22 July 2019

New M&Ms Crispy Bar (Tesco) By @Cinabar

I know this says “New” on the wrapped but I couldn’t help thinking I had seen something similar to this before. Having looked through previous reviews on the site, my memory isn’t all that, I realise I must have seen something similar in the import shops because as far as I can tell this is properly new to the UK. M&Ms are usually in bags not bars and we don’t get many Limited Edition or new Items in the UK so I was very excited to see this.
The bar is based on the ‘Crispy’ version of the M&Ms and contains both a mini version of the M&Ms and extra crispy pieces too. It is a sharing sized bar and is in blocks, except where the rather cool M&M design is, I do think this is a pretty bar. The underside of the bar reveals just how packed with goodies this bar is, and you can see all the crispy pieces that have been packed into the bar.

The chocolate has loads of texture from all the crispy pieces inside it, which for me made it a pleasure to eat. I hadn’t been expecting that much from the chocolate but I’m pleased to be proved wrong. The M&Ms Crispy Bar chocolate had a thick melt and was sweet, but also rich in cocoa tones. I really like it and found it a pleasure to munch on. It is a proper soothing chocolate. I know they have brought out a peanut version of this bar too with the nutty M&Ms and I can’t wait to track it down. The chocolate is impressive and it is nice a to see a new format and something a bit more fun from M&MS for the UK market.

21 July 2019

Green Tea Drink - Luxembourg (by @NLi10)

I’d never been to Luxembourg ­čç▒­čç║ in fact all I knew about the place was that my well travelled friends advised me not to stay long, and that they used to do unusually well on the TV show Going For Gold. My trip was designed to visit places I’d not really considered for a longer holiday as part of my snack-based Social Tourism (SocTour?)

Here I am underground in their natural history museum (they appear to have don an excavation as part of the building work and incorporated it in an amazing way into the museum.

Why are we talking about this though? They have a cafe!

Before I went out to brave the pretty warm streets I treated myself to a Matcha tea from a range that I thought was all Kumbucha drinks. Alas - this one is just tea. But it’s still pretty darn good.

It’s got all kinds of stuff in it, and I assumed I’d never see these again - until I noticed that it was made in Austria - where I am headed on my trip! Maybe I will get to try the range after all. 

20 July 2019

Stone IPA Beer (Asda) By @SpectreUK

Stone IPA is a West Coast style India Pale Ale. A 'West Coast style IPA' concentrates mainly on citrus and tropical flavoured hops, rather than the malts. Stone IPA was brewed in Berlin. I've never been there personally, but have seen it in various states in documentaries, travel programmes and movies. I have been to Germany and toured some of its lovely cities in the past though. Stone IPA has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 6.9%. That seems remarkably strong for an IPA. I don't think I've ever tried an IPA with such a high ABV before. Too many of these and I expect I'd be 'Stone drunk'!

On opening the can there was the expected heavy smell of citrus and tropical hops. Breaking it down at a push I'd say this aroma was akin to mainly orange mandarin, a touch of bitter lemon and a little mango for afters. On taste the mango flavour in the hops explodes forth initially. Then there's the heavy lifting mandarin orange flavoured hops that lasts awhile, which is then followed by a shear knife edge bitterness from the lemon hops. The sweet malts of pale and possibly crystal kick in for a lighter spell into the aftertaste. This is a very tasty complex beer. Enjoy one or two yourself. "Prost!" or "Cheers!" if you prefer it. ;-)

19 July 2019

Proper Corn Microwavable Cinnamon Popcorn (Asda) By @Cinabar

Proper Corn Microwavable Cinnamon Popcorn

I haven’t made microwave popcorn for many years, the last time I tried the bag caught fire. The “incident” may have been some years ago but it meant I had to really think about whether I went down the route of even buying another bag of microwavable popcorn, the cinnamon swayed me. I love cinnamon, it is my favourite spice so Proper Corn Microwavable Cinnamon Popcorn seemed worth it!

I was however very careful to follow the instructions on this pack, although I’m pretty sure I did last time.
Inside the box are three flat sachets which you pop it in the microwave, with the x side down and then cook it for 2 - 3 minutes, significantly stopping when the popping slows to every 3 seconds. This took 2 minutes 20 seconds in my microwave, and thank fully I had a fully puffed up bag and no burning. Phew.

