Monday, January 23, 2012

Herr’s Baby Back Ribs Chips

        While my childhood was spent happily wolfing down large pork spare ribs in true American style, (something I have waxed enthusiastically about in earlier posts), in my later years I have come to favor “baby back ribs”, also known as Canadian ribs.  Contrary to what you might expect, baby back ribs do not come from actual babies, (no, not even Canadian babies), but are instead selected from the loin end of market weight hogs (as opposed to the usual sows).  Whereas a spare rib measures 6 to 8 inches in length (15 to 20 centimeters), baby back ribs measure from 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15cms), with a more favorable proportion of meat to gristle and bone.
Ripping the best bits of meat off spare ribs can
be an exhausting and gruesome task. This wolf
could probably use more sauce while she's at it...
Not only will feminists be happy to see male flesh commodified for a change, but anybody who has sunk their teeth into a spare rib knows it can take a bit of gnawing and worrying to yank off the choice bits; however, baby back ribs take away all the gnashing of teeth and give you pure tender meat that literally falls off the bone to melt in your salivating mouth. 

Baby back ribs, a bandolier of tasty hot meat
ready to shoot off in your mouth. 
Did I mention that baby back ribs make for far more manageable eating portions? Another side benefit is that the barbecue sauce tends to marinate the baby back ribs more thoroughly, as more of the meat and less of the bone is exposed.   Try ordering a half-rack of baby back at a quality rib house such as Rocklands in Glover Park, Washington DC and you may well come to agree that a more saucy and delicious (and messy) all American meal has yet to be invented.

So, I happened to be visiting a friend in Annapolis during my Christmas vacation when I noticed a bag of ‘Herr’s Babyback Rib Potato Chips’ on sale at the local Graul’s market, and immediately knew I had to test this claim.  Would I really be able to distinguish the length of the rib bone simply by sampling the seasoning of the chips?
Image courtesy of Junk Food Betty, who agrees
that while they may not actually be meat
flavored they are pretty damn tasty! 
Note the wide channels between the ruffles.
The answer is “No”, to be brutally honest.  These are not ‘meat’ flavored barbecue chips, they are ‘barbecue sauce’ flavored, exhibiting the traditional mélange of sweat, salty, and smoky.  Yet for all that, they were both original in flavor and utterly delicious.

The Baby Back Rib chips actually reminded me of Ballreich’s Smoky Marcelled Sweet Mesquite Barbecue chips- like that product, these are thick-cut ruffled chips with wide channels in between the ruffles and a sweet molasses barbecue flavor that is highly distinct from most other barbecue seasonings out there.  Whereas the Ballreich’s product emphasizes a sort of greasy lard-flavoring, Herr’s product instead offers strong elements of garlic and hot spices, upping the flavor ante for a pleasingly piquant and surprisingly complex flavor.  The seasoning is thickly and evenly applied on all the chips, coloring them a pretty orange color, and the sliced ruffled potato rounds are a delightfully thick cut, with a soft crunch which allow you to slowly sink your teeth in and savor their disintegrating grandeur.

So, score another victory for the Pennsylvanian chip industry; though these chips may not actually be ‘Baby Back” flavored per se, they are ‘amazingly delicious molasses barbecue with garlic and hot pepper” flavored instead, with super awesome ruffled potato slices to boot.  I’ll call that an amazing victory for my mouth any day, and my friends and I continued to savor the spoils of conquest for the 48 hours the full sized bag had chips left to offer, despite their failure to taste specifically like the soft derriere of a male pig.

Stars: 3½/4
Spiciness Rating: Moderate

- Marcelled ruffled potato slices with a slow soft crunch that’s hard to surpass
- Unique molasses-barbecue flavoring that brings an original taste to a genre too full of generic imitators
- Wonderful supporting elements of spicy paprika, pepper, garlic, and smoke

- Not actually ‘meat flavored’ or discernibly ‘baby back’

Note: reports in its rather positive reivew that this product has been discontinued, but they were in stock in  mid-December 2011 and the Herr's web site still shows them as being available.

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