31 October 2014

Limited Edition Halloween M&Ms (Tesco) [By @Cinabar]

I’m going to cut to the chase, before you get excited about the latest “Limited Edition” Halloween M&Ms, don’t. Yet again they have totally avoided releasing anything interesting in the UK and the entire bag is filled with ordinary peanut M&Ms, only coloured orange and green. My frustration is not due to a dislike of peanuts and chocolate, far from it I am a big fan. It is the pain when they put the phrase “Limited Edition” on the packet, and you get your hopes up for some crazy flavour, and then you realise just how disappointing the contents are, Halloween coloured shells is as good as it gets.
When you think about our friends in The States munching on their Halloween Candy Apple flavoured M&Ms I think it fair to look at them with jealous eyes. There are loads of flavoured M&Ms in other countries, but the UK is as ever left out. For those that read my post on Christmas M&Ms and find this a bit repetitive, it is fair to say my disappointment is becoming a seasonal affliction.
Anyway as these chocs aren’t wrapped I will be forced to eat them myself and not give any out to Trick or Treaters. Buying them, being disappointed with them and having to eat them is just one of the many sacrifices I have made for this blog! Go me! ;-)

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

30 October 2014

Blackcurrant Bear pure YoYo - with cards! @follow_the_Bear [by @NLi10]

I've seen these in the shops a lot, and I've seen them reviewed here a lot too.  I've resisted however as liquorice rolls are cheaper, and fruit bars are cheaper. Why on earth would I want to pay 55p for the two hybridised together?

One reason - TRADING CARDS!

I'd never really spotted that these had collectable things in them (and legitimately part of the packaging as they have the sweets stuck to them).  Surprisingly they are good quality too - with decent art and a bit of information.  I'm assuming there are 80 and that the Day is the collector number.  Could get addictive.

There is also food too!  

I originally picked these up to see whether they would be worthy of this year's trick or treat stash, but I think they may be a little too luxury and good to be prised out of my hands...

I've eaten a bit of this which is why it looks small.  Surprisingly fruity with actual texture and amazingly sharp and sweet for the ingredients (nothing but squished fruit). I'd overlooked these due to the price when getting festival fruit snacks, but I may have to multi buy them from Holland & Barrett for my own personal consumption.

At least until I have enough tokens to get the wall chart anyway...

29 October 2014

Jaffa Cakes - Spooky Cake Bars (Ocado) [By @Cinabar]

I think the thing that strikes me most about this Halloween edition of Jaffa Cake Cake Bars is that despite being orange flavoured, they managed not to include the phrase ‘blood orange’ anywhere in the marketing or packaging. I’d have put that down to an easy win on the Halloween theme. The orange in the cake bars is a meagre ‘zingy orange’.
The wrapper is nicely decorated though, and specially put together for the season complete with pumpkins, a cauldron and even a spooky house. The cake bars inside the packet are individually wrapped, so they are good for handing out to Trick or Treaters, but as there are only five they won’t last too long that way. Last year we had so many knocks at the door that I thought I was going to have start offering out items from the fruit bowl as an emergency!
The cake bars come with a dark chocolate coating on top of a vanilla sponge, with a layer of ‘zingy’ jaffa orange. I was a bit disappointed that the ‘zingy’ orange didn’t look quite as blood red as the image on the packet had hinted out. The flavour was good though, the orange has a tangy sharpness, and the darkness of the coating was a nice contrast. The sponge was fluffy and light, and these are very easy to eat. I think the cake bars are a bit nice for Trick or Treaters so I’d recommend saving them to the end and trying to keep them for yourselves… unless it is between giving these away or a small branch of seedless grapes, but I guess that also depends on how good your relationship with the neighbours is!
By Cinabar

28 October 2014

Pumpking - Evil Pumpkin Beer (Aldi) [By @SpectreUK]

There are lots of uses for a pumpkin. You can gut one, chop a scary face into it and use the slimy contents to make a warming soup, or a refreshing smoothie, a pie, pumpkin bread, or you can even spread it all over yourself to soften your skin! According to Wychwood Brewery the most evil of all pumpkins are saved to make their Pumpking ale. This ruby ale was brewed with (evil) pumpkin and (fairly scary) mace to produce a spicy warming brew to scare away any festive ghouls and ghosts that may creep from the grave on Halloween night and come knocking at your door for sweets and treats, or even blood curdling tricks.

On pouring this Pumpking ale there were spicy undertones to the usual ale type smell. The creaminess of this ale and the sweetness from the crystal malt struck me on first taste. I wasn't expecting that almost toffee taste to begin with. I was instantly glad I had a second bottle to enjoy at a later date. The creamy toffee sweetness was quickly followed by the pumpkin flavour, which had mixed perfectly with the bitterness from the mixture of hops and the added spiciness from mace to produce a creamy sweet and slightly fruity spicy then bitter journey that ended on another creamy note to soften the senses. This ale certainly did warm me up, placing me on cushions of creaminess, then dropping a heavy pumpkin on my head before I dozed off (or possibly knocked out) on the cushions. I reckon this was the evil Pumpking's last laugh just to make me jump and remind me that it's Halloween week. So you'd better watch out, evil Pumpkings are about!

