When I was a little kid, potato chips were always synonymous with Utz. I can’t remember if the first time I encountered the blushing little girl with the red dimples was in the a half-ounce bags from the school snack line or in the ”Family” size bags of Sour Cream and Onion chips I’d stuff down my face during Saturday playdates, but from an early age I can distinctly remember knowing no other chip than Utz. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have chips as snacks in the house, but there was just something special about eating Utz chips. Tied to both those afternoon’s playing Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 at my friend Mike’s house and those youth baseball games where an 0-for-5 performance with two errors was still good enough to get you a juice box and a bag of chips, the crunch and earthy flavor of an Utz chip anchors me to memories of past friendships and youthful innocence.
I’ve grown up, and my taste for Utz chips has done the same. When I was a little kid the only chips I would eat were the plain chips and the Sour Cream and Onion Chips (O.K, maybe some Bar-B-Q and Crab chips to mix it up) but when it came to the more ‘adult’ flavors and styles, I wasn’t curious. These days I’ll still spring for the simple pleasure of a one-ounce bag of the Plain Utz chips in the red bag, but more often than not you can find me with a bag of Kettle Classics. Sweet Potato and Maui BBQ are staples, but my favorite are the Dark Russet.
If I ever have a restaurant — say, a wood-fired American grill with Adirondack decor and patrons wearing Tommy Bahama shirts — these are the kinds of chips that I’d serve them on the side of their burgers. They’re thick and crunchy, but they’re also earthy-sweet in flavor, taking full advantage of a peanut oil fry to maximize the intrinsic flavor of the russet potato. The sugars in the potato caramelize much quicker than regular potatoes, giving them a deep hue and french fry-like quality that leaves a sweet but deep finish in your mouth as you chew them. Punctuated my tiny bubbles from the small-batch frying, each chips is a new experience, a different object to contemplate in the slow crunch of a late afternoon lunch. They’re the kind of chips you put ketchup on — plain, simple, scientifically proven Heinz ketchup — and eat as part of a meal before a 4 pm nap.
Or, for old times sake, while you’re playing Command and Conquer on that old computer you had stashed in the basement.
Utz Kettle Classics: Dark Russet
- Price: $2.50 (on sale at Weis)
- Ranking: 9/10
- Chances I’d Buy Again: 100%