During Pizza Week, we shared with you everything from the best pie joints in the U.S. to our junk food frozen pizza guilty pleasures, but what discussion would be complete without shining the light on some of the most authentic pizza-inspired food around? We're talking, of course, about pizza-flavored snacks. Serious foodies that we are, we hit up our nearest 7-11 (plus two drug stores and a supermarket) to find the best American snack companies had to offer, and we were surprisingly underwhelmed.
It seems like not too long ago faux pizza snacks were everywhere. Cheetos Cheezy pizza-flavored puffs shared shelf space with Doritos Pizza Supreme, pizza hummus and Pizza Hut popcorn (yes, really). But these days, all that pizza flavor is out and HOT! is in. Everything is chipotle this or jalapeno that, and even products like Funyuns and Fritos, snacks generally popular for their original flavor only, are getting in the "flamin' hot" action. We're not sure what's behind this trend (any ideas, commenters?), but it left us, sadly, with only four pizza-flavored snacks to sample. Which were worthy? Read on to find out.
[Also see: Toughest Tables in the World: 12 Near-Impossible Rezzies]
The taste: </strong>Basically, like regular old goldfish but with an ever so subtle tomato flavor that made them seem like a more adult version of the cracker we haven't eaten since third grade.¬† <strong>Pizza substitutability:¬†</strong>They were pleasantly salty and definitely tasty, but tomato paste alone does not a pie make, so pizza-like they were not. Perhaps we should have been more daring and tried the "flavor blasted xplosive pizza" version instead. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/08/the-funniest-restaurant-names-in-7-us.html" target="_blank">The Funniest Restaurant Names in 7 U.S. Cities</a>]</strong>
<strong>The taste:</strong> We have to give this one some credit - it actually did taste like pepperoni (credit the ever-appealing ingredient, beef fat), and unlike its pretzel cousin, this cracker-based snack had a more unified pizza taste. <strong>Pizza substitutability: </strong>¬†If, say, you had been out all night and found yourself in a place where real pizza was an impossibility, this one might work in a (very desperate) pinch. But we're still docking it a point based on an appearance identical to the¬†<a href="http://www.milkbone.com/products/originalcrunchytreats" target="_blank">treats</a> we used to give our dog. Buyer beware. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/07/testing-dress-code-are-fashion-rules-at.html" target="_blank">Testing the Dress Code: Are Fashion Rules at Restaurants All Talk?</a>]</strong>
<strong>The taste:</strong> Pretty darn good. Sure the bright, flaky red coating screams "you're eating something that doesn't exist in nature", but it imparted a surprisingly tangy tomato flavor that really did remind us of pizza. <strong>Pizza substitutability:</strong> For a food product made with dried potatoes and sold in a tube, it had a pretty solid flavoring that was surprisingly pizza-esque. MSG can apparently do wonderful things. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/07/the-10-most-awkward-dining-moments.html" target="_blank">The 10 Most Awkward Dining Moments</a>]</strong>
<strong>The taste:</strong> Like a salty pretzel stuffed with tomato paste. The first bite wasn't too bad, but we quickly realized that was entirely because most of the stuffing was reserved for our next bite, which was overpowering and almost cringe-inducingly sweet. <strong>Pizza substitutability:</strong> ¬†Our still recovering taste buds detected a red pepper flake - like taste in the tomatoey innards, which we concede did evoke pizza. Would tasting a second combo have boosted its score? We can't be sure. As maltodextrin was the fourth ingredient on the list, we realized we selfishly valued our health more than accuracy in journalism. <strong>[Also see: <a href="http://blog.zagat.com/2012/08/nola-gets-tispy-as-tales-of-cocktail.html" target="_blank">NOLA Gets Tipsy as Tales of the Cocktail Turns 10</a>]</strong>