Wednesday 30 March 2016

M&S The Collection Mini Cornish Cruncher Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

All butter and Cornish Cruncher cheddar biscuits topped with grated cheese.

This is a very home-made-looking cheesy biscuit. Round cheesy biscuits with a slightly mounded shape, just as you would get if you cooked them yourself. M&S seems to like Cornish Cruncher cheddar which is, I suppose, why they chose it for these little biscuits.

And they are really tasty, very cheesy and with a nice soft crunch (such as a home-made biscuit would have). Pretty fabulous in fact.

Monday 28 March 2016

Jax Coco Toasted Coconut Chips with Chilli & Lime, and with Wasabi

Tall elegant taste tester, currently at home with a horrible cold poor thing, bought those two packets while I was away in Switzerland. She asked if I would like to write these up and I said no. Because you have to draw the line somewhere.

But here I am anyway. Despite the fact that I deeply dislike coconut. And these coconut chips (not surprisingly) smell strongly of coconut. The chilli & lime flavour chips are darker and small very strongly of lime, the wasabi flavour chips are paler. You'll not be surprised to learn I have not attempted a taste test.

These toasted coconut chips are all natural, not fried, gluten free, 100% vegan, and with no preservatives, no artificial colour or flavouring. Sounds good.

I gather that both of these flavours are pretty hot. So if you like your coconut, and you like heat, maybe this is a snack for you.

Very nice resealable packaging. A lot of crisp packets could do with this technology.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Yushoi Snapea Rice Sticks Smoked Salt & Szechuan Pepper

Noble Friend produced this tiny 10g, 45 calorie packet which she was given as a free gift. She wasn't about to try it on her own, so donated it to me and the reluctant taste testers.

This is another of these strange modern allegedly healthier crispy snacks made of peas.

Now, the reluctant taste testers and I have tried several M&S versions of pea snaps including Smoked Salt & Mixed Pepper flavour. And you may have read that none of us was over-impressed. However, the M&S version is made with marrowfat peas. And according to the packet, these peasnaps are made with green peas. And rice. Which I confess I don't remember from the M&S ingredients.

I put out the contents of this tiny packet in the kitchen and I wasn't very surprised to see that the reluctant taste testers were distinctly reluctant to try. But History Graduate has a bold sense of adventure. Despite being (as he put it) scarred by the M&S pea snap experience, he ventured in where others feared to. And pronounced that this was a far superior and tastier snack than the M&S version.

Sorry M&S: we really didn't like your product very much at all. But this Yushoi snack made by Japanese snack giant Calbee is a different kettle of piranhas altogether. And Calbee appear to have a UK branch now, based in Leeds.

The crunch is still a bit soft but these pea shaped snacks don't gum themselves to your teeth. And the taste, I find, is less nasty.

Yes, I'm sorry. I didn't like these very much either but it is my own personal taste and it is likely that others will be pleased to try and come back for more.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Grate Britain All-British Cheddar Crackers

I found this little 45g packet of Cheddar Crackers made by Artisan Biscuits Ltd of Ashbourne in Derbyshire on my Easyjet flight home from Geneva.

I thought they looked a little bit fabulous made, as they are, with freshly grated Wookey Hole Cave-Aged Cheddar. So they should be good.
Only I have to report that this is a not very cheesy snack.  The cheesiness is very subtle. It's nice. But subtle. And you have to pay attention. 

Now, when you're at altitude (eg on an Easyjet flight from Geneva) the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods is reduced by up to 30%. So I wonder had I opened the packet on the plane, would I have felt slightly conned? I'm not sure this is the ideal snack for a plane journey.

I  brought the packet home to photograph and scan (obviously) so I'm taste testing in the privacy of my own kitchen. Which is perhaps 60 feet above sea level. Or is that 60 metres? I can never remember. Anyhow, no loss of sensitivity here. But you do have to pay attention to the cheesiness. 

However, I happen to have some guacamole in the fridge and I can report that these crackers work extremely well in combination with the guacamole. Delicious. And the slightly hard crunch works very well with a dip.

