Thursday 31 December 2015

Today's Review: Cathedral City Sweet Chilli Mature Cheddar

The festive season isn't complete without a whole load of cheese, and while I've devoured my fair share over the last week, I can't say there's ever anything new and exciting happening in the world of cheese. But yesterday I spied this new variety of Cathedral Cheddar, and since it's my family's go to cheese, and a spicy version at that, it flew off the shelf and straight into my basket.

This cheese cost £2.50 for a pretty meagre block, but I know the base is all good stuff, so I didn't mind paying a bit extra. The cheddar is your good old Cathedral City, a bold, creamy cheese that's packed with a lot of flavour. The kicker here is the chilli, and it's pretty good. It's not an overly spicy element, but there's a lovely undertone of heat that sticks around for a while after the cheese is gone, accompanied by a nice peppery flavour. Sadly, in this case, the great taste of the Cathedral City is its downfall, as the mature cheddar somewhat overtakes the chilli, leaving it a bit imbalanced. But it's still a nice tasty cheese that's good for those who want a little bit of spice.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Today's Review: Nescafé Café Menu Gingerbread Latte

Christmas may be over, but this afternoon I did my first food shop since the big day, and I've picked up a few festive dregs from the clearance aisles, as well as this limited edition version of Nescafé's Café Menu sachet drinks. I've grown to like gingerbread over the years, and it suits a latte pretty well, so I figured I'd give this a go while it was still relevant.

The instructions seem fairly simple, although there seem to be a lot of precise numbers on the back here. 85 degrees? 20 second wait time? I'm just trying to make a cup of coffee, I don't want to have to pack a thermometer and a stopwatch, and apparently a proper glass coffee house mug as well. Okay, I jest, I'm not up in arms about it. Basically you empty the sachet into a mug, pour some not quite boiling water on top, and stir it up twice, with an interval in between. This is meant to give it a lovely froth on top, but when I did it it didn't quite produce the amount that's displayed on the box. Maybe I should have prepared it in a proper glass mug after all.

The froth is present though, and it's quite latte like. The coffee is smooth and has a nice flavour to it, but the gingerbread sadly doesn't live up to the rest of the drink. I noticed on the ingredients that there's a distinct lack of ginger, and it shows in the taste. There's some amount of spice, but it's quite acidic and not particularly pleasant. I was somewhat glad when the milkiness of the coffee itself overwhelmed the flavour. While the gingerbread element isn't up to scratch, this is still an adequate latte. Not the standard you'd get in a coffee shop, but for something you knock up in your house with just a mug and a spoon it's not bad.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Today's Review: Market Deli Crisps: Flame Grilled Spanish Chorizo With Roasted Onions

Looks like I'm back onto the crisps, and while I've skipped over the Market Deli crisps before (mostly due to price) I did pick up this bag the other day. The other flavours are mostly generic sounding, but this chorizo and onion sounded interesting enough. Market Deli crisps are from the makers of Walkers, and aren't by Walkers, even though Walkers make crisps and these are still crisps. But hey, go figure.

These crisps are pretty good quality, they're nice and thick cut and have a satisfying crunch to them. On top of that, they're pretty packed with flavour, and it's a good one. The chorizo part is pretty meaty, and has a nice hint of spice to it, though it does feel a bit imbalanced, relying more on the heat than the meat. I guess it's a good thing, spice is easier to get right than a meat flavour, but the result is just a little bit off. The onion is well represented, providing a nice flavoursome undertone that evens out the flavour. All in all, it's a good packet of crisps that delivers the flavours it promises on the front. They may be a little imbalanced, but I certainly enjoyed them.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 28 December 2015

Today's Review: Sweet Sounds Fizz Bombs

Christmas is over, as well as the weekend, so the shops are open like normal again (except for the end of this week of course). So I popped into Poundland today on the hunt for something interesting. Sadly, there wasn't much on offer, but my eye was certainly drawn to this vibrant boombox style box of sweets. These are Sweet Sounds, and apparently they are fruit flavoured fizz bombs. The music references are certainly piled on heavily on the exterior, with the repeating catchphrase "Turn Up The Fizz", but in reality I fail to see are related to audio in any way.

These sweets come in five flavours. Well, I use the word "flavours" loosely, as these are nothing but sugar, acid, flavourings and colours, so I'll say these come in green, yellow, orange, red and blue flavours. To be fair, that's exactly what they taste like. The sweet itself is a relatively inoffensive offering, clearly not the best quality you'd find, but pretty much your run of the mill boiled sweet. Fruity tasting, yes, but clearly not authentic. The kicker in these is the "fizz", which consists of a sherbet coating that adds a nice amount of fizziness when you first pop it in your mouth. It is gone a little too soon, but thankfully there's some more at the centre that rounds it off nicely. The sherbet is a nice touch, it elevates these from boring boiled sweets to something pretty nice. Certainly not great, I've popped a few in my mouth while writing this review and I can already feel the scratchiness on my tongue, but they're good enough for a hit of something sweet.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 27 December 2015

Today's Review: Flaming Grill Pubs' Chilli Brownie

Desserts nowadays may be all about salted caramel and peanut butter, but haven't you ever just had a hankering for a spicy pudding? Flaming Grill has you covered, because now you can stuff your face with this chilli brownie. It consists of a chilli and chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and raspberry coulis, topped off with a chilli flavoured ice cream. 

