Let’s be honest, unless you’re an asshole 2018 hasn’t had very much good news to go around. All most of us reasonable people can do while we wait for either things to get better or for the universe to mercifully implode in on itself is to bury our feelings in creature comforts that make us feel as safe and warm and full of pizza as we did when we were naught but children. My friends, I am absolutely delighted to inform you that my, and probably someone else’s, prayers have been answered and we can relive the wild 90s with the return of Pizza Ranch.
First, a history lesson: food was completely bonkers in the early 1990s (ONLY TRUE 90S KIDS WILL UNDERSTAND). The world was lousy with things like multicolored microwave popcorn, oatmeal that doubled as a canvas for jelly and more Ninja Turtle themed snacks than you could shake a katana blade at. Food companies could perform whatever dark alchemy involving food coloring and corn syrup their twisted hearts could dream up and America’s children would pester their parents incessantly until they had it. It’s this hubris that led salad dressing mongers Hidden Valley Ranch to expand their creamy portfolio with four new flavors of ranch dressing: taco, nacho cheese, pizza and super creamy. What super creamy was, I have no idea. Why would anyone choose that when you had friggin’ nachos or tacos you could pour on your bowl of iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes?
Pizza Ranch has always lingered in the back of my mind like so many of the strange foods from my youth, an ephemeral space occupied by purple ketchup and Pizza Crunchabungas. I never really thought of it often, but when I did it was always a wistful feeling, like remembering a girl I liked in second grade. “Hey, remember when they made Pizza Ranch?” was something I’d ask people occasionally, usually the same people who would then say “I’ve already told you, no.” I felt like I had to keep talking about it or else it would fade away completely.
BUT NOT IF THE ROCK STARS AT SIR KENSINGTON’S HAD ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT IT
Imagine angels singing. About pizza.
I was walking through a local Whole Foods and something on the salad dressing shelf caught my eye. When I realized what it was I stopped dead in my tracks and said “NO WAY” louder than I should have. Sir Kensington’s, makers of high-end condiments, had brought back Pizza Ranch, and there it was, right in front of me, as real as anything had ever been. Of course I bought it immediately, and I do admit I cradled the bottle lovingly before it went into my basket.
(I don’t know if Sir Kensington’s is available everywhere, but they’re based out of New York. Their stuff is awesome – their ketchup, mustard and mayo are better than Heinz and stuff, and they make other tasty things like chipotle mayo and special sauce for burgers.)
Unlike Ecto Cooler and Crystal Pepsi, I can’t claim to remember what Hidden Valley Ranch’s Pizza Ranch tasted like. I know I had it, and I have memories that are probably real of trying Taco and Nacho Cheese Ranch as well. Trying Pizza Ranch again as a 34 year old man didn’t make me feel like I was a kid watching Nickelodeon again or anything. Still, it tasted like victory. Victory and pizza.
The first taste test was on chicken nuggets, because I had made some for my daughter to go with her dinner and I’m from California so I am very much pro ranch-on-chicken. It tasted really good! It has the creaminess of regular ranch with that unmistakable pizza spice with a little bit of a peppery kick. A little bit definitely goes a long way, but it wasn’t overpowering. It doesn’t taste like junk food the way I’m SURE Hidden Valley Ranch’s did. Sir Kensington’s stuff is made with good ingredients and doesn’t have all the crap that’s in the usual grocery store fare and it definitely showed.
The next night things got a little incestuous – we ordered pizza and I dipped it in the Pizza Ranch. Again, I’m from California so ranch goes with pizza too. Oddly enough I was not a fan of this pairing. It was like eating two different styles of pizza at once and that’s not nearly as awesome as it sounds. There was no harmony, no symbiosis, no chemistry. It was just pizza and Pizza Ranch. It might go good with some pizzas, but on that night it was not meant to be.
I’m not really lamenting it much, either. The last thing I need is an excuse to make my pizza more unhealthy.
OKAY FINE I GUESS I CAN TRY IT ON SALAD
I’m just joshin’ ya, I actually like salad. Funny, this SALAD DRESSING tastes best on SALAD. Who woulda thunk it? The pizza spices and the bite from the pepper go really well with cool, fresh veggies. It’s definitely not something you’re going to want on every salad, but when you’re a parent in your 30s and you don’t get out much it’s a good way to feel like you’re BREAKIN’ THE RULES like you used to in your misspent youth.
(I promise I don’t eat junk all the time, and I cook healthy meals for my daughter!)
As stoked as I am for Pizza Ranch to be back, it wasn’t as monumental an event as I had daydreamed about. It didn’t stop traffic like Ecto Cooler or Crystal Pepsi did when they came back, probably because it was a new company doing a new take on the concept rather than Hidden Valley Ranch opening their cryogenically preserved recipe book. It’s very good, and I really like knowing it’s back. In 2018 that’s enough for me.
If you want to try it yourself, or any other Sir Kensington’s stuff, it turns out you can order it online. I’m not affiliated with them or anything, I just like the things they make.
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