REVIEW: Lay’s Bacon Wrapper Jalapeno Poppers Potato Chips

Lay s Bacon Wrapper Jalapeno Poppers Potato Chips

A recent Gatorade campaign featuring the best athletes of the last three decades identifies a surprising motivator common amid these elite performers: the staggering defeats they experienced. In response to the failure, they found the secret to victory was to work harder, work smarter, and not let the next opportunity get away from them.

Lay’s Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Popper Potato Chips are hoping to demonstrate a similar resolve. For the first time since the Do Us a Flavor contests began in 2013, Lay’s released a flavor that was not a finalist.

This year, they allowed a round of online voting based on interest alone to bring the list of ten semifinalists down to three. Although the medal stand was occupied by Everything Bagel, Fried Green Tomato, and Crispy Taco, Lay’s opted to release this variety as a Walmart exclusive.

I have to wonder what a bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper is. Is this a niche appetizer? I found exactly one restaurant menu that offered this item. Recognizing I don’t get invited to many catered events (assuming birthday party pizza and Iron Man sheet cake don’t count as catering), I did find more caterers offering these. If only the bag had featured an out-of-work actor in a pink bow tie.

A smoky smell emanated from the bag, but it wasn’t very strong. My son laughed as I nearly stuck my entire head into the top, hoping to find something else, anything else.

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The chips had green speckles reminiscent of sour cream and onion chips, as well as a fewer number of brick red colored bits as well. The familiar Lay’s crunch and texture were present upon first bite, but were not greasy like the Original variety.

The taste was as unremarkable as the smell. The chips generally didn’t have much of a distinct taste at all. I occasionally sensed bacon but the taste would fade. The jalapeno wasn’t notable at all. Sometimes a light tingle, indicating the spicy component, would sit on my tongue tip or palate for a short time. There could have been a hint of sour cream or cream cheese as well, but it was minor and I would have been unlikely to detect it if I wasn’t considering the art on the front of the bag.

Lay’s made the decision to produce a flavor that in concept alone failed to excite chip lovers, and it is no surprise the real life results were no more inspiring. Some of the Do Us a Flavor entrants have been truly horrifying, but never before have I been more bored with a product from the contest.

Perhaps next summer, there will be a Frito-Lay campaign with an executive, donned in a hairnet, goggles, and lab coat, walking the factory floor who leans in real tight to the camera and says, “You want to know the Secret to Victory? Release a new product people didn’t want.”

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 160 calories 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size:
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Spice level. Attractive packaging. The Vinny Vegas pizza at Skyzone trampoline park.
Cons: “Incomplete” grades for bacon, jalapeno, and cream cheese flavors. All six of the other flavors that didn’t make the finals sound more interesting. Asking Matt Ryan to recreate the midfield walk after the worst loss of his life.

REVIEW: The Spotted Cheetah, A Restaurant By Cheetos

The Spotted Cheetah 1

I love a good gimmick. If it’s temporary or new and has a hook, I’m there. Super-long line? No problem. Thai Rolled Ice Cream. The Oreo Wonder Vault. Rainbow Bagels. The Hello Kitty Café Truck. Cronuts. I’ve done them all.

Some gimmicks turn out better than anticipated. Some fall short of the mark. Some defy your expectations altogether. That was the case with the Spotted Cheetah, a Cheetos-centric pop-up restaurant in Manhattan. I assumed it would be a garish publicity stunt with ridiculous “food.”

When I heard about this 3-night-only event, I wanted in. A menu of 4 appetizers, 4 entrees and 3 desserts, each made with Cheetos products. I like to repurpose foods into other forms, so this was right up my alley.

Any other week, The Spotted Cheetah is known as Distilled – an upscale but casual Tribeca restaurant that I’m only now realizing I’ve eaten in before. As I approached this night, I readied myself for typical NYC event line-waiting and passive-aggressive jockeying for position. Everyone here is important, after all, and we MUST get in ASAP.

To my delight, no one was corralled within the velvet ropes. Shocking considering how much media attention this place has gotten. After a quick chat with the clipboard guy, I glided into a seat at the bar.

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Crystal Pepsi – of course.

The menu was designed by Food Network chef Anne Burrell. All I know about her is: 1) her hair and 2) she hosted Worst Cooks in America – for which I once volunteered to test a challenge before shooting started, and failed miserably at everything.

I ordered the Cheetos Crusted Fried Pickles, Cheetos Mix-Ups Crusted Chicken Milanese, and the Cheetos Sweetos Crusted Cheesecake. Apparently I’m a glutton for crusting.

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While I waited for my food, I watched patrons talk to a live-animated Chester Cheetah on a TV screen near the entrance.

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Normally I despise things that aggressively interact with me, but I was fascinated by this technology. Chester’s mouth and body moved in real-time from a motion capture of the person speaking. I wondered where he was hiding out.

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The fried pickles arrived and I dove in, expecting a rubber-mallet-to-the-head of Cheetos flavor. What I got were lovely, tangy, crusty, greasy frickles in a slightly orangier (spellcheck tells me this isn’t a word, I disagree) than normal hue. They were delicious, but only whispered ‘Cheetos.’

