Sunday, 29 December 2013

Walkers Sunbites Sour Cream (and cracked black pepper) Flavour

Walkers Sunbites are obviously Walkers' healthy option crispy snacks. In fact, they are multigrain crispy snacks and you can't go wrong with multigrain. Especially not 67% wholegrain (unless you are allergic to corn, wheat or oats) which makes them irresistibly crispy. Or so says the packet.

I have to admit they are very tasty. Somehow, and I'm not sure how, Sunbites taste much healthier than most crispy snacks, but there's no denying they are very good. In fact, I was pushed not to finish this 28g packet all at once.
Somehow these are quite different from other crispy snacks. You can see on the packet that they are wavy (not at all like a crinkle crisp) and all speckled with (presumably) the multigrains. I expect the pretty little grasses on the packet are the much-vaunted multigrains but I do hope that the ingredients do not include butterflies or small singing birds Probably not.

  • Tiny moments of extraordinary pleasure. 
  • Natural flavours that charm your taste buds.
  • We insist that Sunbites are made using no artificial colours. flavours or preservative. Insisting on this seems odd - it's as though Walkers are having trouble with argumentative factory workers who want to make Sunbites with artificial ingredients. However, they still manage to make these crisps suitable for vegetarians and with 30% less fat. Although, I can't help wondering 30% less than what exactly?

And once again the mysterious Walkers department for throwing rubbish away in a responsible fashion has come up with a healthy little person throwing their packet away. I suppose it's a healthy person because he/she has a sort of coronel or tiara thingy like the rays of Sunbite sunshine.

As with other sour cream flavour crispy snacks I found the sour cream difficult to identify. But they are very moreish and I would try them again... if I ever get to the bottom of my giant bag of crisps waiting to be tasted that is.

Thanks very much to The Family Vegetarian and the Graffiti Artist for sending a packet of Sour Cream Sunbites as part of my birthday present.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Tesco Finest Spiced Bramley Apple Crumble Crisps

Who in the world thought of this weird idea? Presumably Mr Tesco.

So I tried these crisps in a blind taste test both at work and at home with Christmas guests. And got the following responses:
  • Weird but quite nice (this tester took some home for a road trip)
  • Strange... I'm not sure... 
  • Quite the most disgusting thing I've ever tasted - I don't think I can eat anything ever again
  • Mmmm seems familiar... what is this flavour?...erm... sort of appley?
  • Oo... I know this... is it oriental?
  • (sniff sniff) cinnamon? Are these made of apple?
  • I'll have a larger one this time, thanks
  • From Tesco? We should look out for these.
So a divided response then. I think most people agreed that you get an apple crumble taste. It's the extra crunchy burnt brown bit at the edge of the crumble where apple juice has bubbled up. Whether this is a good flavour (and I admit it is tasty) for a potato crisp is another matter.

The crisps themselves are perfectly normal crisps with a good crunch, a little dark in colour but that's all the spicy flavour dust. The smell is very strongly cinnamon. At least, I think it is cinnamon; the packet somewhat unhelpfully lists "spices" and "flavourings" rather than naming individual elements so these could include clove, mace or nutmeg or even allspice. Who knows? And there's obviously quite a lot of sugar involved.

I can say that the apple element is Bramley, and the potato a variety called Hermes (grown in a field called Porter and picked/dug up on 23 october 2013). Hand cooked in small batches and "tumbled carefully in seasoning" - how exotic that sounds. Suitable for vegetarians.

Quite tasty but I'm not convinced this is a good flavour for a potato crisp. Not convinced this is the "perfect taste of Christmas".

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Golden Wonder Transform-a-Snack Spicy

Oh my goodness! Who knew you could get transformer style crisps and build your own vehicle from the crispy parts? Apparently not me.

Transform-a-Snack comes in Spicy, Cheese & Onion, Beef, Spicy BBQ, Pickled Onion and Flamin' Hot flavours. I've never seen them for sale (where would you sell such an amazing crispy snack? sadly, it seems, not around here) so I've got all this info from the Golden Wonder website. Slightly disappointed to find that the transformers are all the same. OK, this is obvious from a business point of view; to make different shapes for each flavour would be prohibitively expensive, but it is a shame you don't get to make a different vehicle in Spicy flavour from, say, Flamin' Hot.

This packet was part of my exciting birthday present from the Family Vegetarian and the Graffiti Artist. I gather that the Graffiti Artist is a big fan of Transform-a-Snacks so I look forward to trying them.

