31 October 2010

Blood, Blood & True Blood [by @NLi10] (Various Victims)

This extended FoodStuffFinds Halloween special review covers two kinds of food that looks like blood - drinkable blood & edible blood. There is no actual blood involved anywhere in the post, but if you don't like the sight of blood please skip this one and we'll see you tomorrow. :)

First up is Tru Blood, a fake blood drink. This was bought from Forbidden Planet for a friend’s birthday (the one who I got to help me with the Guinness reviews ages ago) and he was gracious enough to let me try some.

Essentially it's sold as a cash-in for the popular TV series of a similar name, and is fortified with various things to make it more nutritious and less of an ordinary drink. Colour-wise the blood donor really needs antibiotics and fast as it's pretty cloudy. Flavour wise it's essentially blood-orange Fanta with an odd kick of vitamins in there too. It's a cool thing to be seen drinking at parties, especially near Halloween, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it again. Nice, but not an essential.

Next up we have the food bloods, Emergency Blood Bag (candy blood) which is sold as a sweet, and Blood Orange Tasty Drip (liquid salted caramel) which is sold as a desert topping. Packaging wise the Tasty Drip looks and feels more authentic. Like those shower gels in reduced packaging that come in a similar format it's quite satisfying to hold and play with. The Blood Bag is in contrast much more friendly looking, you could give this to children without them getting too scared.

As the final goal was to try both of these with ice-cream I decided to pop these in my handy kitty desert bowls and see what they looked like. The Candy Blood was really hard to squeeze out of its bag. This is probably a good thing if you are giving it to the under 10s. It's really viscous and brightly coloured too - and it smells like the 90s favourite of Push Pops! It was a pleasure to dip my finger in and see what it was like, basically a fruity sweet centre that you would usually find inside some kind of chew. Too sweet to eat on its own I think but I had the whole frozen section to try with it later.

Next was the drip. This oozes out of the bag like a puncture wound, and pools unhealthily in the bottom of the bowl. It looks evil and menacing, and rather than looking like fresh blood it's more of a necrotic experience. If I found a piece of meat in the supermarket that looked like it I'd pick a different box. While in pictures it's making me queazy writing about it in person the smell has the opposite effect, being essentially a slightly orangey caramel scent - not unlike the Cadbury's Dead Heads that Cinabar reviewed earlier in the week. This means that while your eyes are screaming your nose is pleasantly intrigued so I dipped my finger in for a taste. The ingredients contain cocoa powder to make it more authentic looking and this with the salty caramel gives it an odd, almost burnt taste. The aftertaste is really odd and almost bitter, and you wouldn't eat this really as a typical food.

As you couldn't really appreciate the dripping, oozing qualities of the product in the bowl I decided to model it myself.

Ms. NLi10 doesn't like this picture.

While it runs quite fast and much scraping of hands in bowls was required for this shot it was simple to wash off and even without soap disappeared easily with no staining. The sink did look like I'd had a nose-bleed, but was easily cleaned up too.

For its theatrical and aesthetic properties this wins hands down, and anyone momentarily sickened by your antics will quickly smell the caramel and then probably try some themselves.

Next up I added them both too ice-cream, the Drip is pictured below.

As you'd expect it looked a bit gruesome and I'm sure inventive people like Mr. Blumenthal could come up with some quite sickening recipes to put this in. With Ice-cream it's a lot more edible, but less is most definitely more and you really didn't need the ice-cream to be swimming in the pools of blood. I finished it, but I was tiring of the burnt aftertaste towards the end. Review cat was really quite interested in this, but after a brief lick of a dot on my finger he ignored me and went back to sleep.

The Blood Bag was pretty much just thicker than normal ice-cream topping and more of a treat. I'd say that you could even keep it in the cupboard and serve it from the bag with a smile on your face where as the other product does have a hint of serial killer to it (especially if you run in with it dripping from your arms).

I'd say that this really depends on your audience.
Drinking at a party? Get the Tru Blood and wash & refill the bottle each year with Blood Orange Fanta.

Exciting the kids at tea time? Blood Bag Candy and ice-cream makes a great desert if you keep it away from the carpet & pets.

Trying to scare someone, do an adult fancy dress costume, or cause a stir at your dinner party then go for the Tasty Drip, but please - keep your guests from calling an ambulance or passing out - it really does look quite real.

