Monday 29 February 2016

Zweifel Wave Chips Sour Cream Flavour

This packet of crisps from Swiss crisp giant Zweifel  was ferried home by the Chef last time he drove back to London.

A couple of the taste testers said they weren't at all sure about Sour Cream as a flavour for crispy snacks but then it turned out that we all liked this crinkle cut crisp quite a lot. Very tasty.

Interestingly at first glance this crisp looks almost exactly the same as the previous crisp the reluctant taste testers and I tried: Tesco Finest Hand Cooked West Country Cream Cheese & Roasted Herb Crisps. And then we tried them.

And we really did like these crisps. Very tasty, great crunch (still not sure whether I would really say this crisp is "extra crunchy"), and a very nice taste.

The reluctant taste testers recommend this crisp.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Tesco Finest Hand Cooked West Country Cream Cheese & Roasted Herb Crisps

New! These crinkle cut crisps from the Tesco Finest range, with aromatic rosemary, chive & garlic were kindly donated by Noble Friend.

And we quite liked them. Tall taste tester said he could eat the entire packet, and both Tech and Dutch taste testers gave enthusiastic reviews.

I have to say I wasn't quite sure. I mean, yes; good crunch, large crisps, nice crinkle cut, and not a bad taste. Which does kind of grow on you.

But as I pondered this flavour it seemed to me that Tesco Finest crisps all seem to taste pretty much the same. It's as though you were to make a pasta sauce, a soup, and a risotto and use the same herbs every time. You have three different dinners but they all taste much the same.

Not quite the same of course. But definitely something to think about.

Nice crisps though.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Walkers Sensations Oriental Crackers Peking Spare Rib

Noble Friend picked up this packet of crispy snacks and brought them in to the office. Actually I think she meant to buy quite a different packet but she bought this and in fact they turned out to be quite popular.

Walkers Sensations tend to have a very strong taste. I guess that's what the sensation is all about. And these Peking (why not Beijing?) Spare Rib crackers are no exception. Except that quite honestly it's hard to tell that this flavour is Peking Spare Ribs. It might almost just as well be Hoisin Crispy Duck. Although the recipe does include dried pork, it's all about the seasoning. Which is pretty strong.

And then we read the list of ingredients and wondered why is this crispy snack made from a combination of tapioca and cassava? Cassava? Isn't that what people eat if they live 2,000 miles up the Amazon? So what's it doing in a crispy snack in London?

Anyway, almost all the reluctant taste testers really enjoyed this crispy snack. Extremely Sceptical taste tester pronounced that "Deffo" the taste gets better on the 6th, 7th, or 8th crunch. Deffo. And Tall taste tester said he could probably eat the entire packet at one sitting. All well and good.

But Giraffe Fan taste tester said it was lucky she was so polite otherwise she would have spat out the first crisp she tried. Not a fan. Well, she should have. Don't go around eating something you don't like. That's silly.

The packet tells us that the flavour of sweet, sticky pork hits the tastebuds first, before ginger and pepper add spicy heat, making a distinctly Oriental aniseed finish. Hmm... not sure about that. But I did find this crispy snack very tasty.

Quite small crispy snacks, a regular oval shape, and a very good crunch. A very good crunch indeed.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Scrubbys 3 Potato Blend

Scrubbys crisps are new to me. Mind you, the packet does say NEW, so I guess that would be right.

I was in Fortnum & Mason the other evening and saw two packets of Scrubbys crisps. One was a vegetable crisp (which I am trying not to include in this blog because you have to draw a line somewhere), and the second - this packet - was confusingly labelled vegetable crisps with character... but then 3 potato blend. Actually, I am pretty sure the parsnip crisps were also labelled vegetable crisps with character.

Obviously potatoes are vegetables but "vegetable crisps" usually feature parsnips and things. Not potatoes. Because "crisps" are usually made of potatoes. Which you knew. Of course you did.

