Super Bowl party etiquette dictates that you've absolutely got to serve chips — preferably several varieties — in giant bowls filled to overflowing. First off, every third commercial is an elaborate, big-budget chip sell, so guests are gonna crave them. And there's just something perfect about the way the head-filling snap and crunch of chips underscores the smack of a tackle. In no particular order, here are my first draft picks for the ultimate Super Bowl party chips:
1. Food Should Taste Good Tortilla Chips
From sweet potato to chocolate to multigrain, I've got a thing for the creative tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good. They've got a great crunch and a clean flavor profile that makes them equally great as carriers for dips as for snacking out of hand. My flavor pick for the Super Bowl? Jalapeño, hands down. They've got just enough spicy heat to get football fans amped up, and they're terrific with guacamole. Gluten-free. GMO-free. O-U kosher. In supermarkets and health food stores, or buy online at Amazon.com, or by the case at FoodShouldTasteGood.com. Price: From $3.99/6 oz.
2. Late July Multigrain Snack Chips
Practically as soon as Late July launched its line of organic, multigrain snack chips, it snatched up the Best New Product Award at the 2010 Natural Products Expo East. The chips come in three tantalizing, quippily named flavors: Sea Salt By The Seashore, Mild Green Mojo, and Dude Ranch. Not only are the 100% whole grain chips eminently crunchable, but 10% of profits are donated to the American Camp Association, to support summer camp scholarships for kids in need. Organic. Gluten-free. Peanut- and tree nut-free. Kof-K kosher. At Whole Foods, or buy online at Amazon.com. Price: $3.95/5.5 oz.
3. Beanitos Bean Chips
If you have trouble enjoying most chips because you fret over their dicey nutritional profiles, check out Beanitos. They're novel in that they're made predominantly of beans and whole grain rice. They've got a crisp crunch, offer a decent shot of fiber, and have a low glycemic load. The plain Black Bean flavor strikes me as a tad too salty, and after a few, they start to feel pasty on the palate. But the Chipotle BBQ Black Bean version is pretty addictive, while the Pinto and Flax flavors (plain and Cheddar) get a welcome textural enhancement from whole flax seeds. Corn-free. Gluten-free. GMO-free. Find them at supermarkets and health food stores, or buy online at SnackWarehouse.com. Price: $3.95/6 oz.
4. Buffalo Nickel Wingers
I can't remember the last time I came across a snack as improbably tasty and downright silly as Buffalo Nickel Wingers. Inspired by the flavor of buffalo wings (sans the drippy sauce), the hollow, drumstick-shaped potato snacks are the sort of thing a Hogwarts student might inadvertently conjur while trying to magic up a late night snack. These little guys are insanely munchable, relatively low in fat, and vegetarian to boot. Three flavors — No Bull Barbecue, Nacho Chilichanga, and Fiery Buffalo Bleu — are marked with a heat index, so you can go as mild or as spicy as you like. My mom dislikes spicy food and bleu cheese, but dug the Fiery Buffalo Bleus. GMO-free. OU kosher. Buy online at ChefCentral.com or Amazon.com. Price: $3.99/5 oz.
5. Garden of Eatin' Red Hot Blues
These organic blue corn chips boast an incredibly satisfying crunch, but it's the savory spice blend with which they're so generously dusted that can really get a snacker going. Cayenne, paprika, a hint of cumin and salt are plenty tasty, but there's something else about these chips that makes them taste so darn good. My money's on the smoked torula yeast. They've got plenty of flavor all by their lonesome, but they're great paired with hummus and other bean dips, too. Organic. Kof-K kosher. At supermarkets and health food stores, or buy online at GardenOfEatin.com. Price: $5/16 oz.
6. The Mediterranean Snack Food Company Baked Lentil Chips
Made from lentils, garbanzos (chick peas), and adzuki beans, these baked chips have a great crunch, and a slightly concave shape that makes them ideal for dipping. They're low in fat, high in fiber, and have a bit of protein, too, so they're a pretty guilt-free option. The chips have a hint of built-in savoriness thanks to the lentils, and they're dusted with a flavoring blend, too. The Cucumber Dill chips lack a perceptible cucumber or dill flavor, despite the cucumber powder(!) listed on the ingredient list. But the Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper flavor is satisfyingly peppery. Sea Salt is a good option for purists. Gluten-free. GMO-free. OU kosher. At Harry & David, or buy online at MediterraneanSnackFoods.com. Price: $3.45/4.5 oz.
7. Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips
Terra makes a wide range of winning vegetable and potato chips, but you really can't go wrong with the Original Terra Chips. A blend of sweet potato, parsnip, batata, taro, and yuca, these root veggie chips are crisp, with flavors that are at turns nutty, sweet, and savory. I'd call them pretty, but that might not fly with those looking for macho Super Bowl snacks, so let's just say the multi-hued chips are really cool looking. Kof-K kosher. At supermarkets and health food stores, or buy online at TerraChips.com. Price: $5.89/7.5 oz.
8. Kettle Chips
If you're the sort who just wants a straight-up, unadorned potato chip, go for the incomparable crunch of a kettle-cooked chip. As for brand, Kettle Chips are easy to find in stores nationwide, and they actually taste like potato, which is sort of the point. There are lots of flavors, from exotics like Spicy Thai and Death Valley Chipotle, to classics like Sour Cream and Onion. But Sea Salt is just the ticket if you're after a simple, honest potato chip. Find them in supermarkets, or buy online at BuyKettleChips.com. Price: $3/5oz.