Happy Halloween to you all, may all your treats be nice ones.
by @NLi10

Halloween High Street (Greggs and Thorntons) {by @NLi10}

Saturday was a good day to be out on the high street, all of the Halloween goods and a few discounts too!

Greggs finest offer was a chocolate bat. I do love his spooky eyes and it's a decent size for a biscuit, but it’s Gingerbread. This by itself in a crispy form might be OK but with the chocolate it tasted a bit odd. I'm going to finish it, but it's not the lovely choc/shortbread combo I'd hoped for.

They had their lovely cakes with Halloween rings in again this year which are a personal favourite.

I felt like I'd maligned Thorntons in my previous Hotel Chocolat review suggesting that for gift giving they had been surpassed. At Halloween this isn't the case, as while the eyeballs that started the week were the height of cool you can't really give them out to Trick or Treaters. These on the other hand are perfect, and as I bought them at the last minute were 2 for a pound. Unfortunately it is Saturday night now and we have had no spooky visitors yet all 4 chocolate lollipops have disappeared. I blame paranormal activity...

30 October 2010

Post Road - Pumpkin Ale [By Spectre] (The Wineyard & Deli, Morecambe)

I’d like to start Spectre’s write up with a big thank you to The Wineyard in Morecambe for making this post possible. They very kindly sent us this Pumpkin Ale to help indulge Spectre’s adventures in flavoured beer as they stock such an amazing selection of interesting ales. If you aren’t already following @TheWineyard on Twitter, you really ought to be for all the news on the best wines and interesting beers. Thanks again for sending us such an interesting and seasonal product, let’s see what Spectre makes of it...

When I first heard about Pumpkin Ale a few weeks ago, I thought it was some kind of new gimmick for Halloween. I hadn’t realised that our American friends across the great pond have been brewing ales flavoured with barley and with pumpkins since the first American Colonials in the 18th Century. This pumpkin ale is an offering from the Brooklyn Brewery in New York State. I’ve tried and enjoyed pumpkin cake, which tastes slightly carroty, and also pumpkin soup, which was also remarkably tasty. On opening this ale I noticed a spicy smell to it. The ale was then carted off for a lengthy crazy photo session with Cinabar shining torches through it and generally trying to set the house on fire with a pumpkin shaped candle. When I finally got to taste the ale I was taken back by the spicy taste. There is an earthiness to this beer that tastes perhaps of pumpkin, but has a hint of carrot to it also. The spices reminded me of ginger, but not too strongly. The beverage itself had a penetrating ale taste that bites at the back of the mouth poking through the mulled spice taste. This ale was a pleasant surprise indeed and I wanted to drink more than the single bottle I had at my disposal. It has a good spice that made me want to savour it without a food accompaniment whilst watching a late night movie. Perhaps at this time of year a slasher or zombie movie would be best? Failing the scary movie, the spices go well with that mulled taste to make a lovely ale that can be enjoyed all year round, perhaps even as an alternative to mulled wine at Christmas time. As pumpkin ale tastes faintly carroty, I wonder if carrot ale would catch on. I’m sure there are a few bunnies hopping around somewhere that wouldn’t mind giving it a go!
By Spectre

29 October 2010

Cadbury’s Dead Heads (Various Supermarkets)

If you take this product in context with the Cadbury’s Screme Egg, which featured earlier in the week, you might notice that the Cadbury’s Halloween goodies actually have a distinctively Easter theme. Essentially this bag of ‘Dead Heads’ consist of milk chocolate eggs with caramel inside, and are not dissimilar to the Cadbury’s Caramel Mini Eggs available at Easter time.
As with the Screme Eggs, these Dead Heads have had a Halloween make-over and are now themed for the scary season. Each chocolate has a spooky face moulded into the chocolate, to give the impression of decapitated (dead) heads. The caramel is red in colour to give a gruesome looking filling, but thankfully in taste is the regular Cadbury’s caramel. I do really like Cadbury’s caramel, and love its flavour in conjunction with their chocolate, so these are an easy flavour pleaser for me.
We had a lot of fun with these Dead Heads here at Foodstuff Finds but we would like to make it perfectly clear the serving suggestion in the photograph above is totally optional. ;-)

28 October 2010

Fabulous Bakin' Boys - Special Edition Halloween Cupcakes {by @NLi10} (Tesco)

I do like the Fabulous Bakin' Boys cupcakes. They also have a very good brand image and website with games that was not blocked at work so could be responsibly enjoyed during breaks. Essentially they are your typical individually wrapped cakes but there is something magical about the icing. I've never quite put my finger on it, maybe there is some kind of oil in it, but it's more of a fondant and really quite a joy to eat in all its flavours.