Anyhow, this is an interesting crisp with quite a hard crunch. But a good wack of salt. Tasty.

The dark purple crisps are quite off-putting at first glance. Tall taste tester said they look like Yeti's toenails. Cast off in the snow. Tall taste tester is given to flights of extraordinary fancy sometimes. I'm going to discount the Yeti reference and tell you that despite looking a bit odd these crisps are surprisingly tasty.

You can't see so well the difference between the white potatoes and the red-skinned potatoes although I think the crisp at top left is probably a red-skin. It's the violet blue potatoes that really show up. Amazing eh?

The packaging tells me these crisps are gluten free, and lower in fat than your average crisp: healthier savoury snacking it says.

And the packet shows a series of plants, earthed up to protect the roots. I'm guessing that these are all the plants that Scrubbys use in their "vegetable" crisps. Maybe one is a potato plant but probably the others are parsnip, maybe beetroot and carrot?

Monday 22 February 2016

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Cheese & Onion Popped Potato Chips

Specially designed tasty treats to help you count your calories says the packaging; not fried not baked the deliciously moreish alternative to potato crisps.

I'm really not sure I like popped chips much. They aren't proper crisps; they're made with dried potatoes and potato starch and coconut oil (what's that for?). They stick to your teeth. That is not a good attribute in a crispy snack.

And the cheese & onion favouring here is kind of.... well there's a bit too much flavouring. It's not a bad taste, it is kind of cheese & onion flavour, it's just a bit too strong.

Not bad, not nasty, possibly a bit better for you than an ordinary crisp. Only 94 calories per bag but then the bag is 23g small. I'm just not mad keen on this crispy snack.

And, let's go for the jugular here (and why not) I didn't like the bright yellow packaging.

M&S make lots of great crisps. I just didn't like this one.

Sunday 21 February 2016

M&S Wholegrain Snacks Honey Barbecue

Well here's another crispy snack I wonder is the same as one we've tried before: M&S Guilt Free Snacking Barbecue Wholegrain Snacks.

The packet is quite different, the name is different (so it is difficult to be certain) but the photograph of the snack itself looks just the same. And both of them are supposed to be better for you than the average crispy snack.

So, well, this is a very pleasant crispy curly snack with  lovely soft barbecue flavour. Nice crunch, not bad in all departments. And Tech taste tester says it is one of his absolute favourites.

However, unlike the Guilt Free Snacking snack this packet does not contain a warning against honey. Is that because government advice on the allergic properties of honey has changed? Or is it that this crispy snack is in fact different? Honestly, life can be so complicated at times.

You know how annoying it is when you suddenly see a new book by an author you have been collecting for years, so you buy it and carry it home in triumph, but when you get it home it's not a new book at all, just a new jacket design? I have certainly done that more than once.

I know this is only a crispy snack but as an internationally renowned food writer (er.... maybe not) I don't like being confused!

Friday 19 February 2016

KP Snacks Penn State Pretzels Original Sea Salted

Tasty little pretzel knots strewn with sea salt. Nothing fancy, nothing exciting, just tasty little pretzels.

The Senior taste tester doesn't approve much of pretzels (and of course they do not qualify as a crisp) but the other taste testers managed to eat a couple of bowlsful without any difficulty. Could it be something to do with leftover dip from yesterday? Or could it be that these little pretzels are pretty good?

The interesting thing about these pretzels is that they are marketed as Classic American Snacks. Which they aren't. Dear me, no. These pretzels come from Ashby-de-la-Zouche in Leicestershire not Penn State at all.

Fewer food miles to be concerned about anyway.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Emporium of Tyrrell's Tortillas Sour Cream with Poppy Seeds

This is the second fancy Emporium of Tyrrell's crisp I found in Hampstead just before Christmas. And it is pretty fancy.

A lovely crunch, handsome hexagonal shape (although as always with shaped crisps there are more breakages than I would like), lots of sharp sour creamy flavour dust with the added yumminess of poppy seeds. This is a very good crisp. It doesn't seem as sweet as so many crispy snacks, and not so salty either.