Sounds like a lot of chilli, right? Well, it's not bad actually. The brownie is nice and moist, and also fairly filling. It has a lovely dark chocolate flavour, with a fair amount of chilli that does overwhelm at some points, but the chocolate does a good job of balancing it out. The sauces add some more sweetness, although they are quite rich. The ice cream is probably the most interesting element, providing some more spice but also a nice cooling sensation, and it works quite well alleviating some of the heaviness of the brownie. All in all it's a nice dessert, but it is a little imbalanced, relying more on the chilli than it probably should. Swap the ice cream for plain vanilla, and hold back on the sauces, and this could be a lot better. As it is, it's just a little too spicy and rich. Definitely an interesting alternative to your regular dessert though.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 26 December 2015

Today's Review: Candy Kitten Sour Grape Candy

I don't have allergies, nor am I gluten free or vegan. But I've always had my eye on these Candy Kitten sweets, they look pretty tasty, but their gluten free nature is reflected in their price. Thankfully I found this bag for a pound the other day, so I took the plunge and picked up the sour grape flavour.

These may be gluten free, but they do have a lot of gelatin, so disregard my vegan statement. These do have a bit of a fruity flavour to start with, and it's a little bit fruity, but since there's no actual grape in the ingredients it's certainly not an authentic flavour. Not that it matters too much, it quickly fades, and turns into simply a chewy, not particularly nice sweet. For some reason I feel like I can taste the beef gelatin, the flavour seems to be much like a barn at a farm smells like. Probably not the actual case, but if you can't tell it means I certainly didn't like these. I think I'll stick with the regular sweet from now on.

My rating: 1/5

Friday 25 December 2015

Today's Review: Pie Face

It just ain't Christmas without a good party game, and this year the highlight of the household was Pie Face, popularised by a video that did the rounds on Facebook which then became the official ad for the game.

The premise is simple, there's a base with a crank, attached to a hand that you load up with squirty cream (or maybe shaving foam if you're feeling sadistic). Then you take it in turns to place your head on the chin rest, spin for a number, and twist the crank that number of times. If the hand doesn't launch cream into your face you win some points, if it does then, obviously, you get cream in your face.

It's a simple game, but it is certainly good for a chuckle. Despite having a set of rules, our game just devolved into laughing at each other for getting a face full of cream, and that's really what it's all about. It's certainly not in depth, but that's great, as kids of any age can join in. In a world of Monopoly and various other intense, long lasting board games, this is a great little party game that will get everyone laughing. Just make sure you put a towel down first.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 24 December 2015

Today's Review: Kettle Chips White Stilton & Cranberry Relish

Well, it looks like I'm having a merry crisp-mas. Ha! Ha ha! Anyway, I was wondering why there wasn't a seasonal edition of Kettle Chips for this season, but I stumbled upon a lone bag of these in Sainsbury's earlier. Now, this isn't the first pack of cheese and cranberry crisps I've tried this year, and not even the first bag of cheese and cranberry Kettle Chips I've had, but both of those left me feeling quite disappointed. Could these be different?

In short, absolutely. These have a very distinctive Stilton flavour, a bold and wonderfully creamy cheese taste that even appears to have something of a crumbly texture. I thought it might be a bit too much, but I couldn't stop eating these, the flavour is just great. The cranberry isn't understated either, it's a persistent sweet undertone that adds a lovely hint of fruitiness throughout the whole bag. It says stilton and cranberry on the bag, and stilton and cranberry these are indeed. This is the best seasonal flavour I've tried in a while, and I'm a bit upset I could only find the one bag.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Today's Review: Tyrrell's Sunday Best Roast Lamb With Rosemary Crisps

Another day, another pack of Tyrrell's. It's not often I find two flavours I haven't tried at the same time, maybe I've been slacking, but I snagged these lamb and rosemary crisps alongside the lobster cocktail I reviewed yesterday. These seem a much more palatable flavour for a crisp, and despite the fact that I'm not really a fan of meaty flavour, these sounded pretty nice to me.

