REVIEW: Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips

Thyme is an herb that adds flavor to the Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips and is loved by people who know how to cook and use cookbooks, which I personally know nothing about, since most of the food I consume comes from either drive-thru windows, is heated up in a microwave or is purchased from under a heating lamp at a convenience store.

Also, the combination of thyme and the Food Network makes for a decent drinking game. Go and get yourself a bottle of tequila, plop yourself in front of the television at nine in the morning and every time a Food Network personality says “thyme” you take a shot of tequila.

For some of you, drinking in the morning may seem weird, so to overcome that uncomfortableness just imagine you’re in an episode of Mad Men. By noon, you’ll be drunk enough that you’ll want to fight your television every time Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri appears on it. By two in the afternoon, you’ll think Paula Deen is frickin’ sexy and rub sticks of butter around your nipples. And by four in the afternoon, you’ll thankfully be passed out during Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals.

When I first tried the Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips, I thought they tasted earthy, like I dragged my tongue across a forest floor. While I thought they were a bit odd tasting at first, I slowly began to enjoy their herby, sweet onion flavor as I ate more of them and at times I swear the chip’s flavor reminded me of a Totino’s Pepperoni Party Pizza. But with that initial flavor, I can easily understand why someone might not enjoy these chips.

While not everyone will like the Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips, I have to give credit to Lay’s for having the brass potatoes to develop a snack that probably won’t have mass appeal. I’d expect a company like Kettle Foods to come up with a flavor like this, but not a big snack conglomerate like Lay’s. Although, if the Food Network/thyme drinking game turned into the Food Network/thyme bong hit game, the Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips may just sell out.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 115 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2% calcium, 10% vitamin C and 4% iron.)

Item: Lay’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Potato Chips
Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 10.5 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Unusual, but enjoyable herby, sweet onion flavor. At times the chips remind me of a Totino’s Pepperoni Party Pizza. Contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. Being passed out during Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals. Rubbing sticks of butter around your nipples.
Cons: Not everyone will like it. Initial taste was like I dragged my tongue across a forest floor. My diet. 4 grams of trans fat in a serving of Totino’s Pepperoni Party Pizza. Being drunk enough that you want to fight your television.

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles Potato Chips

Lay’s has recently introduced a new line of chips, marketing them as “regional flavors.” There are five different regional flavors, and one flavor that’s being introduced nationwide, which is Tangy Carolina BBQ. What’s up with that, Lay’s? Really, you’re going to pick Carolina to be your national representative? And you don’t even specify which Carolina? I would go with South, but only because Stephen Colbert is from South Carolina, and Stephen Colbert can pretty much get anybody to do anything he wants. He has his own treadmill on the International Space Station, for Christ’s sake.

Carolina conundrums aside, here are the five regional flavors:

Northeastern US: Pepper Relish – “Available in New York, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States”

Midwestern US: Garden Tomato & Basil – “Available in the Heartland, the Mid American and Midwest States”

Northwestern US: Balsamic Sweet Onion – “Available in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California”

Southwestern US: Southwest Cheese & Chiles – “Available in Texas, Southern California and the Mountain States”

Southeastern US: Cajun Herb & Spice – “Available in the Carolinas, the Southeast and Central Gulf States, and Florida”

Oh, so the Carolinas get two chip flavors, now? I smell a Carolinan plant in the Lay’s flavor lab. No, wait, I see it now – Stephen Colbert heard about Lay’s regional flavors and placed a quick phone call. Boom! Two Carolina flavors. Somebody needs to keep that man in check.

I have to say, though, all six flavors sound downright delicious. Potentially. I think we’re all aware of how easily chip flavors can go horribly wrong. I’m just thankful they kept the flavors pretty reasonable, instead of flying off the handle with flavors like hamburger, or hot dog. Or pizza. Or, God help us, Garbage Plate.

Unfortunately, I’ll never get to experience most of these flavors. While I find this marketing strategy cute, it does have the negative side effect of limiting Frito-Lay’s markets, and vaguely pissing me off in the process. Also, you could twist the “regional favorites” idea into “stereotypes about what certain people around the country like to eat.” Gulf States, you’re nothing but a Cajun-style blackened catfish to Lay’s.

