The Odd Chips Of Scotland And England

Since Roger Goodell just cannot help himself when it comes to his dreams of NFL-izing the United Kingdom and has announced the addition of a third London game each season, I thought it might be a good time to revisit a topic from a few years ago; what sort of chips would you eat as an NFL fan in the UK?

(We’re going to say chips in this post and not “crisps” since I’m writing this piece, well, as an American. Not going to spend the whole morning writing out “American football” or “football football” or “soccer” or “English football” either.)

Last time I held this little exercise we tried chips from all over Europe, with the eventual winner being a the Swiss Snacketti Bacon Strips and the Czech Chalupářský Špíz (kabob) chips coming in second. Since this time our travels took us to Scotland via London, our selection represents just Scotland and England. There are a couple of repeats of flavors from the last experiment, but different brands just to see if they would fare any better this time around, which is to ask the question: are roast chicken chips just not designed for American tastes?

The Game: 

Since it’s not football season and it’s difficult to get friends to come over and watch “The Road To Super Bowl XL” DVDs — even with the promise of weird chips, the role of the Jacksonville Jaguars was played by the NBA Finals, Game 5.

The Chips: 

McCoy’s Sizzling King Prawn, Walkers Worcester Sauce, Golden Wonder Roast Chicken, Golden Wonder Smoky Bacon, Brannigan’s Roast Beef & Mustard, Co-Operative Sea Salt and Chardonnay Wine Vinegar, Walkers Picked Onion, Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli, Golden Wonder Sausage & Tomato, Walkers Cheese & Onion, Burts Guinness, McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak, Walkers Sensations Oriental Crackers Peking Spare Rib, McCoy’s Thai Sweet Chicken, Co-Operative Streaky Crispies, Smith’s Frazzles Crispy Bacon, Piper’s Crisp Co. Chorizo, Mackie’s Haggis & Cracked Black Pepper

The Judges:

Myself; Jeremy Smith, aka Mr. Beaks, writer, reviewer, AICN raconteur, Cleveland Browns detainee; Amy Nicholson, playwright, freelance writer and reviewer; Bryan, Football Foodie Beta Tester #1, spouse, football fan and lover of crispy things.

Chip Testing Stations

The method:

Each chip tasted individually and then discussed as a group. Palate cleansers of plain American dips, celery sticks, baby carrots, spicy green chili dip and beer taken as needed since some of the chips were strongly flavored. Beers used in tasting were Deschutes Brewery River Ale, Victory Swing Saison, Caldera IPA and from Scotland, Argyll’s Fyne Ale Avalanche.

Chips are not listed in the order in which they were tasted. Notes posted here reflect both what was completed on tasting forms and discussion in the room.

McCoy’s Sizzling King Prawn

Jeremy – Bland with a prawn aftertaste, and not a good prawn. Vinegar.
Amy – Can’t taste much besides sweet vinegar. Vague airy shrimp puff, but barely.
Bryan – Odd, prawn comes in at the end like I was eating mediocre Chinese food and then someone shoved a prawn in my mouth. Needs salt, and why a wavy chip?
Me – Why isn’t this briny? Shouldn’t it be sweet with a touch of brine?

Walkers Worcester Sauce (Repeat from previous tasting for baseline)

Jeremy – Basic. A little bite, I’d stuff my face with these chips.
Amy – I’m not sure when I would want to eat these.
Bryan – Good chip, sweet, not too vinegary. Nice aroma.
Me – Amy, you’d want eat them with a horrible made Manhattan flavored with worcester sauce. (Ed. note: True story!) I’m not a fan of worcester on its own, so these are a pass for me.

Golden Wonder Roast Chicken (Repeat flavor from previous tasting, different brand)

*Dread fills the room. Both Bryan and Jeremy whimper remembering the last time we tried a roasted chicken.*

Jeremy – The My Lai Massacare of potato chips. A war crime against my taste buds. Kill it with fire.
Amy – Smells like tuna, tastes like chicken ramen. Good onion there.
Bryan – Like licking the carcass of a roast chicken. Crisp chip, terrible smell.
Me – Well, they taste better than they smell.
Bryan – By a small margin.
Amy – I don’t know why you guys don’t like these. *Eats more.*

Golden Wonder Smoky Bacon

Jeremy – These are not agreeing with me. Inconsistant taste from chip to chip. Sometimes good, sometimes bland.
Amy – Way smoky and fake. Actually, less fake than Smith’s Frazzies Crispy Bacon. Tastes like burned bacon.
Bryan – Nice bacon taste, not overwhelming, kinda smoky. Good chip, crisp.
Me – Liquid smoke so I’m in. Not too salty, which is nice. I’d buy many bags of these.

