31 December 2010

Galaxy Ultra Smooth Creamy Hot Chocolate [By @Cinabar] (Tesco)

As a rule I tend not to mention price on these reviews, but I felt obliged to with this drink. The cup this hot chocolate is made in is quite small, and the price is a ‘trial’ price of £1 per cup. The fact that it is labelled as a trial price designed to encourage first purchases does make me inclined to believe that the ‘real’ price will be higher still. A pound may not sound that bad, but given the cup is already small I was disappointed to find when I opened the pack; it isn’t even close to being a full (little) cup either.
The hot chocolate was easy to make, simply remove the plastic lid, peel off the foil and microwave, stir and microwave again. I let the thick brown liquid stand a minute after its final zapping and have to say that it obviously contains cream, as it was forming a skin. The product boasts that it is ‘Ultra Smooth’ as it isn’t made with powder, but actual chocolate instead. Sure enough the ingredients confirm that it contains real Galaxy chocolate, and also some Dove Dark chocolate. Dove is an American brand, and “Dove Dark” is not available here in the UK, so it seems a strange ingredient.
The drink itself is indeed very smooth, with no lumps or bits. I thought it had a taste of chocolate custard about it, as the drink was thick, sweet and moderately chocolaty. For my tastes I would prefer a richer chocolate taste, as this drink felt a bit sweet but muted. The thing that put me off the most though was the appearance. I made one of these for another taste tester, and the fact that it is such a small portion in it’s (albeit recyclable) little plastic cup made me think it just looked a bit naff. The contents were pleasant enough, but it didn’t deliver the luxury I had hoped for. Nice, but not something I’d rush out to buy again.
By Cinabar

30 December 2010

Honey & Mustard Popcorn (Corn Again) [by @NLi10]

I've tried to review this product quite a few times now.

First I decided to take it to the IMAX to eat during Harry Potter but forgot to take it.

Then I took it to work to review as a work snack, but it didn't get eaten (Christmas means an office full of biscuits)

Also I took it to my parents over Xmas but we didn't really sit and watch any movies and we were always too full.

Now it's back on the review pile, still a half eaten bag of popcorn.

Is it not that nice? On the contrary - it tastes great! The flavours are exciting and new and while the popcorn is softer and less crisp than cinema popcorn it avoids that horrible Butterkist texture that feels like you are eating hard lumps of butter. It's probably the best 'non-fresh' popcorn that I've ever had, but the problem is I've absolutely no idea when to eat it.

The flavours of Honey & Mustard are a strange combination, but conjure up visions of tea parties on the lawn and exciting new sandwiches cut into triangles. Like most of my favourite snacks the flavours intermingle and no two pieces are exactly the same. You find yourself hunting through the bag for the darker coloured ones which have more of the ingredients on them and really savouring the experience. This means that it's eating as a pleasure activity, where as usually popcorn is something eaten absentmindedly while you watch the film. And maybe this is the problem, it's like having a picnic in the cinema so I don't feel like I'm giving either activity the attention it deserves.

Don't get me wrong - the bag will get finished and I will likely buy more flavours (they do Cinnamon!), but I think that I'd enjoy it most as popcorn when faced with a film that I really didn't want to watch. Instead I think that it falls into the nibbles category, something to share and to savour with friends at a party - although if everyone is as full as at Christmas it may just stay sealed until the next one.
by @NLi10

29 December 2010

Pot Noodle GTi Tikka Masala [By @SpectreUK] (Tesco)

Pot Noodle GTi Tikka Masala
Jim from Chocolate Mission recommended I try this new Pot Noodle GTi Tikka Masala. Apparently it’s the first Pot Noodle with actual meat in it. Unlike the usual Pot Noodles, the GTi isn’t a case of “just add boiling water and stir”, the GTi is microwavable in two minutes (depending on the wattage of your microwave oven). I remember the old microwavable curry’s in the 90’s that were downright rotten and didn’t taste much like curry after you’d nuked the plastic packaging for an age. I know nowadays that microwave meals taste better and are better for you healthwise, but you still have to keep them chilled or freeze them to eat them after a longer period of time. The GTi doesn’t need chilling or freezing, and has a good long best before date, so it doesn’t take up room in your fridge or freezer.

Our microwave oven is 1000W, and as the instructions on the back of the packet only went up to 850W, I had to guess a little on the cooking time. After about a minute and a half I pulled the rest of the lid off and was impressed at the aroma of Tikka Masala. The microwave oven hadn’t dried out the contents of the GTi at all. On stirring the brown Tikka sauce I could see a decent helping of noodles, with small pieces of chicken and herbs. The noodles had been cut short so the meal was not messy at all. Cinabar’s mom had put bread aside for me and made up a salad of cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce. I also had a beer to wash the meal down. The Tikka Masala sauce had a medium spice to it with a tomato taste, and a touch of paprika, garlic and onion. The chicken had cooked well in the microwave, and was succulent and soft on the teeth. The Tikka Masala went well with the salad and I enjoyed mopping up the rest of the sauce with the bread once I’d finished the noodles and chicken. Even more of a plus I found that the Pot Noodle GTi went very well with a pint of beer. I’ll definitely have to seek out the Chilli Con Carne and Bolognaise flavours in the GTi range. Thanks Jim! :-)
By Spectre

28 December 2010

Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding (Westmoreland Service Station or Waitrose)

