31 January 2011

Steak & Al Pie [Crisps] (Walkers) [By @cinabar]

This is the next of the four new flavours of Walkers crisps, released for Comic Relief, and sponsored by famous comedians. It’s not a typo in the title, the ‘Al’ refers to Al Murray’s choice of crisps.
Steak and Ale sounds like a good meaty flavour, so I was rather looking forward to these despite Al Murray not being one of my favourite comedians. I opened the pack and inhaled the aroma, and I have to say they smelt remarkable like beef crisps. Don’t get me wrong, I was expecting a beef aroma, but I was just a little worried by the smell that they had failed to develop the taste further. When I delved in I did spot that these had a different distinct flavour, but only just. The beef kicks in, and it is followed by a yeasty light ale taste, but it is rather subtle. If you regularly eat the meaty flavours, then these will hit the spot, the beef taste makes them very moreish, and enjoyable and I really liked them. They are nice crisps, with an easy win formula, and although not that different to flavours I’ve tried before are still rather tasty.
By Cinabar

All the new Walkers Flavours:
Frank Roast Dinner (Frank Skinner’s Roast Chicken Dinner)
Steak & Al Pie (Al Murray’s Steak & Ale Pie)

Jimmy Con Carne (Jimmy Carr’s Chilli Con Carne)

Stephen Fry Up (Stephen Fry’s Full English Fry Up)

30 January 2011

Giovanni Rana Rich Italian Bolognese Tortelloni (Sainsbury's ) [by @NLi10]

I'm a big fan of decent food that can be cooked fast and eaten as a snack so have been eating readymade ravioli style pastas for years. I've taken it for granted that the store own and Aldi/Lidl brands were representative of the bigger versions but just with cheaper ingredients. I've found them a bit dry inside and while they have had decent flavours and been filling enough I never really questioned that there would be advantages to buying other kinds. Not being an expert on fresh pastas I've never really known which would be big brands and which were smaller imitation brands.

In Sainsbury's they have different non-store brands that I don't see in my usual Asda/Lidl/Aldi/Co-Op circuit so I thought that despite the price difference I'd give these a try. After all the packaging looks very appealing with all the fresh ingredients and they boil in 1 min (the fry logo worries me a little - who would do that?!)

I have to say I was amazed by the difference. The sauce is still runny, the meat is recognisable and the flavours were fantastic. Far from being instant lunch fodder you could have served this to dinner guests and they would be very satisfied. I cooked the 2nd half of these up with some left over Gnocchi and they went superbly as a really scrumptious main meal with a few leafy greens. Even after being open a few days they were still great and I shall be trying to memorise the brand name Giovanni Rana so that I can explore some other flavours if they exist.

Just goes to show that sometimes price does equal quality, if you trust the supermarkets to choose for you.
by NLi10

29 January 2011

Skittles: Crazy Cores (Amazon.co.uk / Cybercandy) [By @SpectreUK]

Continuing my season of five Skittles packets that aren’t widely available unless you buy them from Amazon or Cyber Candy, Skittles Crazy Cores sounds an intriguing idea. Having said that, will Skittles get the taste balance right with the outer colour and the inner flavour? There are 230 calories per 56.7g pack, and 43g of which is sugar. I ripped open this latest bag and separated out the flavours.

Mango Peach
Creamy yellow colour outside, red inside. There is a sweet peach taste to start with followed by a faint mango flavour that leans further to the cherry side. Not good. Too crazy for me… :-s

Cherry Lemonade
Dark red colour outside, yellow inside. There is a slightly fizzy cherryade taste to these Skittles which is crossed with a sweet Bakewell Tart flavour. Neither are my favourite things in the world, so this Skittle kind of put me off a bit.

Blue Raspberry Lemon
Blue colour outside, yellow inside. If you ever wondered what sugar sweet flavoured blueberryade / raspberryade would taste like, this would be it. Strangely I rather liked them though!

Strawberry Watermelon
Green colour outside, pink inside. These Skittles taste more like full on watermelon to me, only the slightest hint of strawberry, but still very nice and sweet.

Melon Berry
Pink colour outside, dark green inside. There is a dulled down watermelon flavour to these Skittles, mixed with blueberry (I believe). These Skittles are rather nice; they are subtle, and not almost overpoweringly sweet like the others.
By Spectre

28 January 2011

Frank Roast Dinner [Crisps] (Walkers) [By @cinabar]

Walkers have got together with four comedians to create some new flavours – especially for Comic Relief. First up we have Frank Skinner’s Roast Chicken Dinner. I have to confess, Walkers Chicken are indeed one of my favourite flavours of crisps, so I had high hopes for these, and I was not to be disappointed.
Each crisp has the usual light Walkers texture, making it nice and easy to munch, but still with a decent amount of potato taste coming through.
The flavour is very much meaty and that of chicken, and it had a rich gravy essence on them too. There is an aftertaste which is salty, buttery and very herby (which seems to have hints of thyme) that gives the meatiness a good depth of flavour. In fact the herby aftertaste represents the stuffing remarkably well, and I was pleased to see that the crisps themselves are sprinkled with green specks of dried herbs. As a fan of chicken flavour crisps these certainly worked for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed their flavour. The other new tastes have a lot to contend with, but I’m still very much looking forward to trying them!
By Cinabar

All the new Walkers Flavours:

Frank Roast Dinner (Frank Skinner’s Roast Chicken Dinner)
Steak & Al Pie (Al Murray’s Steak & Ale Pie)
Jimmy Con Carne (Jimmy Carr’s Chilli Con Carne)
Stephen Fry Up (Stephen Fry’s Full English Fry Up)
Which ones are you looking forward to?

