REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour Montreal Smoked Meat Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay's Do Us a Flavour Montreal Smoked Meat Potato Chips

It’s a good thing I don’t live anywhere close to Montreal, because if I did, I’d be at Schwartz’s (which is the most famous –- and arguably the best -– smoked meat joint in that city) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And brunch. And a mid-afternoon snack. And what’s that Taco Bell thing? FourthMeal? Yeah, that too.

Suffice it to say, I’m a fan of Montreal smoked meat, so when I found out it was going to be one of the new Do Us a Flavour flavours, I knew I’d be eating the hell out of it (admittedly, I was probably going to eat the hell out of any new chip flavour regardless, but I digress).

When you think about it, Montreal smoked meat, with its distinctive spicing and universally appealing flavour profile (seriously, if you don’t like Montreal smoked meat or its close cousin, pastrami, and you’re not a vegetarian, then you’re a monster and I have nothing but scorn for you), I’m surprised it’s taken Lay’s this long to get there. It seems so obvious.

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It’s a natural flavour for a chip; the chip performs a similar function, taste-wise, as the starchy bread. Plus, these sandwiches are often served with French fries or even latkes, so smoked meat + potato is definitely a combination you can feel good about.

But of course, as seemingly perfect as this flavour is, there’s no guarantee that Lay’s isn’t going to mess it up (*cough*Butter Chicken*cough*).

Happily (and shockingly, given how thoroughly they bungled the butter chicken flavour), this is pretty much the ideal version of this chip. Everything about it is just right: the spicing, the slight mustard flavour, the pronounced but not overly assertive peppery bite… it’s weirdly perfect.

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I kinda wish it was paired with the more assertive crunch of a kettle chip, but then I wish that of pretty much every non-kettle-chip chip, so that’s probably more about my own personal preferences than anything else.

Seriously though, you need to try these chips. They absolutely nailed the flavour. It’s like they took a smoked meat sandwich and used some kind of magic ray to transform it into a bag of chips.

It’s like the future is here, and you can eat it.

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 27 chips – 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 260 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour Montreal Smoked Meat Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN
Size: 170 gram bag
Purchased at: Sobeys
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Captures the flavour of Montreal smoked meat perfectly. Magic. The future.
Cons: Would probably work a bit better as a kettle chip. Proximity-based inability to eat Schwartz’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and FourthMeal.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)

I mentioned, in my review of the Cinnamon Bun chips from last year’s batch of Do Us a Flavour finalists, that every year seems to have a “water cooler flavour” — an oddball flavour that’s present more for its conversation-starting abilities than its appropriateness as a chip.

I guess butter chicken is it for this year, though as far as weird chip concoctions go, it’s more Tom Cruise than Mel Gibson — weird, but not off-puttingly so.  

Of all the Indian dishes to condense into chip form, butter chicken is probably the safest. It’s one of India’s most well known culinary exports, likely because its flavours are more mellow than many Indian dishes, and thus more accessible to western palates.

For the unaware, it essentially consists of chunks of chicken in a creamy, mildly-spiced sauce, usually served with rice or naan bread.

It seems like an odd flavour for Lay’s at first, but then you think, “yeah, I think I could picture that on a chip. I’d like to try that.”

Honestly, I’d still like to try that, because while these chips basically taste okay, they do an abysmal job of recapturing the flavour of butter chicken.

I don’t know if Lay’s was concerned that any exotic flavour might turn people off (even one as comparatively mild as butter chicken), but they clearly played it way too safe. The flavour of these chips is so far removed from anything even remotely resembling butter chicken, that I don’t think I ever would have been able to guess what it was supposed to be if I hadn’t already known.  

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I mean, maybe if you forced me — really forced me — somewhere by hour four or five, several hundred guesses in, I’d be like “I don’t know, butter chicken??” and your eyes would light up. We’d wordlessly high-five, then both go home and never speak of it again. But our friendship would slowly fizzle out, because really, how couldn’t it?  We’d been through too much.

Seriously though, these chips taste nothing like butter chicken. The flavour is so unrecognizable it that I legitimately thought that there might have been some kind of factory mishap, and that the wrong flavour somehow ended up in the bag I tried. But I spoke to someone else who had the exact same experience, so I guess that’s how it’s supposed to taste?

