17 August 2017

Tropicana Morning Boost - Fruit and Cereal Smoothie (@NLi10)

As I mentioned, I chose a luxury drink as part of the meal deal in Tesco last week as it's all the same price.

Not only does this have fruit in it (5 a day yo) it also contains cereal - yum, I think?

Hmmm - may settle during transit...

It actually tastes like a decent berry smoothie, and the extra texture is quite interesting. It doesn't really add to the experience and feels like you liquidised a pudding instead of bought a drink. A brave entry into the market, but not one that I expect to last long...

16 August 2017

Coffee Shortbread (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

My first thought when I picked up these Coffee Shortbreads was that I could mess with you and wash them down with a good cup of tea instead of a coffee! However, when I came to eat them I decided to wash them down with a coffee latte. These shortbread biscuits were made with Italian style ground coffee. Some interesting facts on the side of the box stated that Italy was thought to be one of the first countries to drink coffee from the fifteenth century, with the first coffee house opening in Venice in the seventeenth century.

On opening the box, after Cinabar had made me a coffee latte in the Tassimo machine, there was a strong smell of coffee from the square shortbread inside. The shortbreads smelt of baked buttery biscuit and coffee goodness. On taste each shortbread had a soft crunch and a light coffee flavour mixed with the wheat and butter. There was also a coffee aftertaste which complemented the coffee latte as I munched on each biscuit I took a sip of coffee too. Very nice indeed. perfect for an after dinner treat.

Information on the box;

The 135g box contains 9 biscuits, per biscuit has 4.4g of fat, 3.1g of sugar, and 0.08g of salt. Ingredients included gluten, and; fortified wheat flour, butter, sugar, salt, and ground coffee beans.

15 August 2017

Hello Fresh Unboxing - Lamb Ragu Pappardelle @HelloFreshUK (By @Cinabar)

We were very kindly asked if we wanted to try out a Hello Fresh recipe box. We said we did and they sent us a huge box full of goodies. Inside were the recipes for three meals, including all the ingredients to make them. The delivery even came with all the chilled ingredients packed in heavy insulation and with ice packs. There was a note on the box saying it must be delivered that day, which wasn’t a problem as we were in.

We had a good look through the box and found that there were three bags, one for each recipe, they really are making it simple. I was impressed by the quality of the fresh ingredients, everything looked in good condition, and nothing worried me that it had to be eaten first. There was a nice range of meals too, with a prawn, chicken and lamb dish.

We decided to start off by trying out the Lamb Ragu Pappardelle. I gave the recipe a bit of a read and it all looked very straightforward. Prep the veggies, including chopping the onions, fry off the lamb, removing the excess fat. Add the onions and chopped tomatoes with basil and the stock. Give it all a taste test, so see if it needed salt and pepper, but it was spot on without. Cook the pasta, it was really big pasta, Pappardelle, not something I’ve bought before, but it did look posh in our pasta bowls. We finished the dish, and added herbs and cheese. I say cheese, but it was actually some pieces of parmesan that were included, and I grated it finely and topped the bowls. I can’t explain to you just how good the flavour of the cheese was, we regular buy the tubs of pre-grated hard Italian cheese, but this was so much nicer it was actually in a different league. One thing is for sure, I’m buying proper Parmesan from now on.
Apart from salt/pepper and oil, everything else was included in the bags. I liked that I didn’t have to go out and buy anything fresh. The recipe was delicious, and everyone commented on how good it was. It really wasn’t much more difficult that using a jar of sauce for pasta, but the results were tastier, fresher and without any preservatives, extra salt /sugar that might be added to a jar. It is a much nicer way to cook, and it was so simple to follow. This is a recipe I will be making again, as it made such a tastier evening meal. There is so much satisfaction of cooking something so tasty from scratch, and it was like cooking by numbers. I’m really looking forward to trying out the other two meals.

We have also set an exclusive promotional code available if you want to give Hello Fresh a try yourself:
Offer: 50% off your first and second HelloFresh box.

