September 12, 2014

Wrapping up Lay's crazy chips

It's a great big potato chip world out there.
If you've done your homework this week, you know my winner in Lay's flavor competition. You've tracked the sporks, added the tines and called it game, set, match.

Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese is the best tasting, most well-rounded chip of the bunch. Its flavors match the words on the bag, and they work on a slice of potato. This needs to be a year-round chip. Immediately. It also needs to be in your pantry. Immediately.

Mango Salsa gave the mac and cheese chips a bigger run for their money than you might think, though. Yes, Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese fetched five sporks, a whole utensil above Mango Salsa. But Mango Salsa had a spring to its step that was sweet, refreshing and fresh all at once. A little more balance and it might have won or at least tied for number one.

Wasabi Ginger had a lot of potential to dominate as an offbeat contender, too. If all these chips were free, I'd have had a tough time ranking it along with the top two finishers — it's that offbeat and different from the competition. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Lay's, the packaging is a huge undoing with those kettle chips. Don't charge me more for less and expect me to ignore it.

Finally, let's skip talking about Cappuccino. They shouldn't continue to exist, so I'm going to pretend they don't. What a letdown.

With this year in the books, I'm wondering if I should submit a flavor for a future Lay's competition. How about Pepperoni Pizza? Fried Shrimp? Everything Bagel? White Chocolate Macadamia Nut?

It's a great big potato chip world out there. And it should only get bigger.

September 11, 2014

Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese chips sizzle

These chips just shine.
Normally I have no extra love for the front-runner.

Whether in sports, movies or food, I've always reserved the soft spot in my heart for the underdog. It's just more fun to root for Rocky, a team that's never won a championship, or the unheard-of dish that deserves press but isn't getting much.

All of these chips in a short period of time must have given me a few extra soft spots in my cardiovascular system, though. Because Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese chips wormed their way into my heart in a big way.

They start out with a burst of cheddar not unlike a cheese curl. It quickly fades against a powerful smoky, meaty taste sure to send the pleasure center of the brain firing on all cylinders. That's the bacon, and it does its job: satisfy. To top it all off, there's a distinctly pasta-like aftertaste. I'm not sure how Lay's swapped these chips' starch taste from potato to macaroni, but they did it.

The cut of the chip is classic. No wrinkles or kettle cooking to distract from the main event. It's all about the cheddar, bacon, and mac. I wonder if things could have been a little better in wavy chip form, which would emulate the curls of a bacon slice. But I can't argue too much with letting the taste shine through here.

So while these chips are the obvious juggernaut heading into this year's Lay's flavor competition, I can't help but love them. Five sporks out of five. Grab a bag, if you can find any.

September 10, 2014

Mango Salsa chips are worth dancing for

Close, but not quite in focus.
Fruit can be oh so polarizing.

Depending on who you ask, grapes can be the best or worst thing to happen to chicken salad. Cranberries are the maker or breaker of trail mixes. Pineapple is the topper or tanker of choice for burgers.

At some level, the debate over fruit is about sweet and savory coming together. Some people love the combination while others hate it. I'm solidly on the love side, so it's no surprise I'm an enormous fan of today's crazy chip type under the microscope, Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa.

Mango hasn't made its way into too many supermarket foodstuffs, either because it's hard to replicate, relatively unknown or doesn't translate well. I'm guessing it can be difficult to duplicate, because while mangos are sweet, what really makes them special are their understated background flavor tones. Lay's did a decent job with these chips, as there's definitely a burst of mango on first bite.

There's also a burst of sweet that could be a little overpowering for some. But it quickly gives way to salty and heat sensations. While I could do with a little more heat, this is still a delicious chip. Don't start eating them if you want to stop.

The chips' wavy profile is also a big plus. Texture of some sort really kicks potato chips up a few pegs, whether it's the gentle undulation of waves, the sharp peaks of ridges or the rough weight of kettle cooking. Waves in this case let the imagination play. It's almost as if you can picture them trapping the chunks of a fresh mango salsa.

Even though bagged potato chips will never be consumed fresh, Lay's has a fresh flavor idea with mango salsa. Four sporks out of five.

Tomorrow I'm covering the final of four Lay's Do Us A Flavor chips, Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese. Come back, because like my blood pressure this week, that review is sure to be through the roof.

September 9, 2014

Small praise for Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger chips

Tasty but too small.
That green paste sitting beside your supermarket sushi that calls itself wasabi isn't very appetizing, is it?

