Monday, 29 September 2014

Nespresso Grand Cru Capsule: Cubanía (By Uxorious)

I am a coffee lover. You’ll know this if you’ve read my previous coffee review on this site. Coffee to me is more than just a stimulant to help me out of bed in the morning. It’s a pleasure in and of itself. A good mug of coffee or a shot of deep dark espresso should be savoured as one of life’s little pleasures; whether first thing in the morning, during the working day or even last thing at night, I enjoy a good coffee.

At work I have a Nespresso machine, an old reliable friend, not one of their new younger versions that at the press of a button can make a cappuccino or a macchiato. This old stalwart just dispenses dark creamy espressos. At home I make espressos from beans but this is a bit too much faff for the work place. I’m always amazed by how good this little Nespresso machine is and how easy it is to use, with no mess to clean up. It sounds like I work for Nespresso or that they sponsor me, just to be clear, they don’t! (ps is the cheque in the post?)

Today I’m reviewing their latest limited edition Grand Cru capsule, the Cubania. This coffee is said to be “inspired by the passion and the warmth of the Cuban way of life”! That sounds like quite a challenge to squeeze into a hot drink. By the way, surprisingly these capsules contain no Cuban coffee.

When you think of Cuba you picture sun, sea, beaches, beautiful women, alcohol, cigars, classic American cars and Gloria Estefan. Actually I often picture Gloria Estefan, but this is not the place to discuss that. I inserted the capsule into my Nespresso machine, switched it on and patiently thought of Gloria. The espresso shot delivered looks the part, the right consistency, good texture, not watery. The crema was just a couple of millimetres thick, not as deep as their Ristretto capsule produces, but more than adequate.

The Nespresso website describes the aroma as powerful and complex. I will have to disagree here, I found it quite underwhelming, far more muted than their other capsules. But what it lacks in initial aroma it makes up for in spades with the flavour. Simply wow. The strength guide gives it a 13 out of, well what used to be just, 10. This is their strongest coffee yet. The coffee warmed, I would even say tingled, the sides of my tongue and the flavour lingered delightfully for ages after each sip. They have in my opinion developed exactly what an espresso should be! Rich, strong, full of flavour, a long lasting experience, with no bitter tones, in many ways just like Gloria.
By Uxorious

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bacon Jam (yes - really) & Chorizo Jam @EAT_17 [by @NLi10]



These are two words I never expected to see in the same PR e-mail, but Cinabar forwarded one on to me that not only promised that but Chorizo Jam.  



Being a fan of crazy sounding food (don't knock the tuna & chocolate toastie until you've tried it) I naturally signed up straight away and received these two jars on the first of September.  It's taken me 4 weeks to fully come to terms with the experience.

For a start, as the detailed blurb states it's more of a chutney than a jam, but essentially it's the same food group.  It's a paste like substance that I chose to initially use on the side of plates for meals.  It looks like this.

That's the bacon one in the jar.  Like sun-dried tomatoes it's not designed to be eaten with the eyes.  It actually contains "Smoked bacon, coffee, lemon juice, bourbon, fresh garlic and rosemary"

And here's what that looks like on a plate, adding an additional meaty dimension to a Bernard Mathews bird-slice based meal.

And here is the Chorizo (back left) with a lovely veggie meal adding some meaty goodness.  The ingredients list for that is "air dried chorizo, balsamic vinegar, apple juice and brown sugar "

And the first thing to note is that this works, it works well.  The bacon one tastes like bacon, the chorizo one tastes like chorizo.  Sure, there are other flavours in there and all that which add to and bring out the tastes but you get what the jar says.  And importantly you only need a small spoon of the stuff to flavour a whole plate.

For someone who lives with (and cooks for) a vegetarian this is amazing stuff.  You can make the exact same meal and then mix one of these in on your plate and everyone is happy. It works as a topping for meats - kind of like having pigs-in-blankets on the side but without the extra cooking - and livens up plain old turkey fillets without a need for effort.

The company that makes this - Eat17 (like East 17 you see) are based around an actual restaurant and I'm betting this is the exact stuff they use.  Without thinking I mixed some into some reheated rice and found I'd made a risotto bursting with flavour.  I'm having to ration myself and not add it to every meal.  I'm going to try a bacon jam sandwich at some point, but so far I've resisted.  I keep thinking of other things I can add it to, and every time I mention it to people they ask me if they can try some. So far only I have had it, but I'm taking the bacon one to a party tonight (I think mainly because I love the chorizo one slightly more).

