REVIEW: Ritz Crisp & Thins (Salt & Vinegar and Cream Cheese & Onion)

Ritz Crisp  Thins  Salt  Vinegar and Cream Cheese  Onion

When I first heard that Nabisco’s Ritz Crackers were moving into chips, I was terrified. I have PTSD from Cheez-It’s attempt to move into chips with Grooves. Grooves didn’t do the Cheez-It cracker justice! I have almost the same love for Ritz as I do for Cheez-It; I love those damn buttery Ritz crackers. Point is, I had high expectations for Ritz’s new Crisp & Thins.

So, what are they?

It’s Ritz’s attempt to hop on the “Better For You” train – touting oven-baked, not fried, potato & wheat chips. It launched in the U.K. first and now they’re rolling out globally. There’s a lineup of four flavors on U.S. shelves: Sea Salt, Bacon, Salt & Vinegar, And Cream Cheese & Onion. I picked out Salt & Vinegar (because I like salt & vinegar chips) and Cream Cheese & Onion (because I kept thinking it was sour cream & onion and wanted to see why Ritz had to be all frou frou about it).

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion

I first smelled the Cream Cheese & Onion ones, which didn’t really smell like much. On that basis, I vigorously inhaled the Salt & Vinegar, which was a mistake. The pungent vinegar invaded my olfactory with no mercy. 100 percent user error, not Ritz’s fault.

The chips themselves were very, for the lack of a better word, artsy but the kind of pretentious and annoying artsy. I say this because they couldn’t just choose a damn circle or square like all other crackers. Instead, they chose a puddle shape. But we all know that it probably took their manufacturing team way too long to perfect the mold for these. These puddles also had seemingly random air pockets/bubbles.

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion Orange

In the same vein of pretentious artsy, it looked like they tried very hard to have a baked look – one side of the chip had scorch marks. They really reminded me of naan bread – oblong-ish shape, air pockets, and with the occasional imperfect scorch marks. The Cream Cheese & Onion had a slight orange tinge, while the coloring of the Salt & Vinegar was just normal, pasty cracker color.

Ritz Salt  Vinegar Crisp  Thins Salt  Vinegar

At this point, I concluded that these would probably be nothing like the buttery crackers that I know and love. But, you know what, I was okay with it – I knew I couldn’t hold Ritz back from their healthy chip dreams.

The Cream Cheese & Onion surprisingly tasted more like subtle cheddar & sour cream than sour cream & onion. Trusty ol’ cheddar & sour cream is always salty cheesy goodness, but it’s nothing mind blowing and I’m still eye rolling at the artsy fartsiness. However, I can’t believe I dismissed the air pocket/bubbles because they made the texture. Something about the crunch of the cracker with the extra oomph from the air pockets is amazing. Never judge a book by its cover, y’all!

As for the Salt & Vinegar, same textural amazingness but unlike other salt & vinegar flavored chips, there was a subtle-y sweet aftertaste. After almost an entire bag of them, I concluded that it might just be from the chip itself being wheat and potato that’s helping to balance out the vinegar tang.

After two bags of munching, I really appreciated that my fingers weren’t left with a greasy, powdery residue. There was some, but nothing like the usual chip residue mess.

Valiant “Better For You” attempt, Ritz! It might actually work; I liked the Salt & Vinegar ones so much that I’d consider replacing my usual salt & vinegar kettle chips with them.

(Nutrition Facts – 21 Pieces – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 270 grams of potassium 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price:
Size: 7.1 oz. bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cream Cheese & Onion)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Salt & Vinegar)
Pros: Nothing like a Ritz Cracker, but tasty AND “better for you”. Textural amazingness. No greasy, powdery residue.
Cons: Why the artsy fartsy chip shape & names? Cream Cheese & Onion is just semantics for cheddar & sour cream.

REVIEW: Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs

If a Cheeto isn’t cheese flavored, is it even a Cheeto? Would a Cheeto by any other name smell as sweet?

