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

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: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips

“We’ve all heard of Thanksgiving leftovers, but Thanksgiving pre-ftovers?” No laughs. I exit the room. I come back in, trying to make a better entrance. “Guys, if Trader Joe’s keeps this up, we’re going to have to rename Thanksgiving Christmas.” I exit the room. I enter again. “You know what they call three strikes in a row in bowling? A turkey. You know what they call four strikes in a row? Obama’s labor policy. That one’s for you, Uncle Jeff!” No laughs. I exit the room, fill my pockets with rocks and march into the ocean.

At least I died after getting to try Trader Joe’s attempt at a Thanksgiving cornucopia shoved into a snack, the Turkey Stuffing and Seasoned Kettle Chips. What it made me realize is that Thanksgiving is about dull, comforting tastes that feature varying textures, and that a subtle flavor with a light description of the product can possibly induce taste hallucinations.

Opening the bag, a waft of powdered mashed potatoes enters the air. Upon first bite, it tastes a little like powdered mashed potatoes, and maybe a hint of sage. It kind of looks like it’s dusted with powdered mashed potatoes.

We’re going to take a timeout from this review for a reassessment: Of course it tastes like potatoes, you dope. It’s a potato chip. And 80 percent of all the stuffing you’ve eaten has been dried and pre-mixed from a plastic bag, which is like the cousin of the powdered mash potato.

Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips Closeup

Let’s read the packaging. “These thickly cut, kettle cooked chips are tossed in a seasoning that tastes like a traditional American Thanksgiving meal—first you taste the turkey, then comes the stuffing, and if you close your eyes, you’ll swear you can taste the creamy gravy, too.”

On a second taste a muted stuffing flavor appears. It’s good. Was it always there or was I eating the words on the back of the bag? Does it matter? Nibbling on one at a time, I even catch some dark meat turkey flavor, but only a whisper of umami. Eating the chips by the handful, the overriding flavor is stuffing seasoning before sodium overload makes it all taste like other non-Thanksgiving kettle chips. The aftertaste has a black pepper hum that resembles the outline of a gravy, that lends a tail of personality that elevates the final product.

The chip itself has a slight grit, which is not unpleasant but highlights the main difference between this and a real Thanksgiving dinner. There is no celery snap, no meat gristle, no butter gooey bread crumbs. A potato chip is a potato chip. A potato chip is not a Thanksgiving meal. Are all the flavors there? Sure. I caught them, whether they were real or not. And they serve as a pleasant nostalgia, priming the pump for all the other garbage food on the holiday table.

At best this chip has hints of just about all the main meal touchstones of a Thanksgiving dinner, which is pretty amazing. And even at its worst, it’s a decent kettle chip with sage flavoring. It would have been nice to have a little more kick in there at some point, like cranberries, maybe, or something acidic? But we must dance with the date we came with. And that date is racist Uncle Jeff and a crispy stuffing. Maybe slap them on the leftovers sandwich you’re eating in line for Best Buy at 4 a.m. Oh, that’s right, no Black Friday for me. I’m dead! What a blessing.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Turkey and Stuffing Seasoned Kettle Chips
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Stuffing flavors, turkey flavors, possibly present and enjoyable.
Cons: A tad dull. Could just be powdered mashed potatoes flavor.

QUICK REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Horseradish Potato Chips

Trader Joe's Cheddar & Horseradish Potato Chips

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Bold horseradish flavor and creamy cheddar flavor takes your taste buds on a tasty roller coaster ride. If you enjoy horseradish (and its burn), you will love these chips and licking the seasoning off your fingers. Thick chips. Awesome crunch that’s crunchier than other kettle chips.
Cons: Doesn’t come in a huge bag that can double as a body pillow. Only available at Trader Joe’s and there isn’t a Trader Joe’s on the rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Other reviews: What’s Good at Trader Joe’s, Chip Review

Nutrition Facts: 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 370 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 10% vitamin C, and 2% iron.

REVIEW: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks

It’s fair to say I’m not the healthiest eater, a regrettable side effect of unrelenting stubbornness meeting finicky taste buds. As a result, I’m even more desperate than most people for reasonably healthy food that actually tastes good. And man cannot live on Pirate’s Booty alone, so when SunChips’ new Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor hit grocery store shelves, I was all over that like, well, me on frozen yogurt.

