Advertisements

Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mango Chips

Trader-Joes-Crispy-Crunchy-Mango-Chips

No, mango probably wasn’t meant to look like that, but my is it tasty!

Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mango Chips are the answer to the unasked question of “What would happen if you just kept on  dehydrating mango?” The result? These dehydrated, crispy (and, yes, crunchy) mango chips bring you all of that sweet mango flavor, without getting your fingers sticky.

Crispy Crunchy Mango Chips are just the latest addition to Trader Joe’s “Crispy Crunchy” fruit snack line. Previously we looked at TJ’s Crispy Crunch Jackfruit Chips and ruminated in an abstract way if it was possible to cook jackfruit bonda with them. While the jackfruit chips didn’t blow me away, the second I saw this new mango variety I knew I had to pick them up. Long time readers of this blog know that I have a certain, pathological addiction to that sweet, heavenly expression of nature’s golden teet also known as MANGO. I will lie for mango. I will steal for mango. If you get in between me and that luscious fruit, I’ll even kill for mango. These may be simple tenets to live by but they’ve served me well or, at least, ended up getting me a ton of mango.

I’ve held off on reviewing any mango based products for a while now (more than a year?!) because once those floodgates open, they’re hard to close again. In this case I relented, simply because dehydrated mango chips weren’t something I’ve ever seen before.

Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Mango Chips take whole slices of thick, succulent, juicy mango and dehydrates them down into little, withered, french fry-sized sticks. Surprisingly, this is actually much better than it sounds. The resulting chips end up being light and very crispy, with plenty of satisfying snap and crunch. These wouldn’t be great qualities in and of themselves, if it wasn’t for the intense mango flavor that is packed in each chip. Through the dehydrating process, TJ’s managed to retain and concentrate much of that sweet mango flavor. Snap into one and you’ll be shocked at how flavorful each bite is. They’re not as sweet as the actual mango itself, but they bear far more resemblance to it than you would expect – certainly much more than your average apple chip or banana chip bears to their progenitor fruits.

The fact that there is some slight reduction is sweetness is actually a good thing. A ripe mango can be so sweet that eating even one is overpowering. By moderating the sweetness, these chips become much more snackable. In fact, they approach the perfect index of snackability – packed full of flavor, sweet, crunchy, easy to eat, and portable. It’s easy to munch on just one of these chips at a time, nibbling one down and enjoying the experiencing before going back to the back for the next one – a much more enjoyable experience than jamming handful after handful of Lays potato chips into your mouth.

I’ve never regarded dehydrated fruit chips as a particularly high-level snack . I’ve always felt they’re only really sold to people seeking a moderately healthier form of junk food. Since that defeats the purpose of junk food, and dehydrated fruit is often expensive, I’ve never really sought them out. These mango chips have turned me all around on the issue. These aren’t just another half-hearted substitute for genuinely tasty chips, they’re a superior snack food in their own right – more savory, more healthy, and more enjoyable than any bag of lays you’ll ever find.


 The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Yes, these are a superior snacking experience.

Would I Buy Them Again: I’d pick these up over a can of Pringles any day.

Final Synopsis: Tasty, simple, dehydrated snack food with loads of mango flavor.

 

Advertisements

Trader Joe’s Gluten Free, Raw, Vegan Fruit Bars – (Apple & Strawberry, Apple & Mango, Apple & Banana, and Apple & Coconut)

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Apple Fruit Bar

TJ’s, you’re killing me with these generic fruit bar names. C’mon get some adjectives in there!

With the addition of Trader Joe’s Apple and [blank] Fruit Bars, they have added another participant to the already crowded Trader Joe’s fruit bar arena. How, I wondered as I picked these up, could Joe possible justify the existence of a third, no nonsense, “healthy” fruit bar?

There are, in fact, many similarities between these fruit bars and Trader Joe’s other fruit bars. Like its competitors, these bars are 100% fruit, with no additives of any sort. Does that mean we’re just talking about more fruit leather? No indeed sir, it does not! While Trader Joe’s other fruit bars all hopped on the fruit leather boat, these Gluten Free Raw Vegan Fruit Bars are another thing entirely.

Open up a pack and take a look. For starters, you’ll notice that they’re not all that flat. Each bar is a good half inch or more thick, with the heft and body of a candy bar. As you pick it up, you’ll notice that they’re not all that sticky either – you can wrap your fingers around any of the varieties without fear of peeling them away to the dreaded sensation of “sticky raisin fingers”.