These do taste like lamb, I'll give them that. It's a nice, full meaty flavour that certainly brings about visions of a nice lamb roast. If it were on its own it may be a little weak though, but thankfully the rosemary is there to add a lovely hint og herb and another level of flavour. The rosemary is a little strong though, and since the lamb is a little weak it ends up being the dominant flavour, but the meatiness holds its own and there's a definite overall lamb flavour that makes this a pretty good bag of crisps. Certainly not the best flavour Tyrrell's has put out, but some good lamb flavoured crisps that are well worth trying out.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Today's Review: Tyrrell's Lobster Cocktail Crisps

Tyrrell's have brought out a definitive festive flavour this year, but they don't sound particularly interesting, just red and white salted crisps. But, perusing the crisp aisle instead of the festive one, I stumbled upon this variety that I haven't tried before, and I'm not sure how new it is. This is Lobster Cocktail, which is some amount of degrees away from prawn cocktail, which is certainly Christmas related, so I'll run with that.

I didn't quite understand the "cocktail" part of "lobster cocktail" until I read the ingredients, and saw that the rest of the cocktail consists of other seafoods, like prawn and oyster. There's also some paprika and garlic added in, but I think the main focus was on the sea life, as these crisps taste distinctly fishy. Now, I've never eaten actual lobster, but I imagine it would taste slightly more refined than these crisps do given its reputation. Don't get me wrong, these taste more authentically fishy than any other fishy crisp I've tried, but the flavour does seem to be more prawn than anything else. I guess I can't blame Tyrrell's too much, I assume it's difficult to encapsulate lobster into potato form, and they haven't done a bad job, I just hoped that they'd have more of a unique taste. Still, there's not many dedicated sea life based crisps out there, so if that's your craving these will suit you well. They're not bad, but I'm not sure I'll dive in again. Ha, get it?

My rating: 3/5

Monday 21 December 2015

Today's Review: Metcalfe's Honey Bee Popcorn

Sweet popcorn flavours are continuing to emerge, when will it end, and more importantly, would we want it to? The latest interesting flavour I spied was this "Honey Bee" popcorn from Metcalfe's, which is apparently honey on toast flavour. Why the toast, I'm not sure, but hey, honey popcorn is something I've never tried before, so in my basket it went.

I'm still not sure about the toast part, I certainly didn't taste any toast in there, and there's nothing toast-like in the ingredients. There is some honey powder in there though, and that lends to a quite nice, authentic honey flavour. It's sweet and smooth, and really permeates throughout the whole bag, while being light enough to not overwhelm everything else. There is quite a bit of sugar on top though, and that makes just a little too sweet. There's also some salt thrown in, which is quite noticeable, and is a little jarring compared to the high amount of sweetness going on. Still, this is popcorn that tastes like honey, it delivers what it promised. Definitely another nice sweet flavour you can choose from for your food shopping.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday 20 December 2015

Today's Review: Gü Velvety Belgian Chocolate

I reviewed two of these Gü chocolate cartons late last year, and found them extremely enjoyable. Winter has rolled around again, and it's the kind of weather that calls for hot chocolate, so I was delighted to see this variety that I certainly didn't find last year, it's a Belgian chocolate that you can enjoy either hot or cold. 

Well, I only had it hot, perhaps I'll buy some in the summer for cold drinking purposes, but I couldn't resist popping this in the microwave. The preparation is the same as the other flavours, you just pour it in a cup and nuke it for a minute or two. The result is a lovely smooth chocolate drink, very rich but with enough of a creamy texture for it not to get overly sickly after one cup. The flavour is similar to that of Häagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream, and that's only a good thing. From what I recall this chocolate is a little thicker than the regular variety, but it's definitely tasty and it didn't last long once I'd started drinking. This is another delicious addition to an already awesome range, so pick one up if you fancy a great hot chocolate at home with none of the fuss.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday 19 December 2015

Today's Review: Malt-O-Meal Marshmallow Mateys

Malt-O-Meal provide some fairly decent off brand American cereals that I've actually seen in a few places in the UK. I've tried their own versions of Cap'n Crunch and Apple Jacks, as well as the chocolate variety of this cereal, but I figured it was time to try out Marshmallow Mateys, their answer to Lucky Charms.

They look pretty similar, apart from the cereal pieces that are shaped like little anchors (that's pretty cute). The marshmallow pieces have different shapes, sure, but they're all small and brightly coloured. I went into this with a fair idea of how Lucky Charms taste, although I haven't had a box in a while, and these just don't seem as good. The marshmallows are nice and sweet, but a little on the soft side, and there aren't quite as many as I'd hoped. The cereal is crunchy, and tastes pretty good when combined with the milk and marshmallow, but it doesn't really stand out. It's just pretty bland, and overall it was just an average bowl of cereal. As much as I don't remember possessing some kind of crazy love for Lucky Charms, I still think they're better than these. Marshmallow Mateys may be enough to scratch the itch slightly while you mortgage your house to buy a box of Lucky Charms, but they're not particularly great.

