Showing posts with label novelty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label novelty. Show all posts

Friday, 16 May 2014

Scotch Egg Pie (@Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

Following on from the Weirdoughs earlier in the week, Tesco haven’t stopped there when it comes to hybrid snack products.  Yes doughnuts and crisps takes some topping as a combination, but this one is still quite creative. Introducing the Scotch Egg Pie. It comes carefully packed into a neat box, and does look very different. My first impression was that it looks like a Scotch Egg, but a little larger. The coating is pastry, topped with a very light bread crumb which does give the impression of a slightly bald Scotch Egg!

Taste wise it is reminiscent of Ham and Egg pie, except that it is lacking the meat jelly often found within that. The advantage to this over Ham and Pie has to be the fact that you get a guaranteed whole egg! Not just a sliced through one per portion.  The meat layer is nicely spiced, and there is a good hint of pepper that works well with the pork. The pastry is good but fairly thin and not strong in taste. It is quite fragile and broke easily. When I was biting in I had to be careful not to lose any pastry, it is strange to eat a ball of pie so I required a little bit more coordination than normal!

Overall I liked this new product, but felt that the balance of flavours was closer to Ham and Egg pie that it was Scotch Egg. True Scotch Egg fans may well prefer to stick with the original. This is due to the fact the pastry is different and fact that there was more meat. For me though it was the dream “slice” of ham and egg pie, with an egg in its entirety guaranteed! As novelty goes it gets the thumbs up, and I think these will be a popular item if the weather keeps up for summer picnics!
By Cinabar

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Cake Pops (@Cakecetera) [By @Cinabar]

Put the cupcake down, something new and exciting has entered the baking world, the Cake Pop. I am always quite excited about new things, or indeed novel ones, so when the lovely folks at Cake-Cetera asked if I wanted to try their Cake Pops, I couldn’t say no.
Firstly the cake delivery system, aka the plastic casing that makes the cake pops, does have a fun feel to them, but it also means that if you are ordering them online they come in a protective case so they travel well. Ours also came beautifully wrapped up in pink paper and ribbon.
Once they arrived all you do is pop the lid off, and then slowly push at the base to reveal the cake! There is still a technique to eating these, as they are delicate, but wow you can’t help but smile when you give one a go! None of the taste testers had any problem, they just felt like you had to be cautious and not push too much cake up at once.
We were given three flavours to try, vanilla, strawberry and lemon. The strawberry was decorated with sprinkles, and had a lovely sweet fruity taste. It was fairly strong, but not so much that you couldn’t pick up on the sponge flavour. You end up starting with the topping and working your way down through the layers in order to eat one. The icing was soft and creamy in texture and the sponge fresh and moist.
I was particularly impressed by the vanilla version. The flavour was really well defined, and this was very much a vanilla base and not just ‘plain’. It also had multicoloured birthday sprinkles on top, to make it look rather pretty.The lemon version was fresh and zingy. More on the side of sweet than sharp, but a delightfully fruity and zesty flavour.
As adults we loved these, and if they lit our faces up I can only imagine the love they’d get at a children’s birthday party!
Available at:
By Cinabar

Friday, 10 January 2014

Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co: Strawberry & Champagne Chocolate Pizza [@ChocPizzaCo] [By @Cinabar]

The nice folk at the Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co got in touch and asked if we wanted to try one of their chocolate pizzas and give it an honest review. Although NLi10 has experienced one before, I couldn't wait to give them a try! I had a browse on their website and this strawberry pizza caught my eye, okay yes, it was the edible glitter... and a mention of popping candy - long may I never grow up!
Just incase you were wondering when I say pizza, there isn't actually a dough base, just thick chocolate, but they do come in a super cute pizza delivery box. Although I only had a small one as a sample, the pizza did look absolutely beautiful when it arrived. It was decorated symmetrically with a red candy strawberry in the centre which was extra eye catching. The glitter on the top did appeal and gave it a proper celebratory feel. For me it was perfect for getting rid of the back to work blues!
I attempted to break a piece of the pizza off to try and I found that it wasn't too keen on breaking on its seem lines, but that doesn't really matter. When I first tried the pizza the thing that hit me the most was how good the quality of the base chocolate was, it tasted really good. All to often novelty chocolate products look nice but lack quality, that was certainly not the case here. The chocolate was thick and creamy with a rich cocoa taste and a well balanced sweetness, I was thoroughly impressed. Packed into the base were freeze dried strawberries adding their sweet berry flavour.
The toppings all looked the part, but again tasted really good. The red sugar coated chocolate beans added some nice colour and texture, and the white chocolate crunchy balls a nice blast of sweetness. The chocolate curls were messy, but did look smart on top. Mixed in with it was a gentle dose of popping candy delivering a fizzy tingle to emulate the champagne.
I think the folk at the Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co should be congratulated for coming up with such an interesting novel idea, but executing it with some really tasty chocolate and ingredients. I’d be over the moon to receive this as a gift and it is one of those items that is sure to be remembered.
By Cinabar

