There may be no phrase more terrifying than this, to a serious food person:
“55 cent chicken pot pie.” That the chicken pot pie comes from the East Lake street outpost of the European discount grocery chain Aldi may or may not be of much comfort.
The terrifying thing about the pie is this: How is it possible that even a terrible, bad, awful, poorly handled, store-brand, low-end pot pie gets designed, manufactured, packaged, shipped, stocked and sold for .55 cents? It’s not an obvious loss-leader; there’s no banner outside the store saying, “Come on in, shoppers, and buy our amazing 55 cent chicken pot pie!”
And yet, there it is in the freezer case. Lunch, or something that passes for it, for 55 damned cents.
The pie has a top and bottom crust, weighs in at about 7 oz., and is stuffed with chicken, potatoes, carrots and peas. 30 minutes in a 400° oven gets the crust browned and the gravy bubbling. Possibly the most surprising thing about initially biting into the filling is that the carrots actually taste like carrots; they haven’t been cooked down into the soft, character-free orange squares that make a Swanson pot pie such a Middle American classic. The gravy is overly salty, but not so much that you want to make a court case out of it. The shortening-driven crust is “meh,” but thin enough that once you cover it in the pie’s 17 cents worth of gravy, it’s edible. The chicken tastes like dark meat, which is a pleasant surprise — at least it tastes like something.
In short: This tastes like a $.89 pot pie, or even a $1.19 pot pie. It defies logic (and implies some kind of reliance on the Satanic arts) that Aldi is making any kind of money on these things, and yet: I have the receipt in my pocket, and the flavorless potato chunk in my mouth.
Underpromising and over-delivering; that’s the Aldi way. If there’s any one product emblematic of doing every possible thing the opposite way that Whole Foods does it, this may be the thing.