You’ll notice another big difference as well – unlike TJ’s other fruit bars, these guys look minimally processed. Instead of a uniform fruit paste, each of these bars is visibly full of shredded fruit – be it bits of strawberry, chunks of banana, lumps of mango, or slivers of coconut. That same quality means that each type of bar actually feels very different in the hand. The Apple & Banana is probably most dense and firm, while the Apple & Coconut has a tendency to crumble as you handle it.

Which brings us to the taste. Apple goes into basically every fruit bar ever made because its pulp is simply excellent and binding things together. What that means is that you can expect all of these bars to taste at least a little bit like apple. The question is, how much does it taste like anything else?

Actually, before we even get into that, I’d better mention that these bars are surprisingly unsweet. To be sure, they are definitely sweet as compared to – for instance, dirt. But compared to any of the other TJ fruit bars I’ve reviewed these bars are much more muted. There is none of the light-up-your-tongue zazz you normally expect from these sorts of snacks. In fact, these fruit bars are less sweet even than the fruits they’re made from.

The reason for this, in part, is because of the unsulfured nature of the raw fruit that has gone into the bars. We’ve talked about the sulfuring process

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Apple Fruit Bar - Inside

Now those are some meaty fruit bars!

before – and how it preserves the color and taste of fruit once it’s been dried. Without preservatives, and without the chemical changes that occur with exposure to high heat, these bars are essentially just shredded, dried fruit – and as such lose a good deal of their fruit’s original intensity.

Why aren’t the bars exposed to high heat? Because they’re “raw”, of course. The notion of raw food, and the ethos of rawism, is simply too big a topic to tackle in this post. One of the more interesting puzzles of only consuming raw food, however, is deciding at what temperature a raw food should no longer be considered raw. It’s generally agreed that the cut off for vegetables and fruits is between 104 – 120 degrees Fahrenheit (40-49 degrees Celsius). Presumably, these bars abide by that guideline, although there is no official “seal of rawness” yet, so really it’s anyone’s guess.

Which brings us back to the taste – just how good are these raw fruit bars? I’m happy to say that even though they are somewhat unsweet, they’re still quite flavorful. The guest fruit in each bar (banana, coconut, mango or strawberry) really come to the fore in each bite. The sugariness may be gone, but the appealing underlying taste of the fruit is still there, mingling pleasantly with the subtle, mellow apple taste. Essentially, you are getting the taste of the fruit without the sweetness. The Apple and Banana Bar, for example, tastes like a cooked plantain more than a ripened banana. The same applies to the coconut, strawberry and even the mango. You can recognize and appreciate the flavors with the candied sugariness common to many dried fruits.

Are these bars worth your money then? There’s certainly a lot to like about them. They give you a convenient way to keep your blood sugar up, a way to stay committed to your raw food diet, and can act as a substitute candy bar for dieters in need of a cheat. Then again, a regular piece of fruit does all of that just as well – and the fruit tastes better.

Really, it comes down to if you like everything about fruit except the sweetness, or if you’ve been questing for a fruit bar that won’t make your fingers sticky. If either of those qualities defines you, then you’ll want to pick up these bars. For everyone else, I’d suggest giving one a try, if for no other reason than the novel experience.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Sure, if you need a healthier alternative to a Snickers.

Would I Buy Them Again: I’d buy these before any of the other Trader Joe’s Fruit bars, just because they’re less sticky.

Final Synopsis: A hefty fruit bar that isn’t all that sweet.


Trader Joe’s Chile Spiced Mango

Trader Joe's Chili Spiced Mango

I mean, they look fiery, don’t they?

Did I eat the entire bag of Trader Joe’s Chile Spiced Mango slices in one day? Yes. Did it taste very good? Not really, no.

My ongoing struggle with the world’s most addictive fruit has been well documented. If there is mango in my house, dried or otherwise, there is an increasingly likelihood, day by day, that I will enter a mango frenzy, stuff it all into my mouth and once, then burst into the streets looking for more. Even now I feel the mango-craving beast within stirring in my breast, it’s insatiable hunger for mango only whetted by this offering. I hold it safely in check – for now. If the chile spiced mango had been a tastier treat, it’s unlikely that would be the case.

