Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tassimo - Costa Latte [By @Cinabar]

I have bought many kitchen gadgets in the past that haven’t stood the test of time. Ice cream machines, hot chocolate maker etc all bound for the back of the cupboard and occasional use only. One of the gadgets that I use every single day though is my Tassimo. I’ve had a machine for a few years now and whether it is an after work coffee or a before bed hot chocolate the machine is used with guaranteed regularity.

Costa Latte
Although Lattes have always been available for the Tassimo recently Costa have got on board and now you can make your very own Costa Latte at home. Inside the pack are two different types of disc for the machine. There are eight milk and eight espresso, and to make one drink you use one of each, i.e. it makes eight lattes. The drinks make a big mug full, which is lovely, so I put my large mug in the machine and loaded in a milk disc. The discs are double sized but fit easily in the machine. The second you press the start button the drink making begins and seconds later hot milk is being distributed to the mug. A quick switch of disc and the espresso is being poured into the milk and the coffee is ready to go. If you don’t have a Tassimo there is no clean up or mess, you just take the discs out and that’s it. The machines do need de-scaling every few months, and I run the cleaning program after I do that, but again it is all automated and just gets on with it on its own. Easy, and I think this why my Tassimo has passed that test of time, no washing up or hassle!
Anyway, back to my Costa latte, I noticed my mug looked a little fuller using the Costa discs than the other make I’ve tried. The taste was good, the milk was thick and almost frothy, with a lovely creamy edge to it. The espresso had delivered a decent shot, it almost looked like a double in amount. As such the coffee was rich and strong, but with no bitterness at all. It did taste like Costa’s I order in store, but came in at a fraction of the price.

Twinings Tea
The other thing that you might not realise with the Tassimo machine is that it also makes tea. Yes just like there are discs for making coffee, you can put some in to make tea. They are from a good make too, Twinings, so I was expecting a good cuppa. I put the disc in and brewed up the drink. I have to admit it did make a proper English Breakfast cup and I very much enjoyed the drink. My only issue is that I can make a really nice cup of tea with a tea bag at home, for a few pence. I can’t make a proper latte though, so that is where I think the Tassimo comes into its own. The tea is nice, and I will drink it up, but the coffee has won me over.

Many thanks to the folks from Tassimo for sponsoring this post, as ever my views remain impartial.

Monday, 20 October 2014

New Greggs Hot Dog (@GreggstheBakers) [By @Cinabar]

I was quite excited to find that Greggs have started selling hot dogs as one of their new foods. The lovely folks from Greggs asked if I wanted to give one a try, and I couldn’t resist. There happens to be a very large branch of Greggs near me and it has just reopened following refurbishment so I thought this would be a nice excuse to give it a try out. I ordered the hot dog and had it fully loaded with plenty of ketchup, mustard and onions. A colleague also chose to give one a try, but had initially not been that enthusiastic at the idea (she is a Cheese and Onion Pasty kind of girl). She went along with the hot dog idea though, she too had all the toppings.
The hot dogs came in a cute paper wrapper, and the onions on top looked liked dried onions, they were crunchy too. I liked the mix of textures, the bread was very soft and fluffy, but then Greggs are bakers, and the meat was firm and the onions were lovely and crisp. The hot dog sausage tasted authentic, with that proper frankfurter taste whihc was seriously good. The ketchup was sweet and mustard had that lovely kick of American flavour. In short I thoroughly enjoyed my hot dog as did my previously unconvinced friend. She said the toppings and the crunchy onions made it for her. I was impressed by just how filling the hot dog was too, it did me nicely for lunch.
Another on the ball guy from work noticed if you download the Greggs App you get a voucher for a free hot dog, so I think it is safe to say we will be going back for more! :-)
By Cinabar

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Birmingham Oktoberfest 2014 [by @NLi10]

Hallo und willkommen to Oktoberfest!  Yes - I know it happens a little earlier in the real countries, but here in the UK in Birmingham our Oktoberfest was this week.  Running from Wed to Sunday I think this year.  We got organised and got an offer for £6.50 so that we were in the VIP seating area but with very little included food or drink.

We also had table service, but to save the people doing this I decided not to take pictures of this.

This all happened on the evening of the day that I had the BigDog hot dog for lunch so I was worried that it wouldn't stand up to the high quality bar that had been set and i'd be too full to enjoy the food.