14 August 2017

Afternoon Brunch (Patisserie Valerie) By @Cinabar

Afternoon Tea is a big thing in the UK, something tourists want to experience and perfect for a treat for anyone. I was in Birmingham with my mum shopping and we thought we’d have the extra special experience and treat ourselves. We popped into Patisserie Valerie, and glanced at the menu. We were in a little early, it was round midday, and the item that was glowing at us was Afternoon Brunch. Oh yes, Patisserie Valerie have just upped their game on delicious treats.

We couldn’t resist so Afternoon Brunch for two was ordered, and we both chose an inclusive hot drink to accompany it. I went for a cappuccino and we were asked to pick a “starter” we both went for the smoked salmon bagel.

The coffees arrived promptly, followed quickly by a half bagel each, generously topped with salmon and scrambled egg. This was very tasty, and a posh breakfast, but just I was trying to work out if the tiered tray was going to arrive, they pushed another small table next to ours to make room for it! There were some seriously yummy treats laid out.
We finished up one the savoury by layering more bagels with cheese and ham, and enjoying the flavours of a continental breakfast.

We had a nice healthy fruit course next, there were slices of banana, blueberries and strawberries to share, plus a pot of yoghurt each to go with it.
Finally was the naughtier course, with two Danish pastries each. These were absolutely delicious and the perfect way to finish off our stunning Afternoon Brunch. I totally recommend this twist on a traditional Afternoon Tea, perfect for breakfast fans, but I’m sure NLi10 would be soon to point out there wasn’t a bowl of cereal in sight!

13 August 2017

Kettle Veg Chips - Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar (@NLi10)

We've written about the plain version of these, and the honey version of these before - and to save you a click, they were not that exciting.  Sure the veg crips are some of the highest quality out there, but the flavour was very underwhelming.

But here it's different, here we get the God Tier Kettle Chips flavour of sea salt & balsamic vinegar.  This combination is almost completely responsible for the revolution in crisp flavours over the recent years - with only Pringles refusing to create a variety that tows the line.  So how does it work?

Sure - they claim that nothing artificial is added (please point me to the balsamic vinegar well) and they are wrong, but the things they do add are quality and pretty good.

The crisps themselves are suitably mighty and the flavour they have added really works.  It's not so strong as the real deal though, and I'd never recommend them to hardcore vinegar addicts like my sister, but they complement the veggieness well and you can taste the realness of the crisps.  Stick these in a bowl next to the salad bar and you are on to a winner.  Another go-to product by the Kettle people then, even though I'd still rather just sit with the original white bag as a teenager in the 6 weeks school break watching old movies until all the bags are gone.

12 August 2017

Rosie’s Pig Hand Brake Cloudy Cider with Damson (Degusta) By @SpectreUK

I enjoyed the last Rosie's Pig brand rhubarb flavoured cider, Flat Tyre, and was intrigued when I received this one through the post in the Degusta box. Named after Weston's old cider delivery truck, this Rosie's Pig Hand Brake sparkling cloudy cider is flavoured with Damson.

I love damson jam, and generally have it on toast on a Sunday morning. When I was growing up we had a damson tree in the back garden and my mom used to make loads of damson jam every year. It was my dad's favourite jam, and that like has been passed down to me. So, every time I have damson jam I like to think of that old tree and a good memory of my dad whilst I enjoy the toast.

This Hand Brake cider is made with fresh pressed Herefordshire apples, slowly matured and unfiltered for extra flavour, and with damson added during the cider making process. On opening the can there was a mixture of sweet cider apples and damsons in the aroma. On pouring, this cloudy cheerfully fizzy deep red cider had a sweet cider apple apple flavour to begin with which merged quickly with the damson. Both flavours then danced a merry jig into the aftertaste.

I've tried plenty of fruit flavoured ciders in the past. I was struck by the innovation of Weston's adding rhubarb in the Flat Tyre cider, and was equally struck by the sweet fruitiness of this equally innovative cider. Very nice indeed. I'd recommend drinking Hand Brake as a fruity pudding cider or straight from the fridge on a lazy afternoon in the sun.

