31 July 2014

Scottish Delicacies (Barr Cola & Haggis Crisps) [review by @NLi10]

I was up in Glasgow recently and noticed that the camp we stayed at had a sign advertising deep fried mars bars! I've not had one of these in Scotland (I had one near Newcastle but it didn't seem like they did it right and was a good 15 years ago) and I figured I'd give it a try.  Unfortunately they had sold out so I had to look for other articles of local origin.

Naturally the first drink I had up North was the first drink of Scotland - IRN BRU. Barr drinks used to be popular in the Midlands where we live when I was little so we'd frequently have all the varieties but only the IRN BRU really survived the onslaught of generic brand colas (that come with a free fridge if you only stock their brands in it...).

Spotting the Xtra Cola as a new item was a good find - in the bar that you got to hold the Queens Baton from the Commonwealth games no less! I was worried it was an energy cola, but it turns out it's their Pepsi Max and a sugar free thing.  And it was pretty nice too - it felt sweet enough and had the familiar Barr background taste to the whole thing.

I'd have this again, but there are other flavours to try first.

Next up I got some haggis flavour crisps from the co-op next to a really nice fish shop. These are actually vegetarian! 
As we've reviewed haggis before then I thought these would be perfect. Turns out they just smell like haggis and the taste is a lot more similar to the meaty yet vegetarian snacks that you see all the time. While these were perfectly good crisps they were not that exciting, I'd hoped for oaty goodness and a strong meaty flavour, but I'll settle for a good quality nice crisp.

There were other flavours but we didn't stay long enough to try.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to go back and try them again!

30 July 2014

The Scottish Collection -Tea [By @SpectreUK]

Cinabar brought me back this box of unusual tea blends from a trip to Edinburgh. These teas were traditionally blended by the Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company for a true taste of Scotland, as if you were standing there on top of a rain swept mountain stood next to a fairly damp red bearded bloke who is wearing a wet tartan kilt blowing steam out of his bagpipes. Much of the sporting news is focussed on Scotland at the moment, so I thought I'd enjoy some tea whilst flicking through the Commonwealth Games on the box. There were ten tea bags of each of the four flavours in the collection box. After first enjoying a fresh dark rich cup of Scottish Breakfast Tea, I thought it was high time I moved on to the more unusual sounding flavours...

Heather Tea
I love Heather Beer so I was looking forward to this tea. There was a light floral smell to the tea bag (yes, I am a bit weird and smelt the tea bag) and a mild floral aroma to the tea once I’d added a little milk. I always infuse for probably a little too long as I like my tea as strong as possible. There was a sweet floral taste to the tea. I didn’t add sugar, and those that have at least one sugar probably wouldn’t need it. This tea had a rich dark and smooth floral flavour which made for a pleasant, slightly sweet and relaxing drink, which is what tea should be, rather than a drink with a hoppy floral bitterness that you would expect from a Heather Beer. I really enjoyed this drink and will savour the other nine teabags in the box.

Ingredients on the box; tea, Heather Blossom (4.5%)

Thistle Tea
This tea bag had a stronger sweeter floral smell than the Heather Tea. Whereas the Heather tea had a more delicate flavour, the Thistle Tea had a stronger more wholesome and slightly syrupy floral taste to it. I wouldn’t recommend adding any sugar to this tea also. It tasted almost like it had a dash of Thistle flavoured honey added to it, this complemented the strong sharpened (prickly, if you'll excuse the pun) floral flavour making for a sweet smacked backside waker-upper that would be good for a sleepy start to the day.

Ingredients on the box; tea, Thistle Blossom (4.5%)

Whisky Flavoured Tea
Starting the morning with kick I guess could involve a dram of whisky in your tea or coffee. Here it could be for the malty flavour rather than the medicinal value. There was a light malty smell to the tea bag, but I couldn’t tell that this could be whisky. Once infused the odour of malt whisky did shine through albeit mildly from the dark lightly milked tea. Of course this drink didn’t have the spirit kick of tea that had an added dram of Scottish fire water, but there was a decent malty flavour with hints of smokiness. This tea had the feel of a premium lightly smoked blend such as Keemun, with a strong maltiness that reminded me of whisky or a strong malty brown ale without the hoppy bitterness. Those who like a sweeter blend could either stick with the more floral varieties from the collection box or add a sugar cube or two, although there is always a place for a good hearty builder’s tea to keep you going throughout the day.

Ingredients on the box; tea, Whisky flavouring (2.8%)
By Spectre

29 July 2014

Market Deli Crisps – Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion (Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