First up was Schlumberger - german champagne (I am lead to believe).

This tasted like champagne to me - I'm no expert on wines and similar drinks.  It was drunk, but it wasn't something I'd really enjoyed or would try again.

Next up was 2 pints of German beer for £11.  This is a little expensive, but with the table service and the atmosphere I couldn't complain.  It was to be the only purchase outside of the vouchers that I made so was worth it.  It tasted like weak German beer.  It wasn't bad by any stretch but it did suffer a little when the last 1/4 of a pint was sat at the bottom a little flat after bashing glasses during drinking songs.

Our included plate meal was pork, cabbage and potato with onion gravy.  I liked this and wasn't upset for what we paid.  I did forget to take a picture with all that was going on though!  With our meal there were two surprise puddings. The first was alcoholic and called Underberg. I'd never heard of this but was advertised as £4 a bottle on the menu.  It's 44% too - so similar to Jagermeister in it's 'herbal drink that the cool kids use as a mixer' angle.  Tasting a little like absinthe it brought back many memories and had a distinct and lingering herbal aftertaste.  We shared the one we got with our initial starter meals (8 vouchers for 6 people :D) and expected to get ones with our main voucher meals, but we only got the sweet puddings and our alcohol puddings never came.  Shame really, but it was a little chaotic by that point.

And this is the sweet pudding.  Surprisingly soft gingerbread covered in incredibly sweet icing was a good counterpoint to the 2 pints of beer.  I never got around to ordering the breadzel that  I was tempted by on the menu due to my meal on the way.

The music was silly and thematic and a lot of fun.  Sitting right at the front we escaped the poor weather and had a very good night.

All in all for £17.50 total spend for me I had a great time, and we are thinking of doing it again in the future.  I think we'd try to get a deal that included the first drink (although those looked like the £3 half a pint beers) and the sausage and fries meal as it probably wouldn't be much more expensive.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

It stated on the back of the glass bottle that this Alcoholic Ice Tea was best served ice cold or over ice. Bare with me and picture the scene; we'd decided to travel from Wolverhampton to the Merry Hill Shopping on a Saturday, which is just over eleven miles away. There seemed to be roadworks all the way there and it took about an hour and a half to arrive. Then there was half an hour to find a parking space in the multitude of car parks that were each filled to the brim. We trailed around the stuffy super heated shopping centre for a while and found a seat to eat some lunch at, by this time we'd had enough and drove home. On the way back we stopped at a local supermarket and I picked up this Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea. I do apologise, but I just couldn't face waiting for it to chill in the fridge and needed something to calm the nerves (mainly foul temperament) after the traffic jams, parking fiasco and shopping 'bliss'! So I popped open the bottle, which had a pleasant cheerful fizz. That made me smile for the second time that day. The first time was lunch on Cinabar! This is the World's first alcoholic Ice Tea, not the World's first for Cinabar buying lunch as she can be quite generous at times (asides paying the writers!). I digress, this Ice Tea was made with ethically sourced Kenyan black tea, with added craft distilled grain spirit and infused with natural citrus. On pouring the lightly fizzy brown Ice Tea there was a refreshing citrus zing and spirit kick to the initial black tea smell. I noticed that the dark brown liquid had a murkiness to it. There was definitive sweet black tea taste that was quickly matched by a burst of citrus and a light spirit kick at the end of the flavour that followed pleasantly through to the aftertaste of sweet citrusy black tea. Aaah! Just what I needed!

Information on the bottle;
275ml bottle at 4% volume. Made by Tudor Drinks in London. No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. Gluten free and contains naturally occurring caffeine.
By Spectre

Friday, 17 October 2014

Appletiser - Apple & Pomegranate (@appletiseruk) [By @Cinabar]