27 January 2011

Belgian Pocky in - Dark Chocolate [by @NLi10]

Here at FoodStuffFinds we love Pocky and need no excuse to pick up and try alternate versions.

We've covered the inverted Pocky before but only as Pejoy and I think that this is more the international version of the product. I mainly wanted to try this as it's the dark chocolate version and similar to my favourite - the ever so slightly gender inappropriate Pocky Mens.

Surprisingly the chocolate is softer and not as bitter in this version - maybe due to the Belgian tag meaning they used milder chocolate, but it does go well with the wafer (instead of the biscuit stick the outside is more of a wafer). It still has a satisfying crunch to it and the flavours do work well together.

I'd certainly buy these again, but I still crave the biscuit and intensely bitter chocolate of the real Pocky Mens.
By NLi10

26 January 2011

Warburtons Gluten Free & Wheat Free Breads [by @LoisParker]

I’m pleased to announce we have a guest post today. Lois Parker from ‘Bring Back The Bliss - Gluten Free Cooking’ has been off to London to the Warburtons launch of their new speciality breads.

Warburtons have launched their new range of gluten and wheat free foods. They are making white and brown sliced loaves, crumpets, fruited teacakes and sub-rolls. All of these are made in a dedicated gluten-free factory, so we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination.

The breads are lactose-free as well as gluten and wheat free but don’t advertise this on the packaging. They do have an allergy advice box on the back to make a safety assessment easy. The range does contain xanthan gum to help hold the bread together, so anyone with sensitivity to this product will steer clear of these breads.

The bread compares well with its closest rivals, Genius and Marks & Spencer’s, and having the might of such a large bread bakery company behind it should manage to avoid some of the issues of availability and shelf life that these others have had.

I tried the bread fresh; it is soft and slightly powdery as expected. It toasted well, and made excellent French toast. To make this I used and egg and some milk, soaked the bread briefly and then fried. The bread soaked up the liquid well, went crisp when cooked, and the interior was soft and moist with no hint of the bizarre texture changes you can get with other gf bread – granulation has been a problem with some other breads.

Overall I was very impressed with this range. It will make serving coeliacs and others with a wheat or gluten intolerance or allergy much easier. It should mean that cafes and restaurants will no longer be able to say they have nothing to serve – provided they remember to use clean hands, clean surfaces and, if toasting, have a dedicated toaster or toaster bags.

The launch was held in collaboration with the Coeliac Society and Phil Vickery. Phil has produced a range of recipes using these products to show how a simple slice of bread can turn into many different foods.

By Lois Parker

25 January 2011

Innis and Gunn – Oak Aged Beer: Rum Cask (Waitrose) [By SpectreUK]

I’ve drunk Innis and Gunn’s beers before and always enjoyed them. This one caught Cinabar’s Mom’s eye in a supermarket the other day and she bought it me for a treat. And what a treat! This handcrafted Scottish beer is matured over a 57 day period in a rum infused American oak cask. Mahogany in colour the beer has a dark ale mixed with the spicy musky smell of rum to it. I couldn’t help but think of the old pirates and sailors of the seven seas whilst I poured this beer out (“The boy stood on the burning deck, his pockets full of crackers, one went off between his legs and blew off both his…”). The bitterness of the dark ale battles the spicy warming flavour of rum in every mouthful. The rum finally wins over in the aftertaste (as all good pirates generally win… “Ha, ha, me Hearties!”). This drink leaves your insides thoroughly heated and at 7.4% volume there is no wonder. I was left wanting another beer straight afterwards, but the strength of this beverage could have a toll on your senses pretty quickly. This rum beer is a real pleasure to drink, especially on a cold dark stormy night. Perfect to celebrate Burn’s Night on January 25th. Just have a (naughty) poem ready and try not to slurrrrrrr….
By Spectre

Denhay / Spoilt Pig Bacon (avail at Waitrose/Morrisons) Farmhouse Breakfast Week

Denhay bacon got in touch with us to remind us that this week is Farmhouse Breakfast Week, where we should all remember the benefits of having a good breakfast. They also very kindly sent through a sample of their Denhay and Spoilt Pig bacon, and suggested I make myself a decent breakfast.
Well, wanting to make this a special occasion, I whipped up some quick soda bread, had some fried bacon and added a selection of cheeses, olives and an egg resulting in the breakfast (okay brunch) of gods.

