Monday, 23 March 2015

The Real Crisp Co. Hand Cooked Sea Salt & Black Pepper

The crisp market can be very strange at times. If you read this blog regularly you may remember that last year much to my astonishment I found several packets of Scottish crisps at Sion railway station (Switzerland); just the other day I was in Globus in Bern (also Switzerland) where I picked up crisps from Spain and Belgium, although I could also have bought crisps from Britain or Ireland. And this packet from The Real Crisp Co, which was made in Wales, I found at Geneva airport. The Swiss, it seems, are interested in international crisps.

Anyhow, I found this little 35g packet at the gate while waiting for my flight home. Which was late.

I'm not sure about this slate grey packaging and the strange woman with two colours of nail varnish. Of course I'll buy all sorts of crisps, alluring packaging or no, but I have to say I'm really not crazy about this image. Still, I bought the packet anyway (you knew I would).

Nice lot of skin left on the potatoes, not a terrific aroma but a great crunch (perhaps a little harder than normal), slightly darker than the usual pale golden colour, and a very tasty salt and pepper taste. It's helped along by added onion powder, and there's also sugar, milk yeast powder and other "made in a factory" crisp ingredients including "spices" whatever that means.

Not an amazing crisp but very nice. And in a nice little bag. Ideal really if you're about to get on a plane.

These Welsh crisps are hand cooked in sunflower oil and suitable for vegetarians. The company that makes them is Sirhowy Valley Foods Ltd, otherwise known as The Real Crisp Co. Based in Crumlin near Newport in Gwent.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

ROKA Cheese Sticks Poppy & Sesame Seeds

This is another cheesy snack sent to me by those lovely people at ROKA in the Netherlands.

Perhaps not an ideal crispy snack for 9 o'clock on a Thursday morning, but nonetheless several of the reluctant taste testers tucked in quite quickly and the whole packet was finished by lunchtime.

We liked the lovely light texture of the cheese sticks. We like the choice of poppy seed and sesame seed, and the quite distinct flavours. I liked the way the seeds didn't drop off all over the place. We liked them a lot (apart from the extremely picky taste tester who said she detected an aftertaste of washing up liquid - but everyone else was astonished at this weird opinion and didn't pay any attention).

And the senior taste tester and I decided that we would really like to try them again with a glass of fine dry sherry. Or similar.

I must say I'm not sure I would have bought them on purpose as I'm not usually mad for sesame seeds. That's probably why we haven't tried this box of Cheese Sticks sooner. But I would have been quite wrong (as so often) because the sesame seeds seemed to work even better than the poppy seeds with the deliciously mild Gouda cheese sticks.
Pretty good. Yes, please; I'll have another. What do you mean we ate them all?

Friday, 20 March 2015

San Nicasio Extra Virgin Potato Chips con Sal Rosa del Himalaya

These crisps from Cordoba say they are extra virgin potato chips (selected potatoes, extra virgin olive oil and salt) and the salt.... is Himalayan pink salt (a gastronomic treasure).

Yes, well it may be a treasure but the enormous disappointment is that you cannot see the pink salt.

Call me stupid if you will but I was honestly expecting to see the crisps strewn with teeny weeny pale pink salt crystals. Why not dark pink I can't tell you (maybe that didn't seem a realistic prospect), but to see no pink crystals at all is very disappointing.

The crisps are quite fine cut, with not a bad crunch. They look good, some of the crisps are very big,  and have quite a nice lightly salted taste.

Seriously though, would I have bought these Spanish crisps had I not been seduced (in the Bern branch of Globus) by the lure of pink salt? Maybe, maybe not but basically what we have here is a packet  of salted crisps. It's a very nice packet of (slightly lightly) salted crisps. But nothing very fancy.

Himalayan Pink Salt comes from Pakistan and takes its colour from iron oxide but is not really pink at all. It's kind of orangey brown (by the look of the picture online).

Terrifically swanky pink and silver packaging though. Extremely smart, although put together slightly on the skew.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Frutos Secos Chips a la Flor de Sal de Ibiza

There's a very odd thing that some packets of crisps do when subjected to sudden changes of pressure or temperature. The pressure is more obvious - just try packing a bag of crisps in your case when you fly home from Greece. Has all the air been sucked out and the crisps turned to crumbs? It can happen. Or maybe the bag has swollen up like a football? I try to pack my crisps in Ziploc bags and suck out as much air as possible before travelling, but it doesn't always work.

