31 December 2011

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

Last Christmas I blogged about Bath Ale’s dark porter “Festivity”, so I decided to celebrate this New Year’s Eve with Bath Ale’s “Barnstormer”. I’ve always been impressed by the excellent quality of Bath Ales beers and had stocked this ale for a special occasion. First of all I wanted to mention that I just love the name of this ale. “Barnstormer” makes me think of a crazy barn dance with loud super fast music and a large group of people dancing and cheering, clunking beer tankards together and generally having an excellent time. I was sure this brew would be perfect celebration ale for a New Year’s Eve.

This 4.5% volume dark ale contains wheat and barley malt, and was brewed with Maris Otter, Chocolate and Crystal Malts, and Bramling Cross Hops. This ale is then fine filtered for extra smoothness and quality. On opening there was a fruity smell with a touch of chocolate. Initially there was an almost sharp bitter strong ale taste, softening out with an edge of fruitiness followed closely behind by a subtle sweetness from the chocolate. Barnstormer is like an evening’s merriment rolled into one drink. It starts with the expectation, like my night club days of years gone by, where the men and women would stare at each other at the beginning of the evening across the dance floor. Circling each other like wolves before one, then two, then more and more people would enter the no-man’s land in between and the dancing would begin. There was the bitter start to the drink that reflected the moment of entering that empty zone, that sudden shock to the palate that wakes you up to what pleasures may bring in the night to come. The dancing and singing and joyousness of that bitter first taste, smoothing out to a promise of fruitiness and the sweetness of that final dance. This is what Barnstormer reflects. Almost as smooth as McMullen’s Stronghart and just as full bodied, luxurious and gasping to be savoured. This ale is perfect to warm the insides on a cold winter’s night whilst celebrating the festive season. Happy New Year everyone! ;-)
By Spectre

30 December 2011

Cadbury Creme Egg Splats (Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

Having popped into Tesco post Christmas, but before New Years, I noticed that they were setting up a shelf with Easter stock! :-o It is a bit early, but I guess that’s just how the seasons work in shops and it is the next ‘event’. Obviously I had a nosey round the shelf and saw the usual suspects like regular Cadbury Creme Eggs and Chocolate Lambs, but there in the middle of the shelf sat this new product on offer as well. It is part of the Creme Egg branding, and consists of fried egg shaped chocolate splats all filled with a little bit of the white fondant, like you would find inside a regular Creme Egg. As I bit them in half I spotted that they had no yolk, (I’m not even yolking) just the white fondant. I realise it would have taken some impressive engineering to get that yellow yolk in the miniature Splat, but it still would have been really very cool!
The chocolate around each Splat is the usual Cadbury’s flavour, and is milky and sweet. It is fairly thick, and does take up a good proportion of each chocolate. The flavour worked well with the gooey fondant, but I would have preferred a little more filling in each one. The combination of tastes works though, and I can imagine that these will make a great sharing bag throughout the Easter season. I like the novelty of the shape, and any tie-in with Creme Eggs is a bonus, but it is still a tad early for Easter goodies! Having said that, I bought two bags, and I’d be lying if I tried to claim the other one would even make it to the New Year!
By Cinabar

29 December 2011

Marks & Spencer Melting Middle Chocolate Puddings [by @NLi10]

After Heston encouraged people to stock non traditional Xmas puddings last year the available variety has increased. This particular pudding is based on the simple idea that chocolate is nicer than raisins and sultanas. You get two of them and it literally takes only a minute to heat them up in the microwave - result!

While I bought these for use on Christmas day (and gave the other one away to someone with similar taste) I didn't end up getting around to it until I was back home and self catering on Boxing Day evening. The cake is softer than I expected, and the sauce richer but these were both acceptable and still contributed to a lovely overall experience.

As you can see the oozing chocolate is pretty fun too. I've had other M&S 'heavy' choc puddings in previous years which I think maybe fill the Xmas day role slightly better, but this is one I'd be happy to eat all winter long.

Hope you are continuing to have a nice snack related festive break!
by @NLi10

28 December 2011

Traditional Spiced Masala Tea – Chai Xpress (Tesco) [by @SpectreUK]

There is an Indian restaurant called Diva in a shopping centre not too far from where we live. When the restaurant opened a few years ago they served their own lovely special blend of mixed spiced chai tea that was made with milk and was called; “Diva Chai”. Sadly Diva Chai took too long to prepare, so now the restaurant serves Masala Tea. Although I tease the Manager about not making Diva Chai anymore, I always enjoy a cup of Masala Tea at the end of my meal. I had been wondering where Diva sourced this Masala Tea from until Cinabar’s Mom picked this forty teabag box up in the local supermarket.

This Traditional Spiced Masala Tea by Chai Xpress was blended and packed by Fudco, in London, who have thirty-five years of experience in blending teas. It is said that Spiced Masala Tea aids digestion and is traditionally enjoyed in India and now all over the world. It is a blend of black tea and mixed spices, which include; ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and white pepper. The tea has no artificial flavourings or preservatives, and is vegetarian friendly. Brewing instructions on the box state to boil freshly drawn cold water, as the oxygen in the water helps to bring out the flavour of the tea and mixed spices, leaving the tea to stew from three to five minutes in roughly 200ml of freshly boiled water, and adding milk and sugar on preference. I prefer my tea to stew a few minutes longer for added strength and just a dash of milk. The tea smells chiefly of ginger and cinnamon, with cloves, cardamom and nutmeg just behind these flavours, and this smell is mirrored completely in the taste. This Spiced Masala Tea provides a warming feeling when drinking it, which is perfect for the winter chills. It is fragrant and the mixed spices are lovingly balanced to complement the premium blend of black tea, whilst making sure the stronger flavours of ginger and cinnamon do not overpower the other spices and overall flavour. This tea is an ideal homage to a good spicy meal or can without doubt be enjoyed on its own. The tea’s blend of spices lends a satisfying seasonal feel, but I’m sure it would be pleasurable to savour all year round.
By Spectre

27 December 2011

Bosch Tassimo & Milka Hot Chocolate (@Tassimo) [By @Cinabar]

Oh my, I have a new toy in the house, and I’d like to introduce you all to my new Tassimo machine. I think I have made it clear on many occasions that I love my hot drinks, be it teas, coffee or hot chocolates, and I find a time for each of the above.
The Tassimo caught my eye as it had some brilliant features which are perfect for a lazy person like me. You put a drinks disc in, press a button and your drink appears. It’s fast to make a drink, with drinks brewing in under 60 seconds, which impressively beats a kettle! The machine has almost no maintenance and comes complete with a Brita water filter so shouldn’t even need de-scaling. There is no cleaning up after or before use, you pop the T-Disc in, after the drink has been made you remove it, no drips or anything it’s all just a clean environment. When the machine has finished the drink it jets some steam through itself just to make sure there is no residue. Also the used T-Discs are recyclable which is an important addition when you have the recycle police in the house (aka Spectre).

