Snack Reviews: Taste-Testing Your Most Controversial Food Combinations

Two things happened between the day I agreed to review Man Repeller readers’ favorite “odd snack combinations,” and the day I actually sat down to do it.

The first: I spent 10 days with my parents, who were on a militant cleanse. Their routine involved living on the edge of voluntary starvation until, a couple times each day, they would totter out from their office to prepare small meals of blended greens and “mushroom loaf,” like members of some late-1960s commune that everybody suspected was a cult. At one point, I saw my own father, 63, become downright giddy at the mere idea of a chocolate chip.

The second: New York closed up shop. I made it back to my apartment in Manhattan just in time to hole up with the essentials I’d need to carry out my promise: Funfetti frosting, a variety of chips, pickles, a family-sized vat of sour cream.

So that was the state I found myself in—suddenly isolated, looking like a shipwreck victim in days-old pajama pants I’d stolen from a friend in 2015, grateful for my groceries, and having consumed no added sugar for weeks—when I first dipped a Nacho Cheese Dorito into frosting, Snack One of Seven I’d committed to review. And my, my, my, was it a wild ride from there on out. My initial tasting note read simply, “Granulated sugar is fucking perfect!!”

Below, please find a more even-keeled and detailed account, ranked from worst to best snack combination.

7. “Nacho Cheese Doritos Dipped into Funfetti Frosting”

Tasting Notes: If you’ve had two beloved friends from different walks of your life start to date—and then found the new couple insufferable—you’ve basically dipped a Nacho Cheese Dorito into a can of Funfetti frosting. On its own, a jar of Funfetti frosting presents so many existential questions, packaged, as it is, with the sprinkles neatly separated: Is the frosting without its fetti just fun? Should said fetti be mixed into the fun, at the risk of manhandling each sprinkle and mashing it into neon-toned bits? Or should the fetti be sprinkled atop each frosting-covered bite? I tried this snack combination both ways, and I’m disappointed to report that like most things in life, the answers bear no consequence (time is a continuous spectrum, etc etc, ad infinitum).

What I’m trying to say: This snack bummed me out. Coating a perfect chip like an NCD with frosting neither heightened each component’s best qualities nor mitigated the unpleasant ones (like chemical-y aftertastes). I tried it with just the tiniest schmear of frosting, like I was buttering toast for a child with tummy troubles, but even that amount of Funfetti rendered the cheesiness of the chips completely null.

Would I Eat Again: I so badly wanted to make this combination work, but no—unless I get really high or run out of my other rations.

6. “Sweet Pickle and Potato Chip Sammy”

Tasting Notes: This snack combination intrigued me, largely because it sounded like the logline for a straight-to-streaming film about fun-loving neighbors up to no good. It also plays on the sweet-and-salty tune that’s long been the theme song of my snacking game, as well as one of my core religious beliefs.

Here’s the thing: The experience of building a tiny sandwich out of any ingredients is delightful. But must we construct these tiny sandwiches? I’m not saying the Sweet P&PC was awful—in fact, texturally speaking, it was so much fun—but the ratio of sweetness to saltiness was not ideal, because the pickle chip was three times thicker than any of the potato chips I tried: Sour Cream and Onion Ruffles, Doritos, tortilla chips.

Worried I was misinterpreting the reader submission, I also tried this with two pickle chips, which served as the sammy’s “bread,” and one potato chip serving as the sammy’s “innards.” That trial was a disaster, all gooey-sweet-softness and me gagging over a trash can.

Would I Eat Again: I would not. But—but!—I might experiment with less sweet plays on the pickle portion. Maybe a potato chip-cabbage kimchi sammy, with a subtle sweetness from the cabbage but none of the treacliness.

5. “Peaches with Cream Cheese”

Tasting Notes: Peaches with cream cheese did not change my life. I would say that they didn’t even change my day, except that this snack combination led me down a rabbit hole of early 2000s music videos. This was considerably more exciting and prurient than my reality (still social distancing in unwashed pants, except at this point they also had a smudge of Funfetti on them).

But the snack itself was only good, not great. The beauty of a peach lies in the overlay of sweetness, juiciness, and tartness. Adding cream cheese into the mix means adding velvety richness, sure, but also a slight sour tang. The peaches, already tart, didn’t need a second, dissonant acid—they needed only the rich creaminess, and if anything else, a touch more sweetness, since they weren’t peak-season. A more suitable partner for fresh peaches would’ve been whipped cream or vanilla yogurt.

Would I Eat Again: I might try peaches and cream cheese again if the cream cheese in question were one of those freewheeling sweet flavors you only ever see on a passerby’s rainbow bagel.

