Saturday 28 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Bubblegum Flavour Foamy Mushrooms

There's not much new in the sweet aisle of my local Tesco nowadays, but I did manage to scope out this bag of bubblegum flavoured mushrooms. The bag says it's new, it's new to me, so it didn't take much convincing. Foam mushrooms are a pick 'n' mix standard, but they are admittedly a little bland. Perhaps a bubblegum injection would brighten these sweets up for me.

These are, in fact, identical to the classic mushroom sweets in texture. Soft, foamy and chewy, it's a good form for a sweet to be in, it doesn't get stuck in your teeth, and hangs around long enough for you to appreciate the flavour. So in a way it's good that the flavour is here in buckets. It's a very strong, decisively bubblegum flavour. Not that I'm sure what bubblegum flavour is exactly, but these definitely are. Unfortunately, it's a little too overpowering for me, overwhelming the tastebuds at first, and sticking around a bit too long afterwards, giving a bit of a sickly feeling. Still, it is a nice, bold flavour, and one that's on par with perhaps my favourite pick 'n' mix sweet, the fizzy bubblegum bottle. These mushrooms are a good twist on the original, and while they're not perfect, they're worth picking up.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 27 February 2015

Today's Review: Toilet Seats

Toilet seats are seats that are attached to toilets. You use them to sit on said toilet. Well, if you didn't already know about toilet seats, I'd say you're up to speed now. Toilet seats can be a controversial topic, especially in the battle of the sexes. Does it go up, or down? Why can't we just move it ourselves? But we're not here to debate seat lifting etiquette, I'm here to discuss whether the seat is fit for purpose.

No matter which material a seat may come in, it's likely to do the job. No matter what the guys say, at some point we all make use of a toilet seat. I'm certainly glad for the extra butt room, instead of perching precariously on the rim of the toilet itself. Whoever invented the toilet only did half a job I say. Whoever invented the toilet seat was in touch with humanity. Unless the same person invented both, I don't know, I can't say I'm brushed up on my toilet history. Suffice it to say that toilet seats are awesome. We may take them for granted, but they're always there to lend their support. 

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 26 February 2015

Today's Review: Sunshakes Mango Milkshake

I do like a milkshake from time to time, but the flavours on offer never really vary. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, maybe banana, it all gets a bit boring after a while. So when I was offered a sample of this Sunshakes mango milkshake to review, I couldn't say no. I love tropical fruits, and while it took me a while to get used to mango, I now jump at the chance to try mango flavoured stuff.

Well, first and foremost, this is a milkshake, so the texture is pretty important. Thankfully, this shake is perfectly blended. It's smooth, creamy, with a very slight, but satisfying, thickness to it. Think on the same level of big brand names like Frijj, it's the same great texture. As for the flavour, well, it's definitively mango. Very fruity, and very bold, it's a full, juicy taste that sticks around during and after drinking. My main gripe against mango is that it can sometimes get a bit dry and chalky, but in this case it's combined with the creaminess of the milkshake, so it all goes down very nicely. 

One thing I did find is that it's a tad too sugary for my liking. This milkshake is very sweet, and while that works in its favour while drinking, there was a bit of a sugary aftertaste once the mango had died down. But that's only a minor thing, I would happily wolf one of these down every day. It's a very tasty milkshake, with a great flavour that you probably won't find anywhere else in a hurry. I'm hoping they will start to make an appearance in UK stores, seeing as they're only being sold in the Philippines, Singapore, Oman and Qatar. But you can still buy them on Amazon at just over £1 a bottle. They're definitely worth that much. Now if you'll excuse me, my dad lives in Oman, I'll have to ask him to track down the equally delicious sounding papaya and guava milkshakes...

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Today's Review: Haribo Tangy Minions

Well, that sure is a bad quality picture, sorry, I was in the theatre at the time. But hey, you get the idea. The original Haribo Minions surfaced at some point last year, at a bit of an odd time, seeing as it was a year after Despicable Me 2 came out. But now the Minions movie is just around the corner, so there's a new variety of Minions Haribo around, and this time they're tangy. 

Well, these are certainly more unidentifiable than the non-tangy versions. Sure, the classic blue and yellow is present in the regular Minion sweets, but that evil Minion looks a bit strange, it's meant to be purple, right? Unless there's a new flavour of Minion coming up in the movie. But we shall see. As it stands, these tangy Minions have much the same flavours as the other variety. The ingredients have an extensive list of fruits included, so it's hard to pinpoint exactly what these taste like, but the regular Minions seem to have a citrus/blue raspberry-like flavour. It's not as obvious a flavour in the non-foam-backed ones, but the tangy coating sure does make for a nice sour experience. The foam-backed Minions are somehow more flavoursome, but a little too much. The citrus element is very noticeable, and coupled with the coating it makes for a very tart sweet. The red Minion sweet is probably the best, with a much darker, bolder flavour that seems to incorporate the blackcurrant and passion fruit listed in the ingredients, but unfortunately there weren't many in the pack. 

The original Minions sweets were nice, but nothing too special. While the addition of tanginess is a nice twist, the flavours remain the same. They're not necessarily bad, but Haribo have proven there are a lot better sweets they can churn out, just look at Tangfastics, or any other one of their tangy bags.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Today's Review: Kellogg's Krave Choco Roulette

I often have trouble deciding what cereal to have in the mornings. Something sugar coated? A chocolatey number? Maybe a blander offering? Sure, I don't have an extensive selection of cereals to go for at any one time, but it would be nice if the choice was taken from me sometimes. I guess that's what Kellogg's are trying to do here with this new Krave Choco Roulette. It at least takes the choice of Krave varieties off your mind, by mixing them all up together. Yes, this cereal combines four flavours of Krave in one box, so it's anyone's guess what you'll get in any given spoonful.

