Saturday 29 November 2014

Tesco Salted Caramel Crisps

Quite a handsome golden brown crisp. Not a bad crunch. Nice size crisps. So far so normal. But OK, we're here to discuss this exotic special Christmas flavour.

So, er, the taste? Well.... I have to say that we really didn't like these that much. The initial aroma on opening the bag was basically potato crisp. And after a minute or two it was... sort of sweet.

Sort of sweet eh? Yes, some people thought they could really taste the caramel but they thought it a dead weird crisp flavour. I couldn't really detect  caramel specifically. It could have been chocolate or something.  But basically it was more "or something".

As so often I poured out a bowlful for the reluctant taste testers at work. Usually I go back an hour or so later and refill the bowl. Not this time. Nope. I took home most of the packet. Which tells its own story.

Really not at all sure what Mr Tesco was thinking of with this crisp flavour. Weird.

Monday 24 November 2014

Pret a Manger Kale Crisps

Noble friend at work bought a healthy half size sandwich (you only get one) and a packet of Kale crisps from Pret. The lunchtime sandwich looked healthy but very tasty; and the crisps?

I'm not sure Kale crisps were created with me in mind. And noble friend wasn't that impressed either.

I wrote about M&S Kale crisps some time back. I wasn't that impressed. And I really wasn't that complimentary. Sorry M&S. And very sorry Pret but I wasn't mad keen on your effort either.

We tried them out on the reluctant taste testers at work and mostly they felt the same as we did.

The thing is that these vegetarian and vegan (my second packet of vegan crisps in a week!) taste a little bit yummy at first bite. I'm guessing it's the onions. But then you get get a crispy crunchy (good crunch by the way) taste of cabbage stalk. And then there are loads of little bits of cabbagey stuff left behind in your mouth.

I'm sorry. I know these are a healthy option crisp with healthy flax seeds and buckwheat and sunflower seeds. And no sugar. Not to mention kale is the healthiest food in the universe. And they come in a tiny 30g bag which can only be a good thing. And the picture on the bag is really handsome. But I can't bring myself to like them.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Phileas Fogg Louisiana Sweet & Smokey BBQ American Style Bubble Chips

I was in Tesco the other day looking for their Christmas 2014 crisps and because they were hidden in the special Christmas aisle next to all the chocolate reindeer and Santas I looked rather hard at the non-Christmas crisps. And I found these.

Interesting purple packet isn't it? And what distinguishes a Louisiana BBQ from any other I wonder? From reading The Pelican Brief I got the impression that everyone in Louisiana eats nothing but shrimp. No shrimp here. Obviously simply reading a book (and watching the film of the book several times) isn't exactly in depth research but I'm scrabbling around for a why or a wherefore on the naming of these crisps. Could it be that it simply sounded good?

I was a bit disappointed that these bubble chips weren't as bubbly as I was expecting. Like the Cheese & New York Deli Relish flavour these crisps aren't made from slices of potato but from dried potato formed into fairly regular oblongs. But with fewer bubbles. Although with just as crazily complicated a flavour.

So what have we here? A slightly sweet smokey flavour (not sure about the BBQ part), quite a lot of vinegar and something sour too. Like I said; complicated. And this flavour is created from clove, coriander, cumin, red chilli, onion, garlic and tomato. Not to mention the usual suspects natural flavourings and spices. And herb. Twice.

The reluctant taste testers at work seemed to like these quite a lot. Two bowls were noshed down really rather quickly and I brought the remainder home for the Chef to try. Like me he wasn't madly impressed. I think we have discovered through a lot of trial and error that neither of us really likes the over-complicated flavours.

Hmn... the last packet of Phileas Fogg crisps I had were made by United Biscuits, and Wikipedia tells me that UB owns the brand. But this packet says KP Snacks on it. I'm not feeling energetic enough to investigate further today!

Friday 21 November 2014

M&S Hand Cooked Lightly Salted Highland Burgundy Red British Potato Crisps

What a complicated name for a 40g packet of crisps! Remember all you fans of imperial measurements, 40g is a mere 1.41 ounces of crisp. Not a lot.

Here we have Marks & Spencer's Christmas crisps for 2014. 5% of the sale goes to Shelter which is a UK charity helping homeless people. Which is great but I rather wish it was more than 5%.

However, what do we really have here? Well, the potatoes are obviously stunning when you chop into them.  I've looked on the Thompson & Morgan website - they sell lots of plants and seeds, and in the case of potatoes: tubers.  And you can absolutely see that these crisps are hardly fiddled with at all. The factory has chopped up the Highland Burgundy potatoes and fried them.  So you get a fancy red crisp with a white surround. Actually grown for you by a potato plant. Hurrah!

