Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beer Bread Mix AND Charlottesville, VA Trader Joe's

We went on a road trip recently, and if you know me, you know what that means:  EXPLORING NEW TRADER JOE’S LOCATIONS!  This time we went to the TJ’s on Bond Street in Charlottesville, Virginia. I believe it was the 31st Trader Joe’s location (in 14 states) that I have set foot in since I began this project.  😊

Wheee - Trader Joe's in Charlottesville, Virginia
(and me in a new scarf I bought earlier on the road trip)
The Charlottesville store is a little hard to get to because of its placement in a chichi outdoor mall.  Once you make all the necessary twists and turns to arrive, it fits right in with the upscale environment.  There is free parking, always a plus.  We were there on a Friday afternoon and it was a bit crowded.  The signage (each store has their own sign artists) was alright, not my favorite.  One thing that was really good (that I haven’t seen in other stores) was that right in the foyer they had a sign telling you what they were sampling today.  That meant you could start dreaming about what you would get a nibble of as you meandered the aisles doing your shopping!

Sign right when you enter the store telling you what is being sampled, cool!

Some of the store artwork.  As always, very appropriate subject matter for the location.
Every time I visit a new store I ask if they have a local item that is not sold nationwide at other TJ’s locations.  Some stores have no idea what I am talking about (and explain that all TJ’s stores carry identical items, which you know is not true if you have followed this blog as I have discovered cool regional items).  This store did not have any local things, though they did mention that they carry the big tin of Virginia Peanuts over the holidays (those are now in all TJ’s stores as seasonal items, and as a Virginian I think that is pretty cool).  We did find one local wine (from Horton Winery).  Speaking of wine, a great thing about this location is that they had some wine CHILLED.  Our usual TJ’s does not do that.  But if you live in Charlottesville, you can pop in for a bottle of white wine and pop that puppy open as soon as you get home!  Sweet.

Need some already chilled wine?  They've got you covered!
I believe this is the first Trader Joe’s I have ever gone into where I left empty handed.  Yup, we didn’t buy a single item.  Granted, we were on a road trip and had a car full of Trader Joe’s snacks and had already munched on some before we got to Charlottesville, but still, strolling through a grocery store and not coming out with something is rare for us. 

But just because we didn’t purchase anything in Charlottesville doesn’t mean there won’t be a product review today.  I will review something we bought at our local store – BEER BREAD MIX.  Have you tried it?  If not, you are seriously missing out!!

David looks a bit funny when considering the purchase of Beer Bread Mix
Here is what I think of it:  The worst thing about this bread is that it tastes so good when it is fresh and warm is that you might eat so much of it (because it is soooo tasty) that you won’t be able to eat the rest of your dinner.  And really, is that such a bad problem to have??

It is super easy to make – you just need the bread mix and one bottle of beer, plus some butter to put on top.  We used a Pills beer and the bread was delicious!  You can also add cheese, which we did not do since we were serving it with a homemade cheesy potato soup. 

Just add beer and butter!  Easy peasy
It tastes like a soda bread and I think it would be great with chili.  It is not sandwich making bread, but it is great alongside a meal.  It doesn’t taste too much like beer, but there is a hint of the flavor.  I don’t know how well the bread will hold up – it seems like something you will want to snarf down the day you make it. 

A warm piece of Beer Bread?  Yes please....
In all honesty, our box of this mix sat in the cupboard a looong time before I baked it.  Ours expired February 16th and I made it 11 days later, but it still turned out great!  I am not sure if it is still on the shelves at TJ’s, I think it is/was a winter seasonal product.  If you see a box, grab it.  And if you do not see a box now, do not fear.  It should come ‘round again next fall!  I will give this product a 5!

David:  “It is like Irish soda bread and also a bit like cornbread.  It is delicious and hearty.  It is good to put butter on it even though there is already a lot of butter on it when you bake it.  I think it is a good idea not to add cheese to it because it is so tasty without it.  it is quick and easy to make.  It might be interesting to see what it would be like baked in tiny pans or like muffins.  I will give this a 5.”

Price:  $2.79
Rating:  5

And here is a bonus photo for anyone still reading.  On the same day of this road trip we also stopped at Cox Farms.  A photo of one of their signs, it says RESIST WHITE SUPREMACY, recently went viral.  We saw that sign along with several others.  This one was my favorite :).

But SRSLY....