A brief lapse in my mango defenses resulted in me buying this sachet of dried fruit the other day. The chili spiciness is what got me. Faithful readers might remember this post about chile spiced dehydrated pineapple from early on. The ecstasy of that sweet napalm still tingles on the edge of my tongue, and the thought of that but in mango form was a lure I could not resist. Sadly, the reality was a faint shadow of the dream.

By no means was this my first encounter with chili powder on fruit, let alone mango. As a denizen of that astonishing salmagundi we know as Los Angeles, I’ve purchased my share my share of fresh, sliced fruit from curbside cart pushers. Always it’s handed to you with a healthy dusting of rusty red cayenne pepper. Not necessarily

my favorite way to enjoy fresh fruit, but certainly a tasty option. My hope was that Trader Joe’s, with their network of chefs and deep coffers, would have perfected this local delicacy. What I got was something no self-respecting street vendor would give you.

Trader Joe’s Chile Spiced Mango is bland. With every bite you’re expecting a blast of intense hotness, tempered by the profound amplitude of succulent mango. This is what you never get. This is the worst dehydrated mango I’ve had from TJ’s. The mango taste is subdued and flat, not so much hidden by the chile powder as absent all together. Meanwhile, the chili powder itself is practically impotent. I get that when you’re selling to a national market you need to tone down the heat, but I’ve had mild salsa with more kick than this chili pepper. There’s a brief hint of fire, like a match threatening to light, that immediate vanishes into a dusty, indistinct taste.

It’s two ingredients, Trader Joe’s! If you’re going to spice something with chili powder, actually spice it. If you’re going to use mango, then let us taste the mango. Yes, I’ll eat the entire bag (it is mango after all), but I’m not going to like it.


The Breakdown:

Would I Recommend It: Not unless you like bland mango.

Would I Buy It Again: Not until it’s the last mango available to me on Earth. Then yes.

Final Synopsis: “A bland, timid entry, suitable for patients recovering from surgery.” -Homer Simpson

Trader Joe's Chili Spiced Mango - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Chili Spiced Mango – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Tropical Sweetened Matcha Green Tea Mix

Trader Joe's Tropical Sweetened Matcha

I picked this up and went, “Whaaa?” audibly and entirely involuntarily.

You never know what’s going to sound bizarre but be surprisingly good tasting at TJ’s. Trader Joe’s Tropical Sweetened Matcha Green Tea Mix is not one of those cases. I should have known better, I actually had forewarning – this isn’t the first powdered green tea with mango flavoring I’ve had. My first experience was with Crystal Light brand Green Tea with Mango, that purveyor of powdered drink mixes. Granted, it had no passion fruit, but the concept was the same – a powdered tea mix with certain tropical fruits mixed in. The Crystal Light product, ordinarily a satisfactory brand, was all but undrinkable in this case – a revoltingly heavy mango flavor having its way with an otherwise okay powdered green tea.

Perhaps by including passion fruit TJ’s had hoped to avoid the same fate. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain. Trader Joe’s Tropical Sweetened Matcha is every bit as repugnant – a terribly mismatched set of flavors putting the nail in the coffin of a perplexing offering.

I think the first question has to be, who in the world’s been asking for this – a big tin of loose, powdered green tea mixed with arbitrary fruit flavoring? It’s the same question I ask myself whenever I order the green tea at Starbucks. “Oh yeah,” I grimace, “They mix mint in with mint.”

Look, green tea is delicious on it’s own, sophisticated and relaxing when served hot, refreshing and invigorating when served over ice, we don’t have to go and mix it with all sorts of other flavors just because we can. It’s a facet of the same madness that compels every sushi place to offer spicy tuna rolls. Guys, straight up fatty tuna is as good as sushi gets – so why is your sushi menu dominated by a dozen variations on minced spicy tuna? Are you all crazy?!

And okay, I’ll grant you that the Starbucks mint and matcha isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, it’s just not my cup of tea. If, however, you’re dead set on adding fruit to green tea for some reason, why are we dabbling in such total non-sequitors as mango and passion fruit? Let’s all just be frothright and admit that no one has ever made a good-tasting mango flavor additive. Whether it’s been distilled from the juices or ginned up in a lab, mango flavoring has never worked well as a flavoring for other foods. Just let mango be mango. Muddling the mix, TJ’s throws some in passion fruit flavoring, a fruit that, in a blind taste test, I wouldn’t be able to identify in it’s natural state.