And I, hailing from the unfortunate state of Arizona, arguably a Mountain State, am nothing but cheese and chiles. I think that loosely translates into “Mexican.” Where’s the Arizona shout out? Texas and SoCal, but not Arizona? I’m offended. C’mon, Lay’s; face it, when you think “southwest”, you think deserts, cacti, and Kokopelli. If that’s not Arizona, or at least, other people’s perception of it, then what is?

But hey, I’ll be honest – Arizona has a large Mexican population, and therefore, a lot of Mexican restaurants, which means lots of cheese, and lots of chiles. I am perfectly okay with this, since Mexican is my favorite kind of food, and you don’t have to look far to find an authentic Mexican food experience, aka the taquería. I can sit smugly in my small, dingy, non-air-conditioned local Mexican joint, confident that most of the rest of the country are chowing down on Chalupas, imagining that they are eating Mexican food. You are not. You fail.

The back of the bag features a recipe for…Southwest Cheese & Chiles Dip. That’s so meta. I’m not sure if this implies that you should dip your Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles into your Southwest Cheese and Chiles Dip, but I have to say, that recipe actually sounds delicious. I might actually make it someday soon. Wait, the bag only contains the ingredients, not the recipe itself. I’m assuming the recipe is “mix everything together,” but now my confidence is shaken, because it says I have to go to to see how to do it. So I did that. And I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. I couldn’t even find a recipe section. I did a website search for it, and again came up empty-handed. “Did you mean sw cheese & chives dip?” NO. NO I DID NOT. If any of you readers out there can actually find the recipe, feel free to post the URL in the comments section. For now, I’m stumped.

So I guess I’ll never get to know if I’m a tool for taking cooking advice from the back of a bag of chips. I suppose that’s for the best. But hey, we’re not here for the dip, we’re here for the chips! Will they embody everything the southwest region stands for, which, apparently, is cheese and chiles?

I have to say, I actually made that semi-surprised “Mmmm!” sound out loud when I popped the first chip in my mouth. Which is even weirder than it sounds when you realize that I’m alone in my apartment with my two cats. Actually, I guess that’s better than someone hearing it, because really, who does that? Me, I guess.

What I’m trying to say here is that, while it’s kind of hard to go wrong with spicy cheese chips, these are some of the better ones I’ve had. The cheese is the exact same flavor as can be found in Lay’s Cheddar and Sour Cream. I’d fall over from shock if you told me that powder didn’t come from the same vat. Or whatever they keep their flavor powders in.

The chiles part of this equation is much milder than I expected it to be. Honestly, there’s almost no heat at all, which you might find disappointing, but then you hit one that gives you a little burst of unmistakeable chile flavor. It’s not just “generic spicy,” it’s chile. I’m going to say poblanos, even though they aren’t listed as an ingredient. The chips are perfectly in line with the mild heat of that pepper, too. Somehow, they made that poblano flavor happen, and, while subtle, it’s delicious.

I have to hand it to Lay’s – all stereotyping aside, I think they did a fine job of capturing the taste of the southwest. Of course, I can only speak for my home state, but they sure nailed the flavor of Arizona. Sure, cheese flavor, anyone can do that. It’s cheese. But when that chile flavor hits, I feel like I’m standing in the parking lot of my local Mexican grocery store, where they have a big 55-gallon-drum grill set up near the entrance, roasting big batches of poblano peppers. Now I sound like I’m writing a commercial for Lay’s. Damn you, Lay’s Southwest Cheese and Chiles!

As a side note, for those of you concerned with things like “health” and “not ingesting so many preservatives that your body embalms itself,” it might interest you to know that all the regional Lay’s are made with “all natural potatoes and seasonings.” Your days of yearning for a chip that isn’t made with Styrofoam potatoes is over. Raise your hands to the gods in thanks.

