It was somewhere in southern Wisconsin, on our annual trip to Green Bay, where my girlfriend Cynthia and I stopped for a break. Pretty sure it was one of those Love’s truck stops, where you can empty your bladder, refill it with a giant soda, and buy a snow globe or a gaudy hat while you’re there. I think I even saw “Top Gun” on DVD in the bargain bin.
As I walked around browsing and enjoying my break from the car, I noticed Cynthia maybe 30 feet away, motioning for me to come toward her. I approached, and when I finally stopped next to her, she said, “You need to see this.”
She nodded toward an end cap filled with assorted snacks and chips, and that’s when I saw the bright red bag. Two words immediately sprang to my attention. The first was “Bacon.” The second was “Habanero.” OK, I’m being pranked, right?
Most of my friends know me as the guy who worships bacon, and I do so because bacon is the best thing, like, ever. My Aunt Joann bought me a sign for my kitchen that reads, “I love you more than bacon.” My friend Jenn bought me one that says, “You had me at bacon.” Many friends have gifted me bacon-related goodies over the years.
Meanwhile, many of my friends also know me as the hot sauce guy thanks to my obsession with making sauces and my collection of about 75 or so bottles. Habanero peppers are almost the best thing, like, ever.
I plucked up a bag of the tortilla chips and said, “Yeah, I have to try these.”
To which Cynthia replied, “I can’t believe you’re only buying one.”
The chips, made by Late July Snacks (latejuly.com) of Boston, are made with organic yellow corn and, according to the packaging, are “taco truck-inspired.” The founder of the company, Nicole Bernard Dawes, is described as founder, CEO and taco truck fanatic, if that tells you anything about how seriously this company takes its snacks.
The chips themselves do resemble the chips one finds at taquerias, thin with a big corn aroma that stands out even when competing with the habanero and bacon flavoring.
I don’t have to tell anyone that flavored anything can be hit or miss. As much as I love bacon, most fake bacon flavoring leaves me a bit underwhelmed. Late July uses natural smoke flavor and a few seasonings, such as garlic and onion, to hint at the bacon flavor, but doesn’t go overboard in trying to make a statement.
In other words, these chips whisper “bacon” in your ear, rather than screaming, “We sort of taste like bacon!”
Habanero flavor in the chips, which comes from habanero powder, is as subtle as that of the bacon, or more so, with hints of the citrusy signature of the pepper, and a minor sizzle that doesn’t overwhelm. By the time I got to the bottom of my 2.25-ounce bag, I had a pleasant, mild to medium burn going in my upper mouth and throat, but even a relative amateur should be able to get through a few of these chips unscathed.
As I plowed through the chips, the bacon flavor began to more closely resemble a mildly sweet, and plenty salty, barbecue sauce. Bacon-esque? Yes, but you can’t replicate one of the more perfect flavors ever to exist in a tortilla chip made with corn. It’s just not possible. But as a stand-alone, it held up well enough.
But if you like that natural corn flavor that only quality tortilla chips seem to provide, these are really good. They’d be a great side for any Mexican meal, and they made a great midday snack for me. I could see enjoying these guys with a Mexican lager or a michelada, too.
And, of course, I bought only one bag. But one reason I did that was that I noticed right away they were made in Boston and not local to Wisconsin, which told me they must be in fairly wide distribution. Lo and behold, I stopped at Big Lots in St. Matthews the other day to pick up a few odds and ends on the cheap, and discovered probably 30 bags of the Late July bacon and habanero chips.
If you want to try them, that’s your destination, and there are several other flavors as well, including jalapeno lime. But please leave a couple of bags for me. I suspect my stock won’t last too long.