The packets says We freshly grate or crumble real cheese for every batch we make. We don't use cheese powder or cheese flavour, because it is not the British thing to do. Finally, we had bake our crackers for a home-made taste. Grate Britain - the perfect nibble for 'drinkie-poos'.
We also learn about the Cheese: it's Real English Cheddar, hand-made in the West Country by Ford Farm. Wrapped in cloth for long maturing. Aged in the caves at Wookey Hole, Somerset. Its mellow deep flavour captured to put the Grate into Gate Britain.

I love the French name for these crackers: Très "British" - Crackers au Cheddar. Brilliant.

Friday 25 March 2016

Carrefour Tube Goût Fromage

This is a nice little crispy snack from Carrefour outside Rheims. Funny little tube shapes of extruded maize tasting of nothing but cheese.

Nice crunch, pleasant aroma and good cheesy taste. This is another crispy snack shape that I've not seen in the UK, and I don't remember seeing it anywhere other than at Carrefour. But, the tubiness (that's not tubbiness crisp fans) of these tubular snacks is... not very tubey. Sadly all the tubes are a little bit squished. Which is a pity.

However, that does not affect the taste.

The Chef and I quite liked these, and when I imported the second half of the packet into the office Tech taste tester was pleased to approve. You can't go wrong with a good cheesy taste he opined (that's what journalists write isn't it?).

Yes, quite a tasty little crispy snack. And I don't know why we don't get this sort of shaped snack in the UK. I can't help feeling people would buy them.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Kent Crisps Sea Salt

Found on the cross channel ferry once again, this Sea Salt flavour from Kent Crisps is pretty good.

Not super exciting, not fancy in its flavour, not particularly fabulous or different in any way. But tasty. Big crisps with a nice salty taste. And a good crunch.

No, not exciting. But pretty good.

The people on the ferry assured me I could buy these crisps in my local supermarket. But I can't. Not in North London I can't. Which is a shame. But there you are.
As ever with Kent Crisps the packaging is rather a nice design.

Friday 18 March 2016

Highlander Black Pepper Forever! (Gusto Pepe Nero)

Another packet of crinkle cut from Highlander Crisps by San Carlo. And I thought these would probably be be tastier than the Tomato or Nothing! flavour because - because black pepper is easy, and tomato don't always work so well - but I was wrong.

And the Chef was wrong because he had thought the same.

Don't get the wrong idea. Black Pepper Forever! is a fine flavour and nothing the matter with it, but to our surprise we liked the Tomato or Nothing! flavour better. A nice fine crinkle, good crunch and a tasty flavour. And very nice too.

This packet of crisps came from Milan railway station. In fact, we found it on our way to Florence and it whetted our appetite for the Kiss my BBQ! and Fight for Vinegar! flavours which we have not yet tried. The Tomato or Nothing! packet, as you know, came from Pisa. I guess we didn't visit enough different railway stations because we didn't spot these crisps in any shops. Another time perhaps.

And here's a final chunk of Florence.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Wacko's Perfidamente Buono Gusto Salami

And yet another offering from Italian crisp giant San Carlo, this one discovered at Milan railway station. Although frankly, if I'd been an ordinary person and not an internationally renowned food writer I should probably have walked past these crisps without a second glance.

And I would, I think, have been right. Because the design of this crisp packet, based (I can only suppose and only sort of ) on Homer Simpson, is pretty fairly off-putting for any person remotely grown-up. And the taste… it can't be aimed at adults.

Pity. I had hoped that a crispy snack tasting of salami might be rather good. But no. Why not do you suppose? A great big Italian food company ought to know what salami tastes like. And I was only wondering the other day why I had never seen a salami flavour crisp in Italy. Which I why I invested in this packet. And that, I guess, gives me the answer I was looking for: salami flavour crisps don't work.

Not bad crisps, not bad colour, a light crunch. But neither the Chef or I liked the flavour at all.

But I won (if that's the correct word) a brown "Style" toy keyring from the little Wacko's packet included with the crisps. Lucky me!

