Food Fight: Battle Alternative Party Chips

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When it comes to the all-American pairing of football and snack food, New Year's Day doesn't have the same cachet as Super Sunday ®, especially now that the bowl season extends until January 10 and most of the big-time bowls that used to be New Year's Day fixtures are scattered throughout the week.

Still, it's possible to watch football on New Year's Day from 11 in the morning until 10:30 at night. So you've got that going for you. Which is nice. And as with any day of serious football watching, it's advisable to lay in a major stockpile of snacks. First of all, if you don't have chips and salsa or potato chips or both, there's something wrong with you. But don't be afraid to try something new! Remember, even the shotgun formation was once a novelty.

As preparation for my own football-watching fiesta, I tested out two chips that weren't made from a tortilla or a tuber: Blue Ginger multi-grain brown rice chips, and Stacy's pita chips.

Blue Ginger Black Sesame & Sea Salt Multi-grain Brown Rice Chips

Yes, this is a Ming Tsai-branded product that's actually distributed by Kellogg's. Yes, I may have been swayed by the $2 off coupon at Costco. But these chips are darn good. They have the appearance of small, slightly pebbly pappadums, but are a bit fluffier, and shot through with appealing streaks of crushed black sesame seeds. They're made with a combination of brown rice, corn and oats, and have a taste slightly reminiscent of Chex Mix. A really good Chex Mix, without the stale croutons or weird-tasting pretzels.

The main downside is that the chips are a bit flimsy; they break easily and are almost useless for dipping. But they pair wonderfully with cheese and wine, as I did recently with Midnight Moon goat cheese and Artesa Elements red wine. They are also delicious out of hand. As far as I know, the only place these chips are currently available in Houston is at Costco.

Stacy's Parmesan Garlic & Herb Pita Chips

Stacy's is clearly the gold standard in pita chips. The packaging and press materials would lead you to believe the chips are crafted by a small company in Boston, which was the case from 1997-2005, but Stacy's is now a division of Frito-Lay, which is itself a division of PepsiCo. Nevertheless, the chips are still made in Boston, and they are still damn good. I've tried the Multigrain, Cinnamon Sugar, Simply Naked, and now the Parmesan Garlic & Herb, and there's not a loser in the bunch.

This may come as a surprise to those who have previously only eaten pita in bread form. Because let's be honest: pita, a gently leavened wheat bread, is fairly boring on its own. I don't know exactly what kind of magic occurs in that oven in Massachusetts, but the pitas go in as plain old bread and come out as chips, redolent with wheaty goodness and studded with salt and herbs. They taste nothing like those sad, sawdusty excuses that are currently being served on Southwest flights.

Stacy's pita chips are sturdy, and (although they don't need any accompaniment) excellent for dipping. They pair perfectly with hummus, of course, but also go surprisingly well with salsa, cheese, and most other dips -- except for the cinnamon sugar variety, which is basically cinnamon toast and should only be eaten by itself. Stacy's pita chips are available at almost every grocery store in Houston.

The Winner

Stacy's pita chips have the edge, for their versatility. But who says you can't buy both?

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