When I first saw this sticky toffee pudding I was at the slightly amazingly and wonderful Westmoreland Service Station, home of interesting foods galore. I was quite surprised when I went to Waitrose and found this same pudding proudly sitting on the shelf at my local branch. This does mean that this dessert is quite readily available should you be looking for it.
I opened the box to prepare this pudding for the oven and was impressed by the lovely rich sweet aromas already emanating from the pack. Once cooked, the house was filled with rich treacly scents. The dessert was scoped into bowls, and custard was served as an optional accompaniment.
One bite in and I had realised this sponge is something a bit special. The flavours are strong and gorgeous, buttery sweet toffee, and a perfect moist sponge covered in the sticky sauce. It is a rich pudding, but the buttery nature does help to create balance. However a drizzle of creamy custard does help to lighten the flavours.
This is a fab sponge, and if you have been asked to provide dessert for a dinner party but can’t cook, this pudding can’t fail to impress. I’m so pleased Waitrose stock it too, because I’m so looking forward to buying another, without having to go on a road trip up north!
By Cinabar

27 December 2010

Milk Chocolate With Banana (Thorntons)

It has been said that I haven’t covered enough Thornton’s goodies here at Foodstuff Finds, so please allow me to squeeze another product in before the end of 2010. This bar has a milk chocolate base, with 37% cocoa, and is flavoured with banana. It is both fair-trade and organic, which it proudly states on the box. Surprisingly when I opened the bar I noticed that the smell was remarkably neutral, there was a nice cocoa tone, but only the vaguest hint of banana. In appearance the bar is lovely and chunky, and unusually square shaped. I actually like the shape of the bar, it makes it far nicer to give as a small gift that a rectangular one. The cardboard box covering and wrapper also go a long way to making it feel quite substantial.
The base chocolate was really tasty, it was sweet and creamy, but still hard enough darkness from the cocoa to made it a rich flavoursome chocolate. It had a decent melt too, pleasantly coating the mouth and allowing the sweet tones to linger. The banana taste was surprisingly mild. There were sporadic small pieces of banana hidden within the bar, all adding a gentle fruity taste. I fear we are all quite used to the strength of artificial banana flavourings, so although mild, it is rather refreshing to find such a natural taste paired with a chocolate. This bar is very much worth trying, but expect subtle and natural rather than that shrieking ‘banana milkshake’ flavour so many products have.
By Cinabar

26 December 2010

Naked 'Green Machine' Antioxidant Smoothie [by @NLi10] (Starbucks)

Merry Xmas for yesterday!

Many of you will have eaten, drank and then done it all again yesterday so I thought it might be apt to talk about this little bottle of what at first glance appears to be pond water. Even the bottle describes it as 'intimidating' and looking into the top you can see why. It's a multi layered drink that actually tells you it contains Blue Green Algae amongst its ingredients, and it wants you to drink it.

Once you get over the fact that it looks odd (which when writing for @Cinabar automatically puts things at the top of your shopping list) and actually buy the thing and open it up you realise something odd - It smells like a normal smoothie, and if you hadn't seen it you'd have happily have drunk it. While it's maybe a little less summery than many drinks, it tastes quite nice. Once you know that, your brain stops telling you not to drink it and you could easily use it to convince people that you are drinking other things, or just that it tastes as 'good for you' as it looks.

And I guess that's the point - it's full of things that are good for you, it looks like it's good for you (in a medicinal kind of way) and yet it actually tastes like something you'd happily buy again. Maybe the appearance is not what you want to see waking up on Boxing Day morning, but I'm sure that if you do manage to get past the wrapping the present inside is one that will give you the vitamins you need to survive until New Years.
by NLi10

25 December 2010

Festivity – Bath Ales [By @SpectreUK] (Waitrose)

I’ve tried a few of Bath Ales’ beers before and was naturally looking forward to trying this one when Cinabar’s Mom bought it me for a treat. The bottle label states that it’s a specially crafted porter with hints of rum, coffee and vanilla. Maris Otter Barley, Challenger and Bramling Cross Hops, and roasted chocolate malt are all added into the brewing. The porter is then fine filtered for quality. On opening the beer there was a smell that mixed barley and chocolate. Pouring this very dark porter reminded me of a stout. Wikipedia tells me that stouts and porters are very closely linked as both are made with dark malts. This porter tastes a little like a stout without the meal like feeling you get when drinking a Guinness or Murphy’s. It’s hard to pick out the flavours as they suggest on the bottle, but that’s not a bad thing. There is a definite taste of chocolate within this dark beer, but the other flavours of barley and hops fit round each other like a group of familiar friends in conversation. The chocolate complements the fine quality barley and hops to create a sweet edge to the bitterness that makes this porter a very easy and pleasant drink. Fuller’s London Porter better watch out! The only thing I’d have to disagree with Bath Ales is the fact that this beer should never be considered as a seasonal festive treat, but should be available all year round. I can get chocolate beer and Thistle beer when I like, so why can’t I have this too?
By Spectre

Santa Claus Christmas Cake

I hope by the time you read this that Santa has visited, and that you are already off to a very good start this Christmas morning.
I just wanted to take a minute to write about this wonderful Christmas cake baked, and decorated, by Tim at my mum’s work. You can’t beat a handmade Christmas cake, and I have to say I have very much been looking forward to trying this fab cake since I first heard he was baking. As always the cake is beautifully decorated, with a wonderful Father Christmas, and it tastes as good as it looks! The moist and fruity cake, has a lovely spice, and marzipan and icing just bring it all together.
Without wanting to make you all jealous, I do hope your Christmas cakes are as good as ours! Thanks Tim. :-) And Merry Christmas one and all!!!

24 December 2010

Thornton’s Tasting Collection Vs Hotel Chocolat Rather Large Cracker


I hope everyone is having a great Christmas, and that Santa brings you all that you want in the morning! As everyone tries not to over indulge too much – you can all watch me do the exact opposite. ;-)

Here is a very Christmassy Foodstuff Fight, with the Thortons Vs Hotel Chocolat Christmas mega gift sets.

