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.

REVIEW: Lay’s Poppables (White Cheddar and Sea Salt)

Lay's Poppables

In between its flavor experiments (long live the cappuccino chip!), Lay’s has decided to try switching up the form factor on the beloved potato chip for its next innovation. The results are named Poppables for their popped up 3D shape that can easily be popped into your mouth.

Before you read any further please take note, though, that these are high class potato snacks.

Exhibit A – the eye catching design on the top of the bags as Harper’s Bazaar tells me that polka dots are recently back on trend.

Exhibit B – the o in Poppables needs a dot below it, which the internet tells me is a diacritic mark, whatever that is. Do you pronounce it differently? No clue.

Exhibit C (and if you weren’t already convinced this is the dead giveaway) – notice that the two featured flavors are not just cheddar but white cheddar and not just original but sea salt.

Lay's Poppables 2

I’m surprised they didn’t go further with possibly aged white cheddar or pink Himalayan salt or something. I, myself, alternate between drip coffee and espresso, so I do like to think of myself as highbrow every now and then meaning I was very, very excited to try out these bite-sized snacks.

Lay's Poppables 3

Their shape looks like a lattice cut potato chip and an M&M had a beautiful snack baby. A very hollow but starchy one. Each is about the size of a quarter and significantly puffed out towards the center. The crunchiness is definitely a highlight as there are so many layers to bite through from the unique shape.

After the crunching gives way, the flavors definitely make their arrival. The sea salt ones have a tiny bit too much saltiness to them as it increases the more you chew. The white cheddar, though, have a nice crunch followed by intense cheesy flavor that then transforms into your classic potato chip profile. I found myself continually popping these into my mouth as they are a lot lighter than expected and not heavy at all (until you have eaten half the bag, though).

Lay's Poppables 4

To wrap up on these Poppables, out of the two eatable flavors available, and while this could be debatable, I did think that the white cheddar was more desirable and capable of tingling my excitable taste buds even though both, while perishable and potentially breakable, were portable, delectable, and very satiable potato snacks.

(Nutrition Facts – White Cheddar – about 28 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Sea Salt – about 30 pieces – 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49 each
Size: 5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (White Cheddar)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Sea Salt)
Pros: On trend packaging design. Potato chips and M&M’s falling in love and procreating. Crunchiness and lightness all in one.
Cons: Overuse of the suffix -able. Aged White Cheddar and Pink Himalayan Salt getting the shaft.

REVIEW: Pringles LOUD Crisps (Mighty Margherita Pizza and Salsa Fiesta)

Pringles LOUD Crisps (Mighty Margherita Pizza and Salsa Fiesta)

I have a confession to make: I love eating ketchup on Pringles. I love it to the point where my posture is currently italicized just thinking about it.

Pringles and ketchup is a tradition passed down in my family for generations. I’ve made intricate catsup illustrations on Pringles canvases that would make a Subway sandwich artist‘s cold cut craftsmanship look like a kindergartener’s elbow macaroni picture frame.

Heck, I even have the family record for most ketchup-squelched Pringles stacked and eaten in one bite (thirteen).

So imagine the personal offense I take when people scoff —- if not outright wretch -— at me for sharing this tasty tradition with them. Sure, some rational souls agree that, since ketchup on French fries is good, it should work on Pringles, too. And sure, Ketchup Pringles exist in Canada. But most Americans react like I just sneezed unshaken ketchup water on them.

Thankfully, Pringles seems to be on my side, as two of their five new LOUD Crisps varieties prominently feature the humble tomato. This line of “bolder flavored” and “epically crunchy” crisps also includes Spicy Queso, Super Cheesy Italian, and Fiery Chili Lime, but I’m here to tell you about the ones that will (hopefully) bring glory to the “ketchup and Pringles” name: Mighty Margherita Pizza, which swaps the brand’s traditional “potato-flavored crisp” base for one made of grains and more vegetables than a Biblical children’s show, and Salsa Fiesta, which builds its flavor party on a dance floor of corn flour.

Pringles LOUD Mighty Margherita Pizza Crisps

From Ducks to Morphin Power Rangers, “Mighty” things tend to be pretty great, and original Pizza Pringles are my all-time favorites, so I expected big things from Mighty Margherita Pizza.

These new crisps smell just like Pizza Pringles, but their taste is a bit more artisanal. They open with a familiar pop of tomato paste, garlic, and onion, but quickly fade into a more complexly sun-dried and herbal tomato back end. These late flavor notes also smack of tangy basil and spinach, making it feel like Julius Pringle gave a Godfather-esque Kiss of Death to my taste buds. Pleasant at first, this aftertaste becomes peppery and bitter enough over time to make my tongue “sleep with the fishes”—by which I mean, “yearn for a glass of water.”

What really irritates Don Dan about Mighty Margherita Pringles is their supposed “LOUD” crunch. Despite being made with a grain and vegetable blend that gives them a subtle carroty finish, these Pringles LOUD Crisps are no louder nor crunchier than normal Pringles.

Instead, they just feel like the hipster, organically cauliflower-crusted pizza version of original Pizza Pringles. If plain Pizza Pringles are Papa John’s, Domino’s, or Little Caesars, then Mighty Margherita Pizza is Father John Misty, Settlers of Catan, and Little Hannibals —- you know, the guy who crossed the Alps to invade Rome before it was cool.

