Friday 30 August 2013

M&S Ever So Posh Hand Cooked Sea Salt and Lemon Vinaigrette

Another crunch at lunch choice from Marks & Spencer; I quite often get these classy crisps. 

Remember a few years back when sea salt and black pepper seemed such a swanky new crisp flavour? No longer I'm afraid. Everyone makes them now and that makes them just as ordinary as plain old salted - the very first flavour (don't forget those twists of blue paper crisp fans). So anyway, you've got to have something new as a basic and this seems to be M&S's ever so posh choice. 

I really do recommend these. The flavour is quite sharp - but no surprise there; that's what you expect from a lemon vinaigrette. And actually this is a good thing for me because I can't eat very many at once. So a packet will last me all week. Or longer. So my high salt, probably very high fat, snack at lunchtime gets eeked ( fourth time lucky getting the iPad to accept that word) out making it less drastically unhealthy.

As well as the taste I love the packaging. The matte brown package is very handsome indeed, and perhaps even posh. And very nice too.

Verdict? 10/10. 

Wednesday 28 August 2013

M&S Great British Summer Beef Burger Handcooked Potato Crisps

I thought I'd try these for fun.

Handgemaakte aardappelchips met hamburgersmaak it says in dutch. 
Or chips de pomme de terre cuite a la main au gout de steak hache de boeuf in french.
Neither of these says "great british summer" of course, or indeed, the slightly weird "food on the move daily fare".  I suppose great british summer makes these a limited edition crisp, but the food on the move bit is a bit odd. What makes any other crisp not something you would eat on the move?

I'd seen these in my local M&S of course and thought they sounded a bit sinister and then I read a rave review online. Well. That just goes to show you shouldn't believe everything you read online.

They certainly taste of beefburger. And there's a hint of dill pickle to add to the burgeryness. So the flavour is very good. But these crisps are strangely greasy so it's as though you were eating a cold burger. Hot grease good - cold grease bad. 

Good thing I bought a small bag. But maybe I should have heated them up? (Not so much of the "food on the move" then of course.) 

When I was young we always had roast potatoes for Sunday lunch with a chicken or a small joint of beef. Which was great because I loved roast potatoes, and still do. But oh the joy of going out for lunch with friends who just heated up a bag of crisps instead of going to the trouble of peeling potatoes and roasting them. Strange isn't it? Such a simple thing seemed amazingly gourmet. Perhaps because my mother didn't do it. I don't know why not; she was the world's least enthusiastic cook. I guess the answer is either (1) like me she just loved roast potatoes, or (2) she didn't know how to heat up a bag of crisps. Forgive me for writing this Mummy, but option (2) is perfectly possible.

I am of course remembering a long ago time when crisps were plain and came with a pinch of salt in a twist of blue paper. Yes, the legendary add your own salt flavour. 

I'm not suggesting beef burger hand cooked crisps would work with a roast chicken, but just possibly heating them up might work. The question is, I suppose, can I be bothered to buy another packet and give it a try?

The packaging is quite fun. Only why is the little dog making away with a string of sausages and not a burger?

Friday 23 August 2013

M&S Full on Flavour Cheese Tasters

This is another crunch at lunch choice from Marks & Spencer: M&S's take on Walkers Wotsits, previously Golden Wonder Wotsits, and now (I gather) owned by the global conglomerate Frito-Lay, as we know a wholly-owned subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc. But I think M&S owns M&S.

Utterly delicious.

Yes, I know they are completely fake food made of reconstituted maize and puffed somehow into slightly bent sort of worm shapes covered in bright orange flavour dust, and I ought to condemn them out of hand. But somehow I can't resist them. They say the flavours are 100% natural. Maybe, but they come across as yummily fake.

I just love these and I've always loved Wotsits. Can't find anything bad to say about them. So it's lucky they come in small bags because stopping halfway (or sooner) through a large bag is very hard. Obviously it's nice to have some left over for tomorrow but in a weird way this never happens. How could that be?

It is perhaps a slight worry that the pack comes with a warning: the colouring may stain your clothes. Interesting.

When I was about 10 I had a friend called Heather who lived in a very large, very glamorous flat with her mother. I only went there a couple of times but was massively impressed, and have never forgotten, that Heather had a walk-in wardrobe (not to mention at least 3 times as many clothes as I had). Wow! Anyway, in the drawing room where we weren't really allowed there were several sofas around a coffee table. And on the table was a little dish with giant Wotsits in. Each one about as fat as my thumb and forefinger together. As a table decoration! What wastefulness to use food as a decoration. In our house they wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes, never mind sit there long enough to get stale. It really is most unfortunate that I have never seen such fabulous fat Wotsits (or similar product under different name) in any shop. How tantalising.

Would I recommend Cheese Tasters? Yes I would. I know this kind of crispy snack is not to everyone's taste but I haven't ever worked out why not. Yum yum yum.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

M&S Reduced Fat Buttered Baked Potato Flavour Crisp

Sometimes at lunch it's all about the crunch. A quiet lunch will be just as filling and very likely a lot more nourishing but nonetheless sometimes you need a crunch. And on the crunch days you find me browsing the snack shelves in Waitrose or Marks & Spencer.

I never buy reduced fat anything because it's always horrible whatever it is. Much better policy to eat a lot less of the full fat stuff than battle your way through something nasty like totally fat free yoghurt. I mean, seriously, yoghurt is made of fat isn't it? (And a selection of bacteria of course.) So what can the fat free version be made of? Air, water and cardboard I suppose.

So I bought these anyway because baked potato seemed such a bonkers flavour for a crisp.

However weird it sounds, this flavour really works. These crisps really do taste of baked potato with plenty of butter.