Information on the label;
Brewed by Wychwood Brewery, in Oxfordshire. 500ml bottle at 3.8% in volume.
By Spectre

27 October 2014

Soreen Halloween Edition - Toffee Apple Scream [By @Cinabar]

Sometimes being a blogger is fun and lovely companies send you goodies to try. Sometimes companies fill a box with plastic spiders and make you jump half a mile when you go to open it!!! :-D Soreen wanted us to try out their new Toffee Apple edition bars in time for Halloween and sent me a suitably decorated parcel of goodies, complete with an array of black plastic spiders sitting in a web! One of the plastic spiders unbeknownst to me jumped from the box and settled down the side of the sofa, giving me a second fright later in the evening! Oh my, I do get jumpy when it comes to spiders, alive or plastic as it happens! Oh how the folks from Soreen would have laughed…
Anyway once the adrenaline levels had returned to normal, and I had calmed down I decided it was time to try out the new treat. The Toffee Apple Soreen will be available in lunch box sized pieces, individually wrapped. When the wrapper was off, they smelt really nice with a sweet air of toffee about them. Although the colour is lighter and they look more like a cake bar, the texture is still heavy and almost sticky like regular Soreen, you have to remember this is a fruit loaf not a cake.
The flavour was lovely, there was plenty of apple, which worked rather well with the rich tastes, and the toffee aftertaste was spot on, strong and rich. I hope they keep this flavour going for a while after Halloween as it such a nice new addition to the range, and one that you’ll be wanting all autumn.
By Cinabar

26 October 2014

Halloween Mr Kipling Choc Slime Slices (Asda) [by @NLi10]

Crikey - Halloween seems to come around faster and get earlier every year.  No sooner have we packed away the pumpkins, scary trees and fake blood than we are back up the loft looking for the trimmings again.  I'd not been that fussed about the 'holiday' as a kid, but now I get to buy the sweets and freak out the visiting kids it's a lot more fun.  I put most of it down to playing quirky Indie 'kids game' Costume Quest one year while off with the flu - the sequel (Costume Quest 2) is out this year and I haven't got it yet - but I am very tempted... anyway...

This year saw a few new looking festive treats so I thought I'd review some.

First up we have these  - perfect for trick or treaters!

What more could a small child with face paint wearing a bin-bag cape ask for than some skinless sausages! Well i'm sure that there is a reason for spooky bangers, but it escaped me.  Maybe the October BBQ season is one that they are starting to trend.

Instead of traumatising the neighbours kids for life by giving them raw meat lets look at these:

Ignoring the oddly phalic Christmas treats and leaving the bear for the next review we see Mr. Kipling has created another variation based on the fact that lime and slime are a bit similar.

As usual these are just the normal slices but jazzed up, and as usual three sets of two in a box seems quite small.  Naturally I had to tuck into a set early for review so I only have two portions left to give out.  I'm saving them for work I think.

The fondant topping is similar to normal but the green sponge seems to be where the lime is - and boy is it a big hit.  I expected these to be subtle and just like a hint of lime, but no - it's over the top and glorious - to the point where I'm wondering if this is too much lime!

I am a big fan of lime and using it with quorn to create crazy flavours was my signature dish at university.  Even for me this felt a bit OTT, but i guess that adds to the extreme nature of the product. As a lovely 'bogey' coloured cake with a funny taste to freak kids out this is perfect.  You wouldn't catch me having this with a cup of tea though.

Happy Halloween spooky kids.  May all your candy be weird and exciting.

25 October 2014

Stone Dead Stout (Brown and Green, Trentham Gardens) [By @SpectreUK]

Whoooooo! It is the week of Halloween and all is eerie quiet, cold and misty. Quiet and cold as the grave in fact. Just imagine you're walking through a murky graveyard late on Halloween night. It's Witching Hour and you hear the sound of solid earth shifting and rotten coffin wood snapping as the dead rise from their graves. Then there is ghostly groaning and shuffling of feet over wet grass, and overgrown brambles and twigs snapping as some paranormal force pushes through years of neglected long forgotten ground. You run for your life stumbling across what you first think is a fancy dress party held in fact by the undead and then of course some zombie wannabe puts Thriller on a beatbox next to the gravestone bar. The undead bartender tells you the best drink on the house, "Stone Dead!" He says, "try it, you'll love it to death!"