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Spud Crunchies Potato Snacks*

This is a first for this review blog – not only do we have a guest reviewer today, we have a guest ANIMAL reviewer!  Yes, this is our first review by an animal, specifically, a DEER.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s set the scene first.
David with our bag of Spud Crunchies
Trader Joe’s Spud Crunchies Potato Snacks* have a cute little package.  On the front are “spud crunchies” with faces drawn on them – one has a mustache and one looks like a wiener dog 😊 .   The bag says, “A chip crunch in a fun fry shape,” and lets us know they are gluten free.

Those are some cute little crunchies, no?
Here is what David thought of this snack:  “My first impression is, it is like a frozen French fry that is warmed up.  It is kind of dry.  It has a hint of potato chip-ness about, but more of a hint of potato stick-ness about it.  Now, I’m a fan of both chips and sticks, but the disadvantage here is that it is so thick, the dryness overtakes it and it is not counterbalanced enough SALT.  With regular potato sticks you are getting a fair does of salt to give it some tang…  So, I would say, I give this a 3.25.  It’s not a big winner.”

Ahhh, who can pass up a snack that doubles as a pretend cigarette???
And now for my opinion:  I agree with David.  I thought that these tasted like frozen french fries that were brought to room temperature but not cooked.  And before you say, “Susan, how in the heck would you know what that would taste like??” let me tell you that when I was a little girl, I had a friend who would only eat french fries if they were straight out of the freezer.  Anyway, when I eat these Spud Crunchies, I have memories of sitting with that person chomping on frozen french fries in the kitchen of a little house in Omaha. 

I agree with David, also, in the fact that the thickness of these crunchies dries them out.  And, to me, it also makes the inside of the crunchy tastes like styrofoam.  I don’t know if that is a TASTE or a TEXTURE thing really, but I would prefer the potato sticks of my youth that came in a little can and were super greasy.  Do they even make those things anymore???  These TJ’s Spud Crunchies are making me hungry for some of those unhealthy crappy potato sticks.  (Note to self: go to a store other than TJ’s and see if they still make those things!)  David and I agree that this Trader Joe’s version probably has less salt and less fat than the potato sticks of our youth, resulting in less taste, and c’mon, how fun is THAT?

Reasonably priced at $1.99
All that being said, they don’t taste horrible or anything.  The texture is just weird.  And I guess if you are gonna eat something chip like, you might as well eat a chip!!!  I am gonna give these a 3.

And now for our final reviewer – THIS DEER!!!! 

We drove to Kentucky recently, and on our way home we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park to check out the “world’s longest cave”.  When we pulled into the parking lot, we spied this beauty over by some unoccupied rental cabins.  We drove over near her and lo and behold if she didn’t walk right up to the car and stare at us.  I rolled down my window to say hello, but she was so close I was afraid she was going to put her runny nose right into our front seat so I had to put the window back up!!!  She was adorable, and obviously knew that people = food.


David checked out our backseat food pile to see what she might like.  It was between “Naturals” Cheetos and these Spud Crunchies.  Guess which one won?? 

David was a bit timid at first, but Doe A Deer wasn't!
SHE LOVED SPUD CRUNCHIES!  She ate them right out of David’s hand!  She was ever so gentle (if a bit slobbery…) and really enjoyed the snack.  (And please don’t go on about how we should not feed the animals.  There were no signs up to warn us of that until we got inside, and then we looked at each other and went, “Oops!” and David excused himself to wash the goo off his hand…)**

Ahh, product placement!  See, she loves 'em!
Anyway, the deer (who we named Doe, A Deer) loved this product.  She had zero complaints about not enough salt or styrofoam-y texture.  She gave them a solid 5 star rating!

"Thanks for the snack, mister!"
Price:  $1.99
Rating (average of 2 humans and 1 deer):  3.75

*If you saw the article going around that said all of Trader Joe’s products could be sung to the tune “Eleanor Rigby”, then THIS product is an example of how, sadly, that claim is untrue. (Link to Buzz Feed article about TJ's products being sung to the tune of Eleanor Rigsby ) I sooo wanted it to be true!  I mean, how hilarious if every product on TJ’s shelves could be sung to a Beatle’s song, specifically to “Eleanor Rigby”!  Alas, it was too good to be true.  Try this one – SPUD CRUNCHIES POTATO SNACKS.  It sort of works if you leave off “snacks”, but let’s be honest, I hate to say this, but that whole Eleanor Rigby thing was, as some would say, fake news….