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Poisonous Scorpions – Pickled Onion Flavoured Corn Snack (M&S) [By @SpectreUK]

I’ve never liked scorpions. It must be their creepy crawly look. The way they creep around with their stretchy out sharp creepy claws and their long stretchy stingy sharp pointy tail bobbing along over their flat menacing heads, as they stroll arrogantly around looking for something fleshy to sting. Don’t get me wrong as I find most creepy crawlies creepy enough, but scorpions have a special creepy crawliness about them that sends shivers up and down my spine whenever I see one on the TV or even think of one. This in mind, Cinabar thought I was perfect for reviewing these Poisonous Scorpions Pickled Onion Flavoured Corn Snacks made for Marks and Spencer’s!

Fortunately I’ve never seen a scorpion in real life, asides these corn snacks of course. A guy I worked with years ago said that he’d holidayed in Mexico and had been held to ransom by a huge black scorpion in his hotel room, until his mate had jumped over it to get to the hotel room phone to call the manager. Apparently the manager had nonchalantly wondered into the room, taken his flip flop off and proceeded to slap the poor creepy crawly silly until bits of it was spread all over the walls, the ceiling and floor!

I totally loved the freaky shape of these creepy pickled onion scorpion corn snacks. On opening the bag the crisps had a strong pickled onion smell and a very decent crunch. These creepy scorpion corn snacks were easily the most sour corn snacks I've ever eaten. They blew Monster Munch Pickled Onion flavour out of the room! Neither Cinabar nor her mum could eat these corn snacks, but I thought they were an absolute masterpiece and they definitely shouldn't be limited to Halloween. They were exceedingly moreish and I didn't need to dip them in any sauce as they were fantastic on their own. They were flavoursome to the extreme and jumped almost to the top of my all time favourite crisps list (that’s more in my head, than in any tangible format). I would definitely buy these again and can only hope that M&S don’t have them as a limited edition. Happy creepy crawliness to you all!

Information on the packet;
They were in a 100g bag. Per 25g serving there was 120 calories, with 1.1g of sugar and 5.8g of fat. They were made in Denmark for Marks and Spencer’s (the Danes obviously know how to make really sour corn snacks). Ingredients included; corn grits, sunflower oil, pickled onion flavour seasoning, colour chlorophyll. Pickled Onion Seasoning included; sugar, dextrose, corn flour, dried onions, salt, dried yeast extract, dried barley malt vinegar, anti -caking agent; calcium phosphate, and ground cinnamon. There were no artificial colours and flavourings, and these corn snacks were suitable for vegetarians.
By Spectre

Monday, 30 September 2013

New Cheeseburger Vegetable Supreme (@PizzaHutDeliver) [By @Cinabar]

Sometimes you know you want takeaway, but you just can’t decided between burgers or pizza... the new creation from Pizza Hut means you no longer have to make that decision, they have combined the two! I don’t mean that there is a new pizza out with mini burgers on top, this is something quite different, it is in the crust! Now I’ve seen hot dog pizzas before, but their shape does lend themselves to fitting in the crust better than a burger, but Pizza Hut didn’t let that put them off – they just altered the shape a bit...

The burger part is just the crust, so when you do choose this pizza (which is only available in large size) you also have to have a bit of a think about what toppings you want. I’m not entirely sure that varieties like the Tuna Melt would work, but the Vegetable Supreme seemed like the perfect flavour to complement the crust. I ordered this fine pizza from Pizza Hut delivery, and it is the first time I’ve used their service. The website stated that they aim to deliver within 30 minutes, but ours took nearly an hour, which wasn’t so good. We soon forgave the wait, when the wondrous looking new pizza arrived. It is quite an impressive site, with its clever shape, and burgers wrapped into the crust and topped with mozzarella all around the edges. There were 10 in total, one for each slice. I eased out the first piece, and gave it a try. Obviously I started from the middle, so was met with lovely crisp and fresh vegetables. Onions, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes were all present, and full of flavour and texture. The cheese on the pizza was especially good, with a creamy but strong flavour. I worked my way up to the burger, and gave it a try. It was actually a decent size, and remarkably well seasoned. It was a nice firm texture, and added a lovely rich beef meatiness to the crust. I was actually rather impressed!
I have to admit to thinking this pizza had been designed for novelty factor, but they have managed to put together a totally delicious combination, and I heartily recommend trying it with the Vegetable Supreme as its perfect topping. It is just a shame that it says it is around for a Limited Time Only, as it is the perfect party pizza, and would be great when the family are over at Christmas etc. Being novel, fun and tasty it meets all my requirements.
By Cinabar

