31 May 2014

Hand Cooked Prawn Tom Yum Potato Crisps (@MarksAndSpencer) [By @SpectreUK]

These Tom Yum crisps from Marks & Spencers are spiced with lemongrass, ginger and cayenne chilli. Cinabar hates lemongrass so I felt pretty rest assured that I'd get to eat most of the bag of these Tom Yum Potato Crisps to myself. Sounds selfish I know, but that's the type of snacking guy I can be when faced with one of my favourite flavours. I just love Tom Yum noodle soup and literally lap it up like an excited purring kitten whenever I have it. I've also enjoyed Tom Yum flavoured crisps before and wanted to see how these matched up to the Hairy Biker's offering.

On opening the packet there was a heavy prawn, lemongrass and paprika smell from the crisps. Cinabar took one whiff and said she couldn't smell the lemongrass, but I could... Ha, ha. She took one bite of a crisp and said "Oh, but they do taste REALLY of lemongrass!" and stated that she hoped I was hungry. And I was! On first bite I noticed there was an initial taste of prawn followed by an almost soapy strong taste of lemongrass. This flavour of lemongrass travelled into the aftertaste with the paprika and luke warm cayenne chilli. There was no noticeable burn from the added chilli. These were very tasty crisps, but the overpowering soapy flavour of lemongrass almost even put a hearty Tom Yum fanboy like me off from finishing the packet. In fact I didn't manage to finish them off. I preferred the Hairy Biker's version of Tum Yum crisps as their flavours were more balanced and there was not a hint of a washing up bottle taste in site. Having said that I didn't blow one soapy lemongrass bubble whilst eating these crisps, but I sadly didn't enjoy them. Sorry M&S, but this is the first crisp flavour you've produced that I didn't like!

Information on packet;
150g bag. Per 30g serving there is 143 calories, with 7.1g of fat and 0.6g of sugar. There are dried prawns in the ingredients, so these crisps are not for vegetarians. For the full list of ingredients, please is the photograph.
By Spectre

30 May 2014

New Muller De Luxe Corner: Vanilla D’Or (Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

I am a big fan of the new luxury range of yoghurts from Muller, and many of the flavours have become regular items on my grocery list. I noticed that there was another new flavour in the range, and although it sounded like it might not be the most exciting variety (being vanilla), something made me pick it up.
Okay by something I mean ‘golden balls’. Yes the biscuits with this yoghurt are a metallic gold, how cool is that! Note to product development people, if you add edible glitter to something I will buy it, likewise if you make it metallic and edible you can consider me in! Shallow yes, but I like shiny things! :-D

Anyway it turns out that was a lot more to this vanilla edition than first met the eye. Yes the base yoghurt is vanilla but it s a thick creamy smooth flavour, and is vanilla done really well. Within the yoghurt is a fab layer of toffee sauce. It is a thin sauce, quite watery but adds a nice flavour of sweet golden caramel. The biscuits are like a shortbread in taste, buttery but sweet and with a fairly light crunch. The are coated in milk chocolate, and of course the edible gold decoration!
The overall yoghurt is somewhere between a toffee and vanilla flavour, and although the flavours weren’t overly complex they did work well. I like the golden colour on the biscuits, I did think they looked decadent, but I’m easily swayed by novelty so they may not be to everyones tastes!
By Cinabar

29 May 2014

Delimano Ceramica Suprema 20cm Frying Pan [Review by @NLi10]

When someone offers to send you a frying pan to review you have to presume they are pretty confident that it's better than the one you have.  I know I've cooked at a few other people's houses before (and in hostel kitchens) and had some fairly useless lumps of metal to work with, but at home I have a lovely little wok and a much larger wok pan which you'd expect for someone writing a food blog.  It was with some trepidation then that I accepted that I'd try some ceramic cookware and see what the fuss was about.

The parcel was delivered to my elderly neighbours and the man of the house suggested that bacon and eggs would be the best things to test it with.  And I agreed!

I added Udon noodles as these are the thing that most often sticks to my existing pans.  It does mean they become super crispy - but takes some effort to clean off.

First up an egg.  I did nothing to the pan except for washing it before use.  See how the little red stripe before the handle has appeared - I guess that means it's hot enough!

The egg fried and then slid straight out of the pan leaving no mess at all.  This was fun.  I then put the cheap, water and salt filled bacon (that I got from our little shop on our street as I was out of the good stuff) into the pan with no oil or fat.  I whacked the temperature up to get the fat out of the bacon to crisp it up.