I may never get a chance to taste all the other regional flavors, but I give Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles a thumbs up both for flavor and accomplishing their marketing goal, which was to capture the flavor of a distinct and unique region of the United States. For those of you living in the other 40.5 states, you can get creative and try to find this flavor on eBay or something, or you could try out your own regional flavor and see how it stacks up. Hopefully, you’ll be as satisfied as I am.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package — 290 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 8 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 8 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 800 milligrams of potassium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, 4 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 20 % vitamin C and 6% iron.)

Item: Lay’s Southwest Cheese & Chiles Potato Chips

Price: 99 cents

Size: 1 7/8 ounces

Purchased at: Circle K

Rating: 8 out of 10

Pros: Captures the flavors of the region. The smell of roasting poblano peppers. All-natural ingredients. Tastes like chiles, not just “spicy.” Taquerías. Yummy cheddar flavor, even if it was stolen from another Lay’s product.

Cons: May disappoint some in the spicy heat department. The Carolinas get two flavors. Only available in 9.5 states. Mysteriously absent dip recipes. Stephen Colbert eventually ruling the world.

Lay’s Pinch of Salt Potato Chips

Like alcohol in the hands of really bored housewives, potato chips can be addictive. If I had a dollar for every time I opened a big bag of potato chips and got to the point when I said “Holy shit! I can’t believe I ate half the bag,” I’d have enough money to get the quinapril hydrochloride pills to help lower my high blood pressure for all the salt I consumed or I would have enough cash to buy more potato chips so that I can create a vicious circle of tasty, crunchy fried potatoes and high systolic and diastolic numbers.

Recently, Frito-Lay, the company that seems to promise I’ll get laid via frying, but has yet to fulfill that promise, introduced the Lay’s Pinch of Salt Potato Chips, which now allows me to have those “Holy shit” moments with less salt while watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 episodes.

The Lay’s Pinch of Salt Potato Chips have 75 milligrams of sodium per one ounce serving, while the Lay’s Classic potato chips have 180 milligrams of sodium per one ounce serving, which for those of you who have molluscophobia or just want to be a douchebag to other living creatures is probably enough salt to kill a snail. Strangely, while doing some research, I also found out that Lay’s has a Lightly Salted version of their potato chips which have 90 milligrams of sodium per serving. So I guess Lay’s is now giving you the option of which level you want your blood pressure to be at.

The low sodium chips look, smell and taste like Lay’s Classic potato chips, except obviously less salty. They also seemed less greasy, which is a bonus because my television remote control won’t be so slick when I try to grab it and change channels during commercials. Before trying these chips, I thought that the lack of salt would make them extremely bland, like most low sodium products, but thankfully, that was not the case. I do have to admit that I prefer the taste of the Lay’s Pinch of Salt Potato Chips over the original version because my taste buds and my high blood pressure think the chips have the right amount of salt on them.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 340 milligrams of potassium, 15 grams of carbs, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 10% vitamin C, 2% iron, and 0 minutes of getting laid via frying)

Item: Lay’s Pinch of Salt Potato Chips
Price: $3.29 (6.5 ounces)
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like regular Lay’s, except not as salty. Not bland tasting. Seems to be not as greasy as Lay’s Classic chips. Jon & Kate Plus 8.
Cons: Seems to be in a smaller bag. Killing snails with salt. Holy shit moments. My high blood pressure. Molluscophobia. Not getting Frito Layed.

Natural Lay’s Sea Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

Lay's Sea Salted Potato Chips

After opening a bag of Natural Lay’s Sea Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips and smelling them, I felt eating them on my living room’s couch, while watching ESPN SportsCenter, in my stretched-out, four-year old Late Show with David Letterman t-shirt and surf shorts was not the right atmosphere to consume this bag of chips.

So I closed the bag, sealed it with a Chip Clip, and headed out the door.

About 20 minutes later, I found myself sitting in the middle of a crowded beach, surrounded by imported sand, beautiful women in bikinis, children laughing, and many failed attempts at sand castles. I breathed deeply and let the salty air, mixed with various scents of sunscreens and tanning lotions, fill my lungs.

“Aaah, this is a much more appropriate place to enjoy these chips,” I said to myself, as a bronzed blond in a string bikini passed by. “Even the sand in my crack feels right.”