I found these interesting new crisps in Sainsbury’s, as the smart bags caught my eye. They have launched as new ‘posh’ crisps, but you’ll noticed on the packaging they are part of Walkers and have the logo on the front of their bag. As the bag is mostly cream in colour it is completely different to the black bags of posh crisp Walkers launched in their Sensations range, so I’m intrigued to see how these differ. For a start they are labelled as potato chips and not crisps, which never seems terribly English.
I chose the Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo with Roasted Onion variety (pretentious, moi?) as it seemed the most interesting one that has launched. They are also available in Mature Cornish Cheddar and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Apparently there are tortilla chips too in the range, but I didn’t see any of those in my local branch of Sainsburys.
I opened up the bag, and the aroma reminded me of paprika. The crisps were a nice orangey colour too, showing off plenty of seasoning. I have to say the texture wasn’t what I was expecting, they are quite hard and crunchy. There is a chain of though thought which follows that the posher the crisp the thicker and crunchier they have to be, which is a bit of shame really. I actually like crisps somewhere in the middle, with a bit of a snap to them, without them being a chore to eat. These were on my upper limit, and I would have preferred them a little thinner.
The flavour sounded quite interesting and adventurous, consisting of both flame grilled chorizo and a roasted onion, that would be two ways of cooking the ingredients in the dish in reality. The taste was mostly spicy and but was quite flavoursome. I could pick up on paprika and onion as the main flavours, with a hint of sweet and smokiness. The meaty taste of chorizo was very mild, and quite difficult to pick up, but that aside these were very easy eating and had a good flavour, despite not quite living up to the complexities of the name.
I will see if I can pick up the other new flavours available, and report back very soon.
By Cinabar

28 July 2014

Soreen Fruit Loaf - Orange (@SoreenHQ Sainsburys) [By @Cinabar]

We are fans of Soreen fruit loaf here at Foodstuff Finds, and quite often pick up a loaf as tasty sunday afternoon snack. I was pleased to see in Sainsbury’s a new flavour in a bright blue pack; Orange. I picked up the Soreen and in the shop a friendly member of staff noticed me and said that it was an excellent choice as the new flavour is rather good and a Sainsbury's exclusive. Maybe this was a random comment, or maybe my local Sainsbury’s are onto me and my Foodstuff Finds alert ego.
Once home we took the wrapper off and a lovely aroma of orange and spices filled the room. The loaf was fairly light in colour, but its texture was the usual soft, moist squishiness that you’d associate with Soreen. When you cut slices it always shrinks a bit! We sliced the loaf and added some butter, for full effect. The loaf is low in fat, but obviously adding too much full fat butter may negate this somewhat. ;-)
I was impressed with the flavour, although there was plenty of the usual sultanas and flavour, there was a sharp fresh burst of orange there too, rather like it had been made with a generous shot of fresh orange juice. I felt the acidic flavour worked rather well with the fruit loaf and its spices, and made this a nice new addition to the range, it is certainly one I’ll pick up again.
By Cinabar

27 July 2014

sBlended Milkshakes, Glasgow - Full Monty [review by @NLi10]

I'm having a weekend in Glasgow due to the Commonwealth Games (I've no tickets but family were coming up so I took advantage of the accommodation and company to explore this fantastic city).  While waiting for a custom made baby present to be finished I spotted this little drinks shop - which I'd not heard of but presume is a chain.  It took me a while to figure out the name...

It's just a little 'mall kiosk' style shop but has a staggering array of choices so I let the man guide my choices towards the Full Monty, which is choc fudge brownie, caramel sauce and Minstrels on top. 

The minstrels looked fab through the top and all that, but I ended up eating them all at the end due to them sinking. I'd have blended 80% of them a little and then put the rest on top for decor.

The brownie was great, offering cakey sludge occasionally through the straw and sweet flavour spikes, the caramel sauce ended up more as a background flavour - but a nice one. The minstrels sank and were less sweet so provided a weak finish.

The drink was satisfying and ended up being lunch, but was so sweet that I actually refused free organic chocolate tasters off another stall!

Those with more adventurous spirits would probably be better off customising their own flavour from the individual options, and now I've had a think I can see some great strawberry based ideas, but for speed the 'top 10' all seem pretty special.

One to look out for then, especially in the heat.

26 July 2014

Wyld Wood Organic Still Cider (@WestonsWyldWood) [By @SpectreUK]

I may have mentioned in the past that I'm not much of a cider drinker. H. Westons and Sons, in Much Marcle, must have taken this to heart. Some brewers very kindly send me a beer or a few for me to drink and write about. Westons sent me eight bottles and four three litre boxes of their Wyld Wood Organic Still Cider. Struck dumb with the shear volume of cider at my fingertips I couldn't quite decide what to do with it all. This was a heck of a birthday present from someone you don't know, and no mistake.

Experiments such as how much cider I could drink in a day before I was ill or passed out, or if I sat in a bath full of cider could I get drunk by soaking it through my skin crossed my mind. However after some stern home truths I decided to drink it in moderation, as all alcohol drinkers probably should do (well, sneakily while no-one's looking). I also gave one 3l box to a friend of Cinabar's Mom, as he certainly seems a hardworking chap who constantly volunteers for charity. No one sounded more deserving of a tipple of his favourite drink!

I've never used one of these 3l boxes before either. Of course I've seen them at the odd party full of wine, but didn't know you could buy ones full of cider. After a bit of searching and some advice from my dad, I managed to find the push through hole in the side of the box and pull the tap out. It was then that I noticed the instructions on the bottom of the box!

I quickly decided that this box would accompany Cinabar and I on our holiday to Portsmouth. I can tell you that it was a delight to come back to the hotel room after a hard day of adventuring with Cinabar and Victor the Adventure Bear and have a few hotel room sized 200-odd millilitre sized glasses of cider on tap before a quick swim in the pool and dinner, which was then followed by a few more glasses of cider before bed. Echoes of "how many glasses have you had?" Could be heard around the lovely spa hotel. "Er... Hic! Don't know..."

