31 October 2011

Boo Dark Chocolate (Hotel Chocolat) [By @cinabar]

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!

Hope you all have a fun day, and are enjoying the costumes, chocolates and sweets. Thought I’d finish today with a final product from Hotel Chocolat, which are these fabulous Boo chocolates. The packaging is very well themed and even nicely sealed with a skull sticker on the back so you know something ghoulish hides within.
Inside the box is a good selection of themed shapes moulded in decadent dark chocolate. There are quite a few designs, and each one of them has loads of wonderful detail. I loved that the chocolate gravestone even said “Death By Chocolate” on the front, they really do add that extra bit of Halloween magic.
The flavour of the chocolate is lovely and dark, with sweet rich tones strong enough to satisfy any chocolate craving. They are firm chocolates, that feel satisfying when bitten, but melt easily to release there flavour. I think these would be lovely at the end of a seasonal dinner party served with coffee to finish a Halloween meal.
If you are posh enough to give these out to passing Trick or Treaters, then you will be pleased to hear that they are individually wrapped so would work well for this purpose. Personally I think they are a bit nice to share with strangers, but if you are planning to give them away – be warned the people you give them too will be back for more next year! :-)
By Cinabar

Scooby-Doo Sweets [By @Cinabar]

Finally Scooby-Doo have their own sweets! I can’t help but associate the brand with Halloween as they go to spooky buildings investigating the supernatural. I feel the launch of their new sweets at this time of year is no coincidence – and I can’t help thinking bring it on! They have bought three different varieties out, in a format to suit everyone.

Gruesome Gums
No new sweet collection is complete without some gummy sweets. These particular ones come in an array of themed shapes from the TV show. They are quite firm gummies, and do take a bit of a chew to eat, but are in a nice mix of fruit flavours. There were four colours in my bag, but I think there was an elusive strawberry not present in the pack.
Yellow (Mummy’s Head) – This was pineapple flavour, and had a sweet and fruity tropical tasty which was very pleasant.
Orange (Shaggy) – The flavour of this sweet matched its colour and had a rich orange taste, it had an excellent citrus zing and was a favourite.
Green (Scooby- He’s green can’t have been feeling well) – You may have expected lime from the colour, but I was pleasant surprised to find it was apple. The sweet was mild but had a crisp taste of apple as an aftertaste.
Dark Red (Paw Print) – This was the blackcurrant sweet and it was the best in the bag. Sadly there was only two of these in the pack, and I saved the other for Spectre. It had a great flavour with a very strong sharp berry taste. A really enjoyable sweet.

This one long sweet is very pretty with it pink stripe in between the green layers, but it was still a bit difficult to open and eat, as it is rather soft and sticky in the mouth. The flavour was impressive though with the soft apple and zingy cherry shining through, giving a very vivid fruit salad taste. I loved the sweet taste so much, I kept going for another bite despite the knowledge that it was sticky and not the easiest thing to eat. By the end of the bar it had taken me back to my childhood when I would sit eat sticky sweets like this while watching CBBC after school. Yum!

Fiendish Fizzies
At first glance these do immediately remind me of Love Hearts. Before you worry about copy write, they are actually made by the same company Swizzels Matlow and are their new special Scooby-Do edition of the sweets. Consequentally they have a very familiar taste, and give easily once in the mouth producing a fruity fizzy taste. They do all have slightly different fruit flavours, and one even tasted like cola, but the overwhelming taste on all of them was the fizzy sweetness that is characteristic. All of them have neat things on them, from slogans from the show through to characters and drawings of bad guys. Everyone made me smile when I looked at it, and they made a nice change from the regular product. The purple one, which was blackcurrant, was definitely my favourite as it had the most identifiable flavour with a really nice sweet berry taste. They are a great selection and do get a big thumbs up from me.
By Cinabar

30 October 2011

Honey Monster - Spooky Puffs [Ltd. Ed] (Asda & Tesco) [By @NLi10]

As Halloween draws to a close for another year, and the goblins and witches go back to their normal jobs there remains a few products that may just hang around a little bit longer. There will probably be lots of cut price cakes and sweets to be had (oh - what a shame!) but there will also be a few other things that you might just spot floating around that you don't expect. Spooky puffs are one of these products.
Well we've had Honey Waffles, and Cinabar had Banana Puffs way back in 2009, but we've never really had a good excuse to chat about the real thing. I'd say puffed cereal is up there as one of the basic cereal groups (flakes, puffs, malteds, mueslis, porridges, wheats) and the Honey Monster is still up there fighting with Snack, Crackle & Pop and that chocolate monkey for the crown. I'm not sure whether this is an international thing, but over here I'd have to say we love our big scary monster and while the cereal is pretty sweet it's incredibly well balanced and never sickly. It's my go-to cereal in the puffs section and frankly a change in the recipe could be a horrible mistake. When I first heard about the idea I was pretty sceptical as a toffee themed cereal sounded quite unappealing.
Firstly the spookiness of this has to be called into question. The box is a good step towards this and is certainly spooky, but not threatening or menacing in any way. The toffee apple ghouls on the front are particularly cool. I'd be happy to let kids choose this, and at the same time they'd probably think the box was quite daring! More on cereal boxes another time...

Getting down to the eating the flavour was surprising, it was a lot more apple and a lot less toffee. Apple cereals are harder to find, and usually require a visit to the health food shop. I used to have one with dried pieces of actual apple in it many, many years ago and this heavily invoked a similar taste sensation. The toffee was there to be sure, but it played a happy second fiddle to the main flavour. This made the taste a much lighter affair than I'd expected and was a pleasure to eat.
I'd quite like to grab a second box of these before they disappear. The PR blurb says that they did a spooky themed cereal last year too but that it was different, and I think that keeping a sealed pack of these stashed in the cupboard will brighten up a few winter mornings later in the year. And heck - if the seasonality of the box means they may be a little cheaper now then who am I to complain!
By NLi10

29 October 2011

Worcester Sorcerer Ale (Sainsbury’s) [By @SpectreUK]

It is the time of year where vampires, ghouls, ghosts, werewolves, witches and wizards own the night. What better than to enjoy the evening’s scare fest than a bottle of mythical sounding ale? I opened this bottle of Worcester Sorcerer one dark stormy night (well, it was pretty cold, I guess, and there had been some rain earlier that day). This ale is brewed by Sadler’s Ales in the Black Country, near my home town of Stourbridge.