My rating: 3/5

Friday 18 December 2015

Today's Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I was going to wait to watch the new Star Wars, but then I realised what a cruel place the internet is, and I didn't quite fancy going offline for the next few days in an ill-fated attempt to avoid spoilers. I even avoided watching too many of the trailers, I wanted my experience to be pure and unsullied. In that vein I'll warn anyone who hasn't seen it, and who is as particular about spoilers as I am, that I'm going to try my absolute best not to give anything away, but I've gotta talk about something, so maybe just go and watch it first and then come back to see if we all agree. After all, that's what whole movie reviews are really for, right? To affirm our own beliefs and abuse those who disagree? Or maybe I've been on the internet for too long.

But I digress. Stars Wars VII is finally here. I remember the announcement, I remember the angry keyboard crusaders, certain that their beloved franchise would be ruined, while also lamenting its death many years prior by George Lucas. The prequels suck, but the originals were good, and handing the whole thing over to Disney was likely certain, Jar Jar Binks laden doom. But I had faith. After all, Disney picked up Marvel, and just check out how those movies are doing.

I feel I've digressed again, so let me just say it, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an amazing movie. It's the return to form that the franchise needs. Formulaically it has many beats that mirror A New Hope, and I've seen many decry this as pure fan service and lack of originality. But to me it was a promise that Star Wars is going back to its roots, there are enough similarities to let fans know that this new trilogy will be so much more original than prequel. But there are also many elements that let you know this isn't George Lucas' Star Wars, some obvious, some very subtle. Star Wars is going in a new direction, but has established its roots and connections to the original trilogy very firmly. 

The new characters are all great. The two leads, played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, are fantastically written and acted, the villain is menacing while also very intriguing, and it almost feels like the veteran Star Wars cast never left. The story is compelling, and packed with some very human moments and great comedic timing. The cinematography is stunning, massive set pieces, wonderful animatronics, awe-inspiring space battles and some particularly good uses of light (you'll see what I mean). Movie technology has come far since A New Hope, and my word does it show. John Williams is back for the music, and he strikes a perfect balance between new themes and old, again planting his feet firmly in the original movies, but also looking to the future, and not a single tune seemed out of place, they all perfectly complement the action on screen.

Star Wars is back, and it is entirely glorious. Despite watching it well past midnight last night, I didn't find myself looking at my watch once, and for me that's a sign of a damn fine movie. I was stuck in my seat, taking it all in. It sounds, looks and feels great. This is the Star Wars you've been waiting for. See, I like it so much, I'm not even going to sign it off with an awful pun. Just go and see the movie.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 17 December 2015

Today's Review: McDonald's Festive Pie

The McDonald's Apple Pie is an interesting little number, I certainly wouldn't place it in the realm of delicious pastry, but I often find myself hankering for one in all its boiling hot, fruity goodness. This Festive Pie is a festive edition (funny that), and ditches the traditional apple filling for one of mincemeat and custard.

Now, I won't pretend that in any way shape or form this is a delicious gourmet dessert, but it certainly isn't bad. The "pastry" is the same as the regular apple pie, a crispy, slightly greasy casing that tastes more like batter than pastry. It's oddly satisfying, but obviously not the best quality. As for the filling, it's pretty good. The mincemeat is your usual mine pie affair, a nice helping of chunky, fruity stuff that provides a good bit of texture and flavour, accompanied by a dollop of custard that, while a little on the heavy side, provides a nice creamy taste that blends in quite well with the rest of the pie. This Festive Pie is a nice conclusion to a McDonald's, clearly not the best dessert on the market, but a nice bit of indulgence with a bit of festive flavour that left me quite satisfied (and slightly greasy).

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Banana Milkshake Bottles

There is a distinct lack of proper milk bottle sweets in some supermarkets. You know the ones, the chewy, powder covered bottles. I normally have to settle for the plain old gummy ones, which are alright, but they don't quite fit the spot. Well, Tesco now have filled the void by bringing out these powdered bottles, yay! Only thing is, they're banana flavoured.

That's not necessarily a bad thing of course, but I wouldn't say banana is my go to flavour for sweets. It's always that very specific, not-quite-banana-but-close-enough taste, and that carries over to these sweets. Banana like, sure, but very sweet and somewhat sickly. The texture of the bottles themselves is pretty good though, nice and soft, with a generous powdery coating. Maybe a little too generous, they are a little on the dry side, but definitely in keeping with the classic milk bottle sweets. The flavour is just a bit too much though, I had to stop after a few as they were too sweet. If you're a fan of banana sweets, these will be right up your street, but I think I'd prefer these to be regular milk flavour.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Today's Review: Shokata Fanta

Well, that's a blue bottle of Fanta. That may have been your first thought, it was definitely mine. Upon closer inspection I found it was named Shokata Fanta, and looking at the shelf label I helpfully informed me that it was blue Fanta. But the back of the bottle gave up all the info, it's lemon and elderflower flavour. Now, I'm not a massive fan of elderflower, and I already know of a perfectly good lemon Fanta, but I figured I'd give this a go.

