I placed four small bags of potato chips on the checkout counter, and before I could even get money out to pay for them the cashier said, “Oh, I love these chips.”

I asked why, and he said it’s because they have a strong potato flavor. They remind him of thick potato sticks.

“And they’re made in Maine,” he added. “You can’t beat that.”

We were talking about a brand new potato chip from a fledgling company called Vintage Maine Kitchen. Based in Freeport, the company was founded by Kelly Brodeur, a culinary arts graduate of Johnson & Wales, who was inspired by her 2-year-old daughter, Merrill – a big potato chip fan – to develop a chip made from Maine potatoes that contains no MSG or other ingredients found in processed foods.

“Our brand is all about full-circle food, where what’s old is new again,” she said, “and we’re just bringing it back to when people made food with real food.”

Brodeur believes that potato chips have become a “throw-away food” – the consolation prize that comes with your sandwich or lobster roll instead of a delicious food in its own right. The bag of chips that sits by your Reuben is often saved for later, or might even be tossed in the trash.

She wants to change that. She uses only Maine potatoes in her chips and hand slices them in her production facility in Freeport. The chips are fried in sunflower oil and flavored with Maine sea salt. That cashier was right – they do have a strong potato flavor. And they don’t leave streaks of grease on your hands like mass-produced chips.

Brodeur also offers a Maine maple flavor, made with real Maine maple sugar, that could be called the kettle corn of potato chips. They have an appealing, subtle sweetness that doesn’t hit you over the head.

Both chips cost $2 per 1.25-ounce bag in stores. You can also buy them online.

Brodeur’s chips are in 15 locations now, including DeRosier’s Market, Royal River Natural Foods, the Salty Lobster, Bow Street Market, the 1912 Cafe at L.L. Bean and the Maine Beer Co. in Freeport. In Portland, find them at Aurora Provisions, the Portland Food Co-op, and Lois’ Natural Marketplace. In Brunswick, they’re at Morning Glory Natural Foods and the Bowdoin College Convenience Store.

The No. 1 question Brodeur says she is asked these days: “When are you going to make larger bags?”

— MEREDITH GOAD


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