19 July 2018

Fentimans Sparkling Raspberry (from Bamburgh Castle) by @NLi10

It's usually a bit of a chore to get the new Fentimans flavours in Birmingham, but I was up north for the weekend and got to visit Hexham - the home of Fentimans so it should be a breeeze, right?


Fentimans doesn't have a shop anymore, the lovely bar hadn't unboxed them from their stock room yet (rotation of dates and all that) and the off-license only had the one in the window left from their free trial box. The guy serving had tried it though, and thought it was too much raspberry which is a good omen for me as I love that flavour. 

Fortunately we did a lot of visits to local attractions and their shops always have the latest things on offer.  I managed to stumble across a few bottles in Bamburgh Castle gift shop (not the cafe oddly?!)

The castle itself is a really beautiful place.  With live archaeology, and some period style minting happening on site there is a lot to do besides just the epic views and buildings.  As a museum buff they could do with a little more selective curation, but what they have got allows you to discover the treasures yourself.  Like the drinks.

And it's sweet, it's very fruity and the sparkle is just the right side of refreshing.  It's a lot more drinkable than the lovely Cherry Cola they do which is very much a one and done drink.  I think I could happily just drink this for an evening.

As usual it's a real drink with lots of real flavour infusions and not just a diluted syrup.  It's a proper social drink that I expect to sit with the usual lemonades in the pubs.

In the end I think the effort to track it down was worth it, but I've heard rumours that Sainsbury's are already selling the 750ml bottles which will be a perfect excuse to visit them.

Another win from my favourite drinks company.

18 July 2018

Crazy Hot Popchips Ridges (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

I have had regular Popchips before and I like the look of these Ridges they produce. This Crazy Hot flavour has a three chilli extra hot rating on the front of the packet. These Popchips Ridges are the usual low in calories, as they are popped not deep fried, so they are half the fat of usual crisps. Popchips take potatoes add heat and pressure until they pop. There are no artificial flavourings in the ingredients and they are gluten free.

On opening the big sharing packet there was a strong paprika smell mixed with chilli and a mild potato aroma at the back of the smell. On looks as you can see from the photograph these well-rounded Popchips have a medium depth of ridge where the flavour can gather, and the seasoning of paprika is a deep orange. On taste there is an initial tomato and paprika flavour and the chilli builds in the mouth, so these Popchips are rather hot. The more Popchips I ate the tastier the tomato and paprika tang and the hotter the chilli. They are not uncomfortably hot though, but they are still hot and tangy. These Popchips Ridges not hot enough to put off scaredy-cats that might be worried by the three chilli rating and the "Crazy Hot" on the front of the packet next to the picture of the fiery chillies, because these are very tasty, but they are not too hot to handle!

On the packet;
In the 85g packet there are 98 calories per 23g serving, having 3.6g of fat, 1.1g of sugar and 0.57g of salt. Please see photograph for ingredients.

17 July 2018

New Maltesers Buttons (WH Smiths) By @Cinabar

I was browsing WH Smiths at the train station, as I pass by it on my commute, and I noticed an empty shelf and a sign saying New Maltesers Buttons. I asked about them and the lady on the till said they sold like hot cakes when she put them out earlier, but that they were expecting a delivery in a bit. The next day I went in and spotted them on the shelf and bought a handful of bags! I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about, plus they were on offer. ;-)

The bags are fairly small, and the calories per pack are just 166, so they aren’t too bad for a treat. I poured out the contests to have a look, half expected flattened Maltesers, but found discs of milk chocolate speckled with Maltesers pieces.
The flavour worked vey well, although proportionally there was more chocolate than Maltesers pieces, the maltiness still shone through. The buttons were easy to much on and fun to eat. The chocolate was thick when it melted, and felt rather soothing. The Maltesers bits in the buttons still added crunch, and I liked the flavour of the buttons. These were a nice snack, and a good pick me up after a long day at work. Something I would buy again, if I didn’t already have another five bags sitting in the fridge!