Henry Weston first started producing cider 130 years ago in the same Herefordshire village. This cider was made from bittersweet apples grown in Soil Association certified organic orchards, which were fermented and matured in oak vats. Perhaps I could take a soak in one of those? Anyway, after Cinabar had showed me how to use the tap whilst I was eagerly waiting with my tiny glass, there was a strong sweet smell of cider on pouring the clear dark apple juice coloured beverage. There was a bitter bite at the end of the sweet cider smell that made my tastebuds tingle. This cider certainly has a lively refreshing full bodied fruitiness that laughs playfully in the face of lessor bubbly varieties. This jovial flavour instantly merges with the bitey tradionally crafted woody undertones at the end of the taste. Each mouthful of this cider is a luxury. I have tonnes of it! And yet the selfish greedy side of me wanted the other box back!

Information on the box / bottle;
500ml bottle or 3l box. 6% volume. Ingredients; apples, lots of!
By Spectre

25 July 2014

Beechs Dark Chocolate Marzipan [@BeechsChocolate] (By @Cinabar)

Beechs very kindly sent me some of their Dark Chocolate Marzipans to try out, following on from the Thank You chocolates I wrote about the other week. Marzipan is such a traditional chocolate, but I’m loving the modern twist on the packaging from Beechs, making them look all bright and modern, practically exploding from the box. I’ve never totally understood marzipan’s flavour, you mix two ingredients (essentially) sugar and ground almonds and end up with a substance that tastes of neither, instead it is a very different confectionary in its own right. Think Battenberg cake, or indeed Christmas cake, if it isn’t too early for that?
Anyway these marzipan chocolates are coated in dark chocolate, and presented in a neat box in lines, similar to the chocolate brazils that Beechs also make. I thought the chocolates themselves reminded me of the shape of strawberry creams, with there peaks on top, but obviously these were dark. The marzipan is not very sharp in flavour, it is smooth and sweet and is complemented well by the dark chocolate. I loved the flavour of the dark chocolate, and felt that these would have been slightly sickly with a milk chocolate coating, they needed that hint of bitterness to give them an edge.
Spectre took some of these to work, and everyone there seemed to love them too, and couldn’t get enough of them. It may not be a chocolate combination you buy that often, but it is worth revisiting to see what makes it such a s classic.
By Cinabar

24 July 2014

Chicago Town - The TakeAway BBQ Sizzler [review by @NLi10]

Stuffed crust pizzas tend to evade me as I really don't enjoy cheese that much.  So when I saw this - I had to have one.

Look - the crust is stuffed with BBQ sauce!

Of cours - I actually took this picture to highlight the fact that eating this whole pizza is 88% of your days calories, 92% of your fat, 180% of your saturated fat and so on.  Luckily my actual required calories on my little FitBit app is closer to 2,400 due to the amount of walking and things that I do, but still - if you intend to not share the pizza you may want to consider this.

I didn't share the pizza.

The stuffed crust has exploded open, which is cool as it kinda teaches you how to make your own (fold the edge over - partial calzone!) and allows us to see the sauce inside.  It's a thicker paste than the usual tomato base, but the flavour wasn't all that strong.

The pizza was very filling, and had that baked at home taste you expect from the part baked bases.  I'd choose this again easily, but the flavours of all the bits were less take away/restaurant than I'd hoped.  It's a decent eat-at-home pizza but anyone expecting a papaJohns pizza will be disappointed.

The sauce and the toppings did go well together and the fact that there is a different item in the crust was a massive plus.  I think that a chicken topped one with a  garlic crust would be insanely good, and if they tweaked the quality of the ingredients up a bit and charged more I'd be overall more likely to pick it up.

As it is it's a great sharing pizza, and one I'll manage to eat again as long as I promise to train a bit harder that week...

23 July 2014

Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles Froosions (WH Smiths) [By @SpectreUK]

I've always been a big fan of Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles especially as a pick-me-up on the train at the end of a day at work. The suggestion of "Love to share" on the front of the packet of these Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles Froosions made me smile. Being a greedy sort of chap I'd usually ignore such a suggestion, but Rowntrees have mitigated this response by packing these Froosions into a weighty 160g bag. Even though they were made with real fruit juice, they were still sweets and I couldn't help but notice my oversized tummy is preventing me from walking through narrow doorways lately. And so I decided to take these Fruit Pastilles Froosions to share amongst my work colleagues.

There were three Froosions of flavours. Yellow and green was lemon and lime flavour. Both flavours bashed together in what felt like a heated argument between two bosses of equal demeanour. This sweet epitomises the fusion or Froosion between two flavours. There was sourness here. There was sugary sweetness and the same juiciness I’ve always loved about Fruit Pastilles. As the lemon and lime flavours fight their way to dominance during the chewing they leave a pleasing sweet lemonade type flavour on the palette, tinted with an almost ginger buzz on the tongue.

Green and purple flavour was a Froosion of apple and blackcurrant. Blackcurrant was easily the dominant flavour whereas apple poked through during the chewing with a desperate hand like a drowning man in a ocean of juicy sweet blackcurrant waves.

