31 December 2016
What better time of year than to have a beer called Merriment? Yes, it's New Year's Eve. To some across the world they are already celebrating their New Year's Day, and so I say "Happy New Year!" but to us in the UK, we have a few hours to go. 2016 hasn't been a fun year to be honest, and I'm not sure what 2017 has to offer. However, moments are for celebrating, possibly not years and certainly not bad tidings… This beer is for happy moments, because it says so on the label!
Produced by the Merrimen Brewery in Northants, this 3.6% volume golden bitter has Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts mixed with Styrian Bobeck, Williamette and Sterling hops. On opening the bottle there was a mixture of herby hops with the stronger pale malt in the background and then a snippet of chocolate and yeast in the smell. On taste the malts come to the fore with Pale and Chocolate dancing a merry jig together, and then the bitterness from the hops washing around them to complete the noisy hoedown. There is sweetness here from the Crystal malt complementing the Chocolate in the initial flavour, swirling together with the Pale malt and mixture of hops which all dance a happy tune on the tastebuds into the aftertaste. So for those that are still in waiting I bid you a "Happy New Year!"
30 December 2016
I’m just catching up with the the last of seasonal crisps, and spotted these Pigs in Blankets Pringles in Sainsburys. I think Pigs in Blankets have to be one of the best parts of a traditional Christmas dinner, and I can see how their flavour can translate well into a variety for crisps.
Now I have to confess to liking meaty flavours of crisps, so these appealed the moment I saw them.
The crisps don’t have much of a visual seasoning, but they smelt like bacon crisps, and reminded me of Frazzles. The flavour of them worked really well. Now Pringles are always moreish, they seem to have made their business on it, but these were new favourite the minute I tried them. The initial taste is that of a wonderfully salty bacon flavour, but this blends quickly into a herby sausage taste. They are pure meaty goodness. I was surprised by how well they had captured both ingredients of the Pigs in Blankets and again just how tasty they had made them. I’m sure they could carry them on after the new year, making them breakfast Pringles, that woudl work, so long as they don’t try and add any egg!
If you like meaty crisps I’d grab these while you can. They’d be perfect for sharing with family and friends on New Year’s Eve… if you are okay with sharing them that is! :-D
29 December 2016
A long time ago we were given this pack which is an edible game of chilli chocolate roulette. The box is very intimidating so we decided that we'd not want to play it without liquid refreshment on hand.
We'd also wanted to wait for there to be more than 4 'players' else you'd basically guarantee yourself a chilli chic!
Essentially you are supposed to spin the spinner to select a chocolate, but as they all looked identical this was quickly abandoned. We all grabbed a chocolate and took a bite.
Of the 12 available chocolates three had the chilli in, and 9 were just praline. Unfortunately they were all slightly odd because they were just out of date. I don't think this really changed the experience though because people really only had one.
The main issue was that the chilli was no where near the heat of the chilli chocolate that we reviewed in our office by Psycho Chocolate that reminded me that this existed. I tentatively bit into my first chocolate, and had to give it a serious chew before I was completely convinced that it was indeed the booby prize. A small sip of cider was enough to quell the enjoyable heat, and it was generally agreed that the chilli ones were the nicer option.
Not quite enough to blow your head off then, but a fun little distraction non the less.
28 December 2016
When I was younger I liked to smoke a big cigar during celebrations, such as Christmas, New Year and Birthdays. I gave up smoking nearly twenty years ago, but I'm lucky enough to have the odd chocolate cigar during celebrations nowadays. It's just finding a decent one can be a bit of a chore. However, Cinabar found this Smoky Papua New Guinea milk chocolate cigar, flavoured with smoked sea salt and Lapsang Souchong tea, on her latest holiday in Chester. I unwrapped it as a nice surprise with my Christmas presents.
Packaged in a metal tube reminiscent of my cigars of old, this chocolate cigar was much easier to get into than others I have tried in previous years. Usually they have been wrapped up in oodles of paper, foil and sticky backed plastic so much so that you are lucky to find a whole cigar after unwrapping. This was just a screw top and away you go!
