Friday, March 1, 2019

Fun Food Friday: Found on the road edition

My wife and I have been talking about stopping at all the roadside markets and convenience stores that dot Route 13 for a few months now, and this past Saturday we finally decided to go through with it. Well, the northern half at least. We made the drive up to the Maryland/Virginia state line, pulled a U-turn, and got to adventuring. All told, we stopped at over a dozen tourist traps and gas stations, trying to make sure we picked up at least one item from each store. We found some interesting items, but in the end, there were just three items I found that I just knew I had to write about...

Fisher's Old Bay Seasoned Popcorn

Our first stop was just south of the state line at a place called "Dixieland". As expected, it was full of cheap goods plastered with "Southern Pride" and "American Born, Rebel by Choice". My personal favorite was the Confederate flag dream catcher, for when you need to catch those racist thoughts while you sleep. While I was trying to avoid knocking over displays of decorative margarita glasses and knockoff Looney Toons tchotchke, I spotted a display of Fisher's popcorn buckets. Sitting there between plain ol' caramel and kettle corn, was this bucket with a familiar image on the side. If you've never heard of Old Bay, it's a blend of spices generally used when cooking seafood. They say you can use it on meats and chicken on the side, but the only place I've ever seen it used is on top of steaming crabs or shrimp. Okay, that's not completely true. There are a few companies out there putting it on potato chips and cheese puffs, too. And now, it's on popcorn. By next year, we might start seeing it in candy bars. Reese's Peanut Butter Crab Cups. I know I'd try it.

Popping the top off the tub, I was surprised at how strong the Old Bay aroma was. Unless you look closely, it can be hard to miss the specks of seasoning caramel lacquered to the popcorn. Part of the problem with some of these flavor combinations is how subtle the unusual ingredient can be. Often, one flavor will be completely overpowered by the other, or it will be so faint as to be non-existent. The third scenario is the two flavors combine to create some hideous taste demon that destroys your tastebuds and turns your stomach inside out. I'm happy to report that isn't the case with Fisher's Old Bay Seasoned Caramel Popcorn. The caramel takes the stage early on, but as you chew the pieces, the Old Bay seasoning is released, giving you a saltier, almost spicy finish. The flavor combination really works well, giving you enough spice to always be able to pick it up, but not so much that you feel like you just got home from a seafood boil.

Pizzerolas Doritos

One of our stops on our "Tour du Shore" was one of the many small Mexican food markets that have popped up in recent years. This was my first time going in one, and it blew my mind how much fresh produce they had, as well as all the spices and foods you can't find in our local Food Lion. If we hadn't been so full from lunch, we likely would have grabbed a few tacos, because that place smelled wonderful. As it is, I was so overwhelmed, that I only managed to spot these Doritos when we were on our way out the door,

Now, I only know a handful of words in Spanish, but when I see a "Pi" followed by two "Z's", I know they're talking about pizza. The packaging certainly wasn't any help, with the plain green bag offering no hints as to what I should expect to eat inside. It was a wild guess, and apparently a lucky one, because that's exactly what these are, Pizza Doritos. Looking online, I discovered there was a Pizza Supreme flavored Doritos years ago, but they've been long discontinued. This particular variety is made for the Mexican market, which means you likely won't find them in your local grocery store.

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a pizza flavored chip. I'm pretty sure it was when Keebler's Pizzarias were still around. So, I guess it's been close to twenty years now. The Pizzerola chips definitely remind me of Keebler's offerings in appearance. They still have the orangish hue of the original Doritos, but they're covered in so much flavor dust, they're almost fuzzy. They didn't have a particularly powerful scent, though I thought I could pick up hints of pizza sauce. The flavor of the "sauce dust" is particularly powerful, and it gave me flashbacks of those small microwaveable pizzas I used to eat at a local pool. It's heavy on the tomato and the parmesan, with notes of oregano and garlic coming in at the finish. I also get more of a corn tortilla taste than I do with regular Doritos. If I had one complaint about the Pizzerolas Doritos, it's they have sort of an odd texture. They don't have the same crunch as other flavors, and the whole chip just seems a bit grainier. It almost makes me wonder if they use a different recipe south of the border.

Fritos Chorizo and Chipotle

This last pick was a gamble for me, because I'm not really a fan of Fritos or chorizo. I mean, I wouldn't turn down a handful of BBQ Fritos if they were offered, but they're not my first, second, or even fifth choice when it comes to salty snacks. Still, when I saw these sitting above the Pizzerolas Doritos, I figured I might as well give them a shot. I like to think I've got an adventurous tongue, just please don't tell my wife that.

I have to admit, I really don't get chorizo. One of the things that annoys me most is when a sausage casing gets torn, and all the meat starts spilling out. To have a sausage that is meant to come undone just irks me. And I know that sausage is normally pretty greasy, but the chorizo I've tried has just been ridiculously greasy, to the point that the meat is usually swimming by the time I'm done cooking it. About the only way I can eat it is if it's mixed in with a large bowl of melted cheese. Chipotle's cool with me though. I mean the pepper, not the restaurant.

Tearing open the Fritos bag, I picked up a bit of smokiness, which I attribute to the chipotle pepper. It wasn't overt, though, and I think one could easily confuse these for a bag of plain fried corn chips. The flavor is where things get real interesting, and in this sense, it's not exactly a compliment. These chips just plain taste..odd. It took a few Fritos, but I was able to pick out a bit of the chorizo flavor. There's just a hint of the chipotle smokiness, and I started feeling a bit of the spice on the way, way back end. The problem is that they have this weird lime-y flavor that just seems out of place. These aren't chorizo, chipotle, and lime Fritos, but you could have fooled me. Surprisingly, even with such an odd flavor, the aftertaste is actually quite pleasant. The lime eventually goes away, and you're left with a bit of the meaty smokiness. I wasn't able to try it out, but I bet these would go great dipped in some plain sour cream.

If I had to rank these three, the Fisher's Old Bay Seasoned Caramel Popcorn would definitely be in first, followed by the Pizzerolas Doritos. Obviously the Chorizo and Chipotle Fritos would be in dead last, though I'm not convinced I wouldn't disqualify them before they even finished the race.

Thus ends another edition of Fun Food Friday. Stay delicious!

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