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada) 3

The chips are moderately salty, with cheesy tang and not a whole lot of complexity of flavour. In the aforementioned guessing ordeal, I’m pretty sure my first few dozen guesses would all be cheese-related. They basically just taste like cheddar cheese chips, with an ever-so-subtle whiff of a curry-like aftertaste, if you really, really concentrate. 

The chip itself is plain old Lay’s, which in this case is ideal. I’m pretty sure the more assertive taste of a ruffled or kettle chip would completely overwhelm the very mild flavours here.

I mean, it’s not bad, I guess. There’s certainly nothing offensive about it.  I like cheese-flavoured chips, so I basically enjoyed these, even if “bland” is one of the first words to spring to mind. But it’s kind of weird how little they taste like butter chicken.  

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 27 chips – 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 290 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN
Size: 170 gram bag
Purchased at: Sobeys
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Inoffensive. Kind of tastes like cheddar cheese chips.
Cons: Bland. Tastes absolutely nothing like butter chicken. Killer of friendships.

REVIEW: Lay’s Wavy Do Us a Flavor West Coast Truffle Fries Potato Chips

Lay's Wavy Do Us a Flavor West Coast Truffle Fries Potato Chips

In what seems to be an annual tradition, Lay’s brings us four new flavors in the 2015 edition of “Do Us a Flavor” contest. The concept is, admittedly, pretty awesome. I’m a sucker for new flavored potato chips and four ordinary everyday people like you and me get a chance to see their own flavor ideas become a reality. It’s a win-win-win for the contestant, the consumers, and Lay’s.

The winner gets to live forever in potato chip dignity (or infamy) with a million in his or her pocket. Our taste buds get to enjoy new flavors. And Lay’s gets a public relations boost.

Besides, there are worse yearly traditions like the annual physical checkup or Christmas with the in-laws (yes I’ll take more egg-nog!). Unlike those events, I really look forward to this promotion. And it appears it’s working. The fervor at several Targets was evident because there were rarely any available when the new flavors first reached its stores. I had to settle for a bag of seven-layer dip Combos, which are pretty damn swank in its own right.

On a mundane Wednesday, I walked into the Target near my work looking for some supermarket sushi (don’t judge, I know most of you out there buy it too). I decided to give the chip aisle a look-see and voila!!! I found the Lay’s Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries. And like an article, there’s a byline… “Submitted by Angie Fu.”

Angie Fu seems like a nice person, she is photogenic and looks like those clip art photos one uses in those damned team-building slideshow presentations. A quick look on the internet tells me Angie Fu is a senior manager of production and product development at a cosmetic company. She has a penchant, like my wife and I, for truffle fries with parmesan sprinkled on top. Can Lay’s deliver? Will the translation be applauded like the Ant-Man adaptation or derided like the recent Fantastic Four movie?

I opened the bag and was a bit unsure because it smelled more of sour cream and onion chips than the familiar earthy and mellow musk of truffles. Subsequent inhales left me even more confused because the garlic and onion notes began to overwhelm my nostrils.

The Wavy chips are my favorite and I feel Lay’s smartly chose this shape because the ridges not only have a pleasant texture, but they are also like “dusty” ledges that herd that flavor powder to a single intense point. It really underscores whatever flavor the chip is carrying.

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However, these chips are a double-edged sword. The chips, as always, were crispy and delivered that snap. But the flavor was like a roasted potato with a strong dairy finish, like a sour cream. If there was truffle, it was faint like a ghost. The cereal milk left over from Grape-Nuts has more character. The chip really tasted like a cheddary-sour cream and onion chip.

Don’t mistake my comments for this being a bad chip. If you’re looking for a cheddar/sour cream and onion chip, these hit the penthouse. Yet, I wanted what was promised and the taste of roasted potato, cheddar, and sour cream (loaded baked potato sans bacon?) was not what I had in mind. There’s visible flecks of parsley, which were the only evidence they existed. I was clearly disappointed and gave the bag to my wife, who also remarked on the strong creamy cheddar-like flavor the chips imparted.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I can’t help it. Truffle has a distinct and luscious profile. I was excited to see the flavor and I was ecstatic when the photo of those wonderful fries with truffle oil doused on it and parmesan scattered like delicious confetti. My experience with these chips was akin to chatting it up with someone at a bar with moody lighting and when you walk out, you realize it’s your sister. AGGGGHHH! My sister is a decent person but she’s not the person you want to…well, you know.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Wavy Do Us a Flavor West Coast Truffle Fries Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 7.75 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Wavy shape is the way to go for a profound flavor. The annual “Do Us a Flavor” promotion. Alexander Fu-Sing’s vintage Kung Fu films.
Cons: The profound flavor is more “sour cream and onion” than truffle and parmesan. The annual scream into your pillow Christmas festivities with your in-laws. Imagining Angie Fu’s warm smile turn to a frown because of these chips.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips

I’m an Italian kid from the Northeast, so when I hear “gravy” I think of that brown stuff you put on turkey, not the white sausage based stuff popular in the South. I also never, I repeat, never think of red sauce you put on macaroni as gravy. Anyone who tells you that’s “gravy” is certifiable. Sauce with meat is not gravy. You are wrong. Stop being wrong. You’re probably right. Who the heck knows?

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Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips are the brainchild of Hailey Green from Noblesville, IN. Her idea was based on her “Nonnie’s” homemade biscuits and gravy recipe. So if these stink, I’m putting full blame on Nonnie. Moment of truth, Nonnie. Here goes nothing.

The chips have a nice gravy scent. Is that a thing? A “nice” gravy scent? Has anyone ever said, “Mmmm, this gravy smells fantastic?” There’s a very distinct smell you get when you pop open a bottle of turkey/chicken gravy or open a pouch of dry gravy mix. I’m sure it smells that way when you make any variety of gravy from scratch but…look I’m no Nonnie, I’ve never made gravy from scratch. Pity me.

My first inclination when trying a new chip flavor is to immediately compare it to a flavor I’m familiar with. With these my immediate first impression was that they were a saltier, less potent sour cream and onion. As I munched on, the gravy flavor poked through. It’s definitely there but it takes a little while to build. The flavor really reminded me of something familiar and it took me about 10 more chips to realize what it was — Stove Top Stuffing. After reaching that conclusion, I couldn’t taste anything else.

Ya know what I don’t really like? Stove Top Stuffing. Ya know what I do like? Chips that taste like Stove Top Stuffing. Go figure. Go. I’ll wait.

We good?

I’m not sure what exactly stuffing and biscuits and gravy have in common, save for the starch element and some onion powder, but they are definitely in the same ballpark. I want to say gravy flavoring on potato chips is strange, but who doesn’t like gravy on mashed potatoes? It seems dumb, but once that thought crossed my mind, I really started to enjoy these more. “Thanksgiving Dinner” was one of my contest submissions, and this might be as close as I’ll get.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuit and Gravy Potato Chips 4

I wouldn’t say these chips have a kick, but they are a bit peppery. Each chip is coated with little red, orange, and black specs of spice. You’ll come away feeling like you may have possibly eaten something spicy a while ago and your mouth is still recovering.

As for the biscuit element, there’s a hint of a creamy, buttery flavor, but it’s pretty understated. I kept trying to really separate a biscuit flavor but found it difficult. That seems authentic to me though as the gravy would overpower the biscuit flavor if you were eating the actual dish. Biscuits are delicious, but are also a textural food, so you lose that when converting that flavor to a chip.

Therein “Lay’s” the problem with most of the Do Us a Flavor chips. They don’t so much stand on their own as they just make me really want to eat the food they are copying. Like right now? I want a biscuit. I don’t want any more chips. I gotta have a biscuit. Where’s that little giggly Pillsbury Doughboy bastard when you need him?

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These are the traditional-style chip, which was a good call on their part. I don’t think they would have been as successful in Wavy form. As I said, I want the softest style chip possible for this flavor. The Greektown Gyro flavor really worked as a kettle chip, but there is almost no chance these would have. When thinking “biscuit,” you don’t want to be crunching down on something that could crack a molar at any given second.

I find the color of the bag aesthetically pleasing, but the image of the actual biscuits and gravy are unappetizing. This is admittedly a nitpick, but annoying people tell me that we “eat with our eyes first,” and that gloppy white stuff just doesn’t look tasty. I was pleasantly surprised these turned out a lot better than the picture led me to believe.