**I am in no way advocating for you to feed wild animals anything, let alone Spud Crunchies. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cinnamon Sugar Muffin and Baking Mix

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I am writing and posting this review on February 14th, but the product being reviewed has nothing to do with the holiday.  Even so, may your day be full of love, hugs, and chocolate (if you are into those kinds of things).

Now for the review.  I found this box of Cinnamon Sugar Muffin and Baking Mix on a Trader Joe’s “end cap” (that’s the big display at the end of an aisle for those of you who have never worked retail 😊 ).  The picture on the package looked like a tasty muffin, so I grabbed a box and made them on a recent Sunday morning.  (I say “morning”, but on days that my partner and I both have off of work, “morning” can be any time we are still in our robes and sitting down to coffee and breakfast.  On lazy days it is usually past noon.  😊 ). 

THIS is an end cap.  Lovely!

Good signage, too

The box has two versions – muffins or coffee cake.  I made them as muffins.  Here is what we thought of them:

David:  “I am gonna give these a 5.  The taste is great!  I would recommend slicing them in half and then re-dipping them in the melted butter and cinnamon sugar (editor’s note: that muffin eating style may not be the healthiest of choices but it is a delicious and creative option).  The taste is good.  The texture is good.  The amount of butter, cinnamon, and sugar is delightful!  Plus, they are very easy to make – you just get up in the morning and your girlfriend has already made them for you!!”

Muffins, espresso, grapefruit, fresh squeezed OJ, and the Sunday morning Washington Post. 
David in his "happy place". 
My take:  Even though I was the one who actually made them, I agree with David that they were easy to prepare.  All you need is water, one egg, and butter.  They are easy to mix, too.  You know how some muffin mixes are all lumpy when you mix them up?  This one was not like that.  One baking note though:  the box says to melt 6 tablespoons of butter (which is used to dip the baked muffin tops in before rolling them in the cinnamon sugar).  I had 5 tablespoons of butter handy, so used that, and it was more than enough.  I would say start with 4 or 5 tablespoons then melt a bit more if you need it.

These muffins and PRETTY and TASTY, a good combination
I will buy these again.  They would be good to make if you are having people over for breakfast or brunch.  I like that they are not toooooo sweet as some box muffin mixes are. That might be because these, being from Trader Joe’s, have more natural, “hippy” ingredients.  The box says these, “…make a light and fluffy muffin with the flavor of a donut,” which we agree with.  The texture of the muffins is terrific – they have a fluffy quality and are not as dense as some muffins are.  TJs also says these are, “A perfect combination to a cup of joe or alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream”.  We paired ours with cups of joe (and I drank mine our of my new espresso cup!).

My new espresso cup was the perfect compliment to these muffins
The box says it makes 12 muffins, I got 10 (which I guess only proves that I put more batter in the muffin cups than they expected me to).  I am going to agree with my Valentine and give these muffins a 5 star rating, too.  I am not sure if they are a seasonal item or if TJs will continue to carry them, but I recommend picking up a box soon.  They are tasty!

Bonus cheesy kissing photo for Valentine's (which was actually TAKEN on Christmas,
making the whole thing a bit confusing really...)
Price:  $2.99

Rating:  5 stars

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fruit Fancies

If you are new to Trader Joe’s, you may not know about HOLIDAY PRODUCTS.  Oh, November and December are magical months at Trader Joe’s!!  Products appear on the shelves that you have never seen before (or at least haven’t seen since last holiday season)!!  The die hards (like me) rush to Trader Joe’s as soon as word gets out that the holiday items are trickling in.  And each trip to the grocery store turns into an exciting journey – what will I find this time?  What will be new?  What special treat will make its way into my cart???

It was in that holiday haze that the FRUIT FANCIES made their way into our lives. 

Aren't they pretty?  And don't they look FANCY?  I mean, the word FANCY is right there in the NAME!
Do you think the sign maker at the Fairfax Virginia store had tasted these and KNEW they were not fancy, thus made them this pretty non-fancy sign?  That's my theory.  It was a SIGN...  A sign I should have paid attention to...
What can I say, I was smitten???  They looked good to me for some reason…  Sure, they seemed sort of like “Grandma and Grandpa” treats.  Or like little rolled up turds covered in sesame seeds and coconut.  But the BOX – oh man – the BOX they came in was lovely!  It had dovetailed corners!  The box is what sold me.  That, and the fact that we were heading to Omaha to celebrate the holidays, and we would be staying with my dad and his wife, who are not only Grandparents, they are Great-Grandparents!  So even if this treat was “Grandparent food”, we would be sharing it with actual grandparents, so all would be good!

