Last week, I held the Lay's tasting party I've been promising - slash - threatening, but I have been derelict in posting the comments and conclusions of my tasters. Here we go:
NEW YORK REUBEN: the aroma is alarmingly specific - first you get the bracing sauerkraut, then the meatiness of the corned beef, then the distinctive funk of Swiss cheese. The flavor is even more accurate than the aroma, adding a distinct note of caraway from rye bread and even the tang of Thousand Island dressing. The chip's coating is a light orangey-red color, slightly reminiscent of a barbecue chip. One of my tasters pointed out that these paired perfectly with garlicky dill pickle spears. This was the tasting party favorite, but all my co-workers hated them.
GREEKTOWN GYRO: the aroma brought a lot of furrowed brows. One taster suggested that the smell was reminiscent of yogurt and dill, another smelled onions and garlic. The taste does suggest gyro meat, onions, tzatziki sauce, and for some reason, pickles. Here are some quotes from my tasters: "This tastes like you ate a gyro half an hour ago, and didn't brush your teeth." "Has that funky lamb undertone, but without any of the good things about eating lamb." "I thought this would be my favorite. But it is not." This is the kettle-cooked variety, so at least everyone could agree that the sturdy crunch was very pleasant. But it was the least favorite at the tasting party, though some of my co-workers found them "addictive" and "exactly like delicious gyros" because apparently I work in Bizarro Land.
SOUTHERN BISCUITS & GRAVY: the aroma is faint, smelling the most like a bag of ordinary potato chips. But the more discerning tasters could detect notes of black pepper and sausage seasonings. One taster swore he could smell biscuits. The flavor of the chip somewhat suggests the richness of sausage gravy, with the distinct dried sage flavor from breakfast sausage adding to the black pepper backbone. But these chips also had a certain blandness, perhaps suggesting the comforting white-on-white palette of an authentic southern biscuit covered in white sausage gravy. Inoffensive to all, some found them forgettable, others simply continued to quietly eat them.
WEST COAST TRUFFLE FRIES: the aroma is shocking. At best one could say it has the funk of mushrooms, but my tasters nailed it: "this smells like the elephant cage at the zoo." Leaving aside the actual correlation between truffle fungus and dung, we went on to wonder about the color - why were the chips GREEN? The only clue was that the fries pictured on the package were covered in flecks of parsley. (For some reason.) Given all this, we bravely continued to taste them, and found a disconnect - "they taste so much better than I expected after that smell." There is a definite parmesan flavor, and an aftertaste that suggests canned mushroom gravy, but it is strangely inoffensive. The thick wavy texture of this variety gives it a good mouthfeel. Everyone agreed that this was actually the least challenging and least controversial flavor, apart from the Eau de Zoo when you sniff the bag directly. After all, as one taster pointed out, these are "potatoes that are supposedly flavored...like other potatoes."
Interesting side note: the ingredients list for the Truffle Fries variety claims real parmesan, DUCK FAT, and real black truffle - all for $3.29 a bag. (By contrast, the other flavors contain "Reuben Seasoning," "Gyro Seasoning" and "Biscuits & Gravy Seasoning" respectively.) How can this be economically feasible? Mysteriously enough, I noticed from the Giant receipt that one variety was in fact $0.20 more expensive than the others - but was it the Truffle Fries? Nope - it was the Gyro. I guess that pretend lamb is costly?
Also interesting: Truffle Fries is the only flavor that does not reference meat... and yet it is the only one with an actual animal product (duck fat) in the ingredient list. Hope you weren't relying on assumptions and/or common sense, vegetarians! THESE BE MEAT CHIPS!