The front of the bag really tries to sell you on the complexity of the tastes you’ll soon be mouthfeeling, showing the chips leaning against a dipping bowl of barbecue sauce, alongside chili peppers and that weird utensil that seems to be used exclusively to drip honey. (Or “hunny,” if you’re a silly ol’ bear.) It’s an intriguing montage that creates the expectation of a great pairing, like brownies and ice cream or Spider-Man and Optimus Prime.

In keeping with the health-conscious branding of SunChips, the label reminds you that they’re multigrain and a stamp emphasizes the all-natural ingredients and lack of MSG, preservatives, and artificial flavors. No complaints from me — their marketing strategy has always revolved around being healthier than the competition (30% less fat than regular potato chips, apparently), and you’ve gotta dance with the one who brought you.

The back further expands on the flavor explosion you’re apparently about to experience. It promises “a bold and unforgettable taste” that will “start the sweetest, sauciest fire in your mouth,” which hopefully is an exaggeration because hey, SunChips… flattered, even curious, but married. It also encourages you to check out their Facebook page, being updated by some eager, unpaid intern even as we speak. Yes, this is why you went to Brown for four years, Sarah. Working your way up!

But enough talk! Let’s talk about the actual chips themselves. Opening the bag releases a pleasing smell, like a somewhat muted aroma of barbecued ribs or chicken. It’s enjoyable without being overpowering, even if you stick your nose in the bag, although why would you do that unless you’re a weirdo food reviewer? In terms of appearance, you’ve seen SunChips before; these look identical except for a slightly darker, more orange shade than the plain variety. Given their focus on all natural ingredients, I’m assuming that is genuinely due to the barbecue coating, not just food coloring to differentiate them in your mental food rolodex.

SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks Closeup

With respect to texture, they’re definitely crunchy — if you’ve never had a SunChip of any kind before, basically they feel just like any regular potato chip, possibly even slightly crunchier. But ultimately that doesn’t matter a whit if they taste terrible, now does it? Well, the good news is, they don’t taste terrible; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. The sweetness comes through loud and clear, more like molasses than super sugary, although it doesn’t linger for long. Still, I have a hard time imagining many people disliking the taste, even if it doesn’t absolutely blow you away.

However, I do have a bone to pick, which is simply this: I have tasted spicy before. I know from spicy. And this, my friends, is not spicy. Remember that business about the bold and unforgettable taste? I can’t give it the response it deserves, but suffice to say in gentleman’s terms, that’s a crock of horseshit.

This is as edgy and in-your-face as men piercing their ears nowadays: it still might slightly intimidate young kids, but nobody else is going to be impressed. (And yes, I had three piercings in college. Swimmers are pretty hardcore, you know.) The heat is conspicuously absent, and while I’m not looking to scorch my lips off, the word “spicy” evokes certain expectations that are simply not met. Compared to the sweetness, the spice is like unto a phantom flavor, evident in some pale shade but so insubstantial as to make you question your senses. And that’s the last time I read M. R. James before writing a review.

(Full disclosure: while the upper chips in the bag were almost entirely devoid of heat, around the halfway mark there started to be a tiny bit, presumably due to the spices settling downward. Still not much, but it at least approaches the heat of a typical “mild” flavor.)

Even without more spice, this is still a good flavor that I have no trouble recommending; it’s just that it could have been even better if the spice were commensurate with the sweetness. I don’t know if that would have made them less healthy or if artificial flavors are needed to really crank it up to 11, but it’s a missed opportunity. Even so, try not to let these slip away without giving them a shot; they might not knock your socks off, but they are good.

(Nutrition Facts — 1 oz (28g/about 15 chips) — 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Other Sun Chips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Chips reviews:
Chip Review

Item: SunChips Sweet & Spicy BBQ Flavored Multigrain Snacks
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: If you’re going to eat chips, these are among the least ass-fattening. Barbeque smell. Good texture. Effective degree of sweetness without being overly sugary. Spider-Man and Optimus Prime: great team-up, or the greatest team-up?
Cons: An Ivy League English degree is still useless. Misleading ad copy. As much heat as Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman. Letting someone see you sticking your nose in a bag of chips.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Special K Popcorn Chips (Butter & Sweet and Salty)

Special K Popcorn Chips

I had to call my cable company regarding some serious internet connectivity issues over the weekend. For those of you who have ever had the misfortune of having to contact your cable provider for any reason, I don’t have to tell you that it was a long, tedious process, fraught with drama. There was shouting, pleading, whining, and some profanity, and that was before I even spoke to a person. The automated system kept misinterpreting my voice commands, putting me on hold, and then kicking me out to the main menu in an endless loop of broken promises.