The cigar itself had a generous dusting of cocoa and ground Lapsang Souchong. I'd recommend not eating it whilst wearing anything white or over a white tablecloth. Like many real cigars it had a printed label ring around the puffing end. After peeling the paper ring off and receiving a liberal dusting of cocoa and ground Lapsang Souchong on my fingers, and also reminding myself not to light the other end, I took a bite. This is a crunchy cigar. It would take probably as long to lick it to nothing as to smoke a real one. I couldn't help but eat it. There is crunchiness here. With added granules of sea slat, bits of rice and biscuits there is a host of complex flavours mixed in with the heavy appreciation of milk chocolate and caramel, with cocoa and Lapsang Souchong rounding off these flavours with their own seal of approval. Just like the paper ring label and the smart metal container. Perfect.
27 December 2016
Ok after yesterdays detox, and lets be honest it was a one day only affair, I’m back on the naughty stuff. I will probably be back at the gym next week, but my sweet-tooth overruled the healthy eating. We decided to have a browse of the shops and see what was left of the Boxing Day sales, after a good look around and a couple of bargains (we couldn't quite face the queue in Pandora) we thought we’d have an afternoon treat at Caffe Nero. I decided to try their seasonal specials and had both a Tiramisu Slice and a Tiramisu Latte.
The Tiramisu Latte was made with Monin syrup, it had a sprinkling of chocolate on top and a lovely flavour. It wasn’t too sweet and had the taste of a chocolate coffee cream, it was easy to drink and had a hint of something else about it. I couldn’t quite place the flavour, but if pushed I’d say it wasn’t dissimilar to the flavour a tot of Baileys would bring. No alcohol in this one though obviously.
The Tiramisu Slice was stunning. It is a similar style treat to that of Millionaire’s Shortbread, with a biscuity base and a thick layer of gooey caramel. There was white chocolate on top that cracked pleasingly when you bit in. The biscuit started off firm and then melted away, if you love a mix of textures then this is the perfect treat. The sweetness from the caramel was offset beautifully with the coffee flavour from the Tiramisu and it really hit the spot. Just what we needed to energise us to finish off our afternoon shop.
26 December 2016
Yesterday involved a lot of food, from the three bird roast to the Christmas pudding, not to mention the tub of Cadbury Heroes... Its safe to say we over indulged! Today I'm still feeling Christmassy but was wanting to reduce the calorie intake. What better way then than with a seasonal Christmas Mulled Fruit Infusion tea?
I first had this tea in the Marks and Spencer cafe, and liked it so much I bought a box. It seems a nice treat on Boxing day afternoon. I know I spoke of detoxing post Christmas, but I still added a half teaspoon of sugar to enhance the flavour (and because I have a sweet tooth).
The tea turns a lovely festive red colour, and smells wonderfully spiced. The most dominant flavours are from the apple, cranberry and the ginger. The fruity taste works well with the spicy flavours, and it is very much a warming drink. I like the addition of the Christmas spices, but couldn't pick up on as much cinnamon as I'd have liked, but then it is a favourite spice of mine.
This is the kind of tea which still feels seasonal, but will contribute to a bit of post Christmas detox, until you are ready for a big mug of hot chocolate and cream again!
25 December 2016
Just a little note from all of us at FoodStuffFinds wishing you a Merry Christmas!
For my Christmas Eve meal with my partner we had a modern take on the nut roast - soy & quinoa country roast. This is essentially a meat loaf but only made with vegan things that you'd actually want to eat.
It comes as a frozen block which you are supposed to defrost before cooking.
And it turns out like this huge block.
It's a lot lighter than it looks and when I turned to ask my partner if she was enjoying it she'd already finished.
A fabulous alternative to the standard Christmas heavy meat meal - and with the usual Fry's quality. Something we will totally have again.
24 December 2016
To compliment the name of this deep amber ale, we have our own revolt every Christmas by opening our presents on Christmas Eve. It's a day early for many I know, but if I hadn't I wouldn't be writing about this beer, as it was in with my presents.
Brewed by Ridgeway this Reindeer's Revolt is one of a set of Christmas beers made in England for the USA and Europe, for those who like good beer and don 't take life too seriously. This is certainly the time of year for a penultimate attempt at bringing some cheer into everyone's lives after what could be described as a 'challenging year'! And if this fails there's always cheering in the next year, though what that brings is anyone's guess.