16 July 2018

Strawberry Teavana Black Tea (Starbucks) By @Cinabar

Given the continuing heat here in the UK, hot drinks from Starbucks as a treat have dropped a little further down my priority list. I am well aware that there are some people who feel that hot drinks are more refreshing on a hot day than a cold, but I am not in that club. I am also aware that my lack of caffeine from coffee recently seems to have induced the odd headache, which is a bit worrying really. Seriously I only usually have the odd coffee at work, okay possible around five, plus the one I have with breakfast in a morning, plus the one after dinner in an evening…. Oh, its bad isn’t. That aside I have been drinking very little coffee the last few weeks, but I still have every intention of getting back to it when it becomes cooler. In the meantime I thought I’d see what new cold drinks Starbucks have that are new, ideally with a healthy serving of ice.
I spotted on the menu this new Strawberry Teavana Black Tea ice drink and decided to give it a try. The first thing to note was that I was asked if I wanted it sweet, I asked for clarification on what they meant and they said they had a sugar syrup they could add, but that it was still nice without. I decided to try it without as I was after a more authentic black tea experience. I watched them make the drink and as per the Teavana spec it was indeed shaken to mix.
The drink itself is deep strawberry red in colour, and looked very cooling, I was loving the generous portion of ice. I gave it a sip and was impressed with the flavour. It had a good strawberry taste that was sharp and zingy, but as promised not very sweet at all, it seemed to be similar to a more natural strawberry juice, which was rather refreshing. The lack of sweetness meant it tasted like a real fruit tea as the leafy flavour was also present. I thought this drink was just what I needed, refreshing with a good strawberry taste and not too sweet.

15 July 2018

Village Hotel Room Tea - Bosh Tea Machine & Twinings Carts (by @NLi10)

We decided to have a half-way stop off north of Leeds on the way back from Northumbria, and chose a Village Hotel as we've liked them before.  We also upgraded to the 'premium pass' version as we wanted to use the gym (pool) and there was a lot of things to watch on the big TV with all the sports.

Eventually we got the things to work (we had to switch the room on at the door, reboot the Sky box manually, and then figure out how to change the temp on the Dyson fan).

What we are focusing on here is the tea machine.  It's one of those new coffee pod machines, but it also has tea pods.

It's by BOSCH and I've not seen this before - I'm guessing it has a fan base and the pods are in the shops.

The instructions are surprisingly hard to follow - with it not telling you where to fill the water, and the button to activate it actually being the panel on the front itself...

It looked promising as it's Twinings, less so for the non branded coffee for those guys.  I meant to try this, but didn't want to spend the whole car journey back desperate for the loo.

How it appears to work is that it puts steam (or at least really hot water) through the pod and it becomes a very small teapot.

And then it comes out the little nozzle.  That bit with the lights on is the 'brew' button.

And it does actually look like low, grade tea which is pretty cool.  I'd feared it was just tea powder to make it work so that was good.

The brewing process does make it taste like builder's tea though - if you like your flavours subtle or delicate then this is not for you.  This is coffee drinkers tea - the kind where they mash the teabag on the side of the mug just to get all of the bitterness into your tea.

So - overall we had just the one cup each and then relied on the breakfast tea downstairs in the next morning to get our fix the next day.

14 July 2018

The Wild Beer Company - Pogo (Gloucester Farm Shop @glouc_services) By @SpectreUK

After watching Angelique Kerber win at Wimbledon I fancy something a bit fruity. It's certainly hot enough outside for a refreshing pale ale with added tropical fruits. This Pogo pale ale from the Wild Beer Company had passion fruit, guava and orange added in the brewing. At 4.1% volume this pale ale was inspired by a fruit drink the brewer used to have when they were a child growing up in Hawaii. That tropical mixture has been added to this pale ale in order to produce a thirst-quenching hoppy beer. Just what I need on this hot afternoon.