Despite a good shake before opening the popcorn was unevenly seasoned, this meant that some pieces were very plain.

I didn’t mind this, but I can see that they are not the best bits. The seasoning is also a little odd, sweet cinnamon yes but with a hint of something herby I couldn’t quite place. Part of me thinks it is over cooked cinnamon? The important part was I liked the taste anyway, I found it quite moreish and pleasing to munch on. It was not the best flavour, but there was enough cinnamon to keep me happy. The popcorn pieces were large and fluffy and had a nice crunch. There was only a few unpopped kernels so I think I timed it well too. I found myself reaching for a second helping, so all in all it was a success.

18 July 2019

Proper Belgian Steak (burger) by @NLi10

I’m on the mainland and trying to eat local cuisine so went for a Belgian Blue Steak. Typically they had run out of that days stock so I went for the equivalent burger.

I also had a Belgian beer in a Belgian glass.

And here is the burger, it took a while to come but that’s because they ground the beef and shaped it just for me!

It looks good on the outside

And slightly pink on the inside - which is scary for BBQ but not so for a restaurant. The beef was fabulously crumbly and had a great flavour. All of the bits inside were great although the cheese was not British cheese and was more like the texture of pepper! I enjoyed it and shall try to keep eating my way across Europe.

17 July 2019

Twix Milkshake (Mars) By @SpectreUK

I haven't had a milkshake in a good long while. Mars Wrigley Confectionery was kind enough to send me their new Twix Milkshake. I often eat a Twix for my after dinner treat with my white hot chocolate drink instead of eating a cake or something else for dessert. It's the caramel, milk chocolate and biscuit combination that makes a good tasty pudding for me, whilst being washed down with my favourite hot chocolate drink. I remember an Eddie Izzard joke about late night petrol stations serving Twix through their security drawers to murderers! I'm not sure if there's a correlation there…

I decided to eat a Twix whilst washing it down with a Twix milkshake for a double whammy. After shaking well, on opening this Twix milkshake there was surprisingly more of a biscuit aroma from the mid brown liquid inside. There was also sweetness from the caramel, but I couldn't pick up on much milk chocolate in the smell. On taste there was a lot of biscuit in the initial flavour with the sweetness from the caramel close behind it, but the all round creamy milky flavour seemed to overshadow much of the milk chocolate. This left a more biscuit caramel creamy milkshake flavour to this Twix milkshake. It's definitely not a bad thing, as it was certainly very tasty, maybe it just needed a little more milk chocolate. It didn't taste the same as the Twix bar I was eating at the same time. I suppose that's why we have Twix bars and Twix milkshakes. Having said that though, the one washing down the other was a taste sensation, as they went ridiculously well together!

Information on the label;
The 350ml bottle contains189 calories, 4.4g of fat, 22.7g of sugar, 0.85g of salt. Suitable for vegetarians, please see photograph for ingredients.

16 July 2019

English Toffee Peanut M&Ms (Import Shop) By @Cinabar

After the hot Jalape├▒o M&Ms I tried last week I was lucky enough to secure another bag of their World flavours range, this time taking a closer to home variety; English Toffee Peanut M&Ms. These are part of the flavours they have released in America where people (based over there) can vote on a favourite to keep. The other variety I haven’t tried is Thai Coconut but unfortunately I haven’t managed to track a pack of those down yet. I am working on it.
So this variety is English Toffee Peanut flavour as put together by Americans which I discovered when I tried one hadn’t been quite what I was expecting. For me toffee is mostly sweet with a sort of golden buttery flavour, these were richer than that with a hint of vanilla. I think I want to use the word butterscotch to describe the taste rather than toffee, although I appreciate they are similar flavours. The texture too was missing, toffee has a crunchy or gooey texture and because the flavour was embedded in the chocolate it was more like fudge. I have to say despite those comments these English Toffee Peanut M&Ms still tasted divine. They were a lovely flavour combo. The butterscotch like flavour with chocolate and peanut was an absolute treat to to munch on. The pack was so good they were quickly finished off and there was no excess to take to work, my work colleagues did notice - oops. I hope these win the vote!