Stone Dead is a stout for the living as well as the undead. This Imperial award winning stout was brewed with Millennium, Nugget and Styrian Golding Hops. The label mentioned roasted malt, coffee, burnt toast and bitter fruit flavours. My tastebuds were dribbling just reading the label! On pouring this almost jet black stout there was a definite roasted malt and coffee smell, with fruity hints and the mixture of hops bubbling excitedly like a witch's brew under the dark creamy head. At first I struggled to keep this stout in my beer mug as it threatened to froth out over the brim. I took a deep sip and was instantly rewarded with that promised roasted malt and a lip smacking dark chocolate flavour. The strong bitterness from the dark coffee hit my tastebuds next, which was closely followed by the throat scraping bramble-berry type fruitiness that nipped gingerly at my throat. This was a full bodied stout, not for the faint hearted bursting with complex flavours from roasted malts and chocolate, to coffee and the fruity bitterness from the fighty mixture of hops, leaving a fruity malty burnt toast type flavour in my mouth as an aftertaste. A pleasure to drink on a cold scary night or any other. Whether Stone Dead or not this black hearted stout warmed me right through and would breathe life even into the living dead! Bwah ha ha haaaa!

Information on the bottle;
Produced by the Lymestone Brewery in Staffordshire. 500ml bottle at 6.66% volume (Aaah! The Devil's number!). Contained malted barley and wheat.
By Spectre

24 October 2014

Options - Limited Edition Sweet Popcorn Hot Chocolate (@Ocado) [By @cinabar]

One of the things I like about my Ocado order is when it comes to ordering Options hot chocolate because you can add the flavour “Limited Edition” to your basket. This means you get whatever Options hot chocolate sachet is currently the new edition, and you don’t get a clue as to what it is until it arrives! This may seem like a disadvantage to some, but I love it! On my last but one order I had Turkish Delight (which was delicious), but this time I was all smiles when Sweet Popcorn arrived, something totally new to me.
I couldn’t wait to pop the kettle on and give it a try out. Funnily enough when I poured out the powder into the mug and gave it an expectant sniff I couldn’t really pick up on much other than chocolate. I added the hot water and again, the aroma was just chocolate.
So I took my first sip and something weird happened. I have found a product that is too sweet even by my standards. Now I know the flavour is supposed to be “Sweet Popcorn” but I think they put all the emphasis on the first word and pretty much ignored the second. I couldn’t really notice any popcorn taste at all, there was none of that corn flavoured goodness, no hint of the cinema experience. What it did remind me of was a regular cup of Options to which it tasted like there was a couple of extra teaspoons of sugar added to it. From the calories this can’t have been true, it was the usual low calorie count, but the sugary taste over powered the chocolate either way.
Oh well, you can’t win them all, and clearly there is a market for those of you who have an even sweeter tooth then mine. I’ll just be hanging on to see what wonders I get next month when I add “Limited Edition” Options variety to my order, I still enjoy the gamble.
By Cinabar

23 October 2014

Old El Paso Chili & Garlic One Pan Rice Meal

My two person family are big fans of the Old El Paso meal kits and always have at least one in the emergency supplies cupboard to fill with Quorn and veg and brighten up the midweek.

They have just started to branch out into other kits - and this one is essentially rice and sauce and seasoning. Naturally it suggests chicken - but again we went for Quorn.

The steps are easy to follow and the sachets are generous. We had a love meal for two with enough left aside for one lunch and one 2nd helping.

It was spicy enough to satisfy but didn't need cooling through other means. The rice was great quality and the measurements meant that it was just fluffy enough and still had a bite. We will certainly buy more of these to stash away and brighten up future meals.

22 October 2014

Lingham's Chilli Sauce [By @SpectreUK]

Lingham & Son very kindly sent me a bottle of their Chilli Sauce noticing that I'd reviewed quite a few chilli sauces, but they were a little miffed that I hadn't tasted theirs. So I thought I better try it on the best meal for chilli sauce that I could think of, which is of course cheese on toast. And so one evening I splurged a good sized dollop of fire engine red chilli sauce onto the plate next to my three pieces of cheese on toast. On first taste Lingham's Chilli Sauce tasted like a sweet, almost caramelised spicy red chilli sauce. This sauce went exceptionally well with my Red Leicester Cheese on toast. The red sauce had a building medium chilli heat that made me wipe my nose a couple of times after eating the first few chunks of cheese on toast. My mouth had a noticeable tingle and my nose began to sweat. Still I couldn't help pouring more and more... and more of Lingham's Chilli Sauce on my plate and dipping in smaller chunks of cheese on toast into larger blobs of sauce to savour my meal for longer. I really enjoyed this sauce. I noticed that it stated on the label that this sauce is "Unique, versatile, and delicious", and I'd certainly agree with that. I could quite happily eat this sauce with either savoury or sweets. I reckon it would go perfectly well either drizzled over chips or a vanilla cheesecake. No, I really mean that... and if you don't believe me, give it a try. Well saying that, give it a try even if you do!

Information on the label;
280ml bottle, 100ml containing 66.7g of sugar and 6.7g of fat. Produced with the same ingredients since 1908 by Lingham & Sons in Malaysia, and distributed by Bennett Opie in Kent. No colourings, added flavours or preservatives. Gluten free and no tomato purée! Ingredients included just; sugar, red chillies (33%), vinegar and salt.

