Monday, August 6, 2007

Tater chips worth waiting for

Greatest apologies, for not posting in so long. As has been my excuse for months now, the pending adoption of our little CJ takes priority over my foodie tendencies.

But occasionally, I find myself in the wonderful world of longing for that hallow leg. The same was true in my last post, where I wish I could chow down on fish and chips more regularly.

Such was the case a couple of weekends ago where I attended a game night with a few friends. This is where former high school nerds gather for lots of junk food and spend hours playing their favorite nerdy computer or board game. This time, we loaded up the more complex than you realize and ever addictive Scorched Earth.

At this point in time, I must point out that not only did we play a 2-D dos based shareware game from the very early 90's, but the owner of this copy of the software was in fact licensed to use it. In fact, he paid his 10 bucks back in the day, and pulled out a complete owners manual to prove it. Yah. I'm not kidding.

Nor am I kidding about the fact that we conducted a semi-scientific potato chip taste test. You see, potato chips are one of my favorite food, but in these parts, we have so many choices that I'm not sure I've ever decided with 100% certainty which brand and style is my favorite. I'll come right out and tell you that before this event, I would have told you that Dieffenbach's rule the day with a nice thick crunchy texture, good tater flavor, and a hint of lard aftertaste.

In discussion with some of these friends about potato chips, some expressed an even stronger preference for lard cooked chips, and some told me they prefer other cooking oils. That got me really thinking about how fortunate we are to live in an area with such a variety. I mean, there's no excuse for not finding a favorite potato chip. So, inspired partly by a chowhound tour I read a few months back, I set out to help my fellow game-players to discover their favorites, and to see if we would all agree on any particular trends.

The results were surprising.

The 5 of us tried a total of 13 different brands/varieties. Although, most of you might be shocked to learn there are 13 brands available, let me tell you that I skipped a few brands just for the sake of keeping a budget on this event. Below is a picture of the chips included.

Before you say - "hey, you've got 2 Herr's and 2 Good's, what's the deal?" First of all, Blue and Red Goods are NOT the same, so there. Plus, Herr's just recently started their kettle cooked line, so we had to include that. The key brands I was hoping to include but ended up leaving out are Wise, Tom's, Zerbe's, Zapp's. We ended up with a pseudo-scientific scoring system, where each taster chose and ranked their top 3 with scores of 5-3-1 respectively. We also chose a chip we really hated, deducting 3 points for any chip in this category. That balanced out somewhat if one of highly rated a chip that someone else absolutely hated.

I'll chronicle the bullet points for you:

  • There were 2 clear losers, both receiving -6 points, being the most hated chip by at least 2 of us. These were Bickle's, and Martin's. The fact that Bickle's are lousy surprised no one. It's just about the only chip I won't eat if I see an open bag at a pot luck of cook-out. Martin's is a real shame because I believe they must have been better once upon a top. We all agreed they had a nasty after-taste, and missed the crunchy boat by being more chewy than anything else.
  • The famous Good's Red vs Blue debate never formulated. Neither chip received any voted one way or another.
  • Dieffenbach's did not make my top 3, and only made a top 3 for one of our tasters. Interesting.
  • The most unique chip made 2nd place - Kettle brand light lightly salted - which were a dark very potato-ie tasting chip. None of us could remember ever having it before. I wonder if it was just a fling, or if the love will have staying power?
  • Lay's were noted as a the favorite chip for one of our tasters, and the least favorite for another. These 2 gentleman have been friends for a very long time. I hope this does not create problems in their relationship because they are both above such pettiness.
  • We ate a heck of a lot of chips that night. Just tasting them all did not make us tired of the chips. We all went back after learning our likes and dislikes to see if they met our expectations. Then, we proceeded to gorge on gobs of our favorites between slices of pizza and wings.
  • 3 of the top 4 chips are cooked in "one or more of the following" - cottonseed and sunflower oil. The next 2 are cooked in lard. This proves that lard is good, but not best.
  • I accidentally grabbed the light version of Cape Cod chips, so I'll have to make amends at our next game night so we can properly taste those.
I guess you're wondering which one won? I won't keep you in suspense much longer, except to say this it was a clear-cut (pun intended) victory, with 2nd and 3rd place fairly close between Kettle brand and Kings.

Our winner was chosen as the number 1 chip by 3 of the 5 tasters, and the number 3 ranked chip by another. Even the 5th taster agreed it was pretty good. Winner of the nerdy game players club tater chip tasting event is:

Herr's Kettle Cooked!!!!!

What will happen when I finally buy the right version of Cape Cods? Will lard return to the scene with an attack from Zerbe's? Considering the decent performance of Gibbles, can a thinner, less crispy chip be a dark-horse in a future challenge? Is it possible for an tater chip not made in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to win such a event (Zapp's are you listening?)?

Future events will include our champion pitted against a challenger chip. First up, the real Cape Cod chips! Are they up to the challenge?

1 comment:

Kate said...

If you can find Rachels potato chips, or Krunchers, those are awesome kinds. Both kettle cooked and super crunchy. Rachels always gets my vote.