More than this though, Tassimo is the only manufacturer to have Milka hot chocolate, and I’m sure you are all aware of my feelings on the subject of Milka – as it is the best darn milk chocolate on the planet!!! :-D I have been wanting to try Tassimo Milka hot chocolate since 2008 and here is a link to prove it!!!
If you have used a Tassimo machine you will be aware that some of the drinks are quite small, and only fill a cups worth. As I prefer my hot drinks in a mug, I have been a bit disappointed with the size of some of them. The cappuccino it makes are lovely, but are a bit small so the Latte Macchiato (unsweetened) has been my coffee of choice because it fills a mug properly. I am pleased to say that this Milka hot chocolate also fills a mug which is a relief as a hot chocolate should be a long soothing savoured drink! I have tried the Suchards hot chocolate in the Tassimo and had to use a double measure of T-Discs to fill the mug, and I only rated the drink as ‘nice’ at the end of it. I have loved the coffee but as this was my first trial of a hot chocolate I was a bit disappointed.

I had my fingers crossed when I popped in the Milka T-Disc and it turns out I was in luck. The Milka drink it makes is pure heaven. The flavour is a lot stronger than the Suchards, and you can definitely pick up on the distinct alpine Milka taste. The chocolate drink is smooth and velvety, and topped with lovely milk froth and chocolate. The flavour has a hint of nut and lots of cream and is just absolutely perfect. I know I’m a Milka fan girl, but for me it is an absolutely dreamy drink. It made me want to hug the Tassimo and say thank you!!! I can’t work out why so many of the shops don’t stock the Milka T-Discs particularly as they actually make a full mug too. I had to buy these online, but as you can imagine I’ve already ordered a second box! Also in my last online order I have included a packet of Twinings Chai Latte which sounds gorgeous, and either myself or Spectre will be writing about that soon too.

Big thanks to the lovely folks at Idealo
If you are looking for your own Tassimo bargain (and they are cheaper than you think) check out the Idealo website.
By Cinabar

26 December 2011

Turkey Crisps (Tesco Finest Vs Tyrrells) (By @Cinabar)

As you are probably sitting down to the inevitable turkey sandwiches, what snack is more fitting to accompany them than turkey flavoured crisps. Disappointingly this year Walkers chose not release its annual turkey variety, but both Tyrrells and Tesco have put forward some crisps in the traditional Christmas flavour.

Turkey and Chestnut Stuffing [Tyrrells]
These crisps are fairly thickly cut and had a lovely herb smell when I poured them into a bowl. The flavour was a little milder than expected, but did have a good meaty taste, a hint of sage and a nutty aftertaste. I’ve not seen crisps seasoned with chestnut before, and it was nice that the taste of chestnut was distinguishable on the crisps, the nut flavour did make these feel quite substantial. The bag was thoroughly enjoyable, flavoursome but not strong enough to overpower any items that they might be served with.

Roast Norfolk Turkey and Stuffing with Onion Gravy [Tesco Finest]
This bag of crisps has a much stronger aroma, but still looked to be thickly cut with a good crunch. The flavour of these was very different to the other variety as these were so much stronger. There was a lovely meaty flavour that reminded me of roast chicken crisps. The other major ingredient was the seasoning with onion and sage, and there was plenty of it too representing the onion gravy and stuffing. I loved this taste, and felt all the herbs and onion they had packed in really made them. The crisps were a perfect meaty crisp, it was as if they’d been dipped in the gravy pot!

Out of the two varieties I preferred the Tesco ones as they were stronger and had a fuller flavour. I also felt that the heavy addition of the sage and onion really made them super tasty and moreish. Having said that the Tyrrells are still a great crisp, they just have a more delicate base flavour, but the addition of the chestnut made them something special too.
By Cinabar

25 December 2011

Fabulous Bakin' Boys Christmas Cupcakes - Orange & Mint [By @NLi10]

And a very Merry Christmas to you all - I hope you Found Foodstuff under your trees and in your stockings!

I decided to grab the festive selection from the Fabulous Bakin Boys as these seem to be a little more varied than the previous offerings - each box contains three different chocolate toppings (Dark, Milk, White) on the base cake flavour. While this isn't the biggest of deals seeing that the toppings are more of a fondant than a chocolate this is still an improvement on the less varied offerings for the previous seasons.

First up was the mint, which I'd never had before and worried that would be overpowering in an After Eight kind of way. This proved to not be a problem and these were lovely and mild and suitable for eating after a big festive meal (should one occur). I think that the different chocolates didn't vary the experience as much as I'd expected, but the darker ones are always my favourite.

The orange ones were similar to ones I'd munched previously and as such were mostly given away. I did try a white orange one to confirm that they were as expected and they were. I like the orange ones but on this occasion I think that the minty ones are probably the ones to go for as an alternative to the plague of mince pies that blight the British Christmas (the filling contains pretty much all the dried fruits that I dislike so much!).
By NLi10

Marks & Spencer's - Frosty Balls (by HiImRy)

As a festive bonus here is a mini Christmas review from our youngest writer Ryan:


Now to try to write a review without this sounding weird! Me and my friends were making YouTube videos and during a movie break we decided to eat the frosty balls I brought over, and they are surprisingly nice.

