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Top Pick Of The Week

June 19, 2007
Updated June 2008

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Popchips

The nine flavors of Popchips, crunchy and healthier popped potato chips, corn chips and rice chips. Photo by Naheed Choudhry.

WHAT IT IS: Chips—potato chips, corn chips and rice chips—that aren’t fried or baked, but popped.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: A reinvention of the chip in a new and wonderful form.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Lower fat, fewer calories, non-greasy and totally delicious.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com and retailers nationwide. See the dancing chips at ThinkPopped.com.
PRODUCT FIND: BibiCaffè Italian sodas—6-ounce bottled refreshments from the old country, to enjoy as soft drinks and cocktail mixers.
FUN ENTERTAINING: Cheese Curds. If you don’t know curds, it’s time for an introduction.
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Popchips:
Chips Off A New Block

Some of the biggest buzz at the huge natural products show this year centered on a new kind of snack chip. Surrounded by endless aisles of foods—more than anyone could hope to see or taste—everyone beat a path to Popchips. One might think that “Pop” is short for “popular,” but these chips are actually popped—not fatteningly fried or boringly baked. Instead, sink your teeth into really tasty—but much healthier—potato chips, corn chips and rice chips, with half the fat and fewer calories than regular fried chips. They’re new, they’re different and they’re gooood.

You’ve seen a fragment of the concept before, in popped rice cakes. But the Popchips innovators took that idea and turned it into smaller, crunchy, incredibly flavorful chips that can be eaten from the bag, dipped, used as a base for canapés or employed as garnishes for soups and salads. The nine flavors range from quite good to amazingly good. Now, snackers can crunch away on something truly tempting that’s free of saturated fats, preservatives or anything artificial. A satisfying one-ounce portion, 20 to 22 chips, has just 120 calories—and leaves no greasy fingers. Be the first on your block to pop on over for some.

  • Click here to read the full review below. (If your e-mail client does not support anchor links, scroll down.)
  • Read reviews of more of our favorite gourmet snacks.
  • See the Table of Contents of the June issue of THE NIBBLE, plus the prior issues archive and our most popular articles.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on TheNibble.com, in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

Bowls For Champion Chips

Mikasa Bowl Cabbage Serving Bowls
Mikasa Neo Classic Footed Bowl. Anything would look good in this elegant bowl. It’s 12.4 x 6.6 inches of lead crystal. Representing Greek and Roman concepts of beauty, it arrives in a blue gift box. Click here for more information or to purchase.   Cabbage Serving Bowls. A set of 3 bowls from Pinzon in high-quality, fine grain earthenware are hand-painted, dishwasher and microwave safe. in 7", 9-1/4" and 11-1/4" diameters. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Popchips: Chip Off A New Block

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

While many of our foods were the result of accidents or serendipity long ago—Champagne, coffee, Roquefort, tea, yogurt and hundreds of others you can read about in The Oxford Companion to Food—Popchips were the result of a journey by intrepid snackers in search of a healthier, yet tasty and fulfilling, crunchy snack.

Thus was born the Popchip—a chip that’s not fried or baked, but popped. Beginning with the finest ingredients—top-quality potatoes, organic white corn and whole grain brown rice—heat and pressure are applied to pop the kernel, grain or potato bit to form the popped pieces into a chip. The company then applies an artful blend of natural seasonings to deliver something better-for-you and truly delicious. Yes, it’s a healthier snack that tastes great! Anyone looking for healthy snack ideas—whether for oneself, kids, teens or spouses (we’ll hold off on the dog, for the moment) should get a sampler box of these. Your new favorite healthy (or at least, healthier) snack may be just a pop away.

Popchips Flavors

There are nine flavors of Popchips. We liked them all very much, but after working our way through the sampler box, choices must be made prior to re-order. Every person has different flavor preferences; and while we’d gladly eat whatever showed up on our doorstep, our top three Popchips flavors are Barbecue Potato Chips, Original Potato Chips and Wasabi Rice Chips—with Sea Salt Rice Chips and Sea Salt Corn Chips tied for fourth place.

We like that we can have 22 chips for 120 calories, and that the chips are thicker than most potato chips, providing more crunch. There is no saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol. A bit of safflower oil or sunflower oil* is used to integrate the seasonings (and each bag has four to five milligrams of unsaturated fat, depending on the flavor), but there are no greasy fingers—no napkins required. That’s a second reason why parents will be happy to have kids eat these chips.