How the flavour development team at Marks & Spencer ever came up with the idea is anyone's guess but it's a real triumph. Right at the end of the packet where the crisps get smaller and there's a higher proportion of what I call flavour dust there's a slight hint of onion, which is one of the ingredients listed. How onion makes anything taste of baked potato (or butter) I don't know but there you are.

Not a flavour for every day - they're a bit rich - but one to try if you see them. Only problem: they're never in stock.

Friday 16 August 2013

Bret's Pizza au Feu de Bois

Now these I found in a motorway service station in Alsace. I think it was the place with all the storks menacing the lunchtime picnickers. Dirty great big birds storks. I was just saying that I'd never seen a stork and there they were - a great big flock of them.                                                                               
 I really wanted to like these crisps. The company is based in Brittany and makes a big deal about employing local labour, growing proper potatoes in a traditional way and generally having a proper ethical, er, ethos. But to be honest, I'm not mad keen on the way they use an image of a crisp instead of an apostrophe. And then there is the flavour.

Pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Yes.... as a flavour it's a bit vague really. I could have got kebab (I think it was kebab not barbecue) but I thought that pizza would be nicer. And, indeed, these crisps do have a pleasant flavour. A bit heavy on the oregano perhaps, but in a good way. Only, the wood-fired oven is a bit fugitive. 

If you pay really close attention you get a hint of slightly overcooked pizza crust (the bit I never eat) on the very first bite. And that's about it for the pizza flavour. I did think at one point that I'd caught a hint of mozzarella coolness but I can't be sure. 

They are tasty and I think they'd work well with a sour cream and chive dip but I'm not certain I'd buy these again.

So here are some pictures of storks.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Chio Jumpys Sunny Paprika

Sunny paprika flavour Jumpys anyone? 

Yes, this really is a kangaroo-shaped potato snack. I thought I was getting small flat kangaroo-shaped biscuity things. But no. This is a reconstituted potato thingummy in the style of a quaver or a cheesey whatsit. They are very small and 3D, and weirdly look more like a breakfast cereal than a savoury snack. 

The flavour, alleged to be "sunny paprika" (what makes the paprika sunny exactly I'm not certain) is quite tasty. In a sort of a way. Quite more-ish I suppose but nothing exciting. And they do kind of grow on you. Actually, as these are a German product I really don't know why the paprika should be sunny. Maybe snacks just come in English. Although, they are "knusprigkeit" which means crispy or crunchy (don't get back to me on incorrect use of German please: I gave it up to do Ancient Greek) which is massively important in the modern snack.

But the Jumpy is so tiny you have to eat loads more than you normally would in order to feel the benefit. Perhaps it's a cunning plan to use up calories moving your hand endlessly from packet to mouth and thus luring you into believing that Jumpys aren't as bad for you as they probably are. 

Would I buy them again? Not sure. Maybe. They might work well for little children who are allowed salty snacks. But put it like this: I didn't finish the packet. Verdict? Meh.
Two little Jumpys with the Chef's watch. 
A whole load of Jumpys
Chio has a very thrilling all singing all dancing website but sadly mostly in German so it doesn't mean much to me. The French version of the website seems to be rather different. I couldn't find any of the pages I'd been looking at in German but, you know, maybe I didn't look hard enough.

Jumpys update: it turns out that the rest of the family is rather more enthusiastic about Jumpys than I am. After I came home from Switzerland the Chef carried on eating them but left the unfinished bag on a table. Then I got a phone call from my brother-in-law who was staying in the flat with his family: they'd found a bag of miniature kangaroos. Could they finish them and where could they buy more?

Obviously I am quite wrong and Jumpys are far more exciting a snack than I thought. Maybe I should give them another try.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Lay's Saveur Cheeseburger Max Craquantes

Most people who know me will tell you I'm a very fussy eater. And that's true. But I do like to try something new now and then. Especially interesting new flavours of crisp (chips or potato chips to you maybe) or chocolate. It's a tiny micro adventure on the cheap. So when I spotted Lay's Max Craquantes (very crunchy) Saveur Cheeseburger Chips in the service station somewhere in France I just had to buy a packet.

The Chef and I already tried Lay's Spaghetti Bolognaise Chips and they are amazingly spaghetti bolgnaisey. Who knew the French ate the same sort of spag bol as we do in the UK? Or maybe I should ask who knew the French ate the same sort of spag bol as cooked in one North London kitchen? The Italians certainly don't; and I'm sure any self respecting Italian would be baffled by those crisps and proabably my recipe too. But weirdly the development team at Lay's seem to have used my mother's 1960s recipe to create quite a tasty crisp.

But back to the Cheeseburger flavour. Wow! Just exactly like a MacCheeseburger including the cheese, the mustard and the slice of pickle nobody eats.

We don't eat out very much in London, but if we do go out to the pub or to the place that fancies itself a New York deli, I am quite likely to have a burger; there is usually one on the menu and thank goodness for that because I won't eat fish and I don't fancy the (currently) ubiquitous pork belly. Naturally none of these burgers, with cheese or no, is anything like the McDonald's cheeseburger and seriously, when did I last eat at McDonald's anyway?

Memory is a very strange thing and taste is a great trigger for memories. I was really surprised how strongly these crisps reminded me of the MacCheeseburger. If you like them, I expect you'll enjoy these crisps. If you're not a McDonald's fan go for the Spaghetti Bolognaise instead.

Unfortunately much of my excitement at this fascinating crisp was crushed when I discovered that Lay's is not a French company at all but, you've guessed, based in Nashville or somewhere, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of PepsiCo. Damn!

But I stand by my initial thought which is that these crisps have a very impressive cheeseburgery taste and despite looking hard I can't find them on the Frito-Lay website. So maybe this is a French flavour after all. I can't find the Spaghetti Bolognaise flavour either. So you never know.