I don't know if it's the colour of the bottle messing with my brain, but this did taste like blue. The lemon is definitely present, a nice tangy flavour that immediately comes to the front. The elderflower is pretty authentic too, a lovely sweet taste that emerges afterwards and blends together into something quite sweet, and somewhat sour. Unfortunately the flavours fight it out a little too much, and the sweet wins out slightly, making something of a flatter overall flavour than I was expecting. Still, it's a tasty drink, and one you certainly won't miss if you come across it. Pick one up if you fancy a Fanta that's a little bit different.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 14 December 2015

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Belgian Chocolate Yule Log

I reviewed the Morrissons fancy Yule Log two years ago now, back when I was naive and apparently didn't know how to spell Morrisons. I have since failed to take the plunge on another fancy Yule log, but after hearing only good things about this one I decided to hunt one down. I turned up nothing in the seasonal aisles, but as luck would have it I found one perched out of place in the cooked meat section. The supermarket gods were smiling upon me that day. I would go in depth about what this log contains, but it's basically chocolate, wrapped in chocolate, topped with chocolate and garnished with yet more chocolate.

But hey, that's exactly what a Yule log should be, and this one delivers on all fronts. The filling is plentiful, smooth and creamy, while the sponge surrounding it is soft and moist, not detracting at all from the stuff on the inside. The outer coating is simply gorgeous as well, more chocolatey goodness with lashings of belgian chocolate ganache on top. It's a good choice, as at first glance it looks like it could be a soft creamy mess, but it's actually a nice thick, slightly gooey coating that adds yet another layer of texture, and definitely more lovely chocolate flavour. This Yule log is simply fantastic, a celebration of chocolate in its many forms, and one that will certainly let you pile on the pounds this festive season. Shove it in your face, you won't regret it.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday 13 December 2015

Today's Review: Fox's Fingers

Not content with cornering the market on biscuits, Vinnie has decided to bring out his own brand of chocolate fingers that are eerily similar to Cadbury's version. Well, if there's one thing Vinnie probably knows about, it's encroaching on other people's territory. But while Fox's have a smooth talking panda Don, who do Cadbury have? They haven't even chosen a new Milk Tray man yet. So while this turf war may be over in terms of mascot, we can still decide the winner in terms of taste.

These fingers seem pretty flat in comparison to the classic Cadbury ones, but they do appear to have a thicker coating of chocolate. It's certainly not a smooth outer layer, it seems to have been drizzled on generously, and that's certainly reflected in the taste. These fingers are chocolatey and pretty damn delicious. The inside is a nice crumbly shortcake that still possesses a satisfying crunch. It is a little on the gritty sugary side, and it is perhaps a little too sweet when there's already so much sweetness in the chocolate, but it certainly doesn't affect the flavour all that much. There certainly aren't as many fingers as you'd get in a Cadbury box, but these ones are more decadent, a thicker chocolate coating and a sweeter biscuit, so you definitely don't need that many to fill you up. This is a pretty good offering from Fox's, I wouldn't expect anything less based on their other biscuits. They still don't quite beat a Cadbury Finger though.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 12 December 2015

Today's Review: Portlebay Cappuccino Popcorn

I'm always open to a new popcorn brand popping up, especially when they bring some new flavours to the table. The offerings from Portlebay Popcorn are very interesting, with the like of lemon sherbet and chilli and lime, but this cappuccino variety caught my eye. After all, we have toffee popcorn, so why not coffee popcorn?

When I popped open the bag, I was greeted with a nice, sweet coffee smell, and that was reflected in the taste. It's not an overpowering flavour, but there's definitely a nice hint of coffee throughout, akin to the flavour of coffee cake and the like. Unfortunately it is overwhelmed a little by the sugar, it's more of a sweet popcorn with a hint of coffee flavour. Not that it's a bad thing, I'm not sure I could handle a full on coffee flavour in my popcorn. The kernels themselves are nice and crunchy, and I didn't come across any I popped ones, although I did find a few crunchy bundles of sugar. Certainly worse things you can find in a bag of popcorn. 

This is definitely an interesting popcorn flavour, and it's put together pretty well. It's not perfect, but it's certainly enough to make me want to try out the rest of the range. Well worth a try.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 11 December 2015

Today's Review: Ginsters Turkey, Pork Stuffing & Cranberry Slice

If there's one thing I want in a festive flavour, it's a Ginsters slice. Well, actually it wouldn't be my first choice, but this special edition slice has turkey, pork stuffing and cranberry sauce, so it certainly caught my eye. 

This isn't quite as expertly formed as a classic steak slice, but it's not bad. Thr pastry is nice, providing a nice crunch and good flavour. The turkey and pork stuffing are pretty mixed in together, providing a sort of meat patty that has a nice soft, slightly sticky texture that matches the consistency of stuffing. It's not the best quality, but it's filling and sufficiently meaty. The cranberry is nice, but it's pretty few and far between, stuck in in small clumps that add a bit of fruitiness to the slice. It is an interesting addition, but it could have been done a lot better.

