Monday 28 September 2015

Lay's Dégustation Sel de mer d'Anglesey

The reluctant taste testers and I were a bit baffled at this crisp flavour.

The bag seems to be pretty much the same as you get with Walkers Sensations in the UK. So I think that's what we have here. Even the texture of the bag is the same. But in French.

But the flavour... I mean, sea salt is a fine flavour for a crisp, but why oh why would the French want to flavour their crisps with sea salt from Anglesey? And, er, how exactly do you pronounce Anglesey in French?

For those of you not privy to the geography of Wales, Anglesey is an island off the North West coast of the country. The Romans called it Mona and wrote that it was inhabited by druids. Maybe it was. The Welsh call it Ynys Môn and in 2011 57% of the residents were Welsh speakers. Back in 1901 it was 90%.

Which doesn't help us answer the question why are the French using Welsh sea salt? Because goodness knows, France is stuffed with French salt.

These crisps are pretty good. The thick cut means they even sound different from ordinary crisps when you pour them into a bowl. Quite a hard crunch, but tasty. Just about the right amount of salt. Not a bad crisp at all.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Joe & Seph's Strawberries & Cream Popcorn

Noble friend brought Joe & Seph's Thai Style Peanut Satay Popcorn into the office. Not everyone was a fan, but some of the reluctant taste testers loved it. And then we tried Caramel & Sea Salt which we all loved.

I checked out the website and chose a number of interesting sounding flavours. And here is the Strawberries & Cream packet.

On opening the packet you get a great big aroma of strawberry. And the popcorn, although partly popcorn coloured, is also pink. In fact, strawberry coloured.

And, sort of bizarrely, this popcorn does kind of taste of strawberries and cream. Although when extremely sceptical taste tester told me she liked the flavour - but what was it? I told her and she said (and I quote) "eugh! that really puts me off". Well, what can you do? She is picky.

Quite a lot of this popcorn was eaten by the reluctant taste testers even though, as one of them admitted, she didn't really like it that much. And I know what she meant. The taste is strawberries and cream. Hurrah! They got that right. But that doesn't necessarily make it a good flavour for popcorn.
Plus, and I've not mentioned it before but now I feel I must, this popcorn features a lot of those nasty hard shiny bits of corn-skin that a really good popcorn doesn't bother you with. Really high quality popcorn only has the lovely cloudy popped kernels. Not so good popcorn? Well, there's the un-popped kernel and then the nasty shiny bits - like beetle wings.
I have to admit we tried this popcorn on an autumn day not a summer's day but I don't think that substantially affected the way we all felt about it. It's possible that someone may have to consider which hats to eat.

But hey! Don't pay any attention to what the reluctant taste testers and I thought. The Chef finished the packet with enthusiasm. He liked this popcorn and would have eaten more.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Walkers "Bring Me Back!" Lamb & Mint

I discovered the other day that this autumn Walkers are running a competition to bring back a discontinued flavour "Bring Me Back!".

Oh yes, said tech taste tester, he'd seen them in his local Sainsbury's. Well, I definitely had not seen them in our local Waitrose (which is a bit staid in its selection of crispy snacks) so I thought I had better take a trip to a larger supermarket.

However, the very next day tech taste tester turned up at work with two multipack bags containing all six "Bring Me Back!" flavours. A very generous gesture - although he did admit that these bags of crisps were on special offer.

So quite at random we opened this little 25g packet of Lamb & Mint flavour crisps.

And what did we think? The usual Walkers thin cut crisps with a good crunch and plenty of flavour dust. But... Not a very distinguished flavour. Sort of savoury, a little bit meaty-tasting perhaps, with a hint of minty aftertaste. So not really a taste of lamb at all.

No wonder though, because these crisps are suitable for vegetarians and thus no lamb at all is involved in the manufacture.

Not bad. Quite tasty. But I'm not sure this flavour deserves to be brought back.

Thursday 24 September 2015

REAL Crisps Hand Cooked Sea Salt

This little packet of crisps appeared in my filing tray when I was away from work. Off sick, on holiday; I don't know because I wasn't there. And I also don't know what generous crisp fairy made the donation. But I greedily ate them all on my own.

Now, I've tried crisps from the Real Crisp Company before. I found them - no! not at a motorway service station in France - no, I found them at Geneva airport. Real Sea Salt & Black Pepper crisps were pretty good as I remember. And these Sea Salt crisps were pretty good too.

Meet Jake, says the packaging, a 'real' life salty sea dog. his father's ship. Born aboard his father's ship amid thick fog at high tide, he's never even touched dry land. He knows his granny from his sheepshank. This teller of tall tales is 108 years old but the salty sea air and mermaid kisses grant him his youthful appearance. It seems Jake is the character depicted on the front of the packet. Hmmnnn....