Brannigan’s Roast Beef & Mustard

Jeremy – As advertised. Flavorful and just the right side of disgusting. A chip shouldn’t taste like this but I admire the effort.
Amy – Nails it. But is that a good thing? Tastes heavy, sandwich-y, feels like something I’d order at a restaurant. *Amy goes on to describe how she’d crunch them up and make a sandwich out them or put them on a sandwich.*
Bryan – What?! Lots of mustard, where’s the beef?
Me – The restaurant thing is close, Amy. It’s like someone made the chip out of the essence of a dank Irish bar or the old Tom Bergins.

Co-Operative Sea Salt and Chardonnay Wine Vinegar

Jeremy – Chardonnay wine vinegar you say? Fancy. *Holds out pinky to eat chip.* Good, functional S & V chip.
Amy – Vinegar chips for beginners.
Bryan – Mellow vinegar taste for a small, hard as a rock chip.
Me – I like these, because the vinegar is much lighter than usual. Wish they weren’t so hard though, they’re like a hard candy-chip.

Walkers Picked Onion

Jeremy – Tastes like pure fucking vinegar. Might have ruined my palate.
Amy – INTENSE. Is to picked onion what flaming is to Cheetos.
Bryan – Last thing I’ll taste in my life. Packs a wallop. Nice chip though, thin and crispy.
Me – Not so different than a dill pickle chip, just less salty.

Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli

Jeremy – Spicy, addictive. Would empty a bag without thinking.
Amy – Herbal, floral, nice.
Bryan – Kind of spicy, kind of sweet. Good chip quality.
Me – So spicy, but at least it doesn’t have the fake chicken taste. Needs a dip.

Golden Wonder Sausage & Tomato

Jeremy – Lots of tomato, real faint taste of sausage.
Amy – That’s the grey Brit sausage I hate.
Bryan – Unnerving taste. Lots of tomato up front. Very inconsistent chip; dog did not like. Feel like this is the type of chip that would leave you with very bad breath and you’d have to leave the bar when a woman came up to talk to you.
Me – You got a lot of women coming up to you in bars and talking to you? Lots of tomato and rosemary. If they had not mentioned the sausage, I’d be okay with it. It should be noted that the bag says “Suitable For Vegetarians” on the back.

Walkers Cheese & Onion

Jeremy – O, Cheese, where art thou? Serviceable. Light.
Amy – Taste more onion than cheese. I like the subtle – it’s not sour cream and onioned to death.
Bryan – Mild, yet pleasing. Not too cheesy, not too onion. Nice thin chip.
Me – Admittedly, I ate a couple of small bags of these late at night after drinking a few times in Scotland and am biased, but these are much better than sour cream and onion chips. Perfect for a beer and a game.

Burts Guinness

Jeremy – Puzzling.
Amy- Malt and cotton candy, flat Dr. Pepper.
Bryan – Like a chip got drunk and threw up in my mouth. Horrific chip appearance. If that is what my insides look like after drinking Guinness, I need to stop drinking Guinness.
Me – Tastes like the spent malt after brewing. No thanks. I’ll find a home brewer to hangout with if I want this taste around.

McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak

Jeremy – No idea what I am tasting. Not sure what this has to do with grilling or steak. Puzzling.
Amy – Pecans!
Bryan – Odd, odd taste. Meaty? Nutty? Pecans? Why a wavy chip again? This is the piece of steak that fell through the grill.
Me – Very salt and very smoky which a touch of meat. I love these chips.

Walkers Sensations Oriental Crackers Peking Spare Rib

Jeremy – Like cereal. I’d eat a bowl of it with milk. I never knew spare ribs could be a cereal, but I tip my hat.
Amy – Super anise tasting, kind of like a cookie.
Bryan – Really, really strong tasting. Good chip quality but a lingering, odd aftertaste.
Me – Again, too spicy. The pork taste — and there is pork in these chips — is a bit off for me. Sort of like a Muncho gone wrong.