On the back says quote "milk chocolate balls ( TeeHee ) in a crisp candy shell rolled in icing sugar" sounds good but eating it is a lot better! Delicious, only £1, and brilliant for a Christmas party.

Have a Merry Christmas!!
by HiImRy

24 December 2011

Bah Humbug and McMullen Stronghart [Festive Beers] (Morrisons) [By @SpectreUK]

It’s Christmas Eve and what better than two festive beers to warm the insides on a cold winter’s night? Well, I can name one or two things, but this is a family blog, so I’ll say Christmas presents and loved ones! Cinabar is part German, so goes crazy for anything Christmassy, like bringing a tree into the house and hanging shiny dangly things all over it (but I guess that caught on mostly all over the world some time ago) and especially opening her presents on Christmas Eve. I was always a Christmas Day morning present opener when I was a child. I always tried to stay awake the night before as long as possible to catch a glimpse of Santa, but fell asleep before I saw him. I’d wake up and Santa would have left my presents at the end of my bed in a huge bag (well it was huge to me as I was quite small at the time). Since I met Cinabar, over thirteen years ago (poor thing), I switched to opening my presents on Christmas Eve.

Bah Humbug! (Morrisons)

Bah Humbug beer was brewed by the Wychwood brewery, in Oxfordshire. It is a Christmas beer with a drawing of grumpy old Scrooge and the ghost of Jacob Marley behind him on the label. I felt it fitting to drink this beer whilst Kelsey Grammer’s “A Christmas Carol” TV movie was on the box, at the same time as I was wrapping Christmas presents and writing Christmas cards. After twenty minutes of the film I complained that everyone kept incessantly singing, and then Cinabar reminded me that it was the musical adaption of “A Christmas Carol”. I commented that no wonder Scrooge was grumpy with all those overly cheerful people singing all the time…

The label stated that Bah Humbug had been spiced with cinnamon and had “subtle tones of dried fruit”. On opening, the beer smelt strong and fruity with a touch of cinnamon spice. I poured the 5% volume beer into my beer mug noticing that it was a dark brown bitter. In contradiction to the label I initially found that the taste had overtones, rather than “subtle tones” of fruitiness complementing the heavy bitter taste, there was also a hint of spice from the cinnamon in with the overall flavour, but this in itself was the “subtle” side to the beer. Bah Humbug undeniably had a wintery Christmas feel to it, with the mixture of fruitiness and subtle cinnamon spice merging with the strong bitter, lending to a well rounded fruity spicy bitter aftertaste. I enjoyed drinking this beer and felt that it helped to keep out the winter chill for a while. I savoured Bah Humbug on its own, but I reckon it would go very well with Christmas Pudding, Christmas cake or even mince pies.

McMullen Stronghart (Morrisons)

McMullen Stronghart is produced by McMullen & Sons, which has been an independent family brewer since 1827. Stronghart bitter was brewed with malted East Anglian Barley and whole leaf English hops. It was described by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as; “Liquid Christmas Pudding” and was granted their first “Best Festive Ale” award. Stronghart was described as; “rich, dark and exceptionally smooth” on the label. With that description in mind and over a hundred and fifteen years of brewing experience, I just couldn’t wait to open this beer and give it a try.

I poured the bottle of Stronghart into my freshly washed beer mug (for the full flavour experience), noting that it was almost black in colour. There was an underlying sweetness and a hint of liquorish in the strong beery smell, but I was slightly confused by the “Liquid Christmas Pudding” quote, as I couldn’t find even a hint of fruitiness. This beer was definitely full bodied and I could feel the 7% volume strength of it just by standing next to the mug. I was taken aback by just how smooth this beer tasted, particularly considering its alcoholic potency. Stronger beers can often overly bite at the back of the mouth and frequently taste like they’ve been mixed with port or red wine. There was a taste of liquorish complemented by what seemed to be black treacle, which added the sweetness to the beer. There was definitely no fruitiness to this beer in any way, but none had been promised by the brewer. The liquorish was not overpowering and the beer had a sweetened, black treacle edge that in no way tasted syrupy. Both these flavours worked perfectly together with the hops and malted barley to create a luxurious richness to this almost black beer. This is a beer to be savoured on its own, with no added foods to complement or confuse the flavour. Out of all the many beers I’ve sampled and sozzled over this year, and believe me there’s been quite a few, I honestly hand on Stronghart proclaim this beer as one of the finest.

Merry Christmas everyone... or Bah Humbug, depending on how you feel! ;-)
By Spectre

23 December 2011

Wonderful Pistachios – Sweet Chilli [By @Cinabar]

Pistachios are a favourite Christmas nibble in the Foodstuff Finds house, and bags of the things do have the tendency to disappear in record time! Usually the only ‘varieties’ the nuts come in are salted or plain, I guess as they are sold in their shells, they are a little difficult to season evenly. Wonderful Pistachio has taken up the challenge and introduced some intriguing new seasonings.
These new Sweet Chilli flavoured pistachios are sprinkled with a red/golden dust and have a rich paprika smell about them. The bag of nuts was a fairly decent size, but it was a shame the bag wasn’t re-sealable. I poured the nuts into a Tupperware box to ease sharing and to keep them fresh for storage later.
I pulled open the shell on the first nut, and it broke satisfyingly. The nut inside was fresh and crunchy, with a lovely background warmth taste. I was rather pleased that the seasoning didn’t overpower the fresh flavour from the nut, instead it works with the major ingredient. The pistachio still had a slight salty edge to it, and the chilli grew in intensity the more I ate. Thankfully these don’t have an overpowering heat at any point, instead they have a nice tingle and a sweetness that finishes before any deep set burn kicks in. As these nuts are meant for sharing, they probably are best maintaining the heat at this level, rather than finding a guest with their head under the cold tap trying to cool down!
If you are looking for any last minute Christmas nibbles purchases, I heartily recommend giving this a go. They are a nice twist on regular pistachios with a good flavour that still lets the pistachio nut taste shine through. Worryingly moreish!
By Cinabar

22 December 2011

Nestle Superfruity Shredded Wheat [By @NLi10]

The kings of wheat return with a counterpunch to the Mini Max wheats from last week - this time taking on the supermarket own brand fruity wheat combos that Ms. NLi10 has to go to certain supermarkets to hunt down. The box seems to focus on the concept of 'superfruits' those mythical beings that contain antioxidants - yet the three listed fruits are not ones that I'd automatically associate with that label. A quick Wiki lists the typical superfruits as being acai, blueberry, cranberry (tick!), goji, grape, mango, pomegranate and sea-buckthorn. It also comments that apples, oranges, tomatoes, strawberries (tick!), raspberries (tick - full house!) and blackberries all achieve the criteria to be superfruits too, but are not typically called such. I'm pretty sure that superfruits is just a marketing term for a fruit that is not a lemon, lime or kiwi...