This is a classic example of less being more. Green tea is a great, nuanced, clean taste in it’s own right. It needs to be given room to express itself. Throw in a bunch of flavorings and you end up with a beverage that is passable at best, but never excellent. If you must add a fruit to it, and I recommend against this, then keep it to something equally simple a clean. A hit of strawberry or something, not just a bunch of tropical fruit.

I could go on forever about this product, it perplexes me so. Instead, I’ll just briefly nit-pick a couple more things. One, it comes in a giant tin of loose powder. This is sloppy, lends itself to big messes and benefits no one. I would guess it’s packaged this way because Two, the serving size is a hefty 4 teaspoons per 7 oz cup. That’s not a ridiculous number until you notice that Three, the prime ingredient is sugar, which means this is no health drink lady. They also misuse the word matcha on the package, but really at this point I’m just pooped out.


The Breakdown:

Would I Recommend It: No, it’s just not very good tasting.

Would I Buy It Again: Man, are you clownin’ me?

Final Synopsis: Basing a sweet tea mix around green tea and tropical fruit is a mistake, and people should stop doing it.


Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Mango Bites

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Mango Bites

The guitar is on the bag to represent the musical lilt of the melodic product name. As memorable as it is concise!

Mango, goddammit, they had to bring me back in with the mango.

The mango in question is the mango in Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Mango Bites. For those of you who just joined us, mango drives me crazy. The Strong Anthropic Principal postulates that the purpose of the universe is to give rise to man so that it may experience itself. In my mind, the universe gave rise to man so that he may assist in the propagation of mangoes. Mangoes. Mangoes mangoes mangoes. I’m also fond of coconut.

This particular item was an automatic purchase for me – I don’t even remember the conscious impulse to pick them up. They were just suddenly there, in my hand, waiting to be purchased. Not, mind you, just because of the mango in it. If I were to give into my desire for mango at every turn I would find myself physically unable to push my cart out of the supermarket doors. I must maintain an unshakable iron will on that front. No, in this case it was the decision to enrobe the combination of these delectable exotic fruits in dark chocolate.

As I’ve pointed out before, dark chocolate is rather in vogue at the moment and undeservedly so. Dark chocolate simply cannot be applied to any given desert with same cavalier attitude of milk chocolate. More than one customer, I’m sure, has bitten into a piece of dark chocolate covered whatever and only then recalled, all to late, that dark chocolate is a fundamentally bitter and highly nuanced treat that plays well with very few others.

The existence of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Mango Bites was then either a further effrontery or a well-considered entrant into the world of taste. Given the sometimes uneven track record of Trader Joe,I was compelled to find out which.

The short answer is more the latter than the former.

Imagine your standard drugstore box of Valentine’s Day chocolates – the soft, rounded bricks of nougat covered in a chocolate shell. In terms of form, that’s what you’re getting here – just without the satin and lace. The texture matches this more common cousin exactly, smooth paste with a touch of coconut grit, and the taste isn’t far off either. Don’t come expecting a mango-flavor blast – they knew what they were doing when the gave it final billing in the product title. I’d describe the taste as only somewhat fruity and if the name had been left out of the title all together, you’d be hard pressed to identify it as such.

Obviously that’s a let down for me, but this blog isn’t about my personal feelings – it’s about whether something is worth eating or not, dammit. And this is worth eating. The dark chocolate’s bitterness is nicely matched with the sweeter candy center. It’s nowhere near as decadent as a Russell-Stover confection log, and that’s to its credit. This is a treat that slides over the tongue easily without the baggage of overbearing sweetness, a delicious morsel you can enjoy after lunch as easily as dinner. It’s a moderately sweet sweet, a sweet for people who find most sweets too sweet.

Would I recommend it: Yup.

Would I buy it again: Yes, mango or no.

Final Synopsis: This is one case where going for dark chocolate was the right move.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocoloate Covered Coconut Mango Bites Nutritional Facts

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocoloate Covered Coconut Mango Bites Nutritional Facts


Trader Joe’s Mango Green Tea

Trader Joe's Mango Green Tea

Mango! Mango! Mango!


[Editors Note: Today’s article may not be suitable for all audiences, in particular those with an aversion to purple prose and/or madness.]

