REVIEW: Trader Joe’s – Chicago Style Popcorn Mix

Rating: ©©©-1/2 chips (notable)

Trader Joe's - Chicago Popcorn MixChicago Style Popcorn Mix….?  What’s that you ask?  Well, if you must ask that, then you are either: A) definitely not from the Chicago area, or B) maybe you simply refuse to call the magical popcorn combination anything other than what it is – cheddar cheese and caramel.  Exactly how Chicago was able to put their own namesake stamp on this sweet and salty combination is beyond us (if you by chance you happen to have any documented history on the origin or validity of Chicago Style Popcorn, please let us know).

Apparently, when cheddar cheese popcorn and sweet caramel popcorn are mixed together, and served anywhere within the state of Illinois, the combo is labeled as ‘Chicago Mix’.  And, we do know that there are a few local popcorn ‘houses’ that specialize in this fantastic combination (Garrett’s and Wells Street – we’re talking about you).  Personally, the majority of Chip Review prefers Wells Street, but Garrett’s seems to own the majority share of fans.

When we spotted this popcorn at our local Trader Joe’s recently, we were both excited, and at the same time wondering if this was only being offered in our local Chicago area stores, or was it actually being marketed throughout the entire country as Chicago Style Popcorn Mix?  Apparently it is being marketed everywhere, which in our opinion, stamps solid confirmation that this flavor combo is the Windy City’s namesake popcorn.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, we love a good sweet and salty combo, and in our opinion caramel and cheese are one of those combos that were destined for one another.  We were very surprised to find that not everyone actually agrees with us on that sentiment though. Nathan over at What’s Good at Trader Joe’s, actually has some other thoughts on the combo:

You remember those giant tins of plain popcorn, cheese popcorn, and caramel corn that you’d get from Aunt Edna at Christmas time? They had little paper dividers in between the flavors. There was a reason for those dividers. Food separation. It wasn’t a big deal if you ate plain with cheese or even caramel with plain. But the one thing you always had to be careful to avoid was mixing the caramel with the cheese. Now I’m sure many of you will chime in and be like “I’ve always eaten cheese popcorn with caramel corn…” Well, good for you. Maybe you’re just a bit more open-minded than I am when it comes to mixing races of popcorn together. I may be a little old-fashioned in that way. But to put them together in one bag with no dividers on purpose?

Well, like we always say, to each their own, but in our opinion the best bites of Chicago Style Popcorn Mix are the ones that include both the salty cheddar cheese and sweet caramel kernels in one delicious bite.  Unfortunately, in this case, Trader Joe’s version of Chicago Style Popcorn Mix is not the best variation that we have ever tried.  In fact, they are not even the best pre-packaged variation that we have tried.  The popcorn itself was light and airy, with a toothsome mouth feel, but both of the flavors fell a bit short for us.  The cheese kernels were not as salty nor tangy as we normally like in our cheddar popcorn, and the caramel kernels weren’t quite as buttery as the best we’ve tried.  Plain and simple, if you are looking for true authentic Chicago Style Popcorn Mix, take a trip to Chicago and swing on into Wells Street Popcorn for the best example anywhere!!  If you can’t seem to swing that on a whim, then go ahead and give this stuff a try, but note to yourself that this is only a decent variation of the best stuff out there!!

Popcorn discovered at Trader Joe’s; La Grange, Illinois

Trader Joe’s Official Website

As always, these are our thoughts, we would love to hear what you think. Agree or disagree, let us know.

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© - return to sender

©© - tolerable

©©©notable

©©©©lip-smacking

©©©©©“A” list

RATING: Doritos – Pizza Supreme

Rating: ©©©-3/4 chips  (notable)

Doritos - Pizza Supreme

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© – return to sender

©© – tolerable

©©© – notable

©©©© – lip-smacking

©©©©© – “A” list

RATING: Pop Weaver – New! White Cheddar Crispy Pops Popcorn

Rating: ©©© chips  (notable)

Pop Weaver - White Cheddar Crispy Pops

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© – return to sender

©© – tolerable

©©© – notable

©©©© – lip-smacking

©©©©© – “A” list

REVIEW: Kitchen Cooked – Cheese Kettle Kurls

Rating: ©©©©© chips  (“A” list)

Kitchen Cooked - Cheese Kettle KurlsOkay, we just have to do it……

There is simply no stopping us now…..

Kitchen Cooked Cheese Kettle Kurls are THE BEST CHEESE PUFFS OF ALL-TIME!!

Phewww!  There we said it, we mean it, and we feel so much better for it!

And wouldn’t you know it that the best cheese curls that we’ve ever tried come from a small town in southwest Illinois, the company sources its ingredients locally, cooks in small batches, and gives back to the community that embraces and supports it.

So what sets Kitchen Cooked Kettle Kurls apart from all of the rest?  We will try to put it into words for you, but probably the best piece of advise we should really give you is to stop what you are doing right now – Wait! First, finish reading! – then go find yourself a bag, or two, or ten, of these and send us a thank you in the morning!  And FYI, we cannot be held responsible for any delicious addictions that may form as a result of trying these.

Probably the best way we can describe these to you are rich, cheesy, deliciousness!  Somehow these Kettle Kurls seem almost moist, like they have been spritzed with butter, and dusted with bright orange, salty, finger lickin’ good cheese powder.  A quick glance to the ingredients list on the back of the bag, and we’re pretty sure we have discovered the Kurls true secret.  First of all, everything is better with butter, and Kitchen Cooked must know that, because they have made the delectable decision to add it to their Kurls.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, there is an additional layer of flavor with a light touch of sour cream, even further emphasizing the creaminess we were talking about.