There was a dense wheat and crisp malt smell on opening the 6% volume beer. This is a strong malt beer for those who like to keep the bitterness from hops to a minimum. It has a warming quality perfect for this time of year. From the initial crisp barley malt taste, through to the hints of sweet caramel malt, and then further hints of underlying hoppy bitterness into the aftertaste, this beer is designed to place your head on a soft pillow or two, wrap you in a thick blanket and send you off to sleep so you don't see Santa.
Zzzz! Sssssh… Merry Christmas!
23 December 2016
Singing “Chocolates roasting on an open fire” isn’t exactly how I remember the Christmas carol going, as heating up chocolate doesn’t seem like a very good idea… Marks and Spencer’s new Christmas Merry Molten Truffles are a new style heat to eat chocolate, strange but true. There are eighteen chocolates in the box, 9 cranberry and 9 clementine.
Firstly I’m going to be honest I’ve had these on the Foodstuff Finds shelf for over a week. The problem with chocolates that only need 3minutes of heating in an oven (there were no microwave options) is that you still have to pre-heat the oven. This takes away the impulsive “let’s have a few choccies” feeling. I guess they are meant for dinner parties, where the oven has been on anyway.
Firstly I opened up the box, and that was a bit annoying to be honest as it had a cardboard sleeve, over a plastic box, over a cardboard tray.
So the next step was sharing them, after their stint in the oven they were now hot and they roll so this makes them a bit more difficult to serve, we used dessert bowls! There are two flavours in the box, we started with the white ones.
The white chocolate are clementine flavoured, or so the packet says. In reality the flavour is so mild, you could quite easily miss it. The texture is nice, the outer shell is crunchy, and the inside is molten milk chocolate. This chocolate is the strongest flavour, and as a gooey chocolate they are nice, but they were disappointing due to the lack of clementine flavour.
The red ones are cranberry flavoured (allegedly). The red powder on the outside of the chocolate is very acidic, I’m not sure I’d say fruity, but I would say sour. This was about as far as any cranberry taste went. Inside these ones are a mix of white chocolate and a molten milk chocolate middle. They taste very similar to the clementine ones, and have a pleasing crunchy coating with a soft centre. they are just missing a cranberry hit.
Even with a love of novelty I don’t think I’ll be buying these chocolate again. After a while the remaining uneaten chocolates went tepid, which wasn’t pleasant and started to get a bit harder in the middle. They weren’t fruity enough for me either, I wanted a proper burst of flavours. They are an interesting idea, but not one I think will be catching on.
22 December 2016
Vegan Christmas foods are always a challenge, as part of an Ocado deal we bought a series of things that will be used, but also had some space in the deal for these nuggets.
Being completely vegan they are free of all the things that usually would be bad for you and probably actually quite healthy.
We had them with the classic sweet potato oven chips. All the oil and salt is provided so you just have to bake.
And here we have the complete meal. Not quite Christmas Day, but with a pile of Kale we have a reasonable approximation of chicken nuggets and chips for a fraction of the unhealthiness. And the oddest part is that actually it doesn't taste all that different - even the texture is similar! Worth a try, as with all of the Fry's options.
21 December 2016
You can see the chunky looking potato crisps through the window in the front of the bag. There red spicy texture makes my mouth water a bit. “Thick & Big” in bold letters on the front of the packet seem obvious descriptive words gazing through that rectangular transparent plastic space. Apparently these chunky doorstep crisps come from a spicy Mediterranean recipe from the huge potatoes grown in the Spanish sun around the small town of El Chaparrai. Cooked in olive oil and seasoned with natural English ingredients, these SLABS promised to be a taste and crunch sensations.
There was a chilli and paprika smell on opening the packet. The big bright orange crisps glared at me from inside. Each crisps had a thick crunch, so you may need your dentures in if necessary! There were little flecks of parsley on paprika and chilli covered the crisps. There was a mild sweet chilli flavour with a hint of spices, parsley and lemon to these chunky fat crisps. These crisps were certainly very tasty and very crunchy indeed. If you’re expecting a chilli burn you’ll be disappointed, however these crisps were very flavoursome and it didn’t seem to matter with all the chilli, paprika and other spices rolling around my mouth. I’m looking forward to the chunky Ready Salted flavour I have to wash down with some beer one night.