I asked my dad to make a funny face.  He did.  I love it.  
Only, we never got around to eating them in Omaha…  So, they came back, unopened, then made their way to Florida!  “We will bring them next door and share them with the neighbors,” I reasoned.  Only, you see where this is going, we didn’t do that either.

Christmas Day 2017 - too busy to be bothered by Fruit Fancies...
So, before you know it, it was the last day of January and the Fruit Fancies were still unopened.  But after we ate dinner while watching “Amazing Race” (go team Brainiacs!) , David ripped into these special treat, and, well, they ended up being not so special after all…   Oh, and before you say, “Susan, of course they tasted like %&*#, they were a HOLIDAY ITEM and you let them sit until almost February!  They were too old!” – N-O.  They didn’t expire until 11/18. 

OK, here is what we thought of them:

David:  “Well, these are different.  They are like Fig Newtons that have even less moisture in them, and perhaps a little extra fiber.  They are dry.  The mouth feel is not a joy ride for me.  These things suck the moisture right out of your mouth!  I give them a 1.  The reason I am not giving them a 0 is that they do not taste bad, they just do not taste good.  The box is alright, but it is a little skinny to use for anything else.  I have to respect the dovetail jointing.”

David didn't fancy these, did fancy them at all.  
Susan:  I am just gonna say it – I was duped by the wooden, dovetailed box.  They punked me!  I think the term for this type of duped is “The Hickory Farm Effect”.  You know how Hickory Farms always had (is it has – does PF still exist in the MALL SETTING where they had special displays of meat and cheese for the holidays?) really attractive PACKAGING?  Like, “Put it in a basket, then the dyed orange cheese with pimentos and nuts will sell!!”.  Yeah – Trader Joe’s Hickory Farmed me with this one! 

The treats looked very pretty in the packaging.  Each one was topped with a whole nut on top – some with almonds and some with walnuts.  The things that “encrusted” each piece – sesame seeds or coconut – looked lovingly applied.  Each piece looked like a fancy, Mediterranean delight.  To my EYES, they looked like they would taste a bit exotic, sweet, a bit juicy, perhaps fig-like, and yummy.

But EYES are not what actually TASTE things… 

These are a product from Turkey.  But they are not “from Turkey” in a sexy, romantic, exotic kind of way.  They are not good.  I ate 2 – one of each variety.  I thought David ate ONE, but later learned he could only stomach ¼ of 1 and threw out the rest (that man never throws out a sweet!!). 

The NUT on top of each piece was nice, but there was only one nut per piece.  I guess a person could just pop the nut off the top of each one and eat only that, but it would be easier and cheaper just to head over to the TJ’s nut aisle and get yourself a whole bag of nuts.  I will give this product a 1.5 (the majority of the score is for the cool box and the nuts on top).
Sorry Trader Joe's, we don't really want these anymore....
Let this be a lesson to me (and to you): not ALL Trader Joe’s holiday products are lovely.  Even the pretty ones are sometimes duds.  Luckily, Trader Joe’s happily accepts any returns, so we took this back.  Our cashier saw the return and said, “Oh yeah, I didn’t like those things either…” 😊

You can’t get this product at Trader Joe’s right now since it was seasonal, but if it does come back next year, I suggest you pass.  Grab some of the other delightful items, and leave them for some other sucker to get Hickory Farmed.

Price:  $5.99 

Rating:  1.25

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Updated Review: Authentic Greek Feta in Brine

Well folks, it doesn't happen often, but it is happening today.

A Trader Joe's product is getting a BUMP UP in the number of stars it got on my original review!

And not only is it getting a BUMP UP in stars, it is going from 4.75 stars to the elusive 5 STAR REVIEW!!!!  Can I get a round of applause for Trader Joe's Authentic Greek Feta in Brine please??

So excited about this feta that we are JUMPING!   (OK, that was really us jumping in front of the
Supreme Court because a decision came down that we were psyched about, but still, the jump fits...)
Here's the scoop:  WeLoveFeta.  As cheeses go, feta is super high up on our list.  And this Greek Feta in Brine from Trader Joe's is, as Oprah might say in her sing-songy voice, Ahh-Maahhhzzz-Zing!  The only thing that kept it from getting a 5 star review the first time 'round was the crappy packaging it was in.  Original Authentic Greek Feta in Brine review here

Our household is not divided by gender.  We are a home of 2, David and I, and we don't divide roles up by "male" and "female".  We both cook.  We both grocery shop.  We both clean...  Wait, who am I kidding, neither of us cleans...

