June 27, 2014

When a corn chip isn't a corn chip

Sweet corn potato chips. We live in strange, exciting times.
For the first time in my life, I ate a corn chip that was made out of potatoes. And it was incredible.

I speak of Herr's Fire Roasted Sweet Corn Potato Chips, a limited-time offering from the Nottingham, Pennsylvania snack company that I just happened to spot in a gas station during a road trip. Open the bag and you'll find seemingly standard crinkle-cut potato chips. Take a whiff and you'll smell something reminiscent of ears of corn roasting on the grill — perhaps eerily so.

Bite in and that eeriness continues. The texture is just what you'd expect from a potato chip. It's crunchy, and then a bite of salt kicks in. After that, though, the corn flavor overpowers everything else. If not for the difference in medium, you'd think you were on the back porch enjoying corn on the cob on a warm summer evening.

Speaking of warmth, these chips finish with a nice current of heat. I guess it's the fire-roasted aspect taking hold. In truth it tastes a lot like red pepper, and it makes you want to dive back in for the salty-sweet start a new bite holds.

These chips are very, very good. But they're strange, and they bring up all sorts of existential questions. We need to delve into that for a minute.

I'm no opponent of strange potato chip flavors. If anything, I support them, as evidenced by my feelings on Lay's Chicken and Waffle chips. These sweet corn chips, however, cross a starch line few would have ever thought to traverse before.

Surely, if you set out to design a sweet corn chip, you would have made it out of corn. It seems like the easier route, not to mention the traditional, less confusing one. These chips from Herr's shuck that path, instead taking potatoes and dressing them up in a way never seen before. As the consumer, they leave us in a maze of foodstuffs, unsure of what we're eating. The only thing that can be said for certain is that we like it.

I'm not suggesting these are for everyone. The traditionalists with their meat-and-potato sensibilities will want to stay away. Most people in the country won't have a choice but to avoid the chips anyway. Herr's is only distributed in 19 states.

Still, if you're in one of the states with Herr's, or if you're willing to special order them, I recommend you dig up a bag. It's a four-and--a-half-spork experience.

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