Crappy Food Critic #02: Doritos Roulette

After I dropped my wife off at work this morning, I stopped at a gas station for breakfast, because I’m an unbelievably putrid lipizoid nightmare. Anyway, in addition to my typical garbage breakfast of jalapeno cheddar sausages and Dr Pepper, my eyes lighted upon this:

Naturally, I had to check them out.

First, let’s look at the two bits of text on this package.

Ahh, my old arch-nemesis: Limited Time Only. Don’t think I didn’t catch you trying to hide out in the corner up there! This significantly raises my expectations. As I mentioned in a footnote in the previous edition of the C.F.C., I have to temper my excitement when a new foodstuff blows my mind, because that usually means that it won’t be hanging around store shelves very long. I’ll try to keep myself in check, but I’m already psyched.

The other bit says ATTENTION: Some chips are very hot. I’ve been told that I have a tendency to underrate the spiciness of foods as compared to the consensus of the rest of the people I’m dining with on how spicy they are. So I’m not entirely convinced that the “very hot” chips are going to be all that hot. These are a mass-market item, after all; I doubt they’ll get too crazy.

Judging by the colors of the bag, one might suspect we’re going to be getting plain old nacho cheese Doritos for our non-spicy variant. I guessed as much before looking at the copy on the back, which confirms it:

Most chips are the Doritos NACHO CHEESE flavor you love…

But there’s a HOT CHIP in every handful!

 Do you dare eat another and risk getting BURNED?

There’s some darker red shading streaking throughout, but Spicy Nacho doesn’t seem like the next logical step. Spicy Nacho does have more kick than your basic nacho cheese Dorito, but it’s far from setting your mouth on fire. This bag wants me to believe I might hit the caliente jackpot with any bite. We shall see.

Otherwise, graphically, I dig the design. I like the cleanness of the neon “Roulette” font, the way the chips can be more or less arranged in a wheel-type pattern, and the actual roulette wheel at the center, priming me for the flavor gamble of the century. I don’t mean to be overconfident, but I’m going all in.

I didn’t look in the bag when I pulled a chip out, but I think I hit bingo on the first one. It’s a very peppery kind of heat that seems to be released when you crunch the chip. It’s far from intolerable, but it’s a better kind of heat than, say, Salsa Verde Doritos, which I revisited about a year ago after loving them in my youth only to find them nearly inedible.

Overall, I’d say Doritos Roulette manage to hit an agreeable middle ground between Spicy Nacho and Salsa Verde by cleverly dampening the normally awful Verde heat in a buffer of normal cheese. When you start plowing through and eating handfuls at a time, your mouth begins to take on a more general, sort of all-over warmth. There’s no real build to speak of; it reaches its peak and plateaus fairly quickly. I’m at least glad I have a drink on hand, but I wouldn’t be suffering if I didn’t.

Unless your tolerance for spice is pitifully low, you’re not going to be traumatized by Roulette Doritos. I’m impressed that Frito-Lay managed to find some nuance in their spice spectrum. Even the EXTREME component is dialed down a bit—the flames do more of the talking than the text. Sometimes an interesting tweak to a time-honored classic is just as satisfying as pure innovation. I don’t think I’ll find myself terribly wistful for them years down the line, but for now they comfortably occupy a void I was not heretofore aware existed.

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