REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

I get the feeling these new Flavor Swap varieties are just rejects of other flavors Lay’s have made. Like the designers working on the next iPhone or me passing Math 100 in college, I’m sure the folks in charge of developing flavors didn’t accomplish what they wanted in one try.

They must go through dozens of iterations to get it right. Some are not fit for human consumption, but along the way they probably come up with flavors that could be used for something else. Case in point, these Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips. They taste like one of the rejects. Okay, I really should stop calling them “rejects” before I hurt their feelings. They taste like one of the happy accidents that happened while making the Do Us a Flavor Southern Biscuits and Gravy Potato Chips that came out last year.

Much like those chips, these olive oil and herbs ones are also in a competition to remain on shelves. But instead of competing with three other flavors for shelf dominance, it’s just one. And that flavor is Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 2

To be honest, I haven’t had Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper until now. I saw them all the time, but I ignored them and grabbed one of the other Kettle Cooked flavors, like Original or Sea Salt & Vinegar. Now that I’ve finally had them, I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on these tasty chips for all these years. They have just the right amount of pepper flavor with a slight peppery burn in the back of my throat.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 3

The two flavors look almost exactly alike, except the Olive Oil & Herbs appear to have spent a little more time in the tanning booth. I guess the flavor was influenced by the olive oil and herbs bread dip at Italian restaurants. So do they taste like the olive oil your Macaroni Grill server put on a plate after writing her or his name upside down?

Yes, they tastes like that, but with every chip I can’t stop thinking about the Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy. They’re haunting my taste buds. Haunting!!! Their aroma is also haunting. It’s herbaceous to the point where it’s almost medicinal. And chips that were a bit too seasoned had a (how can I put it nicely) slightly unpleasant earthiness. But those chips were rare. Overall, it’s not a bad chip flavor, but it’s not a flavor I would buy again.

So if I was Noah and had to collect junk food for a snack ark, I would save Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, but not Lay’s Kettle Cooked Olive Oil & Herbs.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 2 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Tesoro Gas Station
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Reminds me of Lay’s Southern Biscuits and Gravy. Wonderful kettle cooked chip crunch. Happy accidents. My taste buds discovering Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper for the first time.
Cons: Smells almost medicinal. Chips that were seasoned too much had an unpleasant earthiness to them. To me, they’re not better than Lay’s Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper. I won’t win the $250,000.

REVIEW: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

In the Lay’s potato chip flavor universe, Cheddar & Sour Cream has lived in the shadow of sour cream & onion. If sour cream & onion is the more popular Ben Affleck, then Cheddar & Sour Cream is Casey Affleck. Or if you’re looking for an Affleck-less reference, sour cream & onion is Luke or Owen Wilson, while Andrew Wilson is Cheddar & Sour Cream.

Yes. There’s a third Wilson brother who’s also an actor.

Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream isn’t a new flavor, but it’s not available in my area like sour cream & onion, which is EVERYWHERE. But there’s a chance that Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream might end up being nowhere, thanks to Lay’s new Flavor Swap promotion. The contest involves voting between two flavors and the winner stays while the other one gets sent out into deep space or something.

Cheddar & Sour Cream is up against a new flavor — Smoked Gouda and Chive.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 3

The flavor sounds like a hoity-toity offspring of Cheddar & Sour Cream and sour cream & onion, getting the cheese DNA from one and the herb DNA from the other. While I’ve had gouda, I’ve never really gotten to know gouda, so I read up on it.

Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses in the world that’s still being made today. It’s named after the Dutch city of Gouda. Young gouda has a mild fudgy flavor with nuts and older gouda has a sweet, slightly fruity flavor. And now you are ready to pretend to be a cheese expert, if that cheese is gouda and you run away if you’re asked about any other cheese.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 2

These chips look exactly like sour cream & onion potato chips, but they smell sweet and cheesy. They don’t have a fudgy or fruity flavor. Instead, they taste like smoky bacon, which makes sense because it’s SMOKED gouda and because of this Reddit thread I came upon. The first chip is smoky and cheesy, but subsequent ones are definitely more on the smoky bacon side. As for the chive flavor, I couldn’t taste any. But, overall, I really enjoyed the flavor of the chip.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 4

So between Smoked Gouda & Chive and Cheddar & Sour Cream which one would I send into deep space and which one would I save? Well, to be honest, it’s a very hard decision, because both are equally fine tasting empty calories. It would like choosing which is more entertaining — a video of a kitten playing peekaboo with his or her owner or a video of a puppy licking peanut butter off a window.

The Cheddar & Sour Cream definitely has a stronger cheese flavor than its competitor, but if the Lay’s one goes away, there’s still the Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream (which is the better one). If Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream went away, I wouldn’t miss it. As for the Smoked Gouda & Chive, it doesn’t really taste too cheesy and it’s not necessarily better, but it does taste like bacon, and bacon is yummy, so I’d probably miss it.

So I guess I’m #TeamSaveSmokedGoudaandChive.

(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, 135 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 2 3/4 oz.
Purchased at: Tesoro Gas Station
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like bacon. Smoked gouda tastes like bacon. Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream. Gouda’s longevity.
Cons: Not too cheesy. Not too chivey. Getting sent out into deep space. Ending a review with a hashtag.

REVIEW: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips

Funfetti.

Chocolate-covered olive.

Nashville Hot Chicken and pickles.