Thornton’s Tasting Collection:
I have to say the box is very different to the usual Thornton’s offerings, it is modern and patterned and very elegant to look at. To open it you remove the lid, undo the ribbon and slide the doors open. A selection of trays appear sliding out from underneath each other, each tray has two layers of chocolates within them. This is a very elegant box of chocolates, and one of the prettiest gift boxes I have seen in a long time. There is a very definite full marks for packaging for this set, it really does have the wow factor.
The chocolates are a lovely selection form the Continental ranges, and have some of my favourites such as the Vanilla Truffle and the Viennese Truffle. Also mixed in on the layers, which makes it the tasting adventure, are some of Thornton’s chocolates I have never tried before. The Panna Cotta was remarkably creamy, contrasted perfectly by its dark chocolate coating. I also have to give a special mention to the Valencia with its tangy orange and warming brandy flavour, it is a complete treat. All were gorgeous, sweet and very flavoursome. The quality of the chocolates is, as always with Thornton’s, very much up to standard and the packaging is immaculate.

Hotel Chocolat Rather Large Cracker:
This may not have the posh element of the Thornton’s box set, but it certainly is novel, very Christmassy and rather fun. I’m sure that if this was taken to any seasonal dinner, all guests would be rather impressed by this remarkable looking pack. It is effectively a giant cracker, and by ‘effectively’ I mean a genuine working giant cracker! To open this fine object, just like a regular cracker, you pull either end and a pleasing bang cracks in the air and the goodies are released!!! Could this be any more cool if it tried!?!
Inside the cracker are golden paper crowns, some corny jokes, and 40 chocolates; mostly packaged in pairs. I loved the selection of chocolates as they had a decent seasonal spin. Even the Crunchy Praline was decorated with a Santa’s hat, and there were chocolate set Christmas shapes; such as white chocolate snowmen. I really loved the Mulled Wine truffle, it was lovely and warming with a decent Christmas spice flavour. The Billionaire’s Shortbread was also a favourite with is sweet, rich caramel flavour and its crunchy cookie topping. This chocolate selection could not fail to go down well, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch! And the clever novelty of the cracker will ensure it is a gift not forgotten.

Both packages of chocolate are exceptional and will certainly be enjoyed by all. The chocolate in each are of high quality, and the flavours are all excellent. Hotel Chocolat gains a bonus point because their selection does have a Christmas theme, with wonders such as the as the Cinnamon Praline and the seasonal cast shapes. The thing I really liked about the Thornton’s set was not just that the box was so beautiful, but it is also practical. If you didn’t finish all the chocolates in one sitting, you can tidily pack the chocolate back in their neat box. So, if you are after a stand out seasonal after dinner treat go for the Hotel Chocolat Rather Large Cracker, but if you are looking for an impressive, but more classical gift, choose the Thornton’s Tasting Collection.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!!!
By Cinabar

Green & Black’s Hazlenut Chocolate Spread (Selfridges)

Spectre spotted this jar in Selfridges, he was browsing in the foodhall, looked at it, and an assistant said “that’s the best chocolate spread I’ve ever tasted”. Who could resist a recommendation like that! Spectre then very kindly purchased a jar for me, what as sweetie.
Being a fan of nuts and chocolate, I do like my Nutella, but this did really appeal to me too. I tried the spread on toast, and it spread easily despite being quite thick. The taste was rich, with a sumptuous amount of cocoa, then sweetness and finally a nutty hazelnut aftertaste. The spreads texture felt smooth and velvety, and everything about this product seemed to be luscious. It just is absolutely gorgeous, I really wanted to eat it with a spoon, but have managed to resist (so far).
I also tested it on the ultimate banana sandwich, which involves one banana, two slices of bread one, of which is buttered and one of which is covered in this Green & Blacks spread. So good, I was almost stuck for words, it makes the perfect energy snack! Before you try this at home though, I warn you I have a very sweet tooth. If you leave the banana out, and just try this on toast I don’t see how you could fail to love it. This is definitely one to add to the last minute Christmas grocery shop, for a breakfast treat.
By Cinabar

23 December 2010

Lucozade Sport Lite Summer Berries [by @NLi10] (most newsagents)

I was quite thirsty while out and about at Centre Parcs and was about to spend a few hours relaxing in the sauna so decided that such a girly afternoon required a girly drink. I hadn't understood what made this 'lite' until I read the bottle and found out that it was an energy drink with only 50 calories. As it was primarily for hydration and to promote energy release I thought it would be a nice fit. As it wasn't far from the shop to the AQVA SANA I downed the whole thing in the changing rooms like some kind of pro-spa user. The flavour wasn't bad, but there was a definite aftertaste of sweeteners that I'd forgotten may be lurking. Low calorie could mean not sweet at all, but not in this case.

As a result I was sat in the first steam room full of energy and wanting to do things. Eventually this subsided, probably due to the glares of Ms. NLi10 and my body shutting down from the intense heat. As the experience progressed I unwound and enjoyed myself immensely, even going for a walk in the snow covered Zen Garden.

