February 2, 2012

Uber Tuber Tournament, Episode 1: BBQ Brawl

Life Overtaking Law

The third Monday of January has been identified by some pop psychologists as being the most depressing day of the year. With that in mind, the NAF culinary panel turns its sights to an old familiar form of comfort food: the humble potato chip. In our initial faceoff, four barbeque-flavoured foes competed for the affections of our tasting panel. After a blind taste test, the scores came back as follows:

4th place: Hardbite Potato Chips Smokin’ BBQ

This local offering from Maple Ridge seeks to make a virtue of leaving things out: the product is billed as being trans fat free, cholesterol free, and vegan (although a quick review of the other entrants’ ingredient list reveals no meat-related additives, only Hardbite has thought to advertise this fact). However, despite the inclusion of “Himalayan Crystallized Salt”, this entry was unanimously held to be the blandest of the lot. While a toned-down absence of orange powder was a plus for some of our panel, most found the flavour to be flat, and without nearly enough bite to live up to the brand name. Too brittle to stack up to the crunch provided by its opponents , Hardbite falls to the bottom of the pile.

3rd place: Old Dutch Smokey BBQ

While current fashion seems to favour the simple kettle-boiled variety of potato chip, this old school competitor retains the ripple (“Rip-L”) shape of the pre-gourmet junk food era. While the ripple chip has at least one strong proponent among our judges, the majority view was that form was no substitute for flavour. Most agreed that this contestant had too much vinegar to compete as a proper barbeque chip. With a decidedly anonymous, almost all-dressed flavour, the Old Dutch could not muster a single first-place vote, and had to settle for third overall.

2nd place: Boulder Canyon Hickory Barbeque

With a distinctive, sweet taste, and pleasantly natural texture, this entrant came within a single point of winning the day. Those who picked this chip to win liked the non-greasy feel and thin, crisp texture, and appreciated the distinctive taste of hickory. If Boulder had a flaw, it was that it was not quite bold enough; however, despite the second-place finish, this simple offering received positive reviews across the board.

1st place: Kettle Brand Potato Chips Backyard Barbeque

Kettle’s brand-name cachet was the primary motivator for making this competition a blind taste test. However, its first place finish shows that the hype is at least somewhat justified. This chip was easily the most memorable of the lot – from the colour (described as “yam-like”, and evocative of the idea of barbeque) to the taste (an intense combination of sweet and smoky), there is nothing half-hearted about this chip. While the panel divided between fans of artificial flavouring and those who prefer a more natural chip, Kettle’s bold offering ultimately prevailed, thanks in large part to its thick, crunchy texture.

While the future may bring new and interesting clashes in the world of potato chips, our next food entry will see a return to the world of sidewalk dining, as we review more of downtown Vancouver’s fantastic food trucks. Stay tuned!