Are you repulsed by the idea of eating prepared food from a convenience-store chain most notable for a sludgy cold-sugar drink with the word "slurp" in the name? Are you fundamentally opposed to having your lunch heated in a machine also used to reinvigorate yesterweek's Go-Go Taquitos? Are you not magnetically attracted to an eatery that offers 31 different brands of international calling card, and as many or more kinds of digital cigarette? Do you think there's a better possible name for a plus-sized hot dog than "Big Bite"?
Well, good for you. You probably also have sleeved shirts and joint custody and a car registered in your own name. The rest of us are all very impressed. We're also hungry, so we're going to 7-Eleven to look into this Doritos Loaded situation.
It's easy to mock such an obviously contrived shit-snack, which is why we bloggers get sucked into happily playing along. Way too many hypocritical conversations about these stunt foods carry the basic theme of "Ha ha, look at this stupid garbage invented solely so we would talk about it, that's so crass. But wait, it lends itself nicely to clever wordplay, and editors love dem clixx, so here, let's all join hands and be smug."
Yes, it's inherently ridiculous to eat hot food from 7-Eleven. But most of us do all sorts of inherently ridiculous things all the time. I shower every morning, even though I work at home. I go to the gym every day, even though we're all going to die. I eat at 7-Eleven at least once a week, because I'm a dumb, shitty drunk. So while I agree that the very idea of Doritos Loaded is on some level ridiculous, I'm certainly not above trying it out.
For $1.99, a 7-Eleven guy in a Doritos Loaded baseball cap heated me up four wedges of Dorito-swaddled cheese. Each Loaded is an equilateral triangle 2.25 inches per side (roughly the perimeter of a regulation Dorito) and about 3/8ths of an inch thick. It's no $1 Spicy Chicken Biscuit, but it's a fair amount of matter for the price.
Despite spending at least three minutes in the behind-the-counter heating chamber—not the civilian-use microwave, but the employees-only unit reserved for the pizza and wings and anything else that can't be adequately warmed on the hot-dog rollers—my Loadeds weren't as piping as the advertising suggests. The temperature was adequate from a strict sensory perspective, but it wasn't hot enough to get the interior cheese flowing. It was warm for sure, but it didn't burst into my face the way such a thing ought, you know?
The exterior was impressive, which of course isn't the same as being good, but still, it's something. The classic Doritos smell was in full effect, but it tasted a bit more like standard-issue mozzarella stick breading. It was very salty and slightly peppery, and though the Dorito flavor was somewhat muted, it was still definitively orange-tasting (no, the other kind of orange). It lacked the ideal Dorito crunch, but so does its spiritual fore-taco, the Doritos Locos Taco: You've got to make certain sacrifices when you stretch beyond your comfort zone.
But you don't eat Doritos Loaded for the Dorito (otherwise you'd eat Doritos). You eat it for the load, which is to say the cheese (I think?), "a proprietary blend of American, cheddar, Romano, and seasonings." Ooooh, a proprietary blend. Just like Chateau Margaux! And a dirty diaper! Anyway, the cheese reminds me of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni—not the powdered version, the good stuff that comes with the preconstituted cheese in the foil pouch—maybe spiced up a couple degrees, like when your dad was in charge of dinner and shook some long-dormant paprika dust all over everything in a desperate attempt to remasculate himself.
The cheese tasted fairly good, but the texture was off. I've already bitched about the lack of viscosity, and there was a subtle but persistent graininess, too. It felt like what you'd get if you hollowed out a bag of Combos and microwaved the guts. It was passable for sure, but I was hoping for more.
Doritos Loaded is a decent snack, particularly if you're only looking to spend two bucks and you're cool with the idea of eating at 7-Eleven to begin with, but it's the rare shock-grub offering that could use a bit more bombast, even in the bad way. My tongue didn't burn, my sense of culinary decency wasn't offended, my fears that it would taste like a swamp full of feet weren't realized. Hell, my fingers didn't even turn orange. Sure, that's all to the good, but you don't eat warm-cheese-injected Doritos to come away bored. Doritos Loaded too closely resembles regular food to be compelling, and it's not good enough to be outright advisable on its own merits.
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain.
Image by Sam Woolley.
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