Tall taste tester gave it 8/10 after his first bite.

Well, we liked these a lot. And then someone suggested they might be even tastier with a dip. As it happened Dutch taste tester was on her way out to buy food for an evening meeting so we tasked her with buying some dip. Sour cream and chive from M&S. Yum!

Very nice. Extremely nice. I liked the combination a lot. Giraffe Fan taste tester was very taken with it too. I think all the reluctant taste testers approved this tortilla crisp and this combination of tortilla and dip. A very good crisp with a very good dip: quadruple the deliciousness.

What could be better than that? Plus the packaging is rather fabulous.

Wednesday 17 February 2016

M&S Guilt Free Snacking Chocolate & Pecan Popcorn

Noble Friend suddenly produced this packet of low calorie guilt free popcorn. She said it was irresistible. She was fairly accurate there. 

Although I suspect the low calorie element of this tasty popcorn is the fact that each 27g packet is very small with not very much popcorn in it. This photograph shows a whole packet. And Noble Friend admits the problem is that you eat a little packet and find it delicious then you can't help fancying another packet... Only 118 calories... but more if you can't resist the second packet. Or the third.

Toffee coated popcorn with pecan nut pieces, drizzled with Belgian milk chocolate. Yum!

This is a very tasty popcorn. Yummy chocolate and pecans too. Not that I'm mad for pecans, but the combination really is extremely good.

The Dutch taste tester ran to the kitchen to make sure she tasted this tasty snack!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Cheetos Twisted Flamin' Hot

I was very excited to find I could buy a packet of Cheetos in this country. Until fairly recently Cheetos was a brand only available elsewhere. I had thought the USA only, but have of course discovered you can buy Cheetos in Spain. And I daresay in other countries too.

Anyway, here we have a packet of Cheetos. Hurrah!

But. But don't they seem pretty much the same as Smith's Twisted Flamin' Hot? Which we tried back in September 2013.

I have to say that looking back I wasn't super impressed. After two and a half years of taste testing I may be looking at this product with different eyes. I now think this is rather a fab crispy snack.

Great big twists of corn puff snack, lovely rich colour, not a bad crunch, and a warm sweet flavour followed by a kick of chilli. Not too terribly flamin' hot.

But still, pretty tasty.

Most of the reluctant taste testers seemed pretty keen, and I'm fairly sure that Extremely Senior Volunteer taste tester was very keen indeed. On the other hand, Extremely Sceptical taste tester said she thought this crispy snack was too big. I quite like the size but of course others are always welcome to their own opinions.

Monday 15 February 2016

M&S Eat Well Thai Red Curry Air Popped Corn

This is another of the new season Eat Well range from Marks & Spencer. Eat Well seems to be a selection of deliciously healthy food. Best enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle and a balanced varied diet.

Weirdly this popcorn smells very strongly of coconut. Well, to me it does. And I say weirdly because there isn't any coconut in the list of ingredients. It's most odd how some crispy snacks smell quite different to how they taste, and this is a particularly strong example.

And the popcorn (pretty good popcorn) has a surprisingly buttery taste. With a nice gentle curry flavour on the top.

In a strange way it reminds me of the curries we used to have at school. Plain white rice was dull so we stuck in a large lump of butter before adding the curry. And somehow this is a little bit like that.

The Dutch taste tester wasn't mad keen but History Graduate quite liked this popcorn.

And the packet is the reddest red packet you could possibly imagine.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Soletti Salzstangerl

Managerial taste tester sloped off to Austria for a spot of skiing and on his way home picked up this little bag of pretzel sticks at the airport.

Long thin sticks (really very fine) strewn with little nuggets of salt, with a lovely light pretzelly crunch, we all rather liked these.