Both packs of bacon cooked very quickly, but we found that trying to keep some warm resulted in it becoming quite crispy a lot quicker than other bacon, this is possibly because traditional dry curing techniques are used.
In flavour though the bacon had a lovely traditional meaty taste which was stronger than regular bacon. The meat enhanced the tastes of the other ingredients on the plate, and was the star of the show perfect with the fresh soda bread.
So what did you all have for breakfast this morning? Hope you had a good start to the day too. :-)

24 January 2011

Aero Caramel (Sainsbury’s) [By @cinabar]

Well the Wispa Gold has disappeared (again) but Aero have stepped in and brought back their Aero Caramel to fill the void. When I opened the pack I was a little surprised to find that the bar is actually laid out as five pieces of chocolate in cubes. I was a little disappointed by this, as I feel that one of the advantages of Wispa Gold being a proper bar is that it gives itself a really chunky feel, but is easy to eat because the chocolate is aerated. This chunkiness was missing from the Aero Caramel because of the neat easy to eat pieces.
The Aero chocolate within the bar is the standard Aero milk chocolate that you will find in their regular bars. It is a sweet chocolate, but with a pleasant milky flavour. The caramel part has a nice texture, but isn’t overly runny or gooey. It is rather sweet, with a slight salty edge. The bar is about half bubbly chocolate and half caramel, and as both of the major ingredients are quite sweet, it does make for a very sugary experience. I actually had this bar with a cup of coffee, which helped balance the flavour, as well as making it a very nice afternoon treat.
It is a really nice chocolate experience, but the sweet hit might make it a bit much for some. If you have a sweet tooth though, I’ll think you’ll like this new bar.
By Cinabar

Nintendo 3DS Launch - Amsterdam [by @NLi10]

The life of an amateur snack-food critic is a strange one. Recently as part of a competition I got invited by Nintendo to witness the official launch of the 3DS console - the new generation of handheld gaming with a 3D top screen - which is why I found myself awake at 4am and boarding a coach to the airport.
For the event I had to fly out to Amsterdam, and got to thinking about how portable gaming is kind of the snack food of the entertainment industry. The best portable games are those that you can pick up and play in short busts - like Professor Layton which is essentially a digital puzzle book. This means that as long as I have a decent amount of battery left I can just flip the machine shut and carry on where I left off. With this in mind and a backpack full of snack foods (but no bottles of drinks due to flying) I went to Heathrow.

I settled on a fruit, granola and yogurt snack pot from ITSU (mainly due to the cosy booth seating) for late breakfast and was actually quite pleased with it. It was a touch overpriced, but the tea was great (some kind of green tea) and it certainly filled me up.
After the (delayed) flight and a long wait for buses (due to the delayed flights) we made it to the presentation in time for the exciting parts about the games and the social connectivity. We missed the footage of Sky 3D and Shaun the Sheep 3D. They announced the March 25th release date and the price is between £200 and £230 depending on retailer.

After the presentation we were unleashed to go and play the games. There must have been close to 100 units available so there were rarely queues to play, and there were around 30 games to try and a whole host of videos to watch. The 3D is quite impressive and pops out of the screen nicely - it's like Nintendo found a way to inject the fun directly into your eyeballs. Your eyes take a second or so to get used to it the very first time, but once your brain figures it out the transition is easy. It's not like magic eye pictures where you have to explain it to new users, and there are no glasses or set positions required so you can look over people's shoulders and still see the effect. The system is almost as powerful as the Wii and the games look good, load fast and are a lot more similar to the HD consoles in gameplay style than a lot of the Wii games.
The games vary from traditional ones (Street Fighter, Metal Gear) to casual ones (Nintendogs & Cats, Animal Crossing) new ones (Steel Diver) and remakes (Zelda, Kid Icarus). The machine itself is pleasing to hold and similar in size to the existing DS range. The colours are both great with the mermaid blue/green being just slightly nicer than the stealth black. The two cameras on the outside means you can take & share 3D pictures of your friends and videos have been promised as a future update.

The machine also has built in WiFi and will communicate with other 3DS in the region and online so that it swaps your scores and achievements with people you pass by and even lets your characters from games (such as your pet dog) appear in other peoples games. This should lead to the main impact of the device being an increase in the kind of social gaming we only currently see on FaceBook. I love to see highscores of my friends on the site, but this takes it so much further with each game seemingly having its own way to interact with other players remotely. Street Fighter even allows you to watch other people’s fights who are playing their systems near you!

At launch there should be an online shop, and a 3D web browser will follow.

I had a great time, and despite the flight issues we had enough time to play and watch all we wanted. Overall I think my favourite game was Samurai Warriors as it felt most like a full console game and had great graphics and lots of potential, but still had the bite-size approach that gaming on the go needs. The people who the demo units were attached to were pleasant to chat with and genuinely enjoyed the games themselves. The food at the show was good, and in plentiful supply. It was a tiring day, but once all the excitement was over I began the long trek home.

In the 2 1/2 hour wait at Heathrow between my plane landing and my coach arriving I got to sit and relax in Costa, gravitating towards the vitamin filled Innocent smoothie range. Naturally I chose the most green and slimy looking one and it tasted great. With a toasted sandwich and my normal DS I relaxed again on the comfortable sofas while I snack and gamed away into the small hours of the morning.

[by @NLi10]

23 January 2011

Bensons Totally Fruity - Apple & Elderflower and Apple & Mango [by @NLi10]

I reviewed the Apple & Rhubarb variety of this juice previously and it's still my favourite fresh juice drink.

I picked these two up recently from the same farm shop and have to say that they are not as good. This statement is overly critical, but I think I found my perfect flavour from the range on the first shot. I like my drinks balanced and I like them bold, and these are really more apple with a hint of something else.