While this did leave behind a lot of bacon residue the plastic spatula I used for cooking these easily wiped that off.  I added the cooked bacon to the bowl and moved on to the noodles.

These I softened with water and then added some Kikkoman Soy Sauce to the pan while cooking to give it that authentic flavour.  This usually causes the noodles at the bottom to stick to the pan.

In this case it didn't happen.  The noodles didn't seem to dry out as much and didn't crisp up quite as much as I'm used to, but also didn't stick at all.  They were evenly coated and all cooked well.

And with no water at all I used my puple spatula to remove all the bits that would usually require a scrub to get off.  This made washing up a very quick and simple affair.

I'm sure for big stir-fry that this wouldn't be able to replace my giant wok pan, but for general frying it's a lot easier and requires less heat or oil.  If your looking to reduce the amount you need to use then this could be for you.  I also think this range would make very good gifts as it's something that most people are unlikely to go out and look for - unless they've tried out someone else's and decided their kitchen needs an upgrade.

I doubted that adding a bit of science to kitchenware would make that much difference, but it's surprisingly effective.  At £33.99 it's not going to be the cheapest on the market, but it comes with a 5 year guarantee which is essentially a manufacturers way of saying they'd be surprised if it didn't last 10.  The full range is here and I'm very tempted to hunt these out as some of my family would definitely like one as a birthday present.

This said - it may be that all ceramic pans are simply more effective than the thin metal ones I'm used to - i'd be interested to hear other peoples opinions on this in the comments below.

28 May 2014

Flaming Hot Coleslaw (@Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

This Flaming Hot Coleslaw, no really; Flaming Hot Coleslaw does seem a contradiction in terms. Coleslaw is usually a cooling addition to a salad or sandwich meal, whereas this Flaming Hot Coleslaw has shredded jalapeƱos and mustard added to it. At first glance there is a fairly misleading friendly pinkish colour to the coleslaw. On opening the plastic tub the pinkish contents smelt like regular coleslaw. In fact if it wasn't for the pinkness you wouldn't think anything could be amiss. It's on the tasting that the immediate chilli kick punch and wallop happens. The ingredients make it sound like it really shouldn't be that hot. In fact on first heaped forkful I had to let out a surprised cough, followed by a yelp reminiscent of a kicked puppy. Strangely so did Cinabar and her mom. It was only after quite a few mouthfuls of this juicy tasty spicy hot devil of a coleslaw that we started to get used to the mega chilli heat of it! The taste started with a creaminess followed immediately by a chilli burn that just gets hotter and hotter. I could taste dashings of cabbage and carrot through the chilli haze. My nose tingled begging me to sneeze, my tongue burnt to almost numbness in an oddly pleasurable masochistic way. The three chilli hotness rating on front of the label really doesn't seem hot enough. Cinabar dubbed it the "Little Pot of Death". I'd tend to agree with that, but I'd certainly add that a full pot of this and some Barry Norman's Hot and Spicy Pickled Onions on the side would be a grand way to go!

Information on the label;
300g. Each heaped tablespoon of pink death has 94 calories, with 2.4g of sugar and 8.9g of fat. Ingredients were shredded cabbage, carrot, and jalapeƱo in a mustard mayonnaise dressing (see photograph). Allergy advice contains egg and mustard. Suitable for vegetarians.
By Spectre

27 May 2014

PieMinister: Brazilian - Trentham Gardens (@pieminister) [By @Cinabar]

I have heard about Pieminister from NLi10’s reviews on this blog. Although I’ve seen the pies in the supermarkets, I’ve never actually purchased one, I’m ashamed to say. Spectre and I went for day out to Trentham Gardens, and what caught our eye was a Pieminister cafe, and we suddenly new where we were going to have lunch!
The sign on the door declared that there was a new pie in town for the world cup, The Brazilian, so I knew where I was going to start. Spectre looked a little shocked by the amount of choice on the menu, and after perusing it for some time chose the Moo and Blue (beef and stilton).
The ladies in the shop were remarkably excited that I’d ordered the new pie, and were really keen to see what I thought of it. I didn’t even mention the blog, they were just very attentive staff which was lovely, and they were keen to see how the new flavour was going to go down.

I decided to have my pie with a salad, as it was a surprisingly warm day, we even chose a table outside to eat at. Fear not they did of course have the British tradition upheld and mash was available as a side if you wanted it, plus there was indoor tables if the traditional weather were to kick in too!