McCoy’s Thai Sweet Chicken

Jeremy – Solid, spicy. Not much chicken, but better a paucity of chicken than a preponderance.
Amy – More anise. I’m… okay with these or without them.
Bryan – Ick! Bad chicken! Good spice. Soft but wavy chip.
Me – Unholy marriage between canned chicken juice and chili spices. Never again.

Co-Operative Streaky Crispies

Jeremy – Really good! I’d eat many of these!
Amy – Okay, I can admit these are the best of the bacon.
Bryan – Sweet and salty bacon. Chip is kind of styrofoam-ish.
Me – Another one that I ate with beer abroad. I wish we had these here, I’d buy them for football nearly every weekend.

Smith’s Frazzles Crispy Bacon

Jeremy – Corn overwhelms the bacon. Decent taste.
Amy – Artificial, fake bacon bit, weirdly smoky and watery. Smells like dog treats.
Bryan – Needs more bacon! Crunchy, salty, kind of corn flavor. Still crunch styrofoam texture.
Me – I’d buy these if they were on sale and the Co-Op brand was out, which is odd since Co-Op is a store brand.

Amy – It’s interesting that you three all like the fake bacon tastes, but not the chicken and I like the chicken taste and not the bacon. Biological preferences?

Piper’s Crisp Co. Chorizo

Jeremy – Complex. Layers. Rambunctious! Impetuous!
Amy – Complex! Goes through lots of layers of flavors. Genuine meat taste with a good sweetness.
Bryan – Pretty authentically chorizo! Best yet! We need these here in the US! Thickest of the chips.
Me – Tastes exactly like a chorizo in a chip. Just great and they’d be perfect for a barbecue tailgate. *Checks bag* Holy crap, they actually make these with real chorizo. That’s amazing!

Mackie’s Haggis & Cracked Black Pepper

Jeremy – More peppery than organ-y.
Amy – Vague liver taste, lots of pepper.
Bryan – Some haggis, but not enough. Too peppery. Good chip, if somewhat soft.
Me – Just taste like pepper, but in all fairness, a lot of the haggis I’ve tasted just tasted like black pepper.

Chip Winner

The Winner: 

The absolute favorite chip from every judge was Piper’s Chorizo. We loved this chip so much, we wondered how we could lobby our local gourmet market to start to carry them and discussed which of our friends would be over in the UK soon and could possibly bring back a case. According to the bag and the ingredients listed, they’re actually made with chorizo and not a weird artificial meat flavoring, which is nice change from seeing “pork flavoring” (not that we actually have many meat-flavored chips here in the States).

But it’s the perfect football chip; meaty, smoky and just the right amount of spice.

Judges Top Five:

Jeremy: 1) Piper’s Chorizo, 2) Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli,3) Walkers Worcester Sauce, 4) Co-Operative Sea Salt and Chardonnay Wine Vinegar, 5) Walkers Pickled Onion. (Ed. note – Of course the judge who loves palate-wrecking IPA beers loves palate-wrecking pickled onion chips)

Amy: 1) Piper’s Chorizo, 2) Walkers Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli, 3) Brannigans Roast Beef & Mustard, 4) Walkers Cheese & Onion, 5) Walkers Sensations Oriental Crackers Peking Spare Rib

Bryan: 1) Piper’s Chorizo, 2) Walkers Cheese & Onion, 3) Walkers Worcester Sauce, 4) Co-Operative Streaky Crispies, 5) Smith’s Frazzles Crispy Bacon

Me: 1) Piper’s Chorizo, 2) Co-Operative Streaky Crispies, 3) Walkers Cheese & Onion, 4) McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak, 5) Co-Operative Sea Salt and Chardonnay Wine Vinegar

Votes for Worst Chips

Barts Guinness (Everyone), Golden Wonder Roast Chicken (Everyone except Amy), Smith Frazzies Crispy Bacon (Amy)

Biggest Frauds

McCoy’s Sizzling King Prawn (Everyone), McCoy’s Flame Grilled Steak (Jeremy)

Biggest Disappointment 

Golden Wonder Sausage & Tomato (Everyone)