I think that a good, low calorie hydration drink would probably be water, maybe with a little something added to make it exciting. This was a bit too artificial and stimulating for my liking. Good for if you want to get up off the sofa and burn a few calories without consuming more, bad for the rest of us.
by @NLi10

22 December 2010

Haribo Super Sour Monsters [By Spectre] (WH Smiths)

Our Halloween week may have missed the boat on these fruit flavoured Super Sour Monster gums, but I just had to write about them. They come in three flavours and are packed with the usual Haribo fun. The lemon monster had a decent lemon taste and a good sourness, although not face twistingly uncomfortable, it had a pleasant easy to eat flavour and was instantly moreish. The apple monster was sourer than the lemon monster, which I found a bit odd, considering actual lemons are naturally sourer than actual apples. The apple flavouring made the sour fruit gum a little less moreish than the lemon, but still they didn’t last long either. There were quite a few less cherry monsters than apple or lemon in the packet, which made me think that these fruit gums weren’t properly counted out. Regular readers wouldn’t think that this was a problem, as I usually hate anything that is cherry flavoured. However, I actually like cherry fruit flavoured gums, such as cherry cola bottles. The cherry itself had a strong black cherry flavour to it that drown out the other two flavours. I was glad I left these cherries to last and finally my face started to twist in unusual ways. I don’t know whether it was just because they were cherry flavoured or whether they had more sourness added, but boy did I get some gurning practise in. I’m hoping that these fruit flavoured gums come out next year also, but to keep up the Haribo fun they need to count them out equally and add some more sour bite to the lemon and apple monsters. Remember the sourer the taste the scarier the face!
By Spectre

21 December 2010

Seeds of Change: Dark Chocolate Orange & Fig (Sainsbury’s)

Finally I have found a new Christmassy sounding chocolate bar. It doesn’t seem like something that should be hard to find, but finding a ‘new’ flavour on the shelves hasn’t been as easy as you might expect. There have been a lot of products that are same as last year, and quite a few items that are the same as normal, but in seasonal packaging, but here we have a ‘proper’ winter edition chocolate bar.
This rich dark chocolate is flavoured with both orange and fig, and smells wonderfully aromatic and citrusy when opened. The chocolate has a good flavour, the cocoa is dark and strong, and the after tones of the sweet orange balance the tatse nicely. The chocolate melts thickly in the mouth, but the smoothness is disturbed by the pieces of fig. The fig bits are sticky, chewy have an uneven texture and don’t add much in the way of flavour. Either this bar needs some kind of fig concentrate adding to the mix to enhance the flavour and commit to the fig idea, or it just needs to have the smooth chocolate and natural orange taste left on their own. There is a fair bit of potential in this bar, the base chocolate is good, and I love the organic concept, it just needs a bit of a retune with the flavours as the fig is a bit lost, except in texture.

20 December 2010

Cadbury’s Chocolate Curl Cakes (Sainsbury’s)

My first thought on seeing this product was that the box was the wrong way round. It is just a thought, but don’t all individual cakes come in boxes that are horizontal? Cadbury has shaken things up with a vertical box it seems, not a bad thing, it just looked a bit weird on the shelf. Mainly because the staff at Sainsbury’s had laid them down horizontally, so all the writing was sideways on... I’m thinking that it isn’t what Cadbury intended, but it did catch my eye!
So this is another offering from Cadbury in its Christmas range, and the product consists of chocolate sponges, covered in milk chocolate and white chocolate curls (giving them a snowy appearance).

Opening the box and a few things struck me, firstly that the cakes are a lot smaller than I expected; secondly that there were only five of them and finally that they were incredibly messy. I managed to sprinkle the floor with white chocolate curls that had fallen off the cakes, there was a lot of cannon fodder all over the carpet. Having said that each cake was pleasant enough, the sponge was moist, sweet and chocolaty. There was a smaller than expected dollop of a chocolate butter cream substance inside, that added a rich saltier flavour. The milk chocolate coating was nice and thick, and the white chocolate curls did add to the sweetness.
All in all the cakes were nice enough, and I wasn’t disappointed with the flavour or quality, but the size and messiness of the cakes means they are not my first choice for a Christmassy treat.
By Cinabar

19 December 2010

Tesco Christmas - Turkey Cranberry & Stuffing Wrap [by @NLi10]

Like the great musician Jonathan Coulton tells us Christmas Is Interesting and if you think about them for too long then pretty much none of our winter traditions make sense. With a similar open mind I approached this offering of traditional festive ingredients in a Mexican style wrap and took a bite.

How I came to be in the possession of such an interesting artefact is a tale in itself. We recently had a work visit by some salespeople regarding an Abbot Architect machine for our lab that does something I don't understand. They had come to talk about another kind of test that I didn't understand, but discussed avidity, which I do understand. As part of this we got a free feed, but instead of the usual hospital catering they popped to Tesco and brought a bumper feast of goodies.

In the interests of science/blogging I chose the thing that I was least likely to pick up normally (with an eye to the fact that I could always fill up on other things from the table should it be unpleasant). And I wasn't far off, that first bite was mostly lettuce and a mystery white sauce which wasn't all that Christmassy. It truly was an odd combination and I couldn't taste anything seasonal. I persevered and towards the middle, with the chunks of turkey was a few bits of cranberry. These clicked the taste button for me and I was much happier with the flavour for the remainder of the wrap. The second one was similar and now I knew to expect the occasional sweet hit I was prepared to put up with the odd combination of tortilla and white sauce with a hint of turkey. I guess that like with the microorganisms the exposure to the new and unusual thing increased my avidity towards it and allowed me to bind more successfully.

We also got a child's juice box and chocolate coins for pudding.