There was a citrus, almost floral smell on opening the bottle. At 4.3% volume, the ale is golden, nearly amber in colour. Worcester Sorcerer has a smooth sweet malt initial taste, then a flavoursome citrus bitter bite to complete each mouthful. The Maris Otter malted barley shines through on the tongue to start with, finishing with the bitterness of pure English hops. This is really lovely ale from my neck of the woods. I will definitely hunt this ale out again, and I promise not to wear my tall crooked pointy hat and sparkly star covered black cape next time.

The label recommends to drink Worcester Sorcerer with a barbecue marinade (hah! we should be so lucky to have a barbecue with the English weather this year), or with bread or beer baked ham. I drank this ale straight without the bamboozlement (a good old Black Country word) of food to taint my taste buds. Instead I searched high and low through You Tube on the TiVo box to find the English rock band Rainbow’s “Stargazer” and irritated Cinabar to near Undeath by playing it through several times whilst drinking it. I’m sure some blood did trickle out of her ears before I’d finished the bottle…
By Spectre

28 October 2011

Cadbury Spooky Shapes Biscuit Bags [By @cinabar]

One of the many products that the Cadbury brand does well is Animal Biscuits. These are a childhood favourite of mine, and I often buy Spectre a box of their Christmas special for a stocking filler. He too understands the merits of these simple shaped biscuit, and has also loved them since he was little.
This year the biscuits have shrunk a bit, and been given a Halloween makeover. They appear in mini bags so are perfect for party goers or even trick or treaters if you are feeling generous. Although the bags look small they pack quite a few biscuits inside, and I wasn’t disappointed once I saw the contents.
As per Animal Biscuits each one is part covered in milk chocolate, and consists of a light crunchy biscuit base. The shapes are lovely and range from witches hats, skulls, bats to pumpkins so all the classic shapes are covered and they are a good themed selection.
The flavour is exactly like Animal Biscuits – and if you’ve never tried them, that is something that needs rectifying immediately! :-D
They had a lovely wheat flavour, but a very light crispy texture with a delicate crunch. The chocolate is sweet and milky, and they are a real easy eating biscuit. Their moreish nature means they disappear quite quickly, so at least the mini bag helps you portion control. I loved the themed packaging and shapes, and I know we shall enjoy munching our way through these during Halloween.
By Cinabar

27 October 2011

The Fabulous Bakin' Boys - Choc 'N Blood Orange Spooky Cupcakes [By @NLi10]

These cupcakes follow on from the Blackcurrant & Apple flavour reviewed last week and are part of the Halloween range of snacks that have sprung up. In a similar theme to the previous flavour & the Mr. Kipling slices these are very similar to existing normal ranges, with just a tweak to the flavour combinations. I must say though, overall the packaging has been great this year - with the extra spooky colours and the vivid dripping of bloods.

The orange topped Bakin' Boy is quite probably my favourite of theirs and in my head I expected this to be similar to a chocolate orange in taste. Instead the two flavours are quite separate and don’t seem to complement too well. I guess that the Orange could be slightly different to the regular orange, but they don't seem to have added a drop of red to the vat which would have been a nice touch so I'm presuming the flavour is the same as before. Eating both halves in isolation then seemed to be a good way to go.

I think that the problem is that both halves are trying to be the luxury half - both the orange and the choc are trying to win out. While this is in no way unpleasant (I’d happily munch through another box of these) I think that the simplicity of the separate creatures is nicer than the ersatz zombie creation that has presented itself here. While this is a great novelty Halloween flavour I don't think it'll be an all year thing.

I look forward patiently to the red & green cupcakes for Christmas (although would those have to taste of holly and maybe cinnamon?)!
By NLi10

26 October 2011

Halloween Shaped Lollies (Thorntons @thorntonschocs) [By @cinabar]

It wouldn’t be right to review the high street’s Halloween goodies without making a trip to Thorntons. It is was of the longest running chocolatiers in the UK, and low and behold they haven’t forgotten about Halloween either.
I picked up these three lovely looking lollipops for a bargain £1.50, as they were on a three for two offer and just 75p to start with. There are three designs to choose from, two with a milk chocolate base, and one with white chocolate. Obviously Spectre bagsied the white chocolate ghost, as he thought it was appropriate.
The shapes are wonderfully seasonal, and do fit the event. The pumpkin is mainly milk chocolate with just a hint of white chocolate decoration. The skeleton is similar, but does have more white chocolate detail for the bones, and the ghost is practically pure white.
The milk chocolate is quite sweet, and has a thick finish. It is sweeter than a lot of milk chocolates, but certainly has a nice creamy edge to it too. It is quite a soft chocolate and gave very easily when I bit in to it. The white chocolate is also sweet, but with a smooth creamy finish, with hints of what I thought was vanilla. The flavour and designs are all very children friendly, and would be ideal for a Halloween party treat for seasonal guests. I liked the fact they were on a lollipop stick as it added nicely to the novelty, as well as making them easier to eat. Even at the bargain price they are a bit nice to give out to random trick or treaters, unless you are feeling very generous! ;-)
By Cinabar

25 October 2011

Haribo - Spooky Ghosts (WH Smiths) [By @SpectreUK]