Pretty good plain salty crisps with the skin left on and a slightly harder crunch than the norm. I had no trouble finishing this 35g packet for my crunch at lunch. Very tasty.

I'm sure my last packet told me it was made by the Real Crisp Company in Wales. This packet says it is made by REAL Crisps Ltd in Northamptonshire. The company is owned (I think) by Tayto who are the big crisp company in Ireland. Things are always changing in the crisp market but... And it seems that quite half the links I clicked on to find out more don't work. So I'm not quite sure what to believe.

But they are quite tasty crisps.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Belin Monaco à l'Emmental

This little 55g box of cheesy biscuits came (you've already guessed, I'm sure) from a French motorway service station.

It's a tiny little box of tiny little salty biscuits strewn with grated cheese and baked to extreme crispiness. And very good too. I could have eaten the whole box with no difficulty at all. The difficulty is stopping eating them: they are so small and so tasty that one is not enough.

But I bravely stopped snacking and gave the rest of the box to the Chef. He had been looking forward to trying this crispy biscuit.

The packaging says Monaco, le roi du fromage chez les Crackers Belin. Which confused me because it sounds as though Monaco is a kind of cheese. Well, there is a kind of cheese called Provolone del Monaco but Belin don't use it to make these little biscuits. So I'm guessing that Monaco is the style of biscuitty snack. And the biscuit is the king of cheese? I'm really not sure.

I tried looking for a helpful Belin website and couldn't find one. There is a Facebook page Apéro Belin but that really doesn't tell you much.

What I can say is that these little biscuits are not tremendously fabulous and not super exciting. But they are extremely moreish and if you try one you will want another. Because they are good.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Jimmy's Sweet Chili Cheese Popcorn with Tabasco Brand Seasoning

Last week I went with the reluctant taste testers to Buckingham Palace, Fortnum & Mason and one or two other places in the Green Park area. And in the basement grocery department of Fortnums I discovered this popcorn which turned out to be Dutch.

You've got to buy a souvenir of a good day out haven't you? The tall taste tester bought a Buckingham Palace magnet for the fridge at work, and I bought a packet of popcorn. That's how life works.

So this lovely green packet of popcorn has some fluffy popped kernels that are more orangey (I think those are the chili cheesy bits) and some that are paler in colour and seem to taste sweeter. Although some are more mixed up. Helpful.

When the reluctant taste testers and I first tucked in we thought the taste was a bit pale, not really strong enough to warrant the great big Tabasco logo on the packaging. But the more you eat the tastier they get. And before you know it, a whole bowlful has been eaten.

So we found we enjoyed this popcorn more than we thought we were going to. Pretty good.

But we were a bit puzzled. This is a popcorn made in the Netherlands by a company called Jimmy's (not terribly Dutch sending somehow), using the Tabasco brand seasoning which is made on Avery Island, Louisiana (and has been since 1868). And I bought the packet in that most quintessentially English shop, Fortnum & Mason (opened in 1707). Wow. Well, you know the crispy snack market is international. This is just a very good example of that. And there's a lot of history involved here.
And you might like some fabulous gates which illustrate our day out.

Monday 21 September 2015

Lay's Édition Limitée Saveur Sandwich Parisien

What? A limited edition crisp called Parisian Sandwich? Now there's a thing: I had no idea there was such a creature as a Parisian Sandwich.

Evidently I haven't been paying attention. Well, OK, let's be honest here. I haven't visited Paris since 1988 (it was during the Seoul Olympics), and that was only to change trains. My last proper visit was probably about 1980. So perhaps I've just failed to notice (or totally forgotten) that the people of Paris have a passion for ham sandwiches. Did you know?

I took this packet of crisps to work and all the reluctant taste testers were a bit surprised at the flavour. And then even more surprised that the taste is indeed ham sandwich.

The packaging tells me that Le sandwich Parisien (jambon-beurre) est un sandwich emblématique de la région Parisienne! Ham and butter, eh? I almost always start a sandwich with bread and butter. Perhaps this isn't the norm in France.

As I say, the reluctant taste testers and I were amazed that these crisps really do taste of ham sandwich. Tall elegant taste tester was particularly impressed. Some of us felt it was perhaps a ham and cheese sandwich but I can only attribute this to the butter part of the flavour as there is nothing in the ingredients to indicate cheese. The Chef and the Ski Instructor liked them too.

Very impressive use of materials to create a rather improbable sounding flavour. The best equivalent flavour I can think of is the M&S Reduced Fat Buttered Baked Potato crisp.

This is a limited edition crisp so if you happen to be in France grab them while you can.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Casino Boules Goût Fromage

I did hope that this little crispy, croustillante, snack would have a squishy cheesy middle. But sadly not.

Basically what we have here is a small ball-shaped version of a Cheesy Whotsit. Only not quite so tasty.

Not a bad little cheesy snack; crunchy, cheesy, easy to pop into your mouth. Quite tasty too. Rather good with a glass of something chilled I expect, and indeed the packet does suggest serving Boules to your friends with an aperitif.

But this is nothing like so fabulous as the all time best ever (in my opinion) M&S Full On Cheese Tasters. Which is basically a clone of the original Cheesy Whotsit but even tastier (in fact, it's so good I have decided to add it to my list of very favourite crispy snacks).

However, we mustn't forget that this is an own-brand snack; produced by French supermarket chain Casino. And own-brand snacks are sometimes not everything one would hope for. Of course I found it at a motorway service station, where Casino runs the shop.

The serving suggestion is a little odd; who serves a crispy snack in martini glass? Perhaps more to the point, who needs a serving suggestion for a crispy snack?

Not bad at all. Just not tremendously special.
And I'm also posting this picture of a wall in the Swiss town of Thun. Not for any good reason, but because my computer chose it completely at random and offered it as a substitute for the pack shot. Computers, eh? But it is a rather fabulous wall in the old part of Thun where the shops are built in a sort of double decker arrangement; upstairs and down. I love the geranium plant poking out of the tiny window.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Co-op JaMaDu Croustades de Maïs

This is a terribly exciting initiative from the Swiss Co-op to provide healthy crispy snacks for children.

"Kids Expert Jury" it says on the front of the packet. And on the back it tells me that it is important that children eat a balanced diet and take part in regular physical activity which they enjoy (I love that bit: when I was a child you had to do sports whether you liked them or not. And mostly I didn't).

Anyway, with this in mind the Swiss Co-op launched the JaMaDu programme. And we are told that all JaMaDu products have been tested and recommended by children, parents, and experts.

Great idea. Most unfortunately the reluctant taste testers join me in thinking that this crispy snack tastes of nothing at all.

Which is pretty grim. Except that the tall taste tester thought this crispy snack tasted kind of fishy (he said "cod") which is sort of worse than tasting of nothing very much.

Most of us thought this caterpillar-shaped crispy snack tasted of nothing very much. The managerial taste tester (who doesn't usually comment) contributed this interesting fact: crispy snacks for small children don't taste of anything. And who better to comment? Managerial taste tester has a 2 year old son. And should be an expert.

Well, it was worth a try. And the idea of producing a crispy snack with 40% less fat seems pretty good. I guess the advice should be to introduce your child to healthy low-fat no-saltiness before they have any chance to try and appreciate what I think of as a normal yummy salty crispy snack.

Not sure why the Co-op chose a lemur to illustrate this snack. Especially a red ruffed lemur. It looks like an absolutely charming animal but why it should be promoting a crispy maize snack I do not know.

Friday 18 September 2015

Bret's Les Natures Classiques

A lovely simple basic sea salt flavour crisp. Kindly contributed by noble friend who found them in Italy. Although they were made in Brittany.

Simple, tasty, nice light crunch, nothing fancy, nothing exciting. Just a nice basic crisp. I wonder if these are sold in Italy because the flavour is so simple - most of the crisps we have found in Italy have a light, uncomplicated flavour.

Somehow many of today's crisps are a little too fancy and it seems the real skill is producing a top quality flavour which isn't too over the top. And doesn't sound like something in the menu of a Michelin starred restaurant.

What we have here is a very nice sea salt flavour. Sea Salt from Brittany (obviously). Nothing fancy though. And the reluctant taste testers and I liked this pleasant little crisp a lot.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Walkers Pops Original

I tried Walkers Pops Melted Cheese & Crispy Bacon back in March. I thought they were very nasty. I even put them on my list of crispy snacks I really didn't like. It's hard to say from what I've written exactly what I disliked so much. But obviously it wasn't a good taste.

But recently (yes, you've guessed: at a motorway service station) I found a little packet of "Original" flavour Pops. And they are extremely tasty.

A nice crunch (a little hard but not too much), and a lovely salty, cheesy flavour. Not too strong but just about right on the taste front. The reluctant taste testers and I liked these a lot. I wonder why the Melted Cheese and Crispy Bacon version is so nasty.

Pops are air popped with a full on taste and 50% less fat. Or so the packet tells me. They're not fried, they're air popped! Which means you get all the great Walkers taste with 50% less fat (than standard potato crisps on average).

