Close your eyes—but don’t really; keep reading. Imagine you’re holding a Ruffles With Ridges potato chip in your right hand. It’s perfect: golden and oblong, curved like a wide-ass polynomial function, or Kim Kardashian’s perfume bottle’s hips; sturdy, yet supple. You fly that chip through the air, whizzing every which way—you’re playing a game now, you’re an air force pilot avoiding enemy fire—when suddenly you deviate upwards and then begin a rapid descent, falling, whistling through the crisp, quiet air. Then, BLAMMO! You breach the surface of a slightly, sublimely congealed top of a queso that’s been sitting on the snack table for like 25 minutes. It’s still warm, but not so hot that you’ll burn your little tongue.
The Ruffle With Ridges in your hand does not yield to the weight of the cheese, rather, she supports it, welcoming the weight of a worthy dip in her bosom. And as you carry your Ruffle, she carries a generous portion of your dip, up, and right into that face hole you call a mouth. You bite down. It oozes everywhere. Completion. Wonderful.
The staff of Jezebel had a similar mid-afternoon erotic fantasy (I can only tell you the specifics of mine) several weeks ago. The dip, to us, is the perfect barbecue or potluck food—perfectly gloopy, often salty, and a companion to a chip or a carrot. According to The Story Behind the Dish, chips and dip were popularized in the US in the early 1950s, when Lipton Soup Mix was heavily advertised as a potential dip ingredient, when mixed with sour cream or cream cheese.
But all this is to say that following our collective remembering of the idea of dips, it also became clear that many staffers had signature dips and wanted a chance to share them with coworkers. Hence: the birth of the (1st) Annual Jezebel Memorial Day Dip Competition. On Wednesday, we gathered in a conference room, plucky with the spirit of friendly competition, but mostly warm with the communal appreciation of the dip. Everyone filled out anonymous ballots to determine the winners. Special Projects Desk’s Anna Merlan served as an impartial, blind judge.
Chef’s statement: “I made a French Onion dip. It is a riff on your classic French Onion dip, which involves a thing of powdered soup mix, sour cream, I decided to elevate it slightly by caramelizing the onions for like hour. It takes a really long time to caramelize onions and I teargassed myself nearly while doing this. It was very stressful. There is a little chopped shallot. There is some thyme, lemon, and salt and pepper. It is served with a salt and pepper crinkle cut kettle chip. The dip does go well with a crudité, but to get the full effect, you need a chip, and a sturdy chip.”
Judges say: “The taste is just exquisite, the right balance of tangy, creamy, yummy... What else is there to say?? Also, it was one of the only dips that wasn’t so spicy that I needed to grab my water, which, of course, I forgot at my desk.”
“An extremely classic dip, popular with all audiences, executed perfectly.
Chef’s statement: “This is a fava bean dip. It is made very simply in the blender. It is fava beans, olive oil (virgin), lemon zest, shallots, and sea salt. My preferred serving is on mini toasts with a single shard of parmesan.”
Judges say: “Who would have thought the cursed fava bean could be transformed into something so creamy? The brightness of the lemon zest really made it pop and was so refreshing.”
“Everyone brings guac to parties (boring!) but no one would ever expect a fava bean dip, and I would say it is just as good, if not better. (This is nothing against guac, which I love, or Kelly or Ashley, who are okay.)”
Chef’s statement: “Mine is a Buffalo chicken dip prepared with organic chicken that I roasted in the oven last night when I got home from work. It has cream cheese in it, it has Frank’s Hot Sauce in it, it has blue cheese in it—blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. The blue cheese dressing is of the Hidden Valley variety; the blue cheese crumbles are a small container of organic things that my grocery store had. My preferred method for serving is Ritz crackers, which I think has the right level of butteriness. I wanted to bring celery sticks, but I didn’t have time. It’s a little hot in terms of both temperature and spice level, but I think that the cream cheese will make it so even those who are not heat-seekers can enjoy it.”