But pretzel sticks can be a little bit dry and we all agreed that this crispy snack might be tastier with a glass of something. Senior taste tester suggested a gin & tonic. Which of course we can't do in the office. And probably shouldn't do first thing in the morning; not even in the privacy of our own homes. Well you can if you like but I'm not recommending that.

So a bowlful did get eaten, possibly Extremely Senior Volunteer taste tester made away with more than a few, but I brought the rest of the packet home to try an experiment. And I can exclusively reveal that these pretzel sticks are pretty tasty when snacked in conjunction with  glass of Pino Grigio.

... immer dabei!! says the packet; always there!!  Seems a slightly weird slogan but there you are.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Hema Paprika Chips

This is a superb crisp.

A rich paprika orange, nice thin cut, lovely crunch, and a fabulous creamy paprika flavour.

All the reluctant taste testers liked this Dutch crisp a great deal. We all liked it, we all said how much we liked it and we finished off the 125g packet. We loved it.

I gather that Hema is a department store with branches all over The Netherlands. And they have expanded to a store in London. Dutch Taste Tester tells me that when the Hema store first opened in London it weirdly only sold British products, and Dutch expats were sorely disappointed. However, now there are proper Dutch products on sale. Such as Dutch liquorice (Dutch Taste Tester is a big fan) and (excitingly) Dutch crisps. Of which this is one.

Huzzah! Because this crisp is truly fab. Get yourself to The Netherlands... or London Victoria.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Chika's Plantain Crisps

This is the teeniest weeniest packet of crisps ever. Only 4" across by 5 ½" high. And yet, it's a whole 35g. Which tells me that Plantain Crisps are a lot heavier than your average potato crisp.

Tall Elegant taste tester contributed this packet but she wasn't mad keen on the contents. Tech taste tester says he used to love Banana crisps but he wasn't very impressed. I thought these weren't as nasty as the last Plantain Crisps I tried but I wasn't very fetched. 

Mostly we thought these crisps very hard, with perhaps a little taste of caramel and a smidgen of salt, but Tech taste tester said he felt he was munching into a sideboard (you might want to call it a buffet). Not a a proper hardwood sideboard but a nasty cheap veneered sideboard where the veneer all chips off and gets in your teeth. He said.

However, it turns out that Extremely Sceptical taste tester rather liked them. I think she ate more than the rest of us put together. Even though they taste of sideboard, we asked? Yup, she said, even though... and it is a slightly salty sideboard.

And there we are.
Tech taste tester would like to emphasise that he did not wish to discriminate against other pieces of furniture. And the rest of us would like to point out that this is just our personal opinion and you might like them as much as Extremely Sceptical taste tester did. And, as it turns out, Architectural taste tester too.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Metcalfe's Skinny Popcorn Sweet 'n Salt

I read that the great British public is buying fewer crisps (sales are down from £1.39 billion to £1.34 billion) but popcorn (sales are up from £50 million to £129 million). These figures seem to be from 2010 to 2015.

You can see for yourselves that crisps are still massively in the lead but that popcorn sales are definitely up. I wonder why that is?

It could be that there is suddenly a bunch of companies selling interesting new flavours of popcorn. Although I can't say why these companies all suddenly leaped into the popcorn market. These things do sometimes happen.

However, some people think that popcorn is simply a bit more healthy than your average crisp and that's why "young people" are drawn to it instead ye olde packet of crisps that everyone has been eating for the past 50 odd years.

That may be so. Particularly in the case of this Skinny Popcorn which is carefully designed to light and at the same time moreish and filling and has only 115 calories per packet. Of course it does have salt (bad for you) and sugar (bad for you) but the packet tells me this is a light, sporty portion. With a delicious natural flavour.

Not bad. Perfectly OK popcorn, a little bit salty a little bit sugary. But not madly exciting. To be honest, the reluctant taste testers and I felt the flavour was just a little bit cardboardy.

Still, it's a gentle and low(ish) calorie popcorn and probably better for you then many crispy snacks on the market.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Tesco Cheese Balls

This is the most ginormous packet of crispy snacks known to  mankind. Or at least the mankind that shops in the UK.

