Cheesy Chips Mellow Out

Natural Doritos White Nacho Cheese

By: Frito-Lay

Suggested Retail Price: $3.49 for a 9-ounce bag

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 4stars

Anyone who spent his teen years in America is probably vividly aware of the trademark Doritos flavor: that vaguely cheesy, chalky, oniony, spicy, dusty mouth-coating experience that leaves you reaching for a glass of water. Like Oreos (and any number of other classic American mass-market foods), the loud assertiveness of the Dorito is both its strength and its weakness. After a few have been ingested, it’s extremely hard to apply the brakes. Once you’ve had one or two too many Dorito run-ins, you stop keeping the damn things around the house.

Natural Doritos—defined as “no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives”—represent a more mature whack at the apple. The entire experience is, if not elegant per se, at least more adult than eating old-school Doritos. The familiar tangy Dorito flavor is still there, but it’s toned down from a 9 to a 6. The milder approach to a flavored chip yields some concrete benefits. Instead of biting into the chip and hearing, “DORITO DORITO OHMYGOD DOOOOOORITO DOREEEEETODORITO!” you might hear something more along the lines of, “Hey, Dorito. Tortilla chip. Cheddar cheese. Garlic. Dorito, you know?”

There’s something both pleasurable and shocking about picking up an honest-to-God Dorito chip; thinking, “Hey, this kind of tastes like cheddar cheese”; and then checking the bag to find that—lo and behold—cheddar cheese is the fifth ingredient. And though these things probably won’t be showing up at wedding receptions, they do invite a thoughtful reconsideration of the humble American snack chip.

Crayons All Natural Fruit Juice Drinks

By: Crayons Incorporated

Suggested Retail Price: $1 for an 8-ounce can

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 4stars

Fruit juice walks a delicate line. Too pulpy or tart, and—regardless of how “natural” it may be—few people are going to particularly want to drink it. Too artificially sweet, and you’re kind of missing the point: You (or your children) are basically drinking soda sans carbonation.

The attractively packaged 90-calorie Crayons “natural” fruit drinks manage to gracefully bridge the gap. The brand has no relationship to Crayola or art supplies, but it does seem to be targeted at kids with picky parents. What’s more wholesomely childlike than a crayon, after all? At 30 percent juice, Crayons are not exactly virtuous. But they do manage to pack a fair amount of fiber and vitamins into each colorful can. The former is what the packaging refers to as “SugarGuard Protection”—apparently, natural dietary fiber can help control the rate of sugar absorption. And you’ll need it, as “pure cane sugar” is either the second or third ingredient (depending on the flavor), right after water and pear juice concentrate.

For better or worse, Crayons taste terrific: uniformly snappy, refreshing, and a happy balance between “fruit” and “Popsicle.” Go too far with a fruit–sugar water blend (and the overwhelming majority of fruit drinks do), and you get something that tastes cloying, like liquid candy. But with Crayons, the fruit notes (orange/mango, kiwi/strawberry, watermelon/berries, among the handful of flavors) are actually recognizable. The drinks aren’t merely a mix of “sweet” and a generic fruit taste that we may all recall from Capri Suns. Even if Crayons aren’t the nutritional magic bullet they claim to be, they’re a pretty damn tasty way to wash down a snack.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow Chowhound on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.

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