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Ice Cream Free Ice Cream Products - Cornetto, Magnum & Mini Milk (Tesco) [By @cinabar]

In Britain we are never guaranteed a good summer. In fact I’m struggling to remember when the last one was! This puts ice cream companies in a bit of an awkward position as everyone knows ice lollies sell better when it’s hot. Unilever (who seem to manage some of our bigger ice cream brands) have allowed their ice creams to be turned into chocolate treats so they can be enjoyed whatever the weather. Seems quite sensible given the climate, but on the other hand it may be missing the point. When I spotted them in Tesco (by the tills) I decided to pick them up and give them the taste test.

Magnum – 3 Chocolates
I decided to try the Magnum first, and found that there were three Magnum chocolates inside the wrapper. Although obviously a lot smaller than a Magnum ice cream they did have the right shape. The chocolate was quite thick, and had a rich taste which was pleasant but certainly not the best chocolate I’ve ever tried. It was the filling that made them though. The fluffy vanilla creamy centre worked like a dream. It was smooth silky and had such an indulgent creamy taste that all thoughts about the quality of the chocolate coating where forgotten, it made them pure yum.

In terms of cuteness or novelty out of three products this one wins the award. It looks just like a miniature Cornetto and even opens in the same way. I.e. you unwrap the sides and have a cardboard circle protecting the top.
The filling in this seemed to be remarkably similar to the filling in the Magnum chocolates, it had the same fluffy texture and ultra creamy vanilla taste, and was absolutely gorgeous! The wafer is crunchy and pleasant and lined with chocolate which is a nice extra touch, as are the nuts on top. Both in terms of taste and novelty this ticked both boxes.

Mini Milk
This last bar was the one I felt was not quite true to it original ice cream form. The ice lolly is creamy and this is more on the side of sweet. There is a good thick chocolate coating, underneath which there is a smooth soft chocolate filling. The chocolate is good, and the filling is enjoyable, there is plenty of chocolate flavour but quite a bit of sugariness too. I liked it, but it seems less sophisticated than the other two products and not quite similar enough to the original ice lolly.

I actually enjoyed all the new products, and would certainly pick up any of them again. Yes they are a novelty, but they were still rather nice. It has to be said though; only in the UK would you get ice cream free ice creams! Oh come on British summer – please make your presence known and prove these companies wrong!
By Cinabar

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cadbury Screme Egg Minis (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

I have no hesitation in admitting I love Creme Eggs. I always used to get excited at the beginning of the New Year trying to find them on sale. The last few years we have seen Screme Eggs appear and increase in availability at Halloween. This is a good thing, any excuse for effectively bringing out Creme Eggs early is a positive move. This year has seen another (spin off) a new product, Mini Screme Eggs!
Now I’m not got to pretend that there is anything very different here to the usual Mini Creme Eggs you can buy at Easter, except for the packaging and the yolk. As with the regular sized Screme Eggs the yolk is a ghoulish green in colour, but there is no messing with the flavour. I actually like the proportion of the mini eggs as there is a fair amount of chocolate in relation to the filling. They are easy to munch on, but picking the tightly wrapped foil off each one ensures that you can’t scoff lots, unless you prepared! The other thing is as they are small the answer to the inevitable question “How Do You Eat Yours?” is simple – whole! I also think these would be ideal to add to the cauldron for the Trick or Treaters, but keep your fingers crossed that they don’t all disappear!
By cinabar

Monday, 22 October 2012

Witches Warts and Halloween Bites Selection (Hotel Chocolat @HotelChocolat) [By @Cinabar]

One of the good things about Halloween is that in recent years confectionary companies are making quite an effort to launch new goodies. It is gaining in popularity here and even posh chocolatiers like Hotel Chocolat launch an exciting range of chocolates in the autumn. This year two of their products caught my eye, the Halloween Bites Selection and the bag of Witches Warts.

Halloween Bites

This selection box of chocolates has been introduced for the season as part of their H-Box range. It contains a lovely mix of chocolates all beautifully laid out for Halloween, and elegantly packaged. Inside the box were:

Praline Pumpkins – I just love the moulding of these chocolates, they do look absolutely wonderful. Inside the box there were four pumpkins two made with a milk chocolate coating and two with the orange coloured white chocolate. The filling was sweet and nutty, and very smooth. The chocolate shell was thick and added an impressive amount of flavour. I love chocolate and nuts, with praline being one of my favourite fillings so I was in absolute heaven.