As an experiment I scanned the packet in two halves to see what I could do without benefit of fancy photoshopping or whatnot. Pity about the white strip between the scans but you do get a sensation of how large this packet is.

300g of little crispy cheese balls. As I had to put 6 of these on my kitchen scales to register any weight at all (1g or possibly 2g; the scales could not make its - their? - mind up) that will give you a fair idea of how many you get in one packet. Far too many for even the most enthusiastic taste testers to eat at one sitting.

Not a bad crunch (light as expected), not too much virulent orange flavour dust, and an OK taste. Not terrifically cheesy. We weren't mad for the little balls but a large bowlful did get eaten.

Extremely sceptical taste taster said she thought they tasted of sick. No they don't I protested. Yes, said the Tall taste tester, they do. But I notice that did not inhibit him from eating rather a lot of them. Weird.

Oh and Senior taste tester sniped at me again because this product (a concoction of puffed maize) is not a potato crisp. No it's not. It's a maize puff thingummy and we've tried stuff like this before. Plus it's my blog! And if my choices are a bit arbitrary, so be it.

Not at all sure what the bunny rabbit with the crown has to do with cheesy crispy snacks.

Monday 8 February 2016

Tyrrell's Hand Cooked English Crisps Lobster Cocktail

Isn't this the most fabulous image of a lobster? I don't eat sea food but I do find images of lobsters and crabs and octopuses can be amazingly beautiful.

Or exciting. So yes, I admit it, I bought this packet of Lobster Cocktail flavoured crisps because I liked the packaging design.

I could not bring myself to try these crisps but the rest of the reluctant taste testers were less cautious and noshed into the packet enthusiastically. Tall Elegant taste tester says she loves anything that tastes of lobster and Noble Friend was a big fan too. 

Tall taste tester said of course there isn't any lobster but in fact there is. The flavour is concocted from all sorts of things like tomato and lemon juice powder but also cooked dried prawns, cooked dried oyster (which contains tapioca - what??) and lobster extract.

The whole packet of rich orangey golden crisps was eaten in no time. Which seems a fairly enthusiastic response.

The potato variety used here is called Courage. Isn't that a great name?

Check out this amazing lobster tapestry kit by Kaffe Fassett. I already made the crab design years ago - it sits in the comfy chair we have in our kitchen -  and have always wanted the lobster too. Goodness knows when I will get around to actually making this tapestry but at least I have the kit now. That's a start.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Zweifel Wave Chips Inferno

The Chef picked up a couple of packets of extra crunchy crinkle cut crisps from Swiss crisp giant Zweifel. He wasn't sure if we had tried them or not. And we hadn't. This is the first.

Lovely rich orange crinkle cut crisps, nice crunch, great genuine chilli flavour and (I thought) quite a big hit of heat in the after taste. Dutch taste tester obviously thinks I am a bit of a chilli wuss: she didn't find the flavour particularly hot.

I think most of us rather enjoyed these Swiss crisps. Not sure that I noticed them being "extra" crunchy but that probably didn't stop anyone finding them good and tasty.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Walkers Melty Crackers Sour Cream & Onion

New. Oven Baked. The great taste of Walkers on a cracker. And on the back of the packet Tasty crackers seasoned with the unmistakably delicious taste of Walkers.

New Melty Crackers from Walkers. OK I get that. Although I honestly wouldn't say these crackers are particularly melty. And oven baked? Yes, I wouldn't be at all surprised. I wouldn't cook a cracker anywhere other than an oven, would you?

And the great taste of Walkers on a cracker? Actually yes. The flavour does seem to be quite separate from the actual cracker (or as we in the UK would usually say: biscuit). So on is the right word.

As usual I put of bowlful in the kitchen at work and waited for the reluctant taste testers to give their opinions. Sometimes they have a lot to say, sometimes not.