We didn’t have to wait very long before we were served, again by a very friendly staff member. The pie had beautiful pastry, it was light but buttery and tasty. I think I’m put off the concept of pies for the pastry, always assuming they would be quite stodgy, but this was an absolute pleasure to eat. The filling was fun and well themed for the world cup. It contained a tomato sauce base, with chicken and chorizo mixed in to give it a delicious meaty mix. The tomato sauce left a fab hot spice on the palette, and had a good tingle from the chilli. It turns out the salad was a nice touch to cool down my taste buds afterwards! Spectre was practically at a point of licking his plate he enjoyed his pie so much, so it is fair to say the Moo and Blue went down rather well too.
We had such a fab meal in Pieminister that when were home I had a look online to ensure I ordered some Pieminister pies on the online grocery order, as they had been that good. If you do happen to be having a day out at Trentham Gardens I don’t think you would find a nicer place to eat, or a better selection of freshly cooked pies anywhere to be honest. I can’t wait to try the ones from the supermarket either.
By Cinabar

26 May 2014

Lemon Harissa Potato Crisps (Marks & Spencer) [By @Cinabar]

With the change of season in Mark’s comes a couple of new varieties of interesting sounding crisps. The one that I chose to taste test first were these Lemon Harissa flavoured ones. I have no shame in admitting that I had to google Harissa’ as I wasn’t sure what it was. It is a Tunisian Chilli paste, often made with lemon, okay so I could have guessed at some of the ingredients given the picture on the front of the pack, but I sensed these would be right up my street. I do like my crisps spicy.
When I opened up the pack the aroma was quite distinctive and familiar, and it reminded me of bags of Bombay Mix, this boded well for my taste buds. The flavour wasn’t too hot from the crisps, they had a decent tingle of chilli, but you could still pick up on the depth of flavour without having to worry about the heat. I’d say well balanced rather than scorching.
There was clearly a lot of paprika in them, which offered the warmth and some sweet and sour edge too. I guess the sweetness was from tomato, and the sour was from the lemon as promised on the front. Other spices that shone through and gave it the Bombay Mix edge were cumin and cloves, but this made it me associate it more with India more than Africa, but perhaps that is more down to my lack of knowledge on Harissa paste.
All in all these crisps bring a nice bit of warmth out for summer, and are posh enough to stand out at any picnic, but still maintain a good moreish flavour. Spectre will be reviewing the other new flavour of summer crisps from M&S on Saturday as it contains my nemesis, lemongrass - eek!
By Cinabar

WIN: Clarks Maple Syrup and Clarks Honey

The lovely folks at Clarks have been in touch, and have offered up a Foodstuff Finds readers competition.

You can win a great selection of their syrups and honeys. Have a look at the piccie and see what you could be topping your ice cream with or indeed drizzling on your toast!

In order to enter you need to follow this blog via Email, Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook  (all the links are on menu on the right). 

Then send an email to admin@foodstufffinds.co.uk with COMP in the subject line, AND let me know how you follow us (i.e. your name on Facebook, your email address that subscribes or your @name on twitter or you name on Pinterest).

Competition closes 1st June 2014

• One winners will be chosen at random
• UK residents only
• Competition closes 8pm on 1st June 2014.
• If we can’t get in touch with the winner in a reasonable amount of time to obtain an address another winner will be selected.
• If you have any questions about this competition, please send me an email or leave a comment below.

25 May 2014

Teapigs Organic Matcha Super Green Tea Powder [Review by @NLi10]

I'm a bit of a Teapigs fan boy.  After Cinabar mentioned them to me I tried them out and fell in love. 

Not as much in love as with Fentimans (whose first ever TV advert came out this week) but then that's a longer standing thing, and there are far more quality teas out there than quality soft drinks.  My other soft drink love - Pocari - is off to the moon next year, it really is a good time to be a quality brand.

Teapigs offered to send me a kit for their green tea powder (which I'd not heard of) so I said YES and received the below with a couple of other teas which I will review in the future.  I knew that I could get this off their website but I spotted it in Selfridges first and was amazed at how much it was.  The Teapigs site has it for much cheaper though and has a bundle deal like I got for £32.50.  This should last you for 30 days though so it's cheaper than a lot of diets or health kicks.