On opening there was a tropical fruitiness and herbal hoppiness to the aroma of this golden straw coloured ale. I could smell the strong passion fruit and hints of guava before the hops tickled my nose. On taste this pale ale really steps out from the crowd. There is passion fruit to start with which mixes quickly with the orange and guava, producing a refreshing tropical fruit explosion on my palate. This tropical flavour then mixes with herbal hops and citrusy undertones and a touch more orange to the finish. This was a perfect hot summer afternoon drink to breathe new life into tired bones after a trip to the gym and a big lunch. I only wish I had another can or two to keep the heat at bay…

13 July 2018

Candy Crush Chocolate Mountain Ice Cream (Ocado) By @Cinabar

This brightly packaged and fun looking ice cream is based on the popular app game Candy Crush, and I spotted it on the Ocado website. I think it says something about technology that an app has influenced an ice cream flavour, and shows how many of us spend time playing phone games etc. My biggest problem with the ice cream is that whenever I look at the tub I inexplicably get an ear-worm and the song “I want candy” stuck in my head. Even now as I come to write this, “I want candy”. Oh well,
I’ll try and focus on the ice cream, it is called Chocolate Mountain and consists of a chocolate ice cream with white chocolate pieces and candy coated chocolate drops, which is handy because… “I want candy”.

I opened up the tub and was a little surprised to not see any candy, just ripples of chocolate ice cream. I scooped some to serve and could start to see a few of the goodies inside but there weren't many. As this is a Candy Crush ice cream I would have expected it to be more fun packed with all the extras, but there weren’t that many. I tasted the chocolate ice cream and that too didn’t feel very luxurious, it felt thin and watery, the chocolate flavour was quite dark and rich but not overly sweet. The problem is that this Candy Crush ice cream’s packaging sells fun and it ends of being a more adult grown up flavour, almost like a gelato. The chocolate drops and white chocolate pieces were nice, but I would have preferred more candy. I just don’t think the contents met my expectations, I was hoping for a little more luxury, something more thick and creamy and packed with candy extras. Did I mention this song thats still going round my head.... anyone have a remedy for ear-worms???

12 July 2018

Chocolate cRaisins - Ocean Spray (Home Bargains) by @NLi10

I don’t like raisins, but I do like cranberries. I think there is some super taster thing going on as it’s a weird bitter taste that puts me off, and I can detect them and sultanas in puddings to the degree that even sharks are impressed.

Here we have an opportunity to see what all the fuss is about, chocolate raisins without the raisin. 

I think the idea behind it really isn’t that these are healthier than raisins, but I’m not really sure why - surely all dried fruit is equal? Maybe like with sun-dried tomatoes there are different ways of exatracting the moisture and still leaving the fruit edible.


My partner said they taste exactly the same as chocolate raisins to her and that we could have more of these. I didn’t get the aftertaste, so it was just like eating a little soft sweet thing inside some chocolate. Nothing too exciting or something I’d go crazy for. If these had biscuit in we’d be talking! So I guess I’m just not excited by dried fruit in chocolate, if these were strawberries and kiwi in molten chocolate at the German market then I’d like that too. So if you like raisins and you fancy a change or you can figure out the health benefits then give these a try!

11 July 2018

Canton Chocolate Tea (Gloucester Farm Shop @glouc_services) By @SpectreUK

I’ve tried a few chocolate flavoured teas before and usually enjoy them for an alternative liquid pudding after lunch or dinner, or even to complement a good chocolate bar whenever I feel like it. Produced by the Canton Tea Company, this Canton Chocolate Tea was mixed with Indian Assam and also Yunnan Black tea from China, as well as Peruvian cocoa nibs and Madagascan vanilla pod. Each of the fifteen biodegradable tea pyramids in the box are almost calorie free, and are packed with the same quality tea that is served by the Canton Tea Company loose leaf. The ingredients of each pyramid tea bag sounded as luxurious as they sounded exotic and slightly pretentious (if you ask me), but they have to sell the tea somehow…
There were very precise brewing instructions on the box. Temperature of the water should be 95degrees. I’ll just have a word with the work’s boiler manager in the canteen… nope there isn’t one! I guess whatever the temperature is of the fairly tepid water in the rusty boiler will have to do. One tea pyramid per mug seems reasonable. 250ml of water… damn, I left my measuring jug at home! Guess I’ll just fill my mug. Two minutes to steep? Yeah, right. If I remember to take a teabag out of the mug before drinking it at work, I’m lucky!
On opening the packet of tea pyramids there was a luscious smell of dark chocolate mixed with vanilla and a touch of black tea. After brewing for an age and adding some milk there was a velvety chocolate smell from the milk tea coloured liquid in my mug. It certainly looked like tea, but it smelt more like a hot chocolate drink. It was the strongest smelling chocolate tea that I’ve tried so far. On taste there was an initial maltiness from the Assam, followed by a slight smokiness from the Yunnan, and then the cocoa nibs kicked in providing my palate with a dark chocolate flavour and an added sweetness from the vanilla. To be honest this Canton Chocolate Tea actually tastes better than a regular powder hot chocolate drink in my opinion. It’s tasty, it’s rich, and it’s just pure unadulterated bliss.