This isn't bad. It's not as tasty as the classic flavours, but it's a nicely festive variety. The filling may not be the best quality but it all works out to a pretty alright slice.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 10 December 2015

Today's Review: Cooke's Sea Salt & Vinegar Chip Strips

It's always worth browsing the crisp aisle in case there's an interesting new flavour, or occasionally an entirely new product. I came across the interestingly shaped Chip Strips the other day, available in quite a few flavours, from sea salt to BBQ to wasabi. I went for a standard salt and vinegar, as that seems to be the base flavour with which I judge all new crisp products. But what are Chip Strips, why the long packet? Well, you can pretty much figure it out from the name and picture up there, but here's another just to let it sink in.

They're like crisps, right, but they're really long. Long crisps? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for different shaped crisps, the now classic Pringle shape makes it perfect for placing around the top of your tongue, tortilla chips have their signature triangle, and Squares are a uniformly shaped classic. But those products can all fit right there in your mouth, while this is... just really long. It feels weird taking one out of the packet and eating it like a 2D breadstick, but hey, I guess the snack industry won't revolutionise itself. Maybe this is the next big thing for parties, everyone walking around eating massive rectangular crisps. Thinking about it, this shape is pretty good for dipping, but once you've had the first bite you're wandering into the socially dangerous and unhygienic practice of double dipping. But with these you could go triple dipping, maybe even quadruple dipping! In the wrong hands these chips could turn your salsa into a veritable hive of bacteria.

But enough about the shape, how do they taste? The chips themselves are quite thin, but they're also a little soft, which works out while eating as they don't break into pieces while you're picking them up or biting, and there is a bit of a satisfying crunch when you take a bite. As for the taste, there's definitely a nice salt and vinegar flavour in these, quite clean with neither element overpowering the other, but it's not particularly strong, and on the odd occasion it's lost in the flavour of the chip itself. Perhaps I was just unlucky and picked up one of the more muted flavours, I'm sure I wouldn't have that problem with wasabi or BBQ, but these were pretty average. I'll probably pick up another flavour to form a better judgement, but this one doesn't pack much flavour, and I'm still on the fence about the shape.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Today's Review: The Original Crispy Candy Co. Double Decker Donut & Milkybar Hot Chocolate

It's been two long years since I last visited The Original Crispy Candy Co., and I just couldn't stand it any more. So on my latest trip to London I took a detour to Camden to hunt down some deep fried treats once again. They've moved across the river since my last visit, but the distinct pink panelling caught my eye, and I was ready for everything they had.

The main draw of Crispy Candy is of course the fried candy bars, or "Candy Bar Donuts". It's a pretty accurate description, it's just a matter of choosing which candy bar you want battered and dunked. One of the new addition in the last couple of years is a Double Decker, and since I love the chocolate bar I couldn't resist a deep fried one. 

Pure, hot, melted goodness. As much as I love a Double Decker, the nougat can be a little too chewy sometimes. Thankfully, the frying process eliminates that, as it all melts into a wonderful creamy, chocolatey goop that's packed full of flavour. The chewy pieces remain the same texture though, and add a satisfying crunch. This is, of course, all wrapped up in the unique buttermilk coating, a soft, crunchy delicious batter with a nice sugary dusting on top. This bar certainly didn't last long, and it's one I'll definitely be buying again (once I've exhausted all the other options of course). But wait! There's more.

There's not much better on a cold winter's day than a nice cup of hot chocolate, and you can get one made with a choice of six candy bars. I went for the Milkybar, because a white hot chocolate is still something of a rare occurrence. I'm pleased I did, because the result is spectacular. It's smooth, creamy and nicely filling, a very satisfying drink that tastes just like a Milkybar, with the added bonus of warming you up at the same time. These hot chocolate are a great addition to the menu alongside the pre-existing milkshakes.

The Original Crispy Candy is going on stronger than ever, so get yourself down there for some hot, chocolatey goodness. I know I'll be going there again sooner rather than later.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Today's Review: Mr. Kipling Rich Choc Whirls

Have you ever eaten a Viennese Whirl, but thought you'd rather be eating something pretty much the same, but slightly more fancy? Well, Mr. Kipling heard your very specific request, as he'd churned out these Rick Choc Whirls. They're like Viennese Whirls, but with more chocolate and with only four in a box for the bold price of £1.80. I've been waiting for these to go on offer for a couple of weeks, and I finally picked them up for a pound earlier.

The difference between these and Viennese Whirls isn't major, but it's pretty good. There's a chocolate coating on the top half of the whirl itself, and the filling has been replaced with a chocolate buttercream. Sounded good to me, and these are actually pretty tasty. The buttercream is a little thick, but it certainly is chocolatey, while the chocolate coating adds another nice little hit of flaovur. The only problem is that because the filling is quite thick, the shortcake is a little too much,  and it does taste a bit dry without the lightness of the original cream. Still, these are tasty, and certainly chocolatey, but they certainly don't beat the originals. If you're up for a bit of chocolate fanciness, by all means try these. But now I know why these are called "Rich" Choc Whirls. Because they've got a lot of dough.