I do love a bowl of Krave, and having tried both the milk chocolate and chocolate hazelnut flavours, I was looking forward to trying out the white chocolate and caramel that are introduced in this box. Unfortunately the only way I could try them was to take a wild guess at what each pillow contained. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by each flavour, the white chocolate is nice, light and creamy, while the caramel has a very sweet hint to it. But the real experience should come from having a bowl full of random, chaotic flavours, and while it certainly is a nice crunchy experience that is extremely chocolatey, mixed together it doesn't have too much of an impact. There are hints of white chocolate, hazelnuts and caramel, but since the milk chocolate is so prevalent that's the main flavour that I took away. Still, it's a nice filling bowl of cereal, certainly delicious. This is a neat idea from Kellogg's, but it's up to you if you want to take a gamble. Ha, get it? Because it says "Roulette".

My rating: 4/5

Monday 23 February 2015

Today's Review: Ben & Jerry's Greek Style Vanilla Honey Caramel

I know these Ben & Jerry's Greek Style flavours have been out for a while. Hell, I reviewed one 10 months ago. But I bought some of the vanilla honey caramel at a bargain price from Farm Foods a little while back, and since I was polishing it off tonight I thought I should transcribe my thoughts. Review it, if you will. This is something of a bland sounding flavour, and I guess it's in keeping with the "healthy" theme I think the tub is attempting to portray. It's Greek style, which I guess sounds healthy nowadays, and it's also frozen yoghurt, which we all know is mega healthy. Honey's good too, right? Or it that just for sore throats?

Well, yes, this is healthier than the regular chocolate or peanut butter laden tubs we're used to from Ben and Jerry. But it's still a little naughty. The vanilla frozen yoghurt is the main event here, and it's very smooth and creamy, with a lovely texture that's consistent throughout. The vanilla flavour is quite bold, but in the end it is vanilla, and it can be a little bland. Thankfully the swirls are there to help you out, and they add a lovely bit of sweetness to the tub. The honey is smooth, while the caramel is heavy, but sweet. They're quite nicely spread throughout the tub, so there wasn't any particular spoonful that was too sickly. There were a few that simply consisted of the frozen yoghurt though, so those weren't too great. But hey, if you're after a more decadent experience, you shouldn't go for the flavour with "vanilla" in the title. This is by no means the best tub of Ben & Jerry's out there, but it's a lighter tasting treat that I certainly enjoyed. It doesn't offer too much, but what it does it does well.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday 22 February 2015

Today's Review: Pick Up! Black'n White

With a lack of exciting new chocolate bars to sink my teeth into, I've turned to the biscuit aisle recently to satisfy my curious sweet tooth. I tried the original Pick Up! biscuit last year, and found it to be very much to my liking, so I was pleased to see there's a new variety out. Instead of the regular butter biscuit, encasing a thick slab of milk chocolate, this one ascribes to a "black'n white" theme. I'm sure that's meant to say "black 'n' white", instead of the name of an ironic blaxploitation pirate captain, but I'm not here to be a stickler for grammar. Let's get to the biscuit.

You may think Oreo by looking at that picture up there, and really it's the closest thing I could compare it to. The biscuit is pretty similar, and the chocolate is like a more solid version of the classic Oreo creme. I'm always up for a bit of white chocolate, and as you can see, this is a substantial amount for a biscuit treat. It's thick, creamy, and overall delicious. The biscuit is good, a little too dark for my liking, but it provides a good contrast with the white chocolate. The only real problem is that the biscuit is quite crumbly, meaning there's a bit of a powdery residue that sticks around after the rest is gone, and it left a bit of a bitter aftertaste. This biscuit is a great twist on the original, and the addition of white chocolate is fantastically done. It's not perfect, and the original still comes out on top in my books, but these are well worth... dare I say... picking up?

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 21 February 2015

Today's Review: Curiously Cinnamon

I tried out some cheap cinnamon squares from Tesco the other week, and while I wasn't too fond of them, I felt ready to confront my childhood nightmare and give Cinnamon Grahams a go. Well, since my traumatic experience they've had a name change and visual overhaul, but I assume they taste much like they did back then.

Well, they're cinnamon flavoured squares, that's for sure, but these are of pretty high quality. They certainly don't possess the fantastic crunchiness of Golden Grahams, but there's definitely a nice crunch to them. I wouldn't flood these with milk, they seem like they'd get soggy pretty quickly, but with just a splash I had a pretty good experience throughout. As for the flavour, it's not bad at all. Slightly spicy, pretty sweet, with a nice texture provided by the cereal itself. They are a little powdery, meaning the cinnamon can overwhelm a little in places, but on the whole I wasn't worried about grabbing another bowlful the next day, which is good as I picked up a massive box. 

I have faced up to my cinnamon fears. I have conquered the cereal that sparked my grandmother telling me off that one time, and I've found it's actually pretty tasty. If you're into your cinnamon, these make for an interesting breakfast cereal. But then hey, you've probably had these already. As for me, I'll definitely still choose Golden Grahams over Curiously Cinnamon.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 20 February 2015

Today's Review: Haribo Fizzy Farm Animals

It's been a while since I've reviewed an Easter product. I mean. It's almost Easter, I should have reviewed everything already. Thankfully I had this packet of Haribo I picked up a little while back, and I certainly don't need much of an excuse to open up some Haribo. This bag of fuzzy farm animals is less Easter themed than spring themed, but they still belong in the seasonal aisle I guess. 