10 July 2018

Walkers Poppables BBQ Rib Crisps (Ocado) By @Cinabar

I am a fan of textures and the idea of a crisps that “pops” sounded fun, so I added a bag of these New Poppables crisps from Walkers to my online basket. At least I assume the name Poppables referenced the texture, it might just be because they are good to “pop” in your mouth, I guess I was going to find out. When they arrived they came in quite a big bag, and it was quite full too. We shared them over lunch and there seemed to be quite a few each.

The crisps are 3D and oval in shape, with a criss cross pattern on either shell. I bit in and they are fun to eat, they don’t exactly pop, but if you crunch in it does make them collapse. I did enjoy the texture though. The flavour too was spot on, the BBQ Rib had a good defined barbecue sauce flavour that was sweet and smoky, and the rib element added a rich meaty taste. The flavour was very good and I managed to finish off my large portion and then go back to the bag to look for a few more, they were so moreish. These are definitely crisps I’ll be buying again, and I’ll be looking out for the other flavour that has also launched, which is Cheese.

9 July 2018

Limited Edition M&Ms Crunchy Caramel (Ocado) By @Cinabar

I have covered a lot of M&M flavours over the years writing this blog, and they have mostly been via import. The UK market almost never has any new flavours, and this has annoyed me. I can’t think of many UK new flavours that have appeared in the nearly ten years of writing this blog, which is shocking. Basically they have done limited edition coloured shells (and occasionally a different type of nut) but nothing that feels properly new. It is annoying particularly when you hear about all the great varieties other countries get; Birthday Cake flavour, Coconut Edition, Strawberry with Peanut Butter to name just a few. These new M&Ms Crunchy Caramel are a genuine new UK flavour, and I have to admit to being quite excited to find them.

I poured a few out of the bag and the chocolates seem bigger than the regular chocolate variety, and rounder than the peanut ones. The colours are the usual bright tones, but there are no new colours.
I gave one of the chocolates a try and found them to be quite crunchy. The caramel isn’t super hard, and it isn’t chewy, and it does break easily. The crunch comes from the brittle texture. There is still a layer of chocolate wrapped around the caramel and this works well with the flavour. The caramel is at the right strength and is nicely defined and sweet. These are very tasty to munch on, and I enjoyed sharing them out. Caramel may not be the most adventurous flavour, but it works and the crunchy texture is a pleasure to munch on. I hope this is the beginning of them testing the water with new M&Ms flavours in the UK and that we see some great new varieties appearing here too.

8 July 2018

We need to talk about Kevin the pie (Ocado) by @NLi10

Pieminister make the best pies on the high street, that’s not really up for debate. At least not in the meat category. There are lots of very good veggie and vegan options out there by people like Higedy that give them a good run for their money there.

And that’s where Kevin comes in. Yes - it’s a vegan pie, but like Fry’s food it’s not designed to exclusively appeal to people just wanting to eat vegetables. This is gateway vegan food, the stuff you can give Tom normals and tell the, that it’s vegan afterwards and they won’t believe you.

Unfortunately it’s got mushrooms in it so I won’t touch it! This is where living with a veggie comes in handy. She was more than happy to try a new Pieminister option.

Although she did render it non vegan by putting cheese in the waffle stack!


Either way, we had some lovely McSweens vegetarian haggis alongside so we were always going to have a lovely meal.

