Gyro. Biscuits and Gravy. Reuben Sandwich. Truffle Fries. The creator of one of these four potato chip flavors will be the million dollar winner of Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest. Judging from the past two years, it will not be the one I pick.
As a certified (probably) snackologist, the week that Frito-Lay reveals the finalists of its annual competition is quickly becoming one of the highlights of my year. Despite none of my completely sensible entries making the final cut (Disco Fries, Shrimp and Grits, Lemon Rat Scampi), the yearly parade of strange new bags filled with promising young tastes fills me with hope that this year will be the year my pick makes wins it all.
This did not happen in 2013, when my beloved Chicken and Waffles lost to the bland and boring Cheesy Garlic Bread. Nor did it happen in 2014, when my admittedly underdog selection—Cappucino—fell to a particularly weak Wasabi Ginger.
I’m overdue for a win, and this time I think I’ve got it... in the bag. Shit, I forgot to put on sunglasses. Just imagine I put on sunglasses after the dots.
For those of you averse to watching a video of me slowly transforming into George RR Martin or looking for supplemental information, we’ll run down the flavors one-by-one.
A complete cop-out in more ways than one. First off, this is potatoes with things attempting to masquerade as potatoes and things. That’s cheating. Take the same spices one would use on truffle fries, which are sliced potatoes, and place them on chips, which are also sliced potatoes. I’m calling foul.
It doesn’t help that the flavor was submitted by California’s Angie Fu, a product development and production manager. Okay, so it’s at a cosmetics company and not a potato chip company—nine out of ten test rabbits prefer the latter.
The chips are pretty damn tasty, truth be told, but how could they not be? And even if I weren’t being petty, the inside of the bag smells like fish flakes. It really does.
If Indiana travel agent Hailey Green really loved Southern food as much as she attests, she wouldn’t be an Indiana travel agent. As a transplanted Southerner myself, I can’t help but agree with her selection—biscuits and gravy are the best.
Mind you they are the best when they are fluffy white biscuits and warm white gravy with little bits of sausage in it. Flat chips using sage and sour cream to simulate the effect is not quite the same thing.
I’ve offered these chips to several of my Southern friends, and the conclusion has always been the same. Gravy is supposed to make things warm and moist. These chips are neither.
Now I love a good gyro as much as aircraft maintenance worker James Wager from Wichita Falls, but there’s something definitely getting lost in translation from meat-and-veggie stuffed pita to potato chip.
It’s not so much the lack of creamy, cucumber-y taste as I mention in the video—the yogurt flavor started coming out in subsequent samplings. It’s the overwhelming seasoning clinging to every nook and cranny of these kettle cooked slivers. It’s too strong; too concentrated.
If they sold packets of gyro-flavored Ramen at the grocery store, these chips would taste like the flavor packet.
Only one of this year’s finalists hit every note and met every expectation. Opening the bag of New York Reuben chips I was immediately hit by the scent of rye and tang of Thousand Island dressing. Simulated sauerkraut, a hint of cheese and the salt of corned beef—it’s all there.
The only issue I (and my wife) have with the Reuben chips is that they should have been kettle cooked instead of regular Lay’s. The lighter chip loses the flavor before it reaches its highest heights—a sturdier chip with a greedier shape would have served it well. Besides, restaurant manager Jeff Solensky of DuBois, Pennsylvania says he was inspired by the delis of Long Island, where he grew up. Who is eating weak chips at a deli?
Generally whichever one I enjoyed the least. Probably the Gyro. But in my heart the grand prize trophy is filled with sauerkraut and dripping with Thousand Island (or Russian) dressing.
All four flavors should be hitting store shelves soon. Voting runs July 27 through October 18 at DoUsAFlavor.com, giving America several months to gang up and make me sad.
Snacktaku is Kotaku’s take on the wild and wonderful world of eating things, but not eating meals. Eating meals is for those with too much time on their hands.