Saturday, 25 October 2014

Stone Dead Stout (Brown and Green, Trentham Gardens) [By @SpectreUK]

Whoooooo! It is the week of Halloween and all is eerie quiet, cold and misty. Quiet and cold as the grave in fact. Just imagine you're walking through a murky graveyard late on Halloween night. It's Witching Hour and you hear the sound of solid earth shifting and rotten coffin wood snapping as the dead rise from their graves. Then there is ghostly groaning and shuffling of feet over wet grass, and overgrown brambles and twigs snapping as some paranormal force pushes through years of neglected long forgotten ground. You run for your life stumbling across what you first think is a fancy dress party held in fact by the undead and then of course some zombie wannabe puts Thriller on a beatbox next to the gravestone bar. The undead bartender tells you the best drink on the house, "Stone Dead!" He says, "try it, you'll love it to death!"

Stone Dead is a stout for the living as well as the undead. This Imperial award winning stout was brewed with Millennium, Nugget and Styrian Golding Hops. The label mentioned roasted malt, coffee, burnt toast and bitter fruit flavours. My tastebuds were dribbling just reading the label! On pouring this almost jet black stout there was a definite roasted malt and coffee smell, with fruity hints and the mixture of hops bubbling excitedly like a witch's brew under the dark creamy head. At first I struggled to keep this stout in my beer mug as it threatened to froth out over the brim. I took a deep sip and was instantly rewarded with that promised roasted malt and a lip smacking dark chocolate flavour. The strong bitterness from the dark coffee hit my tastebuds next, which was closely followed by the throat scraping bramble-berry type fruitiness that nipped gingerly at my throat. This was a full bodied stout, not for the faint hearted bursting with complex flavours from roasted malts and chocolate, to coffee and the fruity bitterness from the fighty mixture of hops, leaving a fruity malty burnt toast type flavour in my mouth as an aftertaste. A pleasure to drink on a cold scary night or any other. Whether Stone Dead or not this black hearted stout warmed me right through and would breathe life even into the living dead! Bwah ha ha haaaa!

Information on the bottle;
Produced by the Lymestone Brewery in Staffordshire. 500ml bottle at 6.66% volume (Aaah! The Devil's number!). Contained malted barley and wheat.
By Spectre

Friday, 24 October 2014

Options - Limited Edition Sweet Popcorn Hot Chocolate (@Ocado) [By @cinabar]

One of the things I like about my Ocado order is when it comes to ordering Options hot chocolate because you can add the flavour “Limited Edition” to your basket. This means you get whatever Options hot chocolate sachet is currently the new edition, and you don’t get a clue as to what it is until it arrives! This may seem like a disadvantage to some, but I love it! On my last but one order I had Turkish Delight (which was delicious), but this time I was all smiles when Sweet Popcorn arrived, something totally new to me.
I couldn’t wait to pop the kettle on and give it a try out. Funnily enough when I poured out the powder into the mug and gave it an expectant sniff I couldn’t really pick up on much other than chocolate. I added the hot water and again, the aroma was just chocolate.
So I took my first sip and something weird happened. I have found a product that is too sweet even by my standards. Now I know the flavour is supposed to be “Sweet Popcorn” but I think they put all the emphasis on the first word and pretty much ignored the second. I couldn’t really notice any popcorn taste at all, there was none of that corn flavoured goodness, no hint of the cinema experience. What it did remind me of was a regular cup of Options to which it tasted like there was a couple of extra teaspoons of sugar added to it. From the calories this can’t have been true, it was the usual low calorie count, but the sugary taste over powered the chocolate either way.
Oh well, you can’t win them all, and clearly there is a market for those of you who have an even sweeter tooth then mine. I’ll just be hanging on to see what wonders I get next month when I add “Limited Edition” Options variety to my order, I still enjoy the gamble.
By Cinabar

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Old El Paso Chili & Garlic One Pan Rice Meal

My two person family are big fans of the Old El Paso meal kits and always have at least one in the emergency supplies cupboard to fill with Quorn and veg and brighten up the midweek.

They have just started to branch out into other kits - and this one is essentially rice and sauce and seasoning. Naturally it suggests chicken - but again we went for Quorn.

The steps are easy to follow and the sachets are generous. We had a love meal for two with enough left aside for one lunch and one 2nd helping.

It was spicy enough to satisfy but didn't need cooling through other means. The rice was great quality and the measurements meant that it was just fluffy enough and still had a bite. We will certainly buy more of these to stash away and brighten up future meals.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Lingham's Chilli Sauce [By @SpectreUK]

Lingham & Son very kindly sent me a bottle of their Chilli Sauce noticing that I'd reviewed quite a few chilli sauces, but they were a little miffed that I hadn't tasted theirs. So I thought I better try it on the best meal for chilli sauce that I could think of, which is of course cheese on toast. And so one evening I splurged a good sized dollop of fire engine red chilli sauce onto the plate next to my three pieces of cheese on toast. On first taste Lingham's Chilli Sauce tasted like a sweet, almost caramelised spicy red chilli sauce. This sauce went exceptionally well with my Red Leicester Cheese on toast. The red sauce had a building medium chilli heat that made me wipe my nose a couple of times after eating the first few chunks of cheese on toast. My mouth had a noticeable tingle and my nose began to sweat. Still I couldn't help pouring more and more... and more of Lingham's Chilli Sauce on my plate and dipping in smaller chunks of cheese on toast into larger blobs of sauce to savour my meal for longer. I really enjoyed this sauce. I noticed that it stated on the label that this sauce is "Unique, versatile, and delicious", and I'd certainly agree with that. I could quite happily eat this sauce with either savoury or sweets. I reckon it would go perfectly well either drizzled over chips or a vanilla cheesecake. No, I really mean that... and if you don't believe me, give it a try. Well saying that, give it a try even if you do!

Information on the label;
280ml bottle, 100ml containing 66.7g of sugar and 6.7g of fat. Produced with the same ingredients since 1908 by Lingham & Sons in Malaysia, and distributed by Bennett Opie in Kent. No colourings, added flavours or preservatives. Gluten free and no tomato purée! Ingredients included just; sugar, red chillies (33%), vinegar and salt.

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.