Her verdict was that it was very good. She particularly liked the spring onions, but was confused as to why it was trying so hard to feel meaty! The pastry was the usual high quality Pieminister style so overall it was a win. So if you know someone who likes mushrooms and wants to try a vegan pie then here is a good place to start.

7 July 2018

Wimbledon Ale (Marks & Spencer @WimbledonBrew) By @SpectreUK

One week into Wimbledon and it's difficult to know what to get more excited about; the fact that there is still a bevy of attractive women yet to knock each other out of the tennis competition, or that we're actually doing rather well in the football for a change. This Wimbledon Ale was brewed by the Wimbledon Brewery especially for M&S. At 4% volume this golden straw coloured ale has dried elderflower and lemon peel added in the brewing. I'm expecting a rather zingy citrus fruity flowery mix in its taste.

On opening there was a definite elderflower smell to this beer, with added citrus to the bitter hops at the back of the smell. There is a citrus bitterness with an additional zing from the lemon peel to start with that joins with the elderflower and sweet malts mid flavour, dancing around each other into the aftertaste. There is certainly a complex journey of flavours in this beer and it is rather good. I'd certainly recommend it. This Wimbledon Ale would go rather well with white meats, such as chicken and also fishy meals, or just an afternoon sat in front of the box watching your favourite mix of sports. Happy sunny sporting weather to you all!

6 July 2018

Degusta Box June 2018 (@DegustaboxUK) By @Cinabar

So it is that time again when the lovely folk from Degusta deliver us a fun box of interesting and new goodies to look through, this June box has a summer and bbq theme, and I was keen to dig in.

First up we have some items for those with a sweet tooth. As you may have realised from reading this blog before I like dunking biscuits in my coffee and biscotti are the Italian biscuits designed to be dunked. They are hard, and soften in a hot drink. These ones are flavoured with cranberry and Pistachio. There is also a box of gourmet Jelly Beans from the Jelly Bean Factory, which are always fun to identify the flavours. The Salted Carmel honeycomb bar sounds fab too, but I suspect it will disappear Spectre's way when I'm not looking!

These posh bread finger rolls came at the right moment, these will be used up for hot dogs from the barbecue. They are the perfect addition to a barbecued sausage too in summer.

We have a couple of packets of cooking sauces from Capsicana, both are with chilli and have a wonderful Caribbean feel to them. I'm thinking chicken and sticky rice as tasty additions.

Continuing on the savoury side we have a potato bake mix from Idahoan, I've tried their cheese mash and absolutely loved it, so I think this will be a treat too. There is also some useful avocado oil spray, perfect for adding to the grill pan before use.

Cucumber seems to be very in this year, and this new Cider from Rosie's Pig combines it with Raspberry. Spectre will be writing about this new drink further later, he has already popped it in the fridge.

There are quite a few drinks in the box, which makes a lot of sense given the heat. The flavoured water from No and More contains no nasty ingredients and I will take it to the gym with me on Sunday.
I haven't had Orangina for ages, but used to love it as a kid. I remember the adverts stating shake the bottle to wake the taste. The idea was to mix up the orange bits in the drink. Finally there are two drinks from a company called FYRE which contain fruit and spices, which I'm looking forward to taste texting.

Last up in the box are these flavoured rice crisp snacks from Peckish. There are 5 bags in the pack so are perfect for taking to work, and should be tasty as they are barbecue flavoured, and healthier than deep fat fried crisps.

I'm very impressed with this months box from Degusta, and we will be reporting on some of the items individually a little later.

5 July 2018

PLENISH - Organic Almond M*LK (Waitrose) by @NLi10

Products and marketing are weird these days - I'm never truly sure whether brands make up these names in a way that can be misinterpreted or just don't spot the odd similarities.

Here i think it's deliberate.  We have a white almond milk, where the name is Plenish, but the H is so stylised to be almost invisible and the mind automatically jumps to another word.  So much so that the first I'd heard of this was someone sending me the picture in FaceBook chat.

The fact that they've chosen to highlight that this isn't milk by covering up the second letter there too suggests to me that it's all a (successful) ploy to get interest online.

