30 November 2010

Creamy Brie & Cranberry Crisps [Christmas Special] (Boots)

Boots isn’t a place I associate with interesting flavours of crisps, although I have enjoyed several in the Shapers range, generally the flavours are quite easy going. I might pick up a bag of Salt and Vinegar Spirals with my meal deal, but it isn’t one of the places I expect to find a Foodstuff Find. Consequently I was pleasantly surprised to discover this Limited Edition Christmas flavour on their shelves, and I was rather impressed that it was such a brave choice of variety.
The underlying crisp has a decent crunch, and although thicker than Walkers, it didn’t feel as thick as a Tyrrells. I felt that there was still a nice bite, and the cut was enough to allow the potato taste to shine though. Their hand cooked nature also gave them a nice rustic feel.
The actual flavouring of these crisps is remarkable. The main flavour is a sweet cranberry taste, which is unusual but it does work very well. The secondary taste is the cheese, it is quite clever and does mimic creamy brie surprisingly well. I can’t explain just how refreshing it is to try a cheese flavour crisp that doesn’t have that generic crisp ‘cheesiness’ these really do have a clever taste. Finally there is a slight salty edge left in the mouth, giving them a moreish tang.
I never thought a sweet cranberry flavour of crisp would work, but I have to say these crisps are genius. The sweet flavour is followed by the savoury making them a very special taste sensation. I really do hope to see more like this from Boots, they clearly have hidden talents!

29 November 2010

Soreen Banana Fruit Loaf (Waitrose)

Sorren Fruit Malt Loaf is a childhood favourite of mine. Finding a slice of buttered Malt Loaf in my lunch box as a kid was always a lovely treat. When I saw that there was a new edition on the shelves, I snapped up a pack.
As you would expect the loaf is lighter in colour than the regular Malt Loaf. There certainly are a lot less raisins and dark fruit, but the pieces of banana are clearly visible. Texture wise it is very similar to the regular loaf, which is soft, moist and sticky in consistency. It is quite difficult to cut as the whole item squishes as the knife enters, and you sort of have to gently pull it back to shape so that you are able to add butter.
The flavour is a little surprising. Banana is a strong taste; just ask any banana hater, they can usually spot the flavour of just once slice mixed in a full pint of fruit smoothie. This loaf on the other hand had plenty of visible banana, but the mildest of banana flavour. Really there was a just the gentlest hint the rest of the flavour was a sweet fruity taste, and it was difficult to specify the exact fruit. It was remarkably similar to the regular Malt Loaf, despite lacking the raisins. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my slice, I just had been expecting a major banana taste explosion, and instead got a banana dud.
The flavour was so mild I’m still toying with feeding an unsuspecting Spectre (chief banana hater) a slice to see if he notices... I do have a bit of a wicked side!

28 November 2010

Neuro Sonic - Mental Performance Drink {by @NLi10} (by Moor Street Station)

This weekend I went to see the new Harry Potter Movie (well the first half of it) at the IMAX at Millennium Point, Birmingham and had been saving a bag of special Corn Again pop-corn to eat and review especially for this cinema event. Unfortunately I forgot to take it. On the way to the IMAX I spotted the full range of the crazy health drinks I picked up in London (I reviewed the Neuro Bliss drink before) and decided that the most suitable one was the Sonic one which says:

"stay energised, focused and alert with modern science's greatest blend of natural mental performance enhancers"

While weaker than the mana & health potions I'd reviewed before this sounded like something that I could enjoy with a big visceral movie.

The taste is similar to the bliss drink, but I'd say a little closer to normal energy drinks. It's quite a mild flavour, almost watery, but there are loads of interesting and unidentifiable aftertastes that float around. It definite started to kick in around the half-hour mark and once the big battles and flying scenes were underway I was experiencing a higher level of alertness and a little bit of twitchiness too. The drink does have a lot of caffeine in so this probably explains the majority of this.

I think that this would help with late night work sessions, especially when motivation is low, but I'm guessing while alertness is good concentration is also necessary.

Due to a housemate returning in the very early hours of the morning I was woken at about 3 and didn't get back to proper sleep for hours. Even then my sleep and half-awakeness was filled with odd visions and strange dreams as if my body was quite tired but my brain was up and eager to play. As I drank this between 4-6pm and had a large Chinese meal afterwards I hadn't expected it to have lasted that long. Maybe it reacted with the additives in the food.

It's a pleasant tasting drink and the bottle as ever is quite pretty. At almost £2 a go it's not quite a drink to go to every time you are thirsty, but I'm sure that if I'd have drunk it before leaving the house I'd have been alert enough to have not forgotten my popcorn. Expect a home DVD based review of that soon...
by @NLi10

27 November 2010

Cairngorm Brewery Company: Stag / Black Gold / Blessed Thistle / Sheepshaggers Gold [By Spectre]

Regular readers will know that ale is my favourite drink. Not necessarily the weird flavoured ones that Cinabar has tortured me with in the past, but real ales that give you a bitter bite at the back of your mouth on drinking and give you a warm feeling inside as you drink. After all that torture, here is my treat; eight different ales from the Cairngorm Brewery Company, which is set in the Highlands of Scotland. Their ales are brewed with pure Highland water and have won a variety of awards since 2001 from SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). Now most people know that the Scottish know their booze (no offence intended). Knowing that fact and with my previous experience tasting a multitude of beers over many years, I happily polished my trusty tankard ready for indulgence. There was a risk that I may get too potted to type about them all in one post, so I thought I’d savour each one and write up reviews for four at a time (besides, I get told off by Cinabar if I get too plastered).