That said I think that I could drink far more of the Elderflower Juice. The overtones are subtle and disappeared when I drank with food, but trying again solo it was much more noticeable. I think that this is an apple juice you could serve quite effortlessly at a garden party without looking like you'd not thought of the non-drinking guest. Its one to drink while relaxing and to savour the flavour of.

The apple and mango however seem to cancel each-other out and produce a drink that is really smooth but not all that memorable. Don't get me wrong - it's still a quality juice drink and has a lovely flavour but I guess I'm just not a fan of that combination. If I went to buy a drink and it was the only flavour of Bensons that was left I'd still happily buy it, but I'm going to go for the rhubarb again if it’s there, and maybe try the red berry varieties to see what happens.
by NLi10

22 January 2011

Chip Shop Curry [Crisps] (Marks and Spencer’s) [By @SpectreUK]

Cinabar bought these crisps back from Marks and Spencer’s one day excitedly telling me that it was one of her blogging friend’s favourite crisps of 2010. Chip Shop Curry crisps reminds me of my old boozy days stumbling back from the pub most nights and stopping off for some chips and curry dipping sauce. Most people will know that the curry sauce in chip shops doesn’t taste like regular curry. It has a sweet mild spice to it that reminds me of a little paprika mixed with coconut milk. I was expecting this flavour in these chips. What I wasn’t expecting was the crisps had been cooked in a sunflower oil called Sun Kernel. Sun Kernel is higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats. This means that these crisps are healthier than crisps that have been cooked in saturated fats, as the fat doesn’t clog your insides up so much. There is also a difference in the taste, as they have a decent crunch to start with, and then the crisps suddenly melted in the mouth letting me savour the sweet mild curry taste. They have natural flavours with no artificial colours or added MSG (although there’s no proof it’s bad for you). Ingredients include curry seasoning, ground coriander, coconut milk, dried garlic, mild dried chilli and ground ginger. These crisps went a long way to remind me of the boozy days without me forgetting I ate them or coughing them up later on. Next time I’ll risk a couple of beers with them… But I get in trouble with her (Cinabar) in doors if I drink too much!
By Spectre

21 January 2011

Rocky Crispy Crunch Biscuit Bars (Waitrose) [By @cinabar]

Along with the Lime Crusha, popping into Waitrose for the first time in a while meant I had a good haul of new products I hadn’t tried before; these biscuits were in that basket too.
So these Rocky biscuits are individually wrapped, come in at 85 calories each, and are the sort of biscuit that are ideal for a lunch box treat. They have a strange texture, it is both crunchy and soft, which is different. The biscuit consist of both crispy pieces and biscuit pieces in a soft setting which causes a mix of textures. The crispiness from the biscuit pieces is still prominent, but the whole thing gives nicely when bitten.
The chocolate coating is pleasant, not the best quality milk chocolate in the world, but sweet, creamy and with enough cocoa to do the job. The contents have a nice golden flavour, but the thing I liked them most was that texture, as it made these bars so easy to eat. These are well worth having as an afternoon treat at work, perfect for satisfying the chocolate craving without too many calories.
By Cinabar

20 January 2011

FreeFrom - English Muffins (Sainsbury's) [By @NLi10]

These are ordinary English Muffins but instead of using Wheat they are made from Tapioca and Rice Flour. Gluten free, wheat free and dairy free they are designed to fit into people's diets when they are cutting these out for health or medical reasons. I've tried other brands before and they are far too friable and just crumble at the slightest touch - especially when toasted.

My first complement for these was that they held together quite nicely, you couldn't tear them into halves like I ordinarily would (it makes the butter diffuse better and tastes nicer) but when sliced stayed together in the toaster well. Also when eating these I didn't notice a change in the quality of the bread like I have with other brands. While the bread flavour is different I can see these being a viable 'lighter' alternative for times when you don't want heavy bread snacks.

Also the packaging is really quite clever (two individually sealed air tight sections with two muffins in each) and means that the best before date was a good two weeks after purchase. For someone who only tends to eat this kind of thing on a weekend this is perfect. Much to my surprise I'd probably buy these again!
By NLi10

19 January 2011

My Favourite Bear – Blowing Raspberries Bear [Biscuit] (Westmoreland Service Station) [By @Spectre]

A serious fan of most biscuits, I was quite taken by the theme of this raspberry flavoured offering from My Favourite Bear, Artisan Biscuits. If you have misread the title, fortunately it is “Bear” not “Beer”, as a post on “My Favourite Beer” would take several years to write and I’d probably die of liver failure!
Anyway, back to these biscuits; thankfully the cheeky teddy on the front of the packet is blowing raspberries out of his mouth and not elsewhere. There are two slim bear shaped biscuits in the packet. They are crunchy at first, and then the biscuit quickly melts in your mouth. The raspberry flavour is sweet and natural. There’s definitely nothing artificial about the taste of these sumptuous biscuits. Two in a packet leaves you wanting more, and at 64 Calories per biscuit they prove a healthy treat for anyone.
By Spectre

18 January 2011

Pizza Express: Gustosa / Vitabella [New Lighter Pizzas] (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

It seems a bit of a contradiction in terms to have a ‘light’ pizza, as pizza and healthy don’t go usually go hand in hand. Pizza Express has created some unique recipes which results in a pizza with less than 600 calories. There are two varieties in this new range Gustosa and Vitabella, both with uplifting sounding Italian names.