15 July 2019

Oreo Brownie Creme Filled (Import Shop) By @Cinabar

I have to admit I am a bit of an Oreo fan girl. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but Oreo slipped into first place as my go to choice of biscuit. I think it started when they were a novelty and hard to find in the UK back in the nineties. We do get a good range of the Oreo biscuits here in the UK, with different flavours, coated Oreos and even Oreo Muffins, but this particular little gem of Oreo Brownie Creme Filled bar came from The States via an import shop.
What we have here is described as Oreo Brownie Creme Filled cake bar. The bar looks pretty with its white drizzle icing but it felt surprisingly heavy when I picked it up. I did worry from the weight that it might be stodgy, but thankfully I was wrong on that front. The Oreo Brownie had quite a melt in the mouth texture despite it feeling quite substantial and moist. The bar tasted remarkably like Oreo biscuits with the sponge being strong in cocoa, but the distinctive creamy Oreo filling known as “stuff” was generously portioned in the middle. It was actually a complete pleasure to eat and dare I say it, so much more enjoyable than the Oreo Muffin (which I still rate highly). This is definitely a treat worth seeking out, and one I hope makes it onto UK shelves more widely.

14 July 2019

I Have A Nespresso Problem - I Cant Use Them! (@NLi10)

I’m on holiday, and Hotel Hubert (if you are staying in Brussels use them, they are amazing) provide free hot drinks both in the lobby and room.

This is fine, but I just can’t use Nespresso machines (think this is a Pixie). You put in the capsule, it doesn’t pierce.

Then you redo it after watching a YouTube video and maybe get lucky.

Or crush the capsule to the extent that it no longer stays in the machine. I mean I know I’m a bit disabled but this should be easy right?

One coffee out of three isn’t bad right?

The machine tells you to put water through to clean it - and this gave me the idea of putting the water through and making tea.

I invented Jasmine Green Coffee, because the machine still tasted of coffee. And only gave me half a cup. I gave up.

13 July 2019

Baby Faced Assassin IPA Beer (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

The name of this beer, Baby Faced Assassin, brings back a few worries from the workplace. It's been a while since I've been in work due to the recovery of my knee taking longer than expected, but there's the age old worry of younger folk coming up and taking away jobs from their elders. New blood is never a bad thing, of course, there's new technologies, new ideas, and new outlooks, but it's not so good for the older folks that can find themselves in the way.

I find that it's best to try to stay with the times. That's why when I finally do go back to work I'm going to brush up on my practitioner status, as the latest five year run comes to an end early next year. I've decided to add a new twist to the course that will hopefully keep me with the times and make me a little more competitive. Plus there's always research through journals and the internet to find out what's going on in the field… but that can wait a little while…

Produced in Yorkshire by Rooster's Brewery, this 6.1% volume Baby Faced Assassin IPA is strong enough to take my mind of things for now. It's lauded for its aromas of mango, apricot, grapefruit and mandarin from its mixture of fruity citrus hops, as well as its tropical fruity flavour. On opening I can concur that there is a lot of citrus fruity aromas. I could certainly pick out mango and mandarin as the strongest with no small amount of pale malt at the back of the smell.

This deep golden India Pale Ale has a luscious sweet flavour of pale and crystal malts to begin with that mixes well with the fruity citrus hops. From the Baby Faced Assassin name I was expecting a sharp bitterness to this beer, and I received it where I least expected it. The citrus bitterness hit my tastebuds almost right at the end of the flavour. The bitter citrus tension seemed to build in each mouthful. It subtly replaced the sweet malts at first, then just before the sweet malty citrus aftertaste, like a shot in the dark came the Baby Faced Assassin!

12 July 2019

Thorntons Pearls - Nutty Crunch (Thorntons) By @Cinabar

According to the lovely people from Thorntons most ladies own a piece of pearl jewellery. I know I do, I have some charms and a necklace so I’m quite lucky really. When it comes to gift receiving chocolate is always a priority too and Thorntons have gone a step further and created Thorntons Pearls a chocolatey treat, which they very kindly gifted a box for me to try. They are not meant for wearing though, just munching.

