When I choose a food-related topic for a blog post, I often use it as an opportunity to harp on about comfort foods that I miss from The States–pizza, Cheetos, Stove Top Stuffing…you know, all that healthful stuff. Well, I’ll make this a rare post today and give it up to something that The UK does very well. Crisps. (Or potato chips to us Yanks). Not only is the standard of quality high over here, but Great Britain has a staggering assortment of flavors. Or flavours.
They range from the bog-standard salt and vinegar to the exciting roast chicken dinner flavor to the American-influenced Texas barbecue to disgusting (yet popular) prawn cocktail. The varieties are almost endless and the gourmet-brands of crisps offer even more unusual and interesting flavor combos. The whole fervor for crisps over here almost mirrors the mania that Japan has for Kit Kats. (In case you didn’t know, Japan goes nuts for Kit Kats). One of my co-workers had a brother living in Japan and he’d send her care-packages full of the weirdest ones. Some were hugely successful and others were spit-out-in-the-garbage terrible. Green tea and Kit Kats, for instance, don’t mix well–but I didn’t know that until the coupling had poisoned my mouth. Here’s a blog dedicated to the madness: wikipedia
Anyway, as I was saying, the flavors of potato chips get even more gastronomically impressive when you look at the smaller and more gourmet oriented crisp companies. Just today when purchasing a sandwich at lunch I was tempted by a bag of spare rib flavor. I resisted. (Well, I didn’t have enough change on me.)
Did you know that potato crisps were actually invented by an American? And a real American at that, a native American, not some boring-ass white person! More on that contained here:
Tyrrell’s is one of my favorite gourmet brands–especially because they really really really taste like the flavor that is written on the bag…like in a scary Willy Wonka sort of way. If it says ‘thyme’ on the bag…you better expect to taste some thyme. Their sixteen varieties include: Chicken with Tarragon and Ludlow Sausage with Wholegrain Mustard alongside more standard bags like Sea Salt. They also have dynamite seasonal flavors like Beef with Horseradish and Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing. Yum. By the way, lots of these meaty types are actually veggie friendly. It’s all about the seasoning. Today’s great thing is a varietal that I believe is one of the top three crisps I have ever eaten in my life and sadly have not been able to locate again. I’m hoping it comes back next summer:
148. Tyrrell’s Chips Nouveau Potato Crisps (Chips if I’m Keeping it Real).
The ‘new potato’ season is a bit of a foodie occasion over here. I don’t know if it’s that big in The States. Anyone clue me in? I don’t think we celebrate our potato varietals with quite the same enthusiasm. They sure know one potato from another over here. Anyway, the ultimate way to eat new potatoes is with butter and a bit of mint. And that’s precisely what these crisps taste like. Deliciously buttery but with a bit of the pick-me-up freshness of the mint. They truly are a thing of beauty. The taste was absolutely astonishing.
The thing is, I’ve only had them once and the bag wasn’t even mine. I was performing in Keighley (Yorkshire-way) at Chris Brooker’s fantastic comedy room. Chris is not only the booker, promoter, and MC for the night but he also happened to be my lift home. So, after the gig, Chris stuck around for one innocent pint and a packet of crisps. Mostly, it was an opportunity for him to unwind in the room that he built. I was glad to enjoy a beer and a bag of chips myself. After all, they stocked Tyrrell’s. I selected the Ludlow Sausage and Wholegrain Mustard varietal. I scoffed the whole thing before I was even three sips into my lager. Chris, on the other hand, had purchased the Chips Nouveau. He offered me a sampling. Whoah. Big mistake, on his part. I’m pretty sure I wound up eating 3/4 of the bag. I was in love.
Now, of course, I can’t find them anywhere…and it’s not like I’m around the corner from Keighley…if memory serves right, that was an hour and a half in the car. So, I can’t just mosey over to that pub again–although not a day passes where I don’t consider it. I’ve convinced myself that they must be seasonal and am eagerly awaiting their return. But, if anyone sees any stockpiled anywhere, let me know. I’ll even lower my grocery standards to shopping at Asda if I must (Wal-Mart owns Asda and I ususally try to avoid it…in my typically self-righteous way). It’s worth bending my principles for this snack of all snacks, however.
Though this blog post is specifically about the Chips Nouveau flavor, there are many more reasons to love Tyrell’s: Tyrrells
1. They stood up to the biggest grocery chain in Britain. You have to love a company that sticks it to the man:
2. They donate to such charitable causes as community gardens, programs which teach children about agriculture, and the fight against breast cancer.
3. They make vodka with the potatoes that not suitable for chips (the misshapen ones, in other words). This pleases me because I’m a vodka purist and as such, I like potato vodka. So many brands are made from either rye or other grains nowadays…I like Polish brand Chopin, but I’m eager to give Tyrrell’s a try…even if it seems a bit odd purchasing a British-made bottle of the typically Eastern European spirit.
4. And finally…and somewhat unbelievably, they side with the Americans when it comes to branding! They call them chips too! Makes me feel right at home when I’m eating them. Here, lifted straight from their website, is their explanation as to why they call them chips instead of crisps.
“Why Potato Chips? How are they
different to Crisps?
Potato chips are thick slices of potato that are cooked without removing the starch. This greatly improves the taste of the potato, and reduces the fat content of the chip. The result is a tasty chip full of goodness and flavour. In contrast, crisps are thin slices of potato that have had all the starch, goodness and flavour removed by washing and processing. As a result, when they are cooked they absorb much more oil than chips.”
Now, if they pronounce it as ‘aluminum’ instead of ‘aluminium’…well, I’m in love. Getting fat on snack foods has never felt quite this rewarding.