Vitabella (Italian for Beautiful Life)
This pizza has a generous helping of char grilled peppers, asparagus, tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Asparagus isn’t a traditional pizza topping, but it gave the pizza a lovely fresh but hearty feel. The char grilled peppers were full of that barbecue flavour and added a lovely sweetness. Although there isn’t much cheese one this pizza, the mozzarella added a nice, if sporadic, creamy taste to the base. The pizza is also sprinkled with some oregano, giving the whole thing a nice authentic flavour.
This pizza may not appeal to those after a huge cheese fix, as its vegetable topping has a much more grown up feel to it. It is an impressive sophisticated pizza, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is perfect for those with New Year’s resolutions to cut down a bit but still want something a bit special. I love the idea of asparagus on a pizza now, it’s surprisingly delicious.

Gustosa (Italian for Tasty)
In contrast to the Vitabella, this pizza does feel a bit more like it has a traditional topping. It is covered with ham, mushrooms, yellow peppers and mozzarella. I was pleased to discover that the peppers were char grilled and sweet like on the previous pizza as they are yellow they added a lovely colour too. The ham is smoky and flavoursome and adds a nice meatiness, the mushrooms are full of flavour, and there seems to be a hint of garlic too.
This is very much a ‘posh’ pizza, but if you are looking for a lighter alternative but with a familiar topping this fits the bill really well. I can categorically say it meets it Italian name well, and is indeed rather tasty! It has a lovely flavour, that even tasted bad-for-you despite being lower calorie, what more could you want!
By Cinabar

17 January 2011

Crusha Lime Flavour Milkshake [Limited Edition] (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

I saw this on the shelf, and couldn’t resist buying it. Firstly it is a ‘Limited Edition’ one of my favourite phrases. Secondly because I got the Crusha advert music immediately stuck in my head - “De-de-de-de-de-de-dum - I want Some Crusha”. Finally because it reminded of a comment NLi10 made about how you never get citrus milkshakes, and I don’t think I have ever seen a lime milkshake before either!
Crusha is essentially a milk shake cordial, you add a splash of it to a glass and top up with fresh milk, stir and there you go. According to their website you could also top it up with cola, or other fruit juices, but for me Crusha is about milkshake (and that ace advert music)!
“De-de-de-de-de-de-dum - I want Some Crusha”
I opened up the bottle, got myself a nice big glass and poured some out. I know its lime flavoured but I was still a little surprised by the vibrant nature of the colour.

I added the milk, and stared at the light green liquid in front of me – it what an impressive shade. Some may call it lime green, others might mistakenly call it slime green. I can imagine some, less open minded, adults being put off by this colour, but I suspect kids will like it!

So on to the taste test, my first thought was that it was very sweet. I thought I had done the maths and measured the correct ratio for the glass, but I couldn’t help but think that it was a little strong. Then I realised that this was the adult in me doing the thinking, and that I really needed to think about the advert “De-de-de-de-de-de-dum - I want Some Crusha” and imagine being twelve years old again. The minute this was complete – suddenly the flavour was spot, strong, sweet, zingy, refreshing and most definitely lime! The drink is just a very sweet treat, with a rich citrus taste and a zainy colour. Kids and fun loving adults will just love it. “De-de-de-de-de-de-dum – Add Milk – Or We’ll Crusha”.
For those of you who don’t recognise the reference to the music in the advert, please see below – be warned, it’s catchy! :-)
By Cinabar

16 January 2011

Taste The Difference: Steak & Dorset Ale Pie (Sainsbury's) [by @NLi10]

After the epic amount of pie reviews last year I thought I'd take a break and resume normal snack foods.

This Sainsbury's pie was exciting enough to write about though. It's clearly modelled on the deluxe PieMinister style pies as it has large ingredients, thick but decent pastry and flavours you can find within each mouthful. I'd say that it certainly doesn't have the variety of these super-deluxe models - you don't find exotic herbs and spices and there aren’t multiple kinds of meat - but what it does do it does well.

I think that some store deluxe ranges are essentially just the basic store brand range but in nicer boxes and it's great to see that this is changing. While buying the PieMinister, Pizza Express and other super-brands every week would get a bit expensive (Waitrose is only expensive as it pretty much only stocks these!) I think that adding the superior versions of store own brands as a nice treat can be justified because of the extra quality.

This passes the restaurant test - If I got this as a pub meal or in a high street restaurant I wouldn't feel ripped off, and while I did have this with a side of criss-cross fries to top it up it was a filling meal.
by @NLi10

15 January 2011

Skittles Wild Berry (Amazon UK) By [@SpectreUK]

Continuing my season of five Skittles packets that aren’t widely available unless you buy them from Amazon or Cyber Candy, the title Skittles "Wild Berry" has a healthy sounding ring to it. Having said that, there are still 250 calories per 61.5g pack, and 47g of which is sugar. I ripped open this latest bag and separated out the flavours.

Pink coloured. These have a strawberry milkshake / ice cream taste to them that is sweet and very pleasant. I could have happily eaten a pack full of these.