Overall I'd say it's worth trying this, if not just for the unique flavours. It's not even slightly festive though and in a different box could be a turkey and white sauce summer special or similar. I do however think that the only thing that should be wrapped at Christmas is the presents and not the turkey.
by @NLi10

18 December 2010

The Cairngorm Brewery Company: Trade Winds / Wildcat / Nessie’s Monster Mash / Cairngorm Gold [By Spectre]

Regular readers will know my fondness of real ale. In the past I have written about four of the Cairngorm Brewery Company’s ales; Stag, Black Gold, Blessed Thistle and Sheepshaggers. These next four ales complete Cairngorm’s permanent offering. With the diverse ranges of the last four ales such as brown ale, thistle, stout and lager style beer, I was definitely looking forward to drinking these next four. With the high quality of the last four ales, I couldn’t help having the highest expectations. Did those expectations make me worried that these latest four ales wouldn’t live up to the taste test? Well maybe, but only very slightly…

Trade Winds

This was the only ale I was concerned about as elderflower is added in the brewing. However, this beer did win the Great Taste Award 2010, so I was expecting greatness. I wasn’t to be disappointed. The elderflower and Perle hops give this ale a fruity sweet smell and taste with an underlying bitterness at the end of each mouthful. This ale is an excellent alternative to Blessed Thistle or Thistle beer. There is no added chocolate or ginger for that sweet tang in Trade Winds, but this beverage doesn’t need those ingredients as the elderflower and hops carries out all the work. Unlike many of the fruity flavoured beers Cinabar has tortured me with in the past; elderflower ale just works and will definitely have pride of place next to the thistle beers in the fridge from now on.


It’s a rare occurrence to find a beer that goes perfectly with a certain type of food. I recently found that Orange Peel beer goes perfectly with salmon and other fishy meals. I have now found that Wildcat goes perfectly with Cottage Pie. It makes me wonder if Stag ale has the same effect on the tastebuds, as both beers have a strong brown ale taste to them. Wildcat is a deep amber colour with a fruity smell and a wholesome flavour of fruit, malt and hops. The sweetness disappears from the tastebuds almost immediately to be replaced by the bitterness of the Challenger and Fuggles hops. The sweetness complemented the potato in the pie and the bitterness from the hops brought out the flavour of the gravy and beef. I have a few of these in stock and will be begging Cinabar’s Mom to cook me more Cottage Pies in the future. Of course, I’ll have to experiment with the Stag ale also.

Nessie’s Monster Mash

I remember when I was a lad (I know, that makes me sound old) I visited Loch Ness with my parents. I remember the beautiful landscape surrounding the Loch and the monster museum by the lake. The mystery of the Loch Ness Monster still stands today. I can’t remember if I believed in it then, but can’t help but think there was something definitely eerie about that Loch. Nessie’s Monster Mash is another brown ale offering, but different from the Stag and Wildcat, Nessie's Monster Mash has a smooth domineering malt taste to start with and then the bitterness of the hops kicks in at the end of each mouthful. Like the other two, Nessie’s Monster Mash would go well with a meaty dish, perhaps sausages this time? I’ll have to give it a try!

Cairngorm Gold

This lager style beer reminded me a little of the Sheepshaggers beer from the previous Cairngorm blog. Gold has a smooth bitter, yet sweet smell to it. This beer was bubblier than the Sheepshaggers, and where the Sheepshaggers had an initial bitterness to it slowly smoothing out to a refined spring water taste, this beer stays bitter all the way through each mouthful and has a clipped smooth taste right at the end. Gold has a good strong bitterness that starts with the sweet twang of Saaz hops and finishes with the aromatic Styrian Goldings. This beer well deserves the brewers name and “Gold” in its title. This golden beer was the racy Golden Fleece (rather than the seductive Sheepshaggers) at the end of my Cairngorm beer tasting sessions. This is truly one of the all time real ale greats and a perfect beer to finish off with.

Thank you Cairngorm Brewery Co. :-)
By Spectre

17 December 2010

Shapers - Sparkling Festive Fruit Punch (Boots)

After the success of Boots Christmas crisps, in Brie & Cranberry flavour, I thought I would give their new seasonal drink a try. It comes in a fairly plain bottle, with a robin on the bottom of the pack, and in appearance is a slightly pink fizzy looking liquid.
I realise that this drink is in the low calorie range, but as someone who regularly drinks Sprite Zero and diet pop I was under the impression that you can have low calorie and lots of flavour.
Sadly this drink was a bit muted for my taste buds. I could pick up on some fruity flavours like grape and plum, and even a hint of spice from some cinnamon, but it all felt like it had been watered down. Even the fizz wasn’t strong enough for my preference, but others may like a lighter amount of bubbles. After the mild taste washed away, all I was left with was a vague sweetness that seemed to linger on the palette. If the flavours were stronger I would have found this a lot more appealing, it wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t amazing. To be honest I’d rather buy a bottle of Diet Coke in the Boots meal deal, at least I know where I am with that. Bit of a shame really, but if you are in Boots – did I mention how fab their Brie & Cranberry crisps are?
By Cinabar

16 December 2010

Mackie’s Haggis & Cracked Blacked Pepper Crisps (Sainsbury’s, Edinburgh)

Recently I was visiting Edinburgh, when I saw these on the shelf in a branch of Sainsbury’s. Obviously they went straight into the basket, along with a few other bits and bobs. When I was at the till I eagerly mentioned to the lady working at the checkout how excited I was to find haggis crisps, and all she said was, in a low, half-hearted, Scottish tone ‘yea’.
I realised soon after, while making the obligatory visit to Edinburgh Castle, that even the cafe there sold them, so perhaps if you are Scottish this isn’t anything new, but I thought it was a very exciting treat.
I actually manage to save the crisps until I had returned to England from my visit, and had them as an accompaniment to sandwiches one lunch time. I was rather impressed with the flavour, they had a lovely meatiness about them, and the black pepper left a gentle spice as an after taste.
There was a good amount of coating on each of these crunchy crisps, and the flavour had a lovely complex nature. I could pick up on beef, sausage, onion and all matter of rich tastes. Probably the easiest way of describing them would be to say that they are a little like mixing Worcestershire Sauce flavour crisps, with Sausage crisps and an equal amount of Marmite crisps seasoning. Ultimately if you are like me and love meat flavoured crisps, these are worth seeking out and will make a lovely treat from any Scottish trip.
By Cinabar

