REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips

I’m fairly new to Indian food.

Up until a year ago, I basically feared it. I didn’t want any part of it. I respect your beliefs, but no beef?! I had beef with your lack of beef!

Then I found out my local joint had a $12 lunch buffet. Twelve bucks? Buffet? You know I ain’t got beef with a good value, so I bucked up and gave it a shot.

It was great. Indian food is great. Who needs beef?

One of the dishes they eased me in with was Chicken Tikka Masala, which until a couple months ago I called “Tikka Mar-sala” like it was cooked with an Italian wine.

I’m fairly new, folks.

For those who aren’t familiar, Tikka Masala is a dish made from chunks of spiced meat served in a tomato and coriander sauce. The recipe varies from site to site, so I’ll just go with the spices listed in the ingredients — turmeric, cumin, paprika, tomato, onion, and garlic powders.

The chips are orange, so they look the part. They definitely smell the part. I wouldn’t say Indian food has the most pleasant aroma in the world, unless you enjoy the scent of an entire spice rack hitting your nostrils at once. If you’re familiar with Wise’s BBQ chips, I was immediately put in mind of those. With all due respect to Wise, they’re my least favorite basic BBQ chip on the market.

Honestly, these taste like Wise BBQ with a bit more kick. There’s a lot going on with these chips.

Chili powder isn’t one of the spices listed, but I tasted a chili element. It’s nothing too overpowering, but it builds up the more you eat. The back of my tongue was pretty hot when I was done and a fiery aftertaste lingered. That’s neutralized a bit by a faint sweetness (which might not be the right word) that I imagine was from the coconut so commonly used in Indian cuisine. This comes through more so in the actual dish than the chip, but it’s there if you look for it.

So yeah, the flavor was reminiscent of the dish. It was the texture that bugged me.

Lay's Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala Potato Chips 2

Most of the Indian food I’ve had has been soft and mushy – tender meats, rice, curries, etc. These are the hardest chips known to man, so that contrasting texture choice seems odd to me. I think these would’ve been better as normal chips, but I can admit I have a bias. I’ve never been a huge fan of kettle chips. I don’t hate them, but I’ve always found kettle chips greasier, and fear for the health of my molars while eating them.

So if you’re a fan of Indian food, or would like to ease yourself into becoming a fan, these are a valiant effort from Lay’s. I wouldn’t recommend eating too many in one sitting as these left me with…what’s the best way to say this without being gross? Later in the day I was reminded that I had Tikka Masala chips, if you catch my drift.

You’ll burp. You’re probably gonna burp. These chips will make you burp. You’re probably gonna get some indigestion. You might wanna eat these in the privacy of your own home.

One last thing, I thought this Lay’s Passport to Flavor gimmick was a tie-in with the Rio Olympics, but the bag doesn’t seem to reflect that in any way. I guess if that were the case, these chips would be called “Zika Masala.”

That’s right I.O.C., I went there. We’ve got beef.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 350 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent representation of Tikka Masala. Nice kick. Very faint coconut. Getting over my fear of Indian food. $12 buffets.
Cons: Not nearly as good as the dish it emulates. Aftertaste lingers. Basically a BBQ variant. Kettle cooked. Rio conditions. Cornball jokes. Keep gum handy.

REVIEW: Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips

I’ve had a number of Lay’s potato chip flavors from China, like Sweet Barbecue Pork, Fresh Shrimp, Fun Wasabi Shrimp, Spicy Green Peppercorn Fish, and Numb & Spicy Hot Pot. They all had the same vibe to them. They were spicy, sweet, and unusual to the point where I’m not sure if I liked them.

I can say the same about Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips.

I imagine there are some of you who aren’t familiar with Szechuan Chicken because it’s not a dish that’s ever been available at Panda Express (the chain did have a Szechuan fish dish). According to the internet, Szechuan cooking involves heavy use of garlic and Szechuan pepper.

To get the flavor and spice of the regional Chinese dish, Lay’s could’ve gone with some generic pepper mixed with other ingredients, but they went with the real deal — roasted Szechuan pepper. They also went with an ingredient called “Natural Szechuan Wok Type Flavor.” Yes! I’ve always wanted to know what wok tastes like!

Lay's Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips 2

The chips look darker than your standard Lay’s, and some areas are even darker, making them look like they’re slightly burnt. Maybe that’s from the soy sauce that’s listed in the ingredients, or maybe it’s the wok type flavor. They’re both dark. Every chip also has specks of parsley.

They have an unusual sweet soy aroma that’s will turn off unadventurous snackers. As for the chip’s flavor, it come in waves. First, there’s a strong dose of soy sauce and garlic. Then there’s a slight sweetness that’s followed by pepper. As I ate the chips, there were moments when its flavor reminded me of wasabi. There’s also an underlying greasy flavor that I can only assume is the “chicken.” Thanks to the pepper, the chips have some spiciness to them, but it tingles more than burns. But I think if you have an aversion to spicy foods you won’t like these in your mouth.