But OPENING THE FETA, sigh, opening the feta has been a "male task" at our house since we got addicted to this TJ's feta in brine.  I could not open that dumb container for the life of me!!  It had a little plastic bit you had to bust off, I could do that.  But then the rest of the opening was IMPOSSIBLE for me.  At first I thought it was just because I had long fingernails (so sue me, I didn't want to bust a nail).  But I have also tried opening the containers when I had very short nails, and that was a fail, too. So each and every time I wanted to eat feta (which, let's face it, was often), I had to call David into the kitchen to open the dumb package.  Laaaame!!!

But Trader Joe's must have heard my frustration (ok, they likely did not read it here, but maybe they sensed it magically, or maybe I was not the only one to hate the packaging).  THEY CHANGED THE PACKAGE!

The new one is oh so nice!!!  I just opened it and made a big ol' salad, and David is not even home!  :)  I feel so liberated now that my feta consumption no longer replies on his muscles. 

Thanks Trader Joe's.  This new packaging is awesome.  I feel independent again!  Who knows, when David comes home and I show him my new discovery, he may feel a twinge of sadness that I no longer "need him" for the feta...  Not to worry - I can find another chore to give him (shhhh)! 

Price:  still $6.49 I believe
Rating: 5 STARS!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Incanto Chardonnay Pinot Grigio

First, let me lay this on the line:  I have coveted this big ass blue bottle of wine every year when Trader Joe’s brings it out around the holiday time.  TJ’s always have special, super huge wine bottles, and they are sooooo appealing to my eyes!  Seriously, every year I want to buy them.  David and I normally grocery shop together, and I know that he, being the more realistic (and once in a while the more responsible) of the two of us must think these big ol’ wine bottles are ridiculous.  And, in my heart, I have always known he was right.  So, year after year I have held back and not snuck one of these big wines into our cart.

But this year – oh, this year I WENT FOR IT!  I got brave enough to snag one of these bottles on a night I was shopping without David actually 😊 .  But look at it – it is gorgeous!  The shape of the bottle.  The size.  But mostly, the color! I mean, how bad would this Italian blend have to taste to undo all of those positives???

Here is David before the bottle was opened.  See - it is LARGE!
So, this holiday season, I got one and we hauled it down to Florida with us.  I thought we might drink it if we had friends over, but (as almost always happens in our lives), we were hermits and didn’t have a dinner party.  We were invited to a friend’s house for New Year’s Day dinner, and I guess it would have been nice to bring this bottle, but it just felt a little strange.  There were going to be 5 people at the meal, and in we would walk with a huge ass bottle of wine?  What if we were the only wine drinkers?

Close up of the label
Now January is ticking by and we still hadn’t opened this bottle...  One night our friend Sarah said she was going to stop by (and I know she likes wine).   Voila – there’s my chance!  I had David open the bottle and the 3 of us did a taste test.  Here is what we thought:

Well isn't this elegant??  Bottle is too big for the fridge
Susan:  Before I can discuss the taste of the wine, I must talk through the logistics of it.  This.  Wine bottle.  Is.  Ridonkulous!!  It is white wine and we wanted it chilled, but the big bottle most certainly could not stand up in our refrigerator.  It ended up lying on its side and taking up a big chunk of the fridge (though to be honest, for a day or so it served as a “shelf” as David rested his used paint brush (wrapped in Saranwrap) on top of the horizontal bottle…).  OK, now on to the taste:  The taste is sort of water-y to me – there is not much taste.  Because of that I wound up drinking it pretty fast.  So, if your goal is to down wine quickly (and therefore feel a bit tipsy quickly…), this might be a good pick.  Artistically it is beautiful.  Logistically it is stupid.  And to be honest, the actual wine seemed sort of incidental!  I will give the taste of this wine 3.75.  If I gave a score for the look of the bottle it would be a 5, but if I gave a score for the usability of the bottle (squishing it in your fridge) it would be a 2.  So, I will average those scores together and give the overall product a score of 3.5.

