Appetizers
June 15, 2011
Hickory smoke-flavored peanuts pass the taste test

Sometimes, you feel like a nut. Or, more likely, a handful or two.

The folks at the family-owned and -operated Hampton Farms in rural Severn, N.C., understand that. The company specializes in peanut products, and reminds us that it is the "No. 1 brand of in-shell peanuts in the country." It also says that peanuts "have more antioxidants than broccoli, carrots or green tea."

A 10-ounce bag of its new product - "Hickory Smokehouse flavored in-shell peanuts" - arrived here at Food Central the other day. We tore it open and passed it around the room. The reviews were generally positive.

Before we get to those, though, we called Hampton's vice president of sales and marketing, Tom Nolan, to ask: Where do the nuts get their "straight from the smokehouse taste"?

"It's a natural flavoring, basically liquid smoke that is introduced during the roasting process," he said.

To buy the peanuts ($1.99), drop by any Winco store after July 1, call the Hampton Farms company store (757-654-1400) or visit its online store (www.hamptonfarms.com).

Anyway, here's what our tasters had to say about the peanuts, beginning with my take:

- "Most food products infused with 'hickory smoke flavor' are so overwhelmingly smokey that the tastes of the foods they flavor get lost. Not so with these crunchy nuts. Bonus: They're not oversalted, either. A quality snack all around."

- "Peanuts are already so flavorful that adding the hickory creates a clash of flavors. In other words, one should not mess with a good thing."

- "The hickory nuts smell more like hickory than taste smokey. There's a hickory smoke-saltiness to the aftertaste. They're also a little dry. But they would go great with beer."

- "These peanuts are good. Upon first bite, they taste like most other peanuts. About three seconds later, the taste of hickory smoke kicks in. And it pretty much stays there as you move on to more peanuts."

- "The hickory flavor is subtle and tasty. Definitely addictive."

- "The slight hint of flavor is not worth the mess. Out of the handful of peanuts, I had maybe one that was tasty."

- "Very good. I expected an overpowering hickory taste, like in flavored sunflower seeds, but this hickory taste was mellow."

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