So - now that the validity of the claims has been assessed we can munch the cereal. Essentially it's a bite-size Shredded wheat with a jam/fruit-puree inside. Some of these are too sickly or get the balance of fruits wrong but these are actually pretty good. I had a nice relaxing bowl of these one morning and even though I had to pause for a bit they didn't become too soggy and the milk never became sickly (another problem).

While these lack the flavour precision that comes from selecting one fruit and packing it in I think the blended approach works. As this is a 'new' it would be great to see a second purple flavour of this with a black-currant or similar themed blend as I don't think I've had that style of flavour since I used to make Ribena milkshakes as a kid.

I'll run these past my resident expert on fruity cereals first, but I think I may end up buying more of these!
By NLi10

21 December 2011

Burnt Sugar – Crumbly Stem Ginger Fudge [By @SpectreUK]

I don’t know what it is about the taste of ginger, but it always makes me think of Christmas. Ginger must have warming qualities to help keep out the cold. I chomped down on Burnt Sugar’s Crumbly Stem Ginger Fudge on the way back from work on a cold winter’s day. The fudge had a sweet ginger smell to it when I opened the packet. It was soft to bite and quickly melted in my mouth. This fudge is big on ginger flavour when eating. The good strong ginger taste reminded me of ginger biscuits and left my tastebuds with a sugary finish. There was a sublime Demerara sugar and ginger aftertaste that made me want to eat more and more. This ginger fudge is perfect for afternoon tea or a late evening treat with your feet up in front of the fire after a winter’s tough daily drudge. Burnt Sugar’s Crumbly Stem Ginger Fudge would make a great treat for kids and adults alike. Or if you’re feeling generous, leave it out for Father Christmas and I’m certain you’ll get extra presents for being extra good! Merry Christmas!!
By Spectre

20 December 2011

Taste The Difference – Christmas Cake Baking Kit (Sainsbury’s) [By @Cinabar]

I used to bake a fair amount of cakes, but in recent years have done less and less. I can’t remember the last time I actually made a fruit cake, but with the help of this new kit, thought I’d give it a go this year. I enlisted my mum in to help, just in case. I know it may seem a little late to be making a Christmas cake, but there is still nearly a week before the big day.
Inside the kit are all the dry ingredients you need, including spices, brown sugar, flour, dried fruit soaked in Armagnac and Marcona almonds. The only fresh ingredients required were butter, a lemon and 3 eggs which were easily picked up. We eagerly pre-heated the oven and greased and lined an 8” cake tin in preparation.
One of the things I loved about the pack is that everything is pre-weighed for you which is certainly a bonus. As the packet of butter had measurements on the pack, it meant that I didn’t have to use the kitchen scales at all for the cake, which must be a baking first for me. My mum is the kind of cook who somehow just knows how much of an ingredient to add, but I meticulously measure everything. We followed the simple instructions and I creamed the butter and sugar together, mixed in the eggs, and then folded in all the other ingredients. I was quite shocked by just how much fruit there was, and rather impressed by its wonderful aroma as the kitchen started to smell Christmassy. It took quite a bit of folding to get an even mix on the ingredients, but I knew the work would be worth it. When we were sure it was all mixed, we spooned it into the tin, pressing it down gently to make sure the tin was full in every corner and topped it with some more grease proof paper (as per the instructions). We placed it in the oven, and filled the 3h30mins baking time wrapping Christmas prezzies and writing cards.
Once it was done, we eased it out of the tin, and peeled away the greaseproof paper. I can’t tell you how proud we were of the results, once the waiting was finally overly. The cake looked amazing and beautiful, and I desperately wanted to cut into there and then and serve it with a mug of seasonal tea. I will have to wait though – and make some effort at icing the beauty! The Christmas Cake Baking Kit from Sainsbury’s works like a dream, and I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed making it too. I never expected the cake to look so tempting, the results could not have been better!
By Cinabar


19 December 2011

Doughnut Selection (Christmas German Market, Birmingham) [By @Cinabar]

As you have probably already seen, Spectre made a visit to the Birmingham German Market after work, and brought back a selection of doughnuts for us to try. He said that there were quite a few flavours to choose from, and managed to pick the following five varieties:

Custard (Back left in photo)
This custard filled doughnut is also chocolate topped, and although you can only just tell from the photograph, it has also been sprinkled with hundreds and thousands along one side. Although it was labelled as custard the filling is more like a vanilla cream as it was almost white in nature and it was very creamy in flavour. The custard and chocolate worked well together and the easy going tones allowed the cooked doughy taste to shine through.

Dark Chocolate (Front left in photo)
There were some nuts decorating this one, but the filling was pure rich dark chocolate in its taste. It was an indulgent flavour, and the milk chocolate icing really added to the experience. Although the nuts looked nice on top there wasn’t quite enough of them to influence the flavour, but it didn’t really matter as the doughnut worked well anyway.

Strawberry (Centre in photo)
As you would probably have guessed this is the pink doughnut in the picture! It is topped with pretty strawberry icing, and a foam strawberry sweet to really set the scene. The jam in the centre is more traditional and has a good strong strawberry flavour that is super fruity. The perfect doughnut for strawberry fans.