Gianduja Bomb – So this one doesn’t have a Halloween name or themed design, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked! Gianduja is smooth, praline like, chocolate nut paste. I feel obliged to offer a fascinating fact at this point as it fits in; Nutella used to be called “Pasta Gianduja” so there you go. Anyway did I mention I like chocolate and nuts? The chocolate and nutty filling in the one is surprisingly dark and flavoursome. The textures is silky to the point that it just sorts of melts easily away on the tongue. The nuts flavour soft, but the chocolate strong. The chocolate is thick and a pleasure to crack into, and the dusting of cocoa powder just adds a hint of bitterness into the mix. This is a classy act, containing all my favourite ingredients.

Zombie Eye Truffle – This one takes us back to the Halloween theming, with a blood red eye looking up at us. Thankfully it is raspberry ganache hidden within a white chocolate shell! Hotel Chocolat white chocolate is one their best products. It’s creamy and sweet but still has a good underlying flavour of cocoa butter. It has been teamed brilliantly with the super sharp and fruity filling that contrasts it perfectly. I love the mix of creamy white chocolate and sharp fruit flavours; it makes a seriously well put together chocolate.

Dark Soft Caramel – This chocolate almost looks like a cone of shiny dark chocolate. The coating is a rich strong 70% cocoa, it has been paired with a sweet brown sugar flavoured caramel that complements it perfectly. I love the mix of sweet and dark in this chocolate, and how the chocolate shell cracks revealing the runny oozing filling. These may only be small compared to the pumpkins but they pack a good mix of tastes.

The Crystal Skull – Finally, but certainly not least we have the neatly moulded chocolate skull. I love the detail on this, and it is the stand out item in the box. It has been made with Hotel Chocolat’s rich milk chocolate, but mixed in it are loads of small cherry crystals. The flavour of these is quite delicate and adds just a gentle fruity hint to the overall block of chocolate. The best part of them is the texture that they add, giving the skull a satisfying crunch as you munch it. The only problem I foresee with this fine chocolate is that there is only one of them, so I think if you are sharing they may be arguments over it. ;-)

I can’t imagine that there is a more perfect after dinner selection of chocolates on the market for Halloween. These would also make a wonderful thank you gift for the host of any Halloween parties you might be attending.

Witches Warts

Now the phrase Witches Warts might not sound that appealing, but I would like to assure you that the ingredients here consist mainly of nuts, chocolate and popcorn, so there is nothing to worry about!
Inside the bag are oddly shaped chunks of chocolate covering popcorn pieces that have been rolled in chopped pecans. The chocolates do vary in size, from the epic huge stuck together chunks to the smaller individual bits. Each delivers a different ratio of ingredients but all taste rather superb. I love Hotel Chocolat’s milk chocolate as it packs quote a punch with the cocoa element, but still delivers a sweet and creamy aftertaste. The addition of the nuts in with the popcorn do give a good depth to the flavour, and as pecan nuts are quite distinct it made the product just a bit different. The popcorn and nuts have wonderful texture even underneath that generous coating of milk chocolate, and the toffee flavour shone through too. Some of the bites even had a slight hint of salt which made them all rather moreish.
I really love the novelty of this bag of Witches Warts but as it is Hotel Chocolat there is simply no cutting back on quality either. This is the ideal gift for any junior Halloween visitors you might get, but it’s a bit too nice to give away to random Trick or Treaters.
By Cinabar

Friday, 29 June 2012

Mr Happy Ice Cream (Tesco) [By @cinabar]

I am a bit of a sucker for all things novelty and for ice cream, so when I saw this in Tesco it was a given that I would pick it up! I used to love the Mr Men / Little Miss when I was younger, and I even gained the nickname of Little Miss Giggles for quite a while! So Mr Happy Ice Cream seemed like the perfect treat.
Once opened I was impressed that the Mr Happy shape was quite clear within the ice cream, and had kept his form well, although not as clear as on the box! Sprinkled on the top of the ice cream log are white chocolate flowers which add a nice touch and a little bit of texture. Other than that the dessert is very smooth, and creamy. The brown section is chocolate flavoured ice cream and has surprisingly good flavour. I was worried that as it is aimed at younger market it might be very sweet, but it is actually well balanced and the cocoa is impressively rich. Mr Happy himself is vanilla, and the ice cream is sweet and creamy and tastes really good.
I was impressed with the quality of the ice cream in this novelty dessert, as it makes it much more of an item to repurchase. I think on a hot summer’s day this would make the perfect post barbecue pudding, whatever the ages of your guests. Seriously how can eating this not make you smile!
By Cinabar