15 December 2010

Nong Shim Hot and Spicy: Shin Cup Noodle Soup [By Spectre] (Day In, Birmingham)

I recently found out that I like pot / cup noodles and decided to have a little quest to find the best brands in the world. This Nong Shim Noodle Soup was recommended by a regular reader. The idea of a Hot and Spicy flavour meant I just had to hunt a pot down. On adding the boiling water to the solid noodles they took quite a bit to soften and mix. I noticed bits of carrot, coriander, mushrooms, red pepper and onions were floating around amongst the thin stringy noodles. I ripped open the red coloured sachet and mixed in the powdered paste. The soup went a lovely orange colour whilst the noodles absorbed much of the fluid. On tasting I noticed an extra spicy Tom Yum taste that made my taste buds tingle with chilli heat bouncing around my mouth pleasantly. This noodle soup is full of flavour, with hints of soy sauce, garlic and black pepper, and is one of the best I’ve tried. The hot noodles didn’t burn my lips, which meant that it wasn’t too messy to eat, but there was some slurping. Trying to stay with the oriental theme I gulped down this cup noodle with a glass of Ozeki Sake. The dryness of the Sake complemented the Tom Yum spicy taste very well. I’ll definitely hunt down another Hot and Spicy cup noodle from Nong Shim, and take a look at what else they have in their range. The teensy bottle of Sake didn’t last any amount of time though, so I’ll have to find a bigger bottle!
By Spectre

14 December 2010

Cadbury Merry Mini Rolls [Cranberry & Vanilla] (Sainsbury’s)

Cadbury’s Mini Rolls have had a Christmassy makeover, and instead of the usual strawberry jam these finely named ‘Merry Mini Rolls’ are filled with a seasonal cranberry and vanilla cream. We really don’t see enough cranberry with chocolate, it such a nice fruit it is a shame it is usually reserved for accompanying turkey on Christmas day.
The sponge inside these rolls has a good decent golden flavour, and the vanilla cream is sweet and smooth. The zingy cranberry hits the spots, with its own fruitiness and sharp but sweet taste. The chocolate coating is of the usual Cadbury flavour, although it is thin it still brings out a pleasant chocolate taste that works really well with the cranberry.
I thought these chocolate rolls were a nice addition to the range, and the cranberry flavour balanced out the other sweeter ingredients. This is one of those cake bars that although not wildly different to the regular range will still be missed after the festive season.

13 December 2010

Muller Corner– Christmas Yogurt: Chocolate Reindeer Edition (Sainsbury’s)

First off nobody panic, these aren’t actually reindeer flavoured. Far from it, this is simply the Christmas offering from Muller yoghurts. The yoghurt inside the pack is actually simply vanilla, and the Christmas theme is added by the ‘sprinkles’ which are tiny biscuits shaped like reindeer and coated in chocolate. Well, when I say chocolate, I probably should say ‘chocolate flavour coating’ or use some such disclaimer.
There are three colours of reindeer in the pack, and I have to say the biscuits themselves aren’t quite as neatly made as the on pack drawings!

The white chocolate coated one was sweet and pleasant. The middle colour was too pale for me to think of it as being milk chocolate, it was almost caramel in colour. It tasted sweet but not really delivering a decent chocolate hit. The darkest reindeer was a bit more chocolaty but still didn’t have a very strong flavour. The thing I liked about them was that the biscuit underneath the coating was lovely and crunchy and added a lovely mix of textures when added to the vanilla yoghurt. Let’s face it, these tiny biscuits were never meant to be eaten individually.
The yoghurt itself is thick, sweet and creamy with lovely tones of vanilla. Muller actually make my favourite vanilla yoghurt, as it is just so easy to eat with a really good flavour. The coating on the reindeer may not be the best quality chocolate, but it really isn’t the end of the world. The cute idea of the biscuits, the lovely crunch and the creamy yoghurt do still make these a nice Christmas treat, it is just a shame they didn’t deliver on a neater reindeer moulding.

12 December 2010

Carman's Original Fruit Free Muesli (Wholefoods Market & Sainsbury's)

Sometimes it's dangerous to get what you wish for, like in those fairy tales where someone’s wish is granted far too literally and it all goes horribly wrong. On twitter I was discussing my dislike for raisins and sultanas from previous muesli reviews and I got a couple of messages about it - one from someone in Australia talking about how much I'd love Carman's fruit free range. This resulted in a short exchange of messages and a box of the muesli appearing from Australia!

As this is a muesli with no fruit, not even the nice ones like all the berries AND no chocolate flakes AND very few nuts I was worried that I'd had my wish over granted and that I'd got a box of flavour free oats. This wasn't to be the case, there are hints of other flavours, and like the Dorset Cereals there are lots of lovely seeds that burst with flavour to find hiding in your mouth for hours after breakfast . I'd fully expected to be adding some of my dried cranberries and strawberries to this after the second bowl, as I have done with the own supermarket brand mueslis in the past, but I think that would spoil the delicate balance of flavours. This is designed to be eaten without fruit and is perfect for anyone as picky as me!

In the commonwealth games of cereals I'd say that this is the most elegantly done of the plain mueslis I've tasted, and is more similar to a granola in flavour as there is a definite roasted taste hiding in there. It deserves a place in the UK luxury cereal market and hopefully will find its way into more supermarkets so more people can try it out.

I also have the Carman's cereal bars but will save those until after Xmas I think!

