REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips

I’m an Italian kid from the Northeast, so when I hear “gravy” I think of that brown stuff you put on turkey, not the white sausage based stuff popular in the South. I also never, I repeat, never think of red sauce you put on macaroni as gravy. Anyone who tells you that’s “gravy” is certifiable. Sauce with meat is not gravy. You are wrong. Stop being wrong. You’re probably right. Who the heck knows?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 2

Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips are the brainchild of Hailey Green from Noblesville, IN. Her idea was based on her “Nonnie’s” homemade biscuits and gravy recipe. So if these stink, I’m putting full blame on Nonnie. Moment of truth, Nonnie. Here goes nothing.

The chips have a nice gravy scent. Is that a thing? A “nice” gravy scent? Has anyone ever said, “Mmmm, this gravy smells fantastic?” There’s a very distinct smell you get when you pop open a bottle of turkey/chicken gravy or open a pouch of dry gravy mix. I’m sure it smells that way when you make any variety of gravy from scratch but…look I’m no Nonnie, I’ve never made gravy from scratch. Pity me.

My first inclination when trying a new chip flavor is to immediately compare it to a flavor I’m familiar with. With these my immediate first impression was that they were a saltier, less potent sour cream and onion. As I munched on, the gravy flavor poked through. It’s definitely there but it takes a little while to build. The flavor really reminded me of something familiar and it took me about 10 more chips to realize what it was — Stove Top Stuffing. After reaching that conclusion, I couldn’t taste anything else.

Ya know what I don’t really like? Stove Top Stuffing. Ya know what I do like? Chips that taste like Stove Top Stuffing. Go figure. Go. I’ll wait.

We good?

I’m not sure what exactly stuffing and biscuits and gravy have in common, save for the starch element and some onion powder, but they are definitely in the same ballpark. I want to say gravy flavoring on potato chips is strange, but who doesn’t like gravy on mashed potatoes? It seems dumb, but once that thought crossed my mind, I really started to enjoy these more. “Thanksgiving Dinner” was one of my contest submissions, and this might be as close as I’ll get.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 4

I wouldn’t say these chips have a kick, but they are a bit peppery. Each chip is coated with little red, orange, and black specs of spice. You’ll come away feeling like you may have possibly eaten something spicy a while ago and your mouth is still recovering.

As for the biscuit element, there’s a hint of a creamy, buttery flavor, but it’s pretty understated. I kept trying to really separate a biscuit flavor but found it difficult. That seems authentic to me though as the gravy would overpower the biscuit flavor if you were eating the actual dish. Biscuits are delicious, but are also a textural food, so you lose that when converting that flavor to a chip.

Therein “Lay’s” the problem with most of the Do Us a Flavor chips. They don’t so much stand on their own as they just make me really want to eat the food they are copying. Like right now? I want a biscuit. I don’t want any more chips. I gotta have a biscuit. Where’s that little giggly Pillsbury Doughboy bastard when you need him?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 3

These are the traditional-style chip, which was a good call on their part. I don’t think they would have been as successful in Wavy form. As I said, I want the softest style chip possible for this flavor. The Greektown Gyro flavor really worked as a kettle chip, but there is almost no chance these would have. When thinking “biscuit,” you don’t want to be crunching down on something that could crack a molar at any given second.

I find the color of the bag aesthetically pleasing, but the image of the actual biscuits and gravy are unappetizing. This is admittedly a nitpick, but annoying people tell me that we “eat with our eyes first,” and that gloppy white stuff just doesn’t look tasty. I was pleasantly surprised these turned out a lot better than the picture led me to believe.

I enjoyed these slightly more than the Gyro chips and I ended up eating half the bag in one sitting. I probably could have kept going but my mouth started to feel like the Sahara and I needed to chug an entire bottle of water. So congrats to Lay’s, the Jelly Belly of potato chips, for another successful flavor foray.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 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, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: They go down easy. Stuffing flavor. Not overpowering. Nice hint of spice. Nonnie finally getting her due. Bag color. Molars intact.
Cons: Masked biscuit flavor. Bag photo. Lay’s constantly denying my submissions. “Gravy” on macaroni. Actual biscuit cravings. Pillsbury Doughboy not being at my beck and call.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

At the risk of offending those of you who actually liked the Lay’s Chicken and Waffles Potato Chips, I’m of the mindset that the whole Do Us a Flavor competition has been one of the more impressive fails of snack food marketing over the past few years.

Why do I say that? Well, because I still cringe at the thought of 2013’s aforementioned Chicken and Waffles chips, my taste buds panic whenever I’m around mangos, and I still have a nearly full bag of the Cappuccino chips buried somewhere in my pantry.

