Super-Sized Review: Pop Chips! & Surprise Parties

Junk Food Nation, I’d like to begin today’s review with a brief shout-out belated happy birthday to my buddy Nevin who has been a source of many of the treats on this blog.  You can check out his work here.

His wife had a surprise party for him last night, which is cool.  I’ve planned a surprise party and I’ve been the subject of of two surprise parties. And usually, except for the one snafu of the target person finding out, surprise parties are well received and enjoyed by all.  Misdirection is easy to do – popular methods are to throw a party, have no one show up, and then when the birthday boy goes home to sulk, everyone is there to meet him, or even easier, have the party a day/week before the birthday girl’s actual birthday.  Simple.

One corollary though – if you’re going to throw a surprise party for someone, I think you need to put them in the best position possible when they get surprised. Case in point: during my second year of law school, sometime near my birthday, my ex-girlfriend threw a surprise party for me. I had just gotten home from school when my buddy asked if I could drive him to Union Station to pick up some friends.  I was gross, sweaty, and disheveled, but of course agreed.  We headed down to Union Station in awful traffic, and spend an eternity finding parking.  Then his friends were late. Once they finally arrived, they all wanted to go have a burger… I wanted none of this, but of course agreed to join since I was the effing driver.

After wolfing down a burger, I was semi-comatose – still disheveled from school, wearing riff raff clothes, and belly now slowly expanding due to the lump of meat and cheese in my stomach. We then drove back home to my house in the rain, ALL I wanted to do was use the bathroom and when I walked through the door – SURPRISE!  Which was great, and I was so touched all my friends were there – except I felt like a bloated Golem from Lord of the Rings, avoiding the light, with ketchup stains on my shirt, and full of grease and sodium.  Just how I wanted to present myself! Yay!

So, yeah, do your surprisee a favor – don’t set them up to fail…too much ;)

The Money Shot

Today’s junk food was provided/suggested by my friend Nevin. Pop Chips!  This healthy chip line’s website proclaims: “Love, without the handles.”  Very funny, Pop Chips – I enjoy my love handles, thanks.  They keep me warm at night.

These air/heat popped chips are not baked or fried, and have been around since last year.  I’ll be reviewing seven of their eight flavors today – Original, Salt & Pepper, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sour Cream & Onion, Jalapeno, Cheddar, and Barbeque.  The only flavor not seen here are Parmesan Garlic.

Sidenote: on their website in describing their “story,” Pop Chips indicates that “even for a self-proclaimed snack fanatic, it can be downright embarrassing to eat a bag of fried chips in public.” Umm….what?  How is this true? Are people pointing fingers at you whispering, “HOLY SHIT, HE’S GOT RUFFLES THAT FAT LOAD,” or “CAN YOU BELIEVE SHE GOT KETTLES CHIPS I NEED TO CUT HER.” Yeah, no. Doesn’t happen, Pop Chips. Sorry. You’re wrong.

Wait, how is baked undelicious???

According to the Pop chips site, they never fry their chips because that adds stuff we can do without and they never bake chips because that removes flavor.  Wait, what? Since when does baking remove flavor? Baked Lays, Baked Doritos, and Baked Cheetos are all so so tasty. Baked crackers, baked potatoes, getting baked, Kevin Bake-on – all good things.  Pop Chips – watch yourself.

OK, now that I’ve got all my snarkiness ALMOST out of my system, lemme just say I *LOVED* these chips.  Here’s the play-by-play:

Original Money Shot

Puffy

The Original Potato flavor I tried first, to give me a baseline to judge these chips by.  The individual chips were indeed puffy and air-popped – feeling the bag, you could tell they were very light. The consistency as the chips rubbed together was not unlike a pork rind, or a Chicharrón.  And the taste – to me, VERY enjoyable.  Standard potatoey taste, and good amount of salty savoriness.  It didn’t feel like a baked or a fried chip, but it had a nice snap/crisp/crunch.  Very satisfying to the snacker.

Sour Cream & Onion Money Shot

Small green flakes

The Sour Cream & Onion Chips were really good.  Often when a new snack tries to do something “different” with basic flavors like Sour Cream & Onion, they screw it up – adding too much dill, too much salt, etc.  The Sour Cream & Onion Pop Chip was spot on with its flavor – VERY creamy tasting, with a nice strong onion flavor and not too much salt.  Some of my favorite S & O chips are the popular Lays Brand, and the flavor profile on these matched almost perfectly.

Vinegar Money Shot

Non descript

At first when I tried the Sea Salt & Vinegar Pop Chips, I didn’t like them – tasted kind of bland.  So I tasted them again…and found myself really coming around, and then really enjoying them.  I’m so used to Salt & Vinegar chips tasting like the Utz variety – VERY sour and VERY salty.  Which I love. But these had a more subtle flavor, and I realized what it was – malt vinegar.  These tasted EXACTLY how potato chips/fries taste when you dumped malt vinegar all over them in the pub or at a fish & chips joint.  Slightly sour with a deeper acidity.  Very very good – spot on taste.

Jalapeno Money Shot

Speckled with spice

I love spicy snacks, so I was excited and skeptical about this one.  Jalapeno? We’ll see.  After one bite, I was pleasantly surprised. These weren’t SUPER HOT chips at all, but rather tasted exactly like jalapeno. Really good – the jalapeno flavor had almost a vegetable-like taste.  Slightly spicy, but not too much to turn off the consumer.  And they didn’t try to fake it by calling these “jalapeno” but really loading them with garlic or onion powder – nope, this was a jalapeno chip that tasted like jalapeno.  Good work.

Cheesy Money Shot

Orange sheen

By far my favorite Pop Chip of the bunch.  The Cheddar Pop chip tasted so much like cheddar cheese, it was almost startling.  I kept tasting and rubbing my tongue to the roof of my mouth, and the result was undeniable: cheddar cheese spot-on flavor.  Note, I said “cheddar cheese” flavor, NOT just general amorphous cheese flavor. No, these had the slight sharpness that I like in my cheddar cheese, and paired with the potatoey Pop chip, the result was magic.

BBQ Money Shot

Red dawn

Probably my least favorite of the bunch, but that’s no fault of Pop Chips – the barbeque flavor of these chips was standard… It was sweet, ketchupey, and slightly smokey. My beef was: so what? Maybe I just don’t love barbeque chips to begin with. The overall taste was too sweet for me, but then again, all BBQ chips taste a little too sweet to me. I’ll say this: if you LIKE BBQ chips, you’ll like these.

S & Peppa Money shot

Cracked black pepper

These final Pop Chips couldn’t have tasted more gourmet.  With one crunch, I could taste the distinct flavor of cracked black pepper.  Incredible flavor – the moment I put the chip on my tongue it registered the edgey peppery taste that only comes from freshly ground black pepper. With a good blend of salt, these Salt & Pepper Chips hit a home run.  Savory and delicious.

So there you have it – seven Pop Chip flavors from start to finish in this super sized post.  I really enjoyed all of them – if I had to rank, I’d say:

1. Cheddar

2. Sour Cream & Onion

3. Salt & Pepper

4-6. Jalapeno, Original, Salt & Vinegar

7. BBQ

Kudos, Pop Chips. You’ve created a winning product.

Sincerely, Junk Food Guy

 


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