Saturday, 31 January 2015

Today's Review: McVitie's Deli Choc

There are many varieties of biscuit on offer nowadays, with so many brands trying their hands at each one. One biscuit that I truly appreciate is the Choco Leibniz, the awesome chocolate covered butter biscuit. For a while, I'm sure they went unchallenged, but recently I've seen more imitations popping up, from Tesco to Asda, even Wilko has had a go. While they mostly do a pretty good job, nothing's come close to the original in my eyes. But now the big boys are stepping up, McVitie's have released the Deli Choc, a biscuit that bears many similarities to the Choco Leibniz, even the European sounding name.

Yes, it's a butter biscuit, covered in chocolate. I saw three varieties of these on the shelf: dark chocolate, white chocolate, and the classic milk. I went for the milk, as it's a good base to make my comparison. But hey, I can also review these biscuits in their own right. Let's tackle the chocolate first, it's a relatively thick layer that is smooth and creamy, and the uniform coverage of the biscuit means you get a good amount in every bite. No complaints about the chocolate at all, it's good stuff that would taste great on any biscuit. But the biscuit here? It's okay. It's certainly not quite the same as the one you'd find in a Choco Leibniz, it's more crumbly, somewhat akin to shortbread. Not that that's a bad thing, it would certainly set it apart from the other brands, but the consistency is just a bit off. The first thing I noticed was a very sugary taste, and it tends to overwhelm the chocolate. The biscuit also has a slightly gritty texture, as if there's just too much sugar for it to blend properly. It's still a perfectly good biscuit, it's just a little too sweet for my liking. If you like your biscuits a bit crumblier, this may be the one for you. Otherwise, the Choco Leibniz still takes the prize as the best chocolate butter biscuit.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, 30 January 2015

Today's Review: De Beukelaer Creamy Cookies

It's been a while since I've sought out a new product, so today I scanned the aisles looking for something interesting, and most importantly, something with the word "new" stamped on it. The biscuit aisle is where I got lucky, and emerged triumphant with this interesting box of cookies. I mean, look at that box art, it tells you everything you need to know. These brand name, the display picture, it even tells you the measurements of the cookies, and the fact that there are four of them, and that they're XXL. It's like clothes shopping, but with biscuits. This box of cookies was on offer for £1.49, down from £1.99, which certainly seemed steep for a mere four cookies, but hey, that just means they're great quality cookies, right? With the attention to detail on the box, I was certainly looking forward to a treat.

Wow, look at that. After tearing open the provided perforations, I was able to swing open the top and discover these individually wrapped cookies. They're sealed tight on all sides in this easy to open newspaper style wrapping, which is littered with facts and stories about cookies. What more could you want from a box of cookies? Well, you probably want to eat the cookies. So while these guys certainly get full marks for presentation, the proof is in the tasting.

Well, that looks good, right? It's a crispy, chocolate chip cookie, with a thick layer of nougat cream in the middle. When I snapped it in half for the picture, it was certainly satisfying to do so, I was prepared for a lovely crunch when I bit into it. Sadly, I was greeted by something else. The cookie has some crunch, sure, but it's also somehow soft, almost like a hard cookie that's gone slightly stale. There are certainly some good ingredients in here, the dough is pretty light and fresh tasting, but the texture is just slightly off for me. Another thing is the nougat cream. It's very light and creamy, but the chocolate is overwhelmed quite a bit by the presence of ground hazelnuts. Not that it's overly bad, these are like some good quality Nutella cookies, it's just more nut than anything else, and I was expecting more of a chocolatey taste out of it. 

So there you have it, some big cookies, that are crunchy yet slightly soft, with a very nutty interior. They definitely taste good, but they're not quite my cup of tea. If you're nuts for nuts, or looking for a different texture in your biscuit, by all means pick these up.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Today's Review: Pockets

What's in your pocket? Probably something, because we use pockets all the time. Phone, wallet, keys, gum, The One Ring, pockets can hold all kinds of wonderful items, ready for retrieval at a moment's notice. I use my pockets all the time, and it's only through some unfortunate wardrobe malfunction that I, on the odd occasion, find myself without any pockets. That is a glimpse into a dark alternate reality, a reality where pockets don't exist.

Can you imagine? A world where our clothing is flat and featureless, where its only functions are to cover our modesty, keep us warm, become accepted in social groups and attract a potential mate. What good is all that if we can't get our phones out of our pocket to post about it on social media? You may say we'd still have bags to put all our stuff in, but you know what a bag is? A big, standalone pocket. Without pockets, there may not even be any bags, and besides, I find bags unwieldy. I like to roam free, my pockets filled with whatever I may need that day, my shoulders swinging majestically, not anchored by straps and weight.

So yeah, pockets are great. I mean, sure, people can hide some nasty things in their pockets. For some reason John Wilkes Booth springs to mind, maybe if he didn't have pockets Abe Lincoln would still be alive today. But I think the benefits of pockets outweigh the nasty stuff. You can't extrapolate the actions of pocket extremists onto all those that use their pockets for peaceful purposes. Besides, everyone knows pockets are great. I certainly wouldn't want to live without them.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Today's Review: Persimmons

As you've probably guessed from my several years worth of unhealthy snack reviews, I don't eat fruit all that often. Sure, I'm partial to some every now and then, but it's usually the regular stuff like oranges, apples, raspberries. I rarely deem it necessary to delve into the exotic fruit section, but today I was offered a piece of persimmon, and not being one to pass up a food I've never tried before, I graciously accepted.

