The “Lay’s Do Us A Flavor” contest generates a lot of excitement for
foodies weirdos me. It affords fans an opportunity to submit chip flavors like “Bacon-Wrapped Bacon!” and then allows them to harass Lay’s social media with complaints that their flavor should have been chosen as a finalist instead of Cappuccino. The entire process is highly interactive. When finalists are selected by Lay’s and the chips are created, the contest plays out a lot like American Idol did. Fans vote for their favorite flavor, a winner is declared, and then nobody buys their albums because we only liked the winners relative to the losers. But voting is what makes America the greatest country on Earth, so let’s go to the ballot and pick the next Ruben Studard.
Before we introduce this year’s finalists, let’s briefly review the Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” Hall of Fame:
Previous Winners: Wasabi Ginger, Cheesy Garlic Bread
Honorable Mention: Cheddar Bacon Mac n’ Cheese (Lost the contest; became a flavor anyway)
Previous Losers: Mango Salsa, Cappuccino, Sriracha, Chicken & Waffles
Dishonorable Mention: Each and every one of us for not getting our flavors selected
And now for the 2015 Contest. Shall we?
KETTLE COOKED GREEKTOWN GYRO
(Submitted by James Wagner; Wichita Falls, TX)
Jame’s Inspiration: “There’s a great little Greek place in town that makes the most amazing gyros. The uniquely cooked and flavored meat, covered in tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce, and feta cheese in a fresh pita…mmm!“
Terrible story, James. All you did was identify what a gyro is and a place that sells them. But I’m not here to review your story, James (It’s awful). Let’s talk about your chip. I was heavily concerned that this flavor would suffer from an off-putting, lamb-ish mystery meat flavor that dominates the rest of the ingredients. When I tasted it, I did pick up on the gyro meat flavor immediately. What happened next was pretty impressive, really. The flavors break down and I was able to pick apart each one: the savory onion/tomato/garlic spice blend, the refreshing cucumber/dill and creamy node from the tzatziki… it’s all there. With the many varied textures in a gyro, the Kettle-cooked style works pretty well here. Gyros are complex, and I’m really impressed with how well Lay’s nailed this flavor. That said, I’ve certainly had more pleasant aftertastes than the lingering lamb-ish mystery meat.
Inspirational Story Rating: 0 out of 10
Lamb-ish Mystery Meat Rating: 6 out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 out of 10
WEST COAST TRUFFLE FRIES
(Submitted by Angie Fu; Irvine, CA)
Angie’s Inspiration: “Every time I see Truffle Fries on the menu, it is the first thing that I order… the aromatic flavor of truffle is mouth-watering.”
That’s a lot of Truffle Fries, Angie. Disclaimer: Truffle fries don’t excite me. I know they are SO HOT right now, but I just don’t see the big deal. They are simply pretentious french fries in my view, but who doesn’t love a good french fry? Since french fries are already potatoes, I didn’t expect these potato chips to blow my mind. They’re a difficult chip to review. My initial thought was “Sour Cream n’ Onion.” Then I got some cheese flavor on the back end. Fancy cheese. The ingredient list contains Cheddar Cheese, Romano Cheese, and Parmesan Cheese This works quite well, but does not excite me. Whereas truffle fries are pretentious french fries, these chips are pretentious Sour Cream n’ Onion potato chips. The spice blend is fine – salt, parsley, garlic. Appropriate choices. Black truffle is an ingredient here, but you wouldn’t know it because nobody really knows what truffles taste like. These are good chips – especially with the Wavy style I prefer. There are just too many similar options available on shelves now.
Inspirational Story Rating: 5 out of 10
Pretentious Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 out of 10
NEW YORK REUBEN
(Submitted by Jeff Solensky; DuBois, PA)
Jeff’s Inspiration: “I work in a restaurant where Reuben sandwiches are a big seller. It reminds me of my upbringing on Long Island, where Delis are very prominent.”
Nobody cares where you work, Jeff. But New York delis are where it’s at, and great job invoking a sense of childhood memories. Like the Gyro chips, I was curious how Lay’s was going to combine so many different flavors into a single chip. Sandwiches are tough flavors to recreate in chip form. Usually, one or two flavors just completely dominate the others (i.e. “Cheeseburger” snacks that just taste like ketchup). With these Reuben chips, that is not the case at all! It’s kind of hilarious, really. A traditional Reuben sandwich consists of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye bread. You won’t find any of these on the ingredient list for these chips. They are all just mashed into “Rueben Seasoning.” Lay’s hit a home run with this seasoning. The most prominent flavor is the Rye bread, which is an important lead flavor for this sandwich. I taste the Swiss. I taste the kraut. I taste just enough salty corned beef and a hint of Russian dressing. I taste all of it. It’s a very bold flavor that might turn some people off, but this is just outstanding execution.
Inspirational Story Rating: 6 out of 10
Pickle on the Packaging Rating: 9 out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 out of 10
SOUTHERN BISCUITS AND GRAVY
(Submitted by Hailey Green; Noblesville, IN)
Hailey’s Inspiration: “My Grandma (Nonnie) and Grandpa are from Tennessee, and Nonnie is a walking cookbook full of southern staples. My absolute favorite dish that she makes is her homemade biscuits and gravy!”
Nonnie sounds lovely, Hailey. Cheap pop for Grandma and Grandpa… nice touch. This was another flavor that worried me. The gravy would really have to shine, because carby-biscuits would be hard to distinguish from carby-potatoes. I love a good biscuit gravy, but no two gravies are the same. The photo on the package shows the gravy is loaded with sausage and black pepper. Would I be able to notice? The answer is a resounding YES. The breakfast sausage flavor is apparent with savory spices and a touch of maple. The black pepper taste makes the gravy profile feel complete. It may be a mental trick or it may be the buttermilk in the ingredient list, but these do taste more “biscuity” than I thought they would. What I liked most about these is that the flavors are balanced, subtle, and complementary to the standard potato chip. This was the one chip I could continue to eat without it becoming too much (Reuben, Gyro) or too boring (Truffle Fries). Hailey, you’ve got my big fat vote.
Inspirational Story Rating: 9 out of 10 (Walking Cookbook)
Low-Carb Rating: 2 out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 out of 10
Lay’s really deserves some props here. I wasn’t thrilled with the finalists when they were announced. I didn’t think any of them were “weird” enough to be fun, and I thought some were going to be too complex to execute well. Lay’s proved me dead wrong. The 2015 Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” finalists are without a doubt the strongest field to date.