Orange and yellow was orange and pineapple flavour. This was my favourite flavour and there were comments around the room during sharing that everyone really loved this flavour. It reminded people of a refreshing sweet tropical drink on the hot day in a our stuffy office. The pineapple and orange had a lovely harmonizing mix of flavours, both flavours intermingled pleasingly on the tongue compared to the other two Froosions sweets, whose flavours seemed to fight it out in some sort of chewy sweety gladiatorial contest between the gods of sugary fruit. These Froosions had the traditional juicy fruity sugary sweetness of their Fruit Pastille cousins with the added mixture of two flavours in each sweet. They didn't last long in the office as my colleagues scoffed the lot once I'd offered them around.

Information on the packet;
160g packet. Per seven sweet serving there were 93 calories with a trace of fat and 15.5g of sugar. Made with no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. The fruit juices from concentrate in the ingredients were grape, apple, lime, blackcurrant, orange, pineapple, and lemon.
By Spectre

22 July 2014

Costa Ice Mint Mocha (@CostaCoffee) [By @Cinabar]

As I’m still looking for ways to cool down in the fabulous summer sunshine we have been having, I thought I would revisit Costa and see what was new in terms of refreshment. I did my usual Foodstuff Finds scan for the word ‘new’ on the menu, and picked the Costa Ice Mint Mocha. It wasn’t the most different sounding choice, and to be honest I wasn’t sure I was even going to blog about it, but the refreshing combination of mint and ice swayed me.
The drink itself was a bit of a surprise when it came, I noticed that the mint was actually proper mint, as in you could see green bits within the drink! I loved this touch, and it wasn’t expected. The flavour was a well balanced mix of coffee, and chocolate, with a natural refreshing leafy hint of mint. The minty flavour did seem perfect for the summer, and added to the cooling feeling from the ice base. The chocolate curls and cream on top were a bonus, a naughty one, but I still rather liked them. ;-)
It may not seems the most new combination of flavours, but there is no questioning that it works. It tastes summery, sweet and pleasantly refreshing, let’s just hope the sunshine keeps up and I can continue to enjoy all the ice drinks on offer.
By Cinabar

21 July 2014

New Calippo - Bubble Gum Flavour (@Walls #GoodbyeSerious) [By @Cinabar]

We have just come back from a rather sunny week away in Portsmouth. We decided to have a look at the submarine museum, and had a tour on HMS Alliance which was interesting and fascinating. On our walk back to the ferry port we thought we would eat ice creams while we walked by the seaside. We popped into a small cafe near there and I stubbled across this Foodstuff Find, the new bubble gum flavoured Calippo. The photo shows the rather pretty tablecloth in the cafe, but as I said we were eating and walking after that so didn’t get chance to stay.
The ice lolly itself was a bright pinky purple in colour, and not the blue I had expected, for some reason I associate it with the blue colour, despite bubble gum being more commonly pink, or is that just me? The lolly pushes up as you eat, easing a little more upwards till you work your way through to the end. You then get to drink anything that has melted at the bottom, my favourite part.
The flavour was ever so sweet, but distinctively that of bubble gum (someone once told me that bubble gum flavour was a mix of orange, vanilla and wintergreen, but I’ve never really experimented to test the theory). It certainly appealed to the kid in me, with its fruity but soft sweet taste. The flavour was strong, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would happily buy it again. It is meant to for the kids, but those who are young at heart and have a sweet tooth will still love it. It didn’t however turn my tongue bright purple, I asked Spectre to check, which was a bit disappointing but probably meant I looked a bit more respectable when we went off for afternoon tea in the Spinnaker Tower.
By Cinabar

20 July 2014

Bounce - Natural Energy Ball (Protein & Defence) [review by @Nli10]

While out at the Glastonbury Festival I consumed a lot of new things I'd picked up at Holland & Barrettes - one pair of things was these 'natural energy balls'.

I'd not really expected them to be more than just a cereal bar in a round shape.

The round shape didn't really last all the way to the festival though - these looked more like burgers when I opened them.

And this first one looked suspiciously like haggis! I guess that being made of oats and such does have it's similarities to this but there is no meat in here.  It's flavour was advertised as spirulina and ginseng, but I couldn't really tell you whether the flavour was accurate.  The taste was definitely a nice one, and after a long day I tried the first of these and was pleasantly surprised.  The texture was firm but not too sticky and it didn't have that papery taste that most things that claim to have protein in them do.  I guess that being mostly oats, nuts and seeds helped that.  As this was the one of the two i'd been dreading I felt more confident about the remaining flavour.

This one didn't get eaten while outside, but at my first day back at work as kind of a recovery snack.

Again it was a little flat, but this time it was a lot more like a giant blob of peanut butter with a few extra nuts on the outside.  I found the texture to be far too sticky for my liking and it was also quite dry.  I think that had I eaten this outside I'd have found the energy hit to be welcome but would have needed a big drink afterwards.  As it was - at work I had to eat it over two sittings!

The peanut flavour was faithful and it was generally OK, but I'd much rather have had a second of the original defence flavour and wouldn't buy the second again.  If you were a big fan of toffees and other really chewy items AND love peanuts then go for it, but I just found it to be a bit much.

