Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kettle Chips Fire And Spice voting pack
For several years running now, Kettle Chips has let consumers buy limited-edition sampler boxes of prototype chips, taste-test them, and vote on which of the included flavors should go into mass-market production. This year, the five flavors were all spicy (and mostly kind of boring, compared to last year's Chocolate and Curry chips), and the five-flavor sampler box was collectively called "Fire And Spice." Here in the A.V. Club's gleaming laboratories, we sampled all five flavors to see which one would be… America's Next Top Model. Oops, we mean America's New Favorite Painful-To-Eat Chip. Here are the results:
Jalapeno Salsa Fresca:
Taste: Potato chips are supposed to be salty, but eating one of these chips is initially like popping an entire salt lick into your mouth. The initial sensation isn't flavor, so much as the sense of the salt crystals devouring every last bit of moisture coating the inside of your cheeks. That's followed by a fairly distinct tomato-y taste with a hint of citrus, and then just hot spice. Aftertaste: a burning sensation. The spice level isn't all that intense initially, but it builds and builds and builds on the oversalted dry-mouth sensation, until the overall experience is more like a mouthful of burning than a mouthful of spicy chip.
• "That's not very spicy."
• "It tastes like a taco."
• "That's fine." "Yeah, it's fine. Just reminds me of BBQ chips. Maybe a little spicier."
• "I don't… mind it. Meh."
• "I like that you can taste lime in there."
• "It starts mellow and finishes pretty strong."
• "The freshest powdered salsa I've ever tasted."
• "Those are really intensely salty, but eventually, once the salt fades, they've got some interesting flavor. Fresh salsa at first, and then just hot-spicy."
• "These would go well with a warm turkey sandwich with hot mustard."
• "I like these. They're a great synthesis of all the flavors that they seem to be trying to achieve. Everything's there. It's a good fancy-chip."
• "I like salt, and these are almost too salty. Very spicy, too. But I like 'em a lot."
Taste: This is another super-salty chip, only marginally less moisture-sucking than the Jalapeno Salsa Fresca, but with less flavor to balance out the salt and the wicked hot aftertaste that spreads across the tongue and crawls down the throat. They aren't particularly mango-ey; none of our taste-testers thought they were remotely fruity, though some thought they were possibly just a little bit sweet.
• "These are really good. I'd eat these. But I love salt."
• "I can sort of smell the mango as I'm putting them into my mouth, but I don't really taste it. But I don't really want mango in my chips anyway, so that's okay."
• "Yeah, if I wanted mango, I'd eat fruit."
• "Boy, that spice really sticks with you."
• "That really blew my throat out. It's SO SPICY."
• "Mine doesn't have any actual flavor at all except 'spice.' Are you sure these aren't Paper-Flavored Chips?"
• "Yeah, it's kind of just a vessel for spice."
• "I love these. They're delicious."
• "Mmm, wow. These are really good. Kinda spicy!"
• "Any flavor of mango is immediately overpowered by the flavor of HOT. I like them, but they aren't worth the fire."
Wicked Hot Sauce:
Taste: These have a slight sour vinegar taste, but mostly, like barbecue chips, they just taste like straight-up spice. In spite of the name, though, they aren't as painfully hot as the Jalapeno Salsa Fresca chips. They leave a mild hot sensation on the back of the tongue that intensifies gradually over time (at least if you stop scarfing down chips long enough to let the taste build), but the overall flavoring is less complicated and less strong. They're also considerably less salty. They're a good basic utility chip, popular with our testers but not very interesting overall.
For the first time in a taste test, we were unable to get cogent reactions out of people; for most, the reaction boiled down to "These are good!" with the occasional "These are fucking good!" Unlike with most A.V. Club taste tests, wherein people dubiously took a bite or two of the sampled confection and then moved on, in this case, people kept grabbing the bag for more. For once, there were no detractors. Also, no leftovers.
Death Valley Chipotle:
Taste: Less salty than other chips in this pack–and without the visible large salt-crystals–these chips are fairly well-named: They give the impression of an arid dryness. They even seem less greasy than most potato chips, as if they were baked rather than fried. The first impression is of a vague, almost sugary sweetness, immediately chased by a dry hotness that spreads rapidly into a pleasant burning sensation across the tongue and the roof of the mouth, obliterating any other sense of taste.
• "Wow, those are hot. Those are really, really hot. You should drink a glass of water before you try those. They really cut into your throat."
• "These are really tasty… oh. Ow."
• "This doesn't taste that different from the other salsa ones to me, but it's a little more intense. Might be good with a cool dip to even it out. I'd definitely eat these, but I'd be afraid of them overwhelming anything else I tried to eat with them."
• "I don't think it's as good as the other hot chips. Yeah, it's spicy, but otherwise, eh."
• "Wow. Holy shit. [Coughing.] I cannot eat this chip in a dignified way. It's tasty as hell, though."
• "Tastes like a roasted squirrel. That's a good thing, I think. Like a burning squirrel from a movie, where a bunch of people are camping out roasting whatever they can find over a campfire, skewered on a stick. Sort of a little barbecue flavor, and a little dirt."
• "Tastes a little like curry. It's really hot. My tongue continues to burn. And yet I continue to eat."
Orange Ginger Wasabi:
Taste: This is the least salty and the least spicy of the bunch, and also the most flavorful. And also the balls-out weirdest. Between the wasabi and the not-at-all-sweet orange flavor, these are strangely bitter chips, and the aftertaste is more ginger than the hot burning sensation of the other four flavors in the box. Overall response was positive, but confused:
• "Well, they got the name right. First I tasted orange, then ginger, then wasabi." "I actually got the orange first." "Maybe you're dyslexic."
• "I like these the best. It isn't just about 'Eat this because it's spicy.' It's 'Eat this because it tastes good. Also, it's spicy.'"
• "That's very strange." "Is it good-strange or bad-strange?" "I don't know. The orange is more like orange peel. It's more bitter than sweet."
• "Tastes kind of like those spicy wasabi peas."
• "I'm not sure it works. The orange kind of muddles the flavor. It tastes… pungent? Can pungent be a taste?"
• "Ewww! It tastes like wasabi!"
• "Could be spicier. The orange is too subtle."
• "That flavor sounds like a train wreck… Hm. It's like different flavors and textures fighting for my attention. Yeah, that is a weird, weird, poorly considered taste combination."
• "I think it would work better without the orange, actually. It's too sweet."
Where to get them: Kettlefoods.com, though it's unclear how long they'll be available: voting closes on Friday. If you can't live without one of these flavors, better go vote now. (And no, you don't have to taste the chips first: The website makes that perfectly clear.) Meanwhile, The A.V. Club is gonna go drink some water.