29 July, 2006

Doritos Fiery Habanero Tortilla Chips

So I was surveying the treats available in the cafeteria at work the other day, and I noticed something new: Doritos Fiery Habanero tortilla chips. It piqued my curiosity - most mass-marketed foods that are labeled as "fiery" really aren't that hot (it's that lowest-common-denominator thing) and most of them rely on cayenne pepper for their heat and paprika for their flavor. So I gambled eighty cents and bought a bag.

You know how sometimes things are labeled as being HOT, but they really aren't that bad? There might be the suggestion of some spicyness, but there's nothing special or exceptional about them and usually they aren't even as hot as you were hoping? Well, that does not describe Doritos Fiery Habanero chips. They really are hot. Capital "H" Hot, even.

The first thing you notice when you crunch into one is the slightly sour "nacho cheese" flavor that Doritos is famous for, but it is immediately followed by a subtle hint of habanero's signature "rotten apricot" taste. (Unlike some other habby products, this characteristic taste is not overwhelming; in fact, it is so well balanced with the cheeses and other seasonings that it's a lot more enjoyable than you might think.) The heat immediately blasts forth starting at the tongue and racing for the back of the throat. This fast attack makes the heat feel initially hotter than it really is, because after a couple chips you realize that the Doritos are delivering a pleasantly sharp burn, not so overwhelming that someone with medium tolerance will find them unpleasant, and not so mild that a real chilehead will be disappointed. I have to say, however, that these chips are likely to be too hot for nOObs.

It pleases me greatly to see on the back of the bag that the ingredients do not list any other chile pepper than habaneros. Frito-Lay is not taking a cheap shortcut and dosing the chips with cayenne - they're doing it right and using the real thing, 100%.

These get a strong thumbs-up.

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