Lightly salted? Yes. Quite tasty but for me, there could have been a little more salt. You know I like my salt. And quite a hearty crunch. So not a bad crisp at all.
Yup. Pretty good. So buy some soon and support Shelter.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Tyrrell's Hand Cooked Beach Barbecue

Well this is an odd flavour and no mistake! What is a beach barbecue supposed to taste of? Sausages that you take to the beach along with an elderly frying pan? Seafood - things in shells and other things with claws - that you buy from a seafront fishmonger, or even forage for yourself?

A smoky seaside special to warm the cockles (of your heart I suppose) says the packaging. And also Windbreaks at the ready! Here's a suitably smoky tribute to the jolly optimism of the English seaside barbecue. Chin up chaps, it might not rain. Well, I do wonder if the English seaside barbecue really is an English tradition? I guess maybe I know the wrong people because as far as I know none of us indulges in a beach barbecue.

Interestingly in French and German and Dutch and so on, the crisp flavour is called Summer Barbecue. Now I know quite a lot of people who have barbecues in their back gardens in the summer (spring and autumn too). Not the Chef and me because for some odd reason we like to cook and eat indoors; but the next door neighbours (very enthusiastic barbecue chef our next door neighbour - and I'm sure his wife encourages it) and a bunch of friends are at it all the time.

However... however, I don't think these crisps taste at all barbecue. The flavour is made from a mass of spices including chilli, smoked paprika, ginger, cayenne and cumin, with onion, garlic and tomato. And sugar and sea salt. Also the top favourite "natural flavouring". Naturally. So what you get is a mass of dark orange flavour dust on these very crunchy crisps. I felt there was so much flavour dust it was a little like eating a picnic lunch on the beach where so often you get sand in your food and on your face. So a little bit Beach Barbecue. But then we have the alternative Summer Barbecue name....

We quite liked them. But we couldn't work out what they actually taste of. Tasty. But it's a mystery taste.

Sky blue is quite an unusual colour for food packaging and works nicely with the bonkers picture of the donkey kissing that woman some time in the 1920s. And I very much like the scalloped top of the packet design. It's a little bit beach hut. I've checked the Tyrrell's website and none of the other flavours have this pretty trim.

These crisps are gluten free and vegan friendly. Vegan? That's very unusual. Amazing.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Weight Watchers Creamy Korma Poppadoms

One of my work colleagues has decided she wants to lose a little weight so she is snacking on Weight Watchers crisps. And today she kindly allowed me to taste test her crisp.

This is a square snack sort of squished into a bowl shape, with dark green and red flavour dust - mostly on the inside of the bowl. There's a lovely light korma taste which I thought was rather good. I only ate two of these but I'm pretty sure I would have eaten the whole packet given half a chance.

The korma seasoning seems to be made of sugar, buttermilk, salt, yeast extract, garlic powder and spices (coriander, cumin, ginger, cloves, cinnamon) plus the ever popular "natural flavouring", onion, red sweet pepper and parsley. Lots of taste then. And they are made with low sodium salt and lentil flour. Potato starch too, but I daresay the lentil flour is the healthy bit.

The crunch is quite hard. I'm guessing that this means you take longer to eat your little 16g packet, and the big crunch gives the sensation that you have eaten more than you thought. Sometimes however much you have for lunch you don't really feel satisfied... unless there was a good crunch with your lunch.

Not at all bad. I would certainly try these again.

Monday 17 November 2014

Walkers Baked Hoops and Crosses Roast Beef

Can you beat your friends at the noughts and crosses game?! asks the blurb on the back of the packet. Well, I don't know: usually the trick is to get your mark in the central square but if you're a bad player this doesn't always work. But this is interesting; I thought maybe this crispy snack was called "Hoops and Crosses" because no-one says "noughts and crosses" any more. But apparently they do say noughts and crosses. So, er, why is the snack called Hoops and Crosses?

OK. Call me ultra picky but I had to ask.

Anyhow, I bought a multi pack of these because I've never seen a proper packet. I've only ever seen multi packs. And in Tesco the multi pack was on special. So I got one. A bit dubious because beef flavour crisps are never my favourite, but in the spirit of research I'll try anything once.

And you know what? These are pretty tasty. I liked these little circles and crosses of wholegrain cornmeal rather a lot. Nice crunch, nice size snack that you can just pop into your mouth, nice taste too. A little bit sweet, and a little bit marmite or oxo cube. Not tremendously roast beef - maybe more roast beef with loads of gravy. But seriously tasty.

And I like the way the multi pack gives you a little 18g bag so you don't eat too many at a time. Although I opened two little bags at once for the reluctant tasters at work and the 36g was gone in no time at all. Which is obviously a good sign from the tastiness point of view. But I guess that however many little bags you get inside your multi pack it relies for healthiness on you not opening them one after another and eating them all at once. Yes, really and truly healthy eating is up to us.

I think maybe I'll look for other Hoops and Crosses flavours in the future. But try not to eat them all by myself!

This being a Walkers crispy snack we have an interesting take on the little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly. Yup. It's not a little guy at all, it's a cross and two hoops. Top marks for detail Mr Walker.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Deep River Snacks New York Spicy Dill Pickle

Spicy Dill Pickle? Very very spicy indeed. And yes, I know the packet says spicy but I'm not sure I was expecting quite such spiciness.