Well, just look at that picture. Looks just like a tomato, right? Right. The persimmon I tried, names a Sharon fruit for some reason, looked like an orange tomato. I know tomatoes are technically fruits, but I sure wouldn't pick one up from the fruit bowl and start munching. We're expected to do that with these though. So it's nice to know that they don't taste like tomatoes.

The innards are certainly more orange-like, especially with the colour. The taste has an almost citrus quality to it, but also reminded me a little of a pear. Either way, it does have a nice sweet taste, and is quite firm, but not overly soft. This is what put me off I think. The texture, in my mind, was just like that of a tomato, and that's all I could think of while snacking on this. I tried to remain open minded, this certainly isn't a bad fruit, it's a nice change from the regular fare, and has quite a nice, sweet taste. But I don't think it's quite right for me. I'd rather stick to the fruits I know and love, and perhaps dabble in the more exotic ones until I find one I really like. 

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Today's Review: Drumstick Lollies

I'm often so obsessed with finding all the new, weird and wonderful snacks lining the shelves, that I easily overlook the classics. But not today. For today I was treated to a Drumstick, and while I've had countless Drumsticks throughout my life, this is the one that persuaded me to write a review about them. Not that there was anything particularly spectacular about this Drumstick, I also had no other ideas about what to review. But hey, let's begin.

I'm sure most people in the UK know what a Drumstick is. If not, you should probably just go and buy one, they're only 10p. That's right, 10p. These are immune to inflation, unlike those controversial Freddos. Or perhaps these used to be less than 10p. Either way, they're still dirt cheap. Basically, it's a chewy lolly, that is apparently raspberry and milk flavour. Bit of a strange combination, but it does make for a creamy, fruity taste that works pretty well with the texture. Despite containing no milk or raspberry, you can easily pick those elements out, and combined they make a distinct taste that everyone who's ever had one would immediately associate with Drumstick. 

Drumsticks are great, everyone who's had one knows that, they're an institution. But that doesn't mean they're perfect. Sure, they taste great, but I always seem to have problems when I eat one. It's meant to be a lolly, it has a stick and everything, but I can't remember a time where I've managed to keep the thing on the stick until the end. Either it manages to shake itself loose over time, or the chew becomes a wet, mangled, elongated mess after a few minutes. In either case it just becomes impractical as a lolly, and simply becomes a tasty chew. So why include a stick in the first place?I don't know, probably just because. 

I don't know, maybe I should treat my Drumsticks more gently. Perhaps most people don't have problems keeping them on the stick. But Drumsticks still taste great, and the chewiness means they last a good while for something you can pick up for a mere 10p. If you've had one, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't had one, you probably just haven't grown teeth yet, and therefore you are probably a baby who is very advanced in reading.

My rating: 4/5

Monday, 26 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Chicken & Chorizo Paella Rice Pot

Here's the last in the selection of chilled snacks I picked up with my Tesco vouchers. While I wasn't too impressed with the last chicken themed pot I ate, this one promised more meat, and the addition of chorizo is always nice. It's the same drill with this one as the others, three minutes in the microwave and you're good to go.

I must say this is a pretty tasty pot. The chunks of chicken and chorizo are plentiful and sizeable, and while the chorizo could probably do with a bit more flavour, the amount of meat made it quite filling. The whole lot is steeped in a tomato and basil sauce, and that's good too, without being overwhelming. There's enough to adequately cover all the ingredients, and there are some nice big chunks of tomato in there too to add a bit more texture. As for the rice, it's okay. It's a little sticky, and definitely doesn't hold up to the other elements in the pot, but hey, rice is rice, if it's not perfect it's not the end of the world. This is one of the tastier pots I've tried from the range, it's meaty and full of flavour, and is definitely an easy way to cook up something different during a quick lunch.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Today's Review: Electric Shocks

I received something of a mild electric shock earlier while unplugging something in the jungle of wires behind my TV. It certainly wasn't a bad one, but it gave me a good enough jolt that my hand still aches a little a few hours later. We use so much electricity in our daily lives that we often neglect to notice that it wants to murder us all. Given the chance, that stuff will flow through you, burning your tissue or stopping your heart entirely. Electricity is quite the jerk.

Not that all shocks are severe. Some are relatively mild, in fact. The static shock you get every so often when you touch a piece of metal, or those strange arcade machines where you voluntarily shock yourself, they won't cause any lasting damage. But that doesn't mean electric shocks are any good. They all hurt, it's really just the difference between attempting to maim you and killing you. Electricity does a lot of good for us, but it hates our bodies. Well, actually, it likes to use our bodies, and doesn't care at all how we feel about it. From slight tingle to complete annihilation, electric shocks are just bad.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Today's Review: The Laughing Cow's Bunch TV Advert

Through the magic of Facebook's exploitative advertising regimes, I happened across a post from The Laughing Cow the other day, extolling the virtues of their newest advert. Hell, I love cheese triangles, and also wasting my time watching video snippets on the internet, so there was nothing stopping me pressing that play button. 

Well, I assume The Laughing Cow has a new target market, even though their cheese triangles are still next to the Cheesestrings and Lunchables at my local supermarket. They've gone full Sex And The City on this one, despite Sex And The City not being relevant for over a decade (or the better part of one, if you count the movies). It's so blatant, you can see it from the off. Our crazily ear-ringed hero is Carrie, the one alerting them to the presence of the manly bull is token Samantha, the coy recipient of said stud's attentions screams Charlotte... and Miranda is the ginger one. Of course, they have their own names here, Holly, Melissa and Tetters, although I'm not sure which one's which. But hey, there's promise of seeing lots more of them in the future, so perhaps their identities will be explored fully in future, or maybe they'll just keep making witty remarks about the low calorific content of their cheese and crackers.