*Safflower oil is a monounsaturated fat, the healthy fat found in avocados, corn oil, flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil, nuts, olive oil, tea oil, sesame oil and others. Sunflower oil is a polyunsatured fat, a heart-healthy fat with high levels of vitamin E.

Potato Chips

Popchips has reinvented the potato chip, and we love it. These sure don’t look like any chip you’ve ever had (don’t even think about comparing their round shape to Pringles—a totally different species of snack that’s not on the natural evolutionary chain). Put a bowl in front of someone and Original and Garlic might pass as some kind of new pita chip or papadum. But one bite and these are unmistakably potato.

  • Original Potato Chips is a wonderful reinvention of the potato chip, seasoned with sea salt. It’s right on the mark.
  • Barbecue Potato Chips balance tangy and sweet, layering smoke and some light paprika heat. They’re an addictive barbecue chip.
  • Parmesan Garlic was a favorite of most tasters, but we think it needs to be tweaked a bit: Salt overpowers both Parmesan and garlic flavors. On the other hand, if you like a salty chip—many people do—this one’s for you!
  • Salt & Pepper is redolent of fresh-cracked pepper, lively and just right, not too peppery.
  • Sea Salt & Vinegar, a classic chip flavor, here has a tart infusion of vineger for the pro-pucker crowd.
Popchips Potato Chips
A new sensation in potato chips; On top, Parmesan Garlic Potato Chips; on the bottom, Barbecue Potato Chips.
Popchips - Salsa Corn Chips
Salsa Corn Chips: Spicy!

Corn Chips

  • Cheddar Corn Chips taste like gourmet Cheetos. Only the teeniest amount of cheddar dust remains on your fingers, and you can flick it away like dust.
  • Salsa Corn Chips are great food technology: the flavor of salsa married to a corn chip. It works! The spiciness is equivalent to medium-strength salsa, and it will probably help sell a lot of beers.
  • Sea Salt Corn Chips are alluring—they don’t look like a corn chip, but they taste like a light and healthy version of one. We mean that in the best sense.
  • Hint Of Butter Corn Chips taste like butter-flavored popcorn. If you’re looking for a new way to eat popcorn—in a flat chip instead of puffy kernels—this is fun and tasty. Who knows—perhaps Popchips’ format will win out and we’ll be eating flat chips at the movies. (But the name’s a bit misleading—when we think “corn chip,” we don’t think popcorn flavor.)

The corn chips are made with organic corn.

Rice Chips

  • Wasabi Rice Chips will make wasabi lovers happy. You’re just a step away from the sushi bar: There’s wasabi flavor, sesame seeds, and the taste of seaweed, too. The wasabi is at a relatively mild level—Barbecue Potato Chips and Salsa Corn Chips pack more of a wallop.
  • Sea Salt Rice Chips may sound like the Plain Jane in this crowd, but they are a delicious chip. While not as showy as the other flavors—and not as flavorful as the Sea Salt Corn Chips—they have an elegance all their own.

The rice chips are made with whole grain brown rice.

In addition to retail sales, you can buy 12-packs of each flavor of the large bags (3.25 ounces, or about 3 portion sizes per bag) on Amazon, or a sampler box of one bag of all nine flavors. Anyone at school or camp—or the eternal camper in us all—would love to receive the sampler or any other configuration you care to send. In fact, they’ll probably call in a week to ask you to send more.

Popchips - Wasabi Rice Chips
Wasabi Rice Chips: Take the hint of the sushi bar with you.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone looking for a healthier crunchy snack or an interesting new ingredient for hors d’oeuvres and garnishes.

POPCHIPS
CORN CHIPS in Cheddar, Hint Of Butter, Salsa, Sea Salt; POTATO CHIPS in Original, Barbecue, Parmesan Garlic, Salt & Pepper, Sea Salt & Garlic; RICE CHIPS in Sea Salt, Wasabi

Purchase online* at Amazon.com by clicking on the links above.

Also available at fine retailers nationwide, including Bristol Farms, Mollie Stone’s, Mother’s Market & Kitchen, Pavilions, Safeway and Vons.

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. These items are offered by a third party and THE NIBBLE has no relationship with them.

Popchips Bags
Each 3.5-ounce bag has 120 calories, zero cholesterol and from 4 to 5 ounces of unsaturated fat.

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