What kept me sane in those terrible moments before I finally broke through to an actual human being? Some crispy, corn-based snacks in the form of geometric shapes. Special K’s new Popcorn Chips are crunchy baked snacks that taste like tortilla chips but look like Styrofoam triangles. And they are the one thing that kept me from crossing completely over from blissful, crunchy serenity waiting on hold for 20 minutes to completely losing my shit on some innocent customer service representative who probably hates their job as much as I hate their company’s chirpy, ad-filled phone queue soundtrack.

Special K Popcorn Chips are made from corn (natch), and they taste like it. However, I never got the sensation of eating popcorn. It was more like I was eating tortilla chips. By referring to these thingies as “Popcorn Chips,” Special K may have wanted to emphasize how their snacks are baked and are similar in texture to Pop Chips. Like Pop Chips, Special K Popcorn Chips are low in fat and present a healthier option for those in need of a crunchy, convenient snack. Unlike Pop Chips, they have no association with Ashton Kutcher. See? Special K Popcorn Chips are already winning at life. They also appear thick enough to withstand some dipping as well, so if you’re curious as to whether a Popcorn Chip mixes with ranch dressing or nacho cheese and don’t care about fat, have at it.

Special K Popcorn Chips Closeup

I sampled two flavors of Special K Popcorn Chips: “Sweet and Salty” and “Butter.” Sweet and Salty was the chip flavor that kept me from crossing over into the Danger Zone during my telephone adventure. They’re very lightly sweetened, which makes their flavor profile a bit more complex than I first expected it to be. The sweetness mingles nicely with the saltiness, which provides a pleasantly addictive snacking experience. It makes me glad a single serving size of these Popcorn Chips is 28 chips and not something more restrictive and ridiculous like 10. But let’s not kid ourselves, I could totally go to town on these and eat half the box. What can I say? I like crunchy snacks… especially if the crunching drowns out the umpteenth repetition of some perky bimbo’s invitation to ask my customer service agent for more information on bundling telephone service with HD cable and high-speed internet.

The butter-flavored Special K Popcorn Chips, on the other hand, are actually pretty nasty. Special K… if you’re going to go so far as to create a corn snack reminiscent of POPCORN, you really need to hit the mark with the BUTTER-FLAVORED ones. It’s not rocket science. Just use the fake butter everyone else uses on microwave popcorn. Duh. The disturbingly rank artificial butter flavoring is so strong that it comes off tasting more like fake cheese than butter. And I don’t mean the good fake cheese. This is terrible fake cheese. Like the kind that comes in off-brand, plastic dip cups with stale cracker sticks, which would somehow always be lurking in the office break room at the bottom of the kitchen “snack bowl”… dusty and ignored for what seems like centuries. I’m so glad I didn’t try the Butter Popcorn Chips while on the phone. You’d all have heard about the first-ever long-distance throttling via fiber-optics on the morning news. A real triumph of science. For me, not for the cable company.

Special K Popcorn Chips Single Chip

The Butter Popcorn Chips don’t look all that differently from the Sweet and Salty ones, but you can actually see the fine dusting of “butter” seasoning on each chip. The inherent popcorn flavor of the Butter Popcorn Chips is overpowered by the funky fake cheese flavoring, so I can’t help but wish that they’d toned it down a bit. I don’t know what kind of butter they were thinking about when they created this variety, but it was probably left out in the sun for a while. It tastes like a foot. The butter’s gone bad.

Special K Popcorn Chips are crunchy and flavorful. It’s just too bad that only one flavor is good. They made a serious error with the Butter Popcorn Chips, but I’m not about to give them a call to complain about it. At least not without the Sweet and Salty Popcorn Chips within snacking distance.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 chips (28g) – Butter – 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Sweet and Salty – 120 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Special K Popcorn Chips (Butter & Sweet and Salty)
Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: 4.5 ounces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Butter)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sweet and Salty)
Pros: “Sweet and Salty” lives up to its name. Nice crisp texture. Decent serving size. Low in fat.
Cons: Butter flavor is extremely artificial-tasting and gross. Foot-flavored snacks. Waiting on hold. Ashton.