Pringles LOUD Mighty Margherita Pizza Crisps 2

Oh well, at least they make great hyperbolic hors d’oeuvres when you top ‘em like Lunchables.

Pringles LOUD Salsa Fiesta Crisps

Even though Mighty Margherita Pizza was pretty good, I hoped Salsa Fiesta would be better. These crisps’ feverish appearance made me think they’d have more tomato taste, and I was right. While M.M.P. oozes the vine-ripened juiciness of a wise old tomato, Salsa Fiesta strikes fast with the aggressive and salty zest of a sassy vine-dropout.

This punchy tomato taste fades quickly into notes of tongue-prickling red onion and mouth-watering green chile. On their own, these flavors might be spicy, but their burn is tempered by Salsa Fiesta’s delightful aftertaste of roasted corn and black bean dip. It’s a very tasty re-creation of the “tortilla chips and salsa” restaurant ritual, but it’s also over far too soon, as the airy crisps completely dissolve into the ethereal Pringles beyond before I can say “holy frijoles!”

Pringles LOUD Salsa Fiesta Crisps 2

And even though a mild salsa makes a great pairing for these zippy Salsa Fiesta Pringles, their fragile paraboloid slopes tend to crack under the pressure. Be sure to have a platoon of rescue chips handy to fish these fallen chips out of their juicy graves.

Overall, if you’re a fan of tomatoes ‘n’ taters like me, the respective veggie and corn bases of Mighty Margherita Pizza and Salsa Fiesta will bring starchy satisfaction to your catsup-coated carb cravings. The sweet ‘n’ tangy sauciness and contemplative herbs of Mighty Margherita Pizza make for a great evening snack, while the peppery jabs of Salsa Fiesta are perfect for a bustling party.

But if you hate tomatoes and oxymoronically quiet “LOUD” Crisps, you might want to pass these up for something with more bulk —- or extreme nacho cheese.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two new Pringles flavors to shamelessly slather with Heinz.

(Nutrition Facts – 14 crisps – Mighty Margherita Pizza – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Salsa Fiesta – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.40 each
Size: 5.1 oz. can (Mighty Margherita Pizza)
Size: 5.4 oz. can (Salsa Fiesta)
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Mighty Margherita Pizza)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Salsa Fiesta)
Pros: The savory French kiss of a Pringles Mafioso. The taste bud-smacking sadism of juvenile salsa delinquents. Elegantly stacking Pringles with feta and Chipotles. Ancient pizza elephant warfare.
Cons: Crunching not with a bang, but with a whimper. Herbs that overstay their welcome. Crisps more fragile than a leg lamp. Un-elegantly cramming a stack of 13 Pringles and ketchup into my mouth.

REVIEW: Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch is like a ghosting ex-boyfriend/girlfriend – the one that keeps popping in and out of your life at inopportune moments.

It all started back on that fateful day several years ago when the baby blue packaging caught my eye. I thought to myself, “Wow, who dares rock baby blue that’s not Lay’s Sea Salt & Vinegar. Bold, I like it.”

After just one taste I was hooked, but just as quickly as it appeared, Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch disappeared. And, it clearly had many mistresses because everyone has been looking. There’s even a petition going around to try to lock Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch in permanently. Other chips have come and gone in my life, like Doritos JACKED Ranch Dipped Hot Wings Chips, but it just isn’t the same.

But, hindsight is always 20/20 – memories of past relationships always seem a little rosier than they actually were. And that’s exactly how I felt when we were finally reunited. Overall, I don’t think Frito Lay/Doritos did anything differently, I just grew up.

I spotted the baby blue bag at the way, way bottom of the towering chips shelf. As I crouched down to pick it up, my heart skipped a beat. Ugh, why now?! Just as I was getting over Doritos and moving onto other better-for-me options.

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch 2

On the outside, it looked the same – that same baby blue. Packaging off, it looked better than I remembered. Unlike its previous seasoning splotches, the chips were generously coated with red seasoning. It made it look very similar to its brother, the Nacho Cheese flavor.

The first crunch was like sweet, sweet revenge. But, I quickly realized it really just tasted like Cool Ranch Doritos. As I continued enjoying, I got a small kick reminiscent of Doritos Salsa Verde.

But that’s about it.

Buffalo flavor? Non-existent.

Blazin’? Nope.

There was a spicy afterglow but again no more than the kick from Doritos’ other “spicy” flavors.

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch 3

Of course, I should’ve also suspected that the generous seasoning would leave a mess after. My fingers were covered in red powder like I had been hanging out with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. After cleaning my fingers off, I proceeded to chug 16 ounces of water at record speed. It tasted extra salty even though the sodium contents are about in-line with other Doritos flavors. Odd.

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch, it’s been real but I won’t be signing the petition to get you permanent status any time soon. There are plenty of other fish – or in this case, chips – in the sea.

(Nutrition Facts – 11 chips – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Well-seasoned compared to previous batches – beyond that, Frito Lay/Doritos kept it true to the original.
Cons: Really just tastes like Cool Ranch + Salsa Verde. No buffalo flavor. Not blazin’. Messy – fingers covered in red powder.