Melon Berry
Green coloured. Predominately melon flavoured these Skittles have a mild cherry hit at the end of every mouthful. These are surprisingly pleasant as both flavours are rarely or never seen together. A bold move by Skittles, and it paid off.

Blue coloured. These raspberry flavour Skittles tasted more like blackcurrant. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they weren’t as sweet as I was expecting and took me off guard with their muted, but not unpleasant flavour.

Berry Punch
Purple coloured. These Skittles have a strong yet slightly strange blackcurrant taste to them that reminded me a little of blackcurrant Tunes. They didn’t clear my nose or my throat (as I don’t have a cold) and definitely weren’t my favourite flavour so far.

Wild Cherry
Red coloured. Regular readers will know my distaste for most things cherry flavoured and will understand why I left these Skittles until last. These Skittles reminded me of cherry flavoured chewing gum when I was a kid. They have a strong taste of cherry when chewing to start with that smoothes out towards the end of the each Skittle.
By Spectre

14 January 2011

Lime & Lemon Mousse [Weight Watchers] (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

I just wanted to give these puddings a bit of a mention. I picked them up because of the ‘Limited Edition’ label, and thought that they sounded like a nice healthier way to finish a meal. I’m not following the Weight Watchers diet, but I think these would work for anyone keeping an eye on calories or fat content, as they are amazingly low at just 65calories a pot.
Although they are in a fairly tall container, the contents are so light and fluffy that it really doesn’t last very long at all. It just sort of melts on the tongue.
I was impressed by the zesty lime taste, which seems to be stronger than the lemon aspect. The mousse is very refreshing, not too sweet and just fills your taste buds with a lovely citrus zing. It really would be perfect after some spicy food to cool the taste buds.
So in summary, a really nice mousse, with a good flavour and lovely light texture, perfect for a guilt free treat!
By Cinabar

13 January 2011

Dr. Pepper ZERO / Jasmine Tea [by @NLi10]

Dr. Pepper, what's the worst that could happen? ©

Well? Let’s try getting rid of all the sugar. Dr. Pepper was all sold out in my canteen this week so I decided that I should try out its newer, younger brother.

A few years ago Coca Cola, in response to the popularity of Pepsi Max started their own rival 'diet but for men' range of soft drinks. I'm no marketing genius but where as extreme sports are happy to be associated with a 'Max' brand, few credible teams seem to be keen to brand themselves as a 'zero'. I'd not really pay much attention to this as I am firmly in the camp that believes that Pepsi is superior due to taste. This superiority is only between the mass produced fizzy, sugar-water drinks you understand - things like Fentimans Curiosity Cola are my drink of choice if available, but in the 2l bottles and vending machine world Pepsi is supreme.

Dr. Pepper is probably the closest in taste to Pepsi of all the Coke brands due to it's sweetness and vanilla overtones and essentially tastes like children's synthetic fruit sweets (but in a nice way) so I've recently taken to having it occasionally with work lunches. This Zero version keeps the artificial flavour and replaces the refined sugar with synthetic sweeteners. This isn't really a problem in some foods but here it just doesn't work. The sweetness of the drink it really what makes it work and unlike Pepsi Max (aka Mepsi) it's not been balanced out as well as it could have been.

It starts off fairly plain, has the nice Dr. P flavour in the middle then ends abruptly where the sugar kick should be. I think that I won’t buy this again.

Instead for a low calorie, unsweetened drink...

try a bottle of Jasmine Tea! It has 35 times as much energy as Dr.P0 does (69 KJ compared to 2KJ ) but this is still a third of regular Dr. Pepper.

It tastes like Jasmine Tea does, and is a heck of a lot less sweet than the Wong Lo Kat in a can does. The extra energy will easily be dissipated by walking around to look for this drink.

by @NLi10

12 January 2011

Chinese Cheetos Cheese Puffs [China] By [@SpectreUK]

Chester Cheetah looks pretty cool on the front of this Cheetos corn snack packet wearing his shades with his stereo and big TV behind him. Cheetos are manufactured by Frito-Lay North America (FNLA), which has been a division of PepsiCo, Inc. since 1965. Cheetos are popular in countries such as America, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Poland and Spain. This packet was sent by an Xbox Live friend from China.
Ripping open the top of the long tube like packet I noticed they are small popcorn shaped corn snacks. They have a good crunch to them with a moreish pork and cheese taste. Apparently (Wikipedia tells me) Frito-Lay use pork enzymes (which means Muslims and Jews won’t eat them), as well as cheese and other seasonings to arrive at this unique flavour. As soon as I’d finished this packet, and believe me it didn’t take more than a few seconds, I wanted more. I reckon they’d go well with a nice cool beer and a movie. I’ll have to hunt some more down or beg my friend in China to send me some.
By Spectre

11 January 2011

Aero Bubbly Lamb [and other Easter bits] (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