That's another thing that's baffling about this advert. The setting is just odd. Why is there a singular table at the end of a gym? Shouldn't these ladies be busy working out instead of sitting down and stuffing their faces with strange triangular crackers? I really don't know what to make of it all, but I guess the message we should all take away from this is that women don't need men, as long as they have cream cheese triangles that only contain 25 calories. But wait, how many calories does that orange juice contain? Fruits are high in natural sugars! You're negating your healthy snacking options! 

Still, it can't all be bad, I sure do want some cheese triangles now. That's the power of advertising I guess.

My rating: 1/5

Friday, 23 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Macaroni Cheese Pasta Pot

After being a little disappointed with the Tesco noodle pot I had the other day, I was hoping I would find salvation in the form of this pot of macaroni cheese. This is another chilled snack I picked up with some vouchers Tesco sent me, and it's in keeping with the theme, a single serving ideal for lunchtimes where you find yourself near a microwave. This pot may be a little on the calorific side, but hey, it's macaroni cheese, you can't expect it to be too healthy, can you?

While the teriyaki pot had several elements that just fell shy of having the right balance, there's not much to the mac 'n' cheese in comparison. That's certainly not a bad thing though, as after sticking this in the microwave for just three minutes I was greeted with a delicious pot containing two tasty ingredients. The macaroni is soft, but nowhere near mushy, while the cheese sauce is a full, thick serving that sufficiently covers the pasta. Since the sauce is so thick and tasty, it's easy to get a forkful alongside the macaroni, meaning there's never a bland mouthful, just cheesy, chewy goodness 'til the very end. 

There wasn't a lot for Tesco to get wrong in this case, but it still could have gone awry. Thankfully they've delivered a tasty, convenient macaroni cheese pot that you can eat just about anywhere. 

My rating: 5/5

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Today's Review: Frootz Apple Drops

Feeling a little hungry, I decided to go for a light snack, and what better way to satisfy my mild hunger than by pilfering one of the kids' lunchbox snacks? So into the drawer I dove, opting for this pack of fruit drops. I've tried some of the more reputable brands that we've bought, such as Fruit Bowl and Bear Nibbles, but these were more of a budget purchase, and I felt I should know what I was putting into my kids' mouths.

Well, they certainly don't look like 100% apple. But you see, that's some clever wording up there. These drops are merely apple flavoured, the packet states that these are 100% fruit. So while they certainly contain apple purée and juice, there's a lot of other plant based stuff thrown in, such as banana flakes, and pectin and lemon juice for a gelling agent. Obviously this stuff is needed in order to create individual drops, so I won't discount these too much based on that, in fact I think it's quite nice that every ingredient is derived from fruit. But that doesn't mean these are all that good. They say they're apple flavoured, but I certainly tasted a strong hint of banana in these, I guess those flakes are hard at work. Sure, there's also an apple taste, but the two vie for my attention, and it's a clash that didn't work well on my tastebuds. 

The texture of the drops is okay, not as slimy as I was expecting, and for the small amount you get in the packet they were quite filling. They just don't taste too great. Fruity, sure, but not the kind of fruit I was expecting. So while the kids may like them, these won't be gracing my lunchbox in the future.

My rating: 2/5

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Pot

This is another chilled snacking treat I picked up with a voucher Tesco sent me, a teriyaki chicken noodle pot, which is actually one in a wide range of noodle and rice pots on offer in the chilled aisle. I'm always keen to pick up some teriyaki, so it was nice to take this convenient little tub into work and pop it in the microwave during lunch.

You get a fair amount of noodles in this pot, and they're pretty good. Not slimy, quite firm, and the sauce sticks to them quite well, meaning there's never a totally bland mouthful. There are quite a few vegetables spread throughout as well to add a bit of texture, but I wouldn't say they stand out too much overall. The chicken is the best part of the whole experience, there are some quite large, tender chunks that are given a sweet, saucy zing by their coating of sauce. Problem is there just wasn't enough chicken to go around, and not too much sauce either. This is by no means a flavourless noodle pot, the sauce that's in there goes pretty far and injects all the ingredients with flavour, but it's just a little too dry for my liking. This noodle pot is certainly a nice, easy to prepare lunch, but it could do with a bit more balance in the ingredients. Worth a shot for all you noodle fans out there though.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Pepperoni Pizza Wedge

I was recently sent some vouchers to pick up some items in Tesco's new range of chilled snacking foods. There are quite a few options available, mostly falling into the realm of pasta and soup pots, but one thing that really caught my eye was the selection of pizza wedges. I can't really recall seeing single slices of pizza on sale outside the overpriced establishments lining the streets of London, so it's nice to see a supermarket offering some up, if only to avoid people ordering an entire pizza for lunch at the office, and earning the judgement and scorn of all their colleagues. 

I went for the pepperoni slice, although there's a sloppy joe variety that I was gunning for that sadly wasn't available at my local store. Preparing this slice of pizza is as easy as pie. A piece of pizza pie perhaps. Simply unwrap it, shove it in the microwave and nuke it for a few minutes. Probably not the best way to cook a pizza, but it sure does the job with this wedge. Don't expect any fancy, thin based Italian delicacy, this pizza wedge is large, gooey and satisfying. It's soft and chewy, but most of that is due to the lathering of cheese on top, and the sauce underneath is a nice, subtle, flavoursome offering. There are a good few chunks of pepperoni, and while it's not normally my topping of choice, it went quite well on this slice, adding a nice meaty flavour. On top of that, there are sprinklings of pepper and oregano that add yet another dose of flavour. 