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sardinas De Chocolate (Selfridges) [By @Cinabar]

I know I’m easily taken in by novelty, but these chocolate sardines really made me smile. Spectre very kindly spotted them in Selfridges and picked them up for me, knowing what my reaction would be! I love the packaging; I love the bright red box, which looks like a partly peeled back sardine tin. I think the sardines themselves look ace, long thin milk chocolates, wrapped in smart fish style silver foil.
Technically these are just three smallish pieces of milk chocolate in very neat packaging, but I still thought they were fantastic! The chocolate was okay, not as creamy as Dairy Milk, not as rich as some of the better quality chocolates. It had a decent snap when broken, and in taste was perfectly decent. The chocolate taste was almost secondary to the item as a whole.
I know there isn’t an obvious occasion where you would need chocolate sardines, and that I am easily swayed by the unusual, but these still get my vote. The chocolate may not be the highest quality, but the novelty won me over in the end!
By Cinabar

Monday, 14 November 2011

Glitter Berry J20 (Sainsbury’s) [By @ Cinabar]

I was first alerted to this drink by NLi10 after Ms NLi10 found it at a bowling alley. I was browsing the J20s while compiling an online Sainsbury’s order and finally found it listed, so popped it in my basket with just a touch of excitement!
There are always plenty of J20 flavours on sale at any one time, and if I’m totally honest I do lose track of the varieties available. I have never had a bad J20 and do like to try the interesting fruit combinations, but often fall into the standard orange and passion fruit trap i.e. I forget to specify which variety in the pub and get given the most common one.
The new Glitter Berry J20 is a bit special and you may notice doesn’t even contain the fruit names in its title. I can confirm the ingredients are cherry and red grape, with a hint of seasonal spice. The drink is a lovely rich dark red colour, and it is also full of edible gold glitter! The bottle says that you should ‘shake to shimmer’ before serving, and mine did need a bit of a wakeup call as a lot of the glitter had settled in the base.

I think we all know by now I love things that are a bit different, and things that sparkle, so I was so excited to see this drink it was untrue! Does gold glitter actually add anything to the flavour? No. Is this a novelty? Yes. If you shake that bottle and watch the drink sparkle, is it ace? Hell yes!
The glitter is wonderfully glamorous and ridiculously Christmassy (think red drink gold glitter). It is such a clever idea and is a proper innovation in the market, adding something a bit special in the adult soft drink range.
I also love the rich fruity taste that Britvic always puts together so well. The cherry flavour is slightly tart, and the red grape giving it a nice mature edge in the flavour but still keeping a pleasant sweetness throughout the drink. There was hint of warm spices that added to the festive feel too making it the perfect drink for the season. Sadly it is only a Limited Edition, but it’s going to be my J20 of choice from now on!!!
By Cinabar

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Cuppa Cake (Sainsbury’s) [By @cinabar] [@SainsburysPR]

Cup cakes are seemingly big business at the minute, with even Selfridges now selling ‘designer’ cup cakes in their food hall. Apparently (i.e. according to Wikipedia) the name of cup cakes originate from 1796 where they were first described as “a cake to be baked in small cups”, so this could be seen as going back to their roots... as this cookery kit allows you to cook the cake in a mug. Who am I kidding – it’s a microwave cup cake for goodness sake not gourmet baking. :-D
I think the target market for this box set must be students. It’s cheap and easy to prepare, and all you need is a cup, some water, an egg and a fork, basics even a student should have. I actually love the simplicity of the kit though. Inside the box are two sachets of powder, you put one in a mug add an egg and a drop of water, whisk and when it looks smooth-ish its time to cook it. By ‘smooth-ish’ mine never went that smooth, mostly because there are chocolate chunks in the contents but I did my best. Anyway after you have completed the minute or so of preparation you then stick it in the microwave and huzzah one freshly baked cake! It raised a fair amount during cooking, but didn’t quite look as fantastic as the one on the box. There were however optimistic fresh baking smells coming out of the microwave.