Come to think of it, I probably haven’t made it through a full bag combined of the past Do Us a Flavor finalists I’ve tried. Meanwhile, my unquestionably brilliant idea for a chip based on the flavors of a sandwich — Buffalo’s iconic Beef on Weck — has been shot down each of the past three years.

Given my past history with Do Us a Flavor, I was ready to write this year off until I saw the finalist chips. All I can say is, “Nice job, America.” You’ve obviously outgrown your suggestions for flavors that have no business on a potato, and finally thought strategically about the chips you want to eat. You’ve even managed to get another iconic New York sandwich on there — the Reuben.

(Seriously, why don’t more chips taste like sandwiches? Sandwiches are delicious, and everyone likes them. Oh shit. Now that I’ve said that, one you is probably going to suggest we start making Peanut Butter and Jelly flavored potato chips, aren’t you?)

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips 2

The Reuben sets the bar pretty high in terms of sandwich flavors but man do these chips deliver, starting with this distinct caraway and rye smell that emanates from the bag. If you’ve ever been to a good, old-school Jewish deli than you know the smell. The taste is familiar to anyone who’s ever had a Reuben, with strong notes of all those classic pickling spices and the tangy, fermented bite of sauerkraut. It’s a great taste and not the least bit overpowering, giving way to a hint of sweet and acidic tomato and a more potent, but mellow, buttermilk and cheese aftertaste.

It’s really an impressive array of flavors, and one in which every component of the sandwich is represented in one form or another. What’s most striking is that none of the flavors dominates or overtakes another, an important element in a sandwich which such a heavy connotation. If anything, the initial taste of caraway, then sauerkraut, and finally tomato (the Russian dressing) and cheese, mirrors the progression of flavors you’d get when biting into an actual Reuben. Heck, even the crunchy chips have a sort of buttery aftertaste that can’t help bring to mind griddled bread, going a long way to create the flavor of not just sandwich components, but an actual sandwich.

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips 3

More than anything else, these sandwiches chips are downright addictive. There’s nothing which says passing the litmus test of a potato chip’s noshability than reaching into the bag to grab another chip while writing your review, only to discover you’ve just consumed an actual Reuben’s worth of calories in potato chips. If I do have a small gripe it’s that there’s nothing really meaty about the chips. I didn’t get the flavor of the spices that make corned beef, well, corned beef.

Given my disastrous experiences with finalists from the past two years, the Do Us a Flavor promotion could’ve struck out with me this year if they didn’t give me something really good. Fortunately the New York Reuben Chips are really good, even if the Reuben may have actually been invented in Nebraska and not New York. Frankly, I could care less what the truth behind the origins of the sandwich are. I’m just glad I won’t be throwing away another full bag of Do Us a Flavor chips.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 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, 330 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Finally getting a Do Us a Flavor finalist that I actually want to eat. Caraway and Rye. Awesome sauerkraut and pickling spice flavor. Distinctive taste of Russian dressing and cheese. Crunchy, buttery aftertaste mimics griddled bread. Smells like a straight up Jewish deli.
Cons: Beef flavor in the corned beef is missing. Having to supply your own over-sized kosher pickle. Someone please make me my Beef on Weck flavored potato chips!

REVIEW: Bacon Cheddar Ranch Doritos Jacked 3D

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Doritos Jacked 3D

*A scene from Doritos headquarters*

“Okay, boys. After years of dark magic, Ouija boards, and one ill-fated incident involving a cheese-toothpaste hybrid, we’ve finally crafted the perfect recipe for appealing to the “Xtreme” chip market:

Bacon – the cornerstone of annoying Internet food memes

Cheddar – the preferred finger coating of Cheetos-loving gamers everywhere

Ranch – because nothing evokes the rough-and-tumble, Chuck Norris-esque aesthetic of cow ranchers like ranch dressing”

And with that, Bacon Cheddar Ranch Doritos Jacked 3D (I need a breather just writing that name) were born. If the Powerpuff Girls were made from Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice, then these must be the Powerpuff Girls’ 25-year-old brother who plays World of Warcraft in their parents’ basement.

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But I won’t judge these on the stereotypical nature of their ingredients alone. Opening the bag and huffing deeply, a corn scent predominates, with a little edgy cheesiness that tickles my nostrils.

Like a paleontologist discovering the elusive Doritosaurus, I extract one of the bizarrely shaped artifacts. It looks like a symbol straight out of the Stonecutters Clan.

Upon my first munch of the thick, crunchy pyramid, I’m first hit with a strong corn flavor. But this corn is glazed with a savory cheesiness that quickly ramps up into the recognizable, biting sharpness that is typical of cheddar snacks.

And that’s it.

