FOOD AND DRINK
Must Consume: Covered Bridge Storm Chips, From New Brunswick
Finally, potato chips specially designed to help you survive a winter nor'easter
Storm Chips chips came about as a result of social media, and a dash of local celebrity.
It’s a two part backstory. The first involves YouTube weather forecasting sensation Frankie MacDonald of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, who is known for his passionate weather forecasts (now stretching to regions across the world). In his animated delivery, MacDonald, who has autism, often reminds people in the Maritimes about items to stock up on before a storm hits. “The winds will be howling. Get your batteries checked, your hats out,” he advises in his online broadcasts. Also: “Get your snacks. Get your chips. Get your storm chips.”
Second, Stephanie Domet helped storm chips go viral. A writer and host of CBC Nova Scotia’s radio talk show Mainstreet, in an early 2014 segment talked about how she rushes out to stock up on bags of chips before a snowstorm. That winter had been a doozy, with endless snowstorms and blizzards battering the Atlantic provinces. Storms were a big topic of discussion. Later, Domet tweeted out a picture of herself buying chips at a convenience store and tagged it #stormchips.
The concept hit home (pretty much literally) with Maritimers, and #stormchips became a hashtag phenomenon. It was “a thing I tapped out on my smartphone while standing in line at the grocery store waiting to pay for a bag of ripple chips and some onion dip. And then proceeded to append to the live-tweeting I did that night of the eating of said ripple chips and onion dip,” Domet wrote on her website. “I think I tapped into the zeitgeist and originated a funny little hashtag that people came to love.”
All the while, a local maker of chips was paying attention.
Covered Bridge are a brand of potato chips made by an old New Brunswick potato farming family. “My brother Matt and I bought the farm from our father, uncle and grandfather in 2006,” says Ryan Albright over the phone from near Hartland, New Brunswick, “down the road from the Longest Covered Bridge in the World.”
“Our father bought it from our grandfather, and our grandfather bought it from our great-grandfather, who started in it the early 1920s.” Today, the Albrights grow dark-skinned russet potatoes, which they now also use for making potato chips – a business the brothers Matt and Ryan started a few years after acquiring the farm. They say their Covered Bridge kettle-cooked chips are based on their great grandmother's recipe.
Courtesy Covered Bridge
In January 2015, inspired by this insidery Maritime joke going viral, the company trademarked the name Storm Chips with the inention of making it an actual chip flavour. By November that year, the first 240-gram bags of Covered Bridge Storm Chips arrived on shelves, just in time for storm season.
Storm Chips are not one flavour, but a “a flurry” of Covered Bridge’s four most popular – Smokin’ Sweet BBQ, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Homestyle Ketchup, and Creamy Dill – all mixed together in one bag. There's also a cute graphic on the bag of four potatoes in toques and scarves.
The brand is one of the very few family-owned and fully integrated potato chip manufacturers in Canada, and was already becoming known for innovative flavours such as Donair, Hot Dog And Mustard, and Lobster. In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI Covered Bridges’ Storm Chips are now cult items that are cleaned off shelves as soon as they arrive, with fans tweeting any bags that are spotted on a store shelf. (A labour issue at the Covered Bridge company last winter, since settled, held back expanded production last year. There should be more consistent output this winter.)
Storm Chips are available between now and spring thaw. Albright says Covered Bridge is looking to expand distribution of Storm Chips to other parts of Canada, to help make a chip-fuelled, binge-watching, howling wind kind of weekend just as fun for the rest of the country as it is for Maritimers. Tune in to Frankie MacDonald on YouTube and watch for impending stormy weather wherever you are.