Taste-Off: Crunchies for the Munchies

One classic question among lazy, hungry people goes like this: if you had to pick one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? It’s a fun question — and, if the Trumpocalypse triggers the end of global food supply lines, possibly a relevant one.

But there is only one correct answer: salad. Why? Because a “salad” is just a mixture of more than one chopped-up thing, usually served with dressing. See? No contest.

This has long been my answer to this question, but I may have to reconsider. Lately, I have been noticing more and more strange, ambitious flavors debuting in bags of chips. That’s right — tortilla and potato chips are the new salad. And it’s causing culinary chaos on a grocery aisle shelf near you. Don’t believe me? Ask these bags of tzatziki, bacon habanero, and tikka masala chips on my desk.

Unwilling to simply let the chips fall where they may, Advocate staff decided to taste-test some of the more ridiculous recent chip flavors. It felt all the more timely given the theme of this week’s issue, which was provoking in us a mild feeling of… well… it rhymes with “scrunchies.”

Judges for this installment of the Advocate’s Taste-Off series were staff writers Peter Vancini and Hunter Styles, editor Kristin Palpini, art director Jen Levesque, and web editor Dave Eisenstader. Chips were rated using a scale of 1 (yuck) to 5 (yum).

 

Chili Lime (corn chips) | Garden Of Eatin’ | Average score: 1.7

Pete: I had high expectations. They look like they have a lot of flavor on them.

Kristin: No lime, no chili, no good.

Hunter: Why do they kind of taste like Froot Loops?

 

Bacon Habanero (corn chips) | Late July Snacks | Average score: 1.9

Hunter: These are like barbecue chips that someone fished out of a bonfire.

Pete: Too overpowering. These are harshing my mellow.

Dave: Somehow they taste like a pretzel, Chex Mix, and barbecue all at once. Too much of everything.

 

Chinese Szechuan Chicken (potato chips) | Frito-Lay | Average score: 2.1

Jen: Good at first, but then the flavor shifted and my tongue started to swell up.

Kristin: I liked them. Complex and interesting, sweet and spicy.

Hunter: For a chip that acts like a meal, I found it flat and muddled.

Pete: I don’t want my chips to taste like soup.

 

Sweet Potato (corn chips) | Way Better Snacks | Average score: 2.6

Hunter: Nicely salty, and I get the sweet potato, but a little too wholesome for this crowd.

Kristin: This is a snack your mom would buy. If I ate these with the munchies, I’d fall asleep.

Jen: If you have cotton mouth, do NOT eat these.

 

Brazilian Picanha (potato chips) | Frito-Lay | Average score: 2.6

Kristin: You can really taste the steak. There’s a slight odor of dog food in my nose, but if you don’t stop eating them, it’s cool.

Hunter: I think this idea would work better with a ruffled chip. I’m only getting a really faint flavor of beef, but it’s musty, like pot roast. And I’m not tasting the chimichurri sauce at all.

Dave: I liked them. I thought they were magical.

 

Indian Tikka Masala (potato chips) | Frito-Lay | Average score: 2.7

Kristin: If McDonald’s made tikka masala, it would taste like this. Average to a fault.

Pete: This just makes me want actual Indian food.

Hunter: Tastes like Creamy Chicken Top Ramen, for some reason. Tikka masala is such a middling dish anyway. When they make a vindaloo chip, call me.

 

Sweet Maui Onion (potato chips) | Deep River Snacks | Average score: 2.8

Jen: I like kettle chips, but there is a weird aftertaste to these. They need French onion dip.

Dave: Or duck sauce.

Kristin: You could use them as breading when you’re frying something. That’d be good.

Hunter: Sweet and vinegar-y is good. But what’s Hawaiian about them?

 

Pizza (processed chip-shaped product) | Pringles | Average score: 3.2

Jen: I’d definitely eat Pringles if I were stoned. I just wouldn’t buy these.

Kristin: Has this flavor gotten more bland over the years?

Pete: I mean, I’ll eat a whole tube of them, but they taste like regret.

Hunter: The flavor comes out of a sprayer, so it’s rather uneven. Salty at first, then it tastes like a bag of pre-grated wholesale cheese you’d buy for a cafeteria.

 

Nacho Cheese Especial (corn chips) | Paqui Chips | Average score: 3.6

Dave: When I was in high school, I would have given these a five. But now, if I eat more than a few of them, I burn out my taste buds.

Pete: I could mindlessly chomp on these. Cheesy, satisfying spice, not too heavy.

Jen: Reminds me of a tub of queso dip.

 

Roasted Garlic (potato chips) | Kettle Chips | Average score: 3.7

Kristin: The garlic really slaps you in the face, which I love.

Pete: These deliver. I love garlic. It’s my Italian heritage.

Hunter: Strong and delicious. Good for warding off vampires. But don’t talk into anyone’s face for a few hours afterward.

 

Falafel (corn chips) | Food Should Taste Good | Average score: 3.8

Kristin: Light and fluffy with a nice crunch. Good mouthfeel.

Pete: Nice peppery flavor. Would be great for dipping in hummus.

Dave: The cumin and coriander are a good combo. I’m there.

 

Dill Pickle (potato chips) | Kettle Chips | Average score: 4.1

Jen: I love pickles, so I’ll eat them in whatever shape they come in. These are extra good because they’re thicker and krinkle-cut.

Hunter: Sharp and tangy!

Dave: Maybe I’m the only one, but when you get a sandwich at the deli and it comes with a pickle, and the pickle water drains into your chips, and you get soggy chips that would have been better dry, they taste like this. I like pickles … but really? In chips?

 

Tzatziki (potato chips) | Frito-Lay | Average score: 4.6

Kristin: Damn good. Like oregano chips with sour cream.

Jen: Not too dry, and tastes fresh, with a little cucumber flavor.

Hunter: I want to put these on top of those falafel chips. Creamy, herby, refreshing.

 

FIRST PLACE:

All Dressed | Frito-Lay | Average score: 5

Ruffles took home top prize with this flavor, which swept the panel and received the unanimous high score of 5. A cult favorite in Canada, All Dressed became available in the States for the first time this past fall. As the name implies, these chips are dressed with ketchup, salt, vinegar, barbecue, sour cream, onion, and other mystery seasonings.

Kristin: Summer barbecue, right here, in my mouth.

Dave: Smoky, with great ridges.

Pete: The gold standard. These set the bar.

Hunter: These make me want to be Canadian. Thank God they’ve been loosening the immigration laws lately.

Hunter Styles

Author: Hunter Styles

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