26 June 2017

M&Ms Limited Edition Peanut & Hazelnut (PoundLand) By @Cinabar

There is actually a new variety of M&Ms out in the UK. An actual new variety, not those silly editions that they bring out at Christmas and Halloween and all they do is have some differently coloured shells, but the same basic product. Think bags of red and green peanut ones at Christmas. That is usually as far as the imagination goes for the UK market, but these ones are actually something different - hazelnut. Obviously they are treading carefully and have mixed half the bag with regular peanut M&Ms so as not to cause too much of a thrill in the UK, new flavour M&Ms are so very rarely seen here.
The bag is very smart and bright, half yellow and green and stands out nicely on the shelf. One thing I did notice is that there is no sticker on the bag to re-seal it, I took this to mean they are trying to tell me subliminally to eat the whole bag in one go. I did too - but I did share! ;-)
There seemed to be loads of the M&Ms in the pack, it was a very generous portion. Obviously I tried to see if I could work out which were peanut and which were hazelnut, but as both came in big or small I couldn’t work it out, there did seem to be about half and half though. The hazelnut edition was absolutely lovely. The distinctive hazelnut flavour worked very well with the chocolate and was a very enjoyable combination. The hazelnut has a slight hint of bitter to it, but this is nicely balanced with the chocolate. I thought they worked very well, so well in fact I’m hoping they get a release in the UK of a pure hazelnut bag, I’m sure we could handle the excitement.

25 June 2017

Italian Pizza (ish) Roundup - Florence, Pisa and Siena (@NLi10)

As a big fan of Italian food I could have eaten out for every meal, and essentially we did.  I tried to have one 'pasta' and one 'pizza' per day to make sure I tried as many things as possible.

Previously we've established that the best Pizza I had in Italy was actually in Pisa in a fairly touristy place (no one more shocked than I).

Here is a quick tour of the Pizza side of things, in no particular order.

Here I ate essentially the same pizza as above, but at what can only be described as a take-away pizza place with a few tables by the road.  They seemed genuinely confused to see tourists eating in such a cheap place (Marini de Pisa is mostly for people with Yachts) at such an odd hour, but the pizzas were competent and tasty.  This is most notable however because the base was very much a focaccia instead of a regular pizza base, which feels like a regional variation I can get behind.  The effect was as if someone had fried the pizza base - if someone ran a chain like this in England they would be able to retire a Millionaire in two years tops.

Here in Siena I made my own olive based bread pizza - and naturally the real one arrived at the same time.  Ham pizza means ham pizza - and here we see the same luscious and fluffy pizza base with some ham slapped on.  A bit tourist trap (the view was great here) but essentially a really nice use of quality ingredients to do an efficient pizza.  Very tough to cut with the sloping table and basic knife though!

Here we see why ordering in posher restaurants can go wrong - this pizza has no sauce or tomatoes at all!  Maybe it's a response to a certain special diet, maybe it's a local delicacy of the back streets of Firenze. Essentially it's rocket, cheese and some kind of salted beef.  The beef was amazing and tasted like it was marinated in Marmite - and was mouth watering enough to mean that this wasn't a dry meal after all.  Strong and crazy flavours made this a real favourite, whether they were playing a practical joke on the English boy or not.
Interestingly this place was close enough to the back of a tourist museum for us to use the free wifi for the whole meal.  A lovely touch which enabled us to plan our evening in the cool peace of the restaurant!

This was another thing where I'm not sure that I ordered a whole meal.  I got steak, cheese (more than this - I gave some away) and leaves - the olives were in exchange for the cheese.

It was pretty expensive and initially I was a little disappointed - but then I tried the steak. Italians really understand how to get the best out of their meat! I really understand now why Europeans get upset with bland british food, and American sauces on everything.  The cooking has made this into something to be treasured. I'm sure if my Italian was better that I'd have ended up with some kind of side of carbohydrates (probably bread) with this but I was so full after this that nothing else was required.  As someone who isn't a fan of cheese this worked really well, but I am glad I stole some of the tomato and olives from the girls salads to round it out.

Last of all we have the first Pizza I ate in Italy.  I didn't know what my baseline should be so I went for this sausage Pizza - and I think it's a creation just to keep German teenagers happy!  It wasn't a bad pizza (the base and basic parts were fine) but I've had better toppings and felt like i'd thrown away one of my limited meal slots on something a bit too supermarket.  It did however do the job and bring all of the above into context so I could appreciate all of the different angles.

24 June 2017

Railway Porter Beer (Honest Brew) By @SpectreUK

I do like a trip on a heritage steam railway. There is one fairly close by in Bridgnorth called Severn Valley, amongst others we've been to dotted about the country. They're certainly not like the commuter filled bustling trains crammed full of grumpy faces on the way to work and back each day. There's something incurably romantic about steam engines and their large settee filled carriage compartments that you can snuggle in and enjoy a decent picnic as the engine huffs and puffs down the line.

This Railway Porter from the Five Points Brewery Company in Hackney, London, reminds me of those smoky steamy days out and about on holidays from the hustle and bustle. Brewed with chocolate malt, malted barley and caramel malt, as well as East Kent Goldings hops, this 4.8% volume beer has the very essence of pudding beer in its dark chocolate and coffee aroma. The thick dark brown almost black porter oozed into my waiting beer glass from the 330ml bottle. The expected malted dark chocolate flavour hit my tastebuds first mixing with the malted barley. Bitterness from the hops followed, and a slight sweetness from the caramel malt, then returning to the chocolate malt and an intense coffee bitterness moving into the aftertaste. I'd recommend sitting down with a bar of dark chocolate, a black coffee and a pint of this Railway Porter to wash them down with. Black as coal, capturing the spirit of a steam age almost passed, but never quite there; this dirty, filthy, oily, lovable rogue of a beer.

23 June 2017

Mr Kipling Strawberry Cheesecake Whirls (Morrisons) By @Cinabar

Mr Kipling has added a summer twist to their biscuit Whirls, and have brought out Strawberry Cheesecake Whirls. They are packaged in a bright a sunny yellow box that (literally) says Summer all over it.
I opened up the packet and found six Strawberry Cheesecake Whirls to share out. The filling was a surprisingly bright shade of pink in colour and had two tones. I gave one of the Strawberry Cheesecake Whirls a bite and tested it. I think I had forgotten just how soft and crumbly Mr Kipling’s Whirls are, they are difficult eat tidily, but I was still enjoying them.
The flavour of the strawberry was quite dominant, and very nicely fruity. Strawberries are one of the main flavours of summer and this sweetened strawberry jam filling worked perfectly. The biscuit base was lovely too, buttery and creamy in flavour. The other part of the filling was the paler pink cheesecake part, which was okay. This section is the main part of the theme for the cheesecake, but it reminded me of yoghurt, and had a hint of sour. It wasn’t strong enough to significantly distract from all the good flavours, and it was by no means bad, I just feel it didn’t add a lot. I think I’ would have preferred a plain strawberry Whirl, or one that was strawberry and cream. The cheesecake just didn't quite work for me, and added a slightly sour distraction to the other rich flavours. Of course I suspect that was what they were aiming for, but personally I’d have preferred a full on sweeter taste.

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