Information on the packet;
The 80g packet has 160 calories per 33g serving, with 9.1g of fat, 5.2g of sugar, and 0.4g of salt. See photograph for ingredients.
20 December 2016
I am a big fan of Monin syrups, I always have some in the cupboard, and I love adding them to both coffees and hot chocolates. I always have vanilla and gingerbread, and recently have even bought an imported huge bottle of the black forest one from Amazon. Although the basic flavours are available in big supermarkets, new/interesting flavours are usually online only. I was quite intrigued to find a new “limited edition” Monin Mocha syrup in Sainsburys, available in a small bottle, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The syrup is a thick dark brown colour, and I started by adding three teaspoons to a latte. This is my usual amount, which seems to work for me whatever the syrup. It added a pleasing amount of chocolate to the drink, but it was a mild easy going flavour. I then tried the syrup with a hot chocolate, and found the same thing, only this time it added a pleasing, but gentle, flavour of coffee. I think the issue is that there are two flavours in the bottle (coffee and chocolate) and each one of these already exists in one of the two drinks I will use the syrup in, meaning that you only ever get half of the story. Perhaps the trick is to mix this with milk like a milkshake and go for it that way? I’ll happily use up the rest of the small bottle of this syrup in my coffees and hot chocolates. For my purposes though it is a little unadventurous, I’ll be sticking to the bolder flavours.
19 December 2016
If you're looking for a evening of good food, chilled atmosphere and a wave of nostalgia, Big Apple Brixton is certainly worth a trip.
The venue in the heart of Brixton has been transformed into downtown New York with a nod to the '80's. Think retro games and music. This was all a great accompaniment for the incredible food vendors that were there.
There was Grandmaster Slice, who offered an array of grilled cheeses. Mac to the Future covered all bases of mac and cheese. Plucky's brought the fried chicken and halloumi in a range of different choices. Then there was Burger Bear who offered great gourmet burgers.
It was almost impossible for us to choose between them all, however in the end we settled for Mac to the Future and Plucky's.
From Mac to the Future we had the mac and cheese with pancetta and breadcrumbs, which was delicious. The pancetta added saltiness to the creamy mac and cheese and had amazing flavour.
In a controversial move, we actually tried something different to the chicken that Plucky's does so well to try the special of the day- the duck burger with soy and honey dressing. The duck was crispy and the soy and honey dressing added a tangy flavour, which went nicely with the creamy coleslaw.
The bar also had a great offering of festive cocktails and mulled wine, as well as beers, spirits and wine. All in all it was a great evening and the perfect way to spend an evening in the festive period.
18 December 2016
It's beginning to look a lot like Piemas in the FoodStuffFinds kitchen, as Ocado have PieMinister on a 2 for £6 deal and it includes the new seasonal offerings. We have chose one meaty and one vegetarian option.
The meat option of Three Kings was for me and was a posh Christmas dinner with Turkey, bacon, parsnip and cranberry. My partner had the Christingle pie with roast parsnip, cheddar, leek and a sneaky few chestnuts.
Here we see the naked pies ready to be heated meaty on the left, veggie on the right.
And here we see them cooked with a few chantilley carrots. Well you have to have some vitamins after all.
Here is the insides of the Three Kings, unusually for PieMinister there are much smaller bits and much more of a mix of things. This works pretty well though and there isn't a mix of flavours and it's definitely got the taste of a big fork-full of Christmas.
The veggie pie was similarly high quality, with the chestnuts being an unusual texture for veggie foods and causing some concern. Overall though, possibly the equivalent of a forkful of veggie Christmas dinner.
Both are great seasonal additions to the range and something I hope to sneak in again before the range hibernates for another year.