11 December 2010

Bacon Gumballs [By Spectre] (CyberCandy)

Seriously? Who thought of these? Accoutrements, that’s who, but that doesn’t answer the “why?” question. Accoutrements have been around for twenty-five years making weird and wonderful products from novelty toys to Yodelling Pickles, Absinthe Lip Balm, and Coconut Monkey Mints to name but a few. They pride themselves on being as bizarre and interesting as possible through desperation not to bore their customers. They have a variety of bacon products ranging from Bacon Bandages to these Bacon Gumballs. I have to admire Accoutrements’ brave (or foolish) originality, but it doesn’t make me feel better about trying these crazy sounding gumballs.

Okay, there are apparently twenty-two of these gumballs in the smart red tin box. Ripping off the outer wrapper I was hit immediately by an overpowering salty bacon smell. That smell was before I even opened the tin box. Twenty-two gumballs! I was seriously wondering if I could eat one, let alone twenty-odd. Opening the box the salty bacon smell instantly made my hair curl. Partly because it proudly stated on the front of the metal box that there were twenty-two gumballs inside and partly because I was avoiding trying one of these rounded pink sweets for as long as possible, I counted them! Hah! There were twenty-three! I can only think that Accoutrements were being either over generous or just plain trying to get rid of these gumballs. I took a deep breath and popped one in my mouth. Urrrgh…. is the only way to describe the taste. The salty smell is replaced at first by a sweet taste, as I chewed for a few moments it started to taste like a blunted smoky bacon flavour. A smell like an old man’s boiler room assaulted my senses. It reminded me of the steam fair in the city park that I drag Cinabar to every summer, where old traction engines and vintage cars congregate amongst brick-a-brac stalls and rickety fairground rides. I chewed this gumball for a good ten minutes and the strange rounded smoky bacon taste just wouldn’t budge. I tried to blow a bacon bubble, but couldn’t seem to manage one. I never thought I’d actually write a sentence that included “I tried to blow a bacon bubble”. I can honestly say it’s one of the weirdest, most original, horrid, yet fascinating things I’ve ever tasted. I shared a couple around and got the same sort of “Urrgh!” response. Not sure what to do with the rest? Stinky bacon marbles anyone? Now there’s another sentence I never thought I’d write!
By Spectre

10 December 2010

McVities Christmas Festive Fruity Spice Cake (WH Smiths)

I asked recently on here and on twitter about what Christmas products people thought were worth hunting down for Foodstuff Finds. I got quite an interesting list of goodies I will be keeping my eye out for them all. The first one came via a recommendation off Twitter, and was found in a small branch of WH Smiths. This cake isn’t really the sort of thing you’d expect to find in WH Smiths, but I have learnt over the years to scan the shelves in all the shops I go in, it’s a sort of skill (or obsession). ;-)
And what a find this is! I do like fruit cake, but find that the richness of some Christmas cakes can be a bit off putting. The sponge in this festive cake is lovely, soft and light, with a moist feel which stops it from being too heavy. The taste is sweet, has an element of brown sugar and a nice helping of Christmas spices. I do love the flavours that the sponge contained, with its cinnamon and nutmeg, adding their lovely warming touch. Also packed inside the sponge was decent helping of fruit, there were currents and cherries, each one still soft and moist and adding patches of extra sweetness.
I totally confess that I love cinnamon and spices, so it will be no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed this cake. It is just such a fab Christmas treat, ideal with a cup of tea to bring warmth to our wintery afternoons.

9 December 2010

Cake & Biscuits - Various small enterprises [By @NLi10]

As a grand finale to the Indie food reviews I thought I'd summarise all the good ones I've found over the past week.

Bake Me A Cake - Coconut Cake

I happened to be in town after work one day and noticed a bunch of craft stalls over by the Cathedral that I hadn't seen before. Amongst the jewellery and soft furnishing stalls was one selling cakes and biscuits! It turns out that this stall was run by a friend of mine I used to work with and that she was a pro-baker now, going by the name Bake Me A Cake. Eschewing the fancier options I opted for the coconut cake which turned out to be a good choice.

The slice was ample and really filling and while cake isn't the ideal outdoors December FoodStuffFind (it's a bit cold, and needed a hot drink accompaniment) it was a great bit of cake and full of flavour. Rachel uses eggs from her own hens so it's even closer to the independent food seller ideal than I'd originally imagined.

Biscuits from Centre Parc - Oval Alberts & Lemon Biscuits

While on holiday I spotted these in the on site supermarket and thought they made a nice end to it all. These are by two smaller companies but appear to be stocked beyond the range of normal farm-shop/cottage industry products (Capitalism Ho! indeed). This doesn't really matter though because both of these have the similar personal touch to the product that the previous offerings had, even though they lack the freshness of the other offerings. Biscuits are ideal for upscaled, small businesses as they tend to travel better and have decent shelf lives.

The Oval Alberts (made by Cottage Delight speciality foods) are a savoury biscuit that they suggest having with their pheasant pate. As all forms of pate (even vegetarian) make me feel a bit queazy after eating I stuck to having them just by themselves, although I did dip one in my tea to great effect. Their oatyness and crunch are quite welcome and while they snap quite easily are very pleasing to eat. I do like a good oatcake, a top winter biscuit.

The Lemon biscuits (made by traditional farmhouse biscuits Ltd) are harder than I expected and a lot more lemony but not in an artificial way. I'd say that these are a perfect size too as I've been eating them one at a time without feeling like I should have a 2nd. They'd make great tea party sides to plates and I got to wondering if they also did a vanilla variety. They have a great crunch to them like most 'home baked' biscuits do and the flavour of lemon shortbread was quite compulsive and loved by people at work when I took the remaining box in.

