, laziest summer days of youth when, with one hand, I might casually shove a handful of chocolate into my mouth then supplement it with a handful of chips from the other, not bother with all the effort of clearing my esophagus in between. Homer Simpsons’ famous Gum & Nuts comes to mind, along with any number of childhood’s boderline creations (popcorn and ketchup, apple butter and ice cream). In other words, I was ready for mediocrity at best.

Consider my gob smacked when I actually tried these things. The sweet taste of milk chocolate melts seamlessly into the salty kiss of the potato chip, all bound up in a pleasurable crunchy bite. All but overwhelmingly delicious, this crazy confection literally sat my ass down. After crunching the initial test chip my tongue quickly cited that well known edict “This Is Effin’ Good!” and summarily took charge of all cognitive and motor functions, pleasuring itself with chip after chip. It was only through a great exercise of self-control later on that I was able to salvage about half the bag. We’re talking dangerously good folks. Salty, crunchy and sweet altogether, without being too much of one or another – this chip had everything that I didn’t even know I was looking for.

No downsides here, but maybe a couple suggestions. These came packaged in the same way as Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter thingies, which is to say with no consideration for the inherent meltiness of chocolate. No problems yet, but it’s just not a good idea to sell chocolate all jumbled together in a bag. Also, the bag is quite small, but I’m inclined to consider this a good thing at the moment since these things are guaranteed diet-killers. Overall though, these chips are a sweet, secret surprise.

 

Would I Recommend Them: Yes sir, I would.

 

Would I Buy Them Again: So long as I’m not worried about sticking to a diet.

 

Final Synopsis: Chocolate and Potato Chips – the definition of synergy.

 

 


Trader Joe’s Beet and Purple Carrot Juice

Trader Joe's Beet and Purple Carrot Juice

I know – how could this not be as good as it sounds?

Goddamn beets got me again. After enjoying my marinated beet salad so much I thought I’d pull a Jesus and turn the other cheek, try and welcome all beets back into my life.  Unfortunately, Jesus has once again out done me, for I simply cannot forgive what these beets have done to me.

I might be being a little unfair toward beets – the purple carrots can’t be totally blameless here. Purple carrots are just carrots that happen to be purple – nothing more exotic than that. In fact, before the reign of William of Orange in the 16th century it was more outlandish to see an orange carrot than a purple, red, yellow or white carrot. Allegedly, as part of a great ploy, the farmers of the Netherlands teamed up to produce nothing but orange carrots as to pay tribute to their king, thereby establishing orange as the standard color for the last 500 plus years. Pretty good tribute guys!

To return to the subject at hand, this ungodly combination was the worst thing I have drank in recent memory. I hope this blog goes somewhat toward testifying my openness to even the strangest foods and my willingness to consume anything food like, because I assure you this is the case. This beet juice simply affirmed all my worst fears and suspicions about Satan’s vegetable – all the horrible taste of drinking the liquid canned beets come in, combined with a cloying, lingering flavor that simply will not leave your tongue alone. I’m afraid I found this one simply undrinkable, and I don’t say that as a knee-jerk reaction.  I am proud to say that I managed to give it my level best and fight my way through an entire glass, though it was consumed in small sips with generous periods of walk-it-off time in between. I could do no better, and was relieved when I was finished with it. Wasting food was deeply ingrained in me as a sin, but I will dump this muck into a gutter and laugh at it’s demise.

That said, the juice is good for you. It’s phenomenal for you in fact – so chock full of  Vitamin A, C, Iron and Calcium that if you drank it daily you would all but explode in a thunderous shock wave of healthy energy. I’m sure there are beet fans and health fanatics alike who embrace this product as an exciting new way to drink their favorite vegetable. I don’t care, and will do my best to avoid having my eye line accidentally cross sight of another bottle ever again.

Beets – you got me again! Damn you beeeeeeets!

Would I Recommend It: Uh, like no.

Would I Buy It Again: It’s hard to imagine a situation so dire that I would be compelled to.

Final Synopsis: Beets are monsters and they should all be destroyed.

Trader Joe's Beet and Purple Carrot Juice - Nutritional Information


Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burger

Trader Joes chili lime chicken burgers

Unless they are using the chili variety of lime (and I assure you they are not), these are not grammatically correct burger. Tasty though.

It’s got the chili, it’s got the lime – what more can you want.

I would call myself very satisfied with these. Chicken burgers are a well known delicious healthier, lean alternative to ground beef. However, it has also been accurately accused of being a blander alternative as well. The chili and lime flavoring did a phenomenal job compensating for this – zesting the chicken with a flavor that gets the mouths of everyone in the room watering. I actually had to fend off overly ardent admirers of my browned burgers as I ate them. The patties are flavorful without going overboard. I went into these mostly worried that the chili-lime balance would be skewed too far one way or another, but I needn’t have. The chili packed a kick without being too spicy, and the lime was zesty without being too citrusy. A good taste for a fresh burger, or any light, summery dish. Combined with the shockingly healthy nutritional profile (on 6g of fat per patty) these burgers roar to the top of the Taste To Health Quotient.

Other positives – the packaging is tight, efficient and easily storable, and the wax paper in between the paddies ensured ease of separation. The only real downside? No cooking instructions on the box. I’m kind of a numb nuts when it comes to intuiting the way to cook things. Though I enjoy cavalierly disregarding the instructions for most things, I assiduously pore over any meal preparation tips. For the chicken burgers, not being something I am overly familiar with, I was particularly looking forward to a little help, but was left in the lurch. I just sort of cooked until they browned, and although this mostly worked out I did over cook one of the four patties. For shame Joe! To paraphrase an episode of the Simpsons, stupid cooks need the most attention.

Would I Recommend Them: Yes, but look up the cooking instructions online.

Would I Buy Them Again: I could see it.

Final Synopsis: A little zing-pow in your chicken burger.

Trader Joes chili lime chicken burgers - Nutritional Facts