Bagel Felony

Flat Earth Baked Crisps

By: Frito-Lay North America

I Paid: $2.99 for a 6-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 5stars

Flat Earth Baked Veggie Crisps and Fruit Crisps, with their blue sky/fluffy white cloud/fresh farm produce/realistic-looking flying-pig packaging, appear for all the world like some little boutique brand that has burst upon the national scene. The look promises an attention to flavor and texture that many big chip manufacturers ignore in favor of maxed-out oily/salty/artificial cheesy crunch.

The crisps don’t disappoint. The rice/potato ingredients make for bite-size morsels that are flavorful but not greasy, crunchy and light but not insubstantial—certainly strong enough for dipping. In short, they’re eminently snackable, but you won’t feel disgusting after pounding a dozen or two.

In fact, each ounce offers a half serving of either fruit or vegetables, depending upon the flavor. (The nutritional impact is debatable. More important, the crisps just taste good.) The Tangy Tomato Ranch flavor serves up an almost sour-cream-and-onion kind of punch, with an actual tangy tomato finish. There’s no unpleasant aftertaste, that powdery, fake note that defines a lot of flavored mass-market chips.

And the Garlic & Herb Field variety is equally decent: surprisingly mild without being meek, and well-balanced. It doesn’t scream garlic; it says it with confidence. And an entertaining note of pumpkin also pipes up unexpectedly.

Wild Berry Patch falls into that weird sweet/savory twilight zone that engulfs almost any fruit crisp, but you gotta give it to Flat Earth: The dried apple and berry tastes are sincere and front-and-center.

Bagel-fuls

By: Kraft Foods

I Paid: $2.29 for four 2.5-ounce filled “bagels” (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 2stars


Marketing: 4stars

Person A: What’s for breakfast?

Person B: How about an Olive Garden–style breadstick filled with Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese?

Person A: How about we just eat some bagels instead?

Person B: But Kraft says that Bagel-fuls offer “a wholesome, warm breakfast [that] can be ready in less than two minutes—with no plates, mess, or effort.”

Why are people trying to push ersatz bagel products in a world where the real thing is increasingly available? And is it really that difficult to smear cream cheese on an actual bagel? Oh, that’s right: Wherever there’s an easily defined economic niche, a company will exploit it.

Full disclosure: I am descended from a family that included a Jewish bagel-maker, I’ve lived in New York and sought out the best bagel in the boroughs (my vote is for Terrace), and I’ve made bagels at home. That makes me fussy to the extreme. So take this write-up with a jumbo-size homemade salt bagel.

Where was I? Oh, yes: Bagel-fuls and their crushing shortcomings. As usual with mass-marketed bagel products, these cheese-stuffed-breadsticks-
masquerading-as-bagels are soft and fluffy, with a skin more like bread crust than the chewy, boiled-then-baked exterior of the real thing. The density is wrong, and while the flavor is, in its defense, a salute to how an authentic bagel tastes, it could certainly be more robust.

The cream cheese pumped into the core is on a par with the standard Philly-type stuff.

For the love of God and all that is gastronomically good: Patronize your friendly local bagel bakery, or make your own.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.