Here we have the two shapes. The body with front and rear axels, and the wheels. And here we have the vehicle created by me. How fun is this?

I'm not sure what Spicy Transform-a-Snacks actually taste of but (according to the packaging) "they're on another planet". Most of the flavouring listed on the packet appears to be garlic but there's more to the taste than that.
The colouring of paprika and nutmeg seem to contribute quite a bit. It's an interesting spicy mix. Quite unusual. And the crunch of corn and potato together is rather good. The texture of each piece is bubbly, with that good crunch, perhaps a little oily and with a dusting of crunchy bits.

"Bringing you the biggest flavours in the universe, Transform-a-Snacks are baked not fried for a crunch that's out of this world" says the packaging.  I'd be interested to see what the other flavours are like so I can "transform my taste buds". If I ever find a shop that sells them....

Weird but in a really good way. The Chef and I liked these and finished the packet enthusiastically.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Tesco Finest Hoisin Duck Crisps

This is described as a "feature flavour" whatever that means. The Tesco Finest range is described as made with passion and sourced with care. Created to be truly savoured. Traditional techniques and prized ingredients. Created with love. Wow. I think we have a crisp that Tesco is proud of.

These crisps are made with free range peking-style duck in sweet hoisin sauce. The potatoes are Lady Roset (never heard of that variety before) and they were grown in Devon in a field called Polwhele. How much detail can you ask for? Well, they were produced on 10th September 2013 at 06:03 am. Possibly by the smiling guy in the photo on the back of the packet. And the sell by date is 28 January 2014 - so they don't expect them to hang around for too long.
And you know what? They actually do taste of hoisin duck. Amazing. Although some of the crisps taste better than others. Nice crunch, good size crisp, not too many broken. All the usual stuff.

The crisps have some little herby things on which don't feature on the list of ingredients. I think you can just see them in the photo. I guess they come under flavourings or spices. And then there's the orange juice powder. They do mix in a load of different stuff to get the required flavour.

I really hardly know what else to say. I'm not sure the smell is very hoisin duck, but the taste is, so who cares? And the packaging is lovely. The naive child's drawing style image is charming.

But. And it's a very big but, I don't want to eat them. I bought the packet because I thought Hoisin Duck crisps: amazing! But they aren't very moreish.

And the Chef and his brother felt the same. So we haven't finished the packet.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mega Monster Munch Pickled Onion

I really had no idea how many crispy snacks came in Pickled Onion flavour until now. And here we have another, although Mega Monster Munch also comes in Flamin' Hot and Roast Beef. Well, I daresay I will give them a try if I see them but in the meantime we have pickled onion.

Not sure about the flavour. It tastes completely fake. Pretty fake smell too but I can't quite work out exactly what they smell of. This baked corn snack is a bit like a giant cocktail ring in shape but I suppose it's meant to be the shape of a monster's foot. Maybe?

Good crunch. Not a bad texture although a little dry. And then there's quite a sharp vinegary after taste, really strong. It made me cough.

Once again I imagine these crispy snacks are aimed at 8 year olds. In which case the packaging is ideal.  I must say it is rather fun. I especially like the top left corner where the word NEW is crossed out and replaced with OLD! Bigger like they used to be. And that would be in 1977. So I guess that bit is aimed at feckless adults still eating Mega Monster Munch instead of fancy Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper or what have you.

And I love the great monster image with its mouth full of Mega Monster Munch. Brilliant. It's a shame I don't like this crispy snack more than I do.

Mega Monster Munch are made by Walkers, and in the great Walkers tradition the image showing how you should throw away the packaging has been, er, monsterised to show a monster throwing his rubbish away. Only a tiny image but it's really fun if you notice that sort of thing.

Not my most favourite crispy snack ever but I'm glad I tried them. Great packaging though.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Marmite Crisps

So, to celebrate my birthday I bought from the lovely newsagent down the road a 32.5g packet of Marmite flavour crisps. I hadn't seen Marmite flavour crisps in ages, and it turns out that The Chef had never seen them at all. I think he was a bit annoyed I finished them all for my elevensies this morning and all I brought home was the empty packet. Which smelled quite strongly of Marmite.

If you know and love Marmite you'll want to know that these crisps really taste of Marmite. Oh how these taste of Marmite. This is a pretty ordinary, perhaps slightly thinner style of crisp with a load of delicious Marmite flavour dust speckled all over them. And I know I over-use this word but: yum.