And as I said, we liked them a lot.

You can see the little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly if you click the link to the Melted Cheese & Crispy Bacon flavour.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Keogh’s Irish Atlantic Sea Salt

Senior Taste Tester has just been to Dublin (for anyone struggling with geography, that's the capital of Ireland) where he tried and approved this packet of crisps. I didn't get to try the crisps (the packet was very empty) but the ex-contents of this packet smell pretty fabulous.

The Atlantic Sea Salt is handcrafted on the Beara Peninsular in West Cork by the O'Neill family. Pristine Oceanic Waters produce a pure Sea Salt Flake full of natural flavour says the packet.

And don't forget to activate Spud Nav™. Track your crisps back to the field they came from, just type the field name the tracker page of our website! Er... but I can't find the field name on the packet.

I can find the potato variety - Hermes - and they were cooked by Zintra, but call me dim - I can't find the field name. Nope. I looked on the website and my field name is missing. Sigh. I wanted to follow that up.

The reluctant taste testers and I have previously tried Keogh's Atlantic Sea Salt & Irish Cider Vinegar, and Keogh's Shamrock & Sour Cream. I think I probably got both bags from the handy "foreign food" section at Tesco in Finchley Central.

But this is a bag of Irish crisps bought and eaten in Ireland. And the senior taste tester recommends these crisps.

Give them a try if you can find them. I'll be checking Tesco's shortly.
The 2121 packaging

Monday 14 September 2015

Vico Chips Kettle Cooked Très Croustillantes Sel de Mer

So here we have a lovely old-fashioned sea salt flavour crisp. With the skin left on.  And kettle cooked.

Now I had often wondered exactly what "kettle cooked" meant, and this packet handily tells me. Because although it is a packet of French crisps (from France) it still says "kettle cooked" on the front. So... check out the *. Yes, the * points us to a strap at the bottom of the packet that tells us that kettle cooked means "cuisson façon chaudron: une cuisine douce et lente".

Which basically means these crisps are cooked in a cauldron [a technical term for a thing you cook crisps in], gently and slowly. So there we are.

And, don't forget that this is an extra crunchy crisp. But luckily not too crunchy. Just crunchy enough for us to appreciate the extra crunchiness, but not so crunchy that we think there is some sort of sinister plot afoot, and these crisps are aimed at men only.

So the reluctant taste testers approved these crisps. As did the Chef's family. We thought this very simple flavour was very nice. We all liked these crisps a lot.
And many thanks to the Chef who brought the packet upstairs so I could scan it when I had gone all the way to the kitchen to get it... and forgotten what I was there for. That sort of thing makes you feel so stupid but in fact I think it's all to do with going through doorways - I absolutely forget what I was going to do if I have to go through too many doorways. But yes, you've guessed it, that's probably just me.

Sunday 13 September 2015

Chio Bull's Heads Wild Paprika

Chio make the fabulous Jumpys (which I didn't fully appreciate when I first tried them because in those far off 2 years ago times I didn't know any better) which are shaped like little kangaroos.

Now, you might suppose that any company having a success with a kangaroo-shaped crispy snack might move on to... oh I don't know.... an echidna (spiny anteater) or duck-billed platypus shape. Maybe a possum, or perhaps a kookaburra? Anything Australian...

But no. Chio has gone with the Bull's Head. In English. Which is a little odd. Because this interesting crispy snack is made in Germany but marketed by Intersnack Switzerland. Intersnack is a pan-european crispy snack conglomerate so I suppose you can buy these Bull's Heads all over Europe (except the UK of course). And I do find it a little disappointing that the snack name is in English. Come on guys! You ought to be naming your snacks in German or something.

Anyhow, I found the the angry bull face (maybe it's not meant to be angry) on the packet, and the "wild paprika" flavour quite aggressive.  Well, they don't present a very friendly picture. So it is easy to get put off. But, as ever, I found that my opinion (formed on the spot in the Conthey Co-op) was quite wrong. And the reluctant taste testers agreed that I was wrong.

The shape of this crispy snack comes as a bit of a surprise, and people who didn't know they were tucking into a Bull's Head can be (again) a little surprised at what they are trying.

But the shape of the snack is pretty true to what you might expect from the description, and the taste is pretty tasty. Wild Paprika sounds a bit strong, a bit hot, a bit tough perhaps, but in fact this crispy snack (although a little bit hot) has a lovely rich mild flavour, and a great crunch, and is really good. The reluctant taste testers and I liked this crispy snack a lot.

Obviously those of the taste testers who remember Jumpys were as puzzled as me by this new departure... but hey! who knows what a crispy snack manufacturer will get up to next?

Thursday 10 September 2015

Samuel Smith Potato Crisps Ready Salted & Cheese & Onion

I must confess I have not tried these crisps. But the tall taste tester was at The Old Cheshire Cheese near Fleet Street recently and bought and devoured two packets of crisps.

He didn't buy a packet for me. He didn't save any crisps for me. But he did save the packets. And I can reveal that even some time after the packets were opened the aroma was pretty good. In fact, in the case of the Ready Salted packet, very good indeed.

The tall taste tester recommends these crisps. Take note crisp fans.

I need to get out there and try some. And will probably have to visit a Sam Smith pub to find them.

Here are the packets.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Kent Crisps Sea Salt & Vinegar with Biddenden Cider

This was an exciting find on the P&O cross channel ferry last week. I think it was the Pride of France. Maybe?

And huge thanks to the lovely Maggie who allowed me to buy this packet despite the fact that the tills were already closed. Basically I blackmailed her into it: I said (with a sob in my voice) "but I didn't know you sold these great crisps and I've never seen them before... and I write a blog about crisps" and she gave in and sold me this little 40g packet.

There were other flavours on sale but I grabbed the first bag that met my hand. And since the tills were closed and I was on borrowed time I didn't think it was appropriate to start reading all the different packets. Plus I didn't have all that much UK money in my purse and maybe trying to pay in Euros might be pushing it.

Maggie did tell me that you can buy these crisps in Tesco. But I have a feeling that's Tesco in Dover and not Tesco Finchley Central. I haven't yet had the chance to check but I would be quite surprised to find them on sale in North London.

This is a lovely fine cut crisp with a nice clean crunch. And a really quite sharp taste. Not only do we have sea salt & vinegar, but also the addition of Biddenden cider. The packet says that Julian from Biddenden Vineyards believes we have created a truly mouthwatering crisp. Which I guess is pretty much the case; with the sharpness of the vinegar and the Biddenden cider it would probably be hard not to create a mouthwatering crisp.

I would be interested to try another flavour from Kent Crisps. This seems like a product from a company determined to produce a good product.

Nice packaging design too.
Update: the Chef doesn't even like salt & vinegar crisps but he finished the packet all by himself.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Vico Saveur Merguez Grillée

OK, choice number two from the multi-pack of Vico crisps I bought in the Carrefour in Reims.

And a bit of a disappointment considering how fabulous the grilled chicken flavour from the same multi-pack was.

This grilled Merguez flavour was a bit of a mystery to me until I read up on Merguez which is a spicy mutton or beef sausage popular in North Africa cuisine. Good old Wikipedia; what would I do without it? And the name was pinched by the French from a Berber word that means "sausage". I read that it is very spicy and usually grilled. And it does sound pretty tasty.

Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that you get much sausage taste in these crinkle cut crisps. What you mostly get is lots of spiciness. Mostly the flavour comes from onion, garlic, salt (of course), paprika, cumin, coriander, pepper, cayenne pepper, and herbs (unspecified). There is also some "pork broth" involved. Odd for a sausage usually made of beef or lamb.

I wasn't terribly impressed with this crisp flavour. And I'm fairly sure the reluctant taste testers felt pretty much the same.

I've never knowingly eaten a Merguez sausage but I hope it tastes a bit more meaty than this.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Walkers Quavers Cheese Flavour


What? I haven't written up Quavers before? And why not? Well, I don't know really.

After all, Quavers is a wonderful cheesy crispy snack. One of my favourites. One of the greats... So I suppose I thought I must have written about it already. But, as you can see, no amount of thinking that you've done something makes it so.

Quavers say "curly little things, Quavers, and no two are the same. Some twistier. Some that wrap around your tongue, but they're all crunchy and meaty, and pleasingly cheesy. So go on pop one in your mouth.. ".

Well, well, Quavers certainly are great. But interestingly I am pretty sure they used to be more yellowy. Considerably more yellowier. Perhaps in what is probably now technically known as "the olden days" the yellow colour was provided by an E number? Nowadays, of course, crisp colours are usually derived from paprika and that would explain why this week's Grab Bag of Quavers is not so yellowy but more pinky orange. I am not sure that the lack of E numbers has affected the taste.

And the taste remains very tasty. Lovely light crunch with just the same wonderful popping effect on the tongue that I remember. All those little bubbles...

And the packet has a great example of the little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly. I really love the way Walkers design a new character for all their different crispy snacks. Although I do also wonder how many of their customers are as nerdy as I am, and look eagerly to see what the little guy looks like this time!