The question is, what is it and what does it do.  Essentially Matcha is a specific kind of green tea, that is ground into a fine powder (it looks like makeup). It's special properties are said to come from it's growing techniques (shade is involved) and the fact that you ingest the powdered leaves instead of throwing them away.  What it's supposed to do is listed here - and unlike a lot of 'bad science' food products this has references for all it's claims that link to peer reviewed journals. This is a good thing, as it means that it isn't just people agreeing with what the packets say - this has been tested.

In a nutshell it's a kick start for the morning.  Essentially you take a shot of the powder (with water, juice, milk - whatever you like) and your body slowly releases the caffeine and other good things over the course of the day.  The closest sensation I can link it to is the Health Potion that I reviewed many years ago - not for the initial roar of caffeine, but the calmer alertness that came later.  

In the above picture I did it with hot water (like tea) and below with cold milk.  The lumps in the top picture are as I took it before using the whisk - you realistically need one to get this perfect every time.

The below picture is with orange juice.  I expected this to be horrible, but it was surprisingly smooth. In fact it wasn't dissimilar to the 'shrek juice' smoothies that I like.  In fact the taste hasn't been a problem for me - it is just very strong green tea.  My partner tried one and had to be coaxed into drinking the second half of the shot - she disliked the flavour so much!  I guess that you already know whether you like green tea strong or weak so you can judge this yourself.

The real question is how effective this is.  The parcel arrived on the 9th of May and I started on the 10th.  This gives us 16 mornings of potential Matcha usage.  I wanted to write this up at the half way point and again at the end to see exactly what I thought as it went on.  I am tempted to eat a similar amount of normal loose tea in the following 30 days to see what that does, but we will see.

Initially I had no problem with compliance and the first 5 or so days passed without issue. I found that I had a little tea shot, then breakfast and about half way to work (I've been walking most days) i started to feel like it kicked in.  It is almost like a 'brightening' feeling where you are waking up a second time and not unlike drinking a cup of tea.  This lasts until after lunch and doesn't end with a crash but gradually peters out.  I grew to quite like this sensation and was happy to have the pick me up.  My walks home were more tiring, but not noticeably different to a day where I hadn't taken the shot.  I started to look into other types of powdered tea and where I can get the next months supply from.  I was reminded of one of my favourite ever online cartoon series called 'Beat The Blerch' and in combination with recent lifestyle changes was going to use this as the cornerstone of a new 'me'. But...

Around the 16th I noticed that I was having problems, which I suspected may be a combination of factors - most of them unique to me.  I've recently found out about a long standing medical condition that presumably I've always had but never really understood.  Two of the things that they say aggravate it are alcohol and caffeine.  At various times and for various reasons I've cut these out of my diet and improved my health - without really understanding why.  While the Matcha tea shot only has about the same as a cup of green tea (that I'd normally have most days at work) I found the mornings becoming gradually harder. Then one morning I felt terrible and was really groggy so completely forgot about the tea.  The day was less bright and breezy because of this, but the following morning I wasn't quite as groggy.  This got me to thinking about whether the powder tea was causing problems with my condition.

I switched back to having the shot that morning, but was now keeping a much closer eye on how I felt.  The day went well and the morning again was more lethargic and harder to get up from.

I had two days off from the powder to have a think about things.  I looked up the caffeine values for the things I'd been drinking and made a mental note of the alcohol I'd had at a couple of social outings.  I resolved that there should be no problems with having the shot in the morning as long as I only had one decaf tea besides that in a day and no alcohol.  This isn't a big change, but I think the problem days did occur when Pepsi and tea had also been consumed so I may be unfairly placing the burden on the matcha.

It is like this that I have continued, on weekends having the shot a little later as having energy when no one else is up seems unnecessary.  I've been OK in the mornings so far, but will monitor things.

For a person who can drink a normal amount of caffeine (say a cup of coffee a day, or two cups of regular tea) then this problem should be non existent.  You should expect to have half a day of bright and productive energy and no slump that sugar based energy drinks and highly caffeinated products produce.  I can't really talk about the skin side yet, I will see if I make it to the end of the thirty days.