Plus sometimes you really aren't expecting this weirdness. We bought this perfectly ordinary bag of crisps at Globus in Bern where they have a very nice food department in the basement. This bag felt just like any old bag but then we came home through the Lötschberg Tunnel. I don't know if it was the pressure or the heat (it certainly was a very hot and crowded train) but by the time we got home we had a little football. Full to bursting with air. I stabbed it with a sharp knife before snipping open the top.

Aside from this oddness with the packaging (which is a handsome eau de nil and gold), this is a very nice crisp indeed. Lovely crispy aroma, great big crisps with some nice bubbles from the frying, good colour and a fabulous salty yumminess. I can hear the Chef crunching away behind me. What could be better? Flor de Sal de Ibiza is obviously top quality salt. Very very tasty.

Made of potatoes, sunflower oil, flor de sel and sea salt, and lots of love. OK! Truly Cristal de la Vida (it says here).

I think these crisps qualify as superb, and the Chef (not quite so given to superlatives) thinks they are very nice.

The packaging seems familiar and I'm wondering if I've seen them in London - Fortnums perhaps - when I was looking for something else.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Salty Dog Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar

Me, me, me, me, me! Nobody wants to read about me or what I think. Or so I keep reading on all the "how to write a blog" pages. Every so often I go looking for some technical help, and there are some amazingly helpful bloggers out there supplying answers to all sorts of questions, but somehow all too often there's a bit about how nobody wants to read about me and my views.

That's a little bit sad isn't it? Especially as all the blogs I read regularly are personal views from real people about their real lives and real interests. And that's what makes what they write and the photos they post so interesting. The world might be a better place if we all read the thoughts of grannies from Yorkshire or wild flower fans from the Pacific North West ("categories chosen at random" pronounced in those portentous tones you hear in TV commercials).

Anyhow, I can't see how I could possibly review any packet of crisps (or crispy snack) without including my personal thoughts. Or those of the Chef (if available) or the reluctant taste testers (ditto).

And so here we have my thoughts on another variant on salt & vinegar.

Oh boy! Salty Dog say their crisps bite back; and I think these really do. This is salt & vinegar in the grand tradition. And the traditional tradition of salt & vinegar. Grrr.

Or perhaps not Grrr but Woof!

Um, these crisps have a great salt & vinegar aroma, skin left on for added taste, terrific crunch, nice colour...but I can't help feeling this is quite an old fashioned taste.

So if you are a big fan of the traditional style salt & vinegar crisp these are definitely for you. And very nice too. But, if like me, you prefer a more subtle taste then perhaps you won't like them so much.

But that's OK. Because if we were all the same life would be dreadfully dull don't you think?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Pret a Manger Mature Cheddar & Red Onion

I know there are branches of Pret a Manger all over the place but pretty much the only one I ever patronise is at Luton Airport. Yes, this is another crisp from Luton.

I must tell you that I set out on my journey with almost nothing in my handbag: a book, my passport, my purse, and the house keys. By the time I got on the plane to Geneva I had added a magazine, a sandwich and bottle of water for lunch, a bottle of perfume from Duty Free, a fancy new hub accessory thingy for the Chef's iMac Air, and 6 packets of crisps.

And when I arrived here the Chef said "Oh yes, I tried those the other day. I thought they were very good". He even saved the packet for me, which was thoughtful. Although not a great help as you can't taste test an empty packet although I must say the aroma even from the empty bag is very pleasant.

So. This is a very nice crisp. Just the right thickness, a little bit of skin left on, good crunch, and a lovely dark golden colour. They have a great cheesy taste and I'm really impressed that the red onion doesn't leap to the fore as it so often does; nice and subtle. Red onion can be a real thug if you aren't careful. Not here.

Pretty good. And the charming cheesy mouse on the packaging is pretty good too.

Yes. We liked these crisps.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Boxerchips Salty Malty Vinegar

It seems a little harsh to try these salt and vinegar crisps so soon after the wonderful version by Pipers Crisp Co which we tried the other day, but every crispy snack must stand on its own merits.

Boxerchips say the fact - best damn potato chips in the world; the fiction - our crisps are a made from Farmers' Hats. Which, let's be honest, is a slightly strange thing to say. But they say other strange things on their website which also tells you all sorts of things about Boxerchips that you may find amusing, and there's "ye olde blog" disguised as latest news. You can even find out about spud juggling. In New Zealand of all places!