The box is smart in shape and packaging so it is perfect for a gift, but this wouldn’t stop me treating myself. The chocolates are individually wrapped in shiny wrappers and are spherical, except for a bit on their base. I unwrapped the first one and found that the chocolates have a soft milk chocolate shell, which gives way to a lovely nutty filling. The praline is smooth rich and creamy. The nut flavour is well balanced and these were a lovely sweet treat. The filling also contained some texture in the form of crispy pieces which added a nice feel to these. As a chocolate and nut fan I was in absolute heaven, thoroughly enjoying the decadent taste sensation from these chocolates. They also have some of these Thorntons Pearls out in a Salted Caramel variety and I can’t wait to give them a try. Hope Spectre doesn’t steal the box though, he is a big caramel fan!

11 July 2019

EuroStar - Standard Premium food (@NLi10)

Trains are good fun, being able to get a train from near my house to Brussels is a little mind boggling (you do have to change trains once in London and it takes 4 hours). The website has a few tiers of pricing, one of which gives you nicer seats - more leg room - and some food!

And yes - my single serving friends - this does come on a plastic tray, but it’s actually pretty good. The green chicken was nice, the mixed grains were a great touch too. The Pudding was mysterious and fruity (a lot of people left that) and I got a real person size can of Sprite.

The EuroStar branded cutlery was reusable and metal. I did almost accidentally steal the teaspoon as it was still inside the napkin (and not pictured).

The tea was also good, and you could have free refills for the whole journey. Also - proper cup!

To amuse the children they have a VR experience for when you are under the sea, and complimentary movies as long as you brought your own screen.

And then suddenly you are in Belgium looking at cartoon art!

10 July 2019

Blue Tea Box - Tea Selection Box (@BlueTeaBox) By @SpectreUK

This is my longest blog ever… Please bear with me ;-)

It's rare I'll quote from a website, however, as a bit of a tea fanatic and the fact that Blue Tea Box sent me three of their loose leaf tea blends to blog about, I feel obliged;

"Discover rare and single-origin loose-leaf teas from across the world. Selected for your personal preference, ethically sourced, freshly hand-packed, and delivered in a sleek, letterbox friendly box."

… besides, it does seem to sum up the brand perfectly. The three teas I picked were delivered in a very smart box photographed by Cinabar. I have "Oolong", which I haven't had a for a few years. I have "Duchess Earl Grey", which I'm looking forward too, been as though I used to hate Earl Grey when I was a child, and now I just can't drink enough of it. I'm intrigued to understand why it's called "Duchess". The last of the three teas is "Pu-erh", which sounds like a noise one may make when drinking something particularly unpleasant!

Duchess Earl Grey

I had to pick the "Duchess Earl Grey" first. I reckon it'll be my favourite, however, I'm trying not to pass judgement before tasting. I'm leaving the "Pu-erh" until last… just in case it kills me!

A useful cheatsheet (well; postcard) comes with each tea. I shan't bang on about that too much, although it does tell you the origin of the tea, how to brew it, and how good it is for you health-wise. I will also say it does rather helpfully tell me the difference between regular Earl Grey and "Duchess Earl Grey". There is no bergamot in the Duchess variety. Instead with the black tea the ingredients have orange pieces, cornflower, rose petals and lime leaves.

On opening the resealable 45g packet there was a strong smell of orange and zesty lime, with a little rose and black tea leaves. After brewing a cup with my trusty old stainless steel teapot shaped tea strainer and adding a spot of milk, I let the brew cool a little and took a tentative sip. On taste the orange pieces mix with the cornflower and rose to begin with producing a refreshing flavour, with the lime leaves entering towards the aftertaste. I was pleased that even though I completely filled my teapot strainer I still have a large amount of this "Duchess Earl Grey" to enjoy in the future.

Oolong Tea

I have had Oolong tea before, so I can't say in any way I'll dislike this one. However, on saying that I haven't drank Oolong tea for soo-long that I can't remember what it tastes like. I must be going a bit funny in my old age. I can remember what Keemun and Nilgiri taste like, just not Oolong… Anyway the cheat-card tells me what it tastes like, even though I tried not to read that bit and find out for myself. I was amused by the ingredients, which weren't such a list as the "Duchess Earl Grey", because it just states; Ingredients - Oolong tea.

On brewing this Oolong tea I noticed on the cheat-card it states "with or without milk", which was the same as the "Duchess Earl Grey". The "Duchess Earl Grey" was pretty dark and a spot of milk went really well with it, however, this Oolong looked far too light to have milk added, so I left it out. I can see what they mean on the cheat-card where they say "orchard like aroma". On taste I was right not to add any milk as in my opinion this Oolong tea was too delicate in flavour. There's a light leafiness in the taste with a smooth yet slightly sweet aftertaste. It's very a dainty drink and almost tastes a little like a green tea. It certainly went down well after my lunch.