If you think these are pretty much like Tangfastics, you'd be right. But in my opinion they're only the best kind of Fangtastics, none of those cola bottles or twin cherries in here. Sure, they're nice, but nothing beats those fruity animal sweets, and that's all that's in this bag. Various fruity flavours, some foam backed, some not. But they're all great. This is one bag of Haribo that didn't have me picking through to get rid of my least favourites. Every one is bold and fruity, and I was definitely left with a spring in my step. Get it? Spring? I'll see myself out.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 19 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Family Favourites: Cottage Pie

Another day, another family favourite from Tesco. I picked up this cottage pie along with the chicken and tomato pasta bake, as it's a meal that normally goes down pretty well with my family. When I make it from scratch, though, it does tend to take a while, and getting the potato just right takes a bit of practice. With this bad boy all I had to do was shove it in the oven for half an hour.

The first thing I need to mention is the potato. It's lovely and creamy, no lumps and certainly makes this a filling meal. The mince underneath is nice and tender, although it is a little sparse, there's definitely more potato to contend with. The gravy is pretty damn good though, with onions, carrots and peas mixed in, and really adds flavour throughout, especially to the potato, which may have been a bit too much otherwise.

This cottage pie went down very nicely. It's a low effort, nutritious meal that may be a little light on the meat, but is certainly worth a try.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Family Favourites: Chicken & Tomato Pasta Bake

I was sent some vouchers by Tesco to try out some of their new "Family Favourites", big servings of classic meals that can require little effort to cook and will easily feed a family of four. These sounded right up my street, as although I cook the majority of meals from (mostly) scratch, there are evenings where I just don't have the time or energy to whip up a nutritious meal. So I was more than willing to pick up a couple of these meals, and they certainly look the part. The packs are massive, weighing between 1-1.5kg, and there's a nice variety of dishes to choose from.

Pasta is a good go to food for my family, so I grabbed this chicken & tomato pasta bake to feed my ravenous younglings. Preparation is easy, just take off the cardboard, poke a few holes, and whack it in the oven for 40 minutes. When the time was up, I was greeted with a nice looking pasta bake, the picture on the box is actually pretty spot on. The pasta is large and plentiful, and certainly filling, although is was perhaps a little too soft for my liking. The tomato sauce is great, not too bold, but adding flavour to every bite, with a good coverage throughout the tray. The chicken is perhaps the worst element, it's a bit rubbery, and clearly not of the utmost quality, but it does do the trick for this meal, adding a nice meaty texture, and there's a lot of it to go around. The mozzarella, on the other hand, is a little sparse, but there's definitely a nice bit of cheesiness throughout the dish.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that my kids ate this up with no complaints. They're fussy at the best of times, especially when sauce is concerned, so it was nice to see they're willing to wolf down one of these ready meals on a particularly busy day. It's full of good stuff, and the meat may not be of the best quality, this certainly made for a nice dinner. These meals are definitely something I wouldn't mind grabbing for when I'm in a hurry.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Today's Review: Walkers Extra Crunchy Sticky BBQ Rib

I'm a pretty big fan of Extra Crunchy Walkers, especially the salt and vinegar. So when I saw this "new flavour" (I'll take the packet's word for it), I had to grab a bag. I'm not normally a fan of meat flavoured crisps, but I thought the extra crunchiness might sway me.

Well, these certainly are crunchy. The texture is as good as the other flavours, not too greasy, and certainly satisfying to eat. As for the flavour, it's not all that bad. Sure, it has that almost-but-not-quite meaty taste, but there's also a definite sauciness, a great BBQ flavour that still sticks around in the aftertaste. These may not be as great as the classic flavours, but thy still make for a good bag of crisps.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 16 February 2015

Today's Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey (The Movie)

So my Fifty Shades weekend has come to a head (no pun intended) with a viewing of the movie based on the literary phenomenon. I reviewed that yesterday, so now I feel I can adequately sink my teeth (no pun intended) into the film.

Fifty Shades Of Grey stars Dakota Johnson as the sweet and innocent Anastasia Steele, while Jamie Dornan takes on the role of Christian Grey, the messed up billionaire who falls for her and attempts to recruit her as a Submissive to his Dominant. I think the plot line is pretty well established, but let's just say there's a lot of lip biting, a lot of sex, and a lot of steely looks.

Well, I say there's a lot of that, because there is in the book, but it really didn't translate onto the screen all that well. Sure, there's sex, and more than you'd probably see in any other mainstream movie, but the rest certainly falls flat. The book is consistently portraying Ana's inner turmoil, represented by her cheesy "inner goddess" and "subconscious", but there's none of that here. In many ways that's a good thing, as I rolled my eyes any time they came up in the text (and as we all know, we shouldn't roll our eyes in the presence of Mr. Grey). But without that inner dialogue, without Ana's constant questioning of her actions and situations, the plot is even more bland than it was in the book.

Instead of Christian Grey being portrayed as a captivatingly sexy, yet almost dangerously obsessive man, we see Dakota Johnson pretty much agree to everything without hesitation, and all the stalker-like elements that are focused on in the book are just played off as romanticism. I never thought I'd be complaining that the movie doesn't adequately follow the awful points of the book, but here we are. Still, I'm not sure how they'd have pulled it off without it being ludicrous, so I guess in this game of give and take both versions come out about equal. Just equally awful.

But even some good performances can bring some worth out of a terrible script, right? Well, not really, but these performances aren't all that great anyway. Sure, the main couple certainly look the part, glimpses of nether regions and naughty bits of hair and all, but the acting is pretty wooden (no pun intended). Dornan's accent is less domineering and more of a weirdly accented mumble, and his steely gaze looks a lot like constipation. I guess that would explain why he's so grumpy all the time. Dakota Johnson does slightly better, actually pulling off some decent drunk acting, but the rest is pretty vanilla. Moans and tears abound, sure, but it never really drew me in. I suppose she did a pretty good job, as I don't think an actor exists who can turn myriad shades of red on command.