I've always considered it more garnish than anything. It's certainly not meant to be eaten. In all likelihood, it's not even made of real wasabi.

Fake wasabi, incidentally, brings me to the topic of today's review: Lay's Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger potato chips. They're made with "wasabi ginger seasoning" that contains a host of ingredients including yeast extract and horseradish, according to the back of the bag. The ingredients list does include actual wasabi at its very end, but even so, these chips are far from traditionally flavored.

Somehow, though, they work enough to keep you reaching for more. It might be the kettle cooked crunch or the lingering sweetness at the end. It might be the 140 mg of sodium or 8 grams of fat per serving. It might be the simple fact that, despite what was surely every grocery store shopper's immediate reaction upon first laying eyes on this Lay's variety, wasabi ginger chips are not inherently disgusting.

No, they're actually pretty good. If we were only talking about flavor here, I'd be handing out sporks like it was Christmas morning in the cafeteria.

Sadly, Lay's saddled its wasabi ginger chips with one massive drawback when it sent them to store shelves. They come in 8 1/2 ounce bags, a full ounce less than the other three competitors in this year's Lay's crazy chip face-off. Yet they were priced identically.

Three sporks out of five. Find me the missing ounce, and we'll talk about more tines.

Actually, we'll be talking about more tines tomorrow with the next review in this series. Get ready.

September 8, 2014

Cappuccino chips aren't my cup of tea

It's a croppy chip.
There are plenty of things in this world that are better in concept than in reality.

New Year's resolutions. Yoga. The Godfather: Part III. Coconut milk. The Atkins diet. Vegetarian diets. Diets in general. Two-hand-touch football. Polar plunges. TV timeouts. The City of Dallas. How I Met Your Mother. Puggles. Leisure suits. Windows 8.

The list could go on and on. But the point is that we don't need to keep adding to the collection of  things that sound better than they actually are. And that's why Cappuccino Lay's Potato Chips are a shame.

It's a great concept, isn't it? Take delicious potato chips, add in the addictively amazing taste of coffee and sprinkle in a dose of sweetness to emulate cappuccino. What's not to like?

It would be simpler to ask what there is to like. Pick your platitude: the whole is lesser than the sum of the parts, some things are better left undone, there's no accounting for taste (at least the taste of the people who made these). This idea just doesn't work.

On first bite, the flavor is too much cinnamon and not enough coffee. At end, the taste is too much potato and not enough coffee. The smell is too much sugar and ... well, you get the idea.

Even more aggravating, the chips are just the right balance to keep you coming back for more even though you don't like them. You just keep waiting for that magical moment when that next handful of chips reaches flavor momentum and turns delicious. It just keeps eluding you.

Let's look for positives though. The ingredients list says these chips contain milk ingredients, which makes them more legitimate imitations of cappuccino, I guess. So there's that.

Enough of this. I'm ready to move on to a better flavor tomorrow. One spork out of five. Sorry, Cappuccino.

September 7, 2014

Lay's crazy flavors are back

As hard as it is to believe, it's been well over a year since Chicken and Waffle Potato Chips first graced our nation's store shelves in a flavor competition.

That competition, which saw Cheesy Garlic Bread shockingly unseat Chicken and Waffles and Sriracha to make it to Lay's list of permanent offerings, is long since over. But Lay's is back with another round of outlandish flavors, and we're all winners.

This time we have four flavors with which to ply our tongues and pad our waistlines: Cappuccino, Wavy Mango Salsa, Kettle Cooked Wasabi Ginger, and Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese. Note that we now have kettle-cooked and wavy varieties going up against the classic potato chip form. A flavor competition wasn't enough. We get textures squaring off, too.

At great risk to my cholesterol levels I've lined up a bag of each of these competitors, and I've been sampling them in different ways for quite a while now. I've had each flavor alone, back to back with others and as part of different snacking situations. Now, over the next five days, I'm going to release the results of my testing.

Why five days, you ask? Aren't there only four types of chip about which to pen personal essays? Well, for a flavor event of this magnitude I'm not going to merely write about each single flavor. I'm going to post once about each individual flavor and then do one additional rundown picking a winner! I might even go to, the website Lay's set up for this whole competition, and vote for my favorite.

It's hard work reviewing potato chips, but somebody's got to do it. Stay tuned.