I don't buy pizza slices that often, but this sure did seem comparable to those indulgent, naughty slices you pick up on your way round London. It's a cheesy, meaty delight that certainly made my colleagues jealous, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for the sloppy joe version.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 19 January 2015

Today's Review: Mars Xtra Choc

Mars have been experimenting with their classic chocolate bars lately, the Snickers bar has enjoyed three limited edition releases, offering extra helpings of either peanuts, caramel or chocolate. It turns out I haven't reviewed any of those though, but I do remember eating at least one of those variants. Nothing to write home about, but an interesting way to spice up an old classic. But Mars aren't stopping there, and their attentions are turning to the Mars bar itself, with this limited edition containing extra chocolate.

They say it has an "xtra chocolatey Mars taste", and by that they mean the nougat is now chocolate flavoured. This is pretty much what they did with the Xtra Choc Snickers, so it's not a particularly novel idea, but it is one that got me intrigued. The nougat definitely tastes of chocolate, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. Sure, it makes the whole bar a lot more chocolatey, but I'm not sure this alteration was needed. Despite having quite a strong chocolate flavour, the original taste of the nougat still shines through, which means they were both fighting for dominance over my tastebuds. It still has a great texture, and the rest of the bart is as good as always, but the sheer amount of nougat present in a Mars bar, and the fact that chocolate has been pumped throughout, means it ends up being a little bit sickly. It's a nice idea, but this one isn't quite for me. Now a Mars bar with Xtra nougat, that I could get on board with...

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Mini Lemonade & Cola Doughnuts

If there's one thing Tesco like to experiment with, it's doughnuts. Since last year we've had milkshake flavour, red velvet, duffins, and even cheese and onion doughnuts. But they're not done yet, and I don't think they will be until every single food type has been distilled into a doughy form. This time they've gone for something a little wacky, but not too out there, fizzy drink flavoured doughnuts, featuring lemonade and cola.

You may, like me, have instant visions of dunking doughnuts into glasses of coke and lemonade, but I assure you these are not the soggy result of such reckless abandon. No, these are the standard mini doughnuts that Tesco have brought out in several varieties over the years. Seven of them have a cola topping, and the other seven have lemonade, so you don't need to worry about soft drink cross contamination either. 

I must say, the lemonade ones are actually very nice. It's not so much lemonade as lemon, and they have a great citrus taste that works very well with the dough. There's definitely a bit of a fizz in there too, which is a nice little addition that really rounds it up to a very nice doughnut. The cola ones, on the other hand, I'm not sure what to make of them. The coating certainly looks like chocolate, and I don't know if that was complicit in my taste buds thinking it tasted like chocolate. There is a hint of cola in there somewhere, along with the fizz that's also present in the lemon, but I really couldn't target the actual flavour all that well, and it ended up being a bit of a strangely textured, odd tasting doughnut.

So there you have it, fizzy doughnuts, showing in the same bag that they're both a good and not so good idea. Still, it's nice to have some variety, and while I didn't really enjoy the cola ones, I'm sure some people will. The lemonade are definitely a hit, but with the strangeness of the cola, it just makes the bag as a whole seem a little average. A good novelty treat, but it might be better to go with the classics next time.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Today's Review: Irn Bru Ice Lollies

You can never go wrong with a can of Irn Bru, or even a bottle. There's something about the flavour that's indescribable, but it certainly is a damn good soft drink. You know what I always say about fizzy drinks? They also make great ice lollies. Oh wait, I don't say that, because that would be weird, but it looks like Irn Bru went ahead and released one anyway. These came out a long while ago, but they've finally gone down to £1.50 for a pack of three in Tesco, just low enough for me to take the plunge.

The description of these is as simple as it can get really. These lollies consist of an Irn Bru flavoured ice cream, with Irn Bru flavoured swirls, wrapped up in an Irn Bru flavoured coating. No need for anything fancy thrown in, just a whole load of Irn Bru in different consistencies, and you know what? It works. Every part of these lollies tastes just like Irn Bru, from the smooth outer shell to the creamy ice cream. It's pretty much like a Solero, but with every part replaced with Irn Bru, which I suppose is the Scottish way of life. 

I do feel it's perhaps a little too much Irn Bru, it did get a little sickly after I got halfway through, what with the syrupy swirls in the middle, but after I was done I certainly didn't see it as a bad experience. Sure, the ice cream isn't top notch gourmet stuff, but this is a lolly that tastes just like Irn Bru, and you won't find that anywhere else. It's certainly not my favourite ice lolly of all time, but it's the one I'll turn to when I feel the need for Irn Bru, and it's probably set to become the national ice lolly of Scotland.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, 16 January 2015

Today's Review: The 2015 Cadbury Creme Egg

Take a look at that picture. What does that look like to you? You may think it looks like an ordinary Creme Egg, but you'd be wrong, damn wrong! What lies underneath that wrapper is an abomination to confectionery, a fondant filled testament to corporate greed, a childhood-destroying, boycott-worthy chocolate egg. Well, that's what the denizens of the internet would have me believe anyway.

