Beer Chips and Hot Potatoes

By: Beer Chips

I Paid: $3.89 for a 9-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars

Marketing: 4stars

Novelty sells—at least initially. That theory has brought us everything from the good (Hershey’s candy bars as cookies) to the weird (Bagel-fuls) to the downright terrible (pomegranate macrobrews).

In this case, the premise has brought us a shiny bag of kettle-style potato chips marketed as Beer Chips, or (by the same maker) Hot Potatoes–Spicy Bloody Mary Potato Chips. A chip that tastes like beer? Brilliant!

Novelty in appearance and/or packaging is one thing, but novelty in flavor is something much more difficult to manage. Apply your flavor twist with too much pressure, and you overwhelm the essence of the chip—which is to say, an addictive slice of fried potato. Apply your flavor twist too lightly, and what sets it apart?

The Beer Chips, by and large, work, presenting a well-salted and -seasoned kettle chip with a pleasant and natural-tasting beer aftertaste. The Hot Potatoes lack palpable spice, but offer a pleasingly savory tomato aftertaste that complements the chips’ initial note of Worcestershire sauce.

M&M’s Premiums

By: Mars

I Paid: $3.99 for a 6-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars

Marketing: 4stars

When the everyday goes upscale, it makes for compelling spectacle. Seeing M&M’s dramatically marked up in price, given a radiant metallic coat (which must be seen to be believed), and split off into a variety of intriguing flavors is hard for any longtime fan of the classic candy to resist.

In terms of appearance and flavor, each Premium variety stands boldly on its own. Mocha has an unquestionable coffee aftertaste, powerful but pleasant. Mint Chocolate is bracingly cooling, with a kick of decent chocolate. Raspberry Almond delivers a hit of raspberry flavor with a crispy almond. And Triple Chocolate tastes surprisingly similar to a chocolate truffle. And yet, the best of the five varieties may well be Chocolate Almond, which also happens to be the closest to a nonpremium M&M.

The big question is this: How much better than regular M&M’s are these things? Compare $4 for six ounces with your typical M&M’s price of $3 to $4 per pound. Premiums are richer and far more flavorful, and you can certainly eat fewer and feel as though you’ve truly snacked. They’re dazzlingly attractive, and the flavor variation between types is dramatic.

Whether this makes them appropriate party fare, a weekly (or monthly) special snack-break treat, or just too expensive for any occasion is very much a personal decision. I’d probably buy a small block of Scharffen Berger chocolate for the same price, because it’s better quality, but I don’t think that M&M’s Premiums are ripping people off.

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