No trip to Englandâwhere more than 10 billion bags of crisps are eaten each year, is complete without trying a few of the exotic flavors from the dozens of brands on the shelves. One of the first things you'll notice is that the flavors are not only more adventuresome than our standard bbq and sour cream and onion, they are also much more subtle than what you typically find stateside. We found the smaller, more artisanal brands had the most flavor. Here are a few that caught our attention (and were a fine accompagniment to all of those pints).
William Chase is a potato farmer who wanted more from his crop than just selling them off to a broker. So he fired up an old kettle and started hand frying crisps, and in the last few years has created a great range of products that are truly home made. Named after his home town, Tyrrells crisps shine in every aspect. Flavors range from the mild (Sea Salt and Crushed Black Pepper) to the wild: Spicy Jalapeño and Lemon, Thai Curry and Coriander, Asparagus and Crushed Black Pepper, Smoked Salmon with Horseradish and Capers, and Ludlow Sausage with Wholegrain Mustard. These crisps, and the story behind them, were our favorite.
Burts chips stand out for their method (hand fried, seasoned and packed while still warm) and their exotic flavors: Firecracker Lobster (made with real lobster and Tientsin chilis from China), Smoked Streaky Bacon (made with real bacon from Denhay Farms), Bloody Mary (the flavor we had hoped would win the Kettle Chips Happy Hour Flavor Contest and Hot Chili Lemon flavors all delivered a satisfying crunch, authentic aroma, and good taste.
The crisps from Salty Dog had the most satisfying crunch of the lot, and they faced some serious competition. Their Sea Salt crisps got raves back at CH HQ for their simplicity, taste and texture. Other flavors include Ham and Wholegrain Mustard and Jalapeño and Coriander.
Jack and Ollies is another brand that broke through the clutter thanks to their packaging and Pesto flavored crisps. I've also seen these in a few stores in New York. While greasier than the others listed here they had great flavor and crunch, and their "all natural, nothing artificial" policy scores with us.
Many brands didn't make the cut, and we could only eat so many during our quick trip to London, so if you know of other brands that we should mention please send us your suggestions.
Hard core snackers should check out Taquitos, the online reference for snackers, where hundreds of different snacks are posted.