In My Pantry: Utz Potato Chips

What makes our favorite foods our favorites?

It’s a question any foodie inevitably ponders, and one which I’ve given some thought to recently. Taste obviously has something to do with it, as does texture and even setting. But did you know there is another element that helps define overall  flavor for us?

There's Only One...

In The Flavor Bible, authors Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg discuss the “x factors” of flavor, and more specifically, the role of memory in defining flavor and taste. I couldn’t agree more with their assessment that there is almost a metaphysical connection people have when it comes to experiencing food, which can move us and affect our emotions as much as our taste buds.

For me, the pantry item that does this the most is plain old Utz potato chips. Regular Utz chips don’t have the same crunch as Cape Cod kettle chips, and they definitely lack the sweet, robust flavor of Route 11’s Sweet Potato chips. They don’t have any special seasonings, and their salt content per serving is remarkably sparse. They aren’t sweet, they aren’t salty, and they aren’t bitter. They are, however, my favorite chips in the world.

Three for a dollar at any local mid-Atlantic grocery store, the 1 oz. bag of red and white chips with the little Utz girl on the cover will always remind me of elementary school picnics and summer field trips to the Inner Harbor. They were never actually in my family’s pantry growing up, but they were always a staple of  social events during my childhood, and always in my friends’ pantries. They have a clean taste that doesn’t mask the natural earthy taste of the potato, while an airy, super crispy texture makes stopping at just one impossible. Never burnt and fairly oily (in a good way), they strike a perfect balance, leaving a savory and lingering taste in your mouth for hours after eating. For as good as they are in taste and texture though, it is the memory of simpler days from my childhood which makes Utz potato chips the most flavorful chips I’ve ever tasted, and always keep me coming back for more.

So I’m asking you, GrubGraders! Which foods recall you to your childhood, and make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside?

18 comments on “In My Pantry: Utz Potato Chips

  1. David says:

    Rice Krispies Treats and Cherry 7UP

  2. SkippyMom says:

    These. Utz potato chips. I grew up in VA and they originally were not available here [yes, thank you, I am THAT old] because Utz didn’t ship to further destinations [they were located in MD] to ensure the freshness of their product.

    My sister would ship me bags of them or when I visited her I would eat bag, after bag, after bag because I knew they weren’t in VA.

    I was so, so, so happy when they started sending them our way.

    In recent years we have stopped purchasing Utz because we have had several instances of opening the bags and finding gross, poorly made chips [like lump masses of grey looking chips that were pure grease] Once would have seemed to be a fluke. Twice – okay Utz is having a bad year – but the third time was it for me. We don’t buy them anymore.

    • Raiders757 says:

      What part of Va. are you from. I’m an old fart, and live in South Eastern Va. I can’t recall when Utz hit the shelves in my area, but I do know it was a rather long time ago. To be honest, I don’t recall Utz not ever being available, but there is a period of time between the 80’s and 90’s where my memory gets rather fuzzy, and chips weren’t my main concern.

      I have to say as well. I’ve never encountered a bad bag of Utz in my area. That sucks that you and your family have ran across such a chip travesty. I can’t blame you for avoiding them. That is just gross. Personally, I think Herr’s brand is much better anyway.

      Funny as well. I was asking my wife the last time she saw a bag of Wise brand chips. They just up and disappeared from my market quite a few years ago.

  3. Hunter says:

    Cold Payday candy bars. Carmel, salty, crunchy, sweet what more can you ask for.

    • Raiders757 says:

      Oh my God!!! It’s been so long since I’ve had one of those!! I must carry my rear end to the store and get one ASAP.

  4. Jessica Leigh says:

    Oh my goodness, so many things! Cheerios, which I used to eat straight from the box before I could even walk. I remember feeding them to my cat, Ajax. Also, Chunky bars, including the kind you can’t get anymore, which had pecans (I think). They were the treat I would pick when we went to a gas station.
    Fresh baked sourdough bread takes me straight back to childhood, because my mom stayed at home back then and she had time to bake bread all the time.
    McDonald’s chicken nuggets dipped in honey take me straight back, and also make me remember having to stay in after school daycare, which isn’t so warm and fuzzy. Mom went back to work so we started eating take out more often. Before that though, nuggets were a rare treat and that honey just makes them so delicious.
    I could probably go on and on. Food memories are huge for me.

  5. Jessica Leigh says:

    Okay, here is another. Mountain Dew from a bottle. Mom and Dad used to buy the tall glass bottles that came in a six-pack back in the early eighties and we would take them back to the store for a refund after we were finished! On hot days, mom would let me drink a Mountain Dew, and it was so cold and perfect on a summer day.
    Another thing is sprite or 7-up mixed with cranberry juice. When I was a little girl, my friend and I would get her parent’s wine glasses down from the cabinet and pretend we were drinking pink champagne by mixing sprite/7-up with a touch of cranberry juice!

    • Adam Bomb says:

      We did the exact same thing with glass Coke bottles! We lived just a couple of blocks from a grocery store, and I can clearly remember walking down there with my brother/dad and returning the bottles for a refund. I also remember these weird little rubber and metal bottle plug thingies that we would use to keep the Coke from going flat if we didn’t finish the whole bottle. Totally random sidenote, lol.

  6. Vanessa says:

    I’d have to say little debbie’s pecan pie and a chocolate milk. I don’t eat them any more but that was so my thing when we stopped at a gas station.

    • Jessica Leigh says:

      I’ll second that with the Little Debbie’s Pecan Pie! Those things are so good, and I still buy one every once-in-awhile!