21 October 2014

Tassimo - Costa Latte [By @Cinabar]

I have bought many kitchen gadgets in the past that haven’t stood the test of time. Ice cream machines, hot chocolate maker etc all bound for the back of the cupboard and occasional use only. One of the gadgets that I use every single day though is my Tassimo. I’ve had a machine for a few years now and whether it is an after work coffee or a before bed hot chocolate the machine is used with guaranteed regularity.

Costa Latte
Although Lattes have always been available for the Tassimo recently Costa have got on board and now you can make your very own Costa Latte at home. Inside the pack are two different types of disc for the machine. There are eight milk and eight espresso, and to make one drink you use one of each, i.e. it makes eight lattes. The drinks make a big mug full, which is lovely, so I put my large mug in the machine and loaded in a milk disc. The discs are double sized but fit easily in the machine. The second you press the start button the drink making begins and seconds later hot milk is being distributed to the mug. A quick switch of disc and the espresso is being poured into the milk and the coffee is ready to go. If you don’t have a Tassimo there is no clean up or mess, you just take the discs out and that’s it. The machines do need de-scaling every few months, and I run the cleaning program after I do that, but again it is all automated and just gets on with it on its own. Easy, and I think this why my Tassimo has passed that test of time, no washing up or hassle!
Anyway, back to my Costa latte, I noticed my mug looked a little fuller using the Costa discs than the other make I’ve tried. The taste was good, the milk was thick and almost frothy, with a lovely creamy edge to it. The espresso had delivered a decent shot, it almost looked like a double in amount. As such the coffee was rich and strong, but with no bitterness at all. It did taste like Costa’s I order in store, but came in at a fraction of the price.

Twinings Tea
The other thing that you might not realise with the Tassimo machine is that it also makes tea. Yes just like there are discs for making coffee, you can put some in to make tea. They are from a good make too, Twinings, so I was expecting a good cuppa. I put the disc in and brewed up the drink. I have to admit it did make a proper English Breakfast cup and I very much enjoyed the drink. My only issue is that I can make a really nice cup of tea with a tea bag at home, for a few pence. I can’t make a proper latte though, so that is where I think the Tassimo comes into its own. The tea is nice, and I will drink it up, but the coffee has won me over.

Many thanks to the folks from Tassimo for sponsoring this post, as ever my views remain impartial.

20 October 2014

New Greggs Hot Dog (@GreggstheBakers) [By @Cinabar]

I was quite excited to find that Greggs have started selling hot dogs as one of their new foods. The lovely folks from Greggs asked if I wanted to give one a try, and I couldn’t resist. There happens to be a very large branch of Greggs near me and it has just reopened following refurbishment so I thought this would be a nice excuse to give it a try out. I ordered the hot dog and had it fully loaded with plenty of ketchup, mustard and onions. A colleague also chose to give one a try, but had initially not been that enthusiastic at the idea (she is a Cheese and Onion Pasty kind of girl). She went along with the hot dog idea though, she too had all the toppings.
The hot dogs came in a cute paper wrapper, and the onions on top looked liked dried onions, they were crunchy too. I liked the mix of textures, the bread was very soft and fluffy, but then Greggs are bakers, and the meat was firm and the onions were lovely and crisp. The hot dog sausage tasted authentic, with that proper frankfurter taste whihc was seriously good. The ketchup was sweet and mustard had that lovely kick of American flavour. In short I thoroughly enjoyed my hot dog as did my previously unconvinced friend. She said the toppings and the crunchy onions made it for her. I was impressed by just how filling the hot dog was too, it did me nicely for lunch.
Another on the ball guy from work noticed if you download the Greggs App you get a voucher for a free hot dog, so I think it is safe to say we will be going back for more! :-)
By Cinabar

19 October 2014

Birmingham Oktoberfest 2014 [by @NLi10]

Hallo und willkommen to Oktoberfest!  Yes - I know it happens a little earlier in the real countries, but here in the UK in Birmingham our Oktoberfest was this week.  Running from Wed to Sunday I think this year.  We got organised and got an offer for £6.50 so that we were in the VIP seating area but with very little included food or drink.

We also had table service, but to save the people doing this I decided not to take pictures of this.

This all happened on the evening of the day that I had the BigDog hot dog for lunch so I was worried that it wouldn't stand up to the high quality bar that had been set and i'd be too full to enjoy the food.

First up was Schlumberger - german champagne (I am lead to believe).

This tasted like champagne to me - I'm no expert on wines and similar drinks.  It was drunk, but it wasn't something I'd really enjoyed or would try again.

Next up was 2 pints of German beer for £11.  This is a little expensive, but with the table service and the atmosphere I couldn't complain.  It was to be the only purchase outside of the vouchers that I made so was worth it.  It tasted like weak German beer.  It wasn't bad by any stretch but it did suffer a little when the last 1/4 of a pint was sat at the bottom a little flat after bashing glasses during drinking songs.