The pacing is all off too. At least in the book there are a few moments of reflection between pure carnality, but the movie tends to skip a lot of these and just leap from one sexy set piece to another, focusing more on the flesh of the characters than fleshing out the story. 

I guess, in short, I can say I didn't enjoy this movie. It's a boring adaptation of a boring book, that leaves out a lot of the sillier parts but in doing so turns into a sex-filled husk devoid of any tension. Well, there's some tension, but not the kind I was after. Besides, the sex is pretty vanilla, which is certainly not what Mr. Grey would agree to. Even a bit more heat in the bedroom may have been a saving grace for me, but as it stands, Fifty Shades Of Grey left me Fifty Shades Of... well, bored. Just bored.

My rating: 1/5

Sunday 15 February 2015

Today's Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey (The Book)

I'm going to see Fifty Shades Of Grey the movie tomorrow. I certainly noticed the furore surrounding the books when they were released, but I never wanted to actually subject myself to the thing. No, I was quite happy to sit back and watch the ridicule roll in, picking up little tidbits here and there that I could casually throw into conversations to seem topical. But with the tickets already purchased for a movie I'm sure I will not rate highly, I thought it would be best to have some frame of reference for how truly awful it may be. So I set myself the task of reading the book, and unfortunately I set myself that task yesterday morning. It's been a truly exhausting two days, with a deadline looming over my head that I really didn't want to make. But about an hour ago, I finished. There's really not much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but here goes.

Fifty Shades Of Grey follows Anastasia Steele, a perfectly innocent young woman who finds herself absolutely entranced by wealthy CEO Christian Grey. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual, and Grey pursues Steele relentlessly, and after one date he rolls out an extensive BDSM contract that makes Anastasia a submissive sex slave that must satisfy Grey's every whim. What a classic love story. There's really not much more to the plot than that. After the first act, during which Grey stalks Ana and displays every indication of being a very dangerous man, everything comes up trumps for him, and we have several elongated chapters, in which Ana and Grey meet someplace, have sex, she goes to another place, he shows up, they have sex, repeat ad nauseam. I can't tell which erotic happenings occur in which place, but it doesn't really matter, they all seem the same. Sure, there's some "kinky" stuff afoot in a couple of chapters, but it's mostly oddly worded cookie cutter sex scenes, written with an odd sense of timing that makes it seem like it's all over in 30 seconds.

It's funny I should mention the writing... actually, no it's not, because the writing is bad. It's not appalling, there aren't any typos, and you can actually read it, but it's certainly not good. Sure, it's a lot better than some of the fan fiction out there (this was originally written as Twilight fan fiction, you know), but the writing is just wholly uninspired. The amount of overused utterances and references are well publicised, between the "oh my" and "inner goddess", and the repeated mention of "there", it's just laughable. The one that really got to me was the constant reference to Grey's "long index finger", not just because I was completely baffled as to how that's the sexiest thing one can think of, but because whenever it's said all I can picture is E.T. The image certainly isn't helped by the fact that Grey has a brother called Elliot.

Of course, the main focus in the book is Anastasia. She's the one providing the narrative, and her journey from innocent virgin to submissive is the main draw of the novel. But her character is so frustratingly underdeveloped and poorly written that I couldn't help but feel agitated throughout the whole book. She's constantly at war with herself, which is a good way to write a character, but it's just so cheesy. Whenever she has to make a decision, she is either chastised by her "subconscious" or egged on by her "inner goddess", clearly representations of Freud's super-ego and id respectively, but overall coming off as a dissociative identity disorder. Actually, we shouldn't drag such complex terms into this, because Anastasia is a frustratingly simple character. The extent of her inner turmoil goes something like this:

Grey: "I want to have sex with you, but not in a regular way, in a nasty way. Also, you still haven't signed this contract, and no matter how much time I give you to think about it, I know where you are and will turn up at your doorstep without warning"
Ana's subconscious: "Eww, this guy is creepy. He's definitely dangerous and stalker-like, and you're being a bit of a ho-bag"
Ana's inner goddess: "Oh, but he's so dreamy"
Ana: "I'm going to succumb to your every whim now, but later I'm going to moan about it"

This is what happens, time and time again. The process gets repeated so much, you could probably just condense the entire book down into one meeting, one revision of "the contract" and one sex scene. Nothing gets learned, Ana has some inner turmoil, but immediately turns to jelly every time she sees her new lover. It's exhausting, and it may be a bit more bearable if there was some actual interesting writing going on, but it's the same references, the same descriptions, the same utterances.

Fifty Shades Of Grey is a one-dimensional book filled with one-dimensional characters. I wish the book itself was one-dimensional, so I hadn't wasted two days ploughing through 500 pages. So yes, it's bad. It's not the most awful thing I've ever read, but it's certainly the worst book I've read. That probably doesn't mean much coming from me, I'm not a big reader, and I'm quite discerning with my literature, but this certainly isn't an experience I enjoyed. Now I know for sure that the movie adaptation can only be poor at best. So check back tomorrow, when my misery has been fully realised.

My rating: 1/5

Saturday 14 February 2015

Today's Review: Shaun The Sheep The Movie

I can't say I've watched many episodes of Shaun The Sheep, but I certainly have a soft spot for Aardman, so while I didn't jump at the chance to catch the Shaun The Sheep movie, I certainly didn't mind giving it a go. The movie follows the eponymous Shaun, who is fed up of his daily routine on the farm and fancies a holiday. After lulling the farmer to sleep, an unfortunate turn of events sees the head of the farm hurtling towards town trapped in a caravan, as you do. So it's up to Shaun to head off and rescue the farmer, with some help from Bitzer the dog and the rest of the flock.