17 December 2016
Sometimes I fancy a pint of cider. It’s not that frequently I’m afraid and with a house full of beer of varying kinds it doesn’t happen often at all. It’s usually a yearning in the late spring and summertime, as I find a good cider can be most refreshing. Today I fancied a cider in the afternoon. It’s cold outside and with the heating on I fancied a cider to help cool be down without the need to simply either switch the heating off or go outside. This 7.4% volume Friels cider is a ‘vintage’ from 2014. I guess cider matures sooner than some wines?
Anyway, made in small batches from Red Falstaff, Katy and Windsor eating apples from their Hereford and Worcestershire orchards, I felt pretty privileged to have picked up a bottle. Lighted fizzy and presented in a traditional looking 500ml bottle with a fetching feminine winking apple picker on the rear label, this craft cider bubbled merrily in my beer mug waiting for my first sip. This cider has a nice sweet crispy mixture of apple flavours all mixed into one. There is sweetness in the initial flavour followed by an edge of bitterness that rolled around the mouth into the aftertaste. Very nice indeed, very tasty and refreshing, and just what I needed on an overly heated lazy afternoon in front of the television.
16 December 2016
I went to Nando's and they put glitter in my burger. I mean by design, the new Christmas special at Nando's, the Peri-Berry Burger, comes topped with a glittery berry sauce! Yes I know I am easily swayed by a bit of novelty, but this hits a new level - edible glitter on a savoury burger - my mind was blown! :-D
I chose to have mine with the (also new) supergrain salad, which was a very tasty and nicely textured side. Other than the fruit and visual appeal of glittery berry sauce on my food, the Peri-Berry Burger comes with two pieces of chicken (thigh and breast), cheese, baby-spinach, mayo and is served in a Portuguese bread roll.
There was a good dollop of sauce on my burger in all its glitter filled glory. The chicken is still cooked to taste, and I went for medium heat. The spinach is a little lost, but made me feel better having some greens on my plate! The side dish helped too, proving you don’t have to order chips!
The chicken was cooked as it always is in Nando's, till it is still moist and full of flavour and spices, and this was perfect. There was lots of chicken too, which meant this felt filling and meaty. The addition of the sweet and spicy sauce was a complete triumph. The taste of berries, including cranberry, complemented the flavours to perfection. Sweet, spicy and an absolutely lovely mix of flavours.
The novelty of a sparkly sauce might draw you in, but the berry flavour combination with the spicy chicken will be the reason you’ll want to order it again. There is so much more to this than its Christmas novelty, the glitter part is just for fun, the flavour sensation is what makes it!
15 December 2016
So last time we mentioned advent calendars we saw the results of the first few days of the Maltesers advent calendar. the following days were very similar, bad jokes and malty chocolate.
All a bit generic and corporate, but nice enough - right?
Here we see something created by my mother - a Nutcracker style solider full of draws with surprises in them.
Surprises such as home made rocky-road with festive designs and different shades of chocolate.
Or smaller draws with a few cubes of different kinds of quality chocolate
endless varieties of Cadbury goodness
and more Rocky road!
Because we picked this up late we have a few days to catch up on and will enjoy the voyage of discovery - especially as we don't know whats in the largest size draws yet. A little creativity goes a long way.
14 December 2016
The instructions suggest brewing for three minutes, but I’m a ‘builder’s tea’ type of tea drinker and left mine for ages. A drop of milk and a short wait to cool.... I immediately found that it was a bit odd drinking this tea at work. It felt like I should be somewhere else… like the top of an overly sunny mountain, surrounded by bonsai trees and scantily clad lady’s fanning me with big leaves, whilst someone out of eyeshot plays a harpsichord. This tea smells so good it’s difficult not to breathe it in through your nose whilst trying to drink it. This tea made me want to live in a forest, with all the houses made out of wood, and all the insides of these wooden houses smelling of Rooibos Crème Caramel. People dress in togas, greeting each other in the woodchip streets, and praise the Rooibos Crème Caramel tea at the tea(bag) temple on the top of the overly sunny mountain listening to birdsong (after someone shot the harpsichord player). The rooibos hits the tastebuds first mixing quickly with caramel sweetness. It was then that the creaminess mixed with the milk which left my tastebuds on sumptuous velvety cushions. Adding sugar would probably be insane and only for fanatics.