Black Forest Gateaux (Top right in photos)
I thought this was the prettiest of the doughnuts in the selection box, with its white icing, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry decorating the top. The centre was impressive too, it had been slightly oddly caught with the filling as it had two huge dollops of cherry jam in side. I think it was just made luckily and caught two injections of jam, but I fear somebody out there had the doughnut made next to it with no filling whatsoever. Sorry whoever you were, but your loss was my gain! As I’ve mentioned before on the blog I do like the black forest flavour, and this certainly went some way to recreating it, and I loved the taste. The only issue was the top needed a heavier sprinkle of chocolate to properly get that cocoa taste shining through.

Nutella (Bottom right in photo)
This particular doughnut has a simple concept, fill a doughnut with Nutella and then top it with chocolate. It may be simple, but it is genius! The filling is sweet and rich with chocolate and hazelnut flavours, and the sponge just makes the whole thing work. The dollop of Nutella was very generous and worked with the chocolate topping. Again an indulgent doughnut and perfect for the chocolate nuts fans like me.
By Cinabar

18 December 2011

Kellogs Mini Max - Original & Chocolate [By @NLi10]

I've been a fan of Kellog's wheat + sweet cereals for years. I used to eat the cereal Toppas which has now become Frosted Wheats and this appears to be a smaller version of this, although the size change makes the flavours a little different.

First up is the 'original' flavour which is essentially a Frosted Wheat hit by a shrink ray - a little parcel of wheat with some 'frosting' or icing on the outside to wake you up a bit. They have a cute little man made out of one on the box - who they have no doubt named Max - he's not as cool as the Krave Krusader, but it's another step towards making memorable cereal characters again. The cereal itself isn't as satisfying as the bigger pieces in Frosted Wheats - it's hard to pinpoint why though. Maybe it's my years of conditioning to the perfect balance of the existing cereal, and not that this just tastes less satisfying. Either way I'd only get this on special offer days and stick to the existing cereal (unless this replaces it!).

The chocolate one is also a bit odd - it's almost like the wholegrain version of the package here is somehow more wholewheat than the larger versions. The texture seems wrong and the chocolate flavour just isn't that noticeable over the icing. I'd be more likely to pick this up again than the original flavour, but only because there isn't a chocolate variety of that (the alternate there is raisins - ick!).

I think that children and people who haven't tried Frosted Wheats may appreciate the smaller parcel size on offer here, but I wasn't a massive fan. The wheat parcel concoction is one that supermarket own brands seem to excel at so I'm not sure this will last that long in the crowded UK market so try it sooner rather than later!
By @NLi10

17 December 2011

Tiddly Penguin (Hotel Chocolat) [By @SpectreUK]

This smart 85g box from Hotel Chocolat contains eight solid caramel flavoured milk chocolate penguins. One serving portion is thought of as four penguins, which is 238 calories or 476 calories for all eight penguins if you’re feeling greedy! The penguin shapes are rather cute, wearing scarves just in case you are crazy enough to put these chocolates in the fridge or leave them outside in the cold winter for too long. Ingredients included; caramelized sugar, caramel, and vanilla. I could definitely taste the vanilla which complemented the caramel in the milk chocolate, adding an extra luxurious sweetness to the taste. Biting into each chocolate penguin I had the slight disappointment that the penguins didn’t have a gooey caramel centre, but the sheer creaminess of the milk chocolate combined with the pleasure of caramel mixed with vanilla made me instantly forget the need for gooeyness. I really enjoyed eating these chocolate penguins, and savoured everyone I was fortunate enough to get my hands on before Cinabar and her mom wrestled the box off me. The cute chocolate penguin shapes made me smile and would make a lovely treat for kids and adults alike. I can’t image these caramel chocolate penguins would last very long if you show them off to anyone, especially if you go with the suggested “after dinner treat” on the box. Take my advice, be selfish and keep them all to yourself… ;-)
By Spectre

16 December 2011

Black Forest Hot Chocolate (Costa) [By @cinabar]

This new hot chocolate forms part of the Christmas drinks range at Costa. Christmas shopping can take it out of you and for the sake of refreshment we decided to stop at Costa and sample their seasonal goodies.
I love Black Forest Gateaux, although it is something I have always felt was a bit retro, given its popularity in the eighties. I have never grown out of the stuff, and am pleased to see it’s having a bit of a revival at the minute. I’ve seen it on the menu at Fortnum & Masons and several other posh cafes, and I have been enjoying its come back.
Although the gateaux itself wasn't available in Costa their new hot chocolate is named after it and contains luscious amounts of cherry sauce and chocolate. The drink in the picture is the version without cream, but if you want to go the full hog and recreate the cake properly they will gladly laden your mug with cream to finish too.
I actually like fruity flavoured hot chocolates, but they aren’t that common as I think they need a special kind of sweet tooth (rather like mine). I felt the flavour of this drink was perfect and full on, and was everything I hoped for. The hot milky chocolate was soothing and rich, but the cherry syrup just added a nice bit of tartness and a fruity burst to break it all up. The cherry and chocolate flavours worked rather well together, and produced a fabulous hot chocolate that was indeed reminiscent of black forest gateaux. Personally I loved the stuff, and felt it was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for the tired shopper. Now if they served it along with a slice of the cake it’s named after, now that would be heaven!
By Cinabar

15 December 2011

Honey Monster Snowy Puffs [By @NLi10]

I'm spotting a trend here - new season, new Puffs! This time around the HM has donned his snowboarding gear and is celebrating winter the only way he knows - by adding to the base cereal with a snow themed addition. This time the base sugar-puffs taste similar to the normal variety but you get little bits of crunchy meringue to go with it. This is a strange choice - children are not notorious for their love of meringue, in fact if you give them some at a family party with fruit in they tend to pull funny faces (it's so worth it). Also this cereal doesn't have anything that isn't sweet to offset it. With some trepidation I decided to eat away.

The box is decorated in a playful way and contains lots of lovely distractions that are suitable for children but not squarely aimed at them as apparently you aren't supposed to do that anymore (despite a good breakfast being one of the basic Public Health things you are supposed to encourage). I'm pretty sure the missing word is 'A' (because there is no such thing as a Snow Tractor - unless they meant Plough...).