The big stag on the label made me wonder if I’d be particularly virile after drinking this mahogany coloured ale. The beverage has a strong bitter smell and a fresh bite to start with, followed by a rich brown ale taste that’s smoother than Newcastle Brown Ale and more indulgent than Mann’s. Challenger and Fuggles hops are added to Cairngorm’s Stag building the bitterness, and this ale definitely did not disappoint the taste buds or my sense of manliness!

Black Gold

This is a Scottish rival to the Irish stouts on the market. On first taste I could easily see why it won the SIBA Supreme Champion Beer of the Year. It smells like a strong stout, and with four colours of malt added in the brewing there is a smooth nutty flavour. There is the usual satisfying meal like feeling as you drink this stout that you get from Irish stouts such as Guinness or Murphy’s, but there’s also a noticeable sweetness to it. It reminded me of a good dark chocolate bar. The full flavour of the pint hit my senses after the sweetness had passed, it made me feel like I was tucking into a good hearty main course. The creaminess of this stout wasn’t mentioned on the label. It’s a creaminess that needs to be described by simply savouring the taste of the stout rather than to write it in words. The sweetness, followed by full flavour and that distinctive creaminess makes this stout one of the best tasting stouts I’ve ever drank, if not the best stout. It begs for a meaty meal, like a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings or a stew to warm you on a dark cold winter’s night, failing this, a late night indulgence in front of the box with a good film and a few bags of meaty flavoured crisps.

Blessed Thistle

Before hops were used in brewing ale to reach the desired bitterness, thistle was used in some beers in Scotland. I thought this was a mad idea until I actually tried a Thistle beer a while back. I thoroughly enjoyed that Thistle beer, with its added chocolate and ginger flavours and have since drunk it on many occasions. When I heard about Blessed Thistle, I was hoping this would be a good rival for the Marks and Spencer offering. I was not to be disappointed. This is a slightly stronger tasting beer, where the bitterness of the thistle and aftertaste of chocolate and ginger are slightly exaggerated; however this isn’t a bad thing in any way. I find this type of beer makes a perfect late night treat or after dinner liquid desert – the only beer I have found that beats a Thistle beer for after dinner is Meantime Chocolate beer.

Sheepshaggers Gold

There’s a very cheerful looking sheep on the label of this lager style beer, and I can’t help wondering why? Cairngorm states that this is; “the best beer baa none!” There is a variety of hops added during brewing to create the initial unique bitterness. There weren’t too many bubbles to remind me of a gas guzzling lager. The beer reminded me of good pale ale, and although lacking the bite of a Marston’s pale ale, such as Old Empire, the light bitterness smoothes out treating the taste buds with a soft stroking that makes you think of spring water ale, such as Adnam’s, this fits well with Cairngorm’s use of Highland spring water. The smoothness of this ale makes it very easy to drink indeed. At 4.5% volume don’t drink too many of these unless you want to wake up with one of Shaun’s relatives!
By Spectre

26 November 2010

Twinings: Mulled Spiced Tea [Winter Edition] (Waitrose)

Spectre has converted me to tea over the years, and although I drink an ample supply of coffee at work, at home I am a tea drinker. This would probably shock my work colleagues, who tease me about drinking so much coffee! I like my English Breakfast and I think Green Tea with Jasmine is an essential accompaniment to Thai or Japanese food, but my favourite cuppa has to be Chai. I just love the spiced flavours, so when I saw this Limited Edition spiced tea from Twinings I was really looking forward to it.
The box is beautiful, tea packaging isn’t usually special, but this certainly gives out a very sophisticated edge. Not only does the posh box heighten the anticipation, but each tea bag is also individually wrapped. Curiously Twinings Chai tea bags aren’t individually wrapped, but I guess this is a special edition.
I brewed the tea and added, as per the suggestion on the box, a healthy splash of milk. I also added a teaspoon of sugar. Spectre hates that I add sugar to tea, whenever he makes me a cup he says “do you still take sugar?” or “have you given up sugar in tea yet?” even though he may make me multiple cups in one day. Meh.
The tea smelt beautiful and in taste it certainly lived up to my high expectations. I would say that this tea isn’t as strong as Chai, but the depth of flavour is superior. I could pick out the delicate flavours like orange peel, and the nice background citrus taste. At the centre of the flavour were the wonderful spices and I picked up on cinnamon and cloves tingling on my taste buds. The flavours are so well balanced, and the Assam black tea is also not lost, it just works so well with the other ingredients. Essentially the tea is Christmas flavoured and absolutely gorgeous. Twinings have invented the perfect winter warmer for the cold evenings, and the must have drink for any tea connoisseur this Christmas. My only thought when I finished the cup was that the box only had twenty tea bags, and that this was never going to last me over Christmas. I did the only logically thing, I’ve added another box to my shopping list.

25 November 2010

Bensons Totally Fruity - Apple & Rhubarb Juice {by @NLi10} (Gales Farm Shop)

91% pressed apple juice, 9% pressed rhubarb - £1.29

It's not often that you find fresh juice drinks in the supermarket. Most are pasteurised or from concentrate or at least bulked out with something to make it palatable. I thought it was important to start this one with the ingredients list and price to show that this is pretty much as pure as you can get short of eating the ingredients yourself. I expected, with good reason, that this would taste as if it was good for me; that it would have a kind of tang or an aftertaste that some fresh natural products have.