24 May 2014

Rowntree's Randoms Sweet 'n' Sour (WH Smiths) [By @SpectreUK]

These Rowntree's Randoms Sweet 'n' Sour are another packet of gummy and foam sweets in a long list of gummies I've tried by Rowntree's of late. These sweets seemed more the epitome of Randoms than any other I have tasted though. Previously the word 'Randoms' meant more the shapes of the sweets. These Sweet 'n' Sour Randoms really mean what they say on the tin (er... well, packet). The fat yellow sour gummies have green goo in their centre and taste of lime and lemon to start with, then when biting into them there was a burst of strong lime squishiness from their centre. The pink and cream coloured Random foams taste of a sweet strawberry ice cream flavour. My favourite shape out of all the Randoms from Rowntree's I've tried has to be the strawberry sweet spaceship foam. I almost couldn't eat it as it was so smart! All the rest of the sugar coated gummies were sours, some with foam and some without. There was raspberry sour red, apple sour green, a very tart sour orange, and a very nose twisty sour black currant.

I really enjoyed these Rowntree's Randoms Sweet 'n' Sour, and couldn't help but pick up random flavours whilst burning my way through the packet to stay with the theme. It could be difficult to tell what some of the shapes were as they were covered in sugar, but they didn't live long enough to get more than a cursory glance anyway. All the gummies and foams tasted naturally fruity, be they sour or sweet, with some even bursting in my mouth. These Rowntree's Randoms Sweet 'n' Sour were a joy to eat. I realise I probably sound a bit of a Rowntree's fanboy, but I do always look forward to breaking open a packet of Rowntree's gummies. And why not indeed? Credit where credit is due! :-)

Information on the packet;
150g packet. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Each 6 sweet serving contained 92 calories, with 0.1g of fat and 16.5g of sugar. Ingredients contained 18% fruit juice, see photograph.
By Spectre

23 May 2014

Limited Edition UK M&Ms Brazil World Cup [By @Cinabar]

The world cup is coming, it is being held in Brazil and this means that the limited edition goodies are starting to appear on the shelves in the shops.
Excitingly M&Ms UK have a new Limited Edition to celebrate. Now let’s take a moment to think about the interesting options that they may have gone for, after all this is a special new product. One of Brazil’s largest food exports is coffee, this could be a clever connection. Imagine that folks  fabulous cappuccino M&Ms? Or a stronger espresso edition, wouldn’t that be different? Another major export from Brazil is orange juice. Orange M&Ms sound like they could offer a fruity and refreshing summer treat. Imagine a bag of those as you watch the football. America has had a limited edition raspberry flavour in the past, so it’s not an unreasonable bet this could be something with a fruit twist!
Talking of which lets also see if they took inspiration from some of the amazing flavours that get released elsewhere in the world, for example Birthday Cake. Well they could do a ‘celebration cake’ edition, that would be lovely and would sort of fit in. Carrot cake, has also been released over the shores, and Brazil has some spicy cakes flavoured with cloves/cinnamon that could work well with this. Perhaps we will just get something refreshing for the hot weather, like mint or a tropical taste like coconut that just screams summer? Both of those flavour have beed released in other countries.
Okay then, give me  a second to double check what this years Limited Edition UK M&M flavour is in celebration of the World Cup, drum roll please…. It’s… “peanut”. Oh. Like the peanut M&Ms we already have I hear you ask? No don’t be silly, this a UK Limited Edition Brazil World Cup special, so they only included the yellow, blue and green coloured ones. So err actually yes, pretty much just the usual peanut ones then. Whats the point? Are you supposed to try and make the Brazilian flag using them?

This follows an exciting Christmas launch last year in the UK where we got exactly the same M&Ms as usual but just coloured red and green. I couldn’t even be bothered to blog about them. This release has bugged me a bit as you can probably tell, so I committed word to (virtual) paper! Way to go M&Ms UK, you really know how to spoil us here.
For those wanting a taste review, they taste exactly the same as every other peanut M&M you’ve ever had before. *Sigh*
By Cinabar

22 May 2014

Edo & Sangria Ramune [Review by @NLi10]

In my last FoodStuffFinds article I had a wander around Birmingham in an attempt to buy some Ramune with varying degrees of success.  Here we have the two best examples that I found.  First up is the cheap (at 85p) EDO Ramune.  This is full of artificial goodness and came in two flavours Peach and Blackcurrant.

These are a plastic replica of the Codd bottle style marble stopper, with a little rubber ring holding the marble in place for transit, and a clever double plastic ring system ensuring it doesn't go pop on the way.  This means the marble is highly retrievable and as such isn't that suitable for very small children, but is infinitely more suitable for teenagers as it means no one has to smash the bottle to get the toy.