I'm glad that the Xbox Indie Game Uprising made me think of tenuously linked foods that came from similar humble beginnings. I've had a great time and some fantastic flavours and probably been more ecologically sustainable by eating locally. That said my next review was flown over from Australia and then I've really got to get on those Hot Chocolates before the weather realises that it's sent the snow to Britain instead of the rain...
By @NLi10

8 December 2010

Chocolate Flava Shaka [By Spectre] (Westmoreland Service Station)

Cinabar looked at me like I’d gone mad when I picked up this chocolate milkshake in Westmoreland Service Station (on the M6 near Penrith) and said; “Is this new?” Apparently it was one of her favourite drinks when she was a child. We were on the way back from a few days away visiting Hadrian’s Wall before the snow set in. The service station is the only independent service station in the UK. It has a marvellous farm shop selling everything you could ever want that you couldn’t buy anywhere else, amongst everything else you would find in a usual supermarket. It was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave for Cinabar and it was almost impossible to tear her away. We ended up staying so long in the shop that we had dinner there also. I had a particularly good cottage pie and Cinabar enjoyed her fish and chips. The service station was so good that I’ve promised Cinabar that we’ll swing by that way on the way back from another holiday we have planned in Northumberland in April next year.

The Chocolate Flava Shaka is made from a mixture of sterilised skimmed milk and cocoa powder. The seaweed extract Carrageenan is used as a stabiliser. On first tasting I noticed the flavour of chocolate cake mix (before baking). There was also something else in the taste that I could only identify as Battenberg Cake. It’s a bizarre mixture, but it strangely works. Having said that, even after shaking well before opening there was quite a bit of chocolate sediment at the bottom of the bottle on finishing. I enjoyed the chocolate milkshake’s unique taste, but I wouldn’t rush 175 miles for another. However, Cinabar would have me rush back to the Westmoreland Service Station everyday!
By Spectre

7 December 2010

Can I Have My Ball Back Please? Cadbury's Spots Vs Stripes - Catch! [By @NLi10]


Snack marketing doesn't get much better than this! Cadbury's, sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics are using their lovely Spots Vs Stripes bar to launch a series of activities and contests. This one is called 'Catch' and involves 100 large purple balls with GPS receivers being passed around the country. I happened to be lucky enough to work with one of the Twitterati that were given one to play with - @CaptainKindling - and so at the end of the working day I decided to have a look.

It's a rather big thing and clearly numbered up so that you know which one it is, and it's all done on GPS so that Cadbury's can follow you and see what you get up to. Essentially there are two games - furthest travelled and most people photographed with it. Tempting as it was to keep this unique item to myself I decided reluctantly to give it back. I'm the one in the stripy jumper, which should have given me the right to take this home. This counts as plus one to its photo count and earns a free sports kit for the Cadbury charity drive - check the website for more info.


I've always said that Cadbury's should sponsor a F1 team - metallic purple would be the perfect car livery and it may attract more female people to the sport, but the world’s largest game of catch has to be a pretty close 2nd. What will they think of next!

Good Luck Stripes 75!!

By NLi10

Marmite Truffles (Paul A Young)

It is no secret that I was both desperate to try Marmite chocolate and then hugely disappointed with the official bar. Everybody who had tried it told me that Paul A Young's version was ‘the’ Marmite chocolate to try. Sadly as the chocolate isn’t sold online, and is only available in the London shops, it has taken a while for me to locate. You wouldn’t believe how excited I am about trying this chocolate though.

The truffles are packed in a simple metallic box, decorated with purple ribbon. Inside the box each chocolate is given its own purple paper case to sit in, and the pretty chocolate shines temptingly within.
These truffles have a dark chocolate casing, with a smart glittery gold sheen on their surface. The aroma encapsulates rich dark tones of cocoa, but no Marmite on initial inspection. As I bit into the chocolate, there was a rich yeasty Marmite flavour that appeared, this developed as I chewed but was ingeniously taken over by the sumptuous tones of cocoa that blended the two tastes together perfectly.
The chocolate shell cracks easily when bitten despite having a decent thickness. The ganache like filling is soft and silky with a lovely smooth texture. The chocolate used is full of flavour, clearly of an excellent quality.
These truffles are very clever, they play with the Marmite flavour and allow it to develop and then just before it overpowers they carefully allow the cocoa to come back on board. It shouldn’t work, but there is no questioned that it does. It has been a long time since I last tried a chocolate that wowed me this much, the flavours work in union and make an amazing taste sensation. If you get the opportunity I can’t emphasise just how much you should try these, I just wish they were sold online.

6 December 2010

Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses Cake Bars (Sainsbury’s)

As it is that time of year once again, the Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses chocolate bar has re-appeared on the shelves. As it hasn’t changed significantly over the last couple of Christmases I haven’t felt obliged to write about it again, but it is nice to let you all know about it. Also I’m please to say I have found a ‘new’ product, these lovely Mistletoe tie-in cake bars!
These individually wrapped cakes are made by McVities, but do have that creamy smooth Galaxy chocolate flavour in their coating. There is a chocolate sponge layer, and on top of that sits the chocolate cream mousse and caramel, as per the regular chocolate bar. Although the cake bars obviously can’t come with three triangular chunks, each cake is decorated with a chocolaty swirl to make it look pretty.
The base sponge is chocolaty and is rather light and fluffy, but you would expect nothing else from a McVities cake bar! The mousse layer feel likes a soft cool fondant and delivers a creamy chocolate taste. The caramel is quite sweet and rich, but I would prefer a more gooey appearance. It is the lovely chocolate coating that takes centre stage, adding that Galaxy magic to these bars.
If you are looking for a nice Christmas themed cake bar treat I don’t think you can go wrong with these sweet tasting Mistletoe bars.