Happy Easter Everyone!!! Oh, wait – it’s January.
The New Year hasn’t stopped the confectionary company jumping on to the next major holiday. The second the Christmas chocolates are packed away, the Easter ones appear. I do find it a little bit strange that there isn’t much of a Valentines bandwagon in the UK, but I guess Easter is big business. Has anyone seen any full size Easter Eggs yet?
Aero has to win the cute award with their new chocolate Easter lamb. It’s a sweet pocket money treat, ideal for a quick chocolate fix. Admittedly it is just Aero milk chocolate (no fancy new flavourings) moulded into a nice shape, but it is hard not smile when you open the pack. It is also rather nice to find something ‘new’ as the other themed Easter chocolates I’ve seen are all things that were out last year. Don’t get me wrong I’m pleased such things as Caramel Bunnies have been re-released, and the Creme Eggs Minis are back as I’m a big fan. Nothing beats a new product though, and I always hope to find something a bit different when the new season looms.
While I’m mentioning Aero I would also like to tell you that Aero have further plans for the year ahead, including Aero Caramel coming out soon, and they are re-releasing Aero Orange too! Of course – if you were a Foodstuff Finds email newsletter subscriber you would already know this...
By Cinabar


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10 January 2011

Watercress and Crème Fraiche Dressing [The Saucy Fish Co.] (Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

The idea behind The Saucy Fish Co products is to making cooking fish nice and easy. They prepare everything for you, so that all you need to do is the basics. Within this pack are two salmon steaks which needed to be oven cooked. There was also a pack of sauce that could be served as is, or heated in the bag.
I don’t want to sound greedy, but I have to say the salmon steaks did look a bit smaller than those I’d usually buy. Spectre isn’t known for his meagre appetite! I should point out that they do sell the sauce individually so you can buy it and use it with whatever size fish you want!
The idea of salmon and sauce was a bit strange to me, we usually have salmon quite plain, just olive oil, lemon and pepper. Despite this, the sauce was gently heated and poured on the cooked salmon. I have to say I was impressed by the flavour of the dressing, the watercress was fresh tasting, delicate and with a lovely herby flavour. The sauce was fairly thick and had a nice creamy aftertaste too. What surprised me about the sauce was that it worked so well. The flavour, being gentle, really enhanced the salmon taste, working with it rather than overpowering it.
The cooking process was easy, and it made a tasty dinner very quickly with no hassle at all. It is a delicate taste, but this is something I would definitely buy again. Despite not usually having sauce with fish, consider me converted.
By Cinabar

9 January 2011

Seaweed Jiggy Jerky Jelly - FYI (Feeding Your Imagination) [by @NLi10]

Some things look like they are designed to be eaten, other things look destined to gather dust in cupboards. Having been sent this a while back in one of @cinabar's food parcels I put it to one side so that I could find the perfect occasion to start eating it. That occasion never came.

The label says that it's spicy, and has a mix of flavours and goes perfect with cold meats so I decided that I would be brave and open it up during leftovers season. Having a full read of the label I assured myself that there were no ingredients in it that I didn't like (despite it being called a seaside sauce there is no fish in it as I'd originally feared) - put the smallest of bits onto my plate and had a try. I could hardly taste it (which was good as I was expecting it to be too spicy) so put a lot more on and found to my shock that it's actually a really nice mellow flavour. There is a tang to it, but I'd say it's more like a spicy apple marmalade than anything.

I put more on my plate, and then needed to keep adding more for seconds as like apple sauce once you start you want to keep eating it. While the flavour and effect was not what I'd expected I can easily see myself working my way through the jar over the next few days. It's great with cold meats, veggie burgers and Ms. NLi10 assures me that it's great with goat's cheese (but I'm not going to try that...).

I'm not sure how you would get hold of more (other than visiting the website) as it suggests I visit health food shops, but I do want to try more of these kinds of things now so maybe in the interests of snack food criticism I shall do just that.
by NLi10

8 January 2011

Choi Time: Tea Selection [By @SpectreUK]

Choi Time sports itself as “superior Chinese tea”. I have tried their Thousand Year Red before, and although when adding boiling water the bulb unfurls to fill the mug like some freaky alien spawn, I can certainly say this was a very aromatic and flavoursome jasmine tea. Stocked in Harrods and Selfridges, Choi Time is a family business sourcing its teas from Hangzhou and Fujian in China. Their products such as Jasmine Green Tea Pearls, White Silver Needles, Chrysanthemum Flowers and Damask Rose Tea Buds have all won Great Taste Gold awards. We were lucky enough to receive some samples through the post and I was excited to be picked for taste testing.

Damask Rose Tea

This is a herbal tea that Choi Time suggests should relieve anxiety and stress, helping to boost circulation whilst nourishing your organs inside and out. I couldn’t help but feel a little anxious on drinking this, as the last time I drank herbal medicinal tea it flushed my insides out in a particularly brutal fashion (and for a good day or so too). I dropped three buds into a mug and added hot water, leaving the buds to infuse for a good five minutes. This tea has a pleasant floral rose smell to it. It has a light and pleasant rose taste that I would have never of thought would work as a tea, but it just does. The mild floral flavour calmed me down from my apprehension of herbal tea, as the last time I drank a mug of herbal tea it was so strong it was almost undrinkable. This really was a pleasant, calming and healthy feeling drink, and I was more than a little disappointed to reach the bottom of my mug. I was also glad to find there were no whooshing sensations hours after drinking!