Maybe the goal for the first (fibre & defence) just lent itself more naturally to the kind of snack I enjoy than the protein of the second.

19 July 2014

Stella Artois Cidre Raspberry [By @SpectreUK]

This new Stella Artois Cidre Raspberry was made with hand-picked raspberries to a Belgian recipe. Stella Artois very kindly sent me four bottles to try. It must be a birthday present, as it's birthday today. Therefore I decided to have two bottles. On opening the bright red liquid filled bottles I could smell a sharpe twang of raspberries with undertones of Cidre ("not cider" as the adverts state). There was a healthy cheerful fizz on pouring this Cidre Raspberry into my almost sheepish beer mug. My beer mug is used to all manners of beers, ales and stouts, so cider or Cidre touching my tastebuds is almost a rarity. I'm not saying I don't like cider (Cidre). Not at all. It's the bitterness in beers, ales and some stouts which I like that often leaves the sweetness or dryness of ciders on the shelf. The other beverages are complementary for snacking also, whereas a Cidre Raspberry sounds like it would more likely wash down a fruity dessert with lashings of cream. Not that a fruity healthy yet creamy pudding doesn't float my boat or anything, but I'm traditionally a late night ale and bowl of crisps kind of guy. Well not tonight. A change is as good as a holiday as they say. So I filled my rather surprised beer mug with the first 330ml bottle at 4% volume of fruity sweet fizzy Cidre and took a hefty glug. I was quite taken aback by the sweetness as the bubbles tickled my tongue. The crushed raspberries are definitely the dominant flavour, but the Cidre was definately apparent throughout the drinking, from the initial bouquet to the sharpened tip of the aftertaste. I was at first concerned that this would be a drink that would be more appropriate to the feminine touch, and I was happily wrong. I was concerned that this drink may be too much like a fizzy pop drink, and I was most certainly wrong. So happy birthday to me, and thanks to Stella Artois!
By Spectre

18 July 2014

Drink Me Chai - Mango (Brown and Green, Trentham Gardens)

I have got quite into my Chai drinks recently, and I have tried various different brands. While we were in Brown and Green (a grocers at Trentham Gardens) I spotted a new flavour that looked rather different, mango chai. It is from the Drink Me Chai range which means that it is an instant hot drink rather than tea bags. I couldn’t quite picture how a tropical fruit would mix with Chai spices and a milk base, but one thing was for sure I was keen to find out.
Once home I added the three teaspoons to a mug and topped it up with hot water. The tub says you can make the drink with hot milk, but I chose the water out of convenience. The powder seemed to dissolve fairly quickly, but the minute I stopped stirring you could see specks of powder on the top of the drink. I gave it a subsequent stir and it looked a lot better, it was arich golden colour.
My first sip of this instantly got me hooked. The spices were mild, but just gave the drink a bit of warmth, and the mango was sweet and fruity. The milk base made this feel like a hot mango milkshake, it shouldn’t work, but it certainly did. All that tropical fruit flavour meant that this fell into my category of hot drinks that are good for summer, yes you serve it warm but the fruity aspect made it ever so refreshing. It is certainly something I’ll be searching out again to repurchase.
If you are after a tub yourself and don’t live near Trentham Gardens, it is available on Amazon UK site or the Drink Me Chai website.
By Cinabar

17 July 2014

Somerset Apple Treats (Glastonbury) [review by @NLi10]

While at Glastonbury I spotted these Somerset Apple Treats on a small store being sold by the people that make them. That's usually a good sign - if you can just sell one thing and make a stall of it then it's bound to be pretty good.

I used to buy dried apple snacks from the local health food shop as a child and these reminded me of them.  I happily tried a few and settled on the Braeburn as it was really sharp and exciting. This bag saw me through a few bands and shifts for Oxfam and I had to go back for a second.

Don't let the appearance put you off, these are like sun dried tomatoes and full of flavour!  Some people really didn't like the sharpness and sourness of these, but the second bag was Cox flavour and more people enjoyed that.

I'm not sure if you can pick these up at the website on the bag, but I'm sure that there are local shops that stock these.  I've finished the last of them now which is a shame, but hopefully I'll get to try these again. Maybe at another Glastonbury!

16 July 2014

Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup Crunchy Kracklecorn (Brown and Green, Trentham Gardens)

Portlebay Popcorn was established in 2012 and this Crunchy Kracklecorn was hand popped in The Poppery in Devon. The Poppery sounds like a place to make popcorn akin to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or a crazy popcorn shop in Harry Potter. Portlebay Popcorn make Kracklecorn by popping it in small batches with rapeseed oil and the addition of raw cane sugar, and then add a covering of their Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup seasoning. On reading this description on the back of the bag I was intrigued how this Kracklecorn could taste both savoury and sweet at the same time. It sounded a bit like having your dinner and pudding on the same plate. I couldn’t help feeling a little apprehensive about this Kracklecorn, and yet was too interested not to open the bag. So I did. There was a strong maple syrup smell with a hint of bacon. The Kracklecorn had a mid-orange tint and a decent crunch. The strong maple syrup smell transcended to the taste with its sweetness only slightly dulled by a meaty undertone of lightly smoked bacon. This kracklecorn was sweet rather than savoury which at once confused and delighted my tastebuds. I found this flavoursome Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup Crunchy Kracklecorn oddly moreish and would have it again. I’m certain it would make a great breakfast snack for those on the go.

