Why settle for the same old chip?
If that's not your mantra come Super Bowl Sunday, you're missing the point. Sure, the day is about football, but it's truly about the party. So, just as you wouldn't buy a bottle of budget bubbly for New Year's Eve, why stick to the same familiar names in salty snacks for the big game?
With that in mind, we've looked for some snack alternatives in 10 different categories, from pretzels to nuts to you name it. And what about your beloved bag of supermarket-brand chips? Save those for the regular season.
If there's something we dislike about mass-market chips it's that they've got no heft to them. We want a chip that looks like a chip -- big, brawny and full of potato flavor. That's
Kettle Chips, an all-natural, hand-cooked brand made from whole slices of Russet potatoes. Best of all, they come in some inventive flavors, including a few that seem right for Super Bowl time -- namely, Buffalo bleu (sorta like Buffalo wings as chips), cheddar beer and backyard barbecue. Available for around $3 per five-ounce bag.
We've been fans of Harry & David's
Moose Munch for years, but always considered it more a dessert item in a caramel-corn vein. Not anymore: The popular catalog, which also has several retail locations, recently introduced a line of savory Moose Munches, with such flavors as "Way Better Cheddar" and "Hotsy Totsy Jalapeno." Individual 10-ounce bags are $7.95, available in retail stores only; the catalog carries an assortment of all four varieties for $32.95.
You know how flavored tortilla chips always leave a residue of cheese on your fingers? That's not the case with
Food Should Taste Good's line of all-natural chips, where the flavorings, from jalapeno to olive to chocolate (yes, chocolate) are baked right in. But more important, these chips -- actually, they're almost like crackers -- have an honest, hearty flavor that fits the brand's name. We're hooked. Available for $3 per six-ounce bag.
Kim & Scott's
Gourmet Pretzels, available through mail order, are almost too big and tasty to be considered a snack. These soft pretzels, which can be quickly heated in the microwave, have a main-meal appeal to them. They're offered in flavors ranging from traditional Bavarian to spinach feta; right now, the company is featuring a Pro Tailgater's Package, with six stuffed-pretzel varieties, including cheddar jalapeno and grilled cheese, for $53.99.
Face it: Ritz Crackers may be popular, but they're pretty wimpy. If you want a cracker with some personality, try
Doctor Kracker -- they're organic, artisan-baked and closer in taste and texture to a European flatbread. ("Uber Delicious! Uber Crunch!" the company says.) Varieties include "Klassic 3 Seed" and "Pumpkin Seed Cheddar." Available for around $19 to $22 per case (six seven-ounce packages).
Short of macadamias, we can't think of a nut that has more high-end appeal than the beloved pistachio. The problem? Those hard-to-deal-with shells -- somehow they never are open wide enough to make for easy cracking. Enter
Everybody's Nuts!, which has a line of plus-sized California pistachios that are split perfectly. (The company even promises that if you find a closed nut in a package, they'll send you an entire package free.) We love the flavors, especially the salt and pepper variety. Available for $3.99 per seven-ounce box.
You can have your onion soup-mix dips. We prefer a dip with depth -- something thick enough to require a sturdy chip or cracker. That's
Reser's pimento-cheese spread, a reliable take on a Southern classic, with American cheese, pimentos and bell peppers all blended into a chunky spread. Available in Southern states for $3.49. (If pimento-cheese isn't your thing, Reser's offers a nationally available line of gourmet dips -- we were high on the roasted red pepper.)
Yes, fruit can be a snack. But if it's the crunch you're missing, try
Funky Monkey Snacks, a line of freeze-dried fruit snacks in flavors like bananamon (banana and cinnamon) and jivealime (pineapple and lime juice). Available for around $2 to $2.50 per one-ounce bag.
A Good-for-You Snack
Not that all the options we've already given are bad for you, but there are a number of snack-food items on the market that particularly emphasize healthy eating. A case in point:
popchips -- corn, rice and potato chips that are neither fried not baked, but "popped" (cooked under heat and pressure), so that they're remarkably greaseless and very, very crunchy. Varieties include everything from sea salt corn chips to wasabi rice chips. Available for $2.50 per 3.25-ounce bag.
Want more alternative snacks? Here's a grab bag of ideas for our 10th category.
Sahale Snacks offers what it calls a "culinary fusion of nuts, naturally dried fruits, seeds and spices"; the mixes come in varieties that bring to mind everything from Moroccan to Thai flavors.
Pretzel Crisps are just what they sound like -- flattened pretzel crackers (try the Buffalo wing flavor for a Super Bowl party). Ditto
Stacy's Pita Chips -- it's pita instead of potato. And speaking of thinking outside the potato,
Arico Natural Foods has a line of cassava chips.
More healthy nibbles:
Snikiddy Snacks offers low-fat cheese puffs and
Lesser Evil offers low-fat kettle-style popcorn. For a cheese-y snack that's decidedly more gourmet, consider cheese sticks or straws. Two companies that have terrific lines are John Wm. Macy's
Geraldine's Bodacious Food Company.
And for a real Super Bowl indulgence, try
D'Artagnan's French Kisses -- mousse of foie gras stuffed in marinated prunes. Finally, how about a Super Bowl "snack" centerpiece? That's what
Edible Arrangements offers with its all-fruit Touchdown Delight, available in two sizes.
Charles Passy is a Florida-based writer who covers food, travel, entertainment and consumer culture and products.