Flavourwise these are not that special.  They have the flat carbonated water taste that is so distinctive of ramune, with a sweet aftertaste and lingers of the required artificial flavour.  Thankfully there are no additional colours needed to sell this so it's not too chemically, but it's more of a children's drink I feel.  That said - at 85p for 250ml it's not going to break the bank and is a good way to demo to friends both the fun bottle and the style of flavour.

A much better example of the bottle and taste is found here with the Sangria Ramune.  This (as mentioned in the last article) is £2.99 for 200ml so much worse value.  As this is intended for America but imported here it's kind of a strange mix of cultures.  The plum flavour was probably the most unusual, but all three were nice.  The sugar and flavours of these tasted more like I remember ramune tasting, and although with sharing these really didn't go far I think we got our money worth.

The marbles remain trapped inside forever 

Well - if you obey the safety advice anyway!

On balance I think that I'd rebuy the cheaper version sooner - and indeed I have plans to do so as other people want to try the drink (or at least the bottles).  If prices were equal I'd choose the glass bottled version every time.

Now I have to go see if Mt. Fuji do have the original Ramune on their seated diner menu.

Also - if anyone knows where to get hold of the Indian style drink that comes in similar bottles please let us know! I need to venture to a different part of Birmingham and explore the Indian Grocers to see what I can dig up.

21 May 2014

Mini Pickled Cucumbers (Tesco) [By @SpectreUK]

These Mini Pickled Cucumbers with onions and peppers in vinegar were produced by Smak in Poland. I noticed there were gherkins in the ingredients, and wondered if mini cucumbers were different. After a quick search I found that gherkins are mini pickled cucumbers, but are called gherkins mainly in the UK and Australia, but not I suspect in Poland. That's why these are called mini pickled cucumbers, when really they are gherkins! There were sliced peppers with lots of pepper seeds floating around ominously in the jar. There were also many mini pickled onions in the jar. The hot pepper taste hadn't transcended to the flavour in the mini pickled cucumbers (gherkins), as there was no noticeable chilli heat to them. Instead the mini pickled onions had won the flavour fight in the jar, as the mini cucumbers (gherkins... okay, I'll stop now) tasted of mini pickled onion as well as having a lovely hint of dill to them. The mini pickled onions funnily enough tasted of mini pickled onions. Even the diced red pepper tasted of mini pickled onions. I found these mini pickled cucumbers (...) to be very tasty and moreish. Both Cinabar and her mom also liked them added to their Sunday lunch platter whilst watching TV. I was also happily munching away at the diced peppers and mini pickled onions even though they seemed secondary in the jar. I'd certainly give a thumbs up to these mini pickled cucumbers (... They are GHERKINS!!).

Information on the label;
300g jar. Per 100g there are 31 calories, with 0.2g of fat. See photograph for ingredients.
By Spectre

20 May 2014

Cornetto Enigma Cheesecake Glory Ice Cream Cones (Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

With all this hot weather we can’t have been the only ones stocking the freezer with suitable summer treats. I was after some Cornettos, and the online search at Tesco brought back a couple of new flavours, one of which was this Cheesecake Glory.
The flavour of strawberry cheesecake is recreated by having two flavours of ice cream, one is strawberry and one just a plain creamy flavour. There is also a strawberry sauce underneath and a crumb topping. The cone is the usual Cornetto cone, lined with chocolate to ensure you ice cream doesn’t drip everywhere!
I really liked the crumb topping, it was very soft and I felt that was a much nice texture than harder biscuit bits. It was spongy, rather than crunchy. The flavour still gave a hint of that digestive base you’d expect which was a nice touch. The ice creams were top notch, and the strawberry was sweet and fruity, and the plain although predominately creamy did have a hint of the bitey flavour you get from cheesecake. The sauce is where it comes alive and it was a fab zingy sharp taste that added a lovely contrast to the softer ice cream flavours. The strawberry flavour was intense, pleasingly so and it was also in plentiful supply.
If we have a good summer I’ll be stocking up on these, ok, if we have a bad summer I’ll still be stocking up on them! :-D
By Cinabar

19 May 2014

New: Red Bush and Vanilla Tea (@PGTips) [By @Cinabar]

