The other morning I found myself at the Winter Park branch of 4 Rivers Smokehouse, a perfectly respectable barbecue chain with a few locations in the Orlando area. It claims to be Texas-style, though you wouldn't think so from the sweet, sticky sauce that coats most of the food. There are worse things in the world than massive piles of sliced brisket, pulled pork, and ribs to knock the hangover out of you, though truth be told, the perfectly medium-rare slow-smoked Santa Maria-style tri-tip and the juicy smoked turkey were the two standouts.
My brain talking to my eyes as they scanned the dessert display:
Homemade twinkies, yes, three flavors of those... lemon blueberry, red velvet, and banana... all in order. Ok, and—oh!—look at those cute mini pies! I wonder if those are real key limes in the key lime, and is it alright to pick out blueberries from between the cracks in the lattice top in mixed company? Ok, moving on, grasshopper-flavored brownies, yes, yes. Seems alright. Chocolate's not my thing, but why not, we're in Florida, right? Ok eyes, keep moving. Coconut cream pie—ooh, I like that sprinkle of toasted coconut on top—cupcakes with Mountain Dew frosting rolled in Doritos, got it; and yes, is that apple underneath that cute little...hang on a minute. Go back one.
Cupcakes with Mountain Dew frosting and a crushed Doritos crust. I sat for a moment, a bit awestruck by its monstrous size, its gall for even existing, its luster, its sheer... greenness. Is this something humans were ever meant to consume?
I stuck out a tentative finger towards the frosting, half expecting an electric jolt the moment I made contact. A wave of panic struck me. Would my hair stand on end? Would my body ratchet out horizontally, cartoon-like, surrounded by a glowing electric green halo? For some reason, I imagined myself transforming into one of the Misfits, or at the very least a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Unfortunately, none of those things happened. Instead, I got a bit of green, Dorito-flecked frosting on my finger, licked it, said to myself, "Hmm. Doritos and Mountain Dew. So this exists," and moved on back to that far more exciting Key lime pie.
Incidentally, that pink one sitting next to it? That'd be Cheerwine, the Nectar of North Carolina, and as fine a cherry soda as you could hope for. Jury's still out on how it does as a frosting flavor.
Four Rivers Smokehouse
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.