SPECIALLY SELECTED PANCETTA & PARMESAN KETTLE CHIPS
One thing that I’ve learned in my lifetime is that it’s probably a good idea to avoid potato chips that are flavored after a meat. There’s just no accurate way to really translate the flavor of, say, bacon, onto a piece of fried potato. At their best, meat-flavored potato chips generally omit the titular meat entirely, such as with buffalo wing chips, which merely taste like chips covered in buffalo powder, without a hint of meat. Ditto that for the hot dog chips I tried, which merely tasted like a mess of condiments.
With that in mind, I was actually against trying these at all, but inspiration came from an unlikely source: my vegetarian wife. She reasoned that pancetta is a lighter-flavored meat (she went vegetarian about a year ago, so has tried just about all of them at one point or another), and she was convinced that flavor could, conceivably, be somewhat accurately replicated in chip form.
Even after eating them, I’m not sure if she’s right or not, because this successfully follows the aforementioned rule of pretty much omitting the meat flavor entirely. As I ate more and more of these, a subtle aftertaste seemed to emerge that suggested the pancetta, via a lightly smoky flavor, but it exists more in the background, rather than a marquee flavor. And trust me, I’m not really complaining about that, because that means that the spotlight belongs to the parmesan, which is much easier to translate to chip form.
And they do a good job of it here, because these chips are pretty good. The parmesan flavor is fairly strong (which I like), and each chip is given a generous coating of the stuff to ensure just about every bite is even in taste. They aren’t so good that they’re anywhere near “addicting”, but on the other hand, that’s kind of a good thing considering potato chips aren’t really all that healthy for you.
The one bit of confusion I have is why these are under the Specially Selected label, which is generally reserved, at least I thought, for more “upscale” offerings, rather than under the Clancy’s line, used for chips and snacks. There’s really nothing here that seems to suggest anything fancy, and even the price, which is $1.79 per bag, is in line with the other chips that Clancy offers. Maybe by giving it “fancier” packaging they’re hoping to appeal to a certain crowd, but I can’t think that there are droves of meat-lovers craving pancetta on a chip.
This is more of a stray observation than a knock, because these chips are good, and affordable, no matter what label they put them under. I would get these again, and for those that don’t mind the meat-on-a-chip aspect that I’ve more or less been harping about, they are recommended.
Overall: 7/10. A delicious chip that mainly ignores the pancetta, focusing instead on delivering the parmesan in droves, a task that it accomplishes. The pancetta does sneak up on you the more you snack on them—the first few chips for me tasted like clear parmesan, until I started noticing a little smokiness entering into the tastebuds—but it doesn’t do much to detract from the overall flavor. Maybe best of all: a bag is just $1.79, which is pretty good for a “premium” bag of chips, and much cheaper than even plain potato chips of the national brand. They aren’t so great so as to be addicting, and I won’t say that I’ll ever crave them in between Special Buy cycles, but I would pick these up again at some point in the future.
SPECIALLY SELECTED BALSAMIC VINEGAR & ROSEMARY KETTLE CHIPS
I was even more amped when my wife told me that she tried one as she was packing my lunch, and that they were very good. We tend to agree on foods, so if she likes something, there’s a really good chance that I will, too—part of the many positives to being together with someone for so long is you really learn to adapt to their lifestyles, and vice versa. I enjoy things that I never did before I met her, and some of my favorite things have rubbed off on her.
I must say that I had totally forgotten exactly what the flavors were in the chip I bought. I knew rosemary was in there, but I couldn’t remember with certainty what the other one was. I took a bite. There was some rosemary and then…holy hell, there was a ridiculous tartness that tasted a lot like vinegar, which, as it turns out, is what it was. I always thought that balsamic vinegar was a little weaker, and even a tad bit sweeter, than regular vinegar, but maybe I’m just thinking of balsamic glaze.
Anyway, the first few chips took me some time to adapt to. A day later, I’m still not entirely sure what I think about them. They have grown on me somewhat, to the point that I like them, but I’m certainly not crazy about them, and I’m not sure about the prospects of me ever buying them again. On the flipside, my wife loves them, despite disliking rosemary, but she does love salt and vinegar chips, which these remind me of a lot. The flavor is different enough to set itself apart from those, but have flavor profiles similar enough to widely appeal to fans of salt and vinegar chips.
Overall: 6/10. The thinking man’s salt and vinegar chip, Specially Selected’s Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary have enough subtle flavor differences to stand on their own, but also have a similar enough flavor profile that they really won’t appeal to those that don’t enjoy salt and vinegar chips. I grew to like these, but I definitely don’t love them, and I really don’t think I’ll ever pick these up again. But for $1.79 per bag, there’s not a lot of monetary investment required to give these a shot to see if they will appeal to you.