I enjoyed these slightly more than the Gyro chips and I ended up eating half the bag in one sitting. I probably could have kept going but my mouth started to feel like the Sahara and I needed to chug an entire bottle of water. So congrats to Lay’s, the Jelly Belly of potato chips, for another successful flavor foray.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: They go down easy. Stuffing flavor. Not overpowering. Nice hint of spice. Nonnie finally getting her due. Bag color. Molars intact.
Cons: Masked biscuit flavor. Bag photo. Lay’s constantly denying my submissions. “Gravy” on macaroni. Actual biscuit cravings. Pillsbury Doughboy not being at my beck and call.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips

At the risk of offending those of you who actually liked the Lay’s Chicken and Waffles Potato Chips, I’m of the mindset that the whole Do Us a Flavor competition has been one of the more impressive fails of snack food marketing over the past few years.

Why do I say that? Well, because I still cringe at the thought of 2013’s aforementioned Chicken and Waffles chips, my taste buds panic whenever I’m around mangos, and I still have a nearly full bag of the Cappuccino chips buried somewhere in my pantry.

Come to think of it, I probably haven’t made it through a full bag combined of the past Do Us a Flavor finalists I’ve tried. Meanwhile, my unquestionably brilliant idea for a chip based on the flavors of a sandwich — Buffalo’s iconic Beef on Weck — has been shot down each of the past three years.

Given my past history with Do Us a Flavor, I was ready to write this year off until I saw the finalist chips. All I can say is, “Nice job, America.” You’ve obviously outgrown your suggestions for flavors that have no business on a potato, and finally thought strategically about the chips you want to eat. You’ve even managed to get another iconic New York sandwich on there — the Reuben.

(Seriously, why don’t more chips taste like sandwiches? Sandwiches are delicious, and everyone likes them. Oh shit. Now that I’ve said that, one you is probably going to suggest we start making Peanut Butter and Jelly flavored potato chips, aren’t you?)

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The Reuben sets the bar pretty high in terms of sandwich flavors but man do these chips deliver, starting with this distinct caraway and rye smell that emanates from the bag. If you’ve ever been to a good, old-school Jewish deli than you know the smell. The taste is familiar to anyone who’s ever had a Reuben, with strong notes of all those classic pickling spices and the tangy, fermented bite of sauerkraut. It’s a great taste and not the least bit overpowering, giving way to a hint of sweet and acidic tomato and a more potent, but mellow, buttermilk and cheese aftertaste.

It’s really an impressive array of flavors, and one in which every component of the sandwich is represented in one form or another. What’s most striking is that none of the flavors dominates or overtakes another, an important element in a sandwich which such a heavy connotation. If anything, the initial taste of caraway, then sauerkraut, and finally tomato (the Russian dressing) and cheese, mirrors the progression of flavors you’d get when biting into an actual Reuben. Heck, even the crunchy chips have a sort of buttery aftertaste that can’t help bring to mind griddled bread, going a long way to create the flavor of not just sandwich components, but an actual sandwich.

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More than anything else, these sandwiches chips are downright addictive. There’s nothing which says passing the litmus test of a potato chip’s noshability than reaching into the bag to grab another chip while writing your review, only to discover you’ve just consumed an actual Reuben’s worth of calories in potato chips. If I do have a small gripe it’s that there’s nothing really meaty about the chips. I didn’t get the flavor of the spices that make corned beef, well, corned beef.

Given my disastrous experiences with finalists from the past two years, the Do Us a Flavor promotion could’ve struck out with me this year if they didn’t give me something really good. Fortunately the New York Reuben Chips are really good, even if the Reuben may have actually been invented in Nebraska and not New York. Frankly, I could care less what the truth behind the origins of the sandwich are. I’m just glad I won’t be throwing away another full bag of Do Us a Flavor chips.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 330 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor New York Reuben Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Finally getting a Do Us a Flavor finalist that I actually want to eat. Caraway and Rye. Awesome sauerkraut and pickling spice flavor. Distinctive taste of Russian dressing and cheese. Crunchy, buttery aftertaste mimics griddled bread. Smells like a straight up Jewish deli.
Cons: Beef flavor in the corned beef is missing. Having to supply your own over-sized kosher pickle. Someone please make me my Beef on Weck flavored potato chips!