For Halloween they have released a box of a single flavour which is orange in colour. As these are quite pale I did wonder whether they had thrown a curve-ball and gone with pumpkin, but they are just a repackaged version of the orange flavour ones. These are quite nice (even when you have burnt them on the candles by mistake) ordinarily, but as the individual wrappers have little ghosts on them they are very suitable to give to guests and Trick-or-Treat visitors that dare to come to the door.

I think my scary tree shows them off well, but I had to move them quite quickly as they did start to burn. While it's a great little souvenir my parents brought back from America and makes sure that you attract a few more kids after sweets than usual by letting them know you are open for business it makes a terrible cake stand. I plan to light it using my sun jar instead of candles so that it's not quite as dangerous to have in the window for two days.

But only those kids who dress up properly deserve one of the Halloween Cupcakes, they are just too nice!
by @NLi10

27 October 2010

Chewits Vampire Fangs [By Spectre] (Tesco)

Being a ghost this is my favourite spooky time of the year and I just couldn’t resist eating something scary. From Cinabar’s inventive photograph you’ll see these Vampire Fangs are shaped like the top front teeth of a vampire. They have a pinkish gum, white teeth and bloody coloured fangs. Looking on the back of the packet, these fangs have curious flavourings, from the healthy sounding blackcurrant and apple to the downright strange radish and beeswax! Sadly my mouth is a little too large to cover my front teeth with these sweets in order to make myself look dark, mysterious and vampire like, but smaller kids will have a ball with these sweets. I’ll just have to settle for my usual white bed sheet with two holes for my eyes. The sweets have a squidgy texture with a sweet moreish strawberry flavour to them. Believe me the bag didn’t stay full for long and a colleague had to fight me for one. These sweets taste great, look scary and kids can actually play with their food. They can’t usually get away with that! Now where’s that white sheet?
By Spectre

26 October 2010

Cadbury’s Screme Egg (Asda)

I love Cadbury’s Creme eggs, but usually have to wait until New Years Day before getting my hands on one after Easter. Thankfully this year I have managed to get hold of this Asda exclusive Cadbury’s Halloween themed Screme Egg.
In terms of taste it is identical to the normal lovely cream eggs. The chocolate is the expected thick creamy Cadbury’s, and the filling is the usual sweet fondant. What’s new for this limited edition egg is that the yolk is a ghoulish green for the season. This is not the most novel of product, but I won’t complain too much if it means I get a Cadbury’s Creme egg in October!
I do have to say it is a shame that it is an Asda exclusive though, not because I have anything against Asda, it is just that not everyone has access to all the major supermarkets, so there are obviously going to be people who miss out.
If you do manage to get your mitts on one of these fine eggs, I guess the only thing you have to think about is: How are you going to eat yours..?

25 October 2010

Vampire Eyes (Hotel Chocolat)

Welcome to Halloween week here at Foodstuff Finds. This week turns a little scary, as we explore a selection of Halloween goodies currently on the market.
Starting off we have Hotel Chocolat’s Vampire Eyes. These are essentially white chocolates with a salted caramel filling. These aren’t ordinary salted caramels though, these are a Halloween special so that they are designed to look like Vampire Eyes. The iris on them stares upwards and their red colouring gives a clue to the contents within.
The thick creamy white chocolate bursts when you bite in and the gloopy red salty liquid spills onto your tongue. The caramel is a vibrant bright red colour, and my taste buds were quite expecting a fruity aspect despite the fact there is no mention of this. This is just how you associate colours for foods, and red should be fruity not bloody. The red caramel is salted, blood is salty, the best advice I can give you is to try not think about this fact too much. I would like to point out that the colourings are natural, which does make the concept a little bit better.
The liquid filling is sweet and buttery, a rich caramel with a hint of salt. The thick creamy white chocolate is of the usual Hotel Chocolat’s excellent quality. These gruesome eyeballs are a nicely themed indulgent treat or the perfect fuel for any would be Trick or Treaters.