These are pretty good. And the packaging is oh so Marmitey. If you never saw a jar of Marmite spread you could recognise it from the crisp packaging.

Marmite is a very dark brown spread made from the yeast left over from the brewing industry. It's vegetarian. Maybe even vegan? They also sell Marmite in Australia and New Zealand (made in NZ) but it's not the same product. Nearly but not the same. My mother brought me up to believe that if I felt ill a mug of hot Marmite would make me feel better. And it was true. Well, you know, she brainwashed me. But New Zealand Marmite looks all milky and weird if you add boiling water and I can personally report that it doesn't cure all known ills the way UK Marmite does. Or is this just me?

And then there's a similar thing called Bovril which is made of beef (originally called Johnston's Fluid Beef - yuk eh?). I believe there were once Bovril flavour crisps, but I think no longer. And then in Australia they have Vegemite which is, I gather, made of not vegetables at all but yeast. Fancy that. I think the Australian version of Smiths make Vegemite chips (crisps).

I never attempted hot Vegemite but I used to know someone who drank hot Bovril on purpose and added milk. Eeuww! Equally eeuww! during the Siege of Ladysmith (Second Boer War) a substitute Bovril was produced using boiled down horse and called Chevril. Well I guess you eat anything if you're besieged. The story of Bovril seems a bit complicated because sometimes it's not made of beef at all but yeast. Just like Marmite. But Marmite is best.

Anyway, both Marmite and Bovril are now made by Unilever. So we'll leave it at that. Except the Swiss make a thing called Cenovis which comes in a tube and was developed in a small town called Rheinfelden (I've been there!) which has a huge brewery. Are we surprised to find it's made of yeast? It's OK but I'll stick with Marmite.

And I enjoyed these crisps.

Update: here's a multi pack packet. I quite like the hearts.

Friday, 20 December 2013

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Sour Cream & Chilli Lentil Curls

Wow these are really quite hot. I wasn't expecting that.

Although I don't know why not because it quite clearly says chilli in the name. So, you know, if I'd actually used my brain a bit...

I gave Lauren at work a bag of Cheese Puffs the other day when she was starving hungry and she has kindly paid me back with this little bag here. Got to admit I was a bit dubious about trying a "crisp" made of lentils but you can't tell what they're made of.

And they're rather good. Very curly, not quite so orangey as my photo shows and the surface is interestingly bubbly which you can't really see here, and a crunch that can only be described as 'just right'. I suppose my photographs might be slightly more informative if I bought Food Blogging for Dummies. I chanced across it online the other evening and I gather it has loads of helpful info on lighting your food but I don't know how helpful it would be on introducing more light into a crisp packet. Anyway, the chilli flavour is hot and spicy but as so often with a sour cream flavour it's quite hard to spot, more of a sort of a sensation than a taste. But yes, pretty good.

And only 90 calories a bag. I never kept count of any calories I ate (perhaps I should) so I have no clue at all if this is good, but as this is one of M&S's Guilt Free Snacking range I can only suppose that 90 calories per bag must be a good thing. However, I am delighted to report that there is nothing at all diety about this crispy snack. You know, when the low fat version of something tastes of nothing but cardboard or seems to be weirdly extra oily. Nope. These exhibit no signs of diet food at all. I wonder though if there are only 90 calories because 22 grams is not very much - just over 3/4 of an ounce!

Suitable for vegetarians. Not suitable for wheat allergy sufferers or coeliacs. Made in the UK.
If you are on a diet and you can't give up crispy snacks I'd recommend you try these. Or if you just like the sound of them.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

KP Cheese Footballs

Oh wow! It's Cheese Football time of year again. 

They are sort of wonderful and sort of the last thing you ought to be eating all at the same time. And I can't help loving them. Yum yum yum.

OK, so if you never tried a Cheese Football think two semi-spherical half-football-shaped wafer outsides with a squishy salty fake cheese filling. It's a completely pretence food made of 100% not actually cheese at all. Just delicious!

Of course, one of the great things about Cheese Footballs is that you only get them at Christmas. So you get to look forward to them. Like looking forward to real English-grown strawberries in the summer. If Cheese Footballs were available all year round I probably wouldn't buy them. Yes, I know it's me being contrary again.

What do they actually taste like? Hard to say. The outer shell is a sort of wafer which doesn't taste of much, it's just there to hold the cheese in. And to pretend to look like a football I suppose. And the inner cheesy bit is a sort of cream-coloured salty cheesy mush. And quite sweet. Sounds horrible doesn't it? And yet... and yet I find them hard to resist. At least once a year.