Our included plate meal was pork, cabbage and potato with onion gravy.  I liked this and wasn't upset for what we paid.  I did forget to take a picture with all that was going on though!  With our meal there were two surprise puddings. The first was alcoholic and called Underberg. I'd never heard of this but was advertised as £4 a bottle on the menu.  It's 44% too - so similar to Jagermeister in it's 'herbal drink that the cool kids use as a mixer' angle.  Tasting a little like absinthe it brought back many memories and had a distinct and lingering herbal aftertaste.  We shared the one we got with our initial starter meals (8 vouchers for 6 people :D) and expected to get ones with our main voucher meals, but we only got the sweet puddings and our alcohol puddings never came.  Shame really, but it was a little chaotic by that point.

And this is the sweet pudding.  Surprisingly soft gingerbread covered in incredibly sweet icing was a good counterpoint to the 2 pints of beer.  I never got around to ordering the breadzel that  I was tempted by on the menu due to my meal on the way.

The music was silly and thematic and a lot of fun.  Sitting right at the front we escaped the poor weather and had a very good night.

All in all for £17.50 total spend for me I had a great time, and we are thinking of doing it again in the future.  I think we'd try to get a deal that included the first drink (although those looked like the £3 half a pint beers) and the sausage and fries meal as it probably wouldn't be much more expensive.

18 October 2014

Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea (Waitrose) [By @SpectreUK]

It stated on the back of the glass bottle that this Alcoholic Ice Tea was best served ice cold or over ice. Bear with me and picture the scene; we'd decided to travel from Wolverhampton to the Merry Hill Shopping on a Saturday, which is just over eleven miles away. There seemed to be roadworks all the way there and it took about an hour and a half to arrive. Then there was half an hour to find a parking space in the multitude of car parks that were each filled to the brim. We trailed around the stuffy super heated shopping centre for a while and found a seat to eat some lunch at, by this time we'd had enough and drove home. On the way back we stopped at a local supermarket and I picked up this Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Ice Tea. I do apologise, but I just couldn't face waiting for it to chill in the fridge and needed something to calm the nerves (mainly foul temperament) after the traffic jams, parking fiasco and shopping 'bliss'! So I popped open the bottle, which had a pleasant cheerful fizz. That made me smile for the second time that day. The first time was lunch on Cinabar! This is the World's first alcoholic Ice Tea, not the World's first for Cinabar buying lunch as she can be quite generous at times (asides paying the writers!). I digress, this Ice Tea was made with ethically sourced Kenyan black tea, with added craft distilled grain spirit and infused with natural citrus. On pouring the lightly fizzy brown Ice Tea there was a refreshing citrus zing and spirit kick to the initial black tea smell. I noticed that the dark brown liquid had a murkiness to it. There was definitive sweet black tea taste that was quickly matched by a burst of citrus and a light spirit kick at the end of the flavour that followed pleasantly through to the aftertaste of sweet citrusy black tea. Aaah! Just what I needed!

Information on the bottle;
275ml bottle at 4% volume. Made by Tudor Drinks in London. No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. Gluten free and contains naturally occurring caffeine.
By Spectre

17 October 2014

Appletiser - Apple & Pomegranate (@appletiseruk) [By @Cinabar]

Appletiser is a drink that has been going quite a while in the UK and seems to fit the bill nicely as a refreshing non alcoholic drink. It always feels a bit more sophisticated than J20, although I am a regular on them too. I tend to associate Appletiser with meals in Bella Italia as it is my drink of choice in there, plus they also stock Grapetiser too, it's sister product.
Recently Appletiser has released another new flavour and I was keen to give it try. This new version is a mix of apple and pomegranate, but like its regular Appletiser counterpart is still 100% sparking fruit juices, with no preservatives.
The drink comes in a smart glass bottle that give off a gentle fizz when you unscrew the cap. I poured out the burgundy liquid into a cup. The drink definitely still has apple as the main flavour hit, but here is a lovely zingy taste of pomegranate which takes you away from the sweet flavour. I like the sharper taste and the touch of pomegranate just makes this feel like a proper grown up drink. It is still very easy to drink as the juice flavours are blended well, and the pomegranate enhances the apple nicely.
Here’s hoping Bella Italia add it to their menu very soon!
Thanks to Appletiser for sending me the bottle to try.
By Cinabar

16 October 2014

Bacon Dog & fries - BigDog @BigDogBrum [by @NLi10]

While in the centre of Birmingham (UK) on the way to an Oktoberfest event I decided I needed a quick lunch, and popped into the fairly new BigDog.  This is in Paradise Forum under the carcass of the old library and not somewhere I'd usually be passing while hungry so I figured I'd give it a go.  I expected a hotdog van style experience as it's in the same vicinity as eat4less (which has a less nice colloquial name due to the cheapness of the food and the speed at which it leaves the body).

What happened was a slightly different experience.  Forgive the lack of pictures as I wasn't planning to do this as a review. There are more on their twitter page. I was in a hurry so chose something near the top of the menu (a hotdog wrapped in bacon called the BaconDog I think) and added fries so I wouldn't be hungry.  I turned down the drink which confused the server and was surprised it was over £5.  It took longer than I expected for the food to come & this is what arrived.