Happy Halloween

Strange things are happening at Foodstuff Finds this week, we are embarking on a range of exciting Halloween themed reviews. We hope you enjoy them – first review up at 5.55pm GMT! Do check back – if you dare...

24 October 2010

Two Quick Bites: Chicken & Gravy Pie / Balsamic Vinegar [by @NLi10] (Asda)

Sometimes a product doesn't merit a long review, so I'm going to bundle these occasionally into Quick Bites.

Chicken & Gravy Puff Pastry Pie

Sometimes things change. Once upon a time I loved the Asda pie range. They were cheap, and to my mind the best pies I could get easily. Then I became a disciple of the Pieminister, and never looked back.

I happened upon the old Asda pies a month ago and got some for old time’s sake and they were still good solid pies, but they were less satisfying than the Pieminister. Then recently Asda did something interesting - they changed their pies. This is as a part of their new "Chosen By You" range, presumably as opposed to their less popular option the "Chosen By Strangers" range where people you don't know choose your shopping.

Frankly it's not as good as it used to be. I'm not sure what they changed but the flavour is wrong, and just isn't as exciting as it was. The pastry wasn't as satisfying either. Not one I'll try again.

Rocca Di Vignola - Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar is now a region protected brand and has to be made in a very specific area (it's the little logo on the right). For some reason this change has increased the number of brands that were available on the shelf for my weekly shop and increased my shopping indecision related paralysis time. after a good few minutes staring at the bottles thinking which kind of balsamic vinegar best defines me as a person I decided to stop being crazy and went with the cheapest per volume.

The usual rules with super-discount brands are
1: No cleaning products (they just work less well)
2: No drinks - they are just more diluted (which is probably why number 1 is true thinking about it)

This means that Tesco value cola is generally a bad idea, ironically unless you are using it as a high abrasive cleaning solution. I wondered whether discount, but regionally protected vinegar would be similar.

It isn't - this is pretty much indistinguishable from any other balsamic vinegar I've had. I'd have tried to do a comparison review but the differences are all cosmetic. The bottle is less pretty, it doesn't claim to be brewed for ages or have a really old year on the bottle, it's just good balsamic vinegar for on your salad. And it cost under £1 - result!

I'm not a wine connoisseur either though so your mileage may vary, and the lovely square bottles may impress guests more.

by @NLi10

23 October 2010

Kit Kat Senses Caramel Cream [By Spectre] (Boots)

This new Kit Kat addition makes it three Kit Kat Caramels available on the market now, two of which have replaced (much to Cinabar’s chagrin) Kit Kat Chunky Peanut Butter and Kit Kat Senses Hazelnut Cream. This Kit Kat is long, thin and set in five chunks, rather than Chunky or the usual double Kit Kat size. I suspect this Kit Kat is for a rather over indulgent break for those who have had an extra busy morning at work or who have been running around town with their hair on fire whilst trying to shop and keep several screaming brats quiet. Like the British Chunky Caramel this bar’s caramel is still solid inside, rather than runny caramel, and set on top of a thick crunchy wafer. Despite the crunchy wafer there is a softness to the caramel, and the combination goes well together for an altogether pleasant and slightly (worryingly) feminine experience. I prefer caramel runny, though I do like the odd chocolate wafer now and then; I just wouldn’t rush out to hunt one of these down. The even harder to find Mars Caramel is like the pot of runny caramel gold at the end of the rainbow, and let’s not forget the rich soft wet caramel goodness that is Cadbury’s Wispa Gold. If I want easily affordable, easily obtainable, runny caramel chocolate goodness, it’s Cadbury’s Caramel every time. If a shop doesn’t stock it, there’s something wrong with the shop!
By Spectre

22 October 2010

McVities Jaffa Cakes -Lemon and Slime Cake Bars [Limited Edition] (Wilkinson)

This isn’t the first time I have seen this flavour “Lemon & Slime” from McVities, but it is the first time I’ve seen it in a cake bar. Last year I managed to find proper Jaffa Cakes in this flavour, and they were a Halloween special. Lemon and Slime obviously equating to an appropriately spooky and ghoulish version of lemon and lime! The flavour was clearly popular because they are back again this year but in a new form: cake bars.
I was really pleased to see these back too, as I really like the zingy lime flavour in conjunction with the thin layer of dark chocolate. The flavour of the filling is predominantly lime, with just a hint of lemon as an aftertaste. The citrus and chocolate flavours work nicely together, and the addition of the soft sponge make these a nice juicy treat for a lunch box.
If you were feeling particularly generous they would be nice to give out to Trick or Treaters, but personally my tray with its five cake bars didn’t make it. :-D
Next week here on Foodstuff Finds is Halloween week, so do check back to see what’s going to be reviewed. Just a warning though, be afraid, be very afraid...