To be honest, Lay’s Chinese Szechuan Chicken Potato Chips are not a flavor I’d buy again. It’s not gross, but unlike most other potato chip flavors, I won’t mindlessly eat them. I’ll have a few and then say, “I’m good.” Out of all four Passport to Flavor varieties, this is my least favorite.

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

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Edible. Adventurous taste buds.
Cons: Least favorite of the Lay’s Passport to Flavor varieties. Flavor not good enough for me to mindlessly eat. Those who don’t like spicy food might not like them. What’s wok flavor?

REVIEW: Lay’s Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

Lay's Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips

I recently went to a Brazilian steakhouse and it was one of the best dining experiences of my life. Servers there bring cuts of various meats to you every few minutes, like brisket, tri-tip, bacon-wrapped sirloin, chicken wings, chicken hearts, lamb, sausage, pork loin, and many more. But my favorite was the picanha.

Picanha is a cut of beef towards the rear of the cow and it’s popular in Brazil. Technically, it’s part of a cow’s butt, but it’s so wonderful. The picanha I gobbled up had a great meaty flavor, was tender, and I’m drooling just thinking about it.

If you’ve never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, servers bring the glistening meat to you on skewers and they slice off a piece, which you take with tongs. But after tasting picanha, every time a server brought it back, I always yelled, “I wanna…more of the picanha!”

Okay, I didn’t scream that out loud, but my taste buds probably were.

But this is not a Yelp review for Brazilian steakhouses, this is a review for Lay’s Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips, which is part of their Passport to Flavor line the brand is offering this summer.

These are not just steak-flavored chips. They also have seasoning that’s supposed to tastes like chimichurri sauce. If you’re wondering how these chips get their steak flavor, they get it from, according to the ingredients list, beef extract and beef fat. There’s also milk protein concentrate and skim milk listed, but I’m not a food scientist, so I’m not sure if they contribute to the steak flavor.

Lay's Brazilian Picanha Potato Chips 2

To get the chimichurri sauce, the chips are seasoned with several spices and ingredients. There’s salt (duh), oregano, parsley, dried garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and onion powder, some of which you can see on every chip.

The chips have a herby and meaty aroma, but they also smell slightly sweet. Their flavor does remind me of steak, but not the awesomeness of the picanha I experienced at a Brazilian steakhouse. Along with the meatiness, there’s also a bit of pepperiness, a bit of herbs, and a wee bit of sweetness. All together those flavor characteristics create something that tastes like steak and chimichurri sauce. While not as enjoyable as eating actual picanha, I think it’s a mighty fine tasting potato chip and it does a decent job at trying to replicate the meat.

Along with seasoning inconsistencies from chip to chip, there was something about the flavor that bothered me. I kept thinking to myself that it tasted familiar, and I kept shoving chips into my mouth to figure it out. Then it hit me. They kind of taste like a meat sauce one would find on spaghetti. It’s not a bad thing and if Lay’s ever decides to come out with spaghetti-flavored chips they already have the recipe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 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, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant meaty, herby flavor. It also kind of tastes like spaghetti meat sauce. Actual picanha at Brazilian steakhouses.
Cons: Doesn’t make me as happy as actual picanha does. Seasoning inconsistencies from chip to chip. Chicken hearts.

REVIEW: Lay’s Beer ‘n Brats Potato Chips

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips

With it being cookout season, I imagine many of you will find yourselves outside with a cold beer in one hand, a nice bratwurst in the other hand, not enough sunscreen on your body, and way too much bug repellant because those reports on the evening news about the Zika virus are freaking you out.

Frito-Lay is celebrating summer with the rollout of Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips, which is a flavor that I imagine is causing some of you to spew profanities at your screen right now because it was your entry for the Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest.

Full disclosure: I am not a beer drinker.

Full disclosure 2 Electric Boogaloo: But I am a beer-flavored potato chip eater.

I’m a huge fan of Kettle Brand’s Cheddar Beer Potato Chips. I voted for it during Kettle Brand’s first People’s Choice vote in 2005. I love its combination of maltiness and tangy cheesiness, and how those flavors really popped. Oh, God, I want some right now.

So how do these Lay’s chips get their beeriness and bratiness?

With Beer ’n Brats seasoning, of course. No really. That’s what it’s called in the ingredients list. Thankfully the seasoning is broken down. Here are some of the highlights in no particular order: salt (of course), onion powder, cheddar cheese, brown sugar, sugar, yeast extract, whey protein concentrate (imagine me flexing right now), spices, butter, Romano cheese, chicken broth, chicken powder, buttermilk, chicken fat, dijon mustard, natural extractives of beer, and beer solids.