It's very hard to review this as a product.  Is it the best bacon jam anyone can make, or is it just the first in a series of brilliant ideas? Would other meat based pastes work similarly? I honestly don't think I care.  I like this stuff and I'll be needing more.  If that requires a trip down to Walthamstow to try it out in person then so much the better.  There is also the Onion Jam (the original pre-baconised flavour I guess) and bacon and chilli.  There aren't enough meals in the day...

You can find out more by looking them up on Facebook or just their regular page.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Wookies & Cream Bar (@CyberCandyLTD) [By @SpectreUK]

This Wookies & Cream chocolate bar was made to commemorate the new Star Wars film soon to be on our big screens. Any Walking Carpet will tell you that I'm quite the Star Wars fan. I love all the movies, yes, even the newish three set before the three originals that some people have not enjoyed. I've also immensely enjoyed all the Clone Wars cartoons and grew up on Star Wars toys when I was a lad. It states on the front of the packet that you should "Come to the dark side, we have cookies!" This makes me wonder what a Sith Wookie would be like as an evil character. I'm sure he'd be very dark and hairy, and have a red lightsaber with a fine curved wooden handle and be armed with a Wookie Bowcaster to blast the more troublesome Jedi with. Liquidising that character in my mind, adding in a decent dollop of cream and making him into a chocolate bar didn't quite appeal, but how else would you make Wookies & Cream? Trying to shake that image from my head I decided to try and find out!

It stated on the packet that this Wookies & Cream bar included milk and white chocolate and had dark and light cookie pieces (cookies not Wookies) in it. On opening the packet I quickly got the feel of what a liquidised evil Wookie would look like if you added cream and made him into a chocolate bar. So I took a photograph! The dark cookie pieces had been added to the white chocolate and tasted like a creamy mixture of white chocolate and crunchy dark cookie, whilst the light cookie pieces and been added to the milk chocolate in a half and half fashion. it was clear that a lot of thought and care had gone into the creation of this chocolate bar. Ignoring the theme for a second the creator had really gone to town here. I'm not a chocolatier by trade, but understand the moulding stages and creating of the chocolate and cookie pieces. The presentation was neat without overly trying to be neat, ordered without overly trying to be ordered. The quality of chocolate was excellent and the cookie pieces added a crunchy body that I'm not used to in bars such as this. Even if you don't like Star Wars or couldn't care a fig for it, at least give one of these bars a try. If you like white chocolate and/ or milk chocolate and cookie pieces, you'll love this bar. If you do like Star Wars this may be as close to what an evil chocolate Wookie would taste like with cream.

Information on the packet;
Packed by Cybercandy ingredients in the 100g bar can be seen in the photograph.
By Spectre

Friday, 26 September 2014

Jammy Dodgers - Berry Blast (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

The purple wrapper of these Jammy Dodgers caught my eye in the supermarket, so I picked up a couple of packets. This Berry Blast flavour looks quite similar to the original variety of Jammy Dodgers, but with a purple jam instead of the traditional red one. You can see the purple jam as it appears in the cute Jammy Dodger heart cut-out on the biscuit.
When they were out of the packet they still had the look and feel of the regular Jammy Dodgers, and the purple jam was still pleasingly sticky if you attempted to prise the two layers of biscuit apart. The biscuit part has no new added flavour, it is the usual pure biscuity buttery taste. The jam however although sweet has a nice sharpness from the Berry Blast. The jam is predominantly blackcurrant in its taste, which is nice and zingy, and such an underestimated fruit.
These are a nice twist on the regular Jammy Dodgers, they are just different enough to be interesting, without putting off the hardened Dodger fans. I love that blackcurrant is showcased in these biscuits, it feels a very British fruit and as such it is nice that it features in such an iconic British biscuit.
By Cinabar

Thursday, 25 September 2014

PUKKA - the Green Tea Revolution [Review by @NLi10]

First up - I'm not sure why all the pictures are at an angle - sorry!

I received this promotional Green Tea leaflet from my partner - and it contained two different varieties.  My plan wasn't to review these particularly but as it happens they are a little more interesting than I'd thought.