These questions have puzzled scholars and philosophers for ages. Ok, well at least since 2015 when Frito-Lay first introduced Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs. The brand’s first foray into sweet snacks was, shall we say, a little underwhelming. So imagine my surprise to see that Cheetos Sweetos have multiplied and their new Caramel Puffs have bounced onto grocery store shelves just in time for what Frito-Lay calls the “spring snacking season,” but normal people might call “Easter.”

I imagine that this is all a sneaky ploy by Frito-Lay so that moms and dads – sorry…I mean, Easter Bunnies – everywhere might make room in Easter baskets for some crunchy snacks. Judging by the caramel-induced sugar high that Chester Cheetah seems to be having on the packaging, I imagine that this would be welcomed by children all over the world.

I opened my bag of Caramel Puff Sweetos, and was immediately accosted by a horribly artificial caramel scent, reminiscent of an off-brand candle you’d pick up at a drug store on the way to a birthday party you forgot about. The smell wafted throughout my entire apartment, causing my boyfriend to shriek with disgust from another room.

Each Sweeto is vaguely “Neil Armstrong’s bootprint on the moon” shaped, and is dusted with a heaping helping of brown powder. Surprisingly, unlike regular Cheetos, the powder stays firmly adhered to the Sweeto and doesn’t come off on your fingertips, which I guess is good for keeping astronaut gloves clean.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs 2

Preparing for the worst, I popped a Sweeto into my mouth, and was shocked by how quickly the Sweeto dissolved on my tongue like a sickly-sweet breath strip. The artificial caramel flavor is only recognizable for a second, and then is immediately replaced by the taste of corn, which is then further replaced by an off-putting aftertaste. It’s like the Matryoshka doll of bad snack food.

Cheetos Sweetos Caramel Puffs 3

While Chester the Cheetah’s caramel-induced-fever-dream on the packaging would make you think differently, there’s really no fun in eating Sweetos. When it comes down to it, they’re a jazzed up snack that blasphemes Cheetos. Sweetos aren’t sweet enough to earn that name, although I suppose Corntos doesn’t have the same ring to it.

In conclusion, a bag of Sweetos Caramel Puffs in your Easter basket is like the coal in your Christmas stocking. Be a good boy or girl and you’ll get some Flamin’ Hots instead.

(Nutrition Facts – about 25 pieces – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: “Look Ma, clean hands!” The Electric Sweetos Acid Test. Making bad Easter puns.
Cons: Eau du drug store candle. Barely discernable sweetness. Incredibly artificial.

REVIEW: Spicy Jalapeño Fritos

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos

Long live Fritos.

To misquote the legendary Braveheart, William Wallace:

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FRITOS!”

Now you might be thinking that only the brave of heart would dare try the new Spicy Jalapeño Fritos. Well, let me tell you something, cowardly sirs and madams, you’d be doing yourselves a disservice with that thought process.

When a new flavor of Fritos corn chips hits shelves, I hit the ground running. They might not drop with the frequency of their flashy brother Lay’s, but they’ve kept me quite happy over the years.

So with the assurance that Fritos have always been good to me, I grabbed their “newest” flavor with a ferocity that nearly popped the bag. I put “newest” in quotes because there have been Jalapeño Fritos varieties in the past, but these are new to me.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 2

After intentionally popping the bag, I was hit with a smell reminiscent of Taco Supreme Doritos. Remember those delicious bad boys?

The corn chips looked standard. They had a light coating of flavor dust, but that was almost undetectable to the naked eye.

The taste was distinctly jalapeño. They’re spicy, but not crazy spicy. I’m not one of those hot sauce aficionados who likes to marathon sweat when I eat, so I can imagine these being pretty tame to all you Spiceboys and Spicegirls. Whether your Taco Bell sauce is Mild or Diablo, I think they pack enough punch for all to enjoy, so spice up your life.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 3

I got down about half a bag and had to stop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can easily get lost in a bag of Fritos and polish it off in one sitting, so having to pace myself didn’t bother me one bit.

As I say that, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact regular Fritos are super oily. They’re amazing, but they’re so oily there’s almost a layer of moisture on each chip. Despite being addictive, after awhile Fritos usually give me the dreaded agita. Spicy Jalapeño took care of that problem.

