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Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso

Original Juan Specialty Foods has one of the most diverse stables of eats in the fiery foods world, with several brands under OJ’s umbrella. One of these brands is the Pain is Good lineup, which is becoming of the fastest growing names in spicy sauces and snacks, and has been recently entering traditional supermarket chains which garner them substantially more exposure than other specialty food makers.

There was some controversy in the chilehead community surrounding Original Juan’s role as a co-packer a while back, but this particular review is not the time or place to drudge up that topic. Instead, I would like to focus on whether or not Pain is Good’s Chipotle Con Queso makes the grade as a dip, condiment or veggie topper.

Ingredients:
Water, tomatoes, cheese mix (cheddar, and blue {milk, cheese culture, salt and enzymes}, whey, reduced lactose whey, soybean oil, malodextrin, salt, sodium phosphate, citric acid, lactic acid), whey modified food starch, malodextrin, dextrose, salt, xanthan gum, natural flavoring, soybean oil, onions, cheese enhancer (water, soy protein hydrolysate, natural flavor, lactic acid), fire roasted peppers, modified food starch, green chiles, salt, pimentos, spices and chipotle powder.

Aroma:
2 out of 5. Whoa! Prolonged whiffs of this reminded me nothing of cheese. Instead it was flat, sort of non-descript “watery” aroma with only the smallest hints of smokiness and tomatoes.

Appearance and Texture:
3 out of 5. Not too bad looking, at least initially. Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso is a thick, semi-clumpy, dull, deep-orange queso-like mix dotted with thousand of tiny little red specks.

Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso

Taste Straight Up:
1.5 out of 5. What doubts I had about it’s smell came true about a hefty scoop of this into a tortilla chip. One doesn’t have to look at the ingredients rundown to know that the “cheese” in this offering. Ever try the powdered cheese mix from a box of macaroni and cheese, or even from Hamburger Helper? You might get a picture of what the base flavor is in Chipotle Con Queso. At least in those aforementioned packeted powders, the cheese taste has a bit of sharpness, kind of like what coats cheese popcorn. Chipotle Con Queso contains none of that sharpness, and goes instead for a blander, sweeter aim. I was able to detect some smokiness from the chipotles but they do not pair well with the generic, “fake” cheese flavor.

I would have preferred a richer, sharper cheese taste. This may sound harsh, but even the big name nacho cheeses, just to bring up an example, pack a more delicious punch than this stuff.

Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso

Taste on Food:
2 out of 5. It fares slightly better with some raw veggies as a dip. As I had first tasted it before, it is unsatisfying as a dip for chips. Maybe, and just maybe, this could be used inside a quesadilla or a burrito as a cheese sauce, but make sure you add some flavorful ingredients like shredded cheddar or diced onions to supplement it.

Heat:
1.5 out of 5. Taste aside, this dip has one of the oddest delayed heat profiles I’ve encountered. Although there is a smoky sensation upon first tasting this, no heat is to be found until the food is swallowed. The cheese sauce is down the throat, a small burn picks up and lives by itself on your tongue and sides of your mouth. Take another bite, and the queso “puts out” the fire in your mouth, removing all traces of spiciness. Swallow it again, and the minor heat returns. Extremely odd; I thought it was strange enough to repeat several times even though I wasn’t all for the taste.

As it shows on the label, the Scoville heat ranks between 300 and 500 SHU. Although this is no challenge for experience chileheads, for mild food lovers this will have a potential kick in the pants. I think that the perception of it being hotter than it actually is comes from the fact that none of the heat comes from the cheese sauce being in the mouth, but afterwards when there is no food to dilute, hide or mask the tiny bit of burn.

Label:
4 out of 5. Pain is Good unmistakably has one of the most recognizable labels in the realm of spicy foods, with a blank and white visage of a screaming face printed on top of brown paper. I like the idea and the whole “pain” concept a lot…except why do these faces need to be so damn ugly? I know I’m not the greatest-looking fellow on earth, but do I have to stare at these ugly, Mack Truck mugs every time I want to enjoy some Pain is Good? Maybe it’s just that everyone looks “ugly” when under the infernal spell of capsaicin.

Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso

Overall:
Maybe this would be decent with something else mixed with it. But “as is” I would urge you to skip it.

This and many other Pain is Good and Original Juan products can be found at the Original Juan website, or at select shops and stores nationwide.

Review – Pain is Good Chipotle Con Queso