I removed the Chip Clip and reopened the bag of Natural Lay’s Sea Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips and began chowing them down.

These chips were very different from your normal Lay’s potato chips. First off, they were noticeably thicker and crunchier. They were so crunchy that they actually drowned out part of the argument some couple next to me were having about how his eyes were wandering around the beach looking at all the other women.

However, I REALLY wished the crunchiness could have somehow drowned out the accidental sight of seeing a hairy, overweight guy wearing a blue Speedo coming out of the water, with either pubic hairs or the legs of dead spiders sticking out from behind his Speedo.

Ugh! I think that image will forever be etched onto my brain, but at least I found out the hard way that the water was cold.

The chips were pretty good and were a nice golden brown, but they weren’t as good or as golden brown as the cute Asian girl who was tanning to the left of me in a skimpy yellow floral bikini.

I would’ve gone and talked to her, but my paleness would’ve made us look like a set of salt and pepper shakers, and her buff, golden brown boyfriend next to her would’ve kicked my ass.

Besides being thick, crunchy, and golden brown, another thing that made these chips good was the sea salt, which gave the chips a nice salty taste that you could actually see on each chip.

Finally, the last thing I liked about these chips was the fact that there were no preservatives, no added colors, and nothing artificial. I wish I could’ve said the same for a trio of college girls that were walking up and down the beach, because their six slightly bouncing boobs looked totally fake.

Well at least the image of six fake boobs wrote over the image of the overweight guy in a Speedo.

Item: Natural Lay’s Sea Salted Kettle Cooked Potato Chips
Purchase Price: $3.99
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Pretty good. Thick. Crunch. Nothing artificial, like fake boobs.
Cons: Kind of pricey for the size. Overweight guys in Speedos. Sand in my crack.

Lay’s Dill Pickle Stax

Dill Pickle Stax

How many of you have wondered what would happen if you licked Yoda?

No one?

Okay. Okay. How many of you have wondered what would happen if you licked Yoda, in either a drunken or high state while watching Attack of the Clones, because that’s the only way you could tolerate the bad acting?

After this wonderful nugget of a question popped into my head, an avalanche of questions began rolling in my mind.

Would I get the same psychedelic feeling that people get from licking a toad?

Would I gain Jedi powers?

Would warts form on my tongue?

Would Yoda get turned on, light up his “other lightsaber,” and say “Long time, me love you?”

Also, what does Yoda taste like?

Well thanks to Lay’s Dill Pickle Stax potato crisps, I now know the answer to one of those questions. Apparently, Yoda tastes like dill pickles. However, this surprised me because I thought he would either taste like the swamp water of Dagobah or Bengay.

What also surprised me was the fact that the Lay’s Dill Pickle Stax potato crisps are actually good, if you like dill pickles.

It doesn’t have a very strong taste like eating an actual dill pickle, but I think it would make a great replacement in your sandwich. Just crush a few of them and sprinkle a layer on your sandwich. Mmm…Yahtzee!

Poor Yoda. From his look on the Lay’s Dill Pickle Stax container, I can tell he doesn’t look too happy that his dill pickle secret is out.

Unfortunately, as all celebrities find out, having no privacy and having your secrets being told is the price for fame. Look at Natalie Portman. There are topless photos of her all over the internet, real and fake.

Although, as O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake found out, a small benefit of being a celebrity is being able to get away with murder.

I’m surprised Yoda didn’t sense this invasion of privacy coming. Oh wait, that’s right. Fame is a part of the Dark Side. “Hard to see the future is. Cloudy is the dark side.”

Well I’m not ashamed of my unibrow, so Yoda shouldn’t be ashamed that he tastes like dill pickles, because it could’ve been worse. He could’ve tasted like cigarettes, alcohol, heroin, and bitch, like Courtney Love does.

Item: Lay’s Dill Pickle Stax
Purchase Price: $1.50 (on sale)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Pros: Surprisingly good. Yoda doesn’t taste like the swamp water of Dagobah or Bengay.
Cons: Limited edition. Thoughts of Yoda’s “other lightsaber.” The price of fame.