Spicy Jalapeno Fritos 4

The powdery coating and the spiciness of the jalapeño seemed to neutralize the usual oiliness of Fritos. I’m sure this isn’t actually the case, but I think this also affected the crunch. The bag I bought was perfection.

I’d confidently go on record saying these were the freshest Fritos I’d ever had.

I guess I should try to give you a gauge on the spiciness. I had no clue they even made Flamin’ Hot Fritos, so I unfortunately cannot compare it to those. Taking flavor out of the equation, I would say these were about on par with Spicy Nacho Doritos. I always enjoyed those, but could never eat as many as the originals. That’s where I landed with these.

The aftertaste will actually trick your brain into thinking you just had some Doritos. The good thing is it doesn’t linger very long. I wasn’t feeling any burn a few minutes later.

Again, I’m no Spicehead, so keep that in mind. Sure, I like jalapeño in my burritos, but I don’t get too adventurous beyond that. That’s a perfect level of spice for people like me, but they’re not exactly setting the Scoville Scale ablaze.

I have no problem saying these are my new favorite Fritos. Chili Cheese used to stand alone, but hi ho the derry-o, we have a new leader in the pack. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be a “Limited Edition” slapped on the bag, so these might be around for good. Get on it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 2grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9.25 oz. bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Great jalapeño flavor. Spot on spice level for me. No usual Frito oiliness. No agita. Ideal crunch. Scoops variety next? These would make for a great walking taco. Spice Girls reunion?!
Cons: Spice bordered on overwhelming after awhile. Powder fingers. My inability to commit to a 10 score. My unawareness to Flamin’ Hot Fritos. Taco Supreme Doritos aren’t on my shelves anymore.

REVIEW: Flamin’ Hot Ruffles Potato Chips

Ruffles Flamin Hot Potato Chips

I have to admit I went into this review with a small bias, as “Flamin’ Hot” is a very familiar Frito-Lay flavor for me. I am a big Flamin’ Hot Cheetos fan, being second only to Tapatio Doritos on my spicy chip tier list. What? Don’t tell me you don’t have a spicy chip tier list!

Based on the friendly flame mascot and smoldery font that is identical to the branding from Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, I assumed I was in for standard Ruffles blasted with the same atomic red seasoning.

Upon opening the bag that is exactly what I discovered. My chips were in good shape, with most of them whole. This was a good sign for a delicious, evil experiment I had planned for them.

Ruffles Flamin Hot Potato Chips 3

The chips themselves pack the standard Flamin’ Hot heat (not too over the top, but a little much for spicy wimps). The distribution of dust was a little light for my liking, but I’m a bit of a spice fiend, so most will probably find them quite balanced.

So how does this tried and true seasoning fair on crispy, fried potatoes? Oh my, Chester Cheetah better watch out. The Ruffles are probably on about equal footing with Cheetos as vessels for Flamin’ Hot dust. Things get interesting, however, when you consider the versatility of Ruffles.

Ruffles Flamin Hot Potato Chips 2

The one shortcoming of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is they’re a bit one-dimensional. It’s a straightforward chili powder type of spice without much variety or depth. However, with their sturdy ridges and wide surface area, Ruffles are tailor-made to combat this problem because you can dip them. Remember that delicious, evil experiment I mentioned earlier?

When I was at the grocery store picking up these bad boys, I realized that many of the tried and true potato chip flavors all had something in common: sour cream. Through all the promotional and crazy flavors Lay’s ships out, I can remember Cheddar & Sour Cream and Sour Cream & Onion even since I was little. Even plain Ruffles beg to be dunked in french onion dip.

Ruffles Flamin Hot Potato Chips 4

Let’s just say I did a dollop of Daisy with these suckers, and the bag quickly grew lighter. The combination felt natural and right. The sour cream cut through the somewhat bland spice to create a cool balance. Maybe Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and sour cream would be just as good, but that just doesn’t sit quite as well in my head. Ruffles have ridges for a reason!

(Nutrition Facts – 11 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 323 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8/5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Albertson’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Classic Flamin’ Hot flavor translates well. A new contender for the top of my spicy chip tier list. Dippability.
Cons: Chips themselves are a bit one dimensional. Getting greasy red smears on my notebook.

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 2

The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.