Anyway, back to the crisps. Which I bought on my Easyjet flight to Geneva. Still not seen them anywhere else, but perhaps I have had such ready access to other exciting crisps that I haven't really looked.

Quite nice. Good colour, quite a hard crunch, not too harsh a taste of vinegar (which we know can be a problem) and good and salty. But these crisps are a bit sweet. Not sugary but mysteriously remaining me of golden syrup. Could this be an "oh, so it's only me then" moment?

Remember, these are the crisps that come in a strange oblong cardboard box which you open up to get at the crisps. I had a lot of difficulty last year battling my way into the packet but maybe that packaging was defective. At any rate, this time it was quite easy to open the box and create a little cardboard serving dish from which to carry out my taste testing.

I think I liked the Boxerchips Savagely Salted better though.
Update on Boxerchips: by chance we went to Globus in Bern which is a large department store with a great food section in the basement. And guess what? They sell Boxerchips. Well, they do in March 2015. I was busy buying crisps I'd not seen before so I didn't look too carefully, but in case you are looking for Boxerchips you could try here. Quite close to the main railway station. Probably hard to miss this huge store.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Walkers Pops Melted Cheese & Crispy Bacon

New. Air popped. Full on taste. 50% less fat.

This little 23g packet (less than 1oz) is marketed as a low fat option for your crunch at lunch.

I'm really not sure about this crispy snack. The taste is a bit weird. Obviously I picked them up because I'd not tried them before but I was dubious I must confess. And I think I was right to be dubious.

The aroma doesn't inspire me at all. Basically it's completely fake bacon that wafts out of the packet. The taste is more cheesy (ish) but what would make it melted cheese I can't guess. And after you get past the orange flavour dust what do you get? A harder crunch than I was expecting, and a taste of Rice Crispies. A bit odd.

Sorry Walkers, I'm not impressed. And I'm not going to finish even this tiny packet.

Not wild about the brown and red packaging either. And I'm certain I've seen this particular little guy throwing his rubbish away responsibly before. What a shame these Pops don't get a new design.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Pipers Crisp Co. Burrow Hill Cider Vinegar & Sea Salt

An absolutely superb crisp. I'm going to add these to my all-time favourites list. Always provided I can remember how.

At first sight these crisps from UK crispeteers Pipers are nothing to write home about: just normal crisps.

But the aroma is wonderfully crispy, the crunch is amazingly crunchy, and the taste is just divine. I do not think this flavour could be bettered. It is so much more fabulous than your average salt & vinegar crisp than you can possibly imagine. Run out and buy a packet now.

Even the Chef who doesn't like salt & vinegar as a flavour  was (relatively) enthusiastic. There really is no more to say.

A triumph of crisp engineering.

And the lovely green packet is a lovely green although not so bright as this scan would have you believe. More a soft 1940s green. What more could you want? Well, just one tiny thing; I've only ever seen Pipers crisps on sale at branches of Benugo. It means I have to make quite a trek (oh alright then - a short trip on the Northern Line) to buy them. But these are so wonderful I think it might be worth the effort.

I found this packet at Luton airport where Benugo also sold me a delicious toasted sausage inna bun with tomato sauce. Yum! What better way to prepare before taking an Easyjet flight to Geneva? (I'm so jet set.)

And thinking of sausage inna bun I can't help but think of Mr Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler of Ankh Morpork and his ghastly offerings created by the late lamented Sir Terry Pratchett. R.I.P. Terry and many thanks for hours and hours of entertainment and lots of laughing out loud.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Salty Dog Sea Salt

At last another chance to try a crisp from niche UK crisp company Salty Dog. I say niche because I have only ever seen their crisps for sale at Luton airport (which I have not passed through since August 2014) although it could be they are sold all over the place - just not in North London, or France or Switzerland where I do most of my crisp shopping.

Here we have the basic flavour: sea salt.

And? These are really good. A lovely texture with the skin left on for good looks and added taste, great crunch and just the right amount of saltiness. And a wonderfully old-fashioned - make that retro - taste of fried potatoes.

So many brands are keen to point out that their crisps are baked not fried for a healthier crisp. I'm sure I've said it before but I'm going to say it again; the secret to a healthy lifestyle isn't to eat baked potato crisps rather than fried but not to eat crisps at all. Too much salt, too much fat, and in many cases far too much sugar do not a healthy snack make.