When you are going to sit down and watch some horror on the TV, you need a good horror snack to chow down on whilst ghosts, vampires or werewolves are running around the screen trying to make you jump. We chose zombies to scare us and tore open the bag to watch the first part of the second season of The Walking Dead. These fruit flavoured gums went down a treat. The ingredients contain no artificial colours and include; aronia, blackcurrant, lemon, carrot, elderberry, grape, orange and hibiscus. There are approximately 500 calories per 160g bag, with three diverse colour flavours molded into two different spooky shaped ghosts. The white colour is creamy and tastes a bit like sweet vanilla. The orange colour is orange and lemon flavour, and has a mild sour citrus zing. The dark purple colour has a blackcurrant hit to start with, and is followed by a pleasant elderberry aftertaste. The coloured ghosts are a bit sticky in texture, and have a very fruity and healthy feel to them. They are perfect for snacking on during a horror filled evening. I don’t think I’ve jumped so much in an hour before with all the zombies wondering around in The Walking Dead. The group of zombie holocaust survivors was trying to obtain fuel and supplies from an abandoned traffic jam, when a hungry herd of zombies ambled amongst the deserted vehicles. Excellent, scary stuff and I’m looking forward to the next part this Friday night. There’s one thing that bugs me though; the characters never ever use the “Z” word! Now what’s that about?
By Spectre

24 October 2011

Slime Doughnut (Greggs @soslimy) [By @Cinabar]

Greggs has done Halloween particularly well this year. They have a host of crazy cupcakes, decorated with worms and they even stock eyeball and cornflake cakes. Basically they have a wonderful seasonal menu and it is full of devilish goodies. Greggs have also recently launched an array of fabulous doughnuts, that are something a bit special and do work well for the brand. Part of the Halloween festivities this year is to combine both of these two ideas and create a seasonal doughnut, and behold Slimy the Slime Doughnu was born. Curiously this doughnut even has his own Twitter account @soslimy so do say hi before you buy.

This themed doughnut has green icing decorated with orange stripes, which do seem to be the official colours of Halloween. The colours are a bit gaudy, but I think that is the point. Under the icing is the lovely soft airy dough, which has a fresh baked taste. Inside it sits is a huge dollop of slime, as you would expect from the name. Thankfully the slime is actually a clear runny lime sauce, but it does look decent, with its oozing green liquid. The flavour of lime is fairly strong, but also sweet and not too zesty. I guess it is a deliberately child friendly flavour as if it had been sharper it would have appealed to a more mature audience.
I loved the doughnut, and felt that it was really fun. I also love the range of regular Greggs doughnuts and can’t recommend them enough either. I’ll be writing about that range post Halloween, but for now enjoy the scary season and eat a Slimy, he won’t mind. ;-)
By Cinabar

23 October 2011

Fabulous Bakin' Boys - Blackcurrant 'N Apple Spooky Cupcakes [By @NLi10]

As with the Demon Slices I took along these Spooky Cupcakes to our weekly Friday games night and shared them out as we played. As this week was a bit more rushed I forgot to get a picture of the individual cakes, but they look the same as all the other Bakin' Boys range - they didn't even have themed cupcake cases! They do however come in little bags which have 'trick or treat' themed activities like eating only the sponge or while balanced on the back of your hand, but these suggestions were mostly ignored!

The sponge's flavour wasn't noticeably that different from the normal vanilla sponge, and if I hadn't checked the box I'd have forgotten that it was supposed to be special. The purply-pink topping was a delight and is the usual fondanty not chocolaty topping that annoys a few people, but delights others like me. It wasn't amazing enough to declare these better than the orange topped vanilla ones, but it was certainly a nice change. As with the Kipling Halloween treats I feel that maybe a little more effort could have been added - even just a rice paper shape in the centre of the cake - to differentiate these from the regular fare.

I have a second box for closer to the date of an alternate seasonal flavour too.
By NLi10

22 October 2011

Spooksters – Original Ready Salted flavour (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

Aargh! Help! There are ghost shaped crisps trying to scare me! Well, smiley ghost shaped crisps might not be so scary, but they are seriously cool, especially during Halloween. These Spooksters are manufactured by Lorenz Bahlsen Snack World, in Germany. They are called Monster Munch in Germany, not Spooksters, but I guess Walkers has the monopoly on the Monster Munch brand in this country. This crispy potato snack is packaged in a 75g bag and is less than 300 calories. The ingredients include; potato, wheat bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. The crisps were soft, light and aerated, and were very crunchy. The smiley ghosts melted in the mouth and were very moreish. There was no noticeable taste of paprika, but there was a hint of cheese in the aftertaste. I’d love to try the other flavours, which are ketchup flavour and cheese flavour. I hope they bring out a red hot (howling burning death) chilli flavour, which I’m sure would make the smiley ghosts seriously scary, but until then you’ll have to settle with a “BOO!!” from me. Scared? I thought so… ;-)
By Spectre

21 October 2011

Count CHOC-ULA (Hotel Chocolat @HotelChocolat) [By @Cinabar]

Chocolate vampires are tricky things. You need to take them out of the box to eat them, but that means disturbing them from their cardboard coffin... obviously that would be crazy without taking a few precautions first. Two cloves of garlic and a wooden steak should keep me safe! :-D

This fabulous looking chocolate count is another Halloween product from Hotel Chocolat. He is moulded really well, with lovely attention to detail, including the Hotel Chocolat logo on the top of his staff and on his cuff links. The red bow tie finishes his look, and he is one very well dressed chocolate vampire.
I decided to break a chunk of the chocolate off to eat, and two things hit me. Firstly that I had an inexplicable bout of guilt for breaking such a nice looking thing. I actually snapped his head clean off, and I still feel bad about that! Secondly that it was darn hard to break, I had to use my muscles. This is actually a good thing, as it confirmed that here was indeed plenty of chocolate and that there is some strength in my arms!
As I bit in I was reminded of the quality of the chocolate. It is a 40% milk chocolate, and is smooth and creamy. The cocoa is flavoursome and sweet, as well as having a slight nutty cocoa after taste. I love the way the chocolate melts in your mouth, as it remains quite thick and coats all your taste buds in a really sumptuous way.
This is easy eating chocolate, which is also rather moreish. It is styled perfectly for the season and would make an excellent gift, particularly a Halloween party host. Its fabulous chocolate very smartly presented, and it’s well worth risking opening the box. ;-)
By Cinabar

20 October 2011

Mr. Kipling Demon Slices (Asda) [By @NLi10]

Halloween is a great time for snacks in the UK as the normally quite sedate ranges become tinged with fear and break out a whole new part of the culinary thesaurus. To this end I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase a product with Demon in the title that was also raspberry flavoured.

