From a chip perspective, 2015 will be hard to top for Potato Chip World. I was fortunate to visit Europe. I sampled America’s diverse chips at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago. I lent my palate to a chip review in the Chicago Tribune. And my obsession was profiled for a top-notch food magazine. Quite the year.
Using an unscientific estimate, I ate at least sixty varieties of potato chips in 2015. The chips spanned coasts and continents, style and flavor, from the very large to the very small.
Of the scores eaten, a few stood out as significant. I highlighted the significance for each entry. It’s not a best-tasting column, nor the most unique. Just those that were noteworthy for different reasons.
Lays France – Poulet Röti
The flavor delivered on the excitement. I’ve never been as excited to try a flavor as roast chicken potato chips. Roast chicken is a favorite food, second only to the potatoes that cook underneath roast chicken in the rendered fat. The chip flavor makes a ton of sense. Also, roast chicken chips are rare in the states. So when I found this French Lays flavor, I had high expectations. It delivered. And I long for another bag of Poulet Röti.
Tim’s Cascade – Sour Cream & Onion
It’s a sour cream & onion chip I actually like. And it’s unique in its construction: there are brands that make kettle-style chips, and brands that make (continuously fried) sour cream & onion chips, but few that make sour cream & onion kettle chips. Tim’s makes a damn fine one.
Trivia: I cannot stomach sour & cream and onion dip. Or ranch dip. Really almost any cold white dairy-based dip. Present it to me at a party, and I will leave your home.
The Snack Artist – Barbecue
It’s a great store brand chip. A store brand is when a store markets its own goods (typically at a discounted price) to other name brands. The Snack Artist is a store brand of Safeway, a major North American grocery chain. Store brands often get a bad rap because people associate better flavors with branding. As far as chips go, they’re typically decent. Don’t hate on store brands, people.
Billy Goat Chip Company – Kicker
It’s a hot chip with unique packaging. St. Louis’s Billy Goat Chips are a crisp chip with a fresh, russety brown hue. This alone would be enough; however, the chips are sold in a wax-lined paper bag with a handy plastic fastener. Readers of this site know I am fascinated by how to keep chip bags closed, and this barrette-style doohickey delighted me when I used it. The fastener is far superior to the common wire foldover seen on things like coffee or cookie bags. Kudos to the novel package.
Alaska Chips – Original Kettle-Style
It’s a rock solid original chip. Almost buttery tasting, it’s one of the better original (read: salt only) kettle chips I’ve ever had. The chip kept its freshness from Alaska to the Midwest. Great chips can be produced anywhere – take Alaska as Exhibit A.
Funny Frisch Riffles – Chili & Paprika
The first chip I had in Germany, and probably the best. Reference my Potato Chip World Tour series for more thoughts on Germany, but to summarize: Germany has great chips.
Deep River Snacks – Ninja Ginger
It’s so fun to say. Try it. Now, picture a red-headed black belt.
Seriously, though, this is a tasty and unique flavor. It melded well with the fresh kettle-style chip: not too gingery, and not too sweet. I highly recommend the limited edition flavor.
Sunset Foods – house made potato chips
It’s the archetype for the homemade chip. The bad news is Sunset Foods can only be found in North Suburban Chicago. The good news is you may be able to find a close approximation at your local grocery store.
The point is many grocers produce their own chips in the store. If you can find one, I suggest snapping up a bag. You’re probably going to get a fresh, dark, thick, salty, addictive chip. They don’t keep as long as the on-the-shelf varieties, but they won’t last that long to matter.
Tayto (Ireland) – Cheese & Onion
They brightened up a very long day.
Last spring, I had a flight cancelled. I was rerouted to a different city to get home (14 hours later than expected). On the first leg of the return, I sat next to two pleasant Irish women. Typical airplane small talk turned to a conversation about chips (this happens a lot in my conversations). Five minutes later, they produce a snack-size bag of Tayto crisps out of a backpack.
The novelty of getting these stateside (let alone on an airplane) has yet to wane. And why they had hung onto the chips for the duration of their trip? Were they waiting to encounter a drained chip blogger? Never mind. I shouldn’t question the kindness of strangers.