By Nathan Wood, Daily Food Columnist
Published November 1, 2012
As many of you probably know, oldest children often get screwed out of something. And in my family, this was especially evident with the food I was allowed to eat — eat a fruit and a vegetable at every meal, if I wanted dessert. Snack options included carrots and apples, and junk food was almost never available. This included chips and dip. But every once and a while, my mom — a closet chips-and-dip lover — couldn’t resist buying a bag and a pint of dip. And those were the days that heaven came down to Earth.
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Fast-forward 15 years, and here I am, still obsessed with chips and dip. I have literally walked four miles in a blizzard to satisfy a craving, my grandma lures me to come visit her by keeping them on hand and every time I have to drive my friends to Meijer, they’re the only things in my basket at checkout. So let’s pop open a couple bags of my favorites.
Favorite Flavored Chip: Better Made Barbecue
Not only are these the best barbecue chips on the market, but they’re also made in Detroit! Take caution not to confuse them with the same brand’s Sweet Barbeque offering, which is far inferior.
These chips boast a beautiful, light rust color and from the very first bite exude a forceful dichotomy of sweet and spice. If you have the willpower to let the flavors ruminate on your taste buds, undertones of smokiness and acidity also slowly elevate. My only complaint is that the chips could use more salt: A single serving doesn’t even hit the double digits for my percent daily allowance of sodium! I mean, come on.
You’ll probably notice as you mow down on the bag that there are a select few dark orange chips. If you’re sharing the bag with someone, fight over these chips. They are beautiful disasters chock-full of flavor — simply da bomb. And while dip for these Better Made chips is definitely not necessary, I do humbly recommend pairing them with another Detroit classic, Faygo Redpop.
Favorite Hipster Chips and Dip: Trader Joe’s Ridge Cut Salt & Pepper Potato Chips and Caramelized Onion Dip
Alone, these chips aren’t spectacular. They are incredibly thick and crunchy, surprisingly punchy from the black pepper and ground jalapeño pepper seasonings and saturated in oil. And — in the manner of all things Trader Joe’s — they somehow seem more down-to-earth. I just can’t get over how greasy they are.
But, because these chips are so sturdy, they’re perfect for dipping, namely with the Joe’s extra thick caramelized onion dip. The base is a trio of sour cream, cream cheese and the real surprise: mayonnaise. It’s tangy and strikingly sweet with a nice mouthfeel (yes, that really is a culinary term) and is rich, with satisfyingly large and numerous chunks of onion. It has a mild lemon flavor in the background serving to brighten the dip, yielding an acidic bite and contrasting nicely with the dark, black pepper tones of the above chip. The caramelized onions are a hearty and warm deviation from the norm.
And when these chips and dip come together, the collisions of warm and cool, sweet and salty, spicy and acidic and creamy and crunchy are simply irresistible. Unfortunately, though, not every city has a Trader Joe’s (ahem … my hometown), so when I’m home, I can only enjoy this dip if I make it myself. And thus, I present my homemade replication of Trader Joe’s Caramelized Onion Dip:
2 Vidalia onions
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Thinly slice the onions and cook in butter over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the onions and continue cooking for 15 more minutes, still stirring occasionally. Add the salt to the onions, stir and cook uncovered for five final minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and roughly chop.