The cereal has a few unusual qualities. The first mouthful is fine - hard Sugar Puffs, hard meringue and milk all in harmony - but after a while it all goes a bit odd. When the sugar puffs are soft due to the milk (which is fine - they don't go mushy they are just less hard) the meringue stays hard, this means that it's like finding a rock in your cereal. After the first few surprise crunches you anticipate it, but then you start to get a strange shift in the flavours as the meringues take over. This is easily fixed by making sure you only get one or two in a spoonful but if you hit three or four then it's like taking a bite out of some meringue without anything to balance it out and it's a bit sweet and papery and not at all pleasant. If this was a cereal with dried fruit in then they could go together quite well, even past the softening, but in Sugar Puffs it doesn't quite work and I much preferred the Toffee Apple variety.

I think that a solution to this would be to put in less meringue - for me anyway - if you are a massive fan of eating this kind of thing with no topping then this may be the breakfast rush you've been hunting for. I think the more traditional route would be to have little hard marshmallows like in Lucky Charms (which we don't get much of over here) but then your cereal isn't vegetarian which is a Bad Thing in the UK where we are pretty good at special diets.

Overall it's a fun little product and a great surprise for visiting children to try, but not one I'll be rushing for more packs of. I might try another one next year though. And I can't wait for the Honey Monster Spring Collection (with seeds maybe? or fruit? I'm no good at this!).
By Nli10

14 December 2011

Garlic Bread and Garlic Mushrooms at the German Market in Birmingham [By @SpectreUK]

The German Market has been a popular phenomenon every Christmas in Birmingham city centre for some years now. It has grown in size and popularity over the years to become the biggest German Market outside of Germany this year, and its stalls run from the Bullring Bronze Bull statue to Centenary Square. I usually make a point of visiting the market at least once whilst it runs from late November until 23rd December. After a lengthy wonder around the many market stalls that offer a wide range of items from jewelry to tin toys, clothing to sweets, cakes and chocolates, massive German sausages to roasted chestnuts, I made a beeline for my favourite garlic bread stall…

Garlic Bread

The garlic bread stall (shown in the photograph) is in the form of a huge clove of garlic. It is in the same place every year, which is just in front of the Town Hall on Victoria Square. The stall offers three flavours of garlic bread; Garlic and Cheese; Garlic, Cheese and Salami; and Garlic, Cheese and Spicy Sausage. I’ve tried the Garlic and Cheese, and the Garlic, Cheese and Salami flavours in the years before, and I remember that both flavours were sumptuously juicy with garlic, thick tasty cheese and the second flavour was laced with meaty spicy salami. This year I decided to try the Garlic, Cheese and Spicy Sausage. Sadly I didn’t get a picture, due to the fact that the bread is served on a napkin (not a paperplate) and is rather messy, therefore I had to eat the garlic bread whilst it was nice and hot before the garlic and cheese oozed everywhere. Again, the bread was juicy with garlic, covered with thick melted and slightly stringy cheese and lovely spicy meaty pieces of sausage. The spice in the sausage was quite hot, and mixed well with the strong garlic and cheese flavours. Part the way through eating the Garlic, Cheese and Spicy Sausage flavour I began to seriously regret not trying this flavour before from this stall. I mean, I like the Garlic and Cheese, and the Garlic, Cheese and Salami flavours, but the Garlic, Cheese and Spicy Sausage flavour was in a class of its own. However, I could tell that I wasn’t going to get much kisses when I got home from work that night, or many the next day for that matter, so I made my way to the fried mushrooms and fried potatoes with garlic sauce stall. In for a penny… I guess!

Fried Mushrooms and Fried Potatoes with Garlic Sauce

Set amongst all the German sausage, mulled wine and beer stalls in Victoria Square and not too far from the garlic bread stall, is the stall that cooks fried mushrooms and fried potatoes with garlic sauce. The stall also cooks fried burgers too, but I’m still to try one of these at some point. There are huge frying pans on this stall, one with fried mushrooms, one with fried potatoes and one with fried burgers. I ordered fried mushrooms and fried potatoes with the customary garlic sauce. As I was handed a plate piled high with mushrooms, fried slices of potatoes, and runny with garlic sauce, I reminded myself that last year I ended up wearing the garlic sauce, which was a pain to get out of a suit jacket. There are plenty of tables to stand around nearby, which were busy with people eating and drinking. I shared a table with a couple that were visiting from Yorkshire, and had a nice conversation with them. Everybody seemed happy and friendly around me, and in the Christmas spirit. The hot fried potatoes soaked up much of the garlic sauce, and the fried mushrooms were dipped in the rest. The meal was just as tasty and luxurious as I remembered it from the previous years, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

I’d been looking forward to my trip to the German Market particularly for these two food stalls since the previous year, and was certainly not disappointed. The German Market always leaves me full of food and in the Christmas spirit. I shall try and visit again before the 23rd December, to see if I can sample some more German food and drink. I bought six doughnuts as I was leaving the market, which Cinabar will write up soon and a teddy bear for one of Cinabar’s Christmas presents. Merry Christmas everyone! ;-)
By Spectre

13 December 2011

Vimto Hot Mulled Berry Punch [Spiced Cordial] [By @cinabar]

The fruity mix of flavours of Vimto always takes me back to my childhood, where I drank litres of the stuff! In recent years they have brought out new flavours, and have fizzy versions too, but it is the cordial which I have a soft spot for. I was intrigued to see that this year they have a seasonal edition drink to warm us up in the winter months. The drink is mulled with Christmas spices, and is designed to be had hot and made with water from the kettle. After a long day at work, and a walk home in the cold I popped the kettle on to try it out.
Once the lid was off, I checked the aroma of the concentrated fruity mix and I could clearly pick up on the smell of regular Vimto and a nice hint of something a little spicy like cloves. I poured a large splash of the drink into mugs and topped up with hot water. The drink had a lovely rich dark red/purple colour and smelt wonderfully fruity. The regular taste of Vimto shone though, with its mixed fruit goodness. There is aftertaste with this drink that is very mildly spiced, with a just a hint of something slightly warming and woody and the end of each sip. The drink is nice because it is Vimto, but I felt that they could have turned up the seasonal flavour by adding a bit more cinnamon and spice, as the mulled part is so very mild. I say this as a cinnamon addict who was hoping for a bit more tang from the taste as it is one of my favourite flavours. I suspect Vimto kept it mild so that it would stay child friendly and not overpower the original Vimto experience. As such I think it will go down well at Christmas parties for little ones or those who don't want an alcoholic drink. It’s a nice drink – true to the original flavour, which just a subtle hint of something extra mixed in and a gentle Christmas twist.
By Cinabar