The trick is to bite off one half of wafer shell and eat that, then bite off the second half of the shell so you're left with the squidgy cheesy bit. And then you let that dissolve in your mouth. Or you can just eat them like a normal person would.

Because Cheese Footballs come in a drum I can't shove the packaging into the scanner so here it is on a bookshelf. The packaging says "the winning snack at home or away". Is this a snack you would take to a football match? I shouldn't think so. We also have two dreadful riddles:
Q What does Santa do when elves misbehave? A Give them the sack.
Q What do you sing at a snowman's birthday party? A Freeze a jolly good fellow. 
Probably best not to comment. Cheese Footballs were originally made by Huntley & Palmer and I have to admit I thought they were currently made by Jacobs but since many confusing mergers and a takeover by German snack conglomerate Intersnack they seem to come under the KP brand name these days.

(Oh dear. I may have eaten too many. I just saw a completely not actually there person at the head of the stairs. Turning to go down the stairs. That was upsetting.)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Llama's Sweet Chilli Whole Wheat Baked Bites

'Tis the season of the llama-shaped snack!

I was worried these would be like dog biscuits. Great big crunchy dog biscuits. But obviously I had to try a packet. Instead I find they are rather tasty little llama-shaped snacks. Yum. It's true, the smell is a little bit dog biscuit, but the taste is anything but. A mix of digestive biscuit (thinner but crunchier) with a hot chilli taste and a lot of sweetness. Each llama is very tiny and it's very easy to have another. And another. I'm quite surprised how much I like them. In the interests of scientific reporting I should say that Terry didn't seem to be mad keen. But I like them a lot.

Lucky thing I went to Tesco eh? I might be tempted to eat the whole packet....

From the smart red gussetted packaging:

  • No llamas were harmed in the making of these snacks.
  • One mammal's mission to rid the world of boring snacks.
  • What is it with you British and your boring snacks? (asks the llama) Where I come from our nibbles have some kahunas! Big flavours, big crunch, big attitude.
  • So hasta la vista 'ready salted', adios 'dry roasted', my delicious sweet chilli flavour baked bites are ready to rumble.
  • Now that's what I'm talking about!
  • Whole wheat oven-baked snack crackers so good I modelled them on me.
  • Chomp-on, oh people of good taste.
  • Get busy with the chilli!
Yes, OK, perhaps a little overkill on the cute llama-ness but never mind. I can cope and if you try these I expect you will too. However, these llamas are actually made in Canada for a British company based in Salford. Take a look at the website; the llama even writes a ridiculous blog. It's very silly. Read it here

Llamas pictured in the little silver dish my Granny brought from Argentina

For other animal snacks read about kangaroo-shaped Jumpys here.

Friday, 6 December 2013

KP Hula Hoops

I tried a selection packet of Hula Hoops.

I hadn't had a Hula Hoop for years so it was interesting to try them again. We used to have them all the time and for some reason it seemed really cool to put a hoop on to the end of each finger and then eat them off my fingers - instead of just eating them out of the packet. Of course that was a long long time ago.

And guess what? They taste just as I remember. And also guess what? Apparently everyone else in the world used to eat Hula Hoops off the ends of their fingers. Well well.

It turns out that although there is nothing at all the matter with Hula Hoops I find I'm not terrifically impressed. Perhaps it's because they seem to be exactly the same as they were back in 1973 which is of course a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... But in 1973 we didn't have such a wealth of crispy snacks to choose from. Or indeed so many fascinating flavours to try.

I read on the website that Hula Hoops currently come in BBQ Beef, Cheese and Onion, Original, Salt and Vinegar, Roast Chicken, Smokey Bacon, Sour Cream and Chive, and Sweet Chili flavours. I haven't actually seen most of these as our local Waitrose has quite a small crispy snack section and tends not to stock the more exciting flavours. This multipack has Cheese and Onion, Original and Salt and Vinegar; the classics.

Hula Hoop Facts: did you know it would take over 250 million Hula Hoops to weigh the same as the Angel of the North! Hula Hoops in a hole world of their own. Not, I have to say, something I had ever considered but you never know what thrilling info will be printed on the back of a crisp packet.

I started with Cheese and Onion. The cheese and onion-ness is quite pleasant. Not too strong, not too oniony, but weirdly you can suck the cheese and onion flavour off and then you just have an original flavour Hula Hoop.