Exotic Mixed Flowers

This tea includes a mix from a selection of fifty varieties such as jasmine, globe amaranth, osmanthus, and dandelion. There is an orange lily to nourish the lungs, relax anxieties and is good for the skin. Globe amaranth helps you recover from coughs and asthma (fortunately I have neither). Marigold is good for digestion (which is good, as I’d just had my lunch) and for long life (I’m always up for that, although you could drink a field of marigolds a week and it still wouldn’t stop you from being run over by a bus!). Chrysanthemums decrease body temperature, which I wasn’t too sure about staring at the frost and snow outside.

The tea itself smells more fruity than floral, which is strange considering the high level of flowers in my mug. Amongst the mix of flower petals the orange lily unfurls as a pretty sunken flower. I removed as many flowers as I could after infusing. The tea itself tastes predominately of jasmine with a fruity and energetic edge to it. Apart from a mouthful of petals to start and end with, this was a very pleasant tea that I would happily drink again, though it would be better sieved from a teapot to save picking petals out of my teeth.

Jasmine Pearls

This is a cleansing tea packed full of anti-oxidants. Drinking this should help with; digestion, weight loss (which I could do with), to reduce cholesterol, strengthening the immune system, giving skin a healthy glow and prevents death – no really! It has anti-aging qualities! Of course just one cup isn’t going to do all that for you, I guess you have to drink this regularly to see any real effects. Though I was tempted to hit the scales and check a mirror after drinking. I dropped seven Jasmine Pearls into my mug and added hot water. After a short time the Jasmine Pearls unfurled and sank to the bottom of the cup. I took a tentative sip, as you do when you’re testing the temperature of your tea for drinking, and had a good healthy hit of jasmine. The leaves at the bottom of the mug let the tea infuse and grow stronger during drinking. I do like a nice strong jasmine tea, especially after a meal, and I’ve tried plenty of different brands in the past. I must admit, this is clearly one of the best jasmine teas I have ever had the pleasure to try. I’ll have to get some more of this. It really did put the “superior” in Choi Times’ slogan.

Chrysanthemum Tea

As mentioned in the Exotic Mixed Flowers section, chrysanthemums are useful for their cooling properties, which are valuable for fighting off fever, sore throats, and sinus congestion. This type of tea is also supposed to detoxify the blood and can have a calming effect. Choi Time suggests this drink is ideal for winter time. Well, it’s winter and freezing outside, so I dropped a few flowers in a mug and added hot water. The flowers opened out and filled the mug quite happily. A colleague mentioned how pretty the flowers looked floating in the mug. I could see why they say this drink is good for the sinuses as it is very aromatic in a “you’re drinking menthol smelling flowers kind of way”. The pretty yellow flowers sunk after a time leaving a few petals on the surface. There was a slight childish fear that if I swallowed a flower when drinking I’d wake up in the spring with chrysanthemums growing out of my ears. This flowery tasting drink helped to sooth some of my fears. I can see why Choi Time suggests it’s a good drink to fight off colds as there is a touch of menthol to the taste as well as smell, and the chrysanthemums have their healing properties. I would definitely drink this if I had the flu or a bad cold as it would be good for me between mugs of Beecham’s, but the floating petals put me off a little. Again I couldn’t help feeling that this drink would have been better sieved from a teapot. I’ll let you know if any flowers grow out of my ears in a few months…

Thank you Choi Time! :-)
By Spectre

7 January 2011

Skinny Latte & Chocolate Frappe [dessert] (Marks and Spencers) [by @cinabar]

Well it’s January, and we all know what that means – we have all eaten more than usual over Christmas, and some of us are trying to cut back. Marks and Spencer seems to have pre-empted this. Last year I wrote about their full fat Caramel Frappe dessert, and this year they seemed to have followed suit with two similar sounding ‘skinny’ puddings. The skinny refers to the fact these desserts are in the M&S ‘Count On Us’ lower calorie range with the Skinny Latte having just 120 calories, and the Chocolate Frappe 115 calories.

Skinny Latte
First up we have the Skinny Latte. As the calories seemed quite low I was surprised to see what looks like whipped cream on top of this pudding. Further investigation explained the answer, the neat swirl on top was in fact a low fat white chocolate mousse, quite clever from a decorative point of view, and it is even dusted with cocoa powder. This layer of mousse was sweet and tasty, and had a decent white chocolate flavour. Under this was a layer of chocolate sauce that was not that sweet, but added a fair chocolate flavour. The final, but most substantial layer, consisted of a lovely coffee mousse. It was light and fluffy, with a good rich coffee taste, that left a pleasant sweetness in the mouth. Really impressive to say its low fat.

Skinny Chocolate Frappe
On top of this dessert was a similar swirl of white chocolate mousse as with the previous Skinny Latte. It looks a little worse for wear in my photograph, but must have been damaged on my way home. I didn’t knowingly knock or drop the bag of shopping, so I guess these puddings are just a bit delicate.
Also as with the Skinny Latte underneath the white mousse was the same chocolate sauce, but underneath this one was a milk chocolate mousse. This mousse had a really nice flavour, again sweet and fluffy, and the chocolate had a rich cocoa base.
I was impressed by both of these desserts, but my favourite has to be the Skinny Latte as the coffee taste made a nice change with its rich tones. There are quite a few low fat chocolate mousses on the market, but coffee makes it just a bit more special. However both of these puddings have beautiful packaging, low calories and deliver a lovely sweet treat.
By Cinabar