These are but a few flavors we won’t be tempted to try as part of Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest. After a three-year run with some highs, some lows, and frankly just some seasoning that had no business coming into contact with a potato, Lay’s is asking for America’s feedback in a totally new competition. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Flavor Swap offers a chance to pick the next Lay’s chip flavors, but only at the cost of an existing flavor, which will be exiled to the world of Oreo O’s cereal, Dunkaroos, and Black Pepper Jack Doritos. One of the flavors on the chopping block: the iconic and always reliable Honey Barbecue.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We are getting a choice, and when it comes to the barbecue category, the new Korean Barbecue chips offer something totally different from the eight other barbecue chip flavors listed on the Lay’s website — a taste of one of America’s hottest trends.

I first discovered Korean barbecue when a crapload of Kalbi and Bulgogi restaurants showed up in my Maryland suburb. I couldn’t speak a word of Korean, but the language of grilled marinated rib eye transcends ineffective Google translators. Marinated in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and other spices, the thin cuts of grilled meats are totally unlike those loaded with vinegary Carolina sauces or sweet Kansas City sauces. Dare I say it, in some ways they’re better.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips 2

I can’t say that’s necessarily true about Lay’s take on the Korean barbecue. The chips are definitely unique; I’ll give them that. And they’re tasty too. Darker, with a grey shadow and specs of onion and garlic powder, they’ve got an initial salty and meaty flavor which tastes like instant beef bouillon, except not quite so disgusting-sounding. The strong umami notes soon give way to a prominent smoky flavor and a touch of sweetness, and when eaten straight from the bag, they’re almost impossible to put down.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 1

Almost. The thing is, Lay’s Honey Barbecue chips are impossible to put down. It’s an orange chip with a light tomato and paprika flavor that perfectly complements its sweet brown sugar and molasses touch, and its finish is distinctly potato-ey. It’s clean, simple, and just a good old potato chip.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 2

To use a rough barbecue analogy for the chips, Honey Barbecue is about the sauce and the spice, and Korean Barbecue is about the meat and the smoke. They’re both really good, and in the case of the Korean Barbecue flavor, the chips are distinct from other flavors we’ve seen before. But the former flavor is what I’m craving on a chip, and the latter on, well, actual meat.

As much as I love the idea of Korean Barbecue potato chips and want these to stick around, I’m not ready to exile Honey Barbecue to the island of misfit snacks for them. Salty, smoky, and meaty, the Korean Barbecue chips are just a little too heavy for a potato chip flavor, and could have really used a bit of ginger or additional backend sweetness to round their flavor out. Nevertheless, I hope Lay’s toys with the idea of keeping the chips around, because the Korean Barbecue has more than earned its place at America’s culinary table.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 140 mg of sodium, 330 mg of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $1.28
Size: 2.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the smoky meaty flavor of bulgogi meat in chip form. Complex saltiness with sweet notes in the background. Breaks relatively new ground in an already saturated barbecue chip market. Not chocolate-dipped olive.
Cons: Soy sauce flavor tastes a bit more like Worcestershire sauce. Umami flavor covers up clean finish of the potato taste. Not enough sweetness and no ginger. Not as good as Honey Barbecue flavored chips. Kind of wanting to try a Funfetti flavored chip.

REVIEW: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes (Canada)

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes

The whole Do Us a Flavour thing seems to revolve around the odd and the unusual — out-there flavours that you wouldn’t typically find at the supermarket.

That being the case, scalloped potatoes seems like one of the more boring flavours in the history of this promotion. I mean, the potatoes are already right there in the chip, so what flavour do they have to simulate? Cheese? Cream?

So basically, it’s a cheddar chip, but with a creamier flavour? Not the most exciting flavour in the world, but hard to mess up.

You’d think.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes 2

And at first it seems like: yeah, they did get it about right. Cheesy flavour? Check. Mild creaminess? Check. Hey, this isn’t so bad, you think, and that’s when it hits you: the distinctively sharp bite of particularly pungent raw onion. I don’t know what kind of scalloped potatoes they’ve been eating in the Lay’s flavour labs, but I think someone needs to tell them that the onions in there are supposed to be cooked.

I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of raw onions (though they’ve grown on me over the years — at one point, if you even used the same cutting board to chop another vegetable after cutting raw onions, I couldn’t eat it), so most people might not find this quite as offensive as I did.

It’s kind of like sour cream and onion, only more oniony, somehow. Plus, at least those chips have the assertive tang of sour cream to balance things out. No such balance here; the mellow cheesy flavour is completely overwhelmed by the acrid face-punch of onion.

The aftertaste is especially brutal. It’s the type of thing where you immediately need to eat something else to get that funky taste out of your mouth — only it doesn’t work. The taste goes away, then comes right back.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes 3

I guess it does essentially taste like scalloped potatoes — only the worst version of that dish that you’ve ever had. A version made by a friend who clearly can’t cook, but means well. So you have to smile and tell them how good it is and maybe spread it out on your plate a bit so it looks like you’ve eaten more than you actually have.

I submit that a more appropriate name for these chips would be “Milky Cheese ‘n Raw Onion.”

Maybe there’s a reason why I don’t work for the marketing department at Lay’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 66 gram bag – 360 calories, 22 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 410 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavour P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes (Canada)
Purchased Price: $1.49 CAN
Size: 66 gram bag
Purchased at: Foodland
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Tastes vaguely like scalloped potatoes, I guess.
Cons: Tastes like the worst version of scalloped potatoes that you’ve ever had. Overwhelmingly acrid onion flavour. Horrible aftertaste.

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.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour Montreal Smoked Meat Potato Chips 2

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.

Lay's Do Us a Flavour Montreal Smoked Meat Potato Chips 3

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.  

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Butter Chicken Potato Chips (Canada) 2

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.