  7. Fran says:

    Kinder Easter Eggs, but I’m not sure you’ve ever had them. In fact, I really miss all of the Kinder products :(, but loved waking up Easter morning playing chocolate easter egg hunt. I was already excited to find the 6 small eggs which included some awesome prizes (my favorites were the ones you put together) but knowing that there was a huge chocolate egg just waiting for me to crack it open and play with the toy inside whilst enjoying its Euro chocolate goodness. Oh man, it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve had a chance to eat one of those. We had chocolate stored in the freezer for months! Thought I really do miss going to the beach and buying a Motta or Algida ice cream from the vending kiosks spread across the beach. But the one American treat that brings back memories of Mister Ed and watching Supergirl with my dad back in my twos are Bugles! I used to love those! I still would if I could find them…

    • Raiders757 says:

      Genuine Kinder Eggs are illegal to import to the U.S., but if your lucky, you can find them in shops that sell candy from Europe.

  8. Raiders757 says:

    Most everything from my childhood has either gone the way of the Dodo Bird, or have been transformed into a lesser version of their former self. One of the few things that haven’t changed all that much, are the Original Dark Chocolate Peanut Chews made by Just Born. There is just something about them that takes me back to a time when everything was better across the board.

    Not food, but it still makes me smile. My friend has an old table from Wendy’s. The ones with all the old newspaper adds. When our first Wendy’s opened, I loved reading everything on those tables. It’s a shame they’re gone, and even worse, that Wendy’s is a shell of it’s former self. (Kind of like Pizza Hut, Burger King, Hardee’s, Domino’s, etc. etc. etc.)

    My main “warm and fuzzy” food isn’t a national brand. It’s pizza from a locally owned shop less than two miles away from where I live. They’re family owned by an Italian expat via New York City, who happens to have one hell of a pizza background. They opened when I was two years old in 1972, and are still in the same location to this day. That alone should tell you something. Dino’s Pizza Shop was my first experience with Americas favorite pie, and it holds a special place in my foodie heart. Sure, some things have changed on their menu, but the pizza is still the same as it’s always been. A well seasoned, tasty sauce(not for everyone/whiny people who think pizza sauce should taste like it came from a a can) on a N.Y. style crust, with quality toppings.

    Sadly a fire caused them to get a new oven, so years of seasoning were lost, but the pizza is still some of the best I have ever had. I say that without any bias. Of course, these days, it does matter who is behind the counter tossing the doe, as the Dino has to pass the torch to someone in the near future. He’s so good, you can tell the difference between a pie tossed by “the master” and by one of his students. Factoring this in with the less seasoned oven, it is best to ask for your pizza “well done” in order to have the perfect crunchy to chewy crust ratio. I’m so glad I moved back to my childhood stomping grounds for this reason alone. The years I lived outside of Richmond, Va., there was nothing that even came close.

  9. Old School Mike says:

    For me it was Teeni drinks. As soon as the weather got warm my mom would buy them from the grocery store, they were super cheap, I think something like 10 cents each and even cheaper if you bought them by the case. It was a great refreshing summer treat. They came in a small plastic bottle with a foil lid you would have to poke a hole in with your teeth. Packing them in my school lunch always reminds me of the last month of school where all the kids would walk to school and we would be counting the days down to summer vacation. They came in red, purple, orange, blue, and green was my favorite. They still make them, but now they’re called “Little Hugs”. Anyone here remember when they were called “Teeni drinks?”

  10. Jessica Leigh says:

    I remembered a few more:
    Rax restaurant – does anyone remember this place? We had one here in northwest NC in the 80s, but it closed a long time ago. They had roast beef sandwiches like Arby’s, but they also had a buffet bar with all sorts of yummy things on it. Oh my goodness, I just searched for it and found out they are still in operation in 5 states! Here is the link:

    Showbiz Pizza – I know that Chucky Cheese took over Showbiz, but it was never the same as the Showbiz of the 80s. I was lucky enough to have my 8th birthday party there, which was amazing! Tons of free tokens, a birthday song from the partially creepy animatronic Rock-afire Explosion – best birthday ever.

    Krispy Kreme donuts always take me back too – my dad worked there as a delivery man for grocery stores when we lived in Roanoke, Virginia. I am originally from a small town near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is the home of the headquarters & original Krispy Kreme shop. Anyway, I went with my dad to the place where they made the donuts lots of times and got to eat them fresh out of the oven and that is such a memory – they truly melt in your mouth!

  11. AK says:

    Oooh, Utz is a favorite. I also like Herr’s New Yorker chips – 5 oz. of perfectly sized, slightly thicker and perfectly fried chips for 99 cents is a winner.

    Other things kept around:
    – Turkey Hill Iced Tea: actually tastes like tea and not too bitter and not too sweet

    – Tastykake stuff or Entenmann’s donuts/raspberry danish: we recently started getting Tastykake items on Long Island and they are good but Entenmann’s is the old standby

    – Stop and Shop store brand Chunky Peanut Butter: by far, the chunkiest PB I’ve had (even more so than Superchunk) and a triple decker PB&J sandwich on toast made with this is delightful

  12. Sethonious says:

    Otter pops, I haven’t had one in a long time but I remember eating otter pops while playing on the slip and slide all afternoon.

    Mother’s animal cookies, sadly they closed the plant down just a couple of years ago.

    Keebler fudge sticks (dipped in peanut butter). I recently had a fudge stick and it just was not the same as I remember though.

    Cape cod potato chips were a mega super treat.

  13. Shannon says:

    My favorite foods are the ones that send me back to my childhood. Popcorn cooked the old fashioned way on the stove and homemade rice krispies treats remind me of simpler days. When I first learned to pop popcorn myself, I would use the Pops-Rite mixture of oil and corn. I, also, enjoy Cape Cod chips, but wasn’t introduced to them until adulthood.

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