Though one could argue that picnics and grilling are year-round activities for Phoenicians, the urge to grill is strongest in spring and summer. I don't know about you, but outdoor feasting isn't complete for me without a big bowl of chips. I normally circumvent the chip aisle at the grocery store (I get more than enough guilty pleasure food through writing this column, thank you very much), but a recent trip down one showed me something: Holy crap, there are a lot of different chip flavors out there. Apparently, Frito-Lay feels the need to diversify its offerings in order to snag as much market share as possible.
The Guilty Pleasure: Lay's Do Us a Flavor Potato Chips Where To Get It: Selected Grocery Stores (try Safeway) Price: About $3 What It Really Costs: All the raised eyebrows you'll get when you bring Chicken & Waffles potato chips.
There are so many chip flavors I haven't seen before that covering all of them is going to become a multi-part series.
This week is a trio of limited-edition potato chips, the finalists in Lay's "Do Us a Flavor" contest. Millions of people entered, and Lay's turned three of the flavors into chips. Whichever chip gets the most votes (via Facebook, Twitter, or text message) wins a place in the official lineup of Lay's flavors. So, for the next few weeks, you can find Cheesy Garlic Bread, Sriracha, and Chicken & Waffles flavored chips at some grocery stores.
First up in the tasting was the Cheesy Garlic Bread. Not much about the flavoring said either "garlic" or "cheese." It was just sort of the generic umami-bomb you expect from flavored chips. If I'm going for cheese-flavored potato chips, I'm still going to reach for the old standby Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream flavor.
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Sriracha chips came in a brilliant red bag, but that's sadly as far as the brilliance went. As sriracha junkies know, there should be a little bit of garlic and sugar to underline the chili heat. With these, there's a little generic-hot-sauce spice kick and not much else. It makes me want to get some plain chips and dot them with a little of that wonderful rooster sauce. That brings us to my favorite, the Chicken & Waffles chips. The flavor combination in potato chip form is certainly straight out of left field. Somehow, it just works. You first get herbs (predominantly thyme), then a hit of syrup flavor, then a lingering chicken-flavor finish reminiscent of Nabisco's Chicken In a Biskit crackers. You get the salty, you get the sweet, life is good.
While we munched these chips in the Chow Bella HQ underground lair, our fearless leader realized something: When eating chicken and waffles, it's traditional to give both the chicken and the waffles a few dashes of hot sauce. It just so happened that we still had some sriracha chips laying around, so we all tried both at the same time. This quickly resulted passing the bags around the table with a "You have got to try this!" which was met with a collective "Mmmmm!" all the way around the table.
If anyone from Frito-Lay happens to be reading this: Give the Chicken & Waffles chips a hit of hot sauce, and you have the real winner on your hands.