4. “Carrots and Peanut Butter”

Tasting Notes: I once heard a rumor in college that The Artist Formerly Known as Prince went to the restaurant Butter—which at the time, had been recently featured on Gossip Girl, and so was the subject of almost all conversation—and brought along his personal chef. According to the lore, Prince’s chef entered the kitchen and assumed a place at the hot station, to prepare the only food Prince wanted to consume: sautéed baby carrots. This story is dubious at best, but as a Prince devotee, I’ve clung hard to it. As a result, I have a real fondness for baby carrots.

Accordingly, I tried this snack combination first with baby Cs, before giving it a go with horse carrots, unpeeled then peeled. While it was best with the babes—unexpectedly mellifluous, with just enough crunch and creaminess—I’d contend that this concept would play out ideally with a carrot coin, for a better ratio of veg to nut butter. This is great news for carrot coins, which up until this point have served as disappointing players in canned soups (why can’t they be carrot chunks??).

All in all, the carrot and PB combination had ants-on-a-log vibes with a little more je ne sais quoi, and zero raisins. But in spite of celery generally sucking, the carrot substitution still felt like a bit of a mismatch, failing to complement peanut butter as well as mayo complements hot sauce, or John complements Chrissy.

Would I Eat Again: I mean, peanut butter spread onto melted plastic would still be delicious, so sure, I’d eat it on carrots.

3. “Cheez-Its Dipped in Sour Cream”

Tasting Notes: My baseline love of Cheez-Its is fervent and well documented. I’ve amortized entire flights purely on the basis of free bags of Cheez-Its consumed. I would dip Cheez-Its into a puddle of fetid swamp water, probably. So to say that I was excited to try this snack combination would be a massive understatement. To say I sent my mom a calendar invite to watch me try this snack combination over FaceTime would be, well, closer to the money, but more socially pathetic than I’m willing to disclose at this time. So let’s move on, quickly.

Now, was the sum of the parts better than the individual components? Not necessarily. But there was nothing not to like about making Cheez-Its even more pleasurable with a tiny, velvety jacket that tasted almost neutral (not sour) against the tang of the ‘Itz. The rich got richer, and all that. Plus, the ‘Itz themselves could be used to scoop, which was nice and efficient and required no washing of a side spoon.

Would I Eat Again: Hell yeah.

2. “Grilled Cheese with Bananas In It”

Tasting Notes: You may want to sit down for this. (Who am I kidding, it’s self-quarantine, we’re all sitting, all of the time—you’re probably still in bed, for the love of God. That’s fine. I validate your choices.)

Okay, so this RULED. This is not an elaborate prank. The sandwich was perfect. I used Dave’s Killer Bread in whole grain, American cheese singles, banana sliced about one quarter-inch thick, and vegan butter on the outside, because I gravitate toward chaos.

The end product was savory and just the littlest bit sweet, with the banana pieces themselves somehow reminiscent of a street crêpe despite being swaddled by processed cheese rather than chocolate. Conceptually, the sandwich reminded me of this divisive Poilâne avocado-banana tartine, which asks nicely that you suspend your preconceived notions about ingredient pairings. In the case of this grilled cheese, the asking is less nice, and you will not regret having acquiesced.

Would I Eat Again: Not only would I eat this again, I already have eaten it again, twice in two days. This sandwich is easily my favorite discovery of self-quarantine, which is saying a lot since I recently learned there’s an Instagram account with the handle @cakefucker.

1. “Pringles Original and Nutella”

Tasting Notes: At the risk of public hatred, I will admit that in the past, Pringles have been a snack I’ve relegated to panic-eating on road trips when all other chips supplies dwindled. Even though they’re salty, and that’s good, I’ve always felt they lacked the structural integrity I want—NEED—in a chip. Also, they leave a fuzzy after-feel in my mouth.

For those reasons, my expectations were low as I transferred a spoonful of Nutella from its plastic jar to my pre-selected chip, which couldn’t be dipped directly into the Nutella due to the aforementioned flimsiness. (Sending a Pringle into a vat of Nutella and expecting it to come out in one piece would be like trying to hammer a nail into cement with an iPhone screen.)

So imagine my glee when the resulting snack was easily the most exquisite of the bunch, a queen among pretenders, a veritable cronut among stale Safeway croissants (no offense, grilled cheese with bananas, still luv u lots). The degree to which the Pringle tasted like straight sodium was perfectly matched by the near-cloying sweetness of processed hazelnut spread, and together, the two lifted into the air and performed a pas de deux worthy of any snacking hour, anywhere, but especially in my mouth.

Would I Eat Again: It would be my honor.

Have a hot (or cold) tip for our Snacks Critic? You can follow Ella on Instagram and Twitter, or leave her a comment below.

Photos by Cody Guilfoyle. Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski. Featuring Fendi shoes.

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Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner writes about culture, food, and obscure pockets of the internet. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and find more of her writing here.

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