The company is Pukka - not one I'd heard of, but organic green teas are a nice thing for work so I was certainly happy to give them a try.

First up is this Clean Green tea - which is green tea with lemon.  A pretty common combination, but nice to see.  The leaves were quite small in the bag and it was fairly flat but did have some odd shapes in there too.  Once you look on the back it turns out that this has fennel and other interesting botanics floating around too.  Maybe I over-brewed it but the fennel taste was fairly strong.  It wasn't that I didn't like it, more that it didn't really suit the name clean.  
This is a green tea for people who aren't keen on that dark bitter taste for sure, but I think the other earthy flavours (like many infusion based drinks) may put some off.  I'd not turn down a cup, but I have other greens in my tea caddy I prefer.

This darker 'supreme matcha tea' was the other offering (and actually the one I drank first).  This is a mix of green tea with the industrial grade matcha powder combined.  This means it's like the Red Bull of the tea world.
Where as the first drink was quite soothing, this is more of a call to action.  Great for people who really need coffee strength tea.  The flavour wasn't too bitter either which was a nice surprise.  I think that again my tastes lie somewhere in-between these two - and there is a serene Jasmin variety that sounds like what I drink, and a mint green which sounds like Moroccan Whisky.
If I was offered this again I'd make sure that I had something to do with all that stimulation and wasn't just sitting at my desk buzzing!

Overall an interesting couple of drinks that do make me want to try the others in the range so I'll look out for these in cafes.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Septimus Spyder Ginger Beer (@SpyderBrew @brown_and_green) [By @SpectreUK]

I often keep a bottle or can of ginger beer in for when I have a dicky tummy. This is generally when I've eaten something that I've had a disagreement with and my tummy has lost the argument. Septimus Spyder's Medieval Brewhouse traditionally fermented this Special Reserve Ginger Beer. So the bottle states that the Spyder's small beers are brewed using "gruit", which is a mixture of herbs and spices used for brewing from the rock-banging-together days of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia.

This Ginger Beer had a lightly carbonated white cloudy look on pouring into my glass beer mug. There was a sharpened ginger smell from the mirky white liquid with a hint of lime and lemon at the end of the odour. This was a warming spicy ginger beer on taste, not at all like the fiery nose hair catching ginger beers I've tasted in the past. The light fizziness complemented the subtleties of the spicy undertones which seemed to be playfully skipping behind the ginger, whilst the mild lime and lemon flavour took the tastebuds on a pleasant journey into the aftertaste. This was a refreshing ride on soft bubbles, not a white knuckle fight for your life on water rapids. Perfect for my dicky tummy after a little bit of upset.

Information on the bottle;
330ml waxed bottle with just over 0.5% volume. Brewed by Septimus Spyder Drinks in Lichfield. Ingredients included; lightly carbonated water, sugar, roots; ginger, and dandelion; lemon juice, lime juice, cream of tartar, antioxidant; vitamin C; preservatives; sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Gluten free and vegan friendly.
By Spectre

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Drink [@PeanutHottie] (By @Cinabar)

Just when I’d come to terms with the invention that is Peanut Butter Hottie, they only go and up their game and come up with a chocolate version!! IF you haven’t tried the original Peanut Hottie already, where have you been? If truth be told, I had already supplemented my Peanut Hottie with a teaspoon of hot chocolate in an amateurish attempt to create this drink, but now they’ve done that for me, properly.
I have always made Peanut Hottie with hot water, and I continue to do this with the chocolate version. It was a little more awkward to mix up, and it did need a bit more stirring than the regular variety to mix up. It was by no means difficult to make, its just the usual Peanut Hottie pretty much dissolves straight away when you add the water.
After stirring, I gave the drink a first sip. I was pleasantly surprised by the balance of flavour. This is defiantly Peanut Butter and Chocolate rather than Chocolate and Peanut Butter; if you see what I mean. The drink is still all about the peanut flavour, but the after taste is smooth and chocolate, and gives the drink a lovely edge. It also feels more creamy in texture and indulgent, perfect for the autumn and winter months ahead, to soothe away the cold. Chocolate and nuts are such a good combination, and as peanut butter fan this drink is going to take some beating.
By Cinabar