However, some of us just love crisps. So the answer is not to eat too many. And luckily for us Salty Dog have put their crisps in a sensibly small 40g packet. But still, I'm going to share with the Chef to make sure I don't overdose on the first day of my holiday. Because (oh dear) I managed to buy 6 packets of crisps at Luton airport and another on the plane!

I'm not sure these crisps quite reach the summit of fabulousness but they certainly get way past base camp and some distance up the mountain. And I do love the little dog on the packet.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Market Deli Pita Chips Roasted Garlic with Mediterranean Herbs

I've tried pita chips before and found them rather hard. And I find these rather hard too. So perhaps pita chips are not for me.

I also find that pita chips break rather easily so quite ¾ of the packet is made up of broken chips. You notice more than in a packet of ordinary crisps because pita chips are supposed to be square. Squarish. Which mostly they aren't.

If this is a regular feature of pita chips (I've only tried 2 packets) it's rather disappointing.

The aroma is definitely Mediterranean herbs (so far so good), the tasted is more roasted garlic but once you've eaten all the flavour dust the basic taste is kind of dull; you get right back to basic pita chip.

The taste is OK but I'm not that impressed.

Walkers tell us their Market Deli crisps and pita chips are made with the finest ingredients. Real ingredients for an authentic taste. Hmmn. I'm not really convinced here.

Maybe they would be better when dipped in a spicy salsa and shared with friends (as recommended on the back of the packet).

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Blair's Death Rain Buffalo Wing Cauldron Cooked Potato Chips

Noble friend and I decided that these are crisps for blokes. The tall taste tester disagreed; he reckons these are crisps for gentlemen. But basically, it seemed that the gents in our office liked these crisps better than the ladies. And we're not really quite sure why.

Here we have another 1.5oz packet (43g) of the amazingly chillified crisps from Blair's Death Rain. Actually, according to the packet these crisps are only medium hot, but they seemed pretty hot to me.

However, while the chilli spiciness is great, the buffalo wing part of this crispy snack is not at all obvious. We really couldn't detect it.

And in case you didn't know (I'm sure you do - but just in case) buffalo wings are of course not the wings of buffaloes at all, but chicken wings. Which for some reason used always to come from Buffalo NY. Hence the name.

I really have no idea why anyone eats a chicken wing unless they don't have access to any other food. It's bone, skin, sinew and other unsavoury stuff. Where's the meat? I even have friends who like the wing best. Really? I guess it takes all sorts. But anyway, we couldn't detect any chicken here.

The packet doesn't say suitable for vegetarians so there may be chicken included but the best clue I can offer from the list of ingredients is natural flavour (several times).

The crisps got eaten very quickly.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Lay's Oven Mediterranean Herbs

I think these Dutch crisps were brought to Switzerland from the Netherlands by the Chef's daughter and son-in-law, and then driven to the UK from Switzerland by the Chef. What a lot of travelling for a packet of crisps.

And what do we think?

Well.... I wasn't mad keen myself but the reluctant taste testers liked them a lot better than better than I did.

For some reason I don't really have much enthusiasm for hexagonal crisps. I really prefer potato shaped crisps. Call me picky... well, I expect you will, but I'm not mad for this strange man made shape.

These crisps smell very nice; it's like opening a jar of herbs from your spice rack. And the narrowly ridged crisps have quite a good crunch and quite a lot of flavour dust. But I'm not terribly impressed by the flavour. Although, of the herbs listed; parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary, I think it's the thyme that shines through.

I must repeat that the reluctant taste testers like them a lot more than I did. So it's just me.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Pipers Crisp Co Lye Cross Cheddar & Onion

Another tremendous crisp from top British crispeteers Pipers. And another packet of crisps found at the British Museum branch of Benugo.

What is it that distinguishes a nice crisp, or even a very nice crisp from a great one?

A certainty about the crunch perhaps. A good aroma (some crisps that taste good don't smell good). A top quality taste. And a good colour.

These crisps have a lovely dark golden colour, lots of lovely cheddary flavour dust with a light touch of onion, and a high quality crunch. Not a lot more to say perhaps.

The Chef and I have tried many different versions of cheese and onion and we really approve of these. The onion is a delicate addition to the superb cheddar cheese and we think these crisps could hardly be bettered. We liked them a lot.

Tasty cheddar from Lye Cross Farm at the foot of the Mendip Hills near the village of Cheddar probably could not be beaten as a source of tasty cheese. And great golden yellow packaging too. Yup, we definitely approve. Really, you can't do much better.

There are more Pipers flavours to try and I can't wait to find them.
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