11 August 2017

Wing Wing - London - Restaurant Review By Fey

Walking into Wing Wing is feels like you’ve been transported into a Seoul, with its quirky aesthetic and neon lights.

Creating their menu around what they do best, Wing Wing offer some of the best Korean chicken in London (which the waitress informed us had been agreed by a Korean woman visiting the city).

After showing us their impressive beer machine, where the drink is poured bottom up using a magnet, we settled down to look at the menu. After recommendation we went for the Katsu Bao buns, 12 Signature Wings, the Onion Brick and kimchi coleslaw.

The bao buns were delicious, complete with kimchi and instead of the usual steamed buns, the buns were fried which added lots of extra flavour. We chose our chicken wings with a soy garlic flavouring, which was the perfect compliment to add some kick to the batter. Much like the buns, the chicken was really tender. The onion brick, which had an amazing cruchy texture was the perfect side with the Kimchi Coleslaw, which added a tangy flavour.

The desert was an interesting take on the bao bun. Whilst it was fried like the main course, it came with a sweet filling. We tried the Salted Peanuts Bao Nuts and Banana Caramel Bao Nuts. The slightly crunchier texture of the bun went really nicely with the creamy filling.

Overall, the restaurant has a truly chilled and laid-back vibe, where good food and flavours are the focus. With no doubt some of the best fried chicken in London, this Korean themed restaurant is definitely worth a visit.

10 August 2017

Bottle water - Fit, Smart, Ice & Sweat (@NLi10)

Bottled water is everywhere at the moment - it's summer and it's fashionable to be healthy.  The soft drinks companies aren't complaining, they've been trying to use this way of essentially printing money for years.  Tap water is almost free on the scale of 500ml bottles, and if you don't have to over package, transport and do much to the 'recipe' and can get away with selling it at a decent price then you are on to a winner.  Well, as long as you don't care about the impact on the environment that not just filling a reusable container from the tap represents!

This week's 'meal deal' drinks from Tesco looked like this.  I won't be reviewing the smoothie this time - that's a whole different ball game!

First up we have the sparkling Ice which is interesting because it's the only one that has a flavour AND is the only one that adds Vitamin D into the mix (which is good because most people in the UK are deficient during the winter months).

In fact there are a decent few vitamins in here - not at earth shaking values mind - and the flavour is strong enough to feel worth the money.  I liked the lightly carbonated touch too.  I'd happily drink this in a pub without feeling like i should have gone for the full juice, or the plain water.  A nice surprise.

This is another new one - and an odd one at that.  It's essentially water and salts - sorry- electrolytes.  This seems to be the new Isotonic which is a buzz word that cropped up a lot.  Without all the sugars I'm not sure that claim would be valid, so electrolyte replacement it is!

Tastes like water that someone dipped a paintbrush in, but doesn't have too much of an aftertaste.  I bet if you aren't already replete in all these chemicals (especially after a workout) that you might crave this after a few tries, but it does nothing for me really.

Next up we have the Glaceau Smart Water which gets advertised quite a bit - mainly because it's made by Coke.  After their terrible failure to launch and sustain a bottled water brand in the UK this is a nice angle, both adults and children want to be smart - so how do they do it?

Well - they distil the water to take everything out (so it's not just tap water this time) and then put a few of the salts back in (enough to stop your organs from failing by drinking distilled water, but not so much as it shows up on the nutrients or calories on the bottle like the Lucozade one above).  This tastes like the water it is.

Of course we have the looming spectre of Pocari Sweat, but I've talked about that enough previously - at only 22 cal per 100ml it's not really an energy drink, but it does kind of exclude itself from this race.

It's never really worth the money you pay for it, but sometimes bottled water is a necessity.  Which brand you choose is really up to how much you want to spend on perceived benefit (the Lucozade and smart were about 60p due to special offers and multipacks - the Sparkling Ice was £1 but in the meal deal and Pocari Sweat imports at £5 for the big bottle).

I'll just pay for whatever is the cheapest per ml, unless I'm in the bar in which case I'll have the little designer glass bottles to wind up the beer drinkers - after all, I'm paying for the service and the seat not the drink in that case.