It didn't. It tasted of pudding.

Growing up at home we've always had rhubarb in the garden, and as any child who has eaten uncooked rhubarb will tell you it's quite strong and quite bitter. You can cook it with sugars to break the strength down and you can mix it into other fruits and make nice pies and crumbles for desert. Upon tasting this I was transported back to my childhood and the Sunday deserts that mom used to make (and still does). I'm not quite sure how they managed to get the balance so spot on but they did. The rhubarb is present but never overpowering, and instead of the apple feeling like the cheap ingredient used to make it go further it becomes the main event.

I can see this easily being a range for cafe's and bars in the future, there are probably smart ones out there already stocking it. J20 is OK when you are on a night out, but frankly this is a whole order of magnitude better. There are 6 flavours in the Bensons range and I think I may have to try them all, just to check it's not a fluke you understand.
by @NLi10

24 November 2010

Nestle After Eight Bar [By Spectre] [Canada] (CyberCandy)

I haven't met many people in my time that don't like After Eights. They go down very well after a good meal with friends or relatives. I've seen whole boxes of After Eights empty within minutes. There's something about the little paper sleeves they come in. The square slabs of milk chocolate surrounding the gooey runny white peppermint centre that makes me shiver with anticipation when I see a box brought out and opened. The mere mention of the brand name; After Eight, makes my mouth water and yearn to fight over the last one in the box. You can imagine my excitement when I found out they'd released an After Eight bar. On opening the packet I was taken back at how thick the chocolate bar was. Marked in six small thick slabs with After Eight embossed on each one, I started to envisage just how much gooey runny white peppermint Nestle could fit inside each piece. Slightly worried for my shirt and tie by the amount of peppermint I'd imagined, I took my first bite. The peppermint filling the bar was depressingly solid. There was no gooeyness here, no runny stuff, just solid white peppermint. Okay, so it tasted of After Eights, the milk chocolate, the peppermint, but there was something missing. It wasn't the box, the paper sleeves or the squareness of the slabs, but come on Nestle if you're going to make a product traditionally, classically gooey and runny, then please make the bar do the same thing!
By Spectre

23 November 2010

Pork & Apple Crisps Tyrrells (Tebay Services)

You don’t often see pork flavoured crisps. Sure there are plenty of bacon flavoured ones, from Disco’s through to Red Sky, but this is the first time I’ve seen ‘pork’ as a variety. I feel obliged to mention bacon chocolate here too, but can’t quite think of a totally decent connection...
Back to the crisps! From first taste I was quick to realise that these were something a bit special. The meaty flavour resembles the taste of a fresh pork pie (without the pastry), it is almost juicy and you can almost taste that wonderful meat jelly lurking in the pie. There is a slight sweet flavour as an aftertaste, which adds a hint of apple which works well with the meaty taste. The apple could have been a little stronger, but I think the issue was the crisps were just so fantastically meaty that the pork was the primary flavour.
As ever the texture of these crisps is crunchy, and the crisps are fairly thick cut. The potato base flavour shines through well too, making these a fantastic snack.
Seriously though, how have we not had pork flavoured crisps before? And if you know of some already on the market, do let me know and drop me a comment below.

22 November 2010

Kendal Jack Smith’s Pumkin & Orange Flapjack (Tebay Services)

Firstly if you are ever in Cumbria on the M6, for goodness sakes stop at the Tebay Services. I really haven’t seen anywhere like it before. It has a huge delicatessen and an out of this world food shop, the selection is astounding. It feels like it shouldn’t be on a motorway, but it is, I only wish I lived nearer as it would be a regular place to visit. I purchased all manner of goodies from there so do expect to see them all reviewed very soon.
Flapjacks are rarely my first choice of snack as I fear finding a stodgy cake. Having said this I just couldn’t resist such an interesting flavour, Pumpkin & Orange. I had been needlessly worrying about the texture, this flapjack was filled with oat goodness but offset by the moist nature of the bar. The flavour is mainly that of oranges and golden syrup, which do make a lovely mix. There isn’t much pumpkin taste, and I wonder if the pumpkin refers simply to pumpkin seeds.
Even without the presence of any pumpkin flavour, I still thoroughly enjoyed this flapjack. The zesty orange just adds such a good balance to the taste, and worked surprisingly well with the oats. I do hope I can discover some other products from this brand as this example shows they certainly know what they are doing.

21 November 2010

American Cranberry & Praline Pecan Muesli {by @NLi10} (Asda Extra Special)

Continuing the theme of unusual mueslis (unueslis?) this weekend's main attraction is this cranberry and pecan muesli. As with all my other samples the idea was to find the cereals without any raisins or sultanas as I dislike them and the way they overpower otherwise lovely food. Unfortunately I didn't spot that this has 5% raisins in it, which is why it's sat in the cupboard for longer than usual.

I decided to give it a try anyway, reasoning that it wouldn't be too difficult to pick out a few black raisins and leave the red cranberries behind so after adding 4 or 5 raisins to Ms. NLi10s bowl of the Dorset Fantastically Fruity I'd made for her it seemed safe. There is an almost cinnamon taste to the praline crunch parts of the cereal which is quite nice but for a luxury cereal it's quite low on flavour and it lacks texture as all of the flakes are quite small and flat. When I did find a stray raisin the initial flavour was actually improved, but then the aftertaste kicked in and I remembered why I dislike them. Their ability to overpower is probably what led to the few creeping into the box. As a mid price cereal (cheaper than the Dorset & Lizi cereals) it needed the flavour boost to make it seem more luxury to match the box and brand aspirations.

