Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dew Us A Flavor?


Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the Monarch Butterflies to Pacific Grove, it seems Frito-Lay has decided to have another rendition of their Do Us A Flavor contest, where consumers come up with their favorite flavor concoctions. Some are old standbys (Chili Cheese or Spicy Taco), while others stretch the definition of a potato chip to new boundaries (Mountain Dew*).

Now that it’s been weeded down to four finalists, it’s up to us to have our say, and vote on which one will make it into the permanent lineup.

Alas, my Sizzling Shawarma hasn’t made it to the finals yet, no matter how many times I submit it. Still, I’ve been only so happy to cast my vote each year, after copious amounts of sampling.

This may be a marketing gimmick. But, it surely is a good one.

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This year I tried them plain, as well as with some plain sour cream for dipping, just to see whether the flavors would stand up to a sauce.

Maybe it just happened by accident. But, I’m a little surprised that three of the four finalists chosen were in homage to meat-based dishes. Even if no animals were harmed in the making of these chips, it’s the general thought that’s going to put off most vegetarian consumers.

So here are my thoughts on this year’s four offerings.

KETTLE COOKED GREEKTOWN GYRO – I’ve been a fan of this Greek delicacy since the first time I tasted it during my college days at the University of Montana.

Succulent meat slowly roasted on a revolving spit, sliced thinly, and laid on lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and slathered with a creamy yogurt sauce made with dried dill, mint, black pepper and other spices.

With the first taste of the chip, my first thought was cucumber. Sort of like a Tzatziki sauce, if you’ve ever had that (and if not, get some at TJ’s when you go shopping for that Truffle Cheese!!).

Dipping these in sour cream actually had the exact opposite effect of the others; muting the Tzatziki flavors, which are so important to a Gyro.

This was this year’s kettle-cooked option, which means it’s a thicker chip. While I generally prefer kettle-cooked, it wasn’t nearly as important as it was to last year’s winner, Wasabi-Ginger.

NEW YORK REUBEN – Unmistakable aroma of rye bread could be detected when opening the bag. Flavor-wise, rye is also the first thing detected. But, that’s quickly followed by a tang of the sauerkraut, Russian dressing and then a cheesy goodness.

It takes some time. But, there’s even a peppery corned beef lingering in the aftertaste.

Dipping in sour cream made the spice flavors more pronounced. Still not a load of meat. But, perhaps that was the hope.

This one definitely has all the flavor components of a good Reuben Sandwich, and reminds me it’s been way too long since visiting Saul’s Deli.

SOUTHERN BISCUITS AND GRAVY – Another offering with a southern heritage. I have to be honest, I haven’t had real biscuits and gravy very many times. There’s just something so heavy about it.

But, saying that, these weren’t too bad. The flavor is most definitely heavy on the gravy part of the spectrum, with flour and pepper coming out in the end. The meat part that’s usually supplied by whatever has been fried is delicate at best (sausage?).

Adding sour cream in the mix was pretty much a wash. While it didn’t detract from the flavors, it didn’t really enhance either.

WAVY WEST COAST TRUFFLE FRIES – To me, this was the lightest of the four flavors.

Since these are supposed to be potato fries they’ve already got a leg up on the competition, which are trying to mimic some non-potato offering. Then you add to that the delicate flavor of truffles, that ridiculously expensive fungi originating in the Alpine regions of Europe, and there you have it.

If you’re not familiar with what a truffle tastes like (and not the chocolate candy which borrowed the name), you should seek out a cheese example, such as Trader Joe’s Italian Truffle Cheese. I think most people will be pleasantly surprised at the flavor.

I actually expected the flavors to get lost when it came to the sour cream. But, like the New York Reuben flavor, the cream actually enhances it; really bringing out the truffle goodness.  

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This was probably the toughest choice since they started the campaign two years ago. I think one of the reasons for that is they dialed back the flavor strength.

Last year, there was no question when you tasted the ginger or the Cappucino, and the prior year they left no doubt that there was garlic on that Cheesy Garlic Bread.  While all four flavors were unique, and could be detected, it took a moment to pick them out.

My choice for the final flavor is New York Reuben! The spices aren’t overpowering. But, they’re strong enough to be recognized, and are unique.

People in the USA have until October 18th to vote for your favorite flavor at

And for those north of the border, there’s a Canadian version, which offers four – Butter Chicken, Montreal Smoked Meats, P.E.I. Scalloped Potatoes and Wavy Cowboy BBQ Beans! The Canadian deadline is September 30th.

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*By the way, despite Lay’s passing on the Mountain Dew-flavored submission, someone somewhere thought the flavor combo might be a good idea. Pepsico is testing Dewitos; a soda with the flavor of Doritos chips, and the unmistakable neon orange color!