I am, at heart, a creature of habit. My wife is constantly irritated with me because she likes to experiment with cooking new foods, whereas I would happily spend the rest of my days eating the same five meals in rotation. (Pizza, cheeseburgers, pasta, steaks, pancakes/waffles/French toast. And grilled cheese.) But honestly, once you find a formula that works, why would you want to mess with it? I’ll take my Superman sans mullet or electrical powers, thank you. So I’m always a little leery of the trend among snack food and soft drink manufacturers to be constantly rolling out new flavors. If I probably won’t like them as much as the regular version and half of them won’t be around in a few months anyway, why bother?
And yet… I like pepper jack cheese. And I really like Tostitos, for no particularly good reason I’ve ever been able to figure out. I mean, they’re pretty much just salt and flour, right? So watching me inhale a bowl of them during football season is basically the equivalent of watching a deer visiting a salt lick, except more pathetic because the deer doesn’t understand the concept of shame. Nonetheless, as I told my wife, Tostitos were here when you showed up and they’ll still be around when you’re gone, so don’t try to come between us. She understands. It’s the same reason you don’t see me making her choose between me and wine, because there are no winners in that game. Except wine.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open a bag of Hint of Pepper Jack Tostitos is the smell. Regular Tostitos have an aroma that can best be described as “salt,” but the HoPJ’s definitely have more pop, a bolder scent that fits their in-your-face brand image. It says that these chips have a statement to make and they don’t give a damn whether you like them or not. That’s good; I like my snacks with some piss and hellfire to them. I want chips that, if they were a movie, they’d be played by Samuel L. Jackson with a score by Isaac Hayes, and they’d call you a motherfucker a minimum of three times. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. Granted these aren’t habanero, but pepper jack often has some bite, so I was hoping the “hint” would turn out to be more of a belt. I can take it, you sissies.
Well, I have good news for those of you who read that last paragraph and thought, “Drew, you crazy” — while the chips definitely do taste of pepper jack, they aren’t going to be burning out your sinuses. They’re eminently eatable for anyone, and that includes me; even if they aren’t overly powerful, they still taste good. The Tostitos are more tangy than hot, and they have a slight cheese flavor, though not quite as much as I’d like. My wife claims they taste quite a bit similar to ranch chips, for whatever that’s worth. Personally I just liked them, though in moderation. Like bacon-flavored beer, they’re a fun treat and a nice change of pace, but if you had to eat them every day you’d be jonesing for the regular variety before long. If you’re feeling particularly mischievous, mix some HoPJs in with ordinary Tostitos at your next get-together and watch people’s faces. Don’t do that with Hint of Lime Tostitos, though. I once grabbed an innocuous-looking chip at a party and bit down, only to have to restrain myself from spitting it out because of all the people around. First blood to you, lime chip.
Perhaps the most ringing endorsement I can offer is that after opening the bag, the Hint of Pepper Jack Tostitos lasted a total of 3 days in my house, whereas we still have 2 of chocolate creme Twinkies I reviewed last month left over. That should tell you all you need to know. From what I understand, the HoPJs are being treated as a permanent new flavor in the “Hint of” line, but you and I both know chips are only as permanent as there are consumers buying them. So if you’re worried that these won’t have the mass appeal to stick it out, be sure to pick up a bag now.
(Nutrition Facts — 1 oz./about 6 chips — 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: Tostitos Hint of Pepper Jack Tortilla Chips
Size: One package
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Five foods is all you really need. Intriguing smell. Being played by Samuel MF’ing Jackson. Edible by masochists and wimps alike. Tastes good. Mixing with regular Tostitos and watching the fun. “Pepper Jack” would be a cool nickname when you’re old.
Cons: One step above a salt lick. Mulleted Superman. More of an occasional curiosity than a regular snack food. Lime chips. I fought the wine and the wine won.