In recent years it’s as if Lay’s has decided test marketing is entirely too passÃ© for them. Apparently, all the cool kids are now releasing regionally-specific products and quietly incorporating the best loved flavors into the national lineup over time. Besides, test marketing sounds soâ€¦ iffy. It’s the difference between “Hey, try thisâ€¦ thing!” and “I made this just for you!”
Luckily, this practice has not yet been applied to their Kettle Cooked line. Both new flavors managed to make their way to my obscure, out-of-the-way location way out in the middle of everywhere. And thank God, because the Sandy Egg keeps getting lumped in with the general Southwest and receiving an annual truckload of rebranded nacho cheese chips. Really, Lay’s? Really? You had me at chile limÃ³n.
Please stop barraging me with malformed clones and crappy imitations. I will try them once, foist the remnants on unsuspecting party guests, and never ever touch this season’s abomination again, and you know this.
What’s that? One of the new Kettle Cooked flavors is Spicy Cayenne & Cheese (heretofore known as SCC)? Great. Thanks.
I choose to approach this bag still hoping for the best. Lay’s has trained me to automatically delight in Easy Mac powder and dried jalapenos delivered in bold new ratios. My expectations are low; my palate bored stupid.
Kettle cooked chips always feel more refined, somehow, than their counterparts. I don’t know why this is â€“ they’re greasier, fatter, and far more prone to little oil bubbles. If they were people, I’d probably quietly avoid them. In chip form, though, they might as well come with little monocles and bow ties stamped on. They are the nouveau riche of chip empire, loyal to their potato roots, a little trashy, totally inept at blending in with the classics, but irresistible when dolled up in just the right bag. The rest of the snack aisle must hate them.
The newest additions to this Beverly Hillbillies-esque clan are Creamy Mediterranean Herb (CMH) and the aforementioned nacho cheese retread. Both are made with white cheddar and bonus goodies. CMH gets the buttermilk treatment, as well as oregano, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes. SCC comes complete with a bit of a cayenne, but fewer overall frills.
Let’s dig in.
We might have a small problem on our hands, but don’t panic. Just answer me this: have any of you seen Cool Ranch or Nacho Cheese Doritos around lately? Because I think I just found their flavorings scattered about in the wrong bags, red and green spicy flecks strewn this way and that, cheese powder spilling onto my jeans. Oh the humanity! While mildly horrified at this gruesome turn of events, being something of a psychopath myself, I do have to admit that the Kettle Cooked line of chips seem to wear their stolen coatings well.
The pre-dipped sour creaminess of CMH is quickly growing on me. The basil flavor is balcony-garden fresh and prominent in every bite. The buttermilk also manages to shine through, adding some ranchiness to the mix. The sun-dried tomato flecks, however? Purely aesthetic. CMH manages to toe the line between refreshing and dense. I find myself going back for a handful now and then, but this definitely isn’t one of the “oh no â€“ oh dear god no â€“ HOW IS THE BAG ALREADY EMPTY?” kind of flavors. I’m used to seeing this combination more in cracker form where backdrops of baked wheat and oats work in tandem with the creaminess to keep things from getting sickeningly heavy. It works here for awhile, but at a certain point, I hit a wall.
SCC tastes vaguely similar to cheesy Sun Chips at first bite. The cayenne delivers a nice kick without sending me rushing for a glass of water. I’m powerless to say no to zesty cheese even after one hundred previous incarnations of varying quality have assailed my senses. These taste much lighter than their creamy herb buddies and many of the other Kettle Cooked varieties. The cheese hasn’t been overdone this time, and I think that’s the difference. It’s there, but it’s quiet, and it’s distinctly white cheddary, rather than whatever it is Kraft keeps cranking out. The nondescript “cheese” label does these guys a huge disservice. I might actually buy these again, provided I forget to eat before heading to the store.
All in all, a good showing from Lay’s. Both flavors make for interesting and tasty additions to the picnic table this summer, especially if your region lacks chile limÃ³n goodness. However, I do not recommend combining the two flavors and calling it a complete meal. That was a mistake.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1 ounce/16 chips â€“ Creamy Mediterranean Herb – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams polyunsaturated fat, 4 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 360 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Spicy Cayenne and Cheese â€“ 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams polyunsaturated fat, 4 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips (Spicy Cayenne & Cheese and Creamy Mediterranean Herb)
Price: $1.99 on sale (regularly $3.49)
Size: 8.5 ounces
Purchased at: Albertson’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Spicy Cayenne & Cheese)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Creamy Mediterranean Herb)
Pros: Tiny monocles. Basil explosions in my mouth. The light kick of cayenne. The subtlety of white cheddar. Chips made just for me. Chile limÃ³n. Picnics. The convenience of hungry party guests.
Cons: May or may not have murdered some Doritos for their flavors. More nacho cheese stereotyping for the Southwest. Creamy Mediterranean herb gets kind of dense and overwhelming after a few handfuls. Kettle cooked chips greasy, fat, and alienated from the cool kids. Spicy cayenne and cheese must compete with all the other clones for my attention.