This is the last but one packet of crisps that lovely Friend from Buffalo brought from the United States. So having been scrunched up in her suitcase the crisps are a bit broken up. But I notice that the Deep River Snacks bag coped with the pressure in the baggage hold a lot better than the Lay's bags. It's definitely quite sturdy as crisp bags go.

These crisps are all natural, certified gluten free, kosher, with non-GMO potatoes and sunflower oil, no preservatives, no MSG, no trans fat and cholesterol free. And free of peanuts and tree nuts. Wow! Is there anything in this crispy snack? Well, yes; there's a whole lot of taste.

These are quite crunchy little crisps, rather a dark yellow with lots of flavour dust and scattered with teeny tiny snippets of (probably) dill. The flavour is made up of "extractives" of dill weed (not a word I have come across before), onion, garlic and vinegar, and of course the usual suspects: spices and natural flavour. I sometimes wonder why the crisp companies bother to give us any ingredients at all when what they so often tell us is "natural flavour".

Deep River Snacks seem to be very committed to helping a wide variety of charities, each associated with a different flavour of crisp: my packet tells me about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and their Light the Night Walk (in North America). Rosemary & Olive Oil flavour (which I rather fancy) encourages you to support Autism Speaks which is a charity I like the sound of. Peach Habanero Tortilla Chips are also associated with this charity. A combination of peaches and chillis I think? And potatoes of course.

The crispy crunch is a little hard but I'm feeling a little fragile today (glands or something) so probably I wouldn't normally complain about that. The thing that bothers me a bit is that the dill pickle taste (which I love) is almost obscured by the amazing spiciness.

But it's a very different packet of crisps from the norm and doesn't seem to be trying to copy anything else I have tried. And it looks like a nice company with carefully considered values. So I'm pleased to have tried this product.

Friday 7 November 2014

Kettle Chips Mature Cheddar & Red Onion

What giant crisps! Unfortunately I failed to photograph the huge crisps at the top of the packet, but take it from me they were very large. Really quite hard to force into my mouth, and a lot of them folded around each other to make great big parcels of crisp. They get smaller (but not extremely small) as you work your way down the packet.

And tasty too. Lots and lots of very cheesy cheesiness and not too much red onion. A pretty good combination. A great deal of tasty flavour dust, a lovely mature cheddar colour, and a great crunch.

It's really quite hard to know what else to say but we liked these a lot and I accidentally ate rather too many. Luckily I have been walking to work recently so let's hope the walking has cancelled out the effect of too many cheesy crisps.

This is what the packet usually looks like, although this advertisement features a piece of hand carved woodwork (lovingly crafted by Andrew Pearson) instead of an actual bag of crisps. You can read about Andrew Pearson and see some of his other work here. I really like the image of Erasmus trying out a laptop!

The bag I actually bought from Waitrose features a competition to win a handmade kitchen worth £35,000 (or £25,000 in cash). I'm not sure which I'd rather go for. Our kitchen isn't very old but we certainly didn't spend that much on it. And then again, £25,000 would be a nice little nest egg or several very grand holidays. Well, I have entered the prize draw but the results will not be available until June 2015, and I didn't win an instant prize from the pantry.
I think it said on the website that I need to keep the packet to confirm my unique code in order to win. But I can't help feeling that it might have gone a little rancid by next June. So I have scanned the whole bag instead. 
Slight update in the packaging in 2016. And another competition.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Vico La Classique Nature

Another packet of crisps from a motorway service station in France; they really are amazingly good sources of crispy snacks, but then so they are in the UK so I shouldn't be surprised. And maybe I wouldn't be so impressed at the shopping opportunities on the autoroute if I was ever allowed into a real supermarché or even one of the fabulous hypermarchés they have in France.

In the UK crisp varieties are immediately obvious to me (except when they randomly redesign the packaging); in France I have to think a bit harder. It's not always easy to pick new varieties of crispy snack without spending an age reading all the labels. And as we usually stop only to get fuel or for what is euphemistically known as a comfort break I'm not expected to take very long because otherwise we'd be late for our hotel or ferry. So I was a little disappointed that I had picked a slightly dull-looking packet of crisps.

But what can you do? Nature (that's what we used to call ready salted) is a classic flavour, and these crisps have been going for plus de 50 ans  or so it says on the packet.

Made in France with pommes de terres preservées, which could mean a protected or traditional variety of potato (I'm really not sure). We are invited to enjoy these crisps as an aperitif: VICO, le roi de l'aperitif it says on the packet. And, er, it is a bit strange how sometimes it is Vico, and sometimes VICO. I can't make out which is correct.

These rather dull-sounding, not very special looking salted crisps taste just fine. Lovely crunch. Terrific retro salted flavour. Very nice old-fashioned crisps. And tip top with dip. And they have the little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly on the back of the packet.