I was really excited to hear that PG Tips have started a new range of fruit and spiced teas. I do love tea, and it is my main drink at home. At work I’m a coffee drinker, but relaxing cups of tea make a perfect after work or weekend treat. Although I drink PG Tips regulalry for more exotic flavours I’ve previously had to look elsewhere. PG Tips got in touch and asked if we wanted to test out the new varities so we dutifully agreed. Spectre went for the Jasmine variety and thought it was delicate and floral. My mum picked the lemon tea and was impressed at how zesty and refreshing it was. For my sunday afternoon cuppa, I decided to try out the new Red Bush and Vanilla tea. I love that the tea bags have monkey on their label, but it does feel strange then brewing up a flavoured tea with that branding. The tea bags are the usual PG Tips pyramids, to ensure a good tea infusion with the water.
Oh my it smelt lovely while I was waiting for it to finish its brew. The tea made a browny red coloured drink, I have to admit to letting it go quite dark.
The taste was complex in flavour, with the red bush taste shining through. It has a herbal taste, leafy but with a soft after flavour. The vanilla teams up with rather well with it, giving it a divine smooth finish.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tea, and felt it tasted soothing and fresh. I think I’ll follow my mum’s choice next and give the lemon a go, thats sounds rather a refreshing drink for this lovely hot weather.
By Cinabar

18 May 2014

Where Can I Buy... Ramune (Birmingham, UK) [review by @NLi10]

Recently a colleague at work asked me if I could get hold of either the Japanese or the Indian Codd bottles (a glass bottle with a marble stopper in the neck).  I remarked that it was easy enough to pick up the Japanese version and that to save him buying it off the internet I'd pop in to town and get one.

This highlighted two things, the first of which is that most people out there are not aware of the best places to get import snacks initially - especially at short notice.  The second thing it highlighted is that I tend to just pick things up when I see them - finding a specific kind of product is a lot harder than expected.

While I didn't try everywhere in Birmingham I did try my usual places and next time I do this I'll pop in to a few different places.

First up I started in the BullRing - which is our largest shopping centre and attracts people from all over the region.

Yankee Candy Cave - no

This is a relatively new concession stand which specialises in American imports.  They do have a wide range of drinks and sweets to tempt in the passers by, but no ramune today.

We also have a large department store in the BullRing that has a food hall, but it's import things are always more expensive than everywhere else.

Selfridges, Bullring - no

They have a tendency to move things around a lot here to encourage browsing but I couldn't see any ramune style drinks.  They did have a few imports but it was mainly 'health' drinks like black water and aloe drinks - all more expensive than in the other shops visited.

They do have a nice large fridge full of Fentimans which is handy to know (and as they are now advertising n UK TV I'm hoping a few more places will branch out and join them).

Next up I wandered out of the back of the shopping centre to the restaurants and had a quick check in Mount Fuji (one of our favourite local restaurants).  Now I'm SURE I've had ramune here before, but they hadn't got any on display in their little shop section and the restaurant was far too busy to push in and ask for one to take away.  I will confirm this next time but I think they may have stopped doing it.

As this is meant to replicate someone trying to find the drink the first time and it wasn't on the window menu or shop display I'm presuming no.

Mt. Fuji - probably not

I expected to walk into the Arcadian centre (Birmingham's open air China town) and grab a bottle from each store.  Neither Day In supermarket, nor the cute little tea shop had them in their store sections.  Again - i'd happily go into all the restaurants and ask if I had no luck in any shop, but I felt that Sat lunch time was not the best time to do this.  None of the smaller paper shops from the area had any, and notn of the younger cafe style restaurants had it listed in the window.

I was beginning to be a little frustrated at this...

Then I spotted a newer place I'd not been in - Vanguard.  From the stock I'm assuming that this is more of a South Korean place, but while it's still very much an oriental grocers it has a younger element and carries a lot of snacks I hadn't seen before (or for a good while) - the Meiji MeltyKiss box was from here - and they actually had the 1.5l bottles of Pocari Sweat that I'd only managed to get once before!

They also had what looked like ramune, but was in a plastic bottle.  As it was the right shape and I could demonstrate the flavour of the drink with this I got both flavours anyway, but to my surprise even these had a marble stopper! Review of the drink to follow but for now

Vanguard Supermarket - 2 flavours 85p each - 250ml

Less worried about returning to the office with nothing at all I then proceeded to carry on with my route stopping in a few more grocers and paper shops on the way.  I'd stopped reading the menus at this point but I'm sure that at least one of the Japanese restaurants would have had some, maybe even the really cool Chinese place that I keep meaning to review too.