First up this is a lot more food than I'd pictured and was a pleasant surprise.  Those aren't fries.  They are chips, freshly fried and had cut and really some of the nicest chips I've had in a long time.  The sausage is similarly freshly cooked - no sitting on a rotating heat source here.  The meat is German market quality - and it turns out I could have chosen other kinds like beef too! The sauces seemed a little unnecessary as they are on the table but I did say yes to all the trimmings. The bacon was a decent sized sheet and wrapped securely around and not just shoved on top.

All in all - this wasn't a snack, it was a meal.  And a good one at that.  I went from thinking it was slow and expensive to thinking it was a decent deal and speedy considering it seems to have been made from scratch.  Even the confusion over the drink was explained by a more detailed reading of the menu - £5 gets you a meal deal so with the bacon I'd turned down a less than 50p drink.

Looking like a 'splash and dash' diner I think hurts BigDog a little.  Once you know it's quality and appreciate the experience it's a lot easier to understand the position it occupies.  It's an American style diner which should be as busy as Nando's opposite is, but I think it needs a few more pictures of the quality goods in the windows and a bit more 'special offer' about the meal deals to entice people into the store.

It's barely more expensive than a meal deal at many of the fast-food giants and a darn sight more tasty.  Will go back, and if they have veggie options I'd even take my partner.  Well recommended.

15 October 2014

Burts Spicy Chorizo crisps (Aldi) [By @SpectreUK]

I'm a big fan of spicy crisps especially from a big sharing bag and dipped in mayonnaise or salad cream whilst watching a good movie. These spicy smoky Spanish sausage flavoured crisps seemed to fit the bill. Although I have a greedy nature so it's often difficult for me to share food, especially snack food like spicy crisps. These Burts Spicy Chorizo Crisps sounded just like something I would unlikely be able to share, but nevertheless Cinabar and her mom were awaiting their considerably smaller portions than mine with baited breath. On opening the packet these crisps smelt like spicy chorizo and paprika with a citric lime twist at the end of the odour. The crisps had a deep orange paprika colour to them. These crunchy crisps had a smoky chorizo sausage taste to them, having an almost instant spicy paprika and sweet medium heat chilli pepper flavour with a smoky saltiness to the Chorizo, and a lime twist that followed through into the spicy aftertaste. We all really enjoyed these Spicy Chorizo crisps with our lunchtime sandwiches, especially me dipping them into a decent dollop of salad cream. I'll have to get them both to pick up a couple of packets next time they visit the store!

Information on the packet;
Produced by Burts Potato Chips, in Devon. Packaged in a 150g packet these crisps per 100g have 514 calories, with 28.8g of fat and 1.2g of sugar. See photograph for ingredients. No artificial flavours or colourings. These crisps are gluten free, but not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
By Spectre

14 October 2014

Moser Roth: Limited Edition Plum & Cinnamon Chocolate (@AldiUK) [By @Cinabar]

My favourite spice is without doubt cinnamon. I love the warm spicy taste, and the fact that when the weather gets cooler its popularity increases. Right on schedule then Aldi have a new bar from Moser Roth flavoured with both plum and cinnamon. Although there isn’t a hint of holly on the packet, it did without question feel a little Christmassy.
Inside the box are five individually wrapped bars, perfect for portion control. I unwrapped the first bar and was met with pieces of milk chocolate, inside of which was a layer white chocolate mousse and a plum and cinnamon jam. The jam layer wasn’t think, it oozed when I bit a piece in half and came dangerously close to spilling out.
The flavours together worked very well. I loved the warm spice of cinnamon and the sweet plum, with the creamy chocolate tastes. It reminded me of Christmas pudding covered in custard, lots of flavour, a sweetness over load, but the spices holding it all together. As I much as I loved this bar and its spicy fruity taste, when my mum tried one she had a different reaction. She the bar was to sweet and as such a bit lost on her.
I do have a self confessed sweet tooth and a love of cinnamon which clearly influenced my opinion, but perhaps this isn’t one for everyone. I shall be stocking up next week though and making the most of cinnamon’s regained popularity.
By Cinabar

13 October 2014

Beech's - Mint Crisps (@BeechsChocolate) [By @Cinabar]

The lovely folk from Beeches rather kindly sent me some of their after dinner mints to try. I do like the combination of chocolate and mint, but have to admit to not buying it very often, so it was nice to have these as a treat.
Inside the box are chocolate thins, rectangular in shape with a rough surface showing off the bumps of mint crystals within. The chocolates are quite thin and look like slices. The texture of the chocolate is quite firm and snappy, but has a lovely dark chocolate flavour, there is obviously plenty of cocoa. It is strong, but there is sweetness too, offset by the wonderfully strong crunchy mint and sugar crystals within. With the thin but firm chocolate and crunchy bits the texture was very pleasing to munch on. I loved the strength of the mint, there was loads of peppermint and it made them very refreshing, and yet still super chocolatey too. This gave them a very moreish feel. If you are serving these up as treat with a coffee for friends, don’t expect there to be much of a box left once you get started, even if there was only two of you!
I know I’m going to have to make the effort and buy chocolate mints a bit more often than I do, and the Beeches ones would take some beating.
By Cinabar

12 October 2014

Pocky - Panda [review by @NLi10]

This is a rather unusual Pocky - it's not a flavour, it's a creature!