I think I grew up overdosing on the Mr. Kipling treats as both my Great-Grandparents and my Grandmother had a fixation on them. It's not that the cakes are bad, it's just that when you have the same thing over and over again it gets a bit samey. Although the little bramley apple pies are very bad in my opinion and consist of mostly sugary syrup and little white chunks of what could frankly be anything. Consequently I'd never think of going for their products ordinarily (except maybe the Viennese whirls although again other companies now do better).

With this though there was no hesitation and I picked these up in September and took them to the public games night we attend to share with my opponents. I took my horror themed deck (and I came 2nd!).

The colours of the slices are as vivid as on the box which was nice and in traditional Mr. Kipling style have exactly the same vital statistics as all their other cake slices. They were all nicely moist and the flavours were strong enough to be satisfying so there was certainly no regret in picking these up. The other players who did not suffer from my over familiarity with the brand seemed to adore both the styling and the flavours of these and I could have easily gotten through two or three of these boxes sharing with the group.

I think that while I'd maybe pick up another box of these due to the novelty factor I'm not sure I'd return to the Mr. Kipling fold quite yet. There are many other new and exciting cake snacks to find and while I do understand that familiarity is key to a lot of shoppers I think that I value surprise and the unknown just a little more.
By NLi10

19 October 2011

Cadbury Freaky Fingers & Vampire Mallows (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

Cadbury have brought out two new goodies for Halloween, in the form of these lovely mallows and some white chocolate fingers. Although they are based closely on products already available, both have a nice Halloween twist.
The Vampire Mallows consist of a biscuit base, a huge dollop of soft creamy sweet mallow, all coated in milk chocolate. Also secreted within the mallow is a dollop of blood... coloured jam... ok it is actually blackcurrant sauce – but it looks the part. The similarity to blood contributes to the Vampire Mallow name. I love blackcurrant, and am really pleased to see it being used in such a lovely novel product. I felt the fruity flavour and chocolate worked really well together, and think these mallows do make a lovely spooky tea time treat.
The Freaky Fingers actually looked a bit disappointing from the pack. Initially I thought they were just the regular white chocolate fingers, repackaged. To be honest they aren’t far off that, but they do hold one Halloween surprise. When you break them in half the biscuit is bright red! Sure the flavours are the usual buttery biscuit and sweet white chocolate, and the biscuit has the usual crunch you’d expect, but they still have a nice new element. The colour really made me smile, and does make them look a bit Freaky too. These would be ideal at a Halloween party or shared during a scary movie to help set the scene.
These are two simple but nicely executed Halloween goodies, that work really well. Both have great packaging and a lovely seasonal theme and are well worth trying out.
By Cinabar

18 October 2011

Horrif-Eyes (Hotel Chocolat @HotelChocolat) [By @Cinabar]

This is quite an amazing looking box of Halloween goodies, with a clever name too. The product is called Horrif –Eyes, and the box clearly shows a skull with chocolate eyes poking through. There are actually six eyes in the box, all with a green iris and a white chocolate case. I was a little surprised to find that they are actually almost square in shape when you open the tray, so perhaps they have been watching too much TV.

The chocolates have a thick white chocolate shell, and really are of an excellent quality. It is creamy, sweet, had loads of cocoa butter flavour and tones of vanilla. Hotel Chocolate do just make fantastic white chocolate, if you are a fan it’s well worth trying as you won’t be disappointed. The filling is a light brown in colour and has the consistency of a thick paste, and its flavour is out of this world.

The taste is somewhere between toffee and caramel, and is just about perfection. The tones of butter and butterscotch from the filling blend into the sweetest, most flawlessly balanced gooey toffee taste you can imagine. The white chocolate is thick and the chocolates feel quite chunky, I wish I had the vocabulary to truly do these justice. Other taste testers, all made noises of appreciation when munching, and words such as “divine” and “sumptuous” rolled of their tongues.
Seriously the only flaw in this packis that there are only six chocolates in the box, and I assure you once you try one, you won’t want to share. The combination of caramel and white chocolate is just so spot on, I do hope this flavour comes out on a more permanent basis, because I want some more!
By Cinabar

17 October 2011

Nestle Smarties Pumpkin (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

This year seems to be a fab one for Halloween treats. Cadbury have re-released Dead Heads and Scream Eggs, and now we have an offering from Nestle too. This ace little pumpkin seems to do a wonderful job of having an air of sinister Halloween about him. Once unwrapped though, he is remarkably cute! The moulding is of excellent quality, and the pumpkin has a smart grinning face.
Opening the pumpkin was trickier than you may have imagined. I could hear the rattle of the contents within, and wanted to open it carefully so as not to lose any of the goodies. Dropping Smarties on the floor really would have given me a fright!

I prised the pumpkin open with a knife, with a plate underneath to catch the Smarties which bled out. The Smarties were actually smaller than regular ones, but still had the usual chocolate shell in a variety of colours. I was pleased as there were quite a few Smarties in the pumpkin too, it certainly wasn’t a bad serving. The chocolate is as you would expect from Nestle, sweet and pleasant and it does the job nicely. The pumpkin is the perfect size for a quick treat, and a lovely novelty for the upcoming season. I really liked the pumpkin, and think it would bring a smile to anyone’s face if bought as a mini gift, it’s just so lovely.
By Cinabar

16 October 2011

Kinder MaxiKing (Polish Grocers) [By @NLi10]

This is the last of the squishy Kinder things that I found in the fridge at my local Polish grocery store. I've heard reports that you can also find them in more regular shops since, so I'm persevering to complete the range.