Wait, what? That can’t be. As it stands, these are Phantom Menace levels of disappointment. Maybe they should rename them “ChedDar Jar Binks Doritos.”

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Doritos Jacked 3D 3

I continue frantically shoveling corn triangles into my mouth hoping for a more intense experience, and slowly but surely, I get it.

As my mouth swells with the amalgamated ball of chewed, cheesy corn (yeah, this sounds really gross, but don’t lie: you know exactly the feeling), I notice a smoky finish to the cheddar cheese. It reminds me of the toasty, salty, and paprika-y flavor you get at the end of a barbecue chip.

I’m guessing this is the “bacon,” and it’s so subtle that you’d think a bacon fairy casually sprinkled her little pixie dust of bacon bits over the bag. I call her Oinkerbell.

I’m having trouble detecting any ranch, though. The closest thing is the aftertaste left by the 3D-oritos (a much better name, in my opinion). I’m not the best at estimation, but for about 2 geologic eons after eating them, my throat was plastered with a peppered, garlic tomato flavor. I’m not sure if this is “ranch,” but it is enough to leave me hoping for an actual bottle of cheese-toothpaste to rid my breath of this oily flashback.

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All in all, these were “so-so,” at best. I love the texture, extreme width, and fun shape (they look like someone set the font on their chip word processor to “Wingdings”) of the Doritos, but the tame cheese flavor isn’t memorable enough to prompt another buy. It’s just a kitchen-sink combination of old flavors that isn’t focused enough on a single one. You’d be better off buying Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch to get a more distinct and focused palate experience.

Unless, of course, you’re an archeologist looking for a thematically appropriate snack to bring to the company “Quetzalcoatl Barbecue,” in which case these hieroglyphs are a good, mindless nosh for summer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I only have a few more months to perfect my ChedDar Jar Binks cosplay. George Lucas will be proud!

(Nutrition Facts – 13 pieces – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Bacon Cheddar Ranch Doritos Jacked 3D
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 11.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Corn is made better with cheddar. Snacks shaped like RPG runes. Imagining a Doritosaurus/Jurassic World crossover.
Cons: Corn isn’t made that much better with cheddar. Scarcity of bacon flavor. Surplus of bacon memes. Not getting a kick out of ranch. Probably getting kicked out of Skywalker Ranch.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips

I haven’t had a really good gyro in a long time. Am I even saying that right? “Jy-ro”? Or is it “hi-ro?” “Guy-ro?” Meh, whatever, it’s all Greek to me.

*ducks tomatoes*

I’m sure by now you are all familiar with the yearly “Do Us a Flavor” competition Frito-Lay has been running. Last year brought us such favorites as Bacon Mac & Cheese and Cappuc…Bacon Mac & Cheese! It seems this year they decided to go with a theme – Tastes of America. The four finalists are – West Coast Truffle Fries (which are Wavy), New York Reuben, Southern Biscuits and Gravy, and the Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro.

My suggestions of “Funnel Cake” and “A Complete Breakfast” were unfortunately declined, which is Grade A hogwash. “Malarkey,” I say. Am I even saying that right?

Tastes of America, huh? I know where the West Coast is. I’ve been to New York and the South. Where the heck is Greektown? I assumed it was in Detroit, but James, the man who submitted the flavor, is from Texas and claims the flavor is inspired by his local gyro place. Let’s see what they’ve got, Jimmy.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips 2

As I tore open the bag, I was hit with a semi-unpleasant but distinct, almost peppery smell. The more I inhaled; I recognized the scent of your standard Greek herbs and spices. These chips do indeed smell like a gyro.

The immediate taste of the first chip was off-putting. That, combined with the smell, had me ready to chalk these up as a loser, but the more I chewed the more the taste improved. Greektown Gyro chips actually ended up having a pretty complex and layered flavor.

The first thing I pinpointed was the “zing” of Tzatziki sauce. This is not a flavor new to Frito-Lay. “Greek Tzatziki” was one of the finalists in Canada’s “Do Us a Flavor” competition last year, so I was ready to write these off as a lazy rip off. But that’s when the other flavors started to hit my tongue.

I definitely tasted the lamb/beef/mystery meat flavor in these chips. The same spices you’re used to in your gyro meats were definitely used to coat these chips.

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I have to say, it’s actually impressive that I could breakdown multiple flavors if I focused on them. I definitely got some faint tomato and onion flavor, and I actually think there is even a little lingering cucumber in the aftertaste, but that’s probably just part of the Tzatziki. Feta is one of the standard ingredients in most gyros I’ve had, but I couldn’t really pick that out. It could possibly be thrown in there in some way, but there doesn’t appear to be any cheese element in the ingredient list.