The Kitchen Cooked Kettle Kurls also of course encompass the perfect textbook cheese curl.  The extra large Kettle Kurls hit every one of the necessary classic curl components.  Initial crispy crunch – check.  Extremely light and airy mouthfeel – check.  Finishing with an even somehow more than normal, tongue melting puddle of cheese – check, check!  Plain and simple, these are the best we’ve ever tried!

As a wise individual once said:

“I love cheesy poofs.
You love cheesy poofs.
If we didn’t eat cheesy poofs,
We’d be LAME!”

As always, these are our thoughts, we would love to hear what you think.  Agree or disagree, let us know.

Discovered at Hy-Vee; Madison, WI

Kitchen Cooked Official Website

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© - return to sender

©© - tolerable

©©© – notable

©©©© – lip-smacking

©©©©©“A” list

RATING: RW Garcia Dippers – 3 Seed Veggie Dipping Chips

Rating: ©©©-3/4 chips  (notable)

R W Garcia Dippers - 3 Seed Veggie Chips

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© – return to sender

©© – tolerable

©©© – notable

©©©© – lip-smacking

©©©©© – “A” list

REVIEW: Lay’s Wavy – Do Us a Flavor Finalist – Mango Salsa Potato Chips

Rating: ©©-1/4 chips (tolerable)

Lay's Wavy - Mango SalsaBy now we’re sure that most of you, if not all of you, are well aware of Lay’s all new 2014 ‘Do Us A Flavor’ contest.  Just about every one and their mother’s mother have chimed in with their own thoughts or reviews on these unique flavors.  Similar to last year’s wildly popular flavor contest, Lay’s is once again offering up the chance for one lucky individual to win a million dollars for creating an all new potato chip flavor, and for the general population declaring it the tastiest!  This year Lay’s has offered up four flavor finalists rather than just three, and you can stay tuned for our future reviews of: Cappuccino – yep, that’s right Cappuccino, and Bacon Mac & Cheese!  A slight variation from Lay’s this time allowed the flavor creators the liberty of choosing what style of Lay’s potato chips they would like to use as their delivery medium between traditional, kettle cooked and wavy.

As humungous chip fanatics and consumers and reviewers, we cannot begin to tell you how giddy we get each time a contest such as this is released.  We love this stuff!!  And usually, as soon as we hear about this sort of thing we run out to as many different stores as it takes, and we hunt those new chips down!  Unfortunately, this time around Lay’s forgot to check our schedule and released their new chips just as we left the country for two weeks!!  So, in other words, we had to idly sit back and watch as review after review hit the web for the past two weeks.  Well, we are now back stateside, we have the four flavors in our possession, and we are ready to toss in our two cents!

Next up: Wavy Mango Salsa

Submitted by: Julia from Sacramento, CA

Chip Review flavor creativity rating (scale: 1 – 10): 8

Chip Review’s excitement level (scale: 1 – 10): 8

Fresh, orangy-yellow, sweet, tropical, juicy, all adjectives we like to describe our favorite fruit ever!  That’s right, those dark green and red skinned orbs called mango are practically perfect (if only we could bite right through their skin!!).  And, of course we love pineapples, and raspberries, and certainly strawberries – when they are in season.  Oh, and we love bananas too!  OK, so mangoes make our fruit short list at the very least.

You know what, we have also found that we love mango flavored chips (or at least some of them).  We’re not kidding around here, some of the best chips that we have ever tried were mango flavored, but……that being said some of them were also the worst!  So, where do Lay’s ‘Do Us A Flavor’ Mango Salsa chips fall?  Unfortunately, it’s in the latter.  Our initial reaction to them was yuck!  A very surprised, and disappointed, YUCK!  These taste nothing like any of the amazing mango flavored chips that we have had.  Instead, they tasted like a fake mango flavored candy. You know how green apple, and watermelon, and grape flavored candies taste nothing like the real thing?  Well, these taste like a sugary candy representation of real mango.  In other words, they taste fake!

We thought for sure that these would be our favorites, but alas, that does not appear to be the case.  How to describe their off-putting flavor?  The first flavor character is a powerfully sweet citrus fruity note, followed directly by a tangy, sour tinge.  While we would typically appreciate the sweet and sour juxtaposition, this combo seemed off from the get go!  And, we are pretty certain that we know why.  Mango salsa is not meant to be served with potato chips.  In fact, that goes for any and all salsas.  Salsa was born to mingle with corn tortilla chips.  Salsa does not jive with potato chips.  Also, these are just too sweet!  Sort of one strong note, with a couple of supporting ingredients like garlic and onion, and without any heat to speak of.  Disappointing.

Well, two flavors down, two to go, and it looks like this is anybody’s flavor game!

As always, these are our thoughts, we would love to hear what you think. Agree or disagree, let us know.

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© - return to sender

©© - tolerable

©©©notable

©©©©lip-smacking

©©©©©“A” list

RATING: Shearer’s – Sea Salt & Pepper Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

Rating: ©©©© chips  (lip-smacking)

Shearer's - Salt & Pepper

Chip Ratings Scale:

(1/4 increments)

© – return to sender

©© – tolerable

©©© – notable

©©©© – lip-smacking

©©©©© – “A” list