9 August 2017

Hippeas Sweet & Smokin’ (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

These Hippeas organic chickpea puffs sound like an ideal healthy alternative snack to crisps and nuts. They are high in fibre and a good source of protein, at the same time as being vegan friendly. Besides Sweet & Smokin' flavour sounds right up my street. I know that NLi10 has tried Hippeas 'far out fajita' flavour and also the 'in herbs we trust' flavour, so I thought I'd give these a bash!
On opening the packet there was a lightly smoked smell to the paprika covered chickpea puffs inside. There was also sweetness at the back of the smell, implying Smokin' and Sweet, rather than the other way around. The puffs were shaped a little like monkey nuts! On crunchy taste there was sweetness to start with switching back the flavour's title to Sweet & Smokin', which quickly merged into a salty lightly smoked flavour with a touch of onions in the aftertaste. Not smoked like sniffing my grandma's ashtray, just a hint of smokiness to whet the whistle. These Hippeas Sweet & Smokin' are a sweet and salty smoked alternative healthy snack. Worth a good crunch any day… ;-)
Information on the packet;
The 22g packet has 91 calories, 4g of fat, 0.8g of sugar, and 0.4g of salt. No trans fats and gluten free, see photograph for ingredients.


8 August 2017

New McVities Digestives Banoffee Caramel (Morrisons) By @Cinabar

As I have been going through a bit of a biscuit mood, I did have a browse to see if there was anything new from McVities. I found these new McVities Digestives Banoffee Caramel edition in Morrisons, which sounded rather different.
The biscuits are based on a regular McVities Digestive biscuit, but they are topped with a layer of Banoffee Caramel and of course some milk chocolate too for good measure. These are Spectre’s nightmare, something that looks like a chocolate biscuit, but are flavoured with banana. He has issues with banana flavoured items, but weirdly not bananas themselves. The packet is bright yellow though, so he should spot it before helping himself…
Anyway I like both banana and banana flavoured items, so I was excited to see banoffee as a new edition for biscuits. The Digestive biscuits have a good solid crunch, but the caramel and chocolate added a nice softness to the texture. To be fair the dominant flavour was that wonderful wholesome taste of oats you get with these biscuits, followed by some pleasing sweet milk chocolate and then just a nice hint of sweet sticky toffee and finally banana making up the banoffee flavour.
The banana flavour was not strong, and did not scream artificial at me. I think you have to look for the banna flavour really, but if Spectre tried one he’d probably tell you it was too much for him. These are a playful fun twist on a regular Digestive, and they have worked it in so it keeps the original flavours as the dominant ones, making them very easy to eat. I enjoyed them and hope they will bring out some other varieties in this style.

7 August 2017

New Twix Top Biscuits (Poundland) By @Cinabar

I found this huge multipack of the new Twix Top bars in Poundland. That shop is becoming a favourite place for Foodstuff Finds, and this time I certainly felt like I’d struck gold! They are often one of the first places for new products or interesting import items, and of course always at the best prices.

When I got home and opened the box I was very pleased to see that these biscuits are all individually wrapped. Having 20 in the time they would stay fresh otherwise might prove a bit more difficult, being individually wrapped means I can even have them in my lunch box too. They don't feel to big, just right for a treat.
The biscuits are like a flattened out Twix, with more biscuit and less chocolate and as the coating is just on the top. There is sill a fair amount of caramel in their too, the biscuit has rolled edges to fit it in.

I gave one a taste test and was pleased that all the distinctive flavours of Twix were present. There is more biscuit, but the chocolate and caramel have such a good flavour that it all held together perfectly. The textures were good too, lots of crunchy biscuit, but plenty of gooey caramel. I loved these biscuits, and can’t wait to tackle the rest of the box. There are 20 bars, so it may take a while, but it's a challenge I’m willing to accept.