Pocky Panda comes in an adorable box and promises chocolate sticks, white coating and little black bits under the coating.

Even the inner bag is adorable.  The pandas look so happy because it's clearly not made out of pandas but designed for pandas. The sparkles suggest it has magical properties.  The import info is non-existent so we pretty much have to guess from here on out.

The actual snack is pretty much as pictured.  The white stuff is sweet with a tiny hint of maybe vanilla.  The black bits on the stick are I guess slightly biscuity.  The chocolate stick isn't as nice as the normal 'classic' Pocky stick, but it's perfectly edible and of a nice quality.

Overall it's a cute, sweet snack and very sharable.  I don't think you'd eat a whole box of this to yourself - and like the novelty tissues/erasers/etc. with pandas on them they are very giftable and you feel a bit guilty using them up.

11 October 2014

Guinness Mid-Strength Draught (Ocado) [By @SpectreUK]

I've never held much credence in low alcohol beers as some have a bad habit of tasting a little odd! This Guinness Mid-Strength Draught is of course a stout, which could be different and taste just like Originial Guinness or taste just as odd, but in a stout way rather than an odd beer way. I'm reliably informed from somewhere on the internet that there are other Guinness stouts available. Whereas Guinness Original is 8% in volume in the UK, Guinness Extra Stout is 4.3% in volume in the USA.
Guinness Draught is 5% in volume, whereas Guinness Foreign (as in not in the UK I suppose) Extra Stout is 7.5% in volume and Guinness Special Import is 8% in volume. Guinness Mid-Strength Draught is 2.8% in volume. So if you want to get drunk on this stout you'll have to be pretty thirsty to begin with. Either that or unit-wise this would be fairly safe for a pint and a drive (not that I'd encourage drinking and driving). Fortunately I was very thirsty when I poured the first can of the four-pack. Indeed the can proclaimed that this Guinness had been brewed in the same way as the Draught Guinness, but with less alcohol. The stout poured much the same as any other Guinness that I have had the pleasure of drinking in the past. It was certainly black, had a Guinness smell about it and the usual creamy top. To be perfectly honest with you on first taste I couldn't tell much difference between this Mid-Strength Draught and the regular (dare I say "regular") Draught Guinness. It still tasted creamy, it still tasted like stout with a bitterness and malty taste. So I had another swig and another until I just decided to enjoy the stout and stop wri... ;-)
By Spectre

10 October 2014

Classic Kettle Chips - Salsa and Mesquite (@KETTLEChipsUK) [By @cinabar]

When I saw this variety of Kettle Chips, my first thought was I need to google Mesquite. I’m no snob, I admit when I don’t know a word! The trouble is if you google “Mesquite” you find out it's a type of tree, so I took a punt and added “sauce” to my search term and everything became clear, it is a type of barbecue sauce.
These crisps are from a different era, so perhaps that explains my lack of knowledge on the food culture, think back in time to the Eighties. I would have been playing on my roller skates and hearing Cliff’s Mistletoe and Wine for the first time. These were one of the nostalgia flavours from Kettle, first released back in 1988. According to google they had quite a cult following too, but they are new to me.
The crisps look like they were dusted with a sprinkle of orange coloured seasoning, and the aroma was very much that of barbecue sauce. The crisps had the usual firm crunch of Kettle Chips and each had a satisfying snap. The flavour was rather moreish, there were all sorts of hints of flavours, from paprika to barbecue, and a lovely woody hickory aftertaste. Lets not forget the sweetness of some tomato and a hint of spice thrown in there too. I can see why these had such a following after their original release, they are full flavoured and seriously tasty. Hopefully Kettle Chips will have them back for a bit longer than the “Limited Edition” label on the bag suggests.
By Cinabar

9 October 2014

TeaPigs - Popcorn Tea [@NLi10]

A while back I got sent some TeaPigs popcorn tea as part of the Matcha Tea review package. I took them to work and they got buried in a draw.

As the colder weather has drawn in I have found myself upping the tea rations and exploring all the things I had.  This sat undrank until I felt just the right kind of adventurous today.

I'd previously had some Genmaicha tea which is very similar to this and not really enjoyed it. I think it's dark earthy taste contrasted too starkly with the sweet chinese meal and drink if had next to it causing this bias.

Today I was careful to not make it too strong as a first attempt, but also not to add sugar so I could get the full flavour. To my surprise I quite liked it, the brown rice that gives it the distinctive earthy flavour was still the dominant flavour but it was more balanced than if expected.  I think that this tea would be a favourite for coffee drinkers or smokers who prefer dark flavours, as it doesn't really taste like a tea at all.

I'd much prefer to have a nice delicate cup of jasmine green tea or similar to this on 90% of occasions but I think that as a warming winter drink this works well.  As the original version of this tea I tried was bottled and therefore cold I think this is best enjoyed for me after a long walk in the snow or rain. It may be one therefore to look out for in cafes after walks.