Judges say: “This shit is a quintessential American delicacy, and dip is a fundamentally American dish, according to the Wikipedia page Joanna read on dip before the competition. Katie had no qualms with putting like 50 kinds of cheese and Hidden Valley ranch [Editor’s note: Blue cheese] and I respect the fuck out of that. Obviously it was delicious and I wanna take this to a BBQ and blow some minds.”
“WHO EVER THOUGHT TO ELEVATE A DRUNK FOOD TO A DIP?! HOW?! IT’S A REVELATION.”
“Perhaps with its strong, rich flavor, this was actually a coward’s choice. (Who doesn’t like a fatty, creamy spicy?) But it was crazy good.”
Chef’s statement: “I made guacamole. It has avocados, obviously. Also, lime, red onion, garlic, cilantro, and a Serrano pepper as well as a Scotch Bonnet pepper, which is a Caribbean, Jamaican-kind of pepper. It’s a little spicy, but not too spicy, in my opinion. Preferred eating method: Tortilla chip. Blue corn and regular-style would be just fine.”
Judges say: “Ashley truly impressed with the nuances in her guac—the cilantro, the Scotch Bonnet (genius), the onions, were all detectable but united.”
“A perfect guac recipe.”
Chef’s statement: “I also made guacamole. The recipe’s not radically different from Ashley’s. Got some avocados, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, garlic, lime, Cholula, salt, and pepper. This is my mom’s recipe. I think that the strength of this guacamole is in its texture. The Stout family secret is to always make sure that you know you’re eating foods as opposed to a puréed situation. I highly recommend a blue tortilla chip for the tasting.”
Judges say: “CHUNKY! (I liked how chunky it was.) Also, was not intimidating to make myself.”
“Simple and appetizing consistency with not too many onions, which is difficult.”
Chef’s statement: “I made a queso, and I was gonna do just a regular queso, and I did a not-regular queso that tastes like a regular queso, basically. It’s hot [spicy], so watch out for that.”
Judges say: “Love the mix of the spiciness with the cheesiness. So salty. I truly could drink a queso of this. Would enjoy paired with an IPA.”
“Rich’s queso really comes so close to Tostito’s iconic Queso in a Jar, as well as the taste of Commodore’s nachos—a real feat.”
“I love queso? It seemed simple enough to attempt and I am an untalented and hungry person.”
Chef’s statement: “[Queso] is like what I am at heart, but in my head, I’m not that, so I wanted to do a vegan dip. I did a riff on a spinach tofu dip using kale, except I used too much garlic and it’s really garlicky. So good luck with that.”
Judges say: “It’s vegan and a fun green color, and I like garlic and I find it to be an impressive dip.”
“It’s so healthy and it has tofu and garlic in it and yet it doesn’t taste like those things.”
“Using kale instead of spinach was a bold choice, but paid off.”
Chef’s statement: “This is my mom’s recipe. I thought it would be difficult to make but it was incredibly easy. It’s chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, she uses lime, but I used lemon, cumin, and salt. It’s kind of your white tea of the dips, because it’ll go with basically anything you have.”
Judges say: “It was light and airy—nowhere near as dense as most hummuses. A perfect, easy app! Extra points for being her mother’s recipe.”
“Subtle flavor and inventive execution of an oversaturated landscape.”
“So smooth and simple and subtle and yet so good. I found it addictive.”
Most Likely to Try to Make Again: Koa’s Fava Bean Dip
Most Creative: Tie between Koa’s Fava Bean Dip and Katie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
Best Flavor: Katie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
Overall Best (3rd Place): Katie’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
Overall Best (2nd Place): Megan’s French Onion Dip
Overall Best (1st Place): Rich’s Queso
In the words of one judge, “I’m a little fat boy who loves a creamy dip.” In the words of another, “Amazing dips, the food of God himself!!!”
Congratulations to the winners, and to you, for having eight new dips to try this weekend.