Information on the bag;
25g, per 100g has 461 calories with 18.9g of fat and 31.4g of sugar. This Kracklecorn is gluten free, and made with wholegrain which is naturally high in fibre. For ingredients please see photograph.
By Spectre

15 July 2014

Tyrrells Cotswold Brie & Bacon Crisps (Brown and Green, Trentham Gardens) [By @Cinabar]

We had another fab day looking around Trentham Gardens and retreated in the afternoon, when the rain started, to a fab grocery shop there: Green and Brown. This a lovely place to go hunting for Foodstuff Finds as it has such good selections of interesting items. We picked up several goodies and found varieties of products we hadn’t seen before, like these crisps. The Brie and Bacon Tyrrells don’t have a “New” label on them, but it isn’t a flavour I have come across before, so I couldn’t resist picking them up, I love meaty flavoured crisps.
When I opened up the packet of crisps there was a nice bacon smell which boded well. The texture of the crisps was quite firm and crunchy, which gives the impression of them being posh! They certainly felt satisfying to eat too. The taste was quite something, it was salty but the bacon shone through. The cheese was a nice creamy but rich aftertaste, and it had the distinct taste of Brie which was rather nice. It was a musty cheese taste, but it was nice that it did indeed taste of Brie rather than the usual generic “crisp cheese” flavour, although the specification of it being from the Cotswold was lost on me! :-D.
In all the flavour was quite strong, and the bacon would have been very slightly too salty for me if it was on its own. The cheese was there to bring balance, and made the difference in flavour, without it I wouldn’t have liked them nearly so much as I did.
Many things went in the grocery basket from that grocers in Trentham Gardens, so do keep your eyes open for the other goodies we picked up over the next week or so.
By Cinabar

14 July 2014

Beechs Thank You chocolates [@BeechsChocolate] (By @Cinabar)

Beechs Chocolates got in touch and asked if I wanted to try out their “Thank You” chocolates. These are a small token box, with seven chocolates inside, with a nice array of flavours.
There was a good selection of nut chocolates, which are the one I always go for first.
The Hazelnut Supreme was coated in a very thick white chocolate. It was creamy and sweet with a soft nutty filling, rich in flavour but tasty.
The Dark Coffee and Walnut was my favourite chocolate in the box, the coffee taste and walnut mixed so perfectly it even gave the impression of a hint of honey in there, I could eat a box of these alone! The dark chocolate shell was top notch.
As much as I enjoyed the Hazelnut Swirl I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a whole nut in there somewhere! Surely thats a given with a Hazelnut Swirl? There was just a rather nice mild nutty parfait in milk chocolate.
Next up I went for the fruity ones. The Orange Truffle was full flavoured, it mentioned alcohol on the back of the pack but I couldn’t pick up on that, just a sweet orange citrus taste. The Strawberry Parfait was really sweet and bursting with berry flavour, which I loved.
The Vanilla Mousse was surprising smooth and delicate, sometimes plain flavours can just work. Lastly the Caramel Delight was a burst of super sweet caramel taste, that Spectre would have loved if I had given him the chance to to try it!! ;-)
I thought his box contained a good selection, with a nice mix of flavours, from nuts to fruit creams and milk, white and dark chocolate so as to suit everyone. If you are looking for a nice little thank you prezzie you couldn’t go far wrong with these, they would be perfect for teachers too as it is that time of year.
By Cinabar

13 July 2014

Erlenbacher's Sunshine Cakes [review by @Nli10]

We were sent these cakes by the kind folks at www.erlenbacher.co.uk while away at Glastonbury.  They seem to have survived their time in the neighbours house and made their way to us for the review.

I think the idea is that these are the luxury cakes that you see in patisseries and cafes for you to either eat at home - or order in if you are a cafe that wants to attract more people.  They come beautifully presented in a paper container that is not only easy to remove but doesn't stick to the cake at all - it is even perforated so it tears down in sections quite satisfactorily - other cake manufacturers take note!

The two flavours we were sent were rhubarb and apple.

First up I tried the strawberry and rhubarb cake - this one above is a little squished due to transport but it's accompanying twin was in much better shape.  The range have similar soft bases with the toppings varying to give the different styles.  The fruit on this was good, not over dry and not over moist - the rhubarb being dominant over the strawberry but both providing a nice variety in tastes per mouthful.  Even though I cut this into slices to share it was easy to consume the whole thing without trouble.  More of a satisfying snack than a lunch, but great with a nice cup of tea.  

The textures were soft throughout and it had a good luxurious feel to it (again - the packaging really helped here).  The top was crisper than the base, but not hard as I initially thought it may be.  Also it wasn't too sweet which was pleasing, too many cakes try to compensate for flavour with sugar.

The following day I tried the Apple Crumble version.

The cake base for this seemed identical to the rhubarb one, but the topping was very different. There was less apple than I'd expected, but enough to give the flavour and all were recognisable chunks.  The crumble is the star here, providing a nice counter to the soft base and just adding a bit more bite to the experience.