The next stage was the eating part. I have to say I was a little confused to see that each mug is supposed to serve two, and that half a serving has 250 calories. I don’t want to shock you guys but I had a whole one to myself, because I’m a rebel like that. That’s 500 calories all to me, which if it had been combined with ice cream or custard makes for a very high calorie dessert...
Texture wise it was a little firmer than most sponges, but not rubbery at all. The top half of the cake was sweet and lightly chocolaty, but the flavour was mainly toward the bottom of the pudding. All those chocolate pieces in the mix hadn’t risen during cooking and had stayed toward the base, making it get progressively more chocolaty the further you ate downwards.
I said it at the start, and I’ll say it again this isn’t gourmet cookery, but it is a lot of fun. It is really easy to prepare and nice tasting too. In fact it’s really good considering the minimal effort!
To be honest if I was having it again I would add some (microwavable) custard just to moisten the sponge, but that will get me feeling guilty for eating a double portion again and thinking about calories. If you were making this – would you share your Cuppa Cake, or do you think it should be a single serving too?
By Cinabar

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Giant Baby Jelly Mould [@findmeagift] [By @Cinabar]

This may not be an edible item being reviewed, but I still think it is one of the neatest food related items I’ve seen. Jelly babies are pretty cool, but if you have ever looked at a jelly baby and wished that it was bigger, then this may well be the perfect gift for you.
The lovely folks at Find Me A Gift sent me one to try, and I really couldn’t say no, it is right up my street.

The jelly mould was easy to fill as it sat level on the work surface face down. I made three sachets worth of blackcurrant jelly (i.e. three pints) to fill it, and then anxiously waited for it to set. It took a bit longer to set than my usual individual servings of jelly, so make sure you make it well in advance to give it plenty of time. Then came the tense moment of serving it and of course prizing it from its mould. I turned it over and gave it a little tap, but it stayed firm. So I followed the fool proof jelly removal rules by dipping it into some warm water to encourage it, and very gently running a knife around the edge and then he plopped out.

What a result, it really is a stunning looking jelly!!! I loved the detail, and the belly button is just so cute! We admired him for a while, and then tucked it. Cutting into him with a spoon felt like a bit of a moral issue, and there was a certain amount of guilt over eating his head. Spectre had no guilt as he ate his tummy... and then his chest... and his legs... and then ate his arms. Mental note don’t invite Spectre next time! :-D
Seriously though, this would be the perfect treat at the end of a summer barbecue, it’s guaranteed to make your guests smile and the jelly is light enough after all the food. It would wow kids too, perfect for a birthday party. It’s a simple idea but makes brilliant results and I just love the novelty of it.
If you want to get your own:
By Cinabar

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Mana Potion Vs Sleep [feat. Halo Reach] [by @NLi10] (CyberCandy Birmingham)

When I reviewed the Harcos Labs Health Potion some time back I really enjoyed the flavour but had severely underestimated how strong it would be and drank it all in one go on a work night - it disrupted my sleep and gave me bags of energy but due to drinking it on an ordinary evening I had an abundance of energy an no use for it. I bought another health potion (which I used on an outward bounds activity day at GoApe Wire Forest some 40ft up in the air to great effect) and a Mana potion. The makers say that Mana potions are stronger than health potions, and from experience they are essentially 40ml of weaponised caffeine, so I put it away for a special occasion where its powers could be put to good use.
The launch of Halo Reach for the Xbox 360 seemed the perfect opportunity for trying out this concoction. The premise - go to the midnight launch and then come home and play until I was no longer capable. I even booked the day off work just for this. I shall attempt to recount the whole experience on an hour-by-hour basis, like Jack Bauer's weedy younger brother.

12:00 - I got to the launch a bit early, but there was already a large queue. At 12:45 I had picked up my new Halo 360 with the game, and got ample free things from the crew at GameStation New Street in Birmingham (thanks guys - you throw an excellent launch party!). I got a taxi home.

1:00 - got back just after 1 and set up the console and took a few pictures. While I was sorting everything out I transferred my old games using a larger USB stick and installed the game to the hard drive for more efficient playing. I also lined up my snacks which were a bunch of grapes - anything more snacky or sustaining may taint the science behind this experiment.

2:00 - Finally started playing on Heroic mode which is the game series equivalent of Hard (my GamerTag is nli10 - and I also tweeted for a lot of the night as @nli10 if you want to read as my sanity disappears). Grapes were eaten throughout the evening but not recorded. They were green ones.

3:00 - By this point I'd powered through the first proper level and got a couple of achievements. This is the point at which I would have ordinarily gone to bed as I was pretty tired - I also probably wouldn't have spent so long setting everything up. I took my first few sips of the mana potion. The flavour is sourer than the health potion, and tasted like a stronger version of the blue slush puppy. There are a few other flavours in there I'm sure too.