Pu-erh Tea

'Ere we go! The one that's worrying me. The description of the flavour on the cheat-card is "mellow and deep earthy", which brings out thoughts of beetroot for some reason. I don't think it's going to taste of beetroot, well I hope not. I did have a particularly bad experience when I tried to drink beetroot juice for a blog some years ago!

Lemon pieces, cornflower blossoms, and vanilla flavouring has been added to this Pu-erh China tea and black tea blend. Presumably this is to try and dull down the beetroot flavour? I have no idea what "mellow and deep earthy" means. Perhaps I should be drinking this in a cave?

Unlike the Oolong, this Pu-erh brews as a darker tea, so I added milk to this drink. There was the sweet smooth smell of vanilla and a zesty lemon smell once I took my teapot shaped strainer out of my mug. On taste this is a pretty strong tea blend. The bitter citrus flavours from the lemon hit my tastebuds first followed closely behind by the sweetness from the vanilla, and then finally both teas that were used to make this tea blend.

I'm not sure about this blend personally. I think the lemon pieces are a little strong, and could possibly have been left out altogether, or at least be a little smaller, so I don't have to break bits off to put in my teapot tea strainer. The vanilla is a welcome addition and instead of unbalancing the beer like my blog the other day, this time it calmed down the lemon and brought out the tea flavours. I was just happy that this tea didn't taste like beetroot!

9 July 2019

Coca-Cola Signature Mixers - Spicy Notes 02 (Asda) By @Cinabar

I suppose it is hard to gauge the demographic group that Coca-Cola is aimed at. With all the funky flavours we have been lucky enough to get over the last few years (think Mango, Strawberry etc) I would have thought that they focused on a fun market, but this new drink from them looks like a whole new more serious contender. The drink is under a new range and is called Coca-Cola Signature Mixers - Spicy. It even has tasting notes on the side of the bottle. The bottle too is very traditional in shape and packaging and even has a cap lid.
I know this is a mixer but I decide to try it straight. I popped the lid and poured it into a glass, which it only filled three quarters of, this is not a long drink. I gave it a sip and have to say I was very impressed. The base flavour is Coca Cola, but all the botanical flavours were a delight as they mixed in. They are such lovely warming tones in the flavour, chilli yes but mild and it enhances the taste. There is a little lime to bring out the zingy element of the cola, and then those lovely herbal flavours to finish. This is a fantastic drink, it deserves to be enjoyed on its own in my opinion, and it deserves a bigger bottle. There are other flavours in the Coca-Cola Signature Mixers range too, Spicy is just one of them. This drink was impressive, and I’ll be hinting out the others in the hope they are half as good as this. Apparently Coca-Cola can do posh.

8 July 2019

Mexican Jalape├▒o Peanut M&Ms (Import Shop) By @Cinabar

The only thing that makes the lack of M&Ms variety in the UK tolerable for me is that we have a local Import Shop who hunts down interesting flavours from The States and keeps their stock levels topped up. Currently in America they are having a competition over there to find a new flavour based on traditional flavours from different countries. The first one I’m trying is Mexican Jalape├▒o Peanut M&Ms. Chilli from Mexico mixed with chocolate, this would never happen for the British version of the sweets.
The bag is dark green and the M&Ms are in three colours, red yellow and green but all are the same variety. They looked very pretty and were all quite large. I gave one a first try and initially I didn’t think they were that strong, the chocolate and peanut were the dominant flavours to start with. As I chewed the spice grew stronger and it got to a point where I thought it was a little too much. I know the origins of chocolate and chilli together come from ancient times and the idea of a little spice is quite nice, but these left my mouth buzzing more than was pleasant. They are by no means the hottest chilli, but I felt the addition was a little too tingly on the tongue to make me crave more. I felt I wanted a drink to wash it away. The heat wasn’t intolerable it was just not well placed. I think these are a a win for novelty and creativity at least, but I wouldn’t vote for them. However I’m looking forward to taking the bag to work and seeing how my colleagues there get on with them, it should be fun!