This bar is slightly larger than a UK Penguin, and more like a small version of the ice-cream Feast. The hazelnuts on the outside are the main difference from the previous bars as this has the whipped white chocolate inside which tastes so good when refrigerated. The inner layer of gooey chocolate is only really noticeable in flavour if you deliberately try just that - the nuts and outer choc overpower it easily.

I do think that kinder are missing a trick by not pushing these out to the mainstream supermarkets. They are not that English in their taste or appearance, but in a country where it is far too infrequently cold enough to fully enjoy an actual ice-cream, a chilled choc-cream range (with suitable adverts showing their refreshing nature) may be a winner. As it stands I'll probably pick up a few each time I'm in there - presuming I remember to look in the chilled section for snacks!
By NLi10

15 October 2011

Mackie’s of Scotland – Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper crisps (Scotland) [By @SpectreUK]

I decided one crazy Sunday to chance these “Naturally grown and fiery hot” Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper crisps from Mackie’s of Scotland. Mackie’s first launched their brand of crisps in 2009. A farm in Taypack grows the potatoes and Mackie’s add the flavour. I say “crazy Sunday”, as Cinabar had been to Scotland with her mum some time before and brought back this flame red bag of crisps. Scotch Bonnet Chili Peppers are the hottest on the market. Seriously, I’m certain people have died eating these things hole. These chilies are not for the faint hearted. Only the toughest of extreme food eaters around can take these. People who believe in eating on the edge, like eating a Pot Noodle on a roller coaster or consuming a rare beef sandwich in a shark infested swimming pool. To be honest, I took one look at this raw flesh coloured bag of crisps and hid them for fear of death by eating. The “crazy Sunday” came from there being no other crisps in the house one Sunday lunchtime combined with the greater fear of wasting food when I read the fast approaching “best before date” on the blood red packet. So I sat down with a beef salad sandwich (no sharks around), and an assortment of various pickles and olives on the plate and opened the fire engine red bag of crisps.

The ingredients that immediately stood out on first taste were red pepper, paprika, garlic, parsley, tomato, coriander, and sugar. I say “immediately stood out”, as I was expecting a burning uncomfortable heat bordering on agony. Instead I found they were pleasant sweet spicy crisps that didn’t burn the inside of my mouth out. These crisps were not that hot. Not as burning hot as Nandos Hot crisps or Cofresh Balti Mix. They were moreish and left an underlying heat in my mouth, but weren’t as hot as the Barry Norman’s Hot and Spicy Pickled Onions on the same plate. These crisps are another example of spicy snack manufacturers going easy on consumers. Although they were very tasty, I couldn’t help being a little underwhelmed. These crisps are more for the faint hearted rather than crazy salivating extreme chili eaters. Having said that, I’d buy these again and the next time I wouldn’t hide them at the back of the cupboard for fear of death by eating. I’m off to find a shark infested swimming pool to finish my beef sandwich in piece(s)…
By Spectre

14 October 2011

Mandarin & Belgian Chocolate Ganache (Marks and Spencers) [By @NLi10]

The picture doesn't do the chocolate top justice as I forgot to take a pic when these were fresher and this one was a few days past it's best and had dried out on top. Still tasted great though!

Luxury treats have always been Marks & Spencer's specialty and their entire food-hall is pretty much full of things that are slightly more luxurious than you'd usually buy. Usually these are Christmas treats and for special occasions, but occasionally they do slip into your basket for no reason other than they look amazing. I popped in to M&S on Sat to grab a few fresh things, and couldn't resist adding one of their recent range to the basket. There are a couple more that I may have to go back for too!

Mini puddings seem a recent development. Gu and others kick started this idea that a pudding should be small but explosive and as there seem to more people on diets than ever this meshes in nicely. These three tiny pots are in line with this kind of idea I guess, with a thick luxury chocolate on top and a mysterious orange liquid underneath.

The chocolate is actually quite nice. I thought it would be more similar to a mousse but it's quite viscous and full of milk chocolate flavour. A few bites in and there is a shock of chocolate chips hiding in it and playing with the texture. As you travel down the little plastic pot you get an increasing sense of oranginess as the mandarin creeps in to the spoonfuls. Once you hit the liquid the choc chips and orange chunks intermingle and work really well. The last few spoons of just orange are not the headline attraction but are not too tart and are very refreshing given the richness of the initial few scoops.

As a late Sunday treat, or an I-couldn't-possibly-oh-go-on-then pudding these work equally well. I recommend picking these up the next time you have an awkward dinner party for three - or getting these and the other Belgian choc variety to make a neat half-dozen. I think I'm going to be visiting M&S a lot more in the run up to Christmas than usual...
By NLi10

13 October 2011

Seabrook: Hot & Spicy - Desi Curry Crisps (WH Smiths) [By @Cinabar]

It’s hard to eat these crisps and not end up comparing them to 2 Chilli crisps from Seabrook which came out at the same time. The 2 Chilli ones were absolutely amazing in flavour, and bordering on crisp perfection, so it was always going to be hard not to compare the two.
As per the 2 Chilli crisps, these were also labelled as a heat rating of three out of three chillies on the pack. They certainly have heat, but I felt they came in just a tad milder than the other variety. This doesn’t mean to say that they are mild though, as they have a lovely tang. They are crinkle cut, so the spices tend to gather nicely on each crisp.
They are very aromatic crisps, which incorporate a good range of flavours from curry powder through to onion and tomato. They contain a good hit of both salt and sugar, which works well with the spices, but there was the odd crisp that had a heavy focus on one or other of the tastes. So some of the crisps didn’t have a balanced mix of seasoning. Other than that the flavouring did a good job of representing a curry, and certainly reminded me of a Rogan Josh taste at the very least, with a sweet tomato background.
To be fair these are good crisps, and I would be totally raving about them if I didn’t have the prior knowledge that the 2 Chilli ones are superior. Desi Curry crisps, do deliver a nice curry taste with a decent amounts of warmth from the spices, and I would rate them as very good. The other new flavour 2 Chilli are just in a league of their own, and would categorically get my purchase if I had the choice.
By Cinabar