 

Man oh man guys, I try to avoid any sort of shameless self-promotion on this blog, let alone before the article in question has even begun, but are you in for some sensationa;, insightful analysis today. Mango flavored green tea! That’s green tea with MANGO JUICE in it. Actually INSIDE – FLAVORING THE TEA. Whooooooo yeah! When I bought this I had no idea what sort of unimaginable treat I was in for – I mean, mango juice, green tea, who can imagine what tongue-tingling, soaring heights of flavor and…. and… and…

Guys, I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing for you today. I bought this even though I knew I wouldn’t have anything to say about it. Mango green tea tastes exactly how you think it tastes. Like ice tea with the nice flavor of mango juice in it, and a mellow, lingering mango after taste. There’s not much more to add. You know lemon flavored tea? Like that, but with mango juice instead. It’s good chilled, and I recommend it. That’s all I got.

Listen, I knew I shouldn’t have bought that dried green mango, but I thought I could handle it. I always think I can handle it, but mango has me locked tight in its grasp once again. I twist and writhe in the throes of my mango lord, my mango god, as it occupies every shape around me, blinding me with it’s majesty, looming out at me from every shelf and corner in Trader Joes.

“Mango!”, it shouts, unreasonably, as I browse for items to review.

“But Mango, I can’t buy you again,” I beseech it, “I’ve done mango all week.” “Mango!” it reiterates, unconvinced. “MANGO!”

 

Shut up mango, SHUT UP! You will not control me. This is it, this is the last of my unending mango madness. No more – you hear me. Leave me alone!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!

 

[Editor’s Note: The rest of this article has been transcribed as dictated by the author following the adminstration of a mild sedative and a period of enforced rest.]

 

Would I Recommend It To You: Yes, but gird your soul

 

Would I Buy It Again: Get away from me, Dark Temptress!

Final Synopsis: Like Plutonium or LSD, mango is best used in small, regulated amounts, and with a healthy respect for its dangers. A little mango here and there can make life worth living, but to make it the corner stone of your existence is to wager recklessly with the Devil.

 

Trader Joe's Mango Green Tea - Nutritional Facts


Trader Joe’s Dried Fruit – Just Mango Slices

Trader Joe's Dried Fruit - Just Mango Slices, Unsulfured & Unsweetened

Just mango is good enough for me.

Let’s talk delicious mangoes. My ongoing, free-verse tribute to my intense love of mangoes continues today with this lovely dried, unsweetened and unsulfured variety I picked up.

There is a wide world of difference between the dried green mango I enjoyed the other day and these. Why does sweetened mango abound so? Is not dried mango sweet enough on that it can glide blissfully over our tongues without being pumped full of glucose? Having only rarely seen unsweetened mango, and never tried it, I didn’t know – but eager to find out. The answer is a resounding yes. Not only does the absence of extra sugar make the snack more healthful and diet friendly, but it allows the natural fruity flavors to delicately emerge. Without the disguising taste of a sugar coating, I found I could actually distinguish a different taste in the slices depending on how close to the core they had been cut – sweeter and sunnier from outside, more reserved and green tasting at the core.

The slices themselves are stiff, broad flaps of fruit of drab whitish yellow – very different from the bright candy yellow-orange of sweetened mango. I found the change in color rather appealing, much like with Trader Joe’s Green Protein, if something is going to be healthier for me, I expect it to look more natural to boot. In fact, over all I found these a better buy then your regular, dried sweetened mango. Enough sugar already, I say. Let the mango speak for itself. Plus it’s unsulfured, so that’s a plus, but more on that tomorrow.

Are their any downsides to today’s dried mango? Is it even possible to conceive of a mango-related flaw? Yes, it would appear. Through an astounding exercise of willpower I managed to savor these over two whole days, and had the unhappy surprise of finding the pliable mango slices of the night before become increasingly stiff and leathery the next day. Within 24 hours of being opened, the mango slices had become about as difficult to bite off and chew as an old boot. The taste remained as delectable as ever, but eating them became an increasingly arduous task. If only Joe had packaged these in a resealable bag instead of a disposable one the whole issue could have been avoided. If you buy these, be sure to transfer them to a sealable bag upon opening, that’s my advice.

 

Would I Recommend Them To You: Yes, with the above proviso.

 

Would I Buy Them Again: Over sweetened mango? Every time.

 

Final Synopsis: Sweetened mango’s healthier older brother.

 

Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices - Nutritional Facts