David gives Incanto a try
David: “I think this is good, it is nice and cold which is good for this wine.  It has a little bit of a fruity taste.  It has a hint of a chardonnay kind of oakiness – I don’t like chardonnay but this was not too much, so I thought it balanced it out kind of nice.  This is not a wine I would seek out, but I am delighted to drink it.  I guess I will give it a 4.  (David added that he should have docked his score because of the unwieldy size of the bottle.)”

Sarah refilling her glass
 (by the way, this bottle is hard to pour, too!  It comes out super fast.)
Sarah: “I did not like this wine at the first sip, because it tasted like chardonnay and I do not normally like chardonnay.  But I kept drinking, and (like most wines) then I enjoyed it more.   It ended up being more fruity than dry, which I liked.  This is a super easy wine to drink.  I will give it a solid 4.5.”

Overall, I suggest only buying this big bottle of wine if you have plans to drink it all in one sitting.  That way you can chill it, uncork it, and drink it all without having to worry about re-corking it to lay sideways in your fridge.

Price:  $12.99 (cheap when you consider it is the equivalent of 2 bottles of wine)

Rating (average of 3 raters):  4

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lay's "Do Us A Flavor" Potato Chip Finalists 2017

OK, this is unusual…  This is a blog to review TRADER JOE’S PRODUCTS, and here I am about to review a special selection of Lay's Potato Chips (not sold at TJ’s).  But it is a very unique circumstance, this is the one and only time I am going to stray in the blog mission, and I am feeling the need to do it, so please, humor me, ok?

Our next-door neighbors in Florida are James and Carol.  I say “James and Carol” as a unit, a grouping.  We never refer to them as “James” and “Carol”.  It is really JAMES-AND- CAROL, a one-word unit.  But now Carol is very sick.  It is inevitable that it will soon be James (sans Carol), and that is a sad reality for all of us. 

Carol, one of the sweetest neighbors you ever could meet
James-and-Carol are about as different from my partner David and I as you can imagine.  They are true Southerners – from the accents to the attitudes.  It is fun to hang out with them and chat.  They look at things from a whole different perspective than we do, and they think David and I are a bit crazy with our gallivanting around the world (ok, more than a bit crazy…).  In fact, just yesterday when I was visiting and a hospice nurse remarked to James that there was a “crazy neighbor” she had seen on our street, Carol (in her morphine induced state) smiled and quietly said, “Susan and David!” – calling us the crazy neighbors!  When we were in Florida late summer of 2017 the doctors had announced Carol’s cancer had spread.  It was getting bad, and honestly, no one knew if she would still be around when we came back to the Sunshine State in the winter. 

So, before we left town, I thought of what I thought was a fun project we could all do together:  they would help me review potato chips for my blog!  I had seen Lay's Special Flavors Potato Chips advertised and had never heard of the concept before.  Apparently Lay's has a contest (called “Do Us A Flavor” – a catchy title that sounds like something Trader Joe’s would come up with, no??) to see who can come up with the best NEW flavor, and the winner gets $1,000,000 and their chip flavor is made and sold!!  People who taste the chips go online and VOTE for which new chip flavor they like best.  I ran around to a couple of different stores to collect bags of the 2017 finalist flavors:

Crispy Taco

Wavy Fried Green Tomato

Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel (with Cream Cheese)

And then, one night shortly before we left to drive back up to DC, I busted out the chips!  I figured, hey, one of the flavors is Fried Green Tomato, they are bound to like that one!  And it was a game we didn’t have to leave the comfort of their home for, so it seemed perfect.

Everyone was all smiles before the bags were opened...
Perfect, that is, until we actually tasted the chips……

James-and-Carol (who will have to be separated and referred to individually for the rest of this article, since they reviewed the food individually) did NOT like these chips!  Their comments cracked me up – I was rolling on the floor laughing as they ate them.  The whole idea of reviewing food seemed ridiculous to them, too.  But hey, it was crazy neighbor Susan’s game, so they went along with it.

Meet the reviewers:
James – age 77, from Kentucky
Carol – age 67 – also from Kentucky
David – our normal TJ’s reviewer, from a suburb of Washington DC
And me – originally from Nebraska, but a tried and true East Coast girl since 2000

We rated these chips like David and I normally rate Trader Joe’s products – on a scale of 0 – 5, with 5 being the highest). 

First. we tried the CRISPY TACO chips.  Here is what the reviewers thought:

James:  “Well, it sorta tastes like a regular old BBQ chip.  It smells like it’s done been eat
once before!  This ain’t something I’d buy.  It smells like it’s been eat once and threw up! 
I give it a 2.”