12 October 2011

Früli Strawberry Beer (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

Cinabar decided to treat (or trick, now we are coming close to Halloween) me to this premium white fruit beer from the Huyghe Brewery in Melle, Belguim. The 250ml bottle is a short, but strawberry sweet liquid torture device and all inclusive at 4.1% volume. On opening I found the red raw brew had a strong strawberry smell to it. The label on the bottle states that this beer won the World Beer Award for 2009. It smells like strawberry ice cream, which in my mind lends it chiefly towards being a pudding beer. Cinabar tried and liked it, which instantly meant that I would not. My suspicions proved correct as on first taste I immediately noticed there was not much taste of beer at all. The taste is almost completely dominated by strawberry. Although the beer is brewed with pure strawberry juice, it tastes slightly over sweet, vaguely bordering on a strawberry flavouring taste. This beer did not feel to me to be a manly drink. I reckon it would go down a storm at Wimbledon with the ladies! The Huyghe Brewery is definitely missing a trick there…
By Spectre

11 October 2011

Five Valleys Cordials – Apricot & Ginger (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

It is always nice to find a new product on the shelves, and this one is clearly aimed at the more autumnal season. This cordial is made with both Apricot and Ginger to balance some sweetness and some warmth for a new grown up soft drink.
The drink consists of a pale clear syrup, that does smell quite sugary. It mixes up at a 10 to 1 ratio, which means the bottle is going to last quite a while. Unlike most cordials once you have opened this bottle you have to refrigerate it, which I liked because it justified this by stating that it didn’t have any artificial preservatives in it.
Once mixed up the drink looks practically clear. The flavour is well put together and the apricot isn’t at all over sweet, and actually maintains a nice balanced fruit flavour. It taste very natural, and has a good depth of flavour without being syrupy. After the apricot taste has disappeared from the palette, the ginger kicks in. It is a good fiery flavour, with lots of spice and edge. If you like your ginger beer then you will really like this drink, and its got a wonderful heat. I felt that the ginger went well with the apricot, despite the fact that it isn’t two flavours I would have thought of pairing together. The fruit balances the spice, and the drink is really rather comforting, particularly as the leaves have started falling off the trees.
It comes into its own a as a hot drink, particularly now the evenings are getting darker and cooler. It has a warm soothing kick to it, which helps banish the unfriendly weather. A lovely alternative to the usual orange of black currant cordials and it is really nice to see an innovative new flavour.
By Cinabar

10 October 2011

Cathedral City Cheddar and Lighter Cheddar (Tesco) [By @cinabar]

Cheese on toast is one of my favourite snacks, its quick easy to prepare, and darn tasty. Sometimes simple food just works and you don’t have to go to great gastronomic levels to have an easy dinner. Recently I have started making cheese on muffins, which is a similar concept – but I can pretend I’ve gone up market!

It’s arguable as to the best cheese for grilling, but we do like cheddar. I tend to buy full fat cheese for the purpose, but thought I’d give the new Cathedral City Lighter a try and compare it to the original variety.

I decided to start with the new Lighter edition, piling some cheese on the base and popped it under the grill. I noticed it that there wasn’t much fat dripping off the edge, and that it browned nicely and looked really good. Once cooked the cheese had a smooth look, with an appetising brown finish in the centre. The taste was rather nice. The brown/golden section was very flavoursome, and the hot melted Cheddar has a good strong flavour that worked well with the bread base. I would never have been able to tell that it was low fat, and I was really pleased with the final result.

I repeated the experiment with the regular cheddar, and popped it under the grill. Notably there were splodges of fat from the cheese on the grill plate, which had dripped off the edge. There were transparent drips as well as the cheese from the sides. The cheese looked cooked a whole two minutes before the Lighter lower fat version, but it had a bubbled finish even then, meaning it may have got a little too hot. It just liquefied far quicker than the other variety, which will be due to it being full fat cheese. The flavour was still seriously good from the cheese, but because it didn’t have the brown sections it was missing that cooked taste.

In conclusion the cheese on both versions was very good with lots of flavour. Both cheeses had a nice creamy aftertaste after the cheddar tang, and both delivered a very similar experience in flavour. The main difference was how they cooked, and it has to be said the Lighter version just worked so much better. There were no drips of fat on the grill plate, and it browned perfectly. The fact that it is lower in fat is fantastic news, and I’m very pleased to have discovered it grills so well. It gets a hearty thumbs up from a big cheese on toast fan. :-)
By Cinabar

9 October 2011

Joe Deluccis - Coconut, Oreo Cookie, Fruits of the Forrest & Raspberry Gelato (Bullring, Birmingham) [By @NLi10]

A while back Cinabar passed me a voucher by e-mail for Joe Delucci's the 'ice-cream place with the scooters in the BullRing' and I forgot to print it out. Noticing that it was the final day that the voucher was valid and that the weather was actually suitable for Ice Cream I made a special trip into town before Friday Night Magic and picked up my 4 scoops.

The shop itself is a bit unique, having three mopeds on the end to sit on, and being very visible and open to the passing blurred people. It's in the bit in the middle on the bottom floor and nicely close to hand when shopping. I'm not a massive fan of ice-cream when out and about, it interferes with my ninja shopping instincts and prevents you from dashing into the shops and grabbing things and escaping from the crowds. Just this once I was willing to give it a try.