21 October 2010

Foco Lychee Drink & Woktastic Veggie Sushi [by @NLi10] (Birmingham Uni Canteen)

It's finally back to school time for us lazy (part-time) Post Graduate students so I'm exposed to lots of new foods to confuse and confound the taste-buds. Last student year I got quite into the little sushi boxes from the Spar which were less likely to cause the post-lunch snoozies that I tend to suffer. As the canteen has been redone (and Spar had a massive queue) I decided to look at the hot foot on offer in the new sections and instead picked up some of their pre-packaged offerings.

The sushi box is a £3.99 size which isn't bad for what you get, but is more expensive than the other one I used to have as it has more items. The fare is mostly rice based with pepper, cucumber and other veg inserted, the only unusual things being the egg-topped rice one and the one that is in some kind of batter. As you can tell I'm a sushi fan but not one who knows the technical terms for any of the things. I know of the existence of a California Roll but have no idea what that is - it may be the small ones on the right.

It’s a nice meal really, and while it has none of the zing of the Woktastic live Sushi-go-round experience on offer in Birmingham city centre the flavours are good and you get two soy sauce fish, a wasabi paste, and the ginger to round it off.

I was expecting the Lychee drink to be a little sweeter in line with the Rubicon juice, but this was much more similar to the fruit itself having understated tones and being really refreshing. This made the meal a very light and fragrant affair with only the occasional tang of wasabi and soy standing out.

While it was a good meal I don't think that £5 every-day for lunch is a good idea, but as a once weekly treat it's a good go-to choice if it's available.
by @NLi10

20 October 2010

Tyrrell's Alternatives - Thai Chilli Rice Crackers [By Spectre] (Waitrose)

Tyrrell's crisps can usually be found in huge sharing grab bags, so I was a bit surprised to find this smaller packaged helping from their Alternatives range. Rice crackers can be dry and they usually suck all the moisture from my body and anyone else that's near me at the time of eating. So I expected these Tyrrell's Thai Chilli Rice Crackers to do the same. They are small crunchy rounded crackers and have a sweet Thai flavour with a mild heat behind the sweetness. As the wrapper suggests, they are extremely moreish and I noticed the chilli heat slowly building the more I ate. I could have happily eaten a bigger bag than the 50g and was left yearning for more once I'd emptied the packet. You can really savour the mixed chilli and paprika flavour of these healthy feeling snacks. There is also a hint of onions and noticeable fish extract the more you eat. The Thai sweetness and chilli heat makes you just want to pop one after another into your mouth, the flavours washing around in there make your taste buds water. At no point did I feel dry eating these, I just wanted more. A monstrous bag of these would be great for sharing out at parties or film nights. So come on Tyrrells, bigger helpings please!
By Spectre

19 October 2010

New UK Milka Bars: Popping Candy and Cookies & Cream (Poundland)

One of the things I love about German Milka is that their bars are available in such fantastic flavours. Somebody over there has a brilliant imagination and even their basic Pear and Almond Mousse seems out of the world to us. Don’t get me started on the Watermelon and Popping Candy, but I think it will be a while before Milka risk anything that crazy for the UK market.
Having said that I did hear rumours over a couple of new Milka bars out for the UK market, and searched most of the town centre looking for them. I walked away disappointed, and decide to have a last look for interesting items in the pound shop before leaving for home. I was amazed to see both new bars on their shelves, with a large ‘three for two’ offer. Mission accomplished.