I have slightly struggled to find any information about these crisps online but it seems they have been around a little while. And I think they have ketchup, cheese, paprika and lightly salted flavours on offer. One can only hope that these are tastier than the new salami flavour. Which as I said, we really didn't like much at all.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Autentica Trattoria Bruschetti al Gusto Pomodoro e Basilico

Another packet of crispy snacks found at Pisa railway station (there are several shops) and I had the choice of tomato and basil or black olive. I chose the tomato and basil because I thought the black olive flavour might taste too strongly of olives. Which to be honest, I'm not completely mad about. I guess I was right (or the factory packed these Bruschetti incorrectly), because they taste tremendously of olives even though the flavour isn't olive. Must be the 5% genuine olive oil I suppose.
The Chef did not much enjoy these crunchy little Bruschetti but I did. Somewhat to my surprise I enjoyed them lot. Great big crunch, tiny little snack. And I really enjoyed the taste too. And guess who makes them? Of course, you guessed. The mighty San Carlo.
Next time I go back to Italy I will definitely look out for this crispy snack. They do Bruschetti, Chips and also Baghetti. So plenty to look forward to. I say next time because Italy is quite close. And although we haven't done it yet, we often talk about going for lunch at our favourite restaurant on Lake Maggiore. Best pudding in the world!

Anyway, in the meantime, because I found this packet in Pisa, some more pictures of Pisa. Which is so pretty. I mean, Florence is fabulous but so crowded. So why not check out Pisa if you are in the area?

Oh OK then. Since you've asked so nicely, here's the Leaning Tower of Pisa (other photos are a view along the Arno river, the Campo Santo, and the side of the Baptistry with typical Italian umbrella pines).

Tuesday 15 March 2016

San Carlo Piu Gusto Fresco Piccante Gusto Menta e Peperoncino

Well, now. Here's a crisp we found at our favourite supermarcato in Florence, just near the Oltrano side of the Ponte Vecchio. It's always useful to find a good supermarket wherever you visit; you never know when you might need a bottle of wine, some fruit or a packet of disposable plastic bowls.

It looks as though Italian crisp giant San Carlo has fallen victim to the "create your own crisp flavour" competition so beloved of Lay's and Walkers. Crea il tuo Gusto it says on the packet. And Eccolo il vincitore del corncorso! here is our winner. And yes, you've guessed, it's mint and chilli flavour.

The winning entrant is Rita Francesca Tenuta (27) and I think her entry received 160,000 votes. Of course I do not know if this was the first such competition of its kind in Italy, or how many other votes the other entries received. Or what they were. Well, you can't have everything.
This is a typically gently flavoured San Carlo crisp. Nice crunch, plenty of natural colour. Not a bad crisp at all. but I'm not sure about the really breathy effect you get from the mint here. You really catch the mintyness on the back of your throat. Which somehow doesn't appeal to me much. But the Chef ate a lot more than I did. At least, I think he did.
To prove we bought this crisp in Florence I am adding a photo of the Ponte Vecchio, and two images of the amazingly minty coloured (it seems appropriate) building at the top of the Boboli Gardens. In fact, you can see the building in all three shots.

Monday 14 March 2016

Highlander Tomato or Nothing! (Gusto Pomodoro)

Looking at this packet of crisps you would suppose it was a Scottish crisp. Well, it is, and it isn't. I think that Highlander Crisps used to be made at Bathgate in West Lothian but production there was closed in July 2013 and the owners (Italian crisp giants San Carlo) moved production to Italy.

It's all a bit confusing as the Highlander website has a address but is in Italian. And you can't help but notice that the brand remains very Scottish looking. I mean, check out the kilt! In fact, the guys on the packaging all look as though they are taking part in a highland games somewhere; about to heft an enormous crinkle cut crisp in search of a world record.

Wearing a kit is not enough to be a Highlander, you need grit says the packet. These are ideal crisps for those with character, thick and crunchy with strong and intriguing flavours, with no compromises. Be crunchy, be brave, be a Highlander!

We found these crisps at Pisa railway station in Tuscany, and ate them on the short journey back to Florence where we stayed last week. And I must say I thought they were really tasty (even though they do feature celery which as you know is to be deplored). The Chef enjoyed them too.

Nice fine crinkle cut, good crunch although I really would not call them thick and crunchy, and the taste is a lot stronger than you usually get in a San Carlo crisp. In my experience Italian crisps tend to have a lighter flavour than most UK or US crisps, or even Swiss crