Sunday 30 August 2015

Bret's Saveur Cheddar Oignon de Roscoff

What a great crisp flavour!

Basically this is a crinkle cut version of cheese and onion. And rarely have we tasted one so good.

The aroma on opening the packet  is fabulous. The taste is a wonderfully gentle cheese and onion. Yum! Top quality flavour.

Bret's tell us that Roscoff onions were a great success in England in the 19th centuary because they taste so good, and last so well. French "Johnnies" used to bicycle around England to sell onions until at least the 1970s. My mother used to buy onions from a Frenchman with a bike (although we never saw him ride it), but the Chef's mother definitely bought from bicycling Frenchmen.

And Bret's also tell us that these wonderful onions make a great culinary partner for Cheddar fromage au gout pronounce originaire de Somerset en Angleterre.

We think they're right. Although the Chef doesn't much care for crinkle cut crisps and would prefer the basic flat crispy shape. He thinks, and he's right really, that crinkle cut crisps have a harder crunch. And really and truly a lighter crunch would be better. More fabulous. In our opinion.

But still. A five star crisp.

And I know you are going to want to see the view from the restaurant where we had lunch on Friday. Stunning eh? This is Arolla in the Valais. Flowers courtesy of the Hotel Restaurant du Glacier. We had an Assiette Valaisanne and a cherry & edelweiss ice-cream! The mountain is Mont Collon.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Lay's Collection Regions Saveur Ch'ti Sauce Pom' Frites

As ever when confronted with a special edition crisp, how can one possibly resist?

I knew about Ch'ti, at least a little, because of the 2008 film Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis in which a postman from Provence is exiled to what he expects to be a hell on earth: the ghastly and freezing cold north of France where everyone is unemployed, everyone drinks like a fish, and (worse) everyone speaks a crazy dialect called Ch'ti. Not having seen the film I am paraphrasing from a number of plot synopses I found online. Needless to say, our hero learns to love the local people and pretty much everything about the area.

So Ch'ti (also called Picard or Chtimi or even Rouchi) is the local dialect spoken in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie. And also in parts of Belgium where it has official status as a regional language. The things I learn when I read up on crispy snacks for you! And Ch'ti also seems to mean the local people and, in this case, their taste for a particular sauce on their chips (or fries).

And it seems to me that this crisp flavour is very similar to a crisp from the Netherlands Lay's Patatje Joppie kindly contributed by the Dutch taste tester last year. So it's a bit of a shame that the Chef and I are tasting it here in Switzerland because both the Dutch taste tester and noble friend would be interested to this flavour. I think they would probably like it.

Once again we have a very nice crisp. Good colour, good crunch. But I don't think that this flavour is for me. And the Chef made a face.

The sauce flavour seems to be a mix of mustard, onion, garlic, herbs and spices, cinnamon, paprika, sugar and (oh dear) celery. What you get is sort of the flavour of mustard and gherkin from a Big Mac (very much sort of). I confess that we really weren't mad about this crisp flavour.

But you know it's always interesting to try.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Lay's Saveur Sel & Vinaigre

Another flavour from the French branch of crisp giant Lay's, although according to the packet these crisps are actually made in Belgium. The packet tells me the potatoes are washed, peeled, fried, seasoned and bagged up inside an hour. But since the potatoes seem to come from France and Germany as well as Belgium, we don't know how long it takes from field to bag.

What we do learn from the packet is that this is the number 1 selling flavour en Angleterre. This claim made under a Union Jack. Now I wonder is salt & vinegar the best selling crisp flavour in England? Or is it the best selling crisp flavour in the UK? I have no idea whether crisp statistics are broken down by country within the UK.

Not a bad version of salt & vinegar. Obviously salt & vinegar, but not too harsh. Although some crisps seem to taste stronger than others.

As usual with Lay's potato crisps, they are fairly fine cut and a nice golden colour. Not bad at all, but perhaps not a flavour I would normally choose for myself.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Casino Chips Nature

I've been feeding the  beautifully carved window ledges with beeswax
OK, so you might not think these are going to be the most exciting crisps in the world but let's take a closer look.

For a start, the brand, Casino, is a supermarket group headquartered at Saint-Etienne. I once visited a massive branch near San Tropez and thought it must be the largest shop in the world. Mind you, that was back in 1991. Or was it 1992? But never mind that. I found these crisps in a motorway service station: where else? Maybe Casino own the little shop? Or maybe they sell their products in non-Casino-owned shops? I don't know.

Anyhow, this 100g bag of salted crisps looks nice and simple.

But wait! It may contain traces of gluten, milk, mustard or celery. Not celery? How could you accidentally add celery (my nemesis: it should never ever be eaten at all if you ask me) to a crisp? Oh well.

And then the instructions for enjoying these crisps are a little unusual. The packet suggests I put them in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes at "thermostat 3" (would that be gas mark 3 do you suppose?) before tucking in. They don't recommend you stick them in the microwave. Most packets of crisps probably expect you to tear them open with your teeth and start eating at once.

Of course in the household of an internationally renowned crisp reviewer we open the packet carefully with the aid of the kitchen scissors. I'll just go and do that.

And? Quite a fine cut crisp. Pale colour. Not too much salt. In fact, rather an old fashioned style of crisp. Not bad. And heated up? Mmnnn.... Yes, OK. Yup, quite nice. But not much different from the cold version.

And today is amazingly sunny and fabulous. So here is a photograph taken from our lovely garden. It has been very overcast for a couple of days. But now...

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Lay's Saveur Ketchup

Well, I'm going to say immediately that I am very disappointed. Ketchup is usually a great crisp flavour and very reliable. Damn! These crisps are nothing like as tasty as I had hoped.

Lovely texture. Nice crunch. Good colour. But the flavour really isn't right. Much too much vinegar. And not nearly enough sweet tomatoey yumminess. Can French ketchup taste so sharp? The Chef and I always stick with Heinz so we don't know what the European palate expects of a tomato ketchup. So, for us, what a disappointment. I do think Lay's could have done a lot better.

And, indeed, since these are French crisps, and we are in the French speaking part of Switzerland this week: quelle déception!

On our way through France we stayed at Salins les Bains, a pretty little town in a narrow valley between high cliffs. Our hotel was just to the right of this photograph. And about 5 minutes walk away: another salt mine. It's now a museum. But people still come to swim in the thermal baths and take advantage of the multitude of treatments on offer.

Monday 24 August 2015

Bret's au Comté

Another tasty packet of crinkle cut crisps from Breton company Bret's.

These are flavoured with Comté cheese from the Franche-Comté region of Eastern France. And although I do not remember ever trying Comté cheese it must have quite a distinctive taste. You can certainly tell these crisps are not flavoured with Cheddar (say) or Edam. What you get is a proper cheesy taste.

Apparently Comté is considered one of the finest cheeses in France. I read that you may only use the milk from 2 breeds of cow to make this cheese, and if you fancy learning more about it, there are many websites including a wiki page to help you out.

Rather good crisps. The Chef and I liked these and could probably have ever so gently eaten rather more than is good for our diet.

The packet features the distinctive bell logo which indicates the highest quality of Comté cheese. If you don't get the bell you are buying an inferior product.

I rather like Bret's. I like their crinkle cut crisps which aren't so terribly crunchy as some crinkly crisps. And I like their philosophy of employing local people and supporting local farmers. And they are doing their best to reduce their impact on the environment. Good for them.

Because we have just been driving through France here is the grand gateway and some of the other buildings at Arc-et-Senans which is the grandest salt mine you could ever wish to see.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Carrefour Frites Salées (Frietjes Gezouten)

I haven't posted any crisps for ten days or so. Unfortunately I spent a week in bed feeling thoroughly miserable, and then we spent 3 days travelling. Neither of those make ideal crisp reporting conditions but naturally once we were on our way I took the opportunity to visit several motorway service stations (and could not resist photographing these amazing new loo doors all covered in foxgloves) and (oh joy!) a French supermarket: Carrefour.

So here is a packet of Carrefour own brand crisps. Or, in fact, not crisps at all but this crispy snack masquerading as chips (or fries). You can see the photo. You know what I mean.

Shiny new loo doors at the motorway service station: amazing eh?
Not a super exciting crispy snack, but at the same time quite acceptable. Of course the chips are made of dried potato and maize flour and are extruded into the chips shape, so they take every opportunity to turn back into a mushy paste and gum themselves to your teeth. But that's what you expect from this kind of snack.

The really odd thing is that the flavour is salt. Just salt. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with that at all. But what you taste is a light salt & vinegar. Very strange because there is no vinegar in the recipe. But the Chef and I both observed this weird phenomenon. Not bad though.

And the simply designed packaging is carefully printed to be readily comprehensible both in France and in the Netherlands. I didn't know that Carrefour operated in the Netherlands but I suppose they must.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Walkers Max Flamin' Hot

For some reason a lot of people are deluded into believing that August is a summer month. Not this year it's not. What with the overcast skies, the dark, the cold, the wind, the rain (sometimes), the mugginess and the heat (sometimes) the weather hasn't been very nice. And we do wish it would make up its mind.

So what better time to try Walkers Max Flamin' Hot? According to the packet these crisps have a "deep ridged taste". Really? They certainly have deep ridges but I'm not sure that qualifies as a taste. But the Flamin' Hot flavour might do us good.

So what did we think? Well, I wasn't super impressed that the aroma on opening the bag was basically green peppers. Which I really don't like. And which do not appear on the list of ingredients.

This is a dark orange crinkle cut crisp with quite a hot flavour - brought about, no doubt, by the addition of Flamin' Hot Seasoning.

The taste is pretty hot. And, despite no green peppers it does have a pretty strong peppery taste. And none of the reluctant taste testers liked the taste much. But almost all of this 50g packet did get eaten. Mostly by the Dutch taste tester who somehow couldn't stop eating them even though she said she didn't like them.

We weren't madly impressed. But this is the first time in a long while I've featured the little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly. And this is a very fine example.

Thinking about the nastiness of the weather recently reminds me of one of my favourite August holidays. In a haunted Gloucestershire farmhouse and about 40 years ago now. I didn't realise I'd got so old! No heating except the kitchen range (in winter only) and the big fireplace in the sitting room. I went to stay with a school friend while her parents were off somewhere else. And it was SO COLD. We basically only left the house to put the chickens out in the morning and shoo them back home at night. Every so often we bicycled into the local village to buy bread and milk and telephone my mother in far away London (from a public phone box) to let her know I was still alive. I don't even remember a television but we did listen to a lot of records. School friend's older sister had a large collection of vinyl and I learned to love Cat Stevens and Donovan.

But I don't remember having any crisps at all.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

M&S Sour Cream & Chive Pretzels

This pretzel snack is one of M&S's Great American Snack range. I was fairly sure that pretzels originated in Germany or somewhere but, hey, who knows. I guess the Americans have made it their own.

So these little pretzels are about the size of the first joint on your thumb. Which is a nice little size for a crispy snack.

And they have a fair amount of tasty flavour dust. You do have to lick it off your fingers. Which is no bad thing.

I quite liked this flavour. The reluctant taste testers quite liked it too. A nice combination of gentle sour cream and not too chivy. The Chef wasn't so keen. But it's quite a moreish snack  and I think most of us ate more than we expected.

Not bad.

As ever I ponder over the list of ingredients and wonder why you need dried creme fraȋche, dried yoghourt, dried whey and dried soured cream to create a good sour cream flavour. But the crispy snack department at M&S seem to have done a pretty good job.

Nice. I don't know why I never tried them before.

Monday 10 August 2015

Phileas Fogg French Style Crispy Squares Cheese & Caramelised Onion Flavour.

Searching out new flavours of crisp certainly broadens the mind. I mean, what exactly is it about these little crispy puffs of tastiness that makes them French style? Swiss style I might be able to accept (see many many jokes about the holes in Swiss cheese), but French style?

Did Messrs Phileas Fogg (a disguise for KP Snacks) ask the French about this? I suspect not.

New! says this 150g packet. Inspired by the cheeses of France (hang on... what about all those Swiss cheeses? Yes, you can tell I'm not going to be able to let that one go), these French Style Crispy Squares are three-dimensional, with a surprisingly light and crispy texture, which melt in the mouth making them an irresistible snack.

So this is quite a nice crispy snack. Although I find it not cheesy enough for my taste and a little bit too oniony. But the bite is undeniably light. Wonderfully crispy. Lovely texture. And holes. Lots of holes. A very interesting new design of crispy snack.

But here's another beef; three dimensional? Aren't all crispy snacks 3D? I mean, isn't pretty much everything in real life three dimensional? I guess Phileas Fogg is doing his best to tell us that we have little pillows of crispy snack here; not flat things like crisps. Sorry Mr Fogg. Call me picky (the Chef certainly does) but I'm going to mark this crispy snack down for misuse of language.

The taste of these lovely squares isn't exactly what I'd hoped for. And the Chef kind of agrees with me. But the texture is great. And the design really is great. You might like these a lot.

Don't let us put you off. If you find a packet give them a try.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Joe & Seph's Popcorn with Caramel & Sea Salt

Noble friend donated another packet of popcorn.

All the reluctant taste testers tried this popcorn. And all of them liked it a lot. In fact we all thought it was five star popcorn.

Wonderful rich caramel sauce slathered on this popcorn; not too chewy or hard. It doesn't get stuck in your teeth. Nice addition of salt. Great taste. And the popcorn itself was just right; not too hard, not too soft.

Yes. We liked this. We liked it very much.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Ritz Crisp & Thin Sea Salt & Vinegar Flavour

Here's another packet of crispy crunchy Crisp & Thin snacks from Ritz. And we liked these just as much as we liked the Cream Cheese & Onion flavour.

Everyone who tried these lovely light snacks said "vinegary" which is true. But after all, it does say vinegar on the packet. And it's not the far-too-strong-makes-your-tongue-curl-up style of vinegar, but a very acceptable tasty vinegary sharpness. And just the right amount of sea salt.

In fact Ritz (owned by Mondelez International, the American confectionery, food & beverage conglomerate) seem to have made all the right moves with this great new crispy snack.

Fine little biscuits rather than crisps, Crisp & Thins are made from a mix of potato flour, cornstarch, wheat flour and oat bran.

And very nice too. I would certainly put them on my shopping list - if I didn't have a mission to try as many different types of crispy snack as possible. But definitely one to try again.

Plus there are two more flavours to seek out. A treat in store.
And here are a few more photographs of the fabulous Haddon Hall where the garden makes great use of the lovely old stone walls. Worth a detour? No! Worth a special trip.

Friday 7 August 2015

Ritz Crisp & Thin Cream Cheese & Onion Flavour

I had seen these new Crisp & Thin crispy snacks from Ritz advertised on one of the many many commercial channels available these days. And then I saw them on sale at... you've guessed... a motorway service station.

Yup. Road trip! To Derbyshire this time. And another chance to patronise the ever fruitful shopping opportunity that is the motorway service station.

I poured this little 30g packet into a bowl at work and allowed the reluctant taste testers free rein.

I liked this crispy snack a lot. The taste testers liked them too. So much so that there were none left to take home for the Chef to try. I really should have saved a few.

This is a very nice crispy snack. Lovely light crunch, interesting slightly hexagonal shape, and a light cheesy oniony flavour. The cream cheese works very well and gives a softer more gentle flavour than cheddar. Or, as so often these days, mature cheddar.

There was much praise in the office for this new snack. We were all very impressed.

And because we'd gone to Derbyshire we visited the wonderful Haddon Hall again.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Ten Acre Ambrose Popperley's Wasabi Popcorn

Noble friend produced another packet of Ten Acre popcorn from the local kosher deli. She must be their best customer. She had said she would buy the Wasabi flavour - and so she did.

Ten Acre has many flavours and they all come in beautifully designed packaging. Look at this rich green. Wonderful eh? And quite unusual in the world of crispy snacks.

Although. I have to say I was not mad about this popcorn flavour. I kept spotting the tall taste tester going back for more, and I'm sure others were also snacking quite enthusiastically, but I couldn't fancy it myself. Which is a shame.

When I opened the packet, the waft of Wasabi that leapt out was really quite off-putting. I don't know why. We've tried a number of Wasabi flavours lately so why?

Well, it could be that this Wasabi flavour doesn't appear to feature any actual wasabi. We've tried Wasabi popcorn recently made with genuine wasabi and made with horseradish. This flavour seems to be made, amongst other things (like rice flour - and what does that taste of we ask? ), of mustard. And I really don't like mustard as a main flavour. Or it could just be that I didn't fancy it.

So there we are. Not for me, but everyone else in the taste testing team seemed happy to put in a little snacking time.

And once again I'm a little dissatisfied with the green of this scan. The packet is a much prettier richer green than this. So search out this flavour popcorn for yourself, and see if you think I'm wrong about the taste.