Carol:  “This smells like poop!  I’ve never tasted poop before…  This is NOT ok. 
James gave it a 2?  That is too many!  I give it 0.”

David (lover of most snack foods):  “Hmmm, taco…  This tastes like a taco to me.  It
smells ok.  I wouldn’t buy this chip, but I would EAT it.  It’s ok.  I give it a 4.”

Susan:  “Peeuuu – this bag of chips smells b-a-d.  The taste is like you are eating a packet
of taco seasoning.  This isn’t a chip I want to eat much of.  I give it a 2.”

"This smells like POOP!" - Caro
Next up was the FRIED GREEN TOMATO chips, the one I suspected our Southern friends might like:
James:  “It tastes like they left the tomatoes out!  Well, these I could eat.  They are a lot
better than them taco chips.  I could eat these all day.  They are bland, but I could eat
‘em.  I give them a 3.5.”

Carol:  “These are bland!  There is no taste.  I keep waiting for it to taste, but there is
nothing.  It says they are “Green Tomato” but they taste like I am eating air!  I give them
a 1.”

David:  “These taste odd to me.  They are astringent – tastes like vinegar.  I am not a
big fan of this one.  I give them a 2.5.”

Susan:  “These are not bad. I would never, ever have guessed the flavor was Fried
Green Tomatoes though, it doesn’t taste like that to me.  But I could eat these.  I give
them a 3.5.”

"I could eat these all day," James

And finally, we tried the EVERYTHING BAGEL flavor:

James:  “Well, these are not my favorite, but I could eat ‘em.  If you had a dip it would
probably work out ok.  I give them a 2.”

Carol:  “These are as bad as the taco ones.  They taste like stale chips that have been in
the cabinet for a whole year.  All the flavor is gone out of ‘em.  I give them a 0.”

David:  “The cream cheese flavor is a mistake.  I do not like the texture and the taste is
greasy.  I might not even eat these if they were open and left in front of me.  (Editor’s
note:  this is highly unusual!  David will normally eat any snack food placed in front of
him.)I give them a 1.5.”

Susan:  “These taste just like sour cream to me – I do not get any “bagel” taste.  These are
a chip flavor fail.  I give them a 2.” 

David, a very discerning taste tester

So, as you can see, poor Carol, the one who is sick and I thought might have fun doing this project, HATED EVERY SINGLE CHIP.  Hahahaha!  Poor Carol!  It was as if I was doing a taste torture on her instead of a taste test

When we average our scores together these are the results:

I guess we can all be thankful that I didn’t hear about this chip flavor contest until after the finalists were selected, otherwise we might have had to suffer through lots more tasting (though I am not sure these other 2017 semi-finalist flavors were available to the general public):
  • "Lay's Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Popper" from Nick Arndt (Massillon, Ohio)
  • "Lay's Toasted Ravioli" from Trezette Dixon (St. Louis, Mo.)
  • "Lay's Wavy Avocado Toast" from Vanessa Herberger (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)
  • "Lay's Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese" from Lindsay Hoffman (Palm City, Fla.)
  • "Lay's Nashville Hot Chicken" from Hope Pan (Gainesville, Fla.)
  • "Lay's Wavy Fried Green Tomato" from Gregory Pope (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • "Lay's Kettle Cooked Smoked Gouda and Honey" from Brandon Foster (Saratoga Springs, Utah)
  • "Lay's Wavy Spinach Artichoke Dip" from Scott Merz (Grand Haven, Mich.)
  • "Lay's Crispy Taco" from Ellen Sarem (San Antonio, Texas)
  • "Lay's Sloppy Joe" from Chris Vail (Seattle, Wash.)
The winner of the votes in the “Do Us a Flavor” competition ended up being (drum roll….) …  CRISPY TACO!!!  Yes, the chip that Carol said smelled like poop and James said tasted like vomit took home the grand prize of $1 million bucks.  Big Winner Announcement from Lay's link

So, while we did not quite agree with the rest of the voting public on the winning chip, I think all 4 of us neighbors had fun trying the finalists.  I think James summed up our evening pretty clearly when he declared that the Fried Green Tomato chips were the best because, and I quote, “They had no taste”.

We will miss you, Carol.  Thanks for being a great neighbor all these years, making us laugh, watching over our house, and putting up with our craziness.

Carol, one sweet neighbor