So, apparently Lay’s is doing their Do Us a Flavor contest every year now, which is perfectly fine by me, minus the fact that I have to keep typing “Do Us a Flavor” which makes me want to murder the entire Frito-Lay marketing division. But as long as the weird flavors keep coming, I’ll keep buying them!
Are you curious about these four new 2015 finalists, but don’t want to spend $10+ and take up an entire shelf of your cupboard? Well, that’s why I’m here to break them down for you in one giant post. And poke a little fun at the people behind the flavors in the process, because that’s just how I roll.
New York Reuben
I gotta hand it to Lay’s, the photos of the actual food on the bags look goddamn delicious; so much so that I wanted to showcase each of them more closely. They almost look too delicious, in that, after staring at the bag, I wanted to eat the actual food and not just a chip pretending to be the food.
There was a method to the madness that was tasting all these flavors, but I can’t remember what it was. I ate so many potato chips. Regardless, I started with New York Reuben, an iconic sandwich served in delis. And if you live in New York, one particular deli. (Hint: it’s the one where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm.)
Let’s look at the man behind the flavor first:
Meet Jeff Solensky of DuBois, PA. Before you start ranting about how Jeff isn’t even from New York, please note that he grew up in Long Island. He buries this lead by starting off telling you he works in a restaurant. I feel like Jeff is being real defensive, here. “Hey, I work in a restaurant and I’m from New York, so I know what corned beef should taste like, motherfuckers.”
I shouldn’t put words in Jeff’s mouth, though. He looks like a very nice man.
A traditional reuben sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread. Knowing this, I was expecting a tangy chip with cheese and maybe a faint, unsettling beef flavor.
I got none of that. Well, that’s not entirely true. What I did get was an overabundance of rye. Rye! Out of all the core aspects of a reuben, it wasn’t the bread that I was expecting to dominate the flavor of the chip.
If I closed my eyes and imagined real hard, there was a teensy bit of twang that could resemble Russian dressing, or maybe an off-base version of kraut. But in the end, it’s all rye all the time. You know those addictive Gardetto’s Roasted Garlic Rye Chips? It was like eating a flimsy version of those, except with no garlic flavor at all. So I guess the best thing I can say about Lay’s New York Reuben is that they sure did nail rye bread, and that makes for just as boring of a chip as you’d imagine. You could say this flavor went a-rye.
Southern Biscuits and Gravy
From the Northeast we now travel to the South! In case you didn’t quite catch on, this year’s DUaF has a regional flair to it. I had mixed feelings before opening this one – on the one hand, I sure do love a good plate of biscuits and gravy. On the other hand – sausage chips.
This flavor comes to us via Hailey Green of Noblesville, IN. Again, you might be wondering what the hell somebody from Indiana is doing talking about southern cooking, but, like Jeff, she has a good reason: her grandparents are from Tennessee, and her Nonnie makes some kickass biscuits and gravy. You know this shit is serious because she calls her grandma “Nonnie”.
Wait, I just looked it up and apparently “Nonnie” is Italian for “grandmother”. I thought it was some sort of Southern term of endearment. What the hell, Hailey?
After the disappointment of New York Reuben, I had cautious optimism about Southern Biscuits and Gravy. As I mentioned, I really like this food, so I hoped it would go well and not horribly wrong.
Upon opening the bag, my nostrils were filled with the smell of promise. These chips smelled exactly like country gravy. My mouth started watering.
And I gotta say, the taste did not disappoint. If it seems gross to describe the flavor of a potato chip as creamy, keep in mind that sour cream and onion is one of the most popular potato chip flavors out there.
Which is interesting, because while Southern Biscuits and Gravy totally tasted like country gravy while I was chewing, there was a little sour cream and onion taste afterward.
Admittedly, there wasn’t much of a biscuit flavor happening, but the creamy gravy flavor was definitely there, complete with a nice black pepper kick (you can see little black flecks on the chips). There’s even a hint of sausage, but not disturbingly so.
Lay’s often uses dark magic to make their chips taste like other foods, and this is one of those times. The little sour cream and onion at the end was not off-putting, nor was the hint of sausage. These chips nailed the Southern Biscuits and Gravy flavor without hitting that Uncanny Valley flavor that can sometimes happen with weird-flavored chips. I will definitely be finishing these.
Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries
First off, I had no idea that truffle fries were a thing before I saw these Lay’s chips, and I grew up on the west coast. Not that that makes me an expert on all things culinary from that region, but I feel like I should at least know that these things exist. I guess I’m just not highfalutin enough.
Luckily, Angie Fu of Irvine, CA knows all about them. Angie has a compulsion disorder to immediately order truffle fries any time she sees them on a menu, so it makes sense that she would submit this idea to Lay’s. “Please enable my crippling addiction to truffle fries by making them available in my pantry at all times,” she pleads, desperately wringing her hands.
In case you are in the dark as I was, truffle fries are french fries tossed with truffle oil and often topped with parmesan cheese, black pepper and parsley. Ingredients may vary, but this seems to be the most popular application.