The plot is pretty thin on the ground, and this movie does rely on several wedged in scenes to pad out the running time and provide some slapstick comedy. For the most part it works quite well, but it's pretty obvious that the storyline isn't all that. Still, I didn't leave the cinema feeling cheated, there was enough content to keep me interested, and it's certainly not overly long, so I didn't get bored.

The thing that might put some people off is the fact that there's no dialogue at all, much like the TV series. But hey, when Wall-E didn't have dialogue for its entire first act critics were singing from the rooftops, so surely an entire movie like that is even better? Well, actually, it's all done very well. There are a good many bleats from the sheep, and mumbles from the human characters, and while they do go someway to establishing emotions and plot points, the movie relies a lot on its visuals, which are impeccably presented. This is done in the good old traditional Aardman style, and everything looks great. The movie relies a lot on visual gags, which are present in spades, and they certainly gave me a good few chuckles while watching.

Shaun The Sheep is a solid family movie. Kids of all ages should be able to enjoy it, with its striking visuals that clearly communicate the plot and provide some pretty decent comedy. It may not be the best movie on this half term (*cough* Big Hero 6 *cough*) but you can't go wrong with this one.

My rating: 4/5 

Friday 13 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Valentine's Meal For Two: Sweet

Yesterday I tackled the main courses and sides I picked up with the Valentine's meal deal from Tesco, and today I'm moving onto the desserts. It's a hard job, but someone's gotta do it. I chose some pretty nice looking offerings, and although you can't quite see the chocolate heart torte in the picture there, let me tell you, it certainly looks the part.

This is one I picked up mainly because it looked a bit different from the various forms of cake on the shelf. Raspberry and lemon seemed like an interesting mixture, and the topping with white chocolate curls looked pretty nice too. In essence, it's nothing fancy, it's a lot like a trifle. There's a raspberry jelly at the bottom, which is nice, smooth and fruity. On top of that, there's the lemon curd. I'm assured it's Sicilian lemon, but it doesn't taste particularly fancy. Nice though. The topping is probably the best part, a nice creamy mousse infused with mascarpone and lemon, that really adds flavour on top of other ingredients. The white chocolate is a welcome addition too, providing a nice bit of texture to the creaminess. All in all, it does seem a lot like a jumped up trifle, but it's definitely tasty, so while it's a little bland, it's certainly worth a go.

My rating: 4/5

This is the dessert that really had me salivating. It's a nice thick wedge, in a perfect heart shape, with the main body consisting of a fantastically creamy chocolate cheesecake. On top there's a layer of dark chocolate, which isn't overly noticeable but is a nice touch. The only thing I wasn't sure of was the base. Having a cheesecake centre, you'd expect a bit of digestive on the bottom, but instead it's a fairly ordinary chocolate sponge. It's nice, sure, but I wasn't expecting it, and I found it didn't go too well, and just blended into the cheesecake without adding much to the dish. Still, this dessert is very nice, and there's a lot of it too, especially compared to the other dessert I picked up. 

Tesco Finest Chocolate Hearts Box

Neither me or the missus are big wine drinkers, so I opted for this chocolate box to round off the meal. It's nice to have an alternative for those who don't want to get boozy, and the packaging certainly gives off a romantic air. But it's what's inside that counts.

Well, top marks for presentation. Every one of these is perfectly decorated, from the dusting on the champagne chocolated to the oddly compelling white etchings on the back of the dark vanilla chocolate. I often find with big fancy boxes like this that there a few I have to choke down, and I certainly wasn't looking forward to eating some of these. But I was pleasantly surprised. The champagne chocolate isn't too heavy on the champagne, and has a nice thick white chocolate shell to add some creaminess. There's a darjeeling tea chocolate that I was certain I'd hate, but it actually works extremely well, a lovely subtle tea flavour that blends in very nicely with the dark chocolate surrounding it. There wasn't one chocolate in this box that I didn't like, they all have lovely balances of chocolate and filling, with top notch praline, vanilla, raspberry and more that make for a great variety of flavours. The centrepiece is a simple chocolate heart, but it's huge and thick. Definitely one for you to split with your significant other, and the perfect finish to a great box of chocolates.

My rating: 5/5

So if you're feeling frugal this Valentine's Day, or just don't fancy battling the crowds and want a nice meal indoors with minimal effort, have a look at the Tesco Finest Valentine's Meal For Two. There's quite a wide selection of dishes that all look pretty damn good, and the price is nothing to be sniffed at. I would try and make a tentative pun regarding "sniffed" and flowers, but you guys don't deserve to be punished.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Valentine's Dinner For Two: Savoury

I was pleased to receive a voucher from Tesco a few days ago in order to purchase their Finest Valentine's meal deal. After all, the day is fast approaching, and while I don't buy into the overpriced, crowded meal out, it was nice to try out a cheaper alternative. Sure, some may like to cook from scratch for their loved ones on the special day, but if you're like us and have three kids to wrangle during the day, shoving some prepared food into the oven may be all you have the energy for. 

The Finest Valentine's meal deal gives you two main dishes, two sides, two desserts, and either a bottle of wine or champagne, or a pretty impressive looking box of chocolates, which is obviously the one I chose. The total price is a very nice £20, which certainly won't leave you out of pocket compared to other dinner alternatives on the day. The deal itself only started yesterday, so I ran out and picked out a selection that interested me. But with seven separate products to review, and only two days until Valentine's Day, I'm going to do something a little different and condense my reviews into two posts. Today will be the savoury main course, while tomorrow I'll showcase the desserts. So without further ado, let's tuck in.

