Turkey & Gravy Chips
You didn't know you needed Turkey & Gravy potato chips in your life? Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods thinks you do! Now, I don't know what exactly they are smoking in Boulder Canyon, but to call these chips "authentic" anything is, well, a stretch.
The brown package features a drawing of a roast turkey which the artist chose to render in shades of mahogany and black, for some reason. Appetizing! There is a faint aroma present when you sniff the bag, which an active imagination might compare to the aroma of a stale box of Stove Top stuffing. These are kettle chips, meaning they have a bubbled surface and a thicker texture than regular potato chips. They are a normal golden blond potato chip color, with ominous dark green and black flavor specks.
When you bite into one, at first you are distracted by the pleasant hearty crunch, and the flavor takes a moment as the flecks reconstitute in your mouth. All tasters developed a grimace on their faces as the flavor blossomed. No one was able to detect any turkey flavor (and there is no turkey extract listed in the ingredients, to no one’s surprise). They do faintly suggest gravy, to the extent that there is a note of onion and then a wash of stale herbs, but they are the wrong herbs – nothing reminiscent of sage or thyme, which would be appropriate Thanksgiving herbs. These taste more more like stale dried pizza seasoning and dusty crumbled mint leaves. The ingredients do contain onion powder, the ever-mysterious “spices,” and “extractives of turmeric” ...whatever that is, it was surely wasted here.
These are made by “Burt’s Thick Cut Hand Cooked Potato Chips.” I’m skeptical already, since I don’t really understand how a product I bought in a mass-produced bag in World Market can be “hand cooked,” but okay. The Guinness brand at the top of the bag appears to be legit, and I like Guinness.
Open the bag and take a whiff. Oy. The smell is at once earthy, too sweet, and oddly stale. It really does smell like Guinness – but like a pint someone drank half of and then left on the bar, when found the next morning. And the chips themselves vary wildly in appearance – some are blond, some splotched with dark brown spots, and some so dark brown as to be nearly black. Most flavored chips accomplish their mission through the ever-popular “fleck”-based seasoning method, but this flavor compound appears to be a sort of dark rinse that settled over the chips unevenly.
The flavor is deep, dark, and unpleasant, with a burnt overtone over a strong note of soy sauce or Worcestershire – which is odd, since the ingredients list contains neither. The finish is distressingly sweet, with a suggestion of stale beer that is fainter in flavor than it was in the aroma. That sweetness, at least, can be explained: the ingredients include “fat-reduced cocoa powder” and “barley malt extract powder” (barley malt being a syrupy, sorghum-like sweetener that bakers use). Other fascinating contents: “yeast extract powder” – for that legit beer aroma! “Buttermilk powder” – common in ranch seasoning, but why on earth is it here? And last but not least, “Cream powder,” which leads to an additional note printed below the ingredients list: “Not Suitable for Vegans.” (Lucky vegans!) I will give the makers of these chips at least this much credit: I find it fascinating that the cocoa and cream powders were included. You couldn’t detect those flavors in the chips, per se, but to the extent that the overall experience of the chips did somewhat manage to suggest Guinness, surely the well-known “chocolate” notes of the stout and the famous “creaminess” of the head, represented literally here through powders, were responsible for that. Well, together with the beery yeast powder, anyway. Science!
Maple Bacon Chips
These chips are made by Kettle brand, so you expect a good solid crunch, and these chips do deliver that. The chips are blond, with only a sparse dusting of light brown flavor particles. That flavor, however, while not strongly objectionable, was not also not what I would describe as desirable.
The aroma these chips give off is precisely that of artificial bacon bits, although one taster compared them to Pupperino dog treats. On the tongue, however, the taste is less that of bacon and more of a faint note of artificial smoke. The predominant flavor is sweetness, although to me, there is no maple flavor, simply sweetness, a la “breakfast syrup.” The overall impression is that of an unbalanced version of a classic BBQ chip. Personally, I’d rather take a standard orange-colored BBQ chip any day, which at least offers more salt and punch and less odd sweetness.