And then I moved on to Original. Quite tasty, a little bit salty, not very exciting but OK. As always, quite a hard crunch. And of course these crunchy potato snacks are little hoops. What else? Not convinced I would want to eat more than a very small bag at one sitting but perfectly good as a crispy crunchy snack.

Finally Salt and Vinegar. Which is a little bit too sharp for my taste. A little bit too vinegary. Not too bad but I far prefer the Original flavour. In fact I'm inclined to think that Original is best.

I can see why they still sell of course. These small multi pack bags seem to be aimed at the packed lunch market. Little children (and let's admit it, not so little children too) will always enjoy eating them off the ends of their fingers.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

M&S Maple Bacon Flavour Popcorn

I have to admit I bought this packet of popcorn thinking it would probably be rather horrid. But it's not. And a good thing too. Just for a change it made an interesting addition to today's lunch.

I thought it would be horrid because I've not had a good experience with bacon flavour crisps. They can be (in my opinion obviously) really disgusting. But you know, this was actually quite nice. The popcorn looks just like popcorn should, quite white, no extra colour, and well-popped. So good texture and just the right crunch. The flavour wasn't particularly evenly distributed with some of the popcorn tasting of not very much while other bits were maple syrupy or bacony or both. But I felt that wasn't a bad thing.

David at work thought my bag of popcorn was very smelly (lucky thing I haven't attempted some much smellier crunchy snacks in the office) and tried a handful. He thought the bacon flavour followed the maple sweetness too quickly but he finished his handful. Ruth also tried some and didn't complain. Most of the people I work with are a bit conservative in their crispy snack tastes. I'm trying to educate them but it's an uphill struggle!

I thought this popcorn was OK. A good mix of sweet and savoury. Fun packaging design; the snowman is rather charming. M&S have special sandwiches supporting Shelter, the housing and homeless charity, each Christmas. I had the Brie & Grape Shelter sandwich today. It's very good. I've not noticed Shelter crispy snacks before. I think it's a good idea but perhaps I would? Weirdly though it was really difficult to any reference to this popcorn online.

It's good to know that 5p from the sale of each packet goes to Shelter. Give it a try if you can. On sale for the Christmas season only I should think.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Kettle Tortilla Chips Cool Sour Cream

I wasn't quite sure I liked these on first try.

Perhaps they don't go terribly well with the Prosecco I felt was a good accompaniment to building and decorating the Christmas tree. Perhaps I needed to go away and think about it.

Anyhow, on second thoughts these are rather good. Naomi appeared to eat a fair number. And Terry likes them too.

So what have we got? Good crunchy orangey tortilla chips with quite a lot of purplish black bits. Reading the list of ingredients I'm not sure if these dark spots are red and green peppers or black pepper or what. But the chips have a good hot zing at the same time as a lovely cool creamy taste.

Not sure I could indentify the dill though. Dill features in the ingredients and on the package so it must be there somewhere. Pity I couldn't spot it in the taste because I like dill.

But, just as it says on the back of the package, you really can taste the corn. So all in all a good tasty crunch. Which works very well indeed with a sour cream and chive dip. Yum.

I'm not mad for tortilla chips but these are rather good. And I really like the packaging. It's a good green.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

M&S Hand Cooked Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

And another great crisp from the M&S Hand Cooked range.

Sometimes you don't need a fancy flavour to make a great crisp. Sometimes you just need a great crisp. And this is another great crisp from M&S. What is it with their crisp development department? They make so many great crisps.

Just your basic sea salt and black pepper flavour crisps but beautifully executed. Lovely crisps, good crunch, not too oily, good lot of flavour dust. Seriously, and it's kind of dull to say this, but what more can one say?

Good tasty crisps and highly recommended.

About five minutes ago - or more likely 10 or so years ago - when salt and pepper crisps leapt on to the market it seemed that every niche brand, every up-market crisp manufacturer had to have their own version. And they were good. Almost all the salt and pepper crisps I've tasted are good. And of course, being posh crisps (none of your rubbishy mass market nonsense here) they are sea salt (sometimes name brand salt) and black pepper (sometimes cracked sometimes not) crisps.

And it seemed perhaps that simple salted crisps were on the way out, had been superseded and might disappear altogether because they were too old fashioned.

But not so. Because simple salted crisps are here to stay, but sea salt and black pepper in all its various permutations is a whole nother flavour and also, it seems, here to stay.