6 August 2017

AMEDEI - Tuscan Gourmet Chocolate with Pistachio (@NLi10)

Our final stop in Italy was essentially the Port near the leaning tower of Pisa (called Port Pisa) where all of the rich people park their yachts.  It was a fun taste of the Monaco lifestyle, with regular people flats instead of tower blocks full of millionaires.  Our accommodation was cheap yet really nice, and as a bonus was owned by the same person as a luxury food store on the main street.  I tired to resist going overboard...

...but look at this simply divine selection of regional chocolates.  I finally picked the pistachio one and we were given a small cube of the black stuff as a thank you for staying with them. Result!

It's a few months later now and this chocolate has been taunting me as it waits for the right occasion - but as i'm running low on things to review today is the day!

The box is really well presented - this is present grade material already.

It has great colours, and it has story inside too - and it's in English for the tourists.  This is clearly meant to be taken home.

And it's very convincing too - as the story continued inside I was really anticipating my first bite, and wondering how many cubes I could legitimately claim as needed for the review.

It certainly looks the part - you can see the pistachio filling from both the top and bottom, and as both parts have cocoa in there should be a decent taste too.

The inside is brown not green like I'd expected, and the flavour isn't as intensely pistachio as I'd expected.

Maybe I've ruined my tastebuds on intense dark sensations but this was a very nice, but fairly unremarkable bite.  It was certainly a pleasure and the slightly contrasting textures suggested that there had been a lot of thought behind this, but I really didn't get a pistachio hit, and the white chocolate was creamy but not too exciting.

I'm wondering whether I exposed it to high heats on its travels back (likely as we've had great weather in Italy and the UK) and if that impacted on it at all.  It certainly isn't a bad chocolate - and without the hype and history I think I'd have been pleasantly surprised by it's quality, but compared to the rich cavalcade of flavours that Italy presented to me this was a little disappointing.

The dark chocolate was just a small square of dark chocolate - nothing to write home about - ideal for serving with coffee.

I'd certainly look out for these again (hey - any excuse to pop back to Italy) but I don't think I'd consider these a delicacy. Maybe the people on the yachts have them on deck in the sunshine with expensive champagne - i'll have to try that and report back.

5 August 2017

Orinoco Breakfast Stout (Sainsbury’s) By @SpectreUK

I've heard of 'hair of dog' first thing in the morning to lesson the effects of a hangover, but not had a Breakfast Stout before. Although I'm sure it would go very well indeed with a full English breakfast, especially Black Pudding. When I was a youngster and went out on the town, I used to cook myself a fry up the next day as it did seem to help with the headache. I'm sure I'd have liked this Orinoco Breakfast Stout with it then too.

Produced by the Drygate Brewing Company in Glasgow, Scotland, this stout is 6% in volume. I couldn't help but wonder why they'd named it Orinoco. So a quick read of the 330ml can and a search on the internet explained it. The Orinoco River runs through Venezuela and Columbia. The Campo Bella coffee added to this Breakfast Stout was from Santa Maria, in Columbia, hence the name of the stout. Cocoa, vanilla and lactose have also been added to ramp up the creaminess.

On opening the aroma was like smelling a chocolate milkshake laced with coffee. I had to check the can again, just in case I'd opened the wrong thing from the fridge! On pouring into my waiting beer glass I could see that this stout was the blackest stout I've possibly had the pleasure of pouring into it. It also had the creamiest head. On taste there is the malt merged initially with the dark malted chocolate, pounced on by the strong coffee flavour and after a quick wrestling match the tumbling malt, chocolate, and coffee taste is smoothed by a creamy vanilla and milky aftertaste. This is a lip smacking stout and with no mistake. Perfect for hair of the dog with a fry up, or served as an after dinner pudding stout to set you ready for your comfy cushioned bed!

4 August 2017

Scoop To Chill @HotelChocolat (By @Cinabar)

After a lovely shopping trip in Birmingham we decided to treat ourselves to some nice chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. As these were meant for munching rather than gifting I thought one of these grab bags would be appropriate. Obviously I sniffed out a summer special and found the Scoop To Chill range, in ice cream and sorbet flavours. They are designed to be served from the fridge and are round chocolates with soft silky centres. There are six varieties in the bag, neatly colour coordinated.