The regular old complaint has been recycled this year, these Creme Eggs are smaller than last year's. Why yes, I remember when a Creme Egg was the size of my fist, but now they're barely bigger than my fingernail. But that's not all that's wrong with this Easter treat, oh no. The biggest travesty of all has occurred, as the Creme Egg no longer contains Dairy Milk chocolate. Zounds! Egads! Even a spokesman from Cadbury has admitted it, with those callous words, "It's not longer Dairy Milk. It is similar, but not exactly Dairy Milk". That's it, we're never eating Creme Eggs, nay, Cadbury products, ever again. There is no Easter anymore.

Dramatics aside, I do see where the internet uproar is coming from. Cadbury have brought out some absolutely stellar products in the last couple of years, wonderful new Dairy Milk varieties that have consistently impressed me. Dairy Milk doesn't seem to be in short supply, nor do people who want to buy it, so this cost cutting exercise doesn't really make sense. But are we really into Creme Eggs for the chocolate? I, for one, grab a Creme Egg when I fancy stuffing my face with an unhealthy amount of fondant, and these eggs are still full of the stuff. The innards are certainly the same recipe, a sickly, but indulgent, thick helping of sugary goo. It's tasty stuff, and it overwhelmed my senses enough that I really didn't notice a change in the shell. As the spokesman said, it's similar to Dairy Milk, so it didn't bother me all that much. One thing I did notice is that the shell seems slightly thinner on the top and bottom, whereas in previous years it's been pretty thick. But hey, the Creme Egg is still nice. I don't think all the uproar is necessary. If you want Dairy Milk so bad, there are plenty of Dairy Milk bars to choose from, many brought out under Kraft's reign. But there's certainly no need to boycott Cadbury over these altered eggs. Sure, they're not as great as they were a few years ago, but they still do the job well.

My rating: 4/5

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Today's Review: The McRib

The release of the McRib is a momentous occasion, or at least it seems to be in America. I'm pretty certain they even have a national holiday for it. But for the annual releases this thing gets stateside, the UK hasn't had much of a look in, until now. The McRib is back until the beginning of February, and I just had to pick one up to see what all the fuss was about.

Well, it's a burger, but instead of beef, it's pork. Check that out, how amazing is that? That's basically it, there are no frills with this thing, it's a pork patty in the shape of a rack of ribs, slathered in barbecue sauce and topped with onions and pickles, all in a nice, soft, long bun. But hey, pork is a nice change, and this patty isn't all that bad. Sure, it's not the highest quality pork you'll find, but what else would you expect from perfectly rib-shaped meat that contains no ribs? Still, it's pretty tender, has a nice bit of flavour to it, and the barbecue sauce complements it pretty well. I just wish there was more to it. It's clear the focus is on the patty, because the skimpy toppings just weren't enough to make this a stand out burger. 

Is the McRib worth the hype? Well, not so much. It's a nice burger, sure, but there's not all that much to it. Perhaps with some more variety of toppings I'd be a bit more intrigued, but I certainly won't be rushing down to McDonalds to pick up another before it goes away again.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Today's Review: Lucozade Grafruitti

I'm always up for a new Lucozade flavour, especially one as colourful looking as this one that I stumbled upon at Boots today. Despite bearing the name "Grafruitti", it doesn't contain grapefruit, as I thought at first glance. No, the name is a spin on "graffiti", which is basically Lucozade's way of saying they're run out of ideas for single flavours, so are trying to mash them all together instead.

This flavour is described as berries with a citrus twist, though a scan through the ingredients only revealed one berry to me, namely raspberry. There's orange to provide the citrus, and the only other thing I could see was apple, and that's a pome, not a berry. But hey, let's not talk semantics, let's talk taste. The raspberry provides a bold flavour, with a nice sharpness to it, while the orange certainly provides a citrus hit that cuts through the rest of the fruit, making for an overall very fruity taste. However, the consistency is a little off in my opinion, it's a little too syrupy and sickly for my liking, especially when compared to flavours such as pink lemonade and melonade, which are actually pretty refreshing. This is an interesting attempt at a new Lucozade flavour, and it's pretty tasty, but there's just a little too much going on in the bottle. Now a grapefruit flavour, that would be interesting...

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Free From Belgian Chocolate Melt In The Middle Puddings

Following my gluten free main course from yesterday, here's the dessert I picked up with my Tesco vouchers. These can be found in the frozen aisle Free From section, and the pack consists of two gluten free, what free Belgian chocolate puddings. They certainly look chocolatey enough, and that was enough to persuade me to pick them up. You can either pop them in the microwave or oven for a quick dessert option.

Well, the puddings look exactly like they do in the picture, so that's a good start. They're perhaps the size of your average single serve pudding, though a little shorter, so they're not all that big. But the calorific content is certainly nothing to be sniffed at, at a whopping 431 calories per pudding. Biting into one, I found out why. These are extremely chocolatey, it's all I could taste with each bite. The sponge is certainly nice, despite being gluten free you can't taste it, the chocolate trumps anything else in there. 

The main attraction is the melt in the middle part, although in my experience it was more of a "melt throughout" scenario. I was able to get a bit of the sauce inside with every bite, and I was sad to find I wasn't too impressed. It's certainly chocolatey, but it's a lot darker than the chocolate found in the sponge, so while it starts out sweet, the bitterness of the inside quickly comes through and threatens to take over. So while the chocolate drew me in, it eventually turned into a weak point. These certainly aren't all bad, but there are probably better desserts out there for gluten free folks to tuck into. If you like your puddings sickly and high in calories though, these are the ones for you.