Milka Popping Candy
Gosh I love Milka chocolate, it’s so unassumingly sweet and creamy. I can appreciate the sharp rich tones of a 70% cocoa bar as much as the next chocolate connoisseur, but pop a square of Milka in my mouth and my heart fills with memories of childhood and I become eight years old again. The addition of popping candy to this bar meant I just couldn’t stop smiling as it only enhanced this concept.
The sweet creamy filling, the nutty tones in the chocolate and the crunch from the crystals meant the texture and taste were diverse. Just when it started to settle, the crackling from the popping candy hits. My mouth was filled with tingling with popping noises and I felt obliged to open my mouth so Spectre could hear... he looked at me strangely, and then I remembered I’m in my thirties, not eight anymore!

Milka Cookies & Cream
This lovely Milka bar is filled with a creamy light mousse, with pieces of dark cookie trapped inside. The cookie pieces make the chocolate lovely and crunchy, but the overwhelming sweetness takes over the senses. There are sweet cocoa tones, creamy vanilla flavours and sweet cookies pieces too. To be fair the darker edge of the biscuit does come through towards to end of the flavour, and leaves the palette with a slightly less sweet edge. This was an enjoyable chocolate, and it reminded me of the flavour of Oreo biscuits. I couldn’t eat as much of it as I could with the Popping Candy bar, but I can assure you it would be perfect for anyone with sugar or chocolate cravings!

Earlier I mentioned that these bars were on a ‘three for two’ offer, and for the record I purchased two of the Popping Candy variety. Having now tested both bars I feel made the right choice, as it is just something a bit different and fun.
I know I’m biased when it comes to Milka, but I just can’t help but love the brand. The more fun and interesting bars they release here in the UK the better as far as I am concerned. I just love the sweet nutty chocolate.

18 October 2010

Marmite Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate (BHS)

When I first heard about this weird sounding chocolate bar I was remarkably keen to try it. I love Marmite, and its associated branded products usually fill my taste buds with joy. Their cashew nuts are second to none, and who couldn’t like the crisps.
The thing is Marmite has a salty flavour, and both nuts and crisps work well with salty tastes.
I do like the saltiness of peanut butter with chocolate though, so there is hope for this strange bar. The title of the product contains the phrase ‘Very Peculiar’, so I had prepared myself for something a little odd. I opened the box, and the yellow foil wrapper also had the words ‘Very Peculiar’ emblazoned all over it, as a final warning of there being something strange ahead.
I peeled back the foil and smelt the chocolate, which had a very curious aroma, sweet, chocolaty and with the unmistakable smell of Marmite. I stared at the chocolate for a moment, and finally tried a piece. My first thought was that it was just a weird mix of tastes that didn’t go together. I like salt and chocolate together, but mix in that yeasty flavour and the tones of garlic and onion and it no longer tasted right. I ate a few more cubes and all I could think was that there were far nicer varieties of curious chocolate combinations on the market. The flavour isn’t evenly distributed, one of the chunks was quite mild, and one contained very strong garlic. The more I ate the less impressed I became, and I eventually stopped after just four cubes, having given it the best try I could before feeling a little sick.
After around ten minutes of eating the chocolate, my mouth was still filled with garlic and chocolate tastes. The Marmite flavour had gone, but a weird hint of sweetness and savoury onion also lingered. I actually had to brush my teeth. Not good.

17 October 2010

Debbie And Andrew's Pork & Apple Sausages [By @NLi10] (Asda)

A week or so ago I reviewed some Jamie Oliver Sausages and came to the conclusion that they were the finest sausages I'd ever cooked at home. The review was so positive that I got a tweet saying I'd encouraged someone to go out and try them (and if you do try the things we feature let us know what you thought in the comments on the original review!). Asda had a special on sausages that week so as part of the 2 for £4 deal I picked up these sausage thinking that a small 'family sounding' brand would be the perfect opposite to the big famous Mr. Oliver.

These sausages gave me the impression of being simpler. They list the name as Pork & Apple, no fancy tricks here. And the picture suggests a happy couple living on a farm, hand rearing pigs and picking the apples from their orchard.

I don't think I was far off with my in-store guess really as these sausages are very good, solid sausages. They were filling and tasted like good quality sausages should, and were definitely made from the decent cuts of meat like a butchers own sausages would be. The thing is they just weren't that exciting in the flavour department. Next to the Oliver sausages this was disappointing as secretly I'd been rooting for these to be the superior brand due to my aforementioned love-hate relationship with the big J-O.

