Potato chip companies abound and what we look for in a potato chip is often clouded by what the market suggests we want. Let me start by saying regional potato chips by companies like Utz can be light and yummy, if you don’t mind your chips cooked in cottonseed oil. Of course, they have also gotten on the ‘natural’ bandwagon. And mega-corporate mass-produced potato chip manufacturers such as Lay’s have done the same.
But those are what I call emergency chips (well, I have never had to actually call them that, but consider the reference): the kind you have to buy because you need a chip and the store you are in offers no alternative to those which have liaised with it for consumer sales of their vacuous product, not to be confused with the algebraic term, but a nutritional reference. But, hey, these are chips, which rich Congress doesn’t want poor people buying with their food stamps.
With that said, let’s move onto the chip review. First off, Kettle is a very respectable brand not likely to be dabbling in artificial ingredients, so, a huge plus and reason to grab a bag off the shelf. As far as potato chips go, I would have to put them in the company of Boulder and Cape Cod brand chips for offerings that satisfy with ‘sustainability.’ I like Kettle chips and look forward to their product line expansion.
The chip under review is one that I saw on the shelf and decided to give a try for one main reason. I crave a great baked potato, and I really, really miss bacon. Is that two reasons?
Having not eaten four-legged animals for over 30 years — except by accident and the one time I thought I would bring them back into my diet but quickly reneged due to the consequent digestive disruption — I miss certain foods like a nice filet mignon or Sloppy Joe (especially from the Penn State Diner [now called Ye Olde College Diner] with total WOW factor); but I mostly miss pepperoni, pastrami, bacon, and prosciutto. Prosciutto is especially painful and punishing when in Italy and friends start wrapping the melon, since Italian hosts don’t get the ‘vegetarian’ concept at all and cannot imagine who in their right mind would turn away from melon and prosciutto.
It turns out Kettle also had this idea in mind. A visit to the website for this chip says the chip provides “an all-natural smoky flavor that’s our vegetarian answer to fans’ love of bacon.” Yay! Everything’s better with bacon on it!
That is where the bite on this chip rests, however. Despite its claim to a mouthful of flavor, the bacon aspect is most prominent. While the flavor separates itself from mesquite and even hickory, the last item in the ingredient list is the ‘natural smoke flavor’ yet it dominates this chip. Is it bacon you feel like you are eating? Well, it’s a decent attempt to replicate the real thing, but, no.
Eat enough of them and you will recognize the attempt to provide that buttery baked potato flavor along with a hint of onion or chive. And the consistency is a very nice crunch that will keep you reaching into the bag. Or is that the salt that has you back for more…?
Because these chips are definitely loaded… and salted. While their smokiness overrides all other flavors, you can tell the salt level is there. Sour cream or cheddar cheese? Perhaps. Hard to tell because of the fake (yet ‘natural’) bacon attempt that overrides all else.
The bag has a very consistent look and feel to the chips, which is nice. I don’t like burnt or highly blemished potato chips and draw the line at what russet potato chips are permitted to be. I like chips I don’t have to shine a light on when eating them in the dark. So, for consistency sake, these chips are very nice in appearance and texture evenness, as well as taste.
For me the issue lies with taste. These loaded baked potato chips are definitely worth a try, they could be a favorite for the right person. And cheers for reaching the fully loaded mark without chemicals and artificial flavors. But my chip preference is delicate, simple flavors that resonate with each other in a harmony that is light and airy. These chips are a little more hardcore, and perhaps, rightly so, since the concept of baked potato sounds hardy, even heavy.
But surely we can adorn our baked potatoes to our own personal agenda, and it is that light, creamy, buttery potato punched with the kick of a chive, sour cream, and bacon that makes it the main event for me. Salt and pepper too, but let’s not forget the potato skin. That delight is missing from these chips, perhaps they should have left the skins on them, no?
It all comes down to this. These are chips you won’t mind digging into and then putting back on the shelf. They satiate to a level that says, enough of that. And who eats more than one baked potato?
But the overarching smoky flavor really moves this into the barbecue chip zone, which is okay as there are some great barbecue chips out there. In the end, I have to ask myself would I buy these chips again? My answer to myself, and my reader, is no.
So, where’s the rub, why only three out of five stars? At times, these chips feel like their flavors are all over the place. Yet the palate is never devoid of smoke, while much of the enjoyment of a fully loaded baked potato would be the gentle breaks away from the intensity of the bacon bits. They’re bits for a reason.
Sadly, for this chip, there are chips I prefer to it that will override my chip purchases in the future. While this is an above-average chip worth the experience of a single bag, for sure, I simply don’t ever see myself reaching for the Kettle Brand Fully Loaded Baked Potato Chips again.