I finished the box of the chocolate curl muesli from the same range before getting around to the review (I'll have to buy more - such a shame...) and that surpasses this in every way. If you are prepared to leave the raisins in and want an everyday muesli that you can still eat while in a hurry then I guess this is a decent option, but the mix just isn't for me. I'll probably finish the box, and may grow to like the subtle American flavours, but I don't think I'll be picking it up again as there are many other options which I prefer. Ones that aren't bulked out with raisins.
by @NLi10

20 November 2010

Crips Wheat & Potato Snacks [Various Flavours] [By Spectre]

Crips Snacks are manufactured in Ingleby, Derbyshire. They seem very keen on advertising how healthy their products are with subtitles on the packets such as; “70% less fat” and “Oven baked, not fried” and “99 cals”. The snacks have natural flavours. No MSG or GM Products. They have no artificial colours or preservatives, and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans (as well as, I’m sure, fluffy birds and small mammals, but will likely make a crocodile sneeze). The 22.5g packets have black and white healthy looking early 1900s photographs of healthy looking people doing healthy looking activities.

Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar
These are thin crunchy ten pence piece sized snacks. They have a good salty content with a decent flavouring of balsamic vinegar. They feel like they’re good for you without being too dry and making you want to drink loads of fluid after eating.

Mature Cheddar Cheese & Spring Onion
There was no strong smell of cheese and onion from the bag as I opened them, so I was taken aback by the overwhelming taste of spring onions on first tasting the ten pence piece sized discs. Still as crunchy as the Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar flavour, but the big spring onion taste overshadows any flavour of Mature Cheddar. I like big flavours, but I don’t think the woman on the tandem bicycle on the front of the packet will be kissing her boyfriend much after he’s eaten these.

Thai Sweet Chilli
There’s a couple hula hooping and waving pink flaming chillies on the front of the packet. This made me slightly apprehensive after the big flavour of the Mature Cheddar Cheese & Spring Onion Crips. On opening the packet I had a good whiff of chillies. This made me worry even more, as the strong spring onions didn’t really have much of a smell. So just how strong (hot) could this flavour be? I was pleasantly surprised at the sweet mild heat of these Crips. You can definitely taste the chillies and there’s a sweet Thai edge to the Crips. This was my favourite flavour, but I’d happily eat any of these healthy feeling snacks again. Now where did I leave that massive cake I have for pudding?
By Spectre

19 November 2010

Duchy Originals Chocolate Thins [Dark & Orange] (Waitrose)

Both of these chocolates are part of the new expansion of Duchy Original’s products in Waitrose. They have always stocked a selection of the Duchy’s range, but any expansion is a good thing as it means more luxury organic goodies to try!

Dark Chocolate
First up we have the dark chocolate thins, which are made with a 74% chocolate with cocoa from the Dominican Republic. Each chocolate is an irregular circle, forming a chocolate thin. I broke one in half and it had a nice sharp, crisp snap. The flavour was very dark and deep, with hints of nuttiness. It was an intense flavour, and would be perfect after dinner with coffee, making a very nice way to finish a meal.

These chocolate thins are also made with cocoa from the Dominican Republic, but this time in the form of a 37% cocoa milk chocolate. Also each one of these chocolates is infused with orange oil. Despite being a milk chocolate they still had a nice snap when broken, albeit not quite as sharp as the dark chocolate version. The flavour was absolutely divine, the sweet fresh tones of orange, mingled beautifully with the creamy cocoa and made the perfect nibbling snack. There is an amazing rich and natural orange taste and these choccies are simply heaven. So easy to eat, you would be surprised how quickly the contents of the box just disappears...

18 November 2010

Dorset Cereals - [New] Marmalade Granola {by @NLi10} (Co-Op)

Marmalade is something that you have for breakfast. I'd never considered it as a cereal flavour until seeing this packet on the shelves. The main reason for this is that citrus fruits and milk don't historically work well together - ever seen Orange Flavoured milkshake for sale? I expected that the milk would go wrong and didn't put too much on the first time.

This was a mistake - while the orange does come off into the milk it just mingles as a flavour and doesn't curdle. The very orangey milk (I ate it quite slowly as well) wasn't that appetising and put me off coming back for more for a while.

Due to the breakfast review season I decided to give this another go and used far more milk. This made the flavour much more diluted and gave a hint of orange to the icy freshness which was really quite pleasant. Dorset Cereals do a good granola and the cereal part of things is great with a wide mix of seeds and berries and as their really fabulous boxes proclaim 'no dust!'. Again I chose this to eat as it didn't contain raisins and while it was less of a muesli experience than their Fantastically Fruity Muesli from last week it was a very different cereal and may be one for someone more used to marmalade on toast.

And you could easily eat this as a light lunch to annoy Johnny Vaughan - as in the Belvita breakfast biscuits TV advert he suggests that the most unlikely thing in the world would be to eat marmalade for lunch.