This was the dish that really caught my eye. It's a big meaty lamb shank, in a pool of onion gravy, and surrounded by vegetables. Well, I say surrounded, but vegetable support is a little thin on the ground. When the ingredients said "carrot" I didn't quite expect a singular carrot. Still, it was a nice carrot, and there were a few parsnips to tuck into as well. Quite soft, not the crispy kind that I'm used to whipping up, but certainly flavoursome. But I wasn't there for the vegetables, not when there was a big hunk of meat to tuck into. The lamb is fantastically tender, and very meaty indeed. It slid off the bone very easily, and there were no nasty bits I encountered while chewing. Just a simply tasty, meaty treat, packed full of flavour. The gravy adds even more, a lovely, subtle onion flavour that complements the meat beautifully. This dish is definitely a winner, and if lamb isn't your thing, there's also a gammon shank available that should be just as good.

My rating: 5/5

I'm a sucker for steak, so I couldn't pass this one up. This dish contains pulled Scotch beef in a Barolo red wine sauce, with mushrooms, spinach and gnocchi. I must say, I wasn't a big fan of this. The gnocchi is very thick, and any sauce you gather on it doesn't really stay put, so often I was chewing quite a dry dumpling. As for the sauce itself, it's okay. Flavoursome, yes, and with plenty to go around, but it was a little too dark and full on for my liking. But hey, I'm not a big fan of wine, so maybe that's what put me off. The mushrooms and spinach, I have no complaints about. They're nice, and they do what they came to do, and that's to complement the meat. The steak is where this dish shines. It's soft, tender, and packed with flavour. I could barely taste any fat while eating, just nice big chunks of succulent meat. I would have given this dish more points based on the steak alone, but the gnocchi did put me off, especially when eating it with the steak. Having two distinct textures in one mouthful isn't the best experience, and I was always left chewing on the dumpling for longer than I'd have liked. If you're a fan of gnocchi, by all means give it a go. There are a few other beefy options available for those who are just here for the steak though.

My rating: 3/5

Now, I love mushrooms, but I'm thinking I perhaps went a little overboard while picking out this meal. The steak has mushrooms, and this gratin has even more. There's a nice bit of spinach thrown in there that adds a nice bit of flavour, but it's certainly drowned out by the sheet volume of mushrooms. Don't get me wrong, they're nice mushrooms, but there were just too many compared to the other elements. The Gruyere cheese topping is very good, but there's just not enough to cover everything, and more often than not I just got a mouthful of mushrooms. Great if you're crazy about mushrooms, but I would have liked a little more variety in the dish.

My rating: 3/5

With all the fancy ingredients thrown into these things, it seems odd to go with just chips. But these aren't ordinary chips, they're triple cooked. They've been fried twice before you even open the packet, and basted in goose fat, so all that remains is for you to cook them the third time. This one requires a little more preparation than the others, you need to take them out halfway through to roll them around in the melted goose fat. But by jove it works. These chips come out fantastically crispy. The insides are beautifully soft and fluffy, while the outsides absorb the fat spectacularly, leaving very little greasiness, but a satisfying crunch. These chips are quite simply delicious, especially when dipped into the gravy that comes with the lamb shank. Definitely a side worth purchasing.

My rating: 5/5

So there you have it. Two sides and two mains, two great, two alright. But hey, there are plenty more to choose from, and this definitely is a good deal for a pretty fancy looking Valentine's meal, so nip down to Tesco and check it out. I plan to have the review of the sweet stuff up early tomorrow, so watch this space. You really do need to go and buy those chips though. 

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Today's Review: Hula Hoops Puft

Hula Hoops are a classic, nice crunchy potato rings that you can't help but squeeze onto your fingers before eating. For as long as I remember they've remained unchanged, in relatively few flavours, but now we have Hula Hoops Puft, a lighter, puffier version.

Well, they don't seem to be air popped, which seems to be the trend with crisps right now. Instead, they're just puffed. I don't know the motive behind it. Sure, there are less calories, but maybe it's just a chance to try a twist on a classic. These Hula Hoops are bigger than the average, and substantially thicker too, but as far as density goes they're quite a bit lighter. The texture is interesting, much like Quavers or Pom Bears. In fact, to me, these are right in the middle, the flavour of original Pom Bears, but with the thickness of Quavers. It's interesting to have that texture in Hula Hoop form was a little strange at first, but hey, it works.

As for the flavour, it's pretty good. There's definitely a salted taste on each hoop, but I found while I got quite a hit of flavour after first popping one in my mouth, it didn't take long for it to fade and leave me with just the taste of crisp itself. I think perhaps the hoops are a little too big, and there's not enough flavour to stop them becoming bland as you eat. Still, this is a nice variety of Hula Hoops that's worth a go, especially with such a low calorie count. They don't reach the heights of the classic ones though.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Today's Review: Vimto Candy Spray

Do you ever want some sweets, but can't be bothered to go through that tiresome process of chewing? Well, Vimto has the product for you, in the form of this candy spray. Want a sugary hit? Spray it in your face. Want to share the joy with someone else? Tell them to open their trap and give them a squirt. It's fun for all the family.

I bought this spray candy a while ago, but neglected to review it for some reason. I'm a big fan of Vimto products, so this seemed as good a one as any to try. As I've already stated, it's a candy spray. Simply aim it at your tongue, press the top and you get a nice jet of Vimto goodness. There's not much more to it than that, but as far as this spray is concerned, the line between drink and sweet is seriously blurred. The spray is somewhat thick and sugary, sure, but it's not that far off the actual Vimto drink. It certainly tastes the same, a dark, fruity taste with hints of apple, blackcurrant and raspberry, but this more quenched my thirst than satisfied my sweet tooth. This may be a nice little novelty, but it's certainly not necessary. If I want the drink, I'll buy it. If I want some food, I'll buy the sweets. This candy spray occupies a middle ground, and just doesn't taste as good as the products either side.