Appletiser is a drink that has been going quite a while in the UK and seems to fit the bill nicely as a refreshing non alcoholic drink. It always feels a bit more sophisticated than J20, although I am a regular on them too. I tend to associate Appletiser with meals in Bella Italia as it is my drink of choice in there, plus they also stock Grapetiser too, it's sister product.
Recently Appletiser has released another new flavour and I was keen to give it try. This new version is a mix of apple and pomegranate, but like its regular Appletiser counterpart is still 100% sparking fruit juices, with no preservatives.
The drink comes in a smart glass bottle that give off a gentle fizz when you unscrew the cap. I poured out the burgundy liquid into a cup. The drink definitely still has apple as the main flavour hit, but here is a lovely zingy taste of pomegranate which takes you away from the sweet flavour. I like the sharper taste and the touch of pomegranate just makes this feel like a proper grown up drink. It is still very easy to drink as the juice flavours are blended well, and the pomegranate enhances the apple nicely.
Here’s hoping Bella Italia add it to their menu very soon!
Thanks to Appletiser for sending me the bottle to try.
By Cinabar

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bacon Dog & fries - BigDog @BigDogBrum [by @NLi10]

While in the centre of Birmingham (UK) on the way to an Oktoberfest event I decided I needed a quick lunch, and popped into the fairly new BigDog.  This is in Paradise Forum under the carcass of the old library and not somewhere I'd usually be passing while hungry so I figured I'd give it a go.  I expected a hotdog van style experience as it's in the same vicinity as eat4less (which has a less nice colloquial name due to the cheapness of the food and the speed at which it leaves the body).

What happened was a slightly different experience.  Forgive the lack of pictures as I wasn't planning to do this as a review. There are more on their twitter page. I was in a hurry so chose something near the top of the menu (a hotdog wrapped in bacon called the BaconDog I think) and added fries so I wouldn't be hungry.  I turned down the drink which confused the server and was surprised it was over £5.  It took longer than I expected for the food to come & this is what arrived.

First up this is a lot more food than I'd pictured and was a pleasant surprise.  Those aren't fries.  They are chips, freshly fried and had cut and really some of the nicest chips I've had in a long time.  The sausage is similarly freshly cooked - no sitting on a rotating heat source here.  The meat is German market quality - and it turns out I could have chosen other kinds like beef too! The sauces seemed a little unnecessary as they are on the table but I did say yes to all the trimmings. The bacon was a decent sized sheet and wrapped securely around and not just shoved on top.

All in all - this wasn't a snack, it was a meal.  And a good one at that.  I went from thinking it was slow and expensive to thinking it was a decent deal and speedy considering it seems to have been made from scratch.  Even the confusion over the drink was explained by a more detailed reading of the menu - £5 gets you a meal deal so with the bacon I'd turned down a less than 50p drink.

Looking like a 'splash and dash' diner I think hurts BigDog a little.  Once you know it's quality and appreciate the experience it's a lot easier to understand the position it occupies.  It's an American style diner which should be as busy as Nando's opposite is, but I think it needs a few more pictures of the quality goods in the windows and a bit more 'special offer' about the meal deals to entice people into the store.

It's barely more expensive than a meal deal at many of the fast-food giants and a darn sight more tasty.  Will go back, and if they have veggie options I'd even take my partner.  Well recommended.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Burts Spicy Chorizo crisps (Aldi) [By @SpectreUK]

I'm a big fan of spicy crisps especially from a big sharing bag and dipped in mayonnaise or salad cream whilst watching a good movie. These spicy smoky Spanish sausage flavoured crisps seemed to fit the bill. Although I have a greedy nature so it's often difficult for me to share food, especially snack food like spicy crisps. These Burts Spicy Chorizo Crisps sounded just like something I would unlikely be able to share, but nevertheless Cinabar and her mom were awaiting their considerably smaller portions than mine with baited breath. On opening the packet these crisps smelt like spicy chorizo and paprika with a citric lime twist at the end of the odour. The crisps had a deep orange paprika colour to them. These crunchy crisps had a smoky chorizo sausage taste to them, having an almost instant spicy paprika and sweet medium heat chilli pepper flavour with a smoky saltiness to the Chorizo, and a lime twist that followed through into the spicy aftertaste. We all really enjoyed these Spicy Chorizo crisps with our lunchtime sandwiches, especially me dipping them into a decent dollop of salad cream. I'll have to get them both to pick up a couple of packets next time they visit the store!

Information on the packet;
Produced by Burts Potato Chips, in Devon. Packaged in a 150g packet these crisps per 100g have 514 calories, with 28.8g of fat and 1.2g of sugar. See photograph for ingredients. No artificial flavours or colourings. These crisps are gluten free, but not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
By Spectre