I'll see myself out.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 7 December 2015

Today's Review: Moon Pie

Moon Pie, what a time to be alive. That small Simpsons snippet was all I had to go on regarding Moon Pies, and I've seen them around in the UK a few times, but they've never appealed to me all that much. They just looked like the standard chocolate marshmallow sandwiches you can get from elsewhere. But one I found out that there was supposed to be Graham cracker inside I just had to try it out. It's like a s'more without the effort of making a s'more!

Well, sort of. It's certainly not as warm and gooey as a handmade s'more, and it really doesn't like up to my experiences with making them. The chocolate outside is a nice coating, smooth, slightly creamy, not too fake tasting like some American chocolate. The marshmallow inside has a nice gooey consistency as well, but the problem lies with the crackers. They're not particularly cracker like, they're quite soft and chewy, and there's a lot of cracker compared to the other elements. Sure, I got the flavour of all three as I made my way through this thing, but the cracker part wins out in the end, becoming quite dry and not very fun to chew. It looks like I picked up a double decker Moon Pie as opposed to an original, so that may explain the imbalance of ingredients, but I'm not sure I'd spring for the original in the future. It's a dry, chewy, slightly disappointing sandwich, only made better by the presence of some nicely made chocolate and marshmallow. If only there was more of those bits.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday 6 December 2015

Today's Review: Rockstar Freeze: Frozen Lime

I am writing this review while drunk, a few days after the fact, but I think I can accurately convey my experience with this Rockstar energy drink. I've tried a few in the past, and had mixed experiences with many flavours. But when I spied this lime variety I thought it was worth a go. After all, I love the lemon flavours of both Monster and Relentless, and lime is a close relative of the lemon, so why wouldn't I like this one?

Turns out this is pretty good. Certainly not on the same level as the lemon flavours of the other big brands, but it is a distinctly lime flavoured drink. I'm not sure what the emphasis is on the "frozen" element, but I don't really think it came into play here. It doesn't taste particularly frozen, but it definitely tastes like lime. It is a little too sour, I had to take a bit of time out for the tartness to wear off, but overall it's pretty tasty, and somewhat refreshing, it doesn't have the syrupy thickness that some of the other Rockstar flavours possess. This is an energy drink that's worth a try, not quite up to the standards of the big boys, but certainly a tasty drink. 

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 5 December 2015

Today's Review: Jolly Rancher Crunch 'N' Chew

I do love Jolly Ranchers. They're great hard sweets with fantastically bold flavours, far more flavoursome than what's available in the UK. Even the chewy versions are good, retaining the same great flavours with a different texture. But if you can't decide between the two, you can also get these Crunch 'N' Chew ones, a chewy Jolly Rancher wrapped up in an original hard one. The best of both worlds, right?

I've written before about my dislike for distinctly different textures in sweets, and this one is no exception. Chewing straight through these results in a bit of a mismatch, a chewy sweet with crunchy shards throughout. Sucking on it first makes it a little better, but I certainly prefer just having the one kind of sweet. As for the flavours, they're pretty faithful to the originals, but they're kind of weak in comparison. It's almost like the chewy and hard sweets taste slightly different, and the transition is somewhat jarring. These don't taste awful, but having tried the other varieties I know what they could taste like. These just seem pretty unnecessary, if you're going to try Jilly Ranchers, I'd say stick with the originals.

My rating: 2/5

Friday 4 December 2015

Today's Review: Kettle Chips Chef's Signature

I thought Kettle Chips were already pretty fancy, but apparently they can go even more posh. So here we have the Chef's Signature range, where Kettle Chips have partnered with some top notch food brands to deliver some right proper flavours.

Cheese crisps. I normally find cheese crisps so inherently boring, but I thought this one was worth a go. After all, it's not plain old cheddar, it's proper Yorkshire Wensleydale, and there's some chutney thrown in there to boot. So the end result certainly isn't your average cheesy crisp, it's a far more flavoursome one, and the Wensleydale actually works really well in crisp form. The chutney also provides a bit of fruitiness, but there was something a bit off about these. There's a bit of spice thrown in that I found far too strong, not in a hot way, but in an overpowering flavour way. I know ginger is part of a classic apple chutney, and it's not a bad thing to throw into the mix, but the balance seemed a bit off here, and it threatened to take over the nice cheesy and fruity flavours that I was already enjoying.

We've got meaty crisps too, Gressingham duck crisps to be precise. I might not have been sold on these if there wasn't some plum sauce thrown in there, but just look at that packet, these look delicious. Unfortunately the plum sauce isn't quite pronounced as I'd hoped. There's certainly a nice fruity undercurrent though, and it works well with the meaty flavour that's at the forefront. It didn't automatically scream "duck" at me, so I guess there's just not enough flavouring overall to satisfy me. There's a little hint of spring onion in there as well, not all that noticeable, but at least it didn't overpower all the other elements. I wouldn't say this is a bad bag of Kettle Chips, but it did fall a bit flat on my taste buds. 

