Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kettle Chips Fire and Spice Tasting

For the 4th year, Kettle Chips has taken a unique path to developing and marketing new flavors. They have developed 5 new flavors, but only one will go into widescale production and be available in markets. Tasting kits can be purchased on their website, and voting also takes place online.

This year's potato chip throwdown was titled Fire and Spice, with all the flavors focusing on some sort of hot pepper or other spicy ingredient. From mild to spicy (at least, according to the tasting guide), they are Wicked Hot Sauce, Mango Chili, Jalapeno Salsa Fresca, Orange Ginger Wasabi, and Death Valley Chipotle.

Wicked Hot Sauce - A fairly mild heat, but with lots of vinegary kick. Just tasting a couple chips doesn't do much, but I'm sure this is the kind of heat that would sneak up on you after eating much of the bag.

Mango Chili - Sweet and sassy. The heat is not overwhelming, but the sugar sure is. Kettle Chips has a bad habit of adding too much sugar to their sweeter flavors (Spicy Thai, anyone?), and this chip suffers from it. If the sugar and spice were more balanced out, this would be a nice snack. As it is, the mango flavor doesn't get to come out; it just tastes like sweet.

Jalapeno Salsa Fresca - So awesome. This is the most well-balanced blend of spices in the bunch. The jalapeno does not overwhelm the fresh salsa taste, but you can tell there's some heat there. It kind of reminds me of the salsa-flavored Doritos I used to buy. It's like potato chips and salsa (come on, I'm not the only one who does that), but without the mess of dripping tomatoes everywhere.

Orange Ginger Wasabi - These taste just like the little peas available at asian markets, only they're easier on the teeth (I'm always sure I'm going to break a tooth on one of those peas...). I honestly didn't taste much ginger or orange, which is why this chip doesn't rate higher for me - if it's advertised, I want to taste it. The wasabi is very strong, so it's definitely not something you could eat a whole bag of.

Death Valley Chipotle - Man, you can smell the chipotle as soon as you open the bag. These bright red chips pack a smoky punch. The only thing stronger than the smoke is the heat. They're like a really spicy barbeque chip. I definitely couldn't eat more than a couple (hey, a new way to diet!).

So overall, my pick for winner was the Jalapeno Salsa Fresca. I could eat those until the cows come home. The Wicked Hot Sauce (for all it's name is worth) was the weakest of the bunch, and I didn't think it was really in league with the other flavors. For the rest, they would be good to snack on only a few, but I wouldn't be able to eat a whole bunch of them.

Tasting packs are still available through the Kettle Chips website, and this seems to be something they do every year now (as evidenced by a hilarious tasting of ethnic flavors at my family's Christmas party last year). Has anyone else given these a try? What are your thoughts?


Graeme said...

Excellent review.

I'd read about these on Slashfood, and was curious about the Ginger Orange Wasabi ones.

Thanks for that.

Andrea said...

Thanks for letting us know about the tasting--I love Kettle Chips! I'm more for traditional flavors, though I do like the Cheddar Beer.

Anonymous said...

The order came in last night and I started off with the Mango Chili - must say, I loved it. I thought the sugar balanced nicely with the spicy and made for a super yummy chip. Almost finished the entire bag! Didn't get to the other flavors yet, but will update soon! - Denice

Anonymous said...

Alrighty - here's my evaluation (with the help of roommates and friends)

1. Mango Chili
2. Wicked Hot Sauce
3. Chipotle
4. Jalapeno
5. Wasabi

Everyone loved the Mango Chili - as well as the vinegar kick of the Wicked Hot Sauce. The Chipotle gets number three because it lives up to its name and has more flavor than the final two.

The Jalopeno just ended up being sort of blah for us. Maybe it's because we were tasting it after the other ones, so it felt like it lacked kick - but it just felt like a regular chip. I would have liked more salsa taste.

And the Wasabi - I agree, not much orange or ginger. There was high hopes for this one so it was the first opened. I have the say that at least three people spit it out - it did not taste good at all. I found it to taste a bit like moldy chips. I love wasabi peas - but this was just old tasting. More ginger would have balanced it out I think.

Thanks for turning me on to these - I hope the first two become chips - I liked them mucho! -Denice

H. C. said...

Nice write-up (I just blogged about my tasting with them) Mango Chili was my fave, actually ~ and I found the Orange Ginger Wasabi super-yucky (didn't even finish the bag).

I'm holding off until after the contest is over so that I can mix-and-match my faves!