7 July 2019

proper Chips - plain and sour (by @NLi10)

Proper Corn is one of those little products that has escaped into the mainstream and we couldn’t be happier. It’s good to see fun, interesting takes on snack staples.

When we saw these Proper Chips fro. The same people we had to give them a try.

Smiths had lots of flavours and they were on offer!

So we chose the most boring ones, mainly so that we could get the flavour of the chips too and enjoy the lentil goodness.

I chose sea salt, which was nice and very compulsive

The overhead shots always look less generous than they actually are - we shared these!

The chips are lentil based triangles, like tortilla but healthier. Not as rich in flavour as the lentil curls, but still very good.

My partner chose the sour cream which has a flavour that overpowers the chip a little, but is still nice and of a good quality. I look forwards to trying the rest in the name of snack science! 

6 July 2019

Pineapple Milkshake IPA (Waitrose) By @SpectreUK

The weather has been so hot and humid over the last few days. I've spent the last three mornings staying late at the gym and sitting outside in the blazing sunshine. I'd completed all of my exercises, weights and swimming for those mornings and was either in the sauna or outside in the sun. It was glorious just to sit and watch people… okay… mainly women in bikinis… on sun-beds and in the pool enjoying the summer's sun. It seemed only fitting to pick the most thirst quenching sounding beer I could find in my beer fridge. Ironically it's rained all day today…

This Pineapple Milkshake IPA was produced by the Black Sheep Brewery, in North Yorkshire. At 5.3% volume it was brewed with fresh pineapple juice, lactose, Denali hops for an extra citrus pineapple flavoured boost, and a touch of vanilla for the "milkshake" side of the beer's title. Lightly carbonated this India Pale Ale gave a cheerful fizz on opening.

There was the unmistakable and rather tropical smell of pineapple from this golden IPA, with a little pale malt at the back of the aroma. I immediately decided that this beer would be super refreshing and thirst quenching. How wrong could I be?

On taste the pineapple is pretty overpowering for my tastebuds I'm afraid. I say that because the added bitter pineapple wallop from the hops made my face twist a little, which is not what I was expecting from this beer. The added vanilla came in later in the taste just before the almost completely overshadowed pale malt. This "milkshake" almost tastes weird, unbalancing the beer with a kind of "what?" as the dulled down sweet malt shows its face for a second before being swamped by the pineapple aftershock… er… aftertaste. Not a beer for me…

5 July 2019

Kelloggs White Chocolate Coco Pops (Asda) By @Cinabar

Gosh these new Kelloggs White Chocolate Coco Pops have had quite a bit of a marketing push for their launch. I’ve seen them advertised all over the place and was quite excited to finally find them in Asda. Although there have been various Coco Pops cereals out over the years I can’t remember one that isn’t for a milk chocolate based product. They generally change the shape rather than the flavour.
The box actually looks fairly basic because of all the additional white on the packaging, but at least it stands out as something new. The crispies look quite plain too inside the pack, although they do have a white opaque sheen on them. I poured myself a bowl full and added some milk, they crackled a bit and my first though was that they looked and sounded like Kelloggs Rice Crispies.
The taste isn’t quite as exciting as the hype had made me hope. The Kelloggs White Chocolate Coco Pops are tasty, sweet and a little bit creamy. They have a hint of white chocolate about them, but aren’t overly strong in flavour. Don’t get me wrong I did like them and as they have 30% less sugar so I was impressed by that. It is a nice cereal and one for fans of Rice Crispies who might like the extra creamy taste, they are just not quite as revolutionary as I thought they were going to be.

4 July 2019

Pride Themed Brownies - Konditor London (by @NLi10)

Pride and inclusion are very important. While no one has come up with a reasonable flag for chronically ill people like myself (the closest is the nautical flag for FoxTrot whose meaning is 'I am disabled, communicate with me') I'm more than happy to see myself included in the rainbow, and represent my LBGTQIA+etc friends where possible.

So if I see a cake shop that is dressed up like this

And selling something tasty that looks like this

I feel obliged to purchase and share with my partner - even though pride month is apparently over we can still be proud of what we have achieved and who we have become

Especially if it involves eating rainbow brownies.  We ate it in our hotel room before going out to a concert, and I liked it although Sam said she found it a little too nutty.  I'd say it was luxury enough to be worth grabbing again.