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Next up – the Chicken Milanese. A beautifully-dressed salad and Cheetos piled atop a slab of extra-crunchy breaded chicken. I pushed the salad off and sliced into just the chicken. Again, it was a wonderful dish, I enjoyed every bite, but I didn’t taste the Cheetos in the breading.

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This could appear in any restaurant and no one would say “Excuse me – are there CHEETOS in this??” I started taking bits of Cheetos from on top with each mouthful and ended up with the flavor I expected.

An order of the Flamin’ Hot Limon Chicken Tacos arrived for the couple next to me and I was gripped with jealousy. They looked so tempting.

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The cheesecake came closest to capturing the product it was based on. The crust definitely had the churro-ish cinnamon flavor of the Sweetos. It was also a great dish – sweet and tangy cheese with a rich blueberry sauce.

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The décor was just subtle enough that it didn’t feel cheesy (pun intended), but there were cute touches all around.

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It wasn’t a crowded circus. The food was real. It was like a Friday night out at a nice restaurant, but with a wise-cracking animated cheetah.

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I do wish the Cheetos were a bit more present in the dishes I tried, since this was the point of all of this, but I had fun and walked away with a happy belly. I was given a printed book of the menu recipes on the way out – it’s also available on their site. If you’re trying the recipes at home, go a bit heavier on the Cheetos – I’m guessing as junk food fans, you’ll want to know they’re there.

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(Nutrition Facts – Oof. I couldn’t even begin to calculate this.)

Purchased Price: $8 (Fried Pickles), $22 (Chicken Milanese, and $8 (Cheesecake)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: REALLY good food. High-tech cheetah. Thrill of experiencing something that makes half my friends say “Ew. That’s disgusting.”
Cons: Expected to leave covered in Cheetos dust inside & out, didn’t, hence slightly disappointed.

REVIEW: Doritos Mix Blazin’ Buffalo Explosion

Doritos Mix Blazin Buffalo Explosion

A good snack mix is like a finely tuned NFL offense. You’ve got a leading taste (quarterback), a solid foundation (that’s your offensive line), and a couple of dynamic flavors that actually make it worth eating (your wideouts and running backs).

Mess up those components and you’ll find yourself with a paper bag over your head in Cleveland. But nail them and you’ve got yourself a snack that has staying power for years to come.

At the very least, Doritos Mix Blazin’ Buffalo Explosion nails the eye test of a really good team. Aside from hitting us with some common football clichés in explosive and blazin’, there’s a lot going on beyond just Buffalo sauce flavor. Sure, you’ve got reliable veterans like Cool Ranch, but you’ve also got some intriguing flavors, like blue cheese and chipotle.

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And, for the most part, the flavors work really well together. Maybe it was because of the blue packaging, but I was expecting a pretty conservative playbook that added some cayenne spice to the ubiquitous Cool Ranch flavor. Instead, there’s a winning combination of textual and flavor variety that’s unique for even the over-saturated Doritos brand.

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The Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch chips are definitely the quarterback here. Each chip has strong Buffalo sauce flavor and tingling back heat, followed by a buttermilk tang that gets some run after the catch action from the Cool Ranch triangles. Putting extra crunchy blue cheese and ranch pieces on the same team works surprisingly well.

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I like to think of the chipotle-flavored rolls as the offensive line in this metaphor. The unmistakable rising heat plays a role in every bite, and, even though the smoky aftertaste of a chipotle pepper never really comes through, the flavor hits you like a 300-pound offensive guard.

While the flavors and textures are very good — let’s call it Wild Card caliber good — there are some weak points. In fact, I’d go so far to say that Doritos Mix Blazin’ Buffalo Explosion can’t quite seal the deal, much like their namesake city’s team from the early 1990s. The explosive heat is more three yards and a cloud of dust than big-play catch and run, meaning you’re going to want to put some of Cole Beasley’s sauce on the chips to actually make them really spicy.

Also, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like the overly buttery aftertaste that certain brands of Buffalo sauce have, you probably won’t like the Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch chips too much.

Flaws aside, Doritos Mix Blazin’ Buffalo Explosion is a serious cupboard space contender, and one I hope sticks around until the offseason.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Good variety of flavors, with distinguishable notes of ranch, blue cheese, and chipotle. Genuine Buffalo sauce flavor. Chipotle pieces have a solid crunch.
Cons: Heat is mostly just back heat, with cayenne and chipotle blending into a single mild spiciness. Too much butter in the Buffalo sauce flavor. Aggressive use of football clichés not seen since the days of John Madden’s broadcasting career.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

I’m from the tri-state, so I think I’ve been exposed to good bagels in my lifetime. I’ve also been exposed to bad bagels parading themselves as good bagels. I like to think I’m a trustworthy voice when it comes to bagel quality. So, when I heard Lay’s had a new Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese chip, I had to review them.