Bonus orange related mention - Innocent Orange Juice with bits

I'm not sure what I was expecting but this is just really nice orange juice. I think all the fun smoothies skewed my expectations of what would be inside an innocent package.
by @NLi10

17 November 2010

Chunky Chocolatey Jumbles [By Spectre] (Thorntons)

This 80g bag of chocolates is Thorntons’ answer to Mars’ Revels. There’s no orange, coffee or peanuts here, but instead, fudge, raisins and toffee balls. On the pack a subtitle draws you in with “I’m really yummy”. There are three sizes of chocolates in the bag. I could certainly agree with the subtitle when the first medium sized chocolate Jumble I picked happened to have a sweet soft fudge filling. The second larger chocolate didn’t have a Malteser filling, but a very hard toffee that took some chewing and made me fear for my fillings. After prizing the first toffee out of between my teeth I tried a second attempting to lightly chew and suck the toffee instead. This seemed to work better, but took ages and still made me fear for my fillings. The smallest chocolates in the pack were the raisin filled chocolates. These sweets were very small and just tasted unsurprisingly like raisins covered with milk chocolate. Revels generally have a flavour or two that people try to avoid, with only three flavours and one that I enjoyed; I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy Jumbles again. With a stark warning on how hard the toffee was, I passed the rest of these around the office. My fillings breathed a sigh of relief!
By Spectre

16 November 2010

M&M's Pretzel [USA] (CyberCandy)

The first thing that caught my eye on the packet of the M&Ms was in the bottom left hand corner, were it said: 150 Calories Per Pack. I thought that was pretty impressively low, especially for a product that doesn’t even seem to be claiming to be ‘healthier’ on the packaging.
I opened up the bag and have to admit that there wasn’t that many M&Ms inside it, the picture shows the full amount, and yes there are surprisingly large number of blue ones!
Each chocolate consists of a ball of pretzel, surrounded by milk chocolate and covered in the usual M&Ms crunchy shell.
The pretzel flavour tastes like a ball of savoury biscuit, with a light salty edge. I love the mix of salt and chocolate, so these were a complete win for me. Writing this sort of blog I rarely re-purchase goodies as I’m always after something new to try. It has to be said I popped back and picked up another four bags for the store cupboard, for emergencies you understand.
I just loved the crunchy texture and the combination of savoury and sweet, it is just a really moreish M&M variety. I will cross my fingers that it comes out on release in the UK, but until then I will be a regular at the import stores. Yum!

15 November 2010

Taste The difference Chocolate: Costa Rican Coffee / Raspberry (Sainsburys)

Here is a bit of an update for two of the new Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference chocolate range bars.

Belgian Milk Chocolate With Costa Rican Coffee
I unwrapped this bar and felt that it looked appetising, which a rich brown colour and neatly moulded stripes. When I broke a piece in half, the coffee could be identified as granules throughout the chocolate. They looked a little like instant coffee granules, dissolving easily, rather than being hard pieces of coffee bean. The scent from the bar was surprisingly mild, there was a simple sweet aroma with just light cocoa tones.
The chocolate was quite soft to break, and likewise on the tongue it was silky smooth. It melted easily in the mouth revealing luscious cocoa and coffee tones and the chocolate was wonderfully creamy. The coffee worked really well with the chocolate flavour, thankfully not over powering it. This was a really nice chocolate bar, and one for coffee lovers. Since Lindt discontinued their Coffee Intense this does make a nice replacement, I just hope Sainsburys release a dark chocolate version too.

Swiss White Chocolate With Raspberry
When I pulled this bar out of its wrapper, I noticed a creamy white chocolate speckled pink. The pieces were big and flat, but it was only when I turned one over that I notice the bright pink base. The colour coming from a generous helping of freeze dried raspberry pieces all hiding underneath.
Due to the nature of the raspberries, they do add a light crunch to the chocolate which does feel a little weird, but isn’t unpleasant. The natural taste well and truly makes up for this with its zingy fresh flavour. The white chocolate surrounding the raspberries is very creamy and flavoursome. On its own it would make for a very rich bar but the fruit balances it out well. The bar has a lovely mix of flavours, and this is definitely another success for Sainsbury’s.

14 November 2010

Top Banana Porridge {by @NLi10} [Rude Health]

Occasionally I get a food parcel from Cinabar with products in for me to review, or just ones where we got given more samples than one family can eat. This porridge was one of these, possibly included due to the banana content.

I first tried this product some weeks ago and Ms. NLi10 made a bowl for me and I didn't really enjoy it. It just seemed to be a massive amount of food for one person to eat so early in the morning. I eventually got through it and discovered that my general dislike of the breakfast was due to the fact I was coming down with the flu. I spent the next week in bed, and barely did anything at all (except for fall down a few stairs and play a few kids games on the Xbox).

Because of this I didn't go back to the box for a while and was wary that I would forever associate porridge with becoming ill. Bravely I decided this morning to give the porridge another go, but decided to use 40g of oats instead of the recommended 50g.

After microwaving and stirring I let it cool and set a bit and then had my first proper taste. Still too hot and not sweet enough. I decided to add some sugar to it as I tend to like things a little sweeter and tried again. The oats are lovely and soft, the banana tastes like the actual fruit in a desert of some kind and overall it's really nice. It was still too hot though but unlike Goldilocks I couldn't just mix the porridge that was too hot with the other porridges to make it edible so I carried on surfing the internet and listening to 6 Music until the temperature had dropped to very warm instead of piping hot.

