Monday, March 23, 2009

French Fry Diary 17: Funky Fries

Several years back, the fine folks at Ore-Ida sought to add a bit of pizzazz to the art and style of French fries. They had already had great success with adding color to the Heinz (who owns them) ketchups with new green and purple varieties. Working on the assumption that kids like their foods in fun colors, they made a similar jump with the favorite fried food – unfortunately it was disastrous.

Funky Fries made the scene in 2002 with five varieties, each with a different color, style and/or taste. They were as follows with my assessments of each:

Cinna-Stiks – While baking these cinnamon-covered crisper-style potatoes smelled wonderful (well, for those of us that are not allergic to cinnamon that is), and were rather tasty if overly sweet. Much like some of Jelly Belly’s most delicious flavors (like Buttered Popcorn and Bubble Gum) this was a flavor combination that just did not go well in this form. Too sweet and not edible unless in small portions, in the end these were more dessert than dinner.

Cocoa Crispers – Much like the ones above, while baking these chocolate French fries would fill your entire house with intoxicating smell of brownies. And as much as the thought of chocolate French fries sounds addictively delicious –and still might be if done right- these things tasted as bad as they smelled good. These crisper-style dark brown fries were one of those food items that would go into your mouth with a fork or fingers and come out in your napkin. Bleah.

Crunchy Rings – These were fun. I wouldn’t mind if these were revived. Imagine a tater tots with a hole drilled from the top through to the bottom. The Crunchy Rings were exactly what they sounded like they were and were quite tasty. In some cases I would prefer these over regular tater tots if cooked to the right golden brown-ness.

Kool Blue – Blue French fries. Wow. This was one that came directly from the market research folks who thought kids liked to eat and play with colorful food, and was probably designed for use with the various colored ketchups. These bluish-green crsipers tasted like regular fries, but come one, they’re blue, and as any potato person will tell you: a blue potato chip or French fry has usually gone bad. Don’t eat it. What were they thinking?

Sour Cream & Jive – Even though I’m not a sour cream guy, I still have to wonder why this didn’t work. It works for potato chips, and I know folks dip their fries in sour cream, so what happened? I have a theory about these crispers, it’s the same deal as the Cinna-Stiks and the Cocoa Crispers – this flavor combination feels unnatural in this form. And if the potato chip theory really held water, why aren’t there BBQ fries or vinegar fries? Sometimes you need the dip on the outside, not the inside.

For reasons that may seem fairly obvious, they didn’t last long. Even with some heavy marketing, the venture failed and kids were not charmed, nor were adults. I think Ore-Ida would like very much to forget these ever existed. Maybe someday it will be time for these bizarro French fries, but not yet... or ever...


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