I think we all thought that these square little crackers taste pretty good. Nice combination of the sour cream and onion, and not too much onion. And I am sure they would work well with a glass of something (in my case probably white wine) but obviously we are not encouraged to quaff down glasses of something at work. Certainly not before lunch! Anyway we snacked down the whole 130g packet quite quickly.

But I couldn't quite work out what this little biscuit reminded me of. Architectural taste tester who doesn't normally say much (she can't seem to fancy crispy snacks in the morning) helped me out. When we were young, people had lots of dinner parties and drinks parties and the drinks (many many alcoholic drinks) often came with little cocktail biscuits which were considered posher than crisps or salted peanuts.

I think she's right. I have a hazy memory of cocktail biscuits in several different flavours. So I have a feeling that this is a modern incarnation of the 1970s (possibly?) cocktail biscuit. And none the worse for that.

Anyway, the reluctant taste testers and I quite liked these and look forward to trying the Sweet Chilli version if I can find it.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Mature Cheddar & Spring Onion

This packet was chosen by the Senior taste tester. He ate most of them himself (over several days) but also put out a bowlful for the reluctant taste testers to try.

I must say I thought these crisps were rather good.

Lovely aroma from the packet (however good the taste some crisps don't smell right), nice size and colour, hand cooked, good sprinkling of parsley and a great taste.

Honestly, what more could you ask?

Get yourselves down to Sainsbury's.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

M&S Full on Flavour Four Cheese & Red Onion

History Graduate tester tester admitted he had been bamboozled (excellent choice of word!) by the exciting new gusseted packaging into thinking this was some sort of fabulous new flavour. And the shiny new plastic stuff  that the bag is made of may have contributed too.

But although on inspection this looks like just another fancy pants version of cheese & onion, in fact I think, on closer inspection still,  it is more than that.

This is a very tasty crisp. And not too oniony. Red onion can be a very harsh flavour but this works extremely well.

And then there's the cheese.... four cheeses. What do you suppose these four cheese are? Bet you can't guess.

OK; Red Leicester, which you can see in the falling cheese on the front of the packet (it looks like grated carrot), Mozzarella (which I thought I could taste before I read the list of ingredients), Mascarpone and Cream cheese. Well, well. I wouldn't have thought of that selection but honestly I think it works very well indeed.

And the reluctant taste testers agreed. Lots of tasty flavour dust, a good sprinkling of parsley; one of our five a day, pretty yummy all round (she said licking her fingers again - don't waste that tasty flavour dust left at the bottom of the packet!). Very nice indeed.

If you fancy a new sort of cheese and onion flavour give these crisps a try. Although you do need a local M&S. I don't think their food products are available mail order.

Monday 1 February 2016

Fiddler's Lancashire Crisps Simply Spuds (No Added Salt)

By 'eck you'll find em tasty! say the packet.

Awfully sorry Fiddler's. I didn't.

The thing is, really, for me (and this is a personal taste issue), for me crisps and crispy snacks are all about the salt. Yes, yes I am well aware that salt is frightfully bad for me - and you - but I can't help loving it. Almost every time I would rather have salt than sweet and it's only in moments of extreme stress that I will wolf a chocolate bar. And then I will eat it so quickly it barely touches the sides.

Just as a stiff gin and tonic (you have to drink it in a not-too-hot bath) is great in combating a severe attack of hay fever, chocolate is fantastic at fighting off a nasty period pain (cramps I think you guys gals in the US say). And chocolate can also be a huge help in times of extreme stress or fury. Cake can be helpful too. I know a lot of people would plump for cake.

But ordinarily I would pick a salty something.

And these crisps ain't got no salt!

Tall Elegant taste tester thought they were rather good. And in fact this little 40g packet was snacked up fairly quickly.  So no-one else was bothered by the lack of salt.

Lovely little crisps, very nice, good crunch, cooked by John (well done John), I don't want to say anything nasty about this no added salt crisp. Just not for me.