Saturday, December 3, 2011

Vico Chips a l’Ancienne saveur Vinaigre à l'Echalote

My experience writing reviews for Vico chips is that they are cursed: the reviews, not the chips.  I stared at the shiny, over-priced bags in stores for a long time before I finally caved in (and found them at a cheaper price), and then wrote two reviews full of praise and love and yearnings for world peace.  Then the computer failed to wake up from sleep (sadly normal) and the Autosave messed up (maddeningly abnormal) and I was left with no evidence of that heady, intense fling.

Yet, along came Vico’s Shallot Vinegar chips to reawaken my passion.  Vico, it must be emphasized, is a special beast- nearly all the other chips I review from French stores are either made by Lay’s or are store brands, but Vico’s appears to be an actual independent French chip company from Picardie with a long and proud tradition of potato based products which do appear to merit their higher prices by virtue of having pretty damn good crunch and texture.

However, it's the flavoring here that shatters frontiers by offering what other chip-makers have lacked the courage and foresight to do: bring vinegar and onion together, at last, like a soap opera coupling you began rooting for five seasons ago.  The vinegar aspect is well done and effectively balanced, each chip evoking a tangy acidity of vinegar without going overboard into Sour Patch kids territory.  More interesting, however, is the echalot (shallot) flavoring, which in its subtlety, wafts breezily onto the tongue like the effervescently glowing presence of an onion-y willow wisp.

"We are truly benevolent energy beings
from a land of light and pure good. Come
closer and- what?  Oh, never mind the
skull.  It just fits in with the decor.
We live in a swamp, y'know?"
Yes, we are talking about shallot, an elongated variety of onion with a sweeter and milder flavor which Wikipedia insists is also “richer andmore complex.”  Think of shallots as the posh and classy diplomats of the onion family (they’re very pleasant when cooked in a wine sauce and eaten whole alongside seared steak), rather than the ‘roll ‘em over and make ‘em cry’ types that we more commonly encounter (and love in our own masochistic way).  Intriguingly, there is also shallot vinegar, which is sweet and mellow, and not nearly as onion-y as you might think it is. As a result, the shallot flavoring on the chips is pleasingly musty and sweet without the acrid overtones we associated with regular onions.

Most of the Vico chips I’ve tried have been baked with an extra thick and crunchy ruffled texture, but these chips proved to be thin, relatively small potato slices.  They demonstrated a slightly greater degree of crunchiness than the average Lay’s chips, but were still cut a little too finely for my taste- an extra quarter of a millimeter can really do wonders.  All in all, though, the slices were still above average and more than adequate at delivering the wonderful flavoring.

Allow me to restate the vital point: vinegar and onion flavoring are awesome when combined, and it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before.  They earn a million extra fancy points for going for shallots rather than regular onions, making this another example of truly excellent idea that deserves to spread beyond France’s normally underdeveloped potato chip market.

Stars: 3 /4
Spiciness Rating: None

- Effectively tangy vinegar flavoring is evenly applied across the chips
- Sweet and tasty shallot aromas emerges from the vinegar base with subtlty and class
- Crisps are well baked

- Crisps are thin and a little small, which I feel could be improved upon


  1. Expensive? My wife sold Vico Crisps in her shop at Bournemouth in the eighties and could sell them below the price even of Riley's crisps. Of superb quality and hugely popular, we wonder if anyone still stocks them in the UK.

  2. these vinegar & onion - chips are better than everything else in that category from Walker to Tyrell's.
    I'm living to the border to France and there will be no doubt for me in the nearer future to buy that marvellous french stuff with onion'n'vinegar.
    Please, dear brits, try to develop that "top-notch" crisp consisting vinegar & onions. Defeat the frogs in your own pool. It's pretty time to.

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