The branding however is pretty consistent and stylish, the package is very pleasing to behold.  And as far as almond milks go it's pretty good.  It's probably more drinkable than the standard Alpro that I go for but I primarily used it on cereal.  I didn't shake it enough so the last bit wasn't as good as it maybe should have been, but that's my fault.

When I bump into this again I'll certainly be picking more up so whether deliberate or not it's got me interested in branching out from my usual non dairy milk products.

4 July 2018

Emily Fruit Crisps: Crunchy Fig Banana (@DegustaboxUK ) By @SpectreUK

When I first saw this packet of Emily Fruit Crisps Crunchy Fig Banana I commented to Cinabar that they had a grammatical error on the front of the packet. As usual she corrected me informing me that Fig Bananas are a type of banana that we are generally unfamiliar with here in the UK. She reminded me that we generally only have Cavendish bananas here, as they travel well on ships. Apparently Fig Bananas are small plump bananas found in tropical parts of America and strangely enough, they taste a little bit like figs. I do like figs, mainly the biscuit variety, but I guess Fig Banana Biscuits are too much to ask for rather than Fig Banana crisps. Besides, I don’t like cooked banana, so these crisps should go down a storm…
There was an almost syrupy sweet smell of banana on opening the packet. Considering Fig Bananas are supposed to be plump, these banana crisps were roughly one and a half to two centimetre wide discs. Certainly crunchy, and not in a teeth breaking way, these melt in the mouth Fig Banana crisps did have a sweetness to them not dissimilar to fig, but of course with an overarching banana flavour. Considering I don’t like cooked banana the syrupy sweetness of these crisps distracted from that creating what could be called a decent ‘pudding’ crisp. And why not, every crisp can’t always be savoury…? 

Information on the packet;
The 18g packet has 81 calories, with 1.1g of fat, 10.3g of sugar, and less than 0.1g of salt. Ingredients included; banana, RSPO-sustainable palm oil.

3 July 2018

Doritos Collisions: Honey Glazed Ribs / Lemon Blast (Ocado) By @Cinabar

The new flavour from Doritos is actually two flavours in one bag, they have combined Honey Glazed Ribs and Lemon Blast seasonings, and mixed the flavours up in the pack. I could see the two distinct flavours were distinguishable as the Honey Glazed Rib side were slightly darker.
We had a few of these new Doritos with a chilli con carne meal night, and had some sour cream dip too. I started with a Honey Glazed Rib Dorito and absolutely loved it. The flavour was sweet and spicy, with just a touch of chilli heat. They were a very moreish flavour, and the honey added a lovely sweetness. The other side contrasted well as the Lemon Blast were strong, and sharp in flavour. The citrus was full on and I enjoyed the zingy taste, it worked surprisingly well as a Dorito flavour. The combination of the two flavours may well not have sounded like they would go together but they really did, and I enjoy the mix of sweet then sour while eating them.
We loved having these accompanying our meal, but I think they would go down rather well poured into a bowl and shared with friends too, especially if you are looking for an interesting snack to munch on while watching the footie.

2 July 2018

Jim Beam Bourbon Whisky BBQ Potato Chips (Aldi) By @Cinabar

This interesting flavour of crisps were found in Aldi, and made by Burt’s, despite the packaging being very different for them. The flavour is Jim Beam Bourbon Whisky BBQ Potato Chips, which sounds very intriguing, mixing whisky flavours and barbecue.
The crisps are quite crunchy, and are well cooked. I’m not sure if this was a one off with my bag, or if all the Jim Beam Bourbon Whisky crisps are like this. Burt’s aren’t usually quite as sharp and crunchy. Flavour wise these crisps are, as the name suggests, rather complex. There are quite a few barbecue spices that come through, so there is a smokiness and something like paprika, there is also the flavour of whisky and a hint of both sweet and salt. They are an involved taste, but they do work, I like how the flavour varied on each bite and the change from sweet to salty. The crisps are trying to deliver a mix of flavours, and they do this successfully, without actually being to strong. They are a summery flavour, and would work as discussion point for a summer picnic or barbecue. These are certainly crisps I’d have again, we loved have them accompany our lunch time sandwiches.