My rating: 2/5

Monday, 12 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Free From Pulled Ham Hock & Cheddar CheeseCrispbakes

This is another Free From product I picked up with the vouchers Tesco sent me. This time it's a savoury offering, and one from the frozen aisle. I imagine quick and easy frozen dinners are a little harder to come by for people with gluten sensitivities, but these crispbakes offer a wheat and gluten free batter, encasing a cheese and ham filling.

Well, you certainly do need the batter to hold it all together. As you can see in the picture, these bakes are packed full of cheese and ham, and they are definitely filling. The crumbing on the outside is certainly tasty enough, and any potential funny gluten free tastes are non existent thanks to the abundance of filling. The ham is nice and tender, but not particularly flavoursome. I put this down to the somewhat bland cheese that takes up a large portion of the bake. It makes for a creamy, though slightly tasteless, experience. Still, these are some nice crispy, meaty bakes that will certainly do for anyone looking for a quick and easy meal.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Today's Review: Chef & Brewer Oreo Cookie Sandwich

Becoming slightly disheartened with our recent experiences at chain pub restaurants, we decided to try out a different one altogether tonight, with a visit to our local Chef & Brewer pub. The prices may have been slightly higher than the Fayre & Square and Flaming Grills, but the menu looked pretty damn good. The pub we visited, the Horse & Groom in Chelmsford, was a far cry from many other chain pubs we've visited, with some great interior decorating, and welcoming staff providing top notch service. So after tucking into my main of a juicy, tender Wagyu beef burger with crisp sweet potato fries and truffle mayonnaise (all amazing), I focused on the dessert menu, and my eyes immediately settled on the "Oreo Cookie Sandwich".

Described as "an over-sized sandwich of creamy vanilla mousse between two layers of dark biscuit crumb", how could I resist? As you can tell form the picture, the description is spot on. This sandwich is a monster, a thick wedge of vanilla mousse that would rival even the most stacked cheesecake portion. I say this is mousse, but it more has the texture of ice cream, it's certainly cold and easy to scoop in that respect. The taste, however, is quite mousse like, somewhat lighter than vanilla ice cream would be, with a great, creamy vanilla flavour that was filling, but never sickly.

The outer layer of crumbs doesn't look all that much compared to the innards, but as long as you get some in every spoonful, they provide a dark, chocolatey flavour that beautifully balances against the mousse, adding in a nice bit of crunch as well. To top it all off, there's a fresh strawberry on top, and the whole thing is drizzled in chocolate sauce. This is the best dessert I've had while eating out for a long time, I was drawn in by the promise of Oreo, but blown away with the resulting monstrosity on my plate. Definitely full marks.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Free From White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

While I've certainly seen an increase in the number of gluten free foods available over the last year or so, I've never dabbled, since I don't have a sensitivity to gluten. But Tesco sent me some vouchers so I could try out some of their Free From range, so I scanned the shelves for some goodies. Cookies are as good a place to start as any, so I grabbed a pack of these white chocolate and cranberry ones.

There's not too much different between these and regular cookies, to be honest. While most regular cookies contain flour, these ones are made with oats, and gluten free oats at that. While having a gluten free flour substitute may damage some recipes, the replacement in this case simply gives the cookies a more oaty texture, so they're like a cross between oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies. The white chocolate chunks are big and creamy, while the cranberries provide a nice juicy hit. On top of that, they're all wrapped up in some truly tasty gluten free dough, making these some very nice cookies that even coeliacs can tuck into. I'm looking forward to trying out some more Free From stuff in the coming days.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 9 January 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Red Velvet Doughnuts

Tesco sure have been taking a weird direction with their doughnuts lately, but it's nice to see that they've gone back to the sweeter stuff, though this time with a sweet twist. Yes, these are red velvet doughnuts, consisting of a deep red dough, covered with icing and sprinkles, and with a "cream cheese style" filling. Just like the real thing, right?

Well yeah, these are actually pretty good doughnuts. The dough is nice and heavy, verging on a cake-like texture. the filling is nice as well, it's soft, creamy, and certainly a little cheesy. It's not quite the real thing, but it's definitely a good effort that works well with the dough. The only problem I really had with these was the topping. The crunchy pieces are a nice touch, but as you can see in the picture, the icing was already pretty messed up by the time I got them home, and it only got worse as I ate them. It's a bit too runny for my liking, and distracts a little from the nicer stuff underneath.

Still, these are a good effort at making some interesting doughnuts. If you like red velvet cake, you're probably better off just buying a red velvet cake, but these are still worth trying, whether you're a fan of cake or doughnuts. 

My rating: 4/5

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Today's Review: Annie

Though I'm not adverse to musicals, I haven't seen too many, and Annie is one that I've never taken the time to watch. But hey, here's a contemporary remake, so that's got to be better, right?

Quvenzahné Wallis stars as Annie, an orphan living with the cruel Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) in a foster home, hoping one day that her parents will return. But after a chance encounter with wealthy phone company owner Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), Annie sees herself whisked into the high life, as Stacks takes her in in an attempt to improve his image in the running for mayor of New York. But will Annie's presence change Stacks' life forever?

I think it's safe to assume that yes, yes it will. It's not a particularly surprising plot, but it seems to be a somewhat faithful adaptation of the 80s classic, except, you know, without the bomb plots and attempted murder. But instead of all that dreary stuff, the whole story is steeped in mobile phone technology and social media, all that stuff that kids are into these days. I understand that this is meant to be contemporary, but it does all start to get a little cheesy. But hey, this is a musical, we're here for the music, right?