If I wanted some solid, quality sausages to put into a sauce or to use as an ingredient then these would be a good choice, but I'd probably just go with the Walls skinless that I usually buy as they are cheaper. I'm sure that other (less snobby) people would prefer their sausages to be simple and straight forward, but between the two I found myself longing for the hidden excitement of the previous, more famous brand.
By @NLi10

16 October 2010

The Big Crinkle Piri-Piri flavour crisps [By Spectre] (Marks and Spencer)

I was quite looking forward to trying these piri-piri crisps after my experience with Marks and Spencer’s Chorizo & Cheese. I wasn’t to be disappointed. This is a big heavy sharing grab bag of crisps that helped fill me up at the end of a busy day ready for a night out bowling with my work colleagues. There is a nice mild heat to these tasty crisps that doesn’t make you fear for your tongue. Instead the heat guides you to the piri-piri restaurant, it shows you to a paprika covered table, and you sit down and accept the lashings of ground Cayenne Pepper. Then you take in a cool drink, but not out of desperation to cool down or out of dryness, as your mouth is moist from the flavour and the constant crunching. Believe me, when you start on this bag whoever is sat at the table with you can get stuffed as you stuff these crinkly crunchy crisps one after another after another into you eager mouth. Sharing? You must be joking! These aren’t just any Piri-piri flavoured crinkly crisps; these are Marks and Spencer’s Piri-piri flavoured crinkly crisps.
By Spectre

15 October 2010

Hotel Chocolat – An Evening at their Christmas Launch

Spectre and I were very kindly invited to Hotel Chocolat’s flagship store in London to preview the launch of their Christmas range. When we arrived it took a few minutes to become accustomed to the festive Christmas music playing in the background. We had been told that there would be canapés available during the evening, but it was only when I spotted the menu, did I realize that canapés Hotel Chocolat style were something very different to regular canapés. These wonderful appetisers were filled with curious combinations of ingredients that even with our adventurous Foodstuff Finds attitudes we were a little surprised by.

First up we were treated to Onion and Roasted Cacao Soup. Best to pause for a second and take that in, it took me a minute to come to terms with the concept. Obviously Spectre and I gave it a go, even though the cream and basil leaf decorating the product made it look more like a dessert. The contents were very savoury, a little sweet from the onion, but it was only a hint of bitterness from the cocoa and no rich chocolate tones. Spectre was less convinced by the soup, but I think he picked up on more of a chocolate edge than me.
Next up was Cacao Tortellini with Wild Salmon, which I felt worked rather well. The taste of the cocoa complemented the salmon, and made for a moreish bite. There was Chicken Glazed with Spiced Cacao which worked remarkably well too and reminded me of the Chocolate Mole sauce I have tried in Mexican restaurants.

I absolutely loved the Stilton served with 65% Chocolate. The flavours seemed like an unlikely match, but the strength of the chocolate pulled off the flavours and made a very clever tasting treat. Spectre agreed, we hadn’t expected it to work so well but the strong tastes balanced it out. Dessert was to follow, and despite Spectre happily trying their strange combinations in our tasting adventure, at this point he spotted something so unappealing he politely declined and wouldn’t even try it. Now regular readers will know about Spectre’s dislike for cherries, but I can assure you this was a cherry free zone. The next thing on the menu contained Spectre’s other Kryptonite, otherwise known as cooked bananas. Yes the humble caramelised banana served on a biscuit base was totally unappealing to Spectre. He was happy to mix cocoa with salmon and chocolate with cheese, but at this point he could continue no more, cooked banana is, after all, just crazy. I gave it a try of course, and found the banana was lovely, sweet and served on a chocolate ganache on a rich biscuit.

The waitress seemed to keep catching Spectre’s eye trying to get him to try the banana and eventually he conceded. His worst fears were confirmed, it was indeed barbecued banana – he stood there twisty faced, desperately trying to stay polite and composed in a crowded room full of reporters and PR staff, but don’t worry he refreshed his palette with substantial amounts of orange juice. Luckily though there were also some scoops of ridiculously creamy vanilla and cacao ice cream, to leave the taste buds ready for the Christmas chocolates.

This year’s selection of goodies were beautifully laid out, to tempt us and for us to try. There were some gorgeous chocolate designs in detailed Christmas shapes ranging from reindeers through to turkey dinners.