4:00 - I'd got over my sleepiness and got back into the groove and was starting to remember the controls a lot more. The third chapter was a lot harder than I'd expected and I died quite a lot. I took a celebratory swig of the potion to take it down to half when I finished the level. The same herbal undertones as the health potion were more noticeable this time and it gave the flavour a bigger zing. I'd need all the alertness I could get for the next part.

5:00 - After a brief comfort break I jumped into the multiplayer modes. Now I'm a fan of Halo but I wouldn't consider myself to be a great player, I loose pretty much all matches but have a great time. I decided on Rumble Pit as my playlist as this is all solo games and speedy, I took sips of the potion between rounds. Over the hour I came (out of 8) 8th, 8th, joint 3rd with 6 other people , 5th, 7th 5th, and then I stopped keeping track. My Halo online record thinks I won a match but I don't remember this! I was having fun but everyone else was clearly more skilled so I went back to single player.

6:00 - back on the campaign mode as the sun started to rise I found that the multiplayer had knocked some of the ring rust off my skills - I was back on form. Despite this burst at 6:30 I was really starting to flag again so I finished the remains of the blue potion and almost immediately was more alert. I was on Chapter 4 and progress was slow as there were new things to contend with (no spoilers from me!)

7:00 - Still on chapter 4 I was very physically awake but my brain was flagging - I was losing in some odd places and suspect my mind was wandering. At 7:30 I finally passed it and much air punching and celebrating was done. This seemed to kick my brain back into gear and I decided to play around with the other modes and get some of the easier achievements.

8:00 - I had decided before starting that I'd have breakfast at my (roughly) normal time of 8 O'clock so had cereal and Builders Tea (to be reviewed soon) which added to my feeling of normality. I decided to go back to chapter 2 to get a simple achievement for doing the level in a very specific way on an easier difficulty. I chose the easiest possible (in my sleep addled state not reading that you can't earn anything on that mode) and started. As I wandered around the level it seemed like I was going in circles and my eyes began to get blinky. At one point I found myself waking up as the controller started to slip out of my hands and I decided this was the end point of the experiment. By the time I'd switched off and made it to bed it was 9:15 meaning that a mana potion adds about 6 hours to my ability to concentrate and stay awake.

After 4 hours sleep I got up and resumed play - something I'd have never done without the aid of the stimulants in my system. While due to my tiredness I found it really hard to think tactically or shoot straight towards the end I think it's a thumbs up for the mana potion. While the health potion would still be my favourite I think that mana is great for situations where you need that bit more enthusiasm or awakeness. It'd be perfect for late night clubbing, and playing on the normal difficulty I'd have got a lot further than I did on Heroic. The flavour is unusual, but nice enough that you are happy to drink it, and sipping it over the evening was a much better way to take it than all-in-one, although the lovely glugging noise the bottle makes was less noticeable. I'll probably buy these again.
by @NLi10

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cupcakes In A Jar (

Yes, you read that right, these are cupcakes served in a jar! When I first heard about these cakes I was absolutely desperate to try them as they are such a neat idea. Not only are they really pretty to look at, but the jar keeps them fresh and enables them to be posted too, so it’s not just a novelty, its rather clever too.

The lovely people at GDesserts sent me both the Chocolate Nutter cupcake and the Red Velvet version to try. The smaller jar is the ‘taster’ size and the larger jar their ‘regular’. The cupcakes were well packaged for their trip in the post, and even had cold packs in with them to ensure they were fresh.

Red Velvet
I was really intrigued by this flavour, as I know my American friends often talk about having Red Velvet cake. The flavour is somewhere between chocolate and vanilla, and I am pleased to say that the fabulous vibrant colour is all natural. The icing is a sweet and creamy cheese flavour mixed with sugar and vanilla and a lovely rich after taste of white chocolate. There is a gentle hint of cocoa in the red sponge, and all the delicate but sweet flavours work well together. Although delicious, it seemed such a shame to eat such a pretty cake! Glad I did though, it was a real treat.

Chocolate Nutter
Gosh I do love chocolate and nut flavours mixed together, so I think it is fair to say I had high expectations for this cupcake, and I was not disappointed. The icing is soft and moist, and the flavours of cocoa, butter and nut just melt on the tongue. The sponge underneath is so fluffy and light and brings the most wonderful rich dark chocolate and hazelnut flavours. There was even a hazelnut hiding in the centre of this cake. This little cupcake is a jar filled with absolutely heaven, chocolate, creaminess, butter, hazelnut and a beautiful moist sponge – a complete pleasure to eat.