That said - unusually for me I think I'd go for the rhubarb given the choice between the two.  I think the stronger flavours just appealed to me more.

While I'm not sure these are special enough to seek out cafes that stock them I'd certainly be happy when I spot them in town.  There are a few high-end cafes around Birmingham (I was in one in the Custard Factory yesterday - I had a slice of tiffin) and I'm frequently after something a little more substantial than a biscuit but less than a full meal to accompany my TeaPigs and this fits the bill well. Hopefully I'll get to try the chocolate flavour one day too!

12 July 2014

Olives Et Al Alternative Snacks (@OlivesEtAl) [By @SpectreUK]

I'm always on the lookout for alternative snacks. Olives Et Al in Dorset must have had their ears to the ground as they very kindly sent me a couple of bags of battered broad beans for me to try. These roasted broad beans coated in a spicy batter were certainly what I'd call alternative and certainly something I've never seen before. First up...

LapSnacks - Habas Mojadas

There was a batter smell on opening the bag with a light spice, which was fairly unsurprising given the description on the packet. These battered broad beans had a good crunchy texture, slightly crumbly, and were only slightly greasy to the touch. Once I'd got through the crunch these battered broad beans tasted mainly of batter and beans, with a very mild chilli spice, and had undertones of pepper and garlic. These battered broad beans were very mildly salty too, but they didn't need further saltiness as the subtle flavours in the batter and crunchy beans did all the work for my tastebuds. I found these Habas Mojadas very moreish, easy to eat and without the bloating that some snacks like nuts can produce. They were healthy feeling and the 200g bag went a long way. The packet suggests sharing with friends, but I couldn't help splitting the bag over two lunchtimes at work.

Information on the bag;
200g bag with 526 calories per 100g, having 12g of sugar and 29g of fat. Ingredients included; broad beans, vegetable oil, wheat flour, cane sugar, chilli powder, salt, garlic and pepper. Contains wheat flour and was prepared in a factory that uses peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds. Other LapSnacks in the range are; Chilli Puffs, Habas Fritasm and Sesame Peanuts.

Captain Tiptoes Explosive Wasabi Flaming Beans – Redoubtably Firm Fire Balls Red Hot Beans of Combustiblance

These battered broad beans had quite a title. Apparently Captain Tiptoes had help in creating these fiery wasabi battered broad beans from his friend The Great Fujimoto Flyer, who is a human cannonball. I’m sure The Great Fujimoto Flyer had the inspiration for these “Redoubtably Firm Fire Balls Red Hot Beans of Combustiblance” after a particularly explosive outing from his circus cannon produced a pair of flaming hot fiery nuts, possibly the remains of a bag of roasted peanuts he had been munching on beforehand, but no-one could tell amongst all the smoke!

On opening the bag I noticed these broad beans were covered in the same type of battered wheat flour that the Habas Mojadas were. The broad beans smelt of batter and had no noticeable fiery wasabi smell, only the slightest whiff if I could try to imagine it. After reading the flaming hot fiery heat warnings on the fire engine red bag, this lack of wasabi in the smell instantly put me at ease. Usually from the wasabi peas I’ve tasted in the past, I’ve smelt wasabi on opening a packet. On pouring out the multitude of battered broad beans there wasn’t even a green tint to them. And then I popped a couple in my mouth to crunch on. Oh my! The shear nose tingly wasabi burn almost blew me off my chair. A few more made my nose run and my eyes water. The very tasty crunchy batter broad beans had an odd masochistic air about them of wanting to eat more, yet fearing to eat more, and fearing to stop eating more, but wanting to eat more all the same. You could really catch someone out with these at a party if you just put them in a bowl without a label for a laugh. Having said that if you want to be kind, add a label that states; “Not for the faint hearted!” These battered broad beans were not as crumbly as the Habas Mojadas and were definitely the seriously dangerous end of the battered broad bean flavour spectrum. They certainly woke me up for an afternoon’s work and I would happily cough, sweat and sneeze over a bag every day! However, I did learn one valuable lesson which was not to eat these Wasabi Flaming Beans and a sandwich full of Flaming Hot Coleslaw in one lunchtime. I almost had to take trip to Accident and Emergency!

Information on the bag;
90g bag. At 100g there were 440 calories, with 1g of sugar and 18.5g of fat. Ingredients included; Broad Beans, vegetable oil, wheat flour, wasabi seasoning, sugar and salt. Allergen advice; contains gluten and was prepared in a factory that uses nuts (possibly firing them out of a cannon!)
By Spectre

11 July 2014

Dominos Pizza Fiesta / Rio and New Nachos (@Dominos_UK) [By @Cinabar]

As we were having pizza as a bit of a treat while watching the football, it seemed appropriate to try out the Brazilian sounding new pizzas from Dominos. There are two new varieties Fiesta and Rio, and I thought we could try both so went for a half and half, where they split the pizza with two varieties.
When it arrived I could immediately see the issue with a half and half pizza, the dressing from the Fiesta was also all over the Rio. The Fiesta section (left in the photo) consists of chicken, peppers, spices and mojito dressing. I thought the heat was a nice kick, and gave a good warmth. The dressing was cooling and reminded me of mint raita, perfect for the spices and rather summery in its nature.
The Rio section wasn’t supposed to have the mojito dressing, but apart from that looked right. It had pulled beef, onions, peppers and chipotle dressing. The heat was much milder on this section, and the peppers shone through. The beef didn’t have much flavour, it just added a bit of a juicy meaty feel, but the flavour wasn’t as strong as say steak pieces would have been. The chipotle also seemed mild compared to the Fiesta.As usual with Domino all the veggies tasted fresh and slightly crunchy, which I really like, and it does give them a bit more of a premium feeling.
If I had to pick out of the two pizzas I think I would choose the Fiesta as the winner, the chicken taste was more defined and the spices had such a lovely tingle.