This was far more my style, I could happily eat away and 40g turned out to be not enough to satisfy my hunger. The texture of school porridges was nowhere to be found, and even with leaving it to cool it never became mush and still had a chewiness that was enjoyable. I'll certainly be eating this on weekends as it's a bit time consuming for someone as rushed as I am in the mornings, and as the winter draws in I may even appreciate the added heat. I think that I could get back into porridge as a breakfast, as even though I miss the ice cold milk part of the experience there is a certain draw to the sustaining oaty goodness.
by @NLi10

13 November 2010

Timmermans Lambic Beers [By Spectre] (Selfridges)

Cinabar bought me these beers to torture me with the crazy flavours. Tradition, Peach, Cherry, Raspberry and Forest Fruits… I mean seriously; Forest Fruits? She thought I’d drink one every now and then and write something cute about them. Alternatively I decided to get rid of them one after another in one evening in an experiment to see if I could still say “Timmermans” without slurring by the end of the evening. Timmermans brew Lambic beer, which is specially brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium. I say “specially” as it is brewed through spontaneous fermentation, which means it’s exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria from the Senne valley. Only slightly worried that this was a spelling error on Wikipedia and the beer is actually exposed to “wild beasts”, I popped open the first beer… “Timmermans”, so far so good…

Faro or Traditional Lambic beer
There is a definite cider edge to this beer, but it’s not like the pub’s rugged Snakebite, it has a sweet apple and brown sugar taste. This argues against Wikipedia’s description of dry with a slightly sour aftertaste. All in all it was a good strong sweet cidery beer that made me regret the small size of the bottle, as I would have been happy enough to have drunk this type of beer for the rest of the evening. “Timmermans”

Peach Lambic beer
On opening this beer there was a strong whiff of peaches, which seems obvious given the name, but I wasn’t prepared at how strong the smell and taste of peaches would be. Strong as it was, the peaches didn’t overshadow the cidery taste. Although the sweetness of the last beer was dulled by the peach flavour, this beer tasted more like a Peach Snakebite – try asking for that in a Rocker Bar! “Timmermans”

Cherry Lambic Beer
Regular readers will know my distaste for cherries and after being subjected to several cherry beers in the past, I expected this beer to taste like a cherry wine. I was wrong. It didn’t taste like a cherry wine, or in fact a cherry beer. This reddened liquid tasted only of cherries, but not just cherries, but CHERRIES!!! Cinabar loved the taste of this beer, which loosely means there definitely was no beer flavour. This could be mistaken for a child’s cherry pop drink, but without the pop and with a whole lot of Cherries. “Timmermans”

Raspberry Lambic beer
Red in colour, this beer had a strong, powerful taste of raspberries. Again, no wine or beer taste here, just a whole lot of raspberries. It has a sweet start on the palette and a sour aftertaste. Alcoholic children can rejoice everywhere, as there’s no real way to tell there’s any alcohol in this beverage, just raspberries. Not sure that’s a good idea though? Probably not… “Timmmermans”

Forest Fruit Lambic beer
This beer is purple in colour, which fits well with the mainly blackcurrant flavour. There is a hint of strawberries and raspberries in there also, and I’m sure some other fruits mixed in, but primarily blackcurrant. It tastes like a strong sweet Ribena. The last two beers were not subtle in flavour and this fruit flavoured beverage stayed with that theme. Again, not a wine or beer taste, just overflowing with fruit flavour.
By the end of the last beer I noticed that I was fairly light headed. If I repurchase I think I’ll stick with the lighter flavoured Lambic beers, such as Tradition or Peach. Okay, maybe not the Peach, it just doesn’t help the image…
“What’re you drinking, Spectre?”
“Ooh, I think I’ll have a Peach Snakebite!”
“Timmmmmermanz” Te, he… hic!
By Spectre

12 November 2010

Norfolk Bloody Mary Crisps [Pipers]

Pipers are a brand I first heard about because of the Specialty & Fine Food Fair, and thought they deserved a bit of a shout out on the site. Bloody Mary is a bit of a strange flavour for a packet of crisps, but I have to confess that is why it caught my eye. Essentially a Bloody Mary, in its liquid form, consists of tomato juice, vodka and some sort of spice usually Tabasco or Worcestershire Sauce.
Given that we are talking about crisps, it seems fair to assume that the vodka element won’t be making its presence known, which leaves us with a spicy tomato as the main flavour.
The underlying potato is thick and crunchy and it delivers a satisfying bite. It is nice to be able to taste the potato, and this really added to the overall quality of the crisps for me. The flavour of the coating is really well put together, I was afraid it might be over sweet from the tomato, but it is a wonderful savoury taste. There is a gentle spice, and a hint an onion that complements the tomato really well.
These are moreish crisps, with a rich tomato taste, and a good quality crunch, I thoroughly recommend them and look forward to trying other flavours in the range.
As footnote Spectre found that these crisps were an excellent addition to a cheese platter, working particularly well with smoked cheese. It’s his new favourite ‘DIY’ Ploughman’s.

11 November 2010

Dorset Cereals- Fantastically Fruity Roasted & Toasted Muesli {by @NLi10} (Sainsbury's)

I love cereals, I love mixed up cereals with bits in them, but I hate raisins and sultanas.

Very few muesli type cereals don't have dried grapes in them, except for the chocolate based ones (which I keep forgetting to review...) which leads to excitement bordering on boy-band proportions when I find one unexpectedly. This one is a fine example, as Ms. NLi10 bought me a pack of 6 Dorset Cereals all of which had hidden raisins in them, but redeemed herself amply by spotting this hidden in their range at Sainsbury's. I'd found a couple of normal Dorset Cereals with no raisins but only their plainest muesli fitted the bill (I add cranberries :) ).

