WILSON: Select Herald-Whig panel could find the local flavor that will hit it big

Posted: Feb. 22, 2013 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 5, 2013 6:15 am

Chicken & Waffles flavored Lay's potato chips set a record, but not in a good way, in The Herald-Whig newsroom this week.

The chip bag was open and nearly full on Monday morning. That bag hung around until Thursday morning when the last few chips were, mercifully, dumped.

No food item in recent memory has lasted in the newsroom for more than 24 hours. In fact, the life expectancy of shared food items on the newspaper's third floor is usually measured in minutes and seconds.

Lay's ran a nationwide contest to come up with new chip flavors. Celebrity judges chose three contenders that are being produced to give customers a chance to vote with their purchases. In addition to the aforementioned Chicken & Waffles are Cheesy Garlic Bread and Sriracha -- a hot oriental spice.

Maybe Chicken & Waffles will be a big hit in some areas of the nation. Whatever demographic the potato chip executives were looking to capture does not exist in The Herald-Whig newsroom.

It's not that we're opposed to quirky food.

We've eaten roasted soybeans that are marinated in hot powder. We have reporters who profess to enjoy eating bananas coated with peanut butter and Miracle Whip. Some old-timers among us ordered brain sandwiches at a long-closed Quincy restaurant. A couple of decades ago a former reporter hosted a party featuring fresh, raw oysters.

We're not picky eaters.

But something about the maple-syrup taste of the chips just didn't go over. And almost nobody could detect a hint of chicken flavor. That was part of the problem, because Southern fried chicken, in a chip, is something lots of people could probably get behind.

Rather than keep piling on Lay's for a food faux pas, maybe Quincy and the surrounding area can find some regional flavors that could win over a national audience.

Maid-Rite loose meat sandwiches have been a local phenomenon for generations. How about a chip flavored like that distinctive meat?

Several local restaurants serve white cheese sauces on Mexican dishes. Queso blanco or other cheeses on everything from nacho chips to grilled shrimp might be a winning flavor for another chip maker.

Fried catfish is a big regional favorite in the Tri-state area. But fishermen in some Northern states reject the noble catfish as a junk fish. Chips that taste like fried walleye could be an alternative.

Red Cactus makes sweet salsa in Quincy. Crawdad's Classics is another local company with a distinctive flavor that has attracted lots of attention. The Mart Heinen Club Chili Cook-off could provide other taste choices.

Any one of these would blow away a pretender like Waffles & Chicken.

A local potato chip flavor could become the next big national or international hit. And just to do our part, The Herald-Whig newsroom would be happy to sample the next big culinary thing. Our celebrity judges are ready and waiting.

Just bring the food to the third floor -- along with a stopwatch -- to judge how popular the creation will be.


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