Well, I’m back from Ecuador. I’ve been to Quito, (the capital city high in the Andes), the Amazon rain forest, and horseback riding in a volcanic crater. Though the holiday started exceedingly well, Karey and I both wound up with a terrible, weight-blitzing, barf-geyser-making bout of food poisoning…or stomach flu…who can say when you can’t fluently speak the language that the doctor who’s come to your hotel room is speaking to you in. (Yes, I know…bad American…I did try…we learned a bit of Spanish…just not much…and certainly not pharmaceutical Spanish.) Anyway, I’m back after a hellish 18 hour plane journey and I’m eager to share with you some of the great great things I learned about on my travels (NOT the insides of toilet bowls or what regurgitated plantains look like…I promise). But first, in honor of my slowly returning appetite, I’m revisiting Tyrrell’s potato chips–a topic I covered very recently.
Why am I doing this? I already dedicated a few hundred words to how much I love their new butter and mint ‘chips nouveau’ flavor. Well…don’t get jealous potato chip lovers…but they’ve sent me a couple of their new flavors to try. That’s right! They found my glowing review and wanted to know what I thought of some of their new products. Little old me!!! Sent samples by a PR company! To eat!!! Imagine that…
Anyway, when I first started this blog, I had a mixture of low and high ambitions. On the low-end of the scale, I’d at least hoped that I’d become a more disciplined writer (updating the blog daily at first…then realizing weekly was more likely and more achievable and took less time away from reading comic books and playing video games). I also hoped I’d get a few readers (thanks to Mom and my hilarious regular commenter Andrew Caveman). And, most ambitiously, I’d hoped that I’d eventually be recruited by someone somewhere somehow to write silly things for big money. This last one hasn’t happened yet. I can’t understand why not…This is the stuff of Oprah book clubs!!! I’m the Jonathan Franzen of useless minutiae! Or, at least the John Grisham of useless minutiae. OK…maybe the Jim Davis…but without the ability to draw such good pictures of fat orange cats. But, I did get one step closer to that goal when I blogged about Tyrrell’s. Because, although they’re not paying me in actual currency, they have treated to me to some free bags of two new varieties so that I can weigh in and obviously…hopefully…say nice things about them.
Now, dear reader, I want to make a promise to you. I will never say something is great in this blog if it isn’t. It’s not I Love Things That Are Good…nor I Love Things That Are Reasonably Tasty nor I Love Things That Are Great: Pysch, It’s Opposite Day! I’m here to talk about crap that I like! That’s a promise. And, since this is sort of an out-of-character kind of review instead of a genuinely inspired ‘gee what do I love today?’ sort of post, I’m not numbering today’s entry either as technically, I’ve already covered my love affair with Tyrrell’s. If I don’t like either of these new flavors, trust that I will say so…if I only like one, I’ll say so…and if I eat both in their entirety within minutes like an animal who hasn’t had a good chip since succumbing to horrible horrible food poisoning in Ecuador, I will also cop to that.
The new flavors are part of Tyrrell’s ‘Best of British’ campaign: Tyrrell’s The campaign encourages consumers to put forth their own suggestion for favourite ‘British’ taste sensations. Don’t spew out your Snapple-brand iced-tea, incredulous Americans! I’ve learned that the UK is more than stewed veggies and jellied eels…there’s actually some fab cuisine over here. You haven’t had strawberries, for instance, until you’ve had wild Scottish strawberries. You could even win prizes whilst helping to invent more delicious potato chips for us all. Walker’s brand ran a similar campaign a year or two ago but released the rather disgusting ‘Cajun squirrel’ flavor along with ‘Builder’s Breakfast’ (which tasted like egg…ew…). Luckily, the typical Tyrrell’s consumer is a bit more savvy when it comes to what to put into one’s mouth. The two that are currently available are “Salt Marsh Lamb and Mint” and “Stilton and Grape”. I’ll taste and say a bit about each.
First up, Salt Marsh Lamb and Mint. You may find yourself asking, as I was, what is salt marsh lamb? Well, it’s not a cloven-hooved swamp monster (dang!), but they are simply lambs that graze on the salty marshes near the British coast lines. (The grazing will obviously have an effect on their flavor. This type of lamb is also popular in France). Admission: I’m not a huge consumer of lamb. I’ve probably had it, as a meat, a dozen times in my whole aged life. However, I know that when it’s done right, it’s gamey, tender, and quite good. Of the chip, I’d say that the first note to hit your tongue is plain old fried potato…then you meet a wave of the seasoning herbs and mint…then finally, after you’ve swallowed the chip, you’re left with the satisfaction of the cooked lamb taste. It’s good. It really is. It’s crunchy, salty, and slightly meaty. Would I choose it as my favorite? No…Tyrrell’s has too many good varieties out there for this to scoop top billing. But, like so many Tyrrell’s flavors, it is Wonka-esque in giving you what it says on the packet. For living up to its label? 10/10, For my personal taste? 6.5/10. ***Veggies take note…you can’t have this…there’s lamb fat in the making…
The other thing about the Salt Marsh Lamb flavour, is that though it might be an exemplary example of a lamb flavoured crisp…it’s hardly the only one out there. Other makers have their own version of the lamb and mint pairing. So, whilst it gets best of breed…it can’t match the yummy novelty of the other brand-spanking new Tyrrell’s flavour: Stilton and Grape. This combo worried me a bit when I read it on the packet. Nothing wrong with the taste combination of Stilton and grape, mind you…I’m in my thirties…my palate is mature enough to love a good cheeseboard…but I just feared that a ‘chip’ was not the best platform for the duo. Sweet and savory can be great together…but you need a good middleman if you’re going to introduce them to each other. Pancake is the perfect middleman for syrup and bacon, for instance. I fretted that the stodgy saltiness of the chip would curdle with the grape flavor. Worst case scenario? This would taste like a cheese crisp that somebody spilled a juice box on…taking this from a grown-up party, to a child’s roller-skating party…maybe with a scary clown.
I needn’t have feared. Tyrrell’s got the balance right. The sweetness of the grape is present but subtle…the dominating flavor is that of the delicious, blue-molded Stilton. Mmmm…beautiful, lip-smacking, blue-mold. Gorgeous…definitely the winner of the two new bags not only for me but for the rest of my office (who I heroically shared the chips with). I don’t know if the Stilton and grape variety could ever TOTALLY replace a cheddar-laced chip when it comes to the cheese/chip family, but it certainly makes an interesting and satisfying occasional substitute. I would pick them up again…especially to serve at fancy parties and to impress visiting royalty. This one get’s a 9/10 for taste accuracy (one point off because I could’ve stood for even MORE of the cheese flavor) and an 8.5/10 for personal taste enjoyment. Top tier.
Purportedly, one of the suggestions for an additional “Best of British” flavor is that of baked beans and cheese. Bring it on, Tyrrell’s. I think my discerning palate can handle another bag. Anybody else got good ideas for creations? Send them to me….and then I’ll send them on and hopefully win a prize…and…um…share half with you.