In this week's AtmosFX taste test, we asked (lured) our staff into trying a selection of three exciting new snacks recently released by Frito-Lay. To add some frisson, we paired the Lay's "Poppables" with three new flavors of ginger ale from Canada Dry.
From Canada Dry, we selected Cranberry Ginger Ale, Blackberry Ginger Ale, and Ginger Ale with Lemonade.
From Lay's we chose the Poppables White Cheddar, Sea Salt, and Honey BBQ.
For those who haven't tried them, a "Poppable" is something like a piece of Chex Cereal or, as one of our colleagues put it, "like 3D Doritos, only not terrible." Another taster described them as, "air plus food, plus air: inflated food!" So, did inflated food deliver puffed up flavor, or pop like a balloon?
The White Cheddar seemed a "bit bleached" when it came to taste. "There is a slight hint of cheese but no aftertaste at all." Said Mike. "It is a disappearing chip."
The Sea Salt was mysteriously free of the tang of sea salt. This was salt that had never seen the ocean, never danced with dolphins nor lapped (like a massive aquatic tongue) on white sugar beaches. It had never dried in the tropical sun beneath the dappled shadows of palm trees. This is inland salt layered onto the flavor profile of a veggie chip.
The Honey BBQ was either the favorite or the least favorite of the panel. It is not indecisive though, Honey BBQ dodges mediocrity. It commits to its own identity and resists the urge to be understood by the common man. The flavor was described as "strong," but where the BBQ really plants its foot is in delivering the squeaky crunch of a styrofoam peanut.
All three kept the bouche amused after departing the tongue and left a fine patina of salty oil on the teeth — like a departing lover finally returning that denim jacket they borrowed 7 years ago at a cookout.
- "Not bad!"
- "Surprisingly filling!"
- "Better than the Oreos you fed us last week!"
For an airy "poppable," the obvious partner is a bubbly beverage! However, early on in our exploration, Pete hit upon a mystery.
"Nowhere in the ingredients does this list 'blueberry'!" he said with what I can only describe as Sherlockian fervor. "In fact, none of them even list 'ginger.'"
True, the label clearly states, "Made with Real Ginger" but those capital letters gave us pause. Is "Real Ginger" a trademarked code name for something neither "real" nor "ginger?" To find out, our research team put down their Ph.D. dissertations and leaped into action — typing the question into Google and blindly accepting the first answer we found.
Mystery solved! Onward to the tasting.
For best results, we recommend chilling the ginger ales in advance of tasting, preferably to exactly 42.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Use of Celsius measurement could dilute the authentically American flavor so please avoid metric, as we did.
The Blueberry Ginger Ale is a tantalizing blend of high fructose corn syrup and the flirtatious flavor of purple. Is it grape? Or, is it the flavor of porphyry candy from childhood, of dandelion fields, and catalytic converters? Yes. And also no. The BGA opens her fan of mystery and disappears behind folds of "natural flavors." She challenges and repents. She teases. She relents.
Cranberry Ginger Ale provides a bold, robust flavor profile we found sweet, very sweet. It presents a bright study in sugar-laced berry and saccharin, glucose and syrup. Expressive and expansive, it combines balanced acidity with an enduring finish, punctuating its final phrases with a poetry that invites the addition of spirits.
Ginger Ale with Lemonade is a lively duet dancing between ginger aromas that are piggy-backing atop fresh, vibrant layers of lemon — then ginger — and then melted ice! "An exhausted cocktail that's been sitting on the bar for a long while..." said one connoisseur. The dry mineral element persistent in the carbonation means the debate is never finished but carries on like a mythological doom. "Very refreshing."
Pete couldn't get enough!
Lastly, as always, we challenged one taster to describe the "stack," a triple decker of all the flavors of "poppable" Laura was rose to meet with an intrepid spirit.
The experience was an atmospheric meditation that left her questioning her place in the universe.
The "stack" or mix of the three ginger ales (taken on by Jen) inspired warm, familial feelings.
"Tell my family that I love them," Jen said, tipping back the tipple then murmuring. "I taste cotton candy."
Do you agree with our assessments? Are there other summer snacks you think we should try? Maybe you think we are way off and have the taste of a dinosaur in white feathers after Labor Day. Whatever your reaction, tell us in the comments below.