And, in case you don’t know what truffle oil tastes like, which I also have never experienced, it apparently has a very earthy taste and aroma, akin to mushrooms. Which, believe it or not, I have tasted. So at least there’s that.
The first whiff was promising: cheesy, a little musky, and overall mouth-watering. Every year, Lay’s seems to follow the formula of two regular chips, one Wavy and one Kettle Cooked, and they chose Wavy for West Coast Truffle Fries, which I believe was a good choice, because truffle fries tend to be steak-cut and the thicker texture of Wavy Lay’s sort of emulates that.
And that first smell was spot-on. The parmesan flavor was the most prominent, making for a great flavor that wasn’t just generically “cheesy” but actually tasted of parmesan.
As I chewed, the truffle came in. With a strong aromatic like that, it could easily overwhelm all the other flavors, but it came in subtle, adding that trademark earthiness of truffles. I could even taste (and see) the little flecks of parsley playing backup.
And the ingredients list reads just as exotic as the chips’ namesake: romano and parmesan cheeses, duck fat, and actual black truffle. If these chips taste authentic, that’s because they used authentic ingredients, which is probably why I enjoyed the hell out of this flavor.
I hope you’ve stocked your pantry, Angie.
Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro
Next, we head to…Greektown, wherever that is.
Oh, according to James Wagner of Wichita Falls, TX, it’s in Wichita Falls, TX. Or, more accurately, “there’s a great little Greek place in town”, which makes it qualify for Greektown.
You know, there’s more than one place near where I live that offer some pretty awesome gyros. Does that mean I also live in Greektown? Have you ever had a good gyro, and if so, does that mean you also live in Greektown? Perhaps with this flavor, Lay’s is sending us a message: “We’re all Greektown, America! We don’t need to fight over regional foods!”
Which kind of goes against the previous three flavors, but hey.
Just because We Are All Greektown doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve tried a gyro from your local Mediterranean joint, so I will help you out. A gyro is a magical thing, consisting of spiced lamb meat cooked on a giant vertical spit, onions, tzatziki sauce, onions and tomatoes. (And sometimes lettuce.) It’s all wrapped in a warm pita, and dammit just talking about it makes me want one right now.
Remember how I talked about the Uncanny Valley of junk food with Southern Biscuits and Gravy? Well, Lay’s used their dark magic again, and managed to make Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro taste exactly like everything I just described above. This time, however, they went too far, and they fell straight into the Valley.
When I first opened the bag, my nose was confused. Nothing really stood out, it was just a murky mess of odor that smelled like nothing I could accurately describe. This left me suspicious.
It also left me unprepared for what was to come when I put the first chip in my mouth. Kettle Cooked Lay’s seem to be the best at gripping flavor dust, and each Greektown Gyro chip was loaded with it. Unlike the murky smell, the flavor was very distinct.
First came the tzatziki sauce, that bright flavor of Greek yogurt, cucumber and dill. And then, tomatoes. As I delved further into the bag, onion joined the party, and last but certainly not least, the distinct flavor of gyro meat.
It was all there. A gyro in a chip. An amazing accomplishment, but unfortunately, also an unsettling one. I could only eat a few chips at a time before I had to put them away, my mouth confused, pleased, disturbed. Then I’d go back to them and get the same feeling.
So if you’ve been seriously hankering for all the wonderful elements of a gyro packed into one tiny chip, Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro is your thing. Just be ready for a serious flavor shock to your mouth.
Phew! Lotta words, right guys? But we got through all four of this year’s Do Us a Flavor finalists. What did we learn? First off, I will say that I’m thankful there were no fruit- or coffee-flavored entries this year. I also learned that New York Reuben skipped pretty much everything that makes a reuben a reuben and went straight to the rye bread, for some reason.
I learned that the junk food Uncanny Valley is a fine line, and Southern Biscuits and Gravy skirted that line to delicious success, while Kettle Cooked Greektown Gryo crossed that line, tasting too much like a gyro for my mouth to handle.
And finally, Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries taught me that I might actually want to try truffle fries in the future. This was easily the most snackable flavor out of the four, and used authentic ingredients to achieve that. I can see Truffle Fries winning this thing, and I’d gladly pick up another bag if it does (or before that, since I’m currently running on crumbs).
Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalists 2015
- Score (New York Reuben): 1 out of 5 wry rye jokes
- Score (Southern Biscuits and Gravy): 4 out of 5 Southern Nonnies
- Score (Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries): 4.5 out of 5 truffle compulsion disorders
- Score (Kettle Cooked Greektown Gyro): 3 out of 5 Uncanny Valley chips
- Price: $2.48 (each)
- Size: 8 oz. bag (each)
- Purchased at: walmart.com
- Nutritional Quirk: While most of the ingredients lists said things like [name of flavor] seasoning, Wavy West Coast Truffle Fries included duck fat and black truffle. So fancy!