Zapp's Spicy Cajun Crawtators
Zapp’s is, famously, a New Orleans brand, so I love that the name of this product is “Crawtators” – not “taters,” mind you (as you might expect for a potato chip, a la tater tots), but “tators” with an O. This name therefore not only nods to “taters,” but also cleverly conjures up connotations of both crawdads AND alligators, those famous denizens of the Louisiana swampland. And just in case you didn’t know, “crawdad” is the Southern word for “crayfish,” those adorable bite-sized bottom-feeding crustaceans that are something of cross between shrimp and itty bitty lobsters. Crawdads also taste like a cross between salt water and swamp mud, but in the best possible crustacean-y way. Interestingly, the chips that bear this tantalizing name in fact contain no actual seafood (or alligator for that matter), and yet the aroma from the bag is decidedly fishy. One taster described them as smelling exactly like a dock, another was reminded of Chasin’ Tails, a local crawdad restaurant (although we here at NattyEats are actually located in the mid-Atlantic region, so that’s sort of a novelty act).
The flavor of the chips does not explicitly reference seafood, but it does call to mind that most beloved Maryland spice blend, Old Bay. At least for those of us in this region, the taste connection between Old Bay and a crab boil is so strong that when we taste the signature flavor of Old Bay, we convince ourselves that we are also tasting crab, even when we aren’t. Something similar is likely at work here, as those tasters with Carolina roots were immediately reminded of a Low Country Boil, a mixed one-pot meal that usually features shrimp or crawdads, small potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. The seasoning on these Crawtators has a slightly spicier kick than Old Bay, which is fitting for a Cajun seasoning. The ingredients list does not divulge much, listing the ever-helpful “Spices,” but also Onion Powder, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor (which added a subtle undertone more than an explicit smokiness – admirable restraint!), and also paprika and “extractives of paprika.” The paprika note was definitely distinct, and its presence also accounts for the reddish tinge on these pleasantly crispy chips, which many tasters used as a palate cleanser between our less pleasant offerings of the day.
Baked Mac n' Cheese Puffs
These Baked Mac n’ Cheese Puffs are brought to you by "Snikiddy," whatever that is. (I have never before heard of Snikiddy before, but these were purchased at a major chain grocery store, for the record.) Visually, these puffs are just are adorable, exactly as pictured on the package. They are white-ish yellow, roughly the length of a piece of penne pasta, but tube-shaped like true elbow macaroni, with a hole that runs all the way through each piece. These are light, puffy, crispy “cheesy poofs,” with the airy crunch that rice flour brings to cheesy poofs everywhere, but this texture has an additional Styrofoam quality which multiple tasters compared to packing foam peanuts. Some found this offensive, others weren’t troubled by it (perhaps it answers once and for all that nagging question of what it would be like to eat a packing peanut.) The cheese flavor is far less pronounced and less artificial than that of bright-orange Cheetos or Utz cheese puffs, supplying instead a light white cheddar flavor that quickly fades from the palate. The bag proclaims that the puffs contain real cheese, and cheddar cheese is indeed in the ingredients list. So in that regard, as well as the visual element, these do suggest mac & cheese, even if the dry, foamy texture is precisely the opposite of pasta in cheese sauce.
Milk Chocolate Covered Wavy Lays
The name is fairly self-explanatory – these are Wavy Lays, which is to say the version of Lays that mimics Ruffles, with a thick cut and wavy ripples, coated in milk chocolate. My tasters noted that this was not terribly high-quality milk chocolate, reminding them instead of “cheap Easter chocolate,” but nonetheless, the contrast between the sweet chocolate coating and the salty potato chip is hard to be mad at. The chips are clearly coated via a pour-down method from a conveyor belt, as opposed to a full dip, because they are actually fully coated only on one side. Enough chocolate has been applied that it generally covers the edges of the chip and drips onto the second side, but most chips have a bare spot. This is okay though, as it keeps the very sweet chocolate from overpowering the potato chip side of things. The only drawback of these chips are that they are fairly messy to eat, as the chocolate coating begins melting under the heat of one’s fingertips immediately. Oh well, licking chocolate off your fingers – again, it is hard to be mad at that.