Last time, I reviewed Lay’s Canada’s four “Do Us a Flavour” potato chip finalists, a competition seemingly spun out of a similar event held by Lay’s in the United States. Thanks to Mr. Chris Hoffman (who I still owe a set of our chips to), I have now tried the original article and can compare them with what was released in Canada.
Let’s start with the most famous (or infamous?) of the three.
Lay’s Chicken & Waffles: Christina Abu-Judom, a volunteer coordinator at a Phoenix, Ariz. non-profit. Her flavor inspiration: Her nephew – who encouraged Christina to enter the contest – and who’s favorite dish has always been chicken & waffles. He’ll still never let her live down that one time when she stole a bite of waffle from his plate.
“Chicken and waffles?”
That’s what people often ask when they hear the name of this flavor; some out of amazement that this could ever be a type of potato chip, others because they never knew those two delicacies could ever be paired in tandem in the first place. Or, in reporting of McDonald’s getting in on the action, The Consumerist’s surprise that chicken would ever be eaten at breakfast.
I guess it really is more of a southern thing, though I did receive a great recommendation for a place in Harlem when I went with my wife and a couple of friends to New York for the Wii U launch. I guess it’s more niche/counterculture, then? I don’t know. In any case, it seems that the combination was off-putting enough to keep it from claiming the grand prize.
As for the chips themselves, they’re not bad. A bit sweeter than what you would expect from such fare, and certainly more than the Canadian Maple Moose variety, but not too sweet.
I’ve read that what binds chicken and waffles as a combination is that the waffles and the breading used on chicken share many of the same ingredients, hence making it a cost-effective meal for those in need of such solutions. However, what provides the “chicken” flavor here is apparently something which instead binds chicken and sausage together, which is the savory culinary herb sage.
According to Kotaku, that’s what brings the “chicken” flavor to the chips, though they attest to the chips tasting closer to sausage with maple syrup. I’m not sure whether I can taste the flavor of either meat, to be honest, but there is a little something extra there that helps it stand out a bit.
Overall, they’re not bad. Not my first choice for a chip flavor, however, as I tend to favor salty over sweet, even though this is a decent mix of the two. Fortunately, in my opinion, the flavors only get better from here.
Lay’s Sriracha: Tyler Raineri, a student at Illinois State University. His flavor inspiration: Forgoing typical dips, Tyler prefers to coat his chips, and pretty much everything else, in Sriracha. It was a taste he inherited from his grandmother whose homemade chips were always seasoned with a dab of this red-hot sauce. And it’s a tradition he now shares with his housemates at school.
I should probably note that I’ve never before tasted Sriracha sauce, which is also known as “Rooster Sauce” and alternately “Cock Sauce.” Not to my knowledge, at least, though I can’t speak for someone using it as a secret ingredient in something I’ve eaten. As a result, I can’t really say how this compares to dipping a chip into it, or just how it would normally taste, period.
That said, I rather like these. They remind me a lot of the Buffalo Wing-flavored Ruffles, but with a little more of a tangy taste, and a slight sweetness as well. It’s an interesting mixture, to say the least, and I think I actually prefer them to the aforementioned Ruffles, despite those being a favorite flavor of mine.
On the other hand, it should be noted that these chips are hot, or at least hotter than most offerings from Frito-Lay, shy of their Flamin’ Hot varieties (or what I remember of them). The heat sticks with you for a bit, too, so be warned before trying these. Of course, if you’re the type who likes to see at what point food can burn a hole through your stomach lining through sheer spiciness alone, these probably have nothing on you– they just stand out from their Lay’s contemporaries, that’s all.
Finally, we have…
Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread: Karen Weber-Mendham, a part-time children’s librarian and mom of three in Land O’Lakes, Wis. Her flavor inspiration: Going out for pizza is a treat for Karen and her family; while waiting for the pizza to come to the table, Karen always orders a bowl of cheesy garlic bread for the family to enjoy. Cutting the bread into equal sized pieces so her children don’t quibble, Karen can barely put down the bowl before it’s completely snatched up.
These were the winner of the competition, and though only one was supposed to be kept on as a permanent flavor, the other two were brought back. Only Cheesy Garlic Bread’s creator got the money, though, so the others will just have to be content with their contributions. Or maybe they get a lifetime supply of Lay’s; there are worse prizes than that, I guess, but I don’t know.
Truth be told, these remind me quite a bit of the Creamy Garlic Caesar chips from the Canadian side, and probably for good reason, considering. But where I was a little iffy about that flavor, I feel like these really get it right. It’s almost as though the Creamy Garlic Caesar might have gone one step too far in its ingredients, one step that Cheesy Garlic Bread chose not to take, and is all the better for it.
You can taste the garlic, of course, but more interesting is the cheese. As you might expect, this isn’t your Doritos-style nacho cheese, or your Cheetos-style cheddar. I’m guessing they were going for more of a mozzarella, but I actually had a difficult time discerning it. Not that many chips tend to use it as a flavoring, so there’s little frame of reference; the only one that comes to mind are the T.G.I.Friday’s snack based on mozzarella cheese sticks, but I seem to remember those being a little more recognizable.
On the other hand, it’s been so long since I’ve seen or tasted those (are they still being made?), I could be mistaken.
Personally, I think whatever is on here works. My wife, on the other hand, feels completely the opposite. She says they’re “overwhelming with fake cheese.” I suppose they may be nothing if not divisive.
In the end, I think I prefer the U.S. flavors to their Canadian contemporaries. The best of the latter just weren’t unique enough for my liking, while those that were didn’t quite appeal to me as much as I had hoped. The best of those were the Perogy Platter, but in truth, they’re close enough to the Fully Loaded baked potato-styled Ruffles that I wouldn’t miss them too much.
Each of these three seem a bit more varied and unique, not only from each other, but also from other flavors in the Frito-Lay family. Sriracha is arguably the weakest link here, tasting close to Buffalo Wings, but the added heat, tang, and sweetness help set it apart. The Creamy Garlic Caesar tastes like a relative of Sour Cream and Onion, but the Cheesy Garlic Bread– which I can see why it won, by the way– doesn’t fall into that same trap.
And of course, the two most talked-about are Chicken and Waffles and Maple Moose, which have little in common aside from the taste of maple syrup, which I think is stronger in the Chicken and Waffles. I don’t think either live up to the notoriety they’ve achieved, but of the two, I think I prefer the Waffles.
In the end, I think Cheesy Garlic Bread is the deserving winner, and that makes the U.S. the winner as well. As much as I do like the Perogy Platter (which remains my wife’s favorite of the entire lot), I think it’s just too similar to a flavor we already had here. It’s just too bad that this will probably be the last I taste of any of these three for a long while.