Also, I thought the kettle cooked texture was perfect for this flavor. I don’t think these would be nearly as good as a normal potato chip. That extra crunch really enhances the experience.

So to answer the million dollar question, “Do they taste like a gyro?” Yeah, sure, I think they do. If I was blindfolded I honestly think I would be able to narrow it down to that flavor. But let’s get one thing straight, when it comes to gimmicky potato chips like these, you always need to take the flavor they are trying to imitate with a grain of salt – or in this case 7.7 mg of sodium per chip. Did you guys know there is a calculator app on your phone?! What an age we live in!

I’m not gonna sit here and declare these the winner until I try the other three flavors. The voting is open until October, so you have plenty of time to track them all down and do whatever hashtag Twitter voting I’m sure they’ll set up. Just going off the other flavors, I think this one might have a really good shot at winning. But let’s be real; you’ll probably see all of them on the shelves even after the voting ends. I still see Sriracha on shelves and that wasn’t a winner.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, 2 grams of protein, 2% iron, and 10% vitamin C.)

Item: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.68
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Gyros getting their due. Layers of flavor. Tzatziki sauce. Great kettle cooked crunch. Do us a Flavor competition.
Cons: Smell. Greece’s current economic state. Kind of a rehashed flavor. “A Complete Breakfast” denial. Bag confusion. Where is Greektown?

REVIEW: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

As anyone who has ever eaten Cheetos knows, 90 percent of the appeal is licking the disgusting (and by disgusting, I mean awesome) amount of cheese powder residue that clings to your fingers. Cheesy, salty, delicious, and basically deserving to be packaged and sold as a savory rendition of a Pixy Stix, the Cheeto powder would constitute my entire source of calcium should the world ever see the abolition of pizza. Its deliciousness begs the existential question though: is the quintessence of the Cheeto unique to the cheesiness of the powder, or is it just the presence of a lickable flavor powder in and of itself? In other words: if you take away the cheese, can Cheetos still be great?

A question as mysterious and elusive as ”why is there an Easter bunny?”, the springtime arrival of Cheetos Sweetos as a limited edition Easter-themed snack provides ample empirical evidence to finally put to rest this most vexing of questions.

Shaped like Easter Eggs (or, presumably, drops of cheetah poop) each cinnamon sugar puff is light and airy with a dusty brown complexion one might associate with a well-aged gouda. There the similarities with cheese cease, as the hollow crunch of each puff flees from any notion of the salty Cheeto we’re accustomed to. The powder, too, is not quite as intense in its coverage, and while a fair amount of the advertised cinnamon-sugar transferred to my fingers, I didn’t find myself in need of a good Beethoven slobbering to remove it. I considered this most unfortunate.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably because the taste falls below expectations. For something which has adopted one of the most basic adjectives in flavor for its namesake, Cheetos Sweetos don’t initially taste very sweet at all. If anything, the pieces taste like an over-buttered but under-sugared piece of slightly soggy toast, with loads of cinnamon seasoning but nothing particularly salivating about that seasoning. To put it more bluntly; they’re straight-up bland.

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs Closeup

The buttery coating isn’t bad, and really, the amount of actual cinnamon flavor is quite admirable, but each puff plays it too safe in the sweetness department, like some kind of alternative cereal ever cognizant of a dreaded lecture by the health food police. What I was expecting, and what my and I’m sure most sweet snack food eaters would have preferred, was something like Post’s Mini-Cinnamon Churros cereal. Likewise, the corn base and cinnamon flavor leave my taste buds grasping for a point of reference, one which inevitably turns to the sturdier crunch of sweetened corn-based cereals. In this case, the puffed approach hinders old Chester, who would have been better to market these in the traditional, crunchier texture of a regular (crunchy) Cheeto.

To be fair, Cheetos Sweetos aren’t bad. But they’re far from memorable, and I wouldn’t choose them as a snack over the multitude of very good cinnamon-sugar cereals out there. If nothing else, they’ve established a fundamental and universal truth that we Cheetos lovers have long pondered over. Yes, the greatness of the Cheeto resides not just in the fact that you get miles of flavored powder to lick from your fingers, but in the unique and especially savory cheese flavor of the powder, and no amount of buttered and slightly sweet cinnamon coating can ever come close to replicating that deliciousness.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 13 pieces – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Weis
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pretty solid buttered cinnamon-sugar toast flavor. Strong and authentic cinnamon taste. Easter-themed treat which isn’t dark chocolate. Discovering the real essence of Cheeto deliciousness.
Cons: Sweetness is dull and bland. Mild corn aftertaste is distracting. Doesn’t work well in puffed form. Not getting to slobber up Cheeto powder.