Friday, March 22, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers

When I saw these bags on the new-products display at Trader Joe's, I couldn't understand why they were promoting one of their most stalwart old items as new. I had to look more closely to notice that these were not the usual Dippers.

I loves me my Dippers. You could send a SWAT team to break in and do a random surprise inspection of my kitchen any day, any time, and you'll always find at least one bag of them in my cupboard, and usually two or three so that I'm never at risk of running out of them. So of course it was an instant "yes" to try this new version. Heck, I love the original so much that I would have bought any new variation on them that TJ's cared to offer, short of "Super Onion Flavored Onion Corn Chip Dippers, Now With Extra Onion."

I confess that I had never heard of "elote" before. Relying on the first result in a Google search, I learn: "Elote corn is Mexican street corn roasted over an open grill and coated with salt, chile powder, butter, cotija, lime juice, and mayonnaise or crema fresca." That sounds delicious!

Compare that with the seasonings added to these new TJ's chips: maltodextrin, sugar, salt, chipotle peppers, nonfat dry milk, lowfat buttermilk, "spice," corn flour, "natural flavor," citric acid, sunflower oil, habanero pepper powder, "natural smoke flavor," turmeric extract, and "trace of lime."

I'd say those lists are only vaguely similar.

So how do they taste? Not so great, if you ask me--and nothing like what my brain conjures up from the quoted description of elote. There's definitely some mild heat from the peppers (though this is quite variable from one chip to another, I found). Then there's a fairly complex mix of other tastes that I can't put my finger on--presumably the sum of the turmeric, "smoke" and other unspecified "flavors."

This is one of those times when I can't explain exactly what I don't like--but I don't like. Maybe it's the turmeric, which I haven't liked in any of the TJ's products in which it has appeared.

Nina and I were eating them with the last of my stockpiled jars of Fall Harvest Salsa. I objected to the chips clashing with and even dominating the lovely flavors of the mild salsa. Nina, conversely, thought it was a fabulous combo. In fact, after a dozen or so salsa-laden chips, she declared these to be her favorite corn chips of all time. This is not the kind of announcement she drops casually or thoughtlessly.

So you've got a very, very mixed review here.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Well, not unless I accidentally grab the wrong bag, once these migrate to the regular snack shelf of the store.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Vegan Jackfruit Cakes

Nina bought and served these recently. They're supposed to resemble crabcakes. I wouldn't know, since I've never eaten crabcakes. But I got no sense of anything seafoodish about them.

We each had two. I finished one, started on the second, but just couldn't. For some reason, the second one gave me a much bigger jolt of onion than the first one had. I don't think Nina even finished her first one.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Complete fail.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Trader Joe's White Leicester Handmade Hard Cheese

This is currently Trader Joe's "spotlight" cheese of the month, so it will likely be available for a very limited time.

That's a shame. I'd like to see it become a permanent addition to the lineup. It's among my favorites. It's not labeled "cheddar," probably for some technical reason that I don't understand, but it sure tastes like cheddar to me--and a very, very good one.

I love the Mull of Kintyre Scottish Cheddar Cheese. It, too, was a spotlight cheese, available only briefly from TJ's. Fortunately, however, I've recently found it under its own label at another local store. So I tried this Leicester cheese side by side with the Kintyre. The former is not quite as sweet and creamy as the latter, but it comes closer than most white cheddars.

If this became regularly available from TJ's, it would be one of my most frequent cheese purchases--a staple that I would return to again and again. I think it's not quite Top Ten List material. Sadly, however, all of my very favorite TJ's cheddars that made that list are no longer available, so almost-as-good will have to be good enough.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm already on my second block of it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus

This was OK, but I thought it was (1) too hot, (2) hot without being especially flavorful, and (3) a little too mushy/soupy for my taste. Nina disagreed; she liked this a lot. I should also note that if you read the list of ingredients, you'll find that it contains no actual buffaloes.

IMHO, the platonic ideal of hot hummus is the hot chipotle variety from Asheville-based Roots. It is superior to this TJ's one in every way.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi

Nina found this and cooked it up for our dinner last night. Sorry for the dodgy pictures; she forgot to give me a chance to photograph the package before ripping it open.

This is a new product. TJ's introduction to it is here.

The basic idea is gnocchi filled with the two things that you might most commonly put on top of them: pasta sauce and cheese. It's a great idea. As soon as I saw the wrapper, I thought I was going to love them. Nope. I found them disappointingly bland. Unremarkable gnocchi shells with a vague smear of tomato and cheese inside. Dull as all get-out. I think they should make the sauce zestier, like TJ's own arrabiata sauce. Anything with a little more zing to it. And more cheese.

So: Excellent concept, poor execution.

Nina, conversely, didn't have a lot of hope for them, but felt pleasantly surprised. Go figure.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, March 16, 2019


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's favorites

How Trader Joe's makes customer experience its competitive advantage

Healthy and tasty Trader Joe's snacks

Favorites from Trader Joe's

The ultimate vegan guide to Trader Joe's

26 healthy kids' snacks from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag with his Trader Joe's cereal.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Trader Joe's 3 Cheese Vegetable Ravioli

Trader Joe's just keeps churning out new variations on a familiar theme. This time, they've stuck mushrooms, Swiss chard, kale, and three Italian cheeses inside the ravioli.

There were 12 pieces in the plastic container. One of them tore open partially during cooking, as I tried to separate two that were stuck together, but it didn't spill out all of its contents as I've seen happen before.

The texture was fine, as always. The contents left something to be desired, though. I tasted almost nothing but cheese. Now, for me this is kind of a good thing, because I tolerate but do not love mushrooms. For Nina, though, it was a letdown. She wondered what's the point of featuring mushrooms if they're not going to be prominent and really wonderful. And, she added, kale does not belong in ravioli. This is a scientific fact.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'd stick with this one, or this one, or this one.