I selected two creamy flavours - Coconut & Oreo cookie - and two berry flavours - Raspberry and Fruits of the Forrest. I took a quick snap on the counter in case they didn't make it to my eating destination, but it came out really well and you can see the interesting textures. It's kind of like a sorbet and bizarrely the berry ones are dairy free so probably suitable for vegans!

First up (as it appeared to be melting faster) I tried the coconut which was very strong in its flavour. The actual bits of coconut flesh were noticeable and added a crunch to it which I liked. The ice-cream that went behind this seemed to be a mild vanilla but was easily overpowered by the coconut. It's smoother than the Bounty ice-cream bars we get here and I'd say a little nicer (even though I love those).

The Oreo cookie gelato was possibly my least favourite of the four but still one I'd try again. It's very hard to balance the crunch of a biscuit in something this melty, but I think the crumble effect worked. The bourbon choc flavour could have been a bit stronger for me, but it was still good. When both had melted together the resulting flavour worked well.

The berry flavours were very hard to distinguish. The Fruits of the Forrest was I believe the darker of the two flavours in the picture (I forget!), and slightly more sour in taste. It's kind of hard to distinguish the exact fauna used in the recipe but I'd say black-currant was probably the main part. It was nice, and more importantly an unusual flavour to find in an iced desert. The Raspberry was a little more fruity in flavour and recognisably Raspberry which was nice. I'd say that this was the flavour I'd be most likely to try again, it was very refreshing and certainly enjoyable.
By Nli10

8 October 2011

Dolmio Pasta Vita – Sweet Pepper Flavour [By @SpectreUK]

This new microwavable meal from Dolmio comes in two recyclable plastic pots, one small and one large pot, like the Little and Large of Ready Meals, although apparently they preferred a curry before each gig. The smaller pot is filled with a deep red sweet pepper sauce, and the larger pot filled with Fusilli pasta. Both pots weigh 300g in total, and are a healthy 327 calories. With one hundred percent natural ingredients, this meal is equivalent to one of the five daily intakes of fruit and vegetables, although I’m unsure if this is dependent on the size of the person, as it could be two of the five for Syd Little. The ingredients include tomatoes, yellow pepper, onions, lemon juice, parsley, red pepper and garlic. I read the instructions on the cardboard sleeve and found both pots had been steam sealed for better taste. I pealed back each pot lid a quarter open before placing them both in the microwave for one and a half minutes. I was a bit worried when I read that the smaller pot had to be tipped into the larger pot once heated. Visions of Laurel and Hardy sprang to mind, with red sweet pepper sauce flying in all directions and another fine mess I’d got myself into. Even though the two plastic pots were quite hot from the microwave, fortunately I didn’t spray pasta and sauce everywhere. I dropped the empty smaller pot into the sink and left the pasta and sauce filled larger pot to cool. I noticed the dark red sauce soaked in with the pasta quickly and the meal didn’t require much stirring. I dumped some Walker’s Cheddar Cheese and Bacon crisps into a bowl and had some bread on the side for dipping into the pasta sauce.

I watched the 1939 version of Jesse James and nearly choked on a mouthful of red sauce covered Fusilli when I found the film was in colour! Jesse James was played by Tyrone Power, supported by a very young Henry Fonda and Randolph Scott. Although there wasn’t much action, it was a great movie, amusing in places, well written and acted. I thought about adding some cheese on the top of the meal and some black pepper, but on first taste I decided to eat the meal straight to enjoy the full flavour of the pasta and sweet pepper sauce. I certainly didn’t regret my decision and really enjoyed the pasta meal during the film. The Cheddar Cheese and Bacon crisps complemented the tasty tomato and sweet pepper sauce very well. The sauce had a full tomato flavour to it, with a hint of sweet chilli heat from the peppers, and a mention of parsley and garlic in the aftertaste. Although I found this meal very filling, my only disappointment was when I’d emptied the whole plastic pot, but I couldn’t help mopping up the remains of the sauce with the leftover bread. I look forward to having this flavoursome pasta pot again and reckon Little and Large would forgo their usual curry for this meal. Although, I don’t know if they like pasta… and apparently they haven’t spoken in years… must have been one bad curry too many?
By Spectre

7 October 2011

Seabrooks Hot & Spicy: 2 Chilli - Jalapeno & Habanero (WH Smiths, M18 Service Station) [By @Cinabar]

I am really pleased to see a new flavour of crisps from Seabrook and even happier that it turns out to be one that contains salt, after one of their last efforts – Jacket Potato Crisps. This new variety is in their hot and spicy range and has a worrying 3 out 3 on the hot rating! To make matters potentially worse, they are crinkle cut to ensure maximum flavour delivery.
The crisps look innocent enough, but I can confirm they pack a mighty punch. The heat is good and strong, and leaves the tongue tingling pleasantly. They are by no means inedible, but do deliver more heat than a lot of ‘hot’ crisps I’ve tried before. The flavour is really clever too, along with the chilli pepper taste there is a moreish mix of lemon and garlic, which makes the flavour really interesting. The coating reminded me of the coating you get on a lot of ‘authentic’ chilli coated nuts, as there was a hint of other herbs and spices too.
I absolutely loved the crisps, the depth of flavour was amazing, the heat really satisfying and the whole bag was ridiculously moreish. This is what Seabrooks is about, and when they put their mind to it, they can create some truly amazing flavours. I am desperately hoping that I can find these somewhere other than the deep depths of a random motorway service station, because I desperately want another pack. While I was at the services I also picked up a bag of Seabrook’s Desi Curry, which I now can’t wait to try! I’ll be writing about them very soon. :-)
By Cinabar

6 October 2011

Lasagne - Giovanni Rana [By @NLi10]

I've a strong distrust for ready-meal style package foods. Supermarkets that sell boxes of frozen things with pictures of a whole meal on the outside are always disappointing, usually tasting of the plastic tray more than the food itself. They conjure up images of my student days and times when I was refuelling more than eating. I have a lot of time for the Giovanni Rana range. Like Jaime Oliver this guy is a chef (although actually Italian) and appears to actually care about what he puts his name on the box for. I bought this hoping that the trend would continue, but fearing that not even Giovanni could prevent this from tasting like its packaging.