Everything is arguably the best bagel, but they’re a mess to eat and the seeds get stuck in my teeth, so I appreciate Lay’s attempting to bring these great breakfast flavors together without the hassle.

Everything bagel chips already exist and if these taste anything like them, I’ll be more than satisfied. Also, just to let you know, I like my bagels soft and my bagel chips teeth shattering. When people ask me my favorite form of gambling, I tell them “eating bagel chips.”

Nothing about the bag’s smell screamed “everything bagel.” It just smelled like greasy kettle chips. When I buy a dozen bagels, those tend to be the dominant scent in the bag. There’s none of that here.

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They don’t look that special either. The only seasoning I could see were ACTUAL poppy seeds. Lay’s always puts flavor speckles on chips, why use actual poppy seeds? They’re the worst part of an everything bagel, and usually require floss.

As for the taste, there’s a small hint of cream cheese. Well, there’s a dairy taste at the very least, so they deliver in that department.

Beyond that, I didn’t distinguish the other elements of an everything bagel. There’s a tang at first, but it just tastes like a weak sour cream and onion. I’d let that go if the other flavors worked, but they really don’t.

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Did I taste sesame? Not really. Was there anything “bready” about these chips? Nope. “Bready” chips are probably easier said than done, but we’re talking about bagels here. These don’t taste like bagels. I stared at the bagel on the bag, and still couldn’t convince my brain.

The thing about regular kettle chips is that the main flavor is oil. The grease is overpowering unless the chip is coated in a strong flavor base, which these chips do not have. The other problem, like always, is the fact the texture is inconsistent. Some chips are perfectly crunchy while some seem like they’re five years old.

Unfortunately, these don’t deliver on the bagel promise. They remind me of really weak, stale sour cream and onion chips. There’s no chance these win the Do Us a Flavor contest.

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(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A strong contest choice. Cream cheese comes through. Onion and garlic are noticeable. Everything bagels are delicious. Wouldn’t necessarily be a bad chip if they weren’t falsely advertised. They taste better dipped in actual cream cheese.
Cons: Greasy kettle flavor. Weak smell. Boring looking chip. Misses on some major flavor elements. Poppy seeds.

REVIEW: Lay’s Wavy Fried Green Tomato Potato Chips

Lay s Wavy Fried Green Tomato Potato Chips

First off, thank you Lay’s for retiring this nonsense about having at least one disgusting Do Us a Flavor finalists. It’s lovely to not have to take the proverbial summer bullet for the greater junk food community, and I couldn’t be happier with this year’s relatively normal finalists.

Everything Bagel? Okay, a bit out of left field, but they do make bagel chips, and they also make bagels out of potatoes. Besides, it sounds better than several of this year’s entries, among them kale salad, unicorn beef, and “hickory smoked horse buttholes.”

What a time to be alive!

I’m surprised it’s taken this long for fried green tomato to get the junk food treatment. It’s every bit as southern as biscuits and gravy or chicken and waffles. It also has that natural fried flavor affinity conducive to munchable snacks. That said, there’s a lot going on with fried green tomatoes, and I’m not talking about the subtexts in the 1991 movie.

Wavy is a solid template for the flavor; not flimsy like regular chips, but not as potato-ey as kettle chips often taste. Instead, Lay’s Wavy chips have a rounded, solid crunch, like you would expect from a fried green tomato.

The flavor starts with a buttermilk tang and slight bitterness, followed by notes of salt, garlic, and onion. This is, I suppose, where this review gets controversial.

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Contrary to its ubiquitous southern connotation, buttermilk is not essential for fried green tomatoes. While I don’t think it detracts from the chip, the powdered buttermilk is heavy, pushing these chips into the Sour Cream and ________ category of snacks.

Good? You bet. Innovative? Not in the least.

Fortunately, there are some nuances. A slight backheat — let’s call it tickling because everyone likes tickling — emerges with each bite, as does a bit of sweetness. The flavors are just enough to let you know you’re not dealing with your father’s sour cream and onion chip. They create a snackable quality that can stand on its own or serve as a perfect instrument for dipping.

The only thing I wished Lay’s could have worked in was an authentic cornmeal taste. Where buttermilk is optional, cornmeal is essential. Without it, you’re losing something intrinsically fried green tomato in your fried green tomato. Because the Lay’s chips hardly have any of it, they’re only good, not great.

I’ll probably vote for Lay’s Wavy Fried Green Tomato for two reasons. One, the chip’s submitter, Gregory Pope, grew up in Georgia, so he might be salty about the Super Bowl. So I want to help him out. Reason two? The flavor is solid and better than half of all the previous Do Us A Flavor finalists.

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Wavy template fits the flavor perfectly. Nuanced flavors and spices mirror fried green tomato breading. Familiar enough taste to not be caught off guard. Lay’s marketing people taking the job back from their 5-year-olds.
Cons: Slightly heavy buttermilk flavor makes the chips taste like sour cream and onion. Very little, if any, cornmeal flavor. Knowing there’s someone alive who wants to eat potato chips that taste like “hickory smoked buttholes.”