Well, all the classic songs are here, and they've been updated with a "hip hop style", because that's all these crazy kids want to hear these days. There are also a few new songs thrown in for good measure, and while it was quite easy to pick them out from the classics, they're not all bad. Everyone involved does a pretty good job with their roles. Wallis is especially good as Annie, breathing a lot of life into a lead that could have easily fallen flat. Diaz and Foxx are a good fit too, and there wasn't anyone in the supporting cast that I'd say felt out of place.

I'm a little torn with this movie. Sure, I enjoyed a lot of the elements of it, but there was always something a bit off. The plot was good enough, but the movie dragged on a little too long. There are certainly some good humorous lines throughout, but there are a few more shoehorned in that fall flat. The songs are well performed, but the integration of hip hop ends up being a little cheesy, and the vocals always seem to be a bit too quiet, or the dubbing way off. It's just little things that seemed to chip away at the good stuff, that turned this from a movie I would have quite enjoyed overall to just adequate.

Annie is a nice family film, but it's not as good as others that have come out lately. If you're into musicals, you'll probably want to give it a watch. Otherwise, it could be very hit and miss.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Today's Review: Mango & Apple Um Bongo

Way down deep in the middle of the Tesco,
I found a juicy drink made up of apples and of mangos.
I took it home and drank it, but I didn't dance a tango.
I simply said, "Mmm, that's some quite nice Um Bongo"
Um Bongo, Um Bongo, it's nice but it's all gone though.
I sure do miss the passion fruit, and slightly less the mandarin.
The fruit that's here is tasty, it just needs a little extra in.
So when it comes to sun and fun and goodness in the jungle,
Though I prefer the classic one this is still good Um Bongo!

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Today's Review: The Improved IKEA Allen Keys

Well, Christmas is truly over, and now there's a mountain of toys that require storage in my tiny place. Our regular January tradition is to order a buttload of furniture from IKEA, so we can rearrange our rooms and maximise any storage potential we have. I love IKEA. They provide practical, simple, and cheap furniture. Sure, you may have to put it together yourself, but that's not really much of a problem. I've seen countless situations on TV and the like in which an inept man can't follow simple pictorial instructions, or there's a vital piece missing or left over, but I've never encountered any of those problems. 

No, my main concern has been with the allen keys provided. They're always moulded all the way down in that horrific hexagonal pattern, that drives into my flesh the more I screw, leaving my hands bruised and beaten after a lengthy furniture assembly session. I was fully prepared to review my excruciating ordeal with allen keys tonight, using my freshly mangled claw hands, but what should I see upon opening my flat packs? Improved allen keys!

Look at the craftsmanship on these babies. The hexagonal death grip is gone, replaced by a smooth, cylindrical handle that didn't hurt my hands at all. Sure, I got a little pain from the very end stages of screw tightening, but it's nowhere near as bad as the ordeal I used to suffer. To top it all off, check out that plastic doohickey surrounding the allen key at the top. That fell out of my largest piece of furniture, a spanner handle-like attachment that you can perfectly slot the allen key into for more leverage, plus plastic is certainly easier on the palms. So what I was expecting to be a painful, long lasting screwing experience was improved immeasurably by these well designed wonder tools. Well done IKEA, well done.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 5 January 2015

Today's Review: Looking For Things In The Cracks Of A Sofa

I'm sure we've all lost misplaced something while sitting on the sofa, or an armchair. It may be a coin, a pen, a hair clip, or even a phone. After exhausting all overground options, we most likely turn to the place in between where the cushions end and the frame begins. The dark nether region of the cracks in the sofa.

Pop culture informs us that between the cushions is a veritable gold mine of lost change and hidden treasures. But I've never seen a character go digging for cash and become confronted with the horrific reality of what lies beneath. Sure, there may be the occasional interesting object, but most of the time I go digging into my sofa I'm confronted with crumbs, dust, hair and the odd patch of wetness. Granted, I live with three kids, so the chances of me finding something disgusting down the cracks is higher than most, but I imagine any given sofa would have some undesirable stuff lurking down there. I've seen people on TV go sofa digging in public places, that just makes my skin crawl. Who knows what horrific surprises await an adventurous hand in the cracks of a Starbucks suite?

But hey, that's just my two cents, and that's probably more than you'll find digging your hands into random furniture. Sure, there's the very slight chance of finding something interesting, but I doubt it's worth subjecting your flesh to damp crumbs. I'd rather go and look for loose change dropped onto the high street, you know, like a normal person.

My rating: 1/5

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Today's Review: Big Hero 6

With the massive success of Frozen, it seemed Disney had firmly landed back in the princess camp. But they attempted a bold move previously with the video game-themed Wreck-It-Ralph, and that was awesome. So, once again taking a break from the fairy tales, Big Hero 6 is the first Disney animated feature based on a Marvel property, and it certainly caught my attention as another interesting direction for the company.

Hiro Hamada is a robotics prodigy, who uses his engineering skills to gamble illegally in robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, wants to steer him in a better direction, and shows him the potential his genius could have in a school of technology. But after a tragic accident, Hiro is left without a brother, but with an unlikely companion in the form of Baymax, a personal medical assistant that Tadashi built, who is intent on healing Hiro's grief. But with a masked super villain stirring up trouble throughout the city, Hiro decides to use his robotics prowess to upgrade Baymax, and arm his brother's band of friends in order to tackle the emerging threat.

