Mar 28, 2012
01:28 PM
Café Connecticut

Passing Fancies: Kettle-Cooked, Gluten-Free and . . . Chatty?

 
Passing Fancies: Kettle-Cooked, Gluten-Free and . . . Chatty?

This is the first in a series of blog posts I'm calling "Passing Fancies," devoted to Nutmeggy things and ideas that hold my undivided attention—in a family-approved way—for at least five minutes.

If you're as old as I am, you remember the days—late 1960s? early '70s?—when advertising, particularly on TV, became so clever that watching the ads became an end in itself. In some cases, viewers were so entertained that consuming the product advertised became immaterial (I'm thinking specifically of Alka-Seltzer's "Mamma Mia! That's some spicy meat-a-ball" and 7-Up's "Uncola" campaigns; you may recall others). Such ads may not have boosted sales much, but who cares? We loved 'em.

Well, these days the Internet—seemingly endless repository of self-promotion that it has become—can launch such gambits 10 times as effectively as any other media source, thanks to its interactivity. On the Web, ads don't just play to you, they play with you! Take our new favorite promotional site, home to Old Lyme's Deep River Snacks (deepriversnacks.com), a line of fun food from kettle-cooked potato chips (in a growing number of flavors) to cheesy popcorn. Though the company touts this line as "boutique" snacks, available at only the best gourmet cafés and high-end shops, I note that in Connecticut you can currently find them everywhere from the gift shop at St. Raphael's Hospital in New Haven to the American Auto Stop in North Stonington (and a few Mobil gas stations in between).

Are they great chips? In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not the person to ask—I've only tried the Original Salted Potato Chips, in places where they were the one brand available. Because they're pricey ($2 for a large snack bag), I'd hesitate to call them my chips of choice when it comes to daily budget. But all the snacks have undeniable virtues: They're gluten- and trans-fat free, produced with nothing but "green" sustainable practices applied, and proceeds from every bag sold support nonprofit organizations like the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, SmileTrain and the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation.

On the website, these snacks display an additional talent for free: They talk. Not only talk, but discourse, after a fashion: A bag of Original Salted Potato Chips goofs on "The Meaning of LIfe";  Sharp White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn chats about "Misrepresentation"; Sweet Maui Onion Potato Chips take on "Celebrity" and Rosemary & Olive Oil Potato Chips deal with "Interoffice Dating." All of this is meant to be a lighthearted hoot, of course, but there are occasions when things get self-parodic in an uncomfortable way—Cheddar Popcorn's "oooh baby" Barry White timbre, for example, and Maui Onion's Caribbean inflections (which make me glad the nacho chips are mum so far). You're right to assume that this gimmick grows old quickly, but I admit that some of the promised future topics will probably bring me back to the site, if only to confirm that they're an inside joke: Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips on "Baseball Caps," for example, or the Original Salted Chips on President Taft (who snacked on almonds, by the way).

But the interactive feature that has me spending enough spare time to qualify as what Fox News' pundit Bill O'Reilly would call a "stoned slacker" (to appropriate his go-to insult for secular liberals because in this case, it actually seems fitting) is the "Flavor Creator." I swear, it's kept me transfixed since Monday afternoon. Visitors can invent their own snack chips—be they made of potato or corn—with their choice of a variety of embellishments: herbs and spices (cinnamon, Old Bay seasoning), dairy (yogurt, goat cheese); fruits and vegetables (note bene, Deep River folks, that "anchovy" is neither); even meatstuffs like hamburger and crab. I thought I had a killer concept in popcorn flavored with artichoke, truffle oil, Thai spices and beer—kind of a Drunken Salad Popcorn, if you will—but couldn't find the nerve to submit it to the company. Never mind. I'm sure there are plenty of Bevises and Buttheads out there who are thinking, "New Car Smell Nachos . . . huh, huhh, this is going to be cool."

Got a passing fancy of your own that you want to share with me? An idea I should ponder? Book I should read? Movie I should see? Store I should visit? E-mail them to pgrandjean@connecticutmag.com and I'll give a look-see. Please keep all suggestions Connecticut-relevant.

Passing Fancies: Kettle-Cooked, Gluten-Free and . . . Chatty?

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