What’s a beer solid? It sounds like a favor that’s sealed when two people drink beer with their drinking arms intertwined. It’s not, but the knowledgeable ingredients list also breaks down what beer solids are — malted barley, corn syrup, hops, and yeast.

Lay's Beer 'n Brats Potato Chips 2

The Lay’s Beer ’n Brats Potato Chips have an aroma that smells like the undercarriage of a lawnmower that just ran over an herb garden and New York City hot dog carts. It’s sweet, herby, and mustard-y. My nose likes it and my nose also thinks it smells somewhat similar to turkey and stuffing potato chips I’ve had in the past.

A beer-like flavor registered once I put them into my mouth. But quickly after that it got a little more complex. It’s slight herby, there’s a mild onion flavor, the cheese gave off a slight funk, and the chicken ingredients gave the chips a greasiness that tastes like a bratwurst. But overall, the chip leans more towards a bratwurst than a beer, and that taste lingered in my mouth long after I ate them. They have a unique flavor and my palate enjoyed them, but they don’t make me say, “Don’t you dare take these off shelves or else I will cut you!”

As much as I liked these chips, I could see how others might think they’re gross. Herbs, onion, funk, and grease don’t sound like an awesome combination to some, but I guess, much like beer, it’s an acquired taste.

Thanks to my pal Candy Hunting for sending this bag to me. If you have an Instagram account you can follow her @candyhunting.

(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, 330 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 7 3/4 oz bag
Purchased at: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Initial flavor is beer-like. It also tastes somewhat like a brat. Complex flavor. Unique flavor. Kettle Brand Cheddar Beer Potato Chips.
Cons: Some might find its flavor off-putting. I wish the flavor popped a bit more. Might be difficult to find. Zika virus.

REVIEW: Lay’s Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Barbeque season is upon us once again, and your old friend Vin is here to share a dirty little secret with you.

No one really likes your potato salad.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the side dish you made/bought is not as big a hit as your well-meaning friends are making it seem. There’s a reason it’s the last thing remaining on the table as the sun drops, just rotting there in a warm, gelatinous clump of misery as the guests head for their cars.

In terms of the salad offerings at any given BBQ, potato almost always ranks behind macaroni. If chicken salad is on the menu, forget about it! Hell, potato salad usually ranks behind regular salad. With all due respect to all the red headed stepchildren of the world, potato salad is truly the you of summer BBQ staples.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 2

Crispy chips are tastier than starchy spud cubes slathered in a gross mayo concoction and the good folks at Frito-Lay are well aware of this. That’s why they’re ready to make the summer of ‘16 potato salad-free with the introduction of their “new” flavor, Creamy Bacon Potato Salad.

Now that I think about it, potato salad was probably an easy flavor to reproduce in chip form. You’re already working with potato. Add a buzzworthy ingredient – possibly the buzziest – in “bacon,” and yup, this seems like it might actually work.

They certainly smell the part. These are the best smelling chips I’ve had in some time. Upon tearing open the bag, I was hit with the aroma of bacon bits. It’s a bit more artificial than freshly cooked bacon, but amazing nonetheless.

I guess the initial flavor is the “salad” component of the chip. There’s a sharp vinegary, mayonnaise taste, but that is immediately trounced by bacon. Beyond that quick surge, these are basically a loaded baked potato.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 3

Sure, I was put in mind of potato salad for a split second, but it doesn’t seem like they even tried to steer this away from loaded baked potato. Sour cream, onion powder, and cheddar cheese are listed in the ingredients. It’s a potato chip and bacon is the star of the show. What’s missing? That’s a loaded baked potato.

Think of them like this – If you filled three-fourths of a bowl with 3/4 loaded baked potato chips and then filled the rest with salt and vinegar, this would be the end result.

These chips are a delicious sham. Lay’s repackaged a slight variation on an old flavor and designed a shiny new bag. I’m not mad at ‘em, and when you try these, you won’t be either. I am however mad about one minor thing.

I realize sour cream and onion is one of the most popular chips in the world, but why is “Creamy” necessary here? First of all, “Creamy Bacon” is a weird combination of words that illicit some weird thoughts in my brain. Second of all, it’s a chip. It’s not creamy. Even if you’re mimicking the taste of “creamy” potato salad, we don’t need to know it’s creamy, it’s assumed. Not to mention, “creamy” is a disgusting word. It’s my “moist.” This concludes my creamy rant.

Next time you’re considering bringing potato salad to a BBQ, think better of it. Grab a bag of these and pick up some macaroni salad. Your hosts/guests will appreciate it.

Fans of any of the numerous bacon-centric flavors Lay’s has put out in the past will love these. If you like potato skins appetizers, you’ll love these. If you like summer, you’ll love these.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: One of the better new flavors in a while. Worthy replacement for gross potato salad. Smells great. Buzzworthy bacon.
Cons: Basically a retread flavor in a shiny new bag. Imagining what creamy bacon might taste like. The word “creamy” in general. Potato salad.

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.