I had the recent privilege of taste testing a few dozen flavored kettle chips in not a lot of time. Hot bottled mercy, what a great day.
Below is some evidence from the salty, oily boondoggle:
I felt like Homer Simpson in hell: happier than a pig rolling in its own excrement, and immune to the ironic punishment of having too much of a good thing all at once.
When you blog about chips, you eat a lot of different chips, albeit not simultaneously. Eventually I’ll share more details about each of the chips sampled. But for now, I wanted to share a few lessons for any aspiring kettle chip bingers:
- Unless expired or moistened, there’s no such thing as a fresh, bad chip. Shades of less good exist, but nothing was truly terrible.
- When eating spicy food, ginger ale (or any soft drink) really was a terrible palate cleanser. Consecutive rounds of habanero-flavored chips put me through the wringer. I’m not a milk drinker, but I should’ve known better.
- There were two ways to close chip bags that I didn’t include in my original post. One method was cellophane tape. This was remarkably effective. I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it.
The second was a built-in chip clip courtesy of Billy Goat Chip Company (see below). The plastic doohickey came with their paper bag. It even says Chip Clip!
- No one U.S. region has cornered the market on quality kettle chips. Even though Ohio and Pennsylvania are the heartland of chippers, good chips are made from Alaska to California to Minnesota to Virginia. This is good news for fans across the country. I had assumed it was the case, but can now verify this firsthand.
- A chip’s name is so so important. The flavor name shaped how I felt about the taste. In isolation, I could of enjoyed several of the chips, yet when I saw the name, I was disappointed because what I tasted didn’t quite match the description. When a chip delivered on its flavor promise, I found it more satisfying.
The rule of thumb was the more exotic the flavor, the harder it was to pin down the tastes. Cheddar horseradish chips were easily identifiable. Jamaican Jerk and Sour Cream & Onion were the hardest. Yes, Sour Cream & Onion.
So let this be a lesson to chippers: get the flavor names right. When in doubt, just go for something ambiguous like “Good Flavor #3.”
- Second only to the name was the importance of the bag design. The presentation, the colors, the pictures, and the quality of the bag itself subconsciously influenced how I felt about the chip. If something was easy to open and appealing to look at, it didn’t guarantee a positive experience, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
I for one was partial to great designs on the back of the bag. This shouldn’t be wasted real estate. Mikesell’s got it right. Here’s an example:
Bottom line: I want stories. I want founder histories. I want mascots. I want quality guarantees. There’s two sides to every bag. Make them count.
- If you’re going to eat chips for two consecutive hours, skip lunch.