It's quite a nice plot to start with, the relationship between Hiro and Tadashi is very nicely portrayed in the first part of the movie, and transitions nicely to between Hiro and Baymax. After that, it does quickly devolve into a pretty standard superhero plot, and while it may be a little thin on the ground, there's certainly enough other elements to make up for it.

For starters, this movie looks amazing. The human character models are fantastically detailed, and Baymax, the huge, inflatable, loveable robot, realistically squishes through gaps and flies through a vast, beautiful metropolis. The characters are all supported by good voices, particular mention goes to Scott Adsit as Baymax, as well as T. J. Miller and Damon Wayans. Best of all though is the action. There's tons of it, and it comes along at a pretty quick pace. There's a little bit of well-needed character development at the beginning, but after that the super-heroics come thick and fast and rarely let up. Every action scene is perfectly put together, showcasing awesome robotics and acrobatics, and they really put this up there with the superhero movie greats. 

With so much action going on, however, there is a trade off in terms of plot and character development. What little down time there is doesn't allow for much information to be shared. By the time the movie was finished, I certainly didn't know much about the supporting cast of heroes that Hiro recruits to his cause, not even their names. While that did sour my opinion of the movie after the fact, I can't deny that while watching it I was having an absolute blast. Big Hero 6 is a bold move by Disney, and it's very well done. It's an all-action blockbuster that's great fun to watch, and there's certainly another winning mascot in the form of Baymax. This ain't your average Disney classic, but it's still damn good.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Today's Review: This Foreign Nestlé Bar

I picked up this interesting Nestlé bar from a 99p shop a few weeks ago, but I've held off reviewing it as I'm not actually sure what it is. It says "le chocolat" under the logo there, implying it's French, but then has some other language underneath the picture. I've attempted to Google what the hell this could be based on what's in it, and the closest thing I can find is that it's a Straciatella bar, named after the milk-based gelato that contains chocolate chips. Thankfully, Evening Treats has my back and has done a lot more legwork than me, so check it out.

So yes, this bar consists of white chocolate, with a smattering of dark chocolate chips throughout, and some crispy pieces thrown in for good measure. It's pretty much like a white Crunch bar, but with some dark chocolate to make things interesting. The white chocolate is pretty nice and creamy, with something of a vanilla-like taste, and the dark chocolate adds a little bit of a different flavour, detracting from the white when it starts to get too sickly. The crispy bits are a welcome addition as well, throwing in a nice bit of texture. This bar is a little too heavy on the white chocolate though, and while it's nice, it does get a little too much after a while. This is a nice change from regular Nestlé slabs, but I think I'd rather stick with the milk chocolate Crunch. At least I can read the writing on the packaging.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, 2 January 2015

Today's Review: Cubic Fun Burj Khalifa 3D Puzzle

So here's an interesting little gift I got for Christmas. I used to be really into Puzz 3D back in the day, and my parents bought me a few that I enjoyed putting together. I guess they remembered that, as they bought me one of these newfangled 3D puzzles, this one is in the shape of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. That means it'll take a long time to put together, right?

Well, this isn't exactly a puzzle. It doesn't have small, interlocking, almost identical pieces like the monstrous Big Ben Puzz 3D I have stored away. Instead, the pieces come etched into several slabs, which you need to press out and then fasten together in a particular fashion. There's no real jigsaw puzzling involved, it's very much an elaborate tab A into slot B scenario, and the instructions and labelled pieces are there to help you every step of the way. 

Not that it's not fun to put together. I certainly whiled away an hour or two putting this thing together, and it's quite satisfying watching the layers build up to create the final model. Some pieces are a bit fiddly to slot into place, but it's not too taxing overall. The end result is pretty impressive, and it's currently standing at 81cm tall next to my TV. Not that it's going to stay there forever. It's a nice little conversation starter, sure, but that conversation would go like this:

Interested guest: "Ooh, what's that?"
Me: "It's a model of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world"
Fascinated guest: "Wow, have you been there?"
Me: "No."
Disinterested guest: "Oh."

But hey, if you've been to the Burj Khalifa, or just fancy starting up a display of self-assembled 3D models of famous buildings, you should be all over this. If neither of those apply, this is still a fun little thing to put together. It may not be as cool or challenging as the Millennium Falcon Puzz 3D I picked up at a charity shop a few weeks ago, but if you want a review of that you'll probably have to wait a couple of years for me to put it together...

My rating: 4/5

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Today's Review: Melissa & Doug Latches Board

The festivities are all over, it's a new year, so now it's time to wade through the mountain of toys my kids got for Christmas. One that particularly caught my eye was this Latches Board from Melissa & Doug, which we gave to our youngest. It's basically a board with a set of wooden doors, behind which lie various numbers of cartoon animals. But to see them, you have to open a high quality metal lock, some simple, some not so much.

You see, if there's one thing toddlers like to do, it's opening doors and fiddling with any kind of metallic object or lock they find. While most companies would condone keeping potentially dangerous stuff behind locked doors, it seems Melissa & Doug want to train kids how to get into things. After playing with this, they can open all manner of latches and gates, so watch out for those kids in the back garden. Also, watch out for the next edition, which tackles combination locks and comes with a complimentary lockpick.

I jest, I jest, a little. It's a pretty fun toy. The locks are all pretty sturdy, and satisfyingly clunky and noisy. The animals inside are cute, but not too much of a reward for opening the doors. Still, it's about the journey, not the destination, and this is a great alternative to boring old wooden puzzles. It may be a little taxing for younger kids to open up the doors, but it's certainly something my daughter enjoys playing with.

My rating: 4/5