You know what, dear TIB readers? I’m angry. I’m angry because I’ve been sitting here for a good half hour now, staring at the awful blinking cursor on a blank document. The dreaded Writer’s Block.
I’m not really angry at my Writer’s Block, however. I’m angry at food. Okay, that’s not fair; I love food, and it’s not food’s fault. It’s the fault of food company’s marketing team, or maybe their R&D departments. I don’t really care who; I’m just angry at all of them. Angry that they’re making my intro to this review about Lay’s Chipotle Ranch Potato Chips so fucking difficult. Here’s some opening themes that I’ve already written but discarded as totally lame:
Regional-flavored potato chips are stereotyping whole regions of the US with their flavors!
Fake angry letter to Lay’s about said stereotypical chips!
Chipotle is the latest food trend and it’s totally been beaten into the ground!
I think the third one is actually the crux of my problem. Chipotle has been overused. What’s left to say? I typically write my review intros before I even taste the product; I like to explore and mock marketing angles and make wild speculations about how awful or tasty the product is going to be based on little to no actual facts. I’ve had enough chipotle-flavored products to see exactly where my review is going:
“These chips have some heat but where’s the smoky flavor that really sets chipotle apart from just generic spiciness?”
Boom. Done. Didn’t even have to open the bag. You’re welcome.
I’d like to be a glass half-full kinda gal, but I’ve been burned, as it were, by so many disappointing chipotle products that I just can’t get excited about these chips. I’ve been turned into a dour food reviewer. My jokes are dried up and played out. I’m even getting angry at spellcheck for refusing to recognize chipotle as a correctly spelled word. I am “The Grim Eater” from Ratatouille. My stomach, two sizes too small.
But I feel an obligation to the readership of this fine, upstanding website to tell you about Lay’s Chipotle Ranch. They’re only available in the southwest region of the United States, so the majority of you will never get to try them. I must cast off this chipotle albatross and march forward!
Let’s start with the regional angle: way back in March of last year, Lay’s introduced their first round of regional flavors. In what was only my second review on TIB, I took a look at their first southwest regional offering, Southwest Cheese & Chiles. There were four other regional flavors, and they mostly seemed to make sense in regards to representing the flavors of their regions.
This time around, along with the southwest’s Chipotle Ranch, they’ve also launched Honey Mustard for the northeast (“tangy mustard combined with a touch of sweet honey”) and Creamy Garden Ranch for the Midwest (“sour cream mixed with spices and fresh cucumbers for the flavor of herb ranch dressing”).
I’m not exactly sure how the other two flavors relate to their regions. Hey New York, are you totally in love with honey mustard? I thought you guys went the spicy brown route. Midwest, you really into ranch dressing? Well, Michigan and South Dakota are tied for tenth fattest state, so maybe they’ve got something there; plus, cucumber chips sound interesting. However, I suppose chipotle makes sense for the southwest. People generally think of chiles and spicy food when they think of southwestern cuisine, and, again, chipotle is the hot flavor of the moment.
Lay’s description of Chipotle Ranch is “sour cream and buttermilk ranch mixed with chipotle spice and green chili”. Not sure what ranch has to do with the southwest. I guess they’re going for that “spicy/cooling” angle, but really, there’s no point in that. They would have been fine with just chipotle and green chili. But hey, there are a lot of ranches in the southwest! That explains everything.
After all this bitching and moaning and generally being a curmudgeon, it’s time to take off my crankypants, put on my ObjectiveReviewerpants, and get down to business.
Upon opening the bag, there was a distinct lack of any sort of odor, which I found odd. Usually some sort of aroma hits my nostrils when I tear open a bag of chips, but there wasn’t much to go on with these. The chips themselves are covered with a medium amount of flavor powder, appropriately orangish-red with little flecks of green that could represent either the green chili or the ranch. Or both!
The first thing that hit my taste buds was the heat. It was surprisingly mild, but enjoyable. And, of course, try as I might, chip after chip, that signature smoky flavor of chipotle was absent. My mouth wept. Not literally, though; I try to stay off the Thorazine while I’m doing a review.
As I kept eating, the heat built gradually but nicely. The ranch flavoring, which I didn’t think I would like, worked well with the spice. It made its presence known, but wasn’t overwhelming. I could even taste hints of the sour cream, which I thought would be nonexistent. It complimented both the ranch and the…”chipotle” quite nicely. As for the green chili, I couldn’t distinguish it from the chipotle. The spiciness was too generalized; Lay’s could have just called the chips “Spicy Ranch” and I would have nodded my head in agreement. There’s an interesting aftertaste that I would describe as “herby”. I actually liked it, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.
My pessimistic view towards all things claiming to be chipotle-flavored remains, but I’m gracious enough to put down the bitter pill and say that Lay’s Chipotle Ranch is a tasty chip. The heat level builds nicely and stops just short of being too hot, and the ranch and sour cream both work well with it. Real chipotle flavoring is my Moby Dick, but I can’t blame Lay’s any more than anyone else. Looking on the bright side, hey â€“ at least my region got a new flavor! Suck it, Northwestern US! (Still want to try cucumber-flavored chips.)
(Nutrition Facts – 1 package – 290 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 9 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 320 milligrams of sodium, 640 milligrams of potassium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, 4 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 15% vitamin C, 6% iron, 10% vitamin E, 10% niacin, 8% thiamin, and 15% vitamin B6.)
Item: Lay’s Chipotle Ranch Potato Chips
Price: 99 cents
Size: 1 7/8 ounces
Purchased at: Circle K
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Gradual build of heat level. “The Grim Eater”. Ranch and sour cream were just right. The term “chipotle albatross”. Interesting herby aftertaste.
Cons: NO CHIPOTLE FLAVORING. Spellcheck being a dick. NO CHIPOTLE FLAVORING. Getting’ the “Thorazine drools”. NO CHIPOTLE FLAVORING.