12 December 2011

Mince Pie Ice Cream (Tesco Finest) [By @Cinabar]

From the people that brought you mince pie crisps… we now have mince pie ice cream! This isn't ice cream made specially to serve with mince pies, oh no this is mince pie flavoured! It is an unusual idea this year to have new and interesting mince pie flavoured goodies, but one I'm lapping up.
I hastily opened the tub, and inside was a light cream coloured ice cream filled with all sorts of interesting bits and goodies. I could see bits of pastry mixed into the tub, and other intriguing items like specs of cinnamon and other spices.
I scooped some into a bowl, and gave it a first try. The base flavour of the ice cream is not really as expected at all. Mince pies have a rich current taste, but the main element here was citrus, with a slightly tart lemon edge. There were plenty of warming spices mixed in, and the cloves and cinnamon did go some way to warming it up, but it couldn't cover the lemon taste. I know mince pies contain lemon, and they have a hint of sour, but the strong currant flavour was missing from this ice cream. I liked the texture from the pastry bits mixed in, and the creamy taste had nice hints of butter and biscuit which certainly fulfilled the pastry aspect of the mince pies.
The ice cream was absolutely lovely, and the citrus base taste worked well with the spices and Christmas flavour. The pastry aspect added a lovely texture and buttery bursts, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tub. I have bought a second tub to put away for Christmas as I liked it so much. Ultimately though if you judge this as 'mince pie' flavour it was just slightly lacking the rich dark currant and raisin flavour you'd expect. It’s actually more of a refreshing ice cream, and would be well suited to the summer months!
By Cinabar

11 December 2011

Lifeboat Tea - Williamson Tea (RNLI Shop) [By @NLi10]

At the Great British seaside there are a few constants that you will see pretty much all round the coast - the first is changeable weather, the second is Lifeboats. Essentially they are the super-charged version of the coastguard and able to brave even the roughest seas to rescue people when the changeable weather hits. Whether you've been caught out by shifting tides and had to dash back to the main beach before being cut off, or just seen Blue Peter's (UK kids TV show) excellent efforts to raise awareness and money then most people are familiar with the perils of the sea-side. I was completely oblivious however to the fact that they have a charity tea!

I'm a sucker for tea-with-heart as the Builder's Tea (that pays for training unemployed youths as builders) review shows, but lifeboats are a little bit special. It's the kind of service that is pretty much run by volunteers and donations and puts these brave people in danger on a regular basis. The pack details the exploits of rescues that were pretty close to the edge, and makes you feel guilty for hiding inside with a cuppa. To this end I got Ms. NLi10 to take a quick snap of me on the Cobb (sea-wall) at Lyme Regis in November - it's as windy as it looks (if not more so)!

The product itself is a really good quality tea. It's not going to win awards for its exciting flavour, but it's an amazingly smooth English Breakfast style blend and well balanced. I've been happily choosing this over PG Tips when having a caffeinated tea (my default is decaf these days) and plan to buy more. My only problem with the product is it's charitable status - only 7p from the box goes to the lifeboats. Looking at the picture below 7p doesn't go very far at all, and I guess the positioning of this is so that the price of the box doesn't prevent people from buying it for cheaper brands (it was reasonably priced).

RNLI website

So my suggestion is this - hunt down the tea for a taste next time you are at the sea-side but put a little extra in the collection box too. If someone was collecting for the lifeboats in the high-street I'd feel ashamed to just give them 7p, but I suppose that en masse all these coins add up quite fast. The quality of charity snacks has improved a lot over the past 10 years or so, with no compromise being made on quality, and this tea can be added to the list of quality foods that just happen to be charitable - bringing me to my next point.

Interactive bit!
Here at FoodStuffFinds we do like good snacks, but we also like good causes. I'm sure that some of our readers have favourite charitable snacks that are actually of high quality, like Lifeboat Tea, or the Red Nose Day Dubble Chocolate bars - what I want you to do is to put a comment about them below ESPECIALLY if you think it's something we haven't mentioned but don't know about. There must be lots of small local charities doing snacks that would appreciate a few thousand extra visits to their website and I'd be happy to hunt down the foods to try out. January can be pretty quiet for snacks so if you want us to give your favourite a shout out then now is your chance.
By NLi10

10 December 2011

Guava Juice (Pinoy Foods, Birmingham Indoor Market) [By @SpectreUK]

Pokka is a Japanese company that has been canning and bottling ready to drink tea and fruit drinks since 1977. Pokka export to 50 countries in Asia, the Middle-East and Europe and has 27 restaurants located in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

I picked up this imported Guava juice drink in Birmingham Indoor Market. The drink is made from real guava juice and is rich in vitamin C. It has a very tropical taste with a hint of mango to the flavour. There is a sweet syrup tang, but not overpoweringly sweet. I found guava juice very moreish and easy to drink. Although thirst quenching, I found the can emptied far too quickly and I was left wishing it had been packaged in a larger carton, rather than a tiny can. Believe it or not, I’d had a good workout (in a vain attempt to burn off some of the flab) and found this drink a healthier alternative to an energy drink, although I also had to raid the fridge for a glass of orange juice to further take the edge off my thirst.
By Spectre

9 December 2011

Tasty Little Numbers – Light And Wispy Choco Crispy Bars [By @Cinabar]