My rating: 3/5

Monday 9 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Cinnamon Squares

Over four years ago, in my second review, I told the tale of my life long hatred of cinnamon, beginning with the accidental consumption of Cinnamon Grahams. Since I've started reviewing, however, I have finally weaned myself onto the taste of cinnamon, enjoying many treats that contain the spice. But a little while ago I decided to revisit my food nemesis, although I didn't fancy paying full price for the proper branded stuff only to eject it violently from my mouth. So upon spying this Tesco cinnamon cereal, displayed within their 3 for £3 section, I figured it was worth a try. After all, if it went wrong, I had two other cereals to wash it down with.

These are, basically, cinnamon squares. They're crunchy rice and wheat squares, covered in cinnamon. The main thing I noticed upon eating a spoonful is that I certainly didn't mind the taste. Hooray, my mortal food enemy has become an ally! The spiciness is certainly not very pronounced, and lends a nice sweetness to what would otherwise be some bland cereal squares. That's not to say this cereal is without its problems. The squares themselves are not as crunchy as I expected. They're quite thick and a little stodgy, and the addition of milk only makes it worse. Sure, they have a bit of crunch if you eat them quickly enough, but they are a little too soft for my liking. As for the cinnamon, while I certainly didn't mind it, there is just too much spread on. Every time I tip the box up a load of powder comes out, and it just contributes to a bit of an overload where the cinnamon is concerned. This isn't an awful cereal, it's an interesting start to the morning, but I'm sure it could be more well made. But now I know my next mission, to buy a box of Curiously Cinnamon and chow down.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 8 February 2015

Today's Review: McVitie's Deli Choc White Chocolate

I tried out the regular milk chocolate version of Deli Choc a week or so ago, and while I wasn't blown away, it was a pretty nice biscuit. This week I've picked up the white chocolate variety, because White chocolate is awesome, and there's certainly no White Choco Leibniz that it can be an inferior version of.

Well, the only difference between this and the last is the chocolate, but it's certainly a difference I noticed. It's a nice thick topping of creamy chocolate, very sweet, but light at the same time. It's pretty much like having a slab of Milkybar on your biscuit. The odd thing is that I enjoyed the biscuit in this variety more than the milk chocolate. I guess the extra sweetness in the white chocolate offsets the overly sugary taste of the biscuits. This is a very sweet package in all, but it's well balanced, so snacking on one is a very delicious treat that doesn't  become too sickly. I may not have been tempted to pick up the milk chocolate again, but I'm sure I'll be buying more of these.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday 7 February 2015

Today's Review: The Trivial Pursuit Wedge

Is it cheese? Is it pie? Or is it even cake? The nature of the wedge has been long been debated, but in reality the form of food you associate it with is not important. The wedge is symbolic of something else, a victory in a struggle to answer a very specific question. Will it be the category of your choice? It doesn't matter, you need to get them all to win.

There are many versions of Trivial Pursuit, but the wedge is the same. Whether you're going for the classic, or a more specific edition like Disney or Lord Of The Rings, the wedge remains the same. It's an iconic piece of board game history. Not quite the same level as the die, but the die is representative of luck. The wedge is a testament to knowledge. Show anyone a Trivial Pursuit wedge and they'll know what it is, whether they love it or hate it. The wedge itself is unassuming, a well designed piece of board game history, and it deserves to be celebrated. As for me, I think it's pie.

My rating: 5/5

Friday 6 February 2015

Today's Review: Flumps

Once again I remain bored on a Friday night, with nothing new and exciting to stuff into my face, so I resorted to digging through the assorted box of snacks that the whole family have access to. Today I found a Flump. Can you call it a Flump? The packet says "Flumps", but there's only one piece in there. Is Flumps the singular? Nah, I don't buy that. If you're eating one, it must just be a Flump.

A Flump is a long twisty marshmallow. Not much more to it than that, apart from that it's vanilla flavoured. You might be lead into thinking strawberry or some other red/pink fruit were involved, but no, the colouring is just there to make it look pretty. Besides, vanilla is a good enough flavouring for a marshmallow, we don't need anything fancy here. Now, it may look like you can unravel this thing like a big fluffy Cheesestring, but you can't. I should know, I just opened another one and tried it, and then I had to eat it. The things I do for you guys. So the bad news is that it's all one, slightly sliced, entity. But the good news is that it doesn't matter. This thing tastes so good that you shouldn't waste time picking at it, you should just shove it in your face. Nibble it, devour it, wrap it around your gums like oddly shaped dentures, it doesn't matter. What you'll get is a wonderfully soft, very flavoursome marshmallow that is very moreish. This is another one of those bargain sweets that is a classic for very good reason. If you haven't eaten a Flump, you're probably committing treason or something, so just go and buy one. You won't be sorry.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 5 February 2015

Today's Review: Cadbury Freddo Sprinkles

Easter treats are fast filling up the shelves, and there's no better time to introduce a seasonal chocolate treat. Cadbury already have a well established place in the Easter market, but that hasn't stopped them releasing a new type of Freddo for the season. This is a Freddo Sprinkles, which is a Freddo, but with sprinkles. Don't ask me what that has to do with Easter, but Freddo frog there has some bunny ears, so it's obvious what they're going for. I guess multicoloured sprinkles is in keeping with some kind of spring theme, so whatever.