Essentially it has loads of fruity fruit in it (cranberries, mango, dates, raspberries to name but four) but none of the dreaded articles. The grain types are nice too. I was a bit wary about the dates and slipped a few of mine into my partner's bowl before bringing them upstairs but needn't have worried. The balance of fruits to grain is not one I'm used to as I like a lot more cereal in my cereal, but this actually works. It becomes a very chewy experience and is a great weekend cereal for when you have time to enjoy breakfast.

I've not been back for a second helping yet (I've only had them for one weekend) but was enthused enough by the experience to write about all the other cereals I've been holding back on. I'd put this at the top of the health cereal tree, next to Lizzi's Apple Granola and above the standard offerings.

Of course, if you are one of those people who actually like raisins etc. you may have different experiences of this section of the supermarket, but I'm sure there are other fruits that people dislike, and due to its fruity nature they may be hiding in here waiting to catch you out instead.
by @NLi10

10 November 2010

QQ Orange and Grape flavour sweets [By Spectre] (China)

A friend on Xbox Live called sent me these jellies from China. After a bit of digging online I managed to find out these are made in Taiwan by Want Want who started out in 1962. I first burst open the orange flavour. The 70g packet is filled with 1cm wide orange coloured jelly shells, although I later realised these were supposed to be slices of orange. The jellies are very soft, with a good orange tang and dangerously moreish. They also make you want to shove as many of them in your mouth at the same time to see how many you can fit in and eat. Once I’d eaten one packet I wanted another and another. I hungrily tried to rip open the grape flavoured packet, and realised that my fingers were strangely greasy from the orange flavour, not sticky, but slippy in a way that I couldn’t get a grip on the grape packet. On violently knifing the packet in my desperation for more Taiwanese squidginess I noticed lots of purple grape-bunch shaped sweets the same size as the orange jellies. It was then that I realised the orange sweets were not shell shaped at all. Shoving the grape flavoured jellies in my mouth I was at first disappointed that they weren’t the orange flavour and then a little confused due to the fact that they tasted more blackcurrant than grape. Nevertheless there is a grape flavour there and these grape jellies, although to my chargrin not orange flavoured, were almost as moreish. I now have to go cold turkey on the orange until I can beg Farley to send me another batch. Maybe I’ll have to stop setting him on fire in Left4Dead? Nah…
By Spectre

9 November 2010

New Galaxy Orange & Shortcake (Sainsbury’s)

Well I never, a second new Galaxy bar has found its way onto the shelves! Earlier in the month we found the Tesco exclusive Smooth Truffle bar, so I wasn’t expecting to see another new product from this company for a little while. It was only yesterday that I mentioned that there were too many generic caramel or vanilla bars on the market, and today I find a new interesting fruity orange flavour bar, which was a wonderful surprise.
This new product consist of a base of smooth sweet Galaxy chocolate, and embedded in it are pieces of shortcake biscuit and soft orange. The biscuit adds a lovely crunch, and delivers a surprisingly flavoursome buttery taste. The orange pieces are a bit more like a gummy sweet than actual orange, but they add a really fresh orange taste to the proceedings. It is a well balanced, sweet and zesty bar, and the orange flavour which runs through it adds a warmth to the taste, which is beautifully counter balanced by the buttery biscuit.
This bar was a surprise when I found it, but it was absolutely gorgeous. I thoroughly enjoyed the fruity flavours and texture of this bar, it is very definitely my current favourite in the Galaxy range.

8 November 2010

Lindt Magical Milk (WH Smiths)

I have to say this bar reminded me of the new Dairy Milk Bliss in concept. Sadly on first thoughts this meant that it didn’t seem very exciting. Finding what is essentially another vanilla bar, is about one step up from finding another caramel bar on the market. What follows is a short rant about caramel Kit Kats: Here in the UK, Kit Kat Caramel came into existence, it was so popular that Kit Kat Chunky Peanut Butter was replaced with Kit Kat Caramel Chunky. Then a few weeks ago Kit Kat Sense Hazelnut was taken off the shelves and replaced with, wait for it, Kit Kat Senses Caramel. We now have no nut flavour UK Kit Kats, but three different varieties of caramel Kit Kat, which is overkill if you ask me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like vanilla and caramel flavours, but I do wish one of the confectionary companies would step up and release something crazy. I am aware that we are in a recession and as such ‘safe’ is the name of the game at the minute. I guess caramel is an easy sell, and to be fair I know Spectre loves the stuff!
Rant over, I will stop digressing, and get back to the Lindt bar in question.
The packet states that it is milk chocolate covering a creamy milk filling. The centre is a bright white colour, and is just about solid by which I mean it is thicker than a mouse, but with a soft feel. The milk chocolate covering it is thick with a sweet creamy rich taste. There is a lovely taste from the cocoa that compliments the centre too.
The filling has quite a complex flavour, there are good hints of vanilla, and it has aspects of white chocolate in taste with a hint of malt kicking in towards the end. I really enjoyed this bar, and I felt it had the edge of the Bliss bar. It may not be an adventurous bar of chocolate, but it has at least been well executed in its production, and I have to admit that I rather enjoyed it.