The giant Christmas Crackers are back this year, and I although I didn’t witness it, I was assured they now have a bang, before releasing their chocolate contents.
The wreathes from last year were also back, and even available in a milk chocolate with biscuit and white chocolate pieces. Both Spectre and I thought this combination was absolutely lovely. The wreaths are also now available in a smaller size perfect for one. We had a taste of the Dark and Fruity Yule log, which was a rich silky dark chocolate praline packed with almonds and cranberries.
The Classic Christmas H Box selection still looks like the ultimate seasonal treat, with its mix of fillings, from the safe caramels through to its more adventurous cinnamon treats. I have to say the event has me all excited about the upcoming season, and I think the definitive way to count down the last month has to be with one of the luxurious Advent Calendars.
Both founders of Hotel Chocolat were present for the event, and we were lucky enough to have a chat with Peter Harris. He told us about his visions from the early days for the brand and the struggle in the first few years. He also told us about his strong views on Hotel Chocolat’s 'Engaged Ethics' Cocoa Programme, and how farmers are paid within a week of selling their crops. We found him to be a truly inspirational person, a pleasure to talk to, and he has a brand to be proud of.

Just before we left we were treated to a rather luxurious cup of the new Gingerbread Liquid Chocolat, which was a warming spicy sweet drink, giving us energy for our train journey home. A big thank you to Hotel Chocolat for your wonderful hospitality, and we wish you every success in the upcoming Christmas season. All the items we saw were cleverly designed appealing treats, so we have no doubt it will be a good season for you.

14 October 2010

Divine 70% Dark Choc with Raspberries [by @nli10] (Shared Earth)

Raspberries live in white chocolate. This is their natural confectionery habitat, and where they are primarily observed by snackers all over Europe. Taking them out of their comfort zone and throwing them into one of the strongest dark choc out there seems like a wrong move. Surprisingly its not too bad. The raspberries start out strong but quickly become overwhelmed by the rich tones of the dark choc and as this melts the fruit reinvigorates and finishes on a sweet note. Its not your standard dark choc, but it's a lovely alternative to your typical raisin filled choc bar.
by @nli10

13 October 2010

New Wonka Kazoozles - Pink Lemonade [By Spectre] (Selfridges)

Looks like I got the short straw on this review (pun intended). Two short straws in fact, both have cherry flavouring. According to my customary information source (Wikipedia), pink lemonade originated from the Native Americans who used to make it with sumac berries. Nowadays it can be made with anything from food colourings, grenadine, strawberries, pomegranate, red grapefruit juice, cranberries and also cherries. I hate cherries, hence the short straws. The two straws are about a centimetre wide yellow sugary ten centimetre long tube with a soft pink cherry flavoured filling. On tasting, the flavour is quite a sweet cherry hit turning quickly into a sour cherry punch. I must admit I had to screw up my face when the sourness took hold, but I enjoyed munching down the first stick and took more time over the second. First I licked off most of the sugar from the outside of the tube, which drew some disgusted looks from some of the women in the office. I then chomped down the rest of the stick one sour screwed up faced bite after another. Even though I hate cherries I did rather enjoy the sourness of these sticks. They made me feel childlike, which is a must with any sweets, and it woke up an otherwise dull day at the office. Cheers Wonka!
By Spectre

12 October 2010

Piri Piri Crisps [Taste The Difference] (Sainsbury’s)

Here at Foodstuff Finds we like our spicy crisps, so when I saw these in Sainsbury’s they went straight into the trolley. The base of the crisps is quite thick and has a decent crunch to them. This made them feel substantial and like a high end product, ie posh nosh.
The taste was very flavoursome, and I could pick up on a nice mix of ingredients from paprika, garlic to there being even a little sweetness from tomato. There was some heat from the chilli, but it was just a warmth rather than a burn.
I think what I am trying to say is that these crisps have a really good complex flavour, but I would like to have turned the chilli heat up a notch. After all they are called Piri Piri and therefore named after a chilli, so it makes sense that purchasers of them would want a decent burn. There is just a pleasant tingle on these crisps which chilli connoisseurs may well be disappointed by. Having said that the flavour is nice, with a good depth from the other ingredients. I think these crisps would be perfect for someone who has tried the Nando’s crisps and just found them too hot, or for those who like a gentler spice.