Another reason for speeding up my search was to get to Cyber Candy before it shut.

Disspaointingly there were no ramune bottles in the big fridge of odd things (like Duff branded soda drinks, and a million other character things).  I asked the guy behind the till and he pointed to the bottom shelf next to the fridge where there were 3 different flavours.  

CyberCandy - 3 flavours £2.99 - 200ml

As you will probably notice these are both smaller and more expensive than the other version.  They are made in Japan, shipped to America, and then imported back to the UK.  This seems horribly inefficient and all adds to the price.  I'd be more upset paying this in a normal store, but with CyberCandy you pay for the fact that they carry such a mad range of things.  Plus it'd be more expensive in Selfridges.

As I made my way to the bus stops I popped in Mr Simms (which is much cheaper for imports but has a very restricted range) and the grocery shop opposite my favourite games store and they didn't have any of these either. As I had more than enough for the review and for work.  A success of sorts, but I'd expected to find a lot more variety and brands on my trip.

The ramune itself will be reviewed soon.

17 May 2014

Brains Boilermaker Beer (Tesco @brainsbrewery) [By @SpectreUK]

I couldn't quite decide how this Boilermaker, by Brains Craft Brewery, could possibly live up to it's name. There was an industrious scene of busy brewery machinery on the label that went some way to explain the name. I read the label on the back of the bottle. "Copper coloured" sounded pretty industrious. "Brewed with Ben and Tom from Thinking Drinkers" sounded okay, although I'm ashamed to confess that I haven't heard of them, or have and haven't had one of their beers for a good long while. This beer was brewed with Chinook (not the helicopter), Simcoe, Cascade, and Willamette hops, which sounded like a pretty complex jumble of flavours. To top it all off this beer was matured with Penderyn Whisky infused oak chips. It sounded like it really needed all the machinery on the front of the label to brew this 330ml bottled beer. And at 6.5% volume it sounded pretty strong too.

After all that reading I couldn't help but pop open the bottletop. I must have naively turned away from the bottle for less than ten seconds. When I turned back the beer was trying desperately to escape across the kitchen surface. Like an overheating boiler this beer was as lively as it was tasty. I could well imagine little brewers (maybe Ben and Tom?) crazily trying to keep this beer from escaping from inside the bottle. After I'd managed to save over half the beer by diving Indianna Jones style onto the bottle and pouring it into my eager beer mug, I could concur that this frothy beer was indeed copper in colour. It had a spicy hoppy smell to it with a wisp of whisky in the after odour. This complex hoppy smell transcended to the flavour with both citrus and spicy undertones to the bitter hoppy taste, followed at a very close hop skip and an over athletic jump by the whisky thwack. This beer left a glorious bitter bitey whisky aftertaste in my mouth, which simply left my palate begging for more. I could have merrily dived into my own frothy cask of this beer and couldn't help feeling envious of Ben and Tom. They certainly know what they're thinking those fellows, but be warned; this is a very lively beer indeed. Pour immediately on opening!

16 May 2014

Scotch Egg Pie (@Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

Following on from the Weirdoughs earlier in the week, Tesco haven’t stopped there when it comes to hybrid snack products.  Yes doughnuts and crisps takes some topping as a combination, but this one is still quite creative. Introducing the Scotch Egg Pie. It comes carefully packed into a neat box, and does look very different. My first impression was that it looks like a Scotch Egg, but a little larger. The coating is pastry, topped with a very light bread crumb which does give the impression of a slightly bald Scotch Egg!

Taste wise it is reminiscent of Ham and Egg pie, except that it is lacking the meat jelly often found within that. The advantage to this over Ham and Pie has to be the fact that you get a guaranteed whole egg! Not just a sliced through one per portion.  The meat layer is nicely spiced, and there is a good hint of pepper that works well with the pork. The pastry is good but fairly thin and not strong in taste. It is quite fragile and broke easily. When I was biting in I had to be careful not to lose any pastry, it is strange to eat a ball of pie so I required a little bit more coordination than normal!

Overall I liked this new product, but felt that the balance of flavours was closer to Ham and Egg pie that it was Scotch Egg. True Scotch Egg fans may well prefer to stick with the original. This is due to the fact the pastry is different and fact that there was more meat. For me though it was the dream “slice” of ham and egg pie, with an egg in its entirety guaranteed! As novelty goes it gets the thumbs up, and I think these will be a popular item if the weather keeps up for summer picnics!
By Cinabar