The green topped one is the melon sorbet. This I felt was an unusual choice of flavour, but it worked very well. There was a lovely hit of refreshing delicate melon, and the dark chocolate overtone brought balance. I felt this really benefitted from being chilled.

The yellow topped was lemon sorbet in flavour, and coated in white chocolate. this was very zingy and sharp lemon and the playful sourness was neatly softened by the creamy flavour of the white chocolate.

The orange topped chocolate was blood orange sorbet. After trying the lemon, this had a markedly softer flavour, but was still a tangy orange. It was lovely and summery with loads of sweet citrus and chocolate.

The white topped chocolate is supposed to re-create the flavour of the humble choc ice. This is a bit of an odd idea as childhood choc ices were never made of the best quality chocolate. Thankfully the Hotel Chocolat edition had a beautiful chocolate coating, and a lovely creamy smooth filling. Again the coolness from the fridge helped add to the effect.

The purple topped chocolate was the blackcurrant sorbet. Oh my word this chocolate plays with your tastebuds. It is very tart and very strong blackcurrant. The dark chocolate follows with its rich cocoa taste, and it pure heaven of a flavour in combination. It is an absolute taste sensation, this is the one where I just wanted a bag of them.

Finally the pink topped chocolate recreates strawberry ripple ice cream. This is a much softer and sweeter taste. The strawberry is rich and fruity, and fans of strawberry creams will be in heaven. These are very easy to eat, and very moreish.

I absolutely loved these Scoop To Chill chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. From the creativity of the melon to the kickass flavour of the blackcurrant they were a complete pleasure to eat. They also do a version of these chocolates which are a little bigger and presented more traditionally in their ‘H’ box if you want to give them as a gift. If you do, don’t forget to pick up a bag of these for yourself too, or you will be missing out.

3 August 2017

T2 - A high end loose tea company - All Sorts Box (@NLi10)

The BullRing in Birmingham is a great little shopping centre, and as the rents are quite high there are quite a few little shops that appear and disappear in the smaller units.  One of the newer arrivals (about 3 months ago I'm reliably informed) is T2 - which is an unusual idea - a high end loose tea shop!  Of course it's all packaged up for you to buy, and there are gadgets and gizmos and gift sets galore - but non of that matters if you don't like the tea!

So I found one of the entry level tea boxes, in its unassuming yellow box (presumably so it's not in the gift end of things). This was £5 for 10 little individually packaged teabags (I'd wrongly assumed it was all loose tea) with neat little brewing instructions and info on how to add milk or sugar (DON'T is the advice on most of them).

And here are the listed teas.  Some duplicates of the more familiar things which is good.

I chose two of the more common ones to review - the Earl Grey (which I tend to drink at home) and the China Jasmine (which I have most days at work).

Here is a very uninformative picture of the Earl Grey.  It was nice, not too overpowering and the quality of leaves was good.  The 2-3 mins brewing time was probably spot on and I'd left it in for a little longer so it was stronger than I'd have liked but the flavours were good enough that it wasn't an issue.  I think you could make a teapot with one of these bags quite happily so it'd be good for cafes.  

The China Jasmine was similarly good quality and again I left it in a bit too long, but I do like my green teas strong.  I liked that the packed told you to use 80 degree water as often you get people burning the delicate green teas then complaining about the harsh flavour!  This lacked the sweetness and subtlety of my usual Jasmine Green (which is 4.5p a bag and not 50p a bag) and I did find myself craving that in this's place.  Not something I'd chase down again but as I'm most likely to buy another multipack I'd happily drink it.

So overall I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be - but tea is a very personal experience and I think that sometimes it's more about finding brands that fit into those niches that you love.  I'm certainly looking forwards to trying the other varieties in the box but I won't be too afraid to give away the flavours that I'm not as big a fan of.  This shop is also amazing for gifts for tea drinkers and has so many cool things that I coveted for a few minutes before I made my selection.  Maybe I just need to contact the company and get signed up on their tea mastery courses or pick up one of the many brewing gadgets to prevent me from getting called away as my tea brews.

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