Bliss Thru Shopping: Chips gone wild

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Bag Lady and Shopping Siren were, like everyone, intrigued by Lay’s limited-edition New England Lobster Roll potato chips.

How lobstery would they be? How buttery?  How … on earth did someone decide this should be a thing?

We were eager to try. For the column’s sake. Because we are professionals who care about bringing you the latest and greatest in shopping. Also, we were hungry.

But we couldn’t find them! According to the Frito Lay website, the two Lewiston-Auburn big box stores we hit this week should have had them. However, we prowled aisles and endcaps to no avail.

With a little internet sleuthing we did discover you could buy them off eBay for $13, “in new condition.” (We don’t want to know if anyone is selling them in used condition … ) But as one colleague pointed out, you might as well buy an actual lobster roll for $13.

Heartbroken but not to be deterred, we decided to grab other unusual chip flavors. No salt and vinegar for us, no sir, we’d go all dill pickle this and jalapeno-bacon that.

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By the way, jalapeno cheese puffs are also a thing that exists. We were too focused on chips to branch off into puffs, but don’t let that stop you from trying them and letting us know what you think. After your taste buds return.

We taste-tested eight chips from various brands, rating how closely they resembled their advertised flavors and whether we would ever actually buy them in a real world, we’re-not-expensing-these scenario.

We employed a highly unscientific rating scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “yuck, no way” and 5 being “amazing, pass the bag.” Our newsroom colleagues also munched a bit to give their opinions.

The results are in, and you can’t read just one.

Cape Cod limited batch New England Bisque

Taste compared to name: 1

Likelihood we’d buy them: 1

The bag showed a lobster tail and an enticing bowl of creamy bisque, but the chips themselves tasted of butter and disappointment.

Our colleagues were split. Some liked the subtlety. (“Tastes bisquey, thankfully not of the fishy sort, which would be vile in a chip.”) Others not so much. (“Blech.”)

The verdict: They probably won’t cause outrage and dissent if you set out a bowl at your next barbecue, but be prepared to have a lot left over.

Lay’s Dill Pickle

Taste: 5

Would buy: 3

These actually tasted like dill pickle! With ingredients that include dill pickle seasoning!

“These were my favorite — in that I felt like I could eat the whole bag with no trouble,” one colleague said.

The verdict: They tasted like salt-and-vinegar chips’ close cousin, so if you’re a fan of those, you’ll like these.

Kettle Brand Maple Bacon

Taste: 5

Would buy: 5

Smoky bacon flavor with a hint of sweetness. The only chips that both tasted as advertised and tasted good enough for us to want to buy them.

Most everyone else seemed to find these chips intriguing. Mostly. “Nice, sweet flavor, but it’s kind of strong and I wonder if it might get old after eating several. That’s not how chips are supposed to work. You’re supposed to be able to eat and eat and eat them until you’ve eaten too much.”

The verdict: Put these out while you and your buddies root for Your Team during the Big Sporting Game and they’ll be gone before the half-time stretch.

Ruffles Mozzarella ‘N Marinara

Taste:

Would buy: 3

These couldn’t have been more spot on if you’d cooked mozzarella sticks, dipped them in red sauce and then pounded them flat. This was probably helped by the fact they contained actual ingredients from their namesake, including cheese, tomato powder and parsley, which is either good or bad depending on your palate.

“Just as underwhelming as the actual thing,” said one taster.

Ruled another: “Good chip for the cheesy chip lover.” Try saying that three times fast. 

The verdict: These were not subtle. A few go a long way.

Lay’s Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Popper

Taste: 1

Would buy: 1

We tasted neither bacon nor jalapeno, but there was definitely a scent of something. One alert in-house taster likened them to the whiff you get opening a bag of Beggin’ Strips, to which we said, “YES! THAT’S WHAT THAT IS!”

That said, a few brave soles embraced them. Hey, it takes all types — that goes for chips and journalists.

The verdict: See Beggin’ Strips. Proceed with caution.

Lay’s Stax Buffalo Wings With Ranch

Taste: 1

Would buy: 1

The heavy dose of red powder on each chip screamed “HOT!” and didn’t disappoint. So to speak. It tasted HOT, and that’s it. Just HOT.

“Too much garbage,” said one colleague.

The verdict: There are some things from which your tongue can’t come back. This may be one.

Pringles Extra Hot Chili + Lime

Taste: 5

Would buy: 1

Darn if it didn’t taste exactly as advertised: Very hot, with chili and a discernible amount of lime.

The verdict: We didn’t find joy in that particular truth-in-advertising, but these chips got several high marks from our crew — “AMAZING,” “favorite” — so dig in if that hot and lime chip combo doesn’t scare you off.

Cape Cod Fresh Jalapeno

Taste: 3

Would buy: 1

These tasted very green. Like, if you walked up to and inhaled a garden, but the garden was on fire.

The verdict: Again, we didn’t embrace these but several colleagues did, and artfully so: “Think of biting into a fresh (seedless) jalapeno, and the spicy yet sweet vegetable flavor it has — but this is a chip, and you won’t have to avoid wiping your eyes or nose for fear of ever-long burning from handling the vegetable. This kick is just enough.”

And the winner is:

We’re too sweet on Kettle Brand Maple Bacon to pick any other, but maybe, just maybe, there’s room for a little more kick in our palates …

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who can’t imagine being slipped anything but plain old chips) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected]

Our motley crew: This week Bag Lady and Shopping Siren taste-tested eight brands of funky-flavored chips. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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