These Chef's Signature bags aren't bad, but they don't quite live up to the fanciness promised by the packaging. I think I'll stick with the original range from now on, especially if they keep churning out some nice seasonal flavours. These ones certainly are different though, so they may satisfy you if you're looking for a specific kind of crisp.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 3 December 2015

Today's Review: Propercorn Smooth Peanut & Almond

With all the savoury popcorn flavours lining the shelves these days, it's nice to see some thought is still going into the sweet varieties. I was immediately drawn in by this bag, a peanut and almond popcorn. I can't say I've ever heard of peanut popcorn before, which is strange as it is such a great idea, and it fits in with the madness surrounding peanut butter products lately. This bag contains all very good, natural stuff, as evidenced by the very short ingredients list. Corn, rapeseed oil, some sugar and salt, peanut flour and ground almonds. Well, that's all you need really, isn't it?

While it only says "peanut" on the bag, I was hoping more for a peanut butter flavour, and this popcorn actually delivers pretty well on that front. I thought the choice of peanut flour was interesting, but I guess it's the best way to get it to stick to the kernels, and it actually lends a nice thick texture on top of the corn. The oil goes some way to lending a bit of moisture, and it does at times taste just like popcorn covered in peanut butter. The balance is a little off, however, and a very floury texture does start to dominate. Still, it didn't stop me devouring the whole bag, it's a very tasty and original popcorn flavour. I couldn't quite pick out the almond in the overall flavour, but given the strength of the peanut flour I'm led to believe it was working in the background to balance out the flavours and lend a bit more nuttiness to the overall taste. I can't complain, I came for the peanut, and this popcorn is a delicious peanut offering. This will definitely accompany me to the movies in the future.

My rating: 4/5

Today's Review: Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crispy Crackers

These cracker snacks are popping up all over the place aren't they? We've had Jacob's and Ritz, and even Walkers Sensations versions, but apparently Walkers can't get enough, as they've churned out some less Sensation-al flavours (har har). These Crispy Crackers come in tow flavours, the other being cheddar cheese, but as a salt and vinegar fiend I couldn't pass these up.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. After being disappointed with the Sensations version, I figured I might be in for another let down. But the flavour packed into these is pretty good, a very bold, salty cracker with a fairly strong underlying taste of vinegar, They are perhaps a little too tart, but I think that's because the texture of the cracker itself is a little thin. They're the same kind of thickness as the Sensations, very crispy, but a fuller, thicker cracker might have done well to balance out the flavours a little. Still, these are some good crackers crisps, and probably some that I'd pick up again. 

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Today's Review: The Good Dinosaur

Two Pixar movies in one year, how lucky are we? After the quite sublime Inside Out that graced our screens this summer, we're now treated to another original movie, The Good Dinosaur. The premise when it was first announced was certainly very interesting, asking what would happen if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs had instead completely missed Earth? Set millions of years after the cataclysmic event never happened, The Good Dinosaur follows Arlo, an Apatosaurus who is the runt of his litter, struggling to prove his worth on the family farm. After he accidentally falls into a nearby river and is washed far downstream, Arlo must learn to survive and find his way back to his family. Fortunately, he finds an unlikely ally in the form of a feral human boy named Spot, and together they face the harsh wilderness.

I'll start off by saying this movie looks absolutely amazing. I wouldn't expect anything less from Pixar, but the visuals are top notch. Trees, clouds, animals, expressions, they're all flawless, and the water is the best I've ever seen in an animated movie. All of the character roles are very well voiced as well. Although there's not a wide array of characters, everyone fits their part, and there is particular praise to be given to the voice of Arlo, Raymond Ochoa, who did an astounding job at only 14 years old. 

So it looks good, it sounds good, but how is the movie overall? Well, it's very enjoyable. The characters are well written, despite some only having a small portion of screen time, and there are some genuinely funny moments when they pop up. There's also an abundance of action scenes that are very well put together and provide a real sense of dread at several points throughout. The relationship formed between Arlo and Spot is uniquely touching, and there's a particularly poignant scene not too far in where they communicate beautifully. But for everything it does right, I feel that there is a little less magic in The Good Dinosaur than in other Pixar movies. It's perhaps a little too formulaic, there are no real surprises, and the concept isn't as fleshed out as I feel it could be. Don't get me wrong, I certainly came out of the cinema satisfied with what I saw, this is still a great film, but having grown up with wonderfully executed concepts like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles, The Good Dinosaur just doesn't quite live up to that standard. Maybe I've been too spoiled, but as I said, it certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the movie, I was just left with a nagging feeling that it could have been that little bit more. Still, this is probably the best family movie that will be out this festive season, and it's definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 4/5