I'm happy to say that this was a different experience to that which I'd expected. Firstly the meal is cooked in the foil tray and the plastic is just for freshness - take that Marks & Spencer's! As this was from the fridge (and for once I ate it on the use by date and not after) I expected it to have a little head start on the frozen boxes, but was still surprised by the contents. The box says you can even microwave this (after removal from the foil) in 5 mins, but I felt that would be disrespectful to the pasta.

The sauce wasn't cheesy, the meat was of a decent quality and the pasta was firm but not rigid. The flavours were surprisingly nice, and while it certainly wasn't restaurant grade I'd say it's the best package lasagne I've had (and being a child who liked Garfield I've had an awful lot of Lasagne). Mr Rana continues to impress - and while I prefer his little pasta parcels (and have 2 boxes in the fridge as I type) I think I'd buy this again. 20 mins in the oven gets you a good, filling, effort free meal which with a few veg on the side feels like something actually cooked and not just thrown at the plate.

Hopefully this is part of a new range of quick Italian delights which I'll begrudgingly have to chomp my way through.
By NLi10

5 October 2011

Marmite Fudge (Chocolate Falls, Scarborough) [By @Cinabar]

We've been off adventuring in Scarborough, but of course we still have been keeping our eyes open for Foodstuff Finds. Sure enough on the sea front in Scarborough sits a confectioner with an amazing array of goodies within. Chocolate Falls predominantly sells fudge, and it is creative homemade fudge too using different chocolate bars and interesting goodies. There is every flavour you can think of, from Toffee Crisp to Orange Aero. There are also a few flavours you might not have thought off too... like this Marmite Fudge.
I’ve tried the official Marmite chocolate which even as a Marmite lover I found it bizarre and garlicky, and so I was a little bit wary of this fudge but knew I had to give it a try.
The fudge is an ominous black colour and sat of the shelf next to a jar of Marmite just so there is no mistaking its main ingredient.
I cautiously tried a slice, and was pleasantly surprised. The fudge was lovely and soft, and gave a lovely initial hit of sugar and butter followed by the distinct Marmite taste. The Marmite wasn’t too strong and its yeasty tones were blended perfectly with the sugary fudge flavour, and produced an amazing result - sweet Marmite. Thankfully they haven’t messed with the flavour and there is no weird garlic taste which the official chocolate bar suffered with. Beyond all my expectations this was really clever stuff, and the bitey taste of the Marmite just worked as a fudge variety! Both the shop and the fudge are really worth checking out if you are in Scarborough, and made me wish I had bought a few other fudges to try. The theory being that if they can make Marmite fudge this good, I suspect every fudge bar in the place is absolutely divine. :-)
By Cinabar

4 October 2011

[New] McVities Black Treacle Cake (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

The people that brought you McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake and Golden Syrup Cake have released two new special cakes to fuel the trick or treaters and those watching fireworks in the upcoming season.
The first of the new cakes is this fine Black Treacle Cake. Their Golden Syrup Cake is made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup, so it follows that this one is made with Lyle’s Black Treacle. The cake is a dark brown in colour, and has a sweet rich aroma. Like the other McVities cakes it is quite soft to cut, and slightly squishes as the knife goes in. The texture is wonderful and moist, and the flavour is most impressive. The sponge tastes of rich sweet black treacle as you would expect, but there are lovely tones within that ranging from liquorice through to molasses. It’s a hearty warming cake, with wonderful strong sweet flavours, delivering a nice boost of energy.
I don’t know why Black Treacle seems so appropriate for Bonfire Night, but it undeniably is right for the event. There is something rather pleasurable about the rich Parkin like tastes, Parkin of course being a traditional Yorkshire November the 5th treat made with molasses.
I know I’ll be making the most of this new flavour over the upcoming months, as much as I love the other cakes, it is nice to have some new varieties. Did I mention there are actually two new cakes? Well keep your eyes peeled as the other new variety will be reviewed very shortly. ;-)
By Cinabar

3 October 2011

Terry’s Chocolate Orange Honeycomb Crunch (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

I know the weather might well be having a hot spell, but the shops have converted to winter clothes and Christmas ranges in the food shops. I spotted an unthinkable number of mince pies in the supermarket, and in the Christmas isle (there really is a Christmas isle already) this new Chocolate Orange has appeared. Next to it sat the popping candy version from previous years, but I couldn’t see the Smasher from last year.
This new version of the Terry’s Chocolate Orange has pieces of ‘Honeycomb Crunch’ hidden within its chocolate. The Honeycomb Crunch refers to cinder toffee pieces (like the centre of a Crunchie bar) broken up within the orange.
I unwrapped the orange, tapped it (i.e. whacked it) and unwrapped, as per tradition. Once unwrapped the chocolate orange segments fell open revealing the chocolate wedges. The chocolate smelt strongly of orange, and as a whole didn’t look noticeably different to the regular milk chocolate version of the product. The taste was also the usual citrus hit, with loads of sweet orange flavour, and mellow sweet milk chocolate tones. The addition of the ‘honeycomb’ gave the chocolate a noticeable crunch, but sadly not that much flavour. There was a hint of the sweet honey taste from the cinder toffee, but the orange was so strong that you really had to look for it. To be honest I like the orange taste, it is the whole point of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, so I’m not sure what else you can do with the addition of the cinder toffee to make it any stronger, except add more bits and that would be overly crunchy! It’s not an easy one to balance, but the texture is good and the extra sweetness is just a little mild.
I liked the chocolate, it delivered a nice hit of orange and crunch but it’s just not that different from other varieties currently available. My current favourite Chocolate Orange still has to be the Volcanic Popping Candy edition which really has the fun factor, and I’m very pleased to see it back.
By Cinabar