We also ordered a box of the new Nachos to try, which came with a choice of salsas, hot or tangy. We went for tangy, which was fresh with lots of tomato so a good choice. The nachos themselves were crunchy, and had plenty of cheese and made for a rather nice accompaniment to the pizza. You would immediately think that pizza and nachos would go together but the contrast in textures seemed to work surprisingly well.
If you are planning on watching the footie over the weekend, this certainly makes for tasty pizza to munch while you watch. I’m highly tempted to order it all again for the final! ;-)
By Cinabar

10 July 2014

Neo (imitation Oreos) Lidl [review by @NLi10]

While in the branch of Lidl (or maybe Aldi - I always get them confused) I spotted some amusing imitation Oreos. Naturally I had to pick them up and got both flavours - only the creme filling varies.

The first thing to note is the neat stacks of five you get individually sealed. This is only possible because their diameter is smaller than Oreos, but not so much that you feel cheated.  This makes them much more snack friendly as they are less breakable in bags and pockets.

The flavour of the biscuit is amazingly close, you'd be hard pressed to tell if this was crumbled up in a luxury desert instead of the real deal. The creme is maybe less strongly flavoured and the texture closer to that of a Bourbon or Custard Cream. Again this isn't an issue - it's still nice.

They aren't the cheapest biscuits in the store but still were around half of the price of a similar amount of Oreos, so you can eat more for your money.

I thought the vanilla creme ones were nicer than the chocolate ones (which suffered in the same way the regular ones do from the homogeneity of the biscuit and filling flavours) but you may disagree as your tastes vary.  Either way - for snacking or cooking these are perfectly acceptable substitutes and only a side by side comparison would show major differences (apart from the size!)

9 July 2014

Maoam Pinballs Tropical Flavour (WH Smiths) [By @SpectreUK]

There were two colours of these Pinballs in the bag which were yellow and green. There was also an image of a cheerful footballer and goal on the front of the bag, so I suspect these chewy sweets were World Cup themed. The yellow chewy balls were pineapple flavour, whereas the green balls were lime flavour. There was also a friendly warning on the front of the bag stating that these balls have a "zingly tingly centre". I do like sour chewy sweets and sour gums. I took it that "zingly tingly" meant that these chewy sweets had a sour centre, but how sour? There was only one way to find out...

I really had to bite into these chewy sweets to release their flavour, but the clue was in their description. I first tried the yellow sweets and noticed the slight beeswax coating on their outside. On chewing there was an immediate fruity taste of pineapple followed by a zing from the sour flavour. Not a face twisty zing, but certainly a good waker-upper. The green flavour had the same beeswax coating, followed by a fruity sour lime flavour on first chew which quickly turned into a face twisty sour lemon flavour. This sour lemon flavour was reminiscent of fizzy cloudy lemonade that's always so refreshing in summertime. I really enjoyed these sour chewy sweets, they felt healthy having some fruit and plant concentrates in their ingredients, and they had a very refreshing feel to them. I'd certainly have them again and hope that they are not just limited to the duration of the World Cup.

Information on the bag;
160g bag, and at 100g have 408 calories, with 5.1g of fat and 70g of sugar. There were no artificial colours in the ingredients (see photograph).
By Spectre

8 July 2014

Lime and Black Pepper Crisps (@KettleChipsUK) (Waitrose) [By @Cinabar]

This bright green bad from Kettle Chips contains their new Limited Edition seasonal flavour. The flavour is Lime and Black Pepper so it sounds rather new and different too, and a nice change for the brand.
I opened up the bag and the aroma was mostly that of pepper and vinegar, I could’t help noticing that the crisps were speckled with black pepper and as such the seasoning was far more present visually than usual. We shared them out one lunch time, accompanying an array of goodies with sandwiches; specialty cheese, fiery coleslaw, and Italian Stuffed Cherry Peppers amongst other things.
The flavour from the crisps was rather impressive. The lime did shine through, giving these a zesty finish, and some slight sourness from the vinegar too. There was a hint of sweetness, but the main flavory was the black pepper, it was spicy and gave the crisps a nice contrasting warmth. The heat lingered for a little while even after you’d finished each crisp, long after the lime taste had disappeared.
Texture wise these are the usual thick cut crunchy you’d expect from Kettle Chips. They have a nice bite to them, without being too hard. That in combination with the summery fresh new flavour made these some seriously tasty crisps. I expect these would be perfect served up with a barbecue as they would complement all the meaty tastes rather well.
By Cinabar