I was delighted to discover that these wonderful cakes more than lived up to the expectations I had when I first heard about them. Beautiful to look at, and baked to perfection too.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sweet Cred Red Hot Toxic Extreme Sour Candy [By Spectre] (Selfridges)

I like the packaging of these sour sweets. The recyclable plastic toxic waste can has a certain irony. “Red Hot Toxic” in a fire red font on the side of the can, with warnings such as “If you dare” and “Extreme Sour Candy” certainly seemed a challenge. The can also states if you can take one sweet for a minute then you’re an “Extreme Sourhead”, anything below that and apparently you’re a bit of a wimp. So I decided to take up the challenge. I’ve had pretty sour face twisting sweets in the past. These claim to be the “sourest candy on the planet”. Popping open the plastic can I noticed there were four flavours wrapped in various colours. Green for apple flavour, yellow for lemon flavour, red for watermelon flavour (huzzah! No cherry flavour! Regular readers will know I hate cherry flavoured sweets), and blue for blueberry flavour. There was four of each flavour meaning someone somewhere counted them out. I prefer that then having one of one flavour and many of another or missing out on one flavour all together. The colours made sense in my head, which is so often not the case with different flavours of sweets (such as Maynard’s Duos).

Apple flavour
On ripping open the little green packet I noticed that it had another warning on the back “Caution taste buds Extreme Sour Candy”. I laugh in the face of danger. Hah! I popped the sticky green tablet into my mouth and instantly regretted it. Pow! I sat squirming at my desk trying not to swear. There really is an extreme sour hit right from the start with this sweet. It’s like Rita Queen of Speed at Alton Towers; a super fast start turning into a pleasant rollercoaster ride. When the sourness goes the sweet turns into a nice apple experience, but when your teeth break through to the centre of the sweet the sourness returns, not as bad as the first punch in the face, but maybe a couple of loop the loops.

Lemon flavour
Geez! Okay this one really is sour! Gah! Having trouble typing… Unlike the pleasant apple in the background this sweet makes full use of the lemon flavour straight away. I swear I almost fell off my chair. As soon as the Rita sensation hits you it’s gone and you can rest easy for a while to a nice lemon flavour. Then you bite through the crusty outer layer of the sweet and have a decent punch again from the sour centre.

Watermelon flavour
Okay, so I thought the lemon flavour was the sourest, but the watermelon clearly beats it. There is a definite watermelon taste, which I was pleased about. It actually tasted of watermelon, not some dodgy flavouring that some geek in a lab thought might taste like watermelon. On this sweet though, I noticed my tongue was getting sore and the roof of my mouth a little tender. I hastily bit through the outer layer and felt the full force of the watermelon sour. Definitely more sour on the outside and inside than the other two flavours. Roll(er coaster) on the last sweet!

Blueberry flavour
Blueberry is another of those sweet flavours that sweet manufacturers seem to always get wrong. Sweet Cred had done such a good job on the watermelon flavour that I was strangely looking forward to tasting this sweet. However my mouth was sadly not looking forward to it. My tongue was feeling sore in several places and the roof of my mouth raw. I winced a little opening the little blue packet. I couldn’t help thinking this would have made good TV or a You Tube clip for people to giggle at. I stared at the sticky sky blue sweet for a while and finally succumbed to temptation and quashed the fear. Yaaaah! There is a definite blueberry taste, although a little exaggerated. The sourness is definitely extreme, but not as bad (good) as the watermelon flavour. I started to feel the sourness on my lips with this flavour which were slowly going numb. My tongue and inner mouth had given up at this point, and hiding under my desk like a twisty faced moron from my colleagues seemed not to be working anymore either. I bit into the outer coating of the sweet for the final loop the loop and was glad my super sour tasting session was over.
By Spectre

Anyone for a sweet? I have three sweets left of each Red Hot Toxic flavour. Follow us on Twitter for a competition to win them – coming very soon.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Vintage Buttons (Hotel Chocolat)

When someone says chocolate buttons it is hard to picture anything but the plainest looking chocolate discs. Chocolate buttons are not usually about their design, they are just about easy to eat chocolate pieces.
Hotel Chocolate have decided to think outside the box with their chocolate buttons and have done things a little differently. They have actually researched the appearance of classic clothing buttons from the 1700s onwards, and moulded milk chocolate into the classic shapes. I think it is impossible not to smile when you open the box and see these diverse and beautiful chunky choccies. The level of detail on each one is impressive, and all are different.
The chocolate itself is firm, but gives pleasingly when bitten. The flavour is sweet with a lovely easy going creamy taste. There is plenty of cocoa and the rich chocolate flavours just melt on the tongue. It is obviously a good quality chocolate, but it is the clever idea behind the product that would make these the perfect gift, or an indulgent treat.