There's really not too much to say about this. It's a Freddo, with sprinkles. The standard Dairy Milk Freddo, which we all know and love, but throughout its core you have several colourful crunchy bits. I thought it was a bit of an odd match, and after eating it I can't say I changed my mind. Other varieties of Freddo have always gone down well with me, from caramel to strawberry to popping candy, each one has offered an extra bit of flavour or a bang for your buck. This one just has sprinkles. The result is some very nice, sweet chocolate, but one with an odd, gritty texture. The sprinkles don't add any flavour, just a uniform gritty, sugary taste that really distracts from the chocolate. For me it's just way too sweet, without adding much of value. Sure, the chocolate is still nice, but you can get that from a regular Freddo. I would say this is a nice, novel idea, but even on paper I wasn't convinced. I think I'll search elsewhere for my favourite Easter treat.

My rating: 2/5

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Today's Review: Cadbury Creme Egg Pots Of Joy

I missed out on reviewing these Creme Egg Pots Of Joy last year, mostly because I'm not a massive fan of Creme Eggs and I didn't fancy paying full price for a creamy dessert version. But today, I gave it a go. I've heard nothing but good things about the Pots Of Joy, and this one promised to be as good as any, boasting melted milk chocolate and a fondant layer. Whether this dessert has been the victim of Creme Egg-gate, I'm not sure, but I dove in anyway.

The chocolate layer on top is great, very creamy, and certainly reminiscent of the Cadbury chocolate we all know and love. But of course, this is a Creme Egg Pot Of Joy, so that fondant is the main attraction, and it's certainly present here. The majority of the pot is fondant, and it even includes the trademark yellow yolk. When eaten together, it tastes just like a melted Creme Egg, so I guess Cadbury have done their job very well. But since I find Creme Eggs a little too sickly for my liking, I found that same effect with this dessert. It could have been worse, the extra creaminess present due to the melted quality didn't put me off any more, I certainly enjoyed the first couple of spoonfuls. But by the end it was just a little too much sugar. I'd certainly recommend it to any Creme Egg heads out there, and even for those who are sick of the eggs themselves, you may find these better than you expect. This isn't an essential purchase for me though.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Today's Review: Warburtons Milk Roll

I like bread, but bread is not particularly good for you. I've been counting calories later, and a regular two-slice sandwich can set you back upwards of 250 on bread alone. So when I spotted this small, round loaf of bread on the shelves, I knew it would be a good food item for dieters. Actually, it was the cute cartoon cow that caught my attention, but the first but still stands.

This is a milk roll, a small, cylindrical loaf of bread. Each slice is pretty small, but at only 47 calories I wasn't complaining. I think the best thing about this loaf is that it's round. Why do sandwiches always have to be rectangular or square? So many sandwich fillings are round, from ham to tomato, so having a bread shape to suit them makes for some neat looking, uniformly filled sandwiches.

Aesthetics aside, this is some damn good bread. We regularly buy Warburtons Toastie as its a lovely soft white that makes great toast, and the milk roll is pretty much the same. Each slice is quite thin, but it's certainly very soft, well worthy of sticking in the toaster or just loading up with fillings. This is a very tasty bread that's great for a low calorie snack, and also for kid's lunchboxes. I'll most likely be picking up more in the future.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 2 February 2015

Today's Review: Reese's Pieces Eggs

Easter is coming, and the shelves are filling up with novelty versions of your favourite treats. In recent years I have been delighted by the expanding range of Reese's peanut butter snacks that have graced our shores, and I was excited to find a couple in the seasonal aisle of Tesco. Aside from an Easter Bunny version of the peanut butter snowman, I found this sizeable box of Reese's Pieces Eggs.

Basically, they're what they say on the box. Big Reese's Pieces that are shaped like eggs. They're the same size as Mini Eggs, so it's a significant increase in size from the Pieces, and while I was immediately worried that the increase in filling would be far too sickly, I still had to give them a go. After all, even the chock full snowman was a damn good treat. 

The shell is a nice thick offering, pretty much the same as you'd find in a pack of Mini Eggs. It certainly doesn't have the same texture though, opting for a more shiny exterior, while still being quite brittle throughout. The peanut butter filling is as awesome as ever, a creamy, sweet, smooth chunk of goodness that is definitely filling, but isn't all that sickly. A few eggs may have been enough for me overall, but I definitely enjoyed eating them. This is a nice big box of eggs that should last for a few servings, and it's a nice, interesting treat for Easter.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday 1 February 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Salted Caramel Doughnuts

Having reviewed the red velvet doughnuts from Tesco a few weeks ago, I thought it wouldn't be long until I went back and bought the salted caramel doughnuts that were sitting right next to them. Well, today I finally did, and I was wondering why it took me so long to pick them up. Doughnuts are great, salted caramel is great, so both together must be amazing, right?

Well, these certainly look the part. A nice frosty glazing, topped with salted caramel flavoured fudge pieces, and the dough is full of salted caramel flavour filling. Yes, "flavoured", it's not quite the real stuff, which is a little baffling considering it's probably the right consistency. But hey, gotta keep costs down I guess. The filling isn't actually bad. It's thick and goopy, much like you'd expect the real thing to be, and it's certainly flavoursome, very sweet with a slight salty kick. The fudge pieces are great as well, soft and chewy and also packed with flavour. The dough, however, is where I wasn't too convinced. It's a very heavy, dark dough, which is certainly in keeping with the dark salted caramel theme. But it's a little too stodgy, and the heaviness left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth which detracted from the sweetness of the salted caramel elements. This is certainly a filling doughnut, and I certainly don't regret buying them, but a lighter dough would have made for a much tastier experience in my opinion. These may not be perfect, but it's another great bakery idea from Tesco that's worth a try.

My rating: 4/5