It’s that time of year again! In case you haven’t been out to get groceries in the past, oh, ten or so years, Lay’s has regularly done more “interesting” flavors as limited-time promotions. It all started with the “Do Us A Flavor” contest in 2012, where you could submit your ideas for chip flavors online and the winners would be made into real chips. This ended up giving us such strange chips as Cappuccino and Wasabi Ginger, which were utterly divine and need to come back.
Now Lay’s has released a line of five “Flavor Icons”, chips inspired by famous restaurants around America. No contest here, just five bags of good ol’ American sit-down taste: Chile Relleno from Cocina Azul in Albuquerque; Wavy Carnitas Street Taco from El Torito in Los Angeles; Kettle Cooked New York Style Pizza from Grimaldi’s in New York City; Philly Cheesesteak from Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia; and finally Nashville Hot Chicken from Party Fowl in Nashville.
We only ended up trying the former three flavors, because grocery shopping sucks. We would have loved to try the hot chicken flavor, but you can’t get everything you want, especially in this hell world we live in nowadays.
So hey, let’s crack open these bags and see what kind of weird shit Lay’s is doing this year.
First up is chile relleno flavor, from Cocina Azul. We weren’t sure what to expect out of these. Chile relleno is cheese-stuffed peppers so we expected something that would be loaded with fake jalapeño flavor, which Paula cannot stand the taste of. To Paula’s joyous surprise, this tasted nothing like fake jalapeño. To Will’s disappointment, it tasted nothing like chile pepper at all.
Frankly, it tasted like sour cream & onion chips, but better! It was kind of a cross between sour cream & onion and sour cream & cheddar chips. We really loved these, and if they replaced regular sour cream & onion with this, we think it would be a dramatic improvement. This stuff was damn good… but did it taste like a stuffed chile pepper? No, it did not. So if you’re expecting the delicious taste of chiles and cheese, these might not be for you. And as such, they are a failure.
Carnitas street tacos
These are PORKY. Like, wow, they just slap you in the face with pork flavor to the point where it’s kind of distressing. This tastes exactly like the carnitas they serve at Chipotle. We wouldn’t be surprised if they purchased the same spice blend from the same vendor as Chipotle for these chips.
As such, this is the chip that tastes the most like what it’s supposed to be, but is that a good thing? It’s seriously pork flavored. We looked and this actually uses real pork in its flavoring, so if you don’t eat pork, avoid these. These aren’t bad by any stretch of mind, but eating more than a few of them feels… weird. It’s carnitas with none of the textural attributes that we expect out of carnitas: there’s no tenderness, no fattiness, no juiciness, and certainly no tortilla softness. This feels like eating “Carnitas Flavor Pill”, and it’s just weird. I mean, would you want to chow down on a meat-flavored wafer?
Don’t answer that.
New York Style Pizza
Finally we get to the New York Style pizza flavor and, reader, these bore us to tears. Pizza has already been an established chip flavor since like, the 80s. Pizza chips don’t even really taste that much like pizza. No chip can capture the perfect medley of cheese, sauce and bread that a real pizza can conjure up… all you’re left with is the pale taste of oregano and sadness.
But these pizza chips were good, for pizza chips. They were maybe slightly spicier than regular pizza chips, which was nice? They kind of tasted like barbecue chips, heavy on the ketchup, but if you focused you might find the pizza seasonings deep in there. These were also kettle cooked, giving them some serious crunch and texture. We like kettle chips, but these weren’t ones we’d go out of our way for. (It also made it feel even weirder that the chile relleno flavor wasn’t kettle cooked.)
You really don’t need to include pizza in your special limited time flavors promotion. Pizza is a flavor that you can get any time of day. It’s the kind of chip flavor that you get when you’re bored of the Plain-Salt and Vinegar-Sour Cream and Onion-Barbecue quadrilogy. It’s like Flaming Hot or pickle flavored chips, you buy it when you want something different but not new.
In fact, none of these flavors they’re offering really feel like anything new. Sure, the carnitas were weird, and we bet the Philly Cheesesteak would’ve been a bit interesting, but… Pizza? Spicy chicken? The chile relleno was just same old same old when it could have been the most interesting flavor of the bunch. We don’t really know what to expect with this kind of stuff, but we feel like we can expect more from a company that once brought us Chicken & Waffles and Biscuits & Gravy chips.
Maybe it’s just the 2020 blues, but even Frito-Lay seems put down right now. Come on, junk food’s the only thing getting us through this year… buck up a little.