Tasty Little Numbers is a new brand of snack products on the market which is all about making calorie counting and portion control simple. Everything in their selection has a whole number of calories, these chocolate bars are exactly 100, they have crisps with 100 calories too, and the range of snack pots they make are 200. The only issue is that although the calories makes these easy to count, the rest of the foods in my diet aren't nice whole numbers, so I'd still struggle the rest of the day. I like the idea of easy calorie counting though, and it helps proportion how other products compare very easily.
First thing I have to mention is that I do like the packaging on these bars. I think that the neatly printed word art looks good and modern, it’s simple but stands out nicely too. At just 100 calories for a chocolate bar these are really quite low, and I was intrigued to find out what they taste like.
There are three varieties available, in a white, milk and dark chocolate. All are filled with a crispy wafer centre and then dipped in the appropriate chocolate. I started off with the white chocolate and discovered the bar was thin with a rippled effect on the chocolate. The centre was very crispy when I broke it in half, but didn’t crumble. When I bit it I couldn’t help thinking that it had the same texture as Ryvita for the filling, and there was a hint of savour taste too. The white chocolate was plentiful, and the whole bar was nice, but the filling wasn’t as much as a treat as I had hoped, but it did fend off my chocolate craving.
The milk chocolate variety was a far better balanced bar, as the chocolate was surprisingly rich and quite thick too. The filling was the same as the white but the chocolate had a stronger flavour leaving you with a nice crunchy treat.
The dark chocolate was a similar affair to the milk but with a hint of bitterness in the chocolate. The flavour was lovely and rich, and again worked rather well. Although the white chocolate was my least favourite compared to the other two bars it was still nice. The other two were good chocolate treats, and if you compare their calories to other bars, then they are all darn impressive! These make a nice guilt free snack that will cure your chocolate craving and are super easy for calorie counters.
By Cinabar

8 December 2011

Meiji Lucky Stick - Strawberry and Chocolate [by @NLi10]

Again - I can't remember when these were added to Snack Mountain - the pile next to my desk of unconsumed things. I'm presuming that they either came from KK Mart in Bromsgrove or Yum Yum in Worcester as the majority of things do - although I have found a Birmingham shop now that will be featured when I clear my B(Sn)ackLog.

Meiji Seika are a snack manufacturer from Japan (that are now part of a pharmaceutical company the same as Proctor & Gamble who make Pringles) and one of Glico's (makers of Pocky) main competitors. This is their take on the stick-with-choc snack that is mainly known in the UK due to Pocky but it varies in a couple of important ways.

Firstly the diameter of the stick is quite large. This is more similar to the KP dips from the UK (or indeed Meiji's own Yan Yan that I have two of waiting to review) but maybe a little slimmer and certainly more cylindrical. They are softer and less crunchy than Pocky too.

The coating itself seems to also be thicker - being a step below Pocky Mouse but with a definite softness to the bite. The flavours are good as you expect, and the strawberry is probably my favourite of the two. The taste is a lot smoother than the Pocky but this allows for a more creamy taste which is quite nice. I'm very used to the other, sharper version so it took a bit of getting used to. The chocolate was more disappointing, but the biscuit having flavour too added to the overall experience.

I seemed to end up with a lot of these still in the boxes after munching as 45g is quite a generous portion when trying two at the same time. I shared the rest out at games night and everyone agreed that they were worth a try.
By NLi10

7 December 2011

Nut Tree – Chilli and Lime Cashew Nuts (Westmorland Service Station) [By @SpectreUK]

These Chilli and Lime Cashew Nuts are produced by Divine Deli Supplies, in Rochdale. A relatively new company, Divine Deli also supplies products such as spices, chocolates, bread dippers, chutneys, pickles, compotes, tapenades, flavoured sea salts and balsamic vinegars. At 130g the Chilli and Lime Cashew Nut’s ingredients include; chilli, lime, malt vinegar, tomato, onion, garlic, and of course, cashew nuts! There was a spicy nutty smell on opening the plastic bottle shaped container. The flavour was not hot, but the label on the bottle didn’t promise the nuts to be hot, like some spicy snack manufacturers that often promise chilli heat and don’t deliver. Instead there was a mild spicy tang, with a sumptuous taste of chilli, lime, and tomato with a hint of garlic. These cashew nuts were lovely and I would definitely have them again. They would go well with nibbles over the Christmas period (or any other time of the year) or mixed in with a leafy salad. Divine Deli sell other flavours of nuts such as salted, hot chilli, smoked, caramelised honey, caramelised chilli honey and caramelised cinnamon honey. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for these other flavours and other products supplied by Divine Deli.
By Spectre

6 December 2011

Alternative Mince Pies (Hotel Chocolat) [By @Cinabar]

I have to say this product has an odd name. These chocolates are called Alternative Mince Pies yet contain no mincemeat, or even pastry for that matter. They do look a little like mince pies but they are notably smaller than you'd expect too. In conclusion there isn’t much similarity, so it seems to be that the name is more literal in that they are an alternative treat to have with coffee than a twist on the original idea. When I first saw them I had hoped for a special chocolate and mincemeat concoction, which I think could work if blended well, particularly if Hotel Chocolat were involved. Perhaps next year – if we cross our fingers?
Let’s focus on what we do have here, which are six chocolates neatly presented in a sweet box . There are two varieties of chocolate (milk/dark), both with a nice thick amount of caramel and a good hit of praline. The milk chocolate is sweet and had a lovely strong chocolate flavour. The dark chocolate added that extra bit of richness, and was a perfect accompaniment to the filling.
The soft caramel was thick, but still pleasingly wet and runny, and the textures were lovely with the chocolate shell. I loved breaking through the chocolate to reveal the gooey centre. The caramel was sweet, with hints of brown sugar and had a subtle salty edge to complete the taste. The praline was lovely and nutty and worked perfectly with the chocolate base taste. The chocolates were delicious, and offered a lovely chocolaty treat.
I felt that the flavours worked well, and both the milk and dark chocolate shone through with exceptional flavour. These would be perfect served with coffee after dinner during the Christmas season, but I’d still keep a box of real mince pies in the cupboard, to have with custard! ;-)
By Cinabar