The box also suggests instead of adding milk, trying a spoonful of crème fraîche or possibly something I may try out of the office and its kitchen bustle is latte style; by covering a tea temple with boiling water for three minutes, then topping up with frothy boiling milk, and adding a dash of cinnamon… Pretentious Moi?
13 December 2016
I think this may be another new product from Marks and Spencer which has a title preceded with "Christmas" but where I'm struggling to find the theme. Maple and Bacon is more American, and not particularly seasonal. We eat tortilla chips all year round, although rolled ones are new to me. I will however give them the fact that they are in a large share bag, which is good for Christmas visitors, but we buy a lot of sharing bags throughout the year anyway.
The aroma from the bag was just a mild sweetness with a hint of bacon. We poured some of the crisps (or chips I guess as they are tortilla) out and tucked in. They have the most amazing texture, the fact they are rolled gives them a lovely satisfying feel when you bite in, with multiple layers crunching away. The flavour too is outstanding, the bacon taste is pleasingly meaty and salty, and the sweetness from the maple syrup just works like magic with it. If you haven't tried the two flavours together it does sound weird, but the flavours were meant to be. I remember the first time I tried bacon and maple syrup together in a hotel at breakfast, and I hesitated before pouring the syrup, but became instantly hooked. These recreate that sweet, meaty and salty perfection. The corn flavour from the tortilla chip is pleasingly moreish and works wonderfully loaded with its clever flavour. Please Marks and Sparks don't let these Maple Bacon Tortilla Rolls be discontinued after Christmas, they are too good for that.
12 December 2016
When it comes to the Christmas season all of my favourite things seem to have fun seasonal editions. My favourites things quite coincidentally tend to start with 'C', chocolate, cinnamon and of course cheese.
This new cheese was found in Morrisons as part of their Christmas selection, and it sounds remarkably posh for a £2 cheese; Wensleydale with Orange and Champagne. It is packaged in its orange wax to keep it fresh. The best way to open these wax covered cheeses is to cut the cheese in half and then just peel the wax away; in case you were wondering.
This Wensleydale is a soft crumbly cheese, but still cut well. The cheese itself has quite a few bits of orange mixed in but isn’t too sweet a flavour. The cheese is very creamy, and the hint of champagne does give a nice wine like freshness to the taste. The orange adds a sharper flavour of citrus, that works well with the cheese, but doesn’t overpower it. The pieces of orange add nice texture and little bits of flavour intensity within the cheese. Overall though this is a mild easy going cheese with a posh twist. I’d heartily recommend picking up one of these cheeses for a Christmas cheese board, it is different enough to impress, but still a flavour that everyone can enjoy. After all, not everyone likes camembert and the strong blue cheeses.
11 December 2016
Deep in the heart of the Black Country there is a place known as Tipton, and within it resides the spit and sawdust pub known as Mad O'Rourkes World Famous Pie Factory. We go here a couple of times a year to be defeated by the giant pies and mystical lump hammer ale.
The seasonal offering today was Santa Pie!
Where as a chicken pie contains chicken, this is more like a vegetarian pie in that it would be suitable for Santa. To this end it has pastry antlers so that it looks like two ears stick out of the pie. Oddly the ears were cold even though the rest of the pie was piping hot. I blame the frosty December weather.
As you can see - this is a pie in a bowl, which would ordinarily be a cause for concern as the pastry is almost always the star. Here the top is amazing enough, but the filling is king.
Inside there is nothing but recognisable chunks of Turkey, carrots...
...whole intact sprouts, lots of gravy, stuffing...
...and a couple of whole potatoes, along with a small sausage and other little festive bits and bobs. All quite amazing and filling, but I was as expected defeated by this mighty feast. Well, I think I more ran out of time due to socialising and my arthritic hands, but I'd have struggled to have enjoyed the last bit and would have just been persevering to change the colour of the certificate presented at the end.
A wimps certificate is gifted to those that tried but failed. At £11 it's not a cheap pie, but frankly it's almost two days dinners in one! A little salty for my taste (I don't think I add salt to anything these days), but with a lovely deep flavour, and all the real textures of the actual food I'd happily by defeated by another one of these any day.