7 November 2010

Channa Chaat {by @NLi10} (Hall Green Hindu Temple)

As part of local Diwali celebrations I visited Hall Green Hindu temple. After giving thanks to Lakshmi we were escorted to the food tent where there was a choice of seasonal dishes. I decided to go for the Channa Chaat as it had pomegranate sprinkled on the top. The Mountain Dew energy drink is none traditional, but I hadn't had chance to try it yet. The snack itself is multi layered and has crispy pastry, mint, yogurt, as well as lots of other mysterious things. While there is a spicy hit, the flavours are fantastic and the mixtures of textures are great. I managed to finish it with no issues, and my side of samosa that I had too. Thanks to Vijay for inviting me. :)
by @NLi10

6 November 2010

Nando’s Nuts [Mixed & Cashew] (Morrison’s) [By Spectre]

Nando’s restaurant is a favourite haunt of mine and I’ve recently found out that a new restaurant is opening nearby in Wolverhampton. It’s a great place for a big group of people or just for two to eat spicy chicken, drink refillable soft drinks and slurp healthy flavoured frozen yoghurt for dessert. For starters we usually share a side of Peri-Peri nuts and a side of mixed olives. Looks like they’ve brought out the nuts into the open market and not before time!

Peri-Peri Mixed Nuts – Medium

It states on the front of the bag that these nuts are the same as in the restaurant. They are an assortment of mixed almonds, cashews and macadamias. The warning notice on the back of the packet states that the African Bird’s Eye Chilli flavouring on the nuts may make you need a drink after eating. Apparently a stranger had suggested they put their restaurant nuts in a bag as they are so good. I believe there was more than one stranger that suggested selling them outside the restaurant as anyone who tastes the nuts in Nando’s would probably be desperate to eat them any time.

Having said that, these don’t seem to have exactly the same spicy flavour as the nuts in the restaurant though, I don’t know whether my mind was playing tricks on me as I ate them at my desk in the office, but they just didn’t taste the same. I couldn’t see how it could simply be the atmosphere of the restaurant missing in the taste of the nuts, and when I think about it, I could actually taste the flavour of the nuts. In the restaurant nuts you can’t really taste the nuts, just the tangy Peri-Peri flavour. I’m sure there is more paprika and a touch of garlic in the flavour too. Checking the back of the packet it doesn’t mention paprika or garlic. Therefore I don’t think I was missing the restaurant, although half a grilled medium spiced Peri-Peri chicken with some Peri-Peri fries and a side of coleslaw would have gone down very well, I just think they forgot to add some extra spice!

Peri-Peri Cashews – Hot

The back of the packet states that if you like eating hot coals, you’ll like eating these nuts. I’ve tried Nando’s Hot flavoured crisps and they make your mouth burn. They are a great snack with a cool beer and a good film, so hopefully these nuts live up to that taste for a bit of diversity in snacking. Sadly, stuck at work, I didn’t have a beer or a good film to watch, so I figured that I’d just have to sweat these nuts out during my lunch hour.

Saying “I’ll sweat these nuts out” was a serious over estimation. On first taste I didn’t get any heat or feel an even slightly uncomfortable tingle. I ate a few more, but just couldn’t stand their dull spice-less taste. I even sucked on some for a while to try and magic up some chilli heat, but sadly no luck. These nuts were a big disappointment and an emergency return to the drawing board for Nando’s is needed here.

Nando’s crisp flavours are some of my favourite crisps on the market. They came from no where with their big paprika and chilli tastes. They waltzed passed big brands like Walkers, Kettle and McCoys to produce top quality moreish crispy hot chilli snacks. So what went wrong with these nuts? They have the Medium flavour to a tee in the restaurant nuts, but not in the bag. I’m sure some of the spices were missing? The Hot Cashews have no heat or spice and are simply not to my taste. Yet Nando’s have proved that they are experts in tangy spicy heat from their glorious range of sauces and other products.

As a stranger had suggested Nando’s bag their Medium flavoured nuts, here’s a stranger suggesting they box up and sell their side of mixed olives. This is a healthy tasty snack that goes like magic with their Peri-Peri nuts. Who knows, maybe that was what I was missing with the Medium nuts? But the Hot flavoured nuts needs a rethink… consult the Hot flavoured crisps as they know best.
By Spectre

5 November 2010

BURTS Hand Fried Potato Chips: Firecracker Lobster

These crisps go a long way to explain that they are from a Devonshire company. They even proudly state that even the chillies used in the recipe are from Devon too. This leads me to question the name of the product, why is such an obviously English product known as ‘chips’ not ‘crisps’. I know this isn’t the first time this has been mentioned on this website, but the word ‘chips’ is just very American to me. It just seems strange from a company so proud to be English everywhere on its packaging, “Made In Devon” is even emblazoned across the front of the bag.
This variety of ‘Firecracker Lobster’ sounded as if it might be similar to a spicy prawn cocktail flavour, but when I opened the bag I realised at once I was mistaken. These crisps have a spicy aroma, and were lacking the sweet tomato edge you’d expect in prawn cocktail.
The texture of each crisp is of a moderate thickness, thicker than Walkers, but not a crunchy as Kettle Chips. The flavour is salty and spicy, and does surprisingly recreate a lobster seafood taste remarkably well. When you finish each crisp you are left with a nice tingle from the chilli, but it is a gentle non offensive heat, leaving just a light buzz on the taste buds.
The salty nature of these crisps makes them very moreish, and easy to eat, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bag. Several of their other flavours they make sound rather appetising too – so I think I will be making an attempt to hunt down their Hot Chilli Lemon as well.

Not suitable for vegetarians.

Big thanks to Lorraine for kindly finding these for me, it is much appreciated. :-)