I won't struggle to make it through all the teabags, but any that don't get used this winter will likely be kept til the next one.

8 October 2014

Skittles Desserts (Import Shop) [By @SpectreUK]

I have to get the spelling of "Desserts" right as these new sweets from Skittles could be misconstrued as very dry and arid bite sized candies. Coming in five new flavours these Skittles Desserts sounded like super sweet sweets to me. The concept of making sweet flavours from pudding sweets seemed like a doubly sweet idea (sorry)! First up Orange Creme (orange colour) had a predominantly sweet and sugary orange flavour finishing on a creaminess that I hadn't really experienced in Skittles before. I couldn't get enough of this flavour and soon the packet was empty of orange coloured skittles. Key Lime Pie (green colour) tasted a little more apple than lime. Still these green Skittles were sweet, with a mid-lime tang and spiciness and were certainly tasty, but I don't think folk from the Florida Keys would be impressed. Now if they'd called it maybe Apple Strudel flavour...? Strawberry Milkshake (pink colour) gave the same creaminess that the Orange Creme Skittles had to offer, but with a strawberry ice cream sweetness instead. These pink Skittles were fantastic and disappeared from the packet as quick or even quicker than the orange Skittles. Blueberry Tort (blue colour) certainly had a blueberry flavour but there was a chemical finish to the taste, which travelled unnaturally into the aftertaste that put me off a little. Finally Raspberry Sorbet (red colour) seemed to mirror the juicy wetness that a raspberry sorbet gives in spades when eating it after a meal, of course without that frozen teeth jangling chill that sorbets can give older tender souls that may brave one from time to time. These red Skittles were another favourite flavour of mine. So all in all a mixed bag of colours, a mixed bag of flavours and certainly a mixed bag of feelings. I will definitely avoid the blue Skittles next time...

Information on the packet;
Distributed by Wrigley, in Chicago, USA. 56.7g bag with 230 calories, 2.5g of fat and 42g of sugar. For ingredients please see photograph.
By Spectre

7 October 2014

SuperMilk 65 Chocolate (@HotelChocolat) [By @Cinabar] #supermilk

When is a chocolate a dark chocolate? I know there has been arguments with some cheaper chocolates not having enough cocoa to be labelled as milk chocolate, but the cocoa content always seems to be on a minimum level that needs to be reached. I’ve not seen an upper level as such. Given that the average milk chocolate in the UK has a meagre 25% cocoa this new Super Milk chocolate from Hotel Chocolat comes in at 65%, and looks rather dark too. It is still rather definitely described as being a milk chocolate, but admits to testing the formula by replacing sugar with extra cocoa, hence the dark colour.
Inside the packet were two bars, both dark looking and embossed with the Hotel Chocolat branding. I broke a piece of the chocolate off and gave it a taste. It had a lovely thick melt, that felt quite soothing and was indeed reminiscent of a milk chocolate. The taste was different to what I expected. The cocoa flavour was quite strong, it is a strong flavoured bar, but impressively even with the reduced sugar content it was plenty sweet enough. I’m not sure I can say the bar was as creamy as a regular milk chocolate but it was far smoother than I expected, and did have a nice soft edge. The chocolate was in no way bitter, and in that respect did again feel like a milk chocolate, the cocoa had clearly been carefully chosen for it mellow flavour.
The bar is without question really nice, but don’t go expecting the over-sweet and ultra creamy flavour you may associate with milk chocolate, this is a whole new twist on the concept. Hotel Chocolat have done it their way, and invented a remarkably smooth and tasty 65% cocoa bar, that mimics milk chocolate in a way you wouldn’t have thought possible, and its delicious too!
Many thanks to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity to try out their new SuperMilk Chocolate.
By Cinabar

6 October 2014

Quality Street My Orange Bar - Orange Crunch (Boots) [By @Cinabar]

As you all are probably aware my favourite Quality Street chocolate is the purple one, I do love nuts and chocolate. As such when Quality Street released the Purple One bar I was over the moon. Over the years it has been joined by various friends and this year the new addition to the range is the Orange Crunch.
The bar feels odd in its wrapper, I was convinced it was broken in some way, but it was entirely intact, just oddly shaped. It consists of four octagonals all filled with a thick orange filling. The bar smells amazing when the wrapper was opened, there was a good strong chocolate orange aroma which was very enticing. The bar broke naturally intro the four chunks and I took my first bite of one of the pieces.
The milk chocolate was pleasingly thick and the filling inside had a good strong chocolate orange flavour. It was a sweet soothing taste, and I loved the crunch from the orange crystals within. The citrus and the chocolate were made for each other.
Basically if you like the orange crunch chocs in Quality Street,this is the perfect bar for you.
Somebody at work said to me that they associate chocolate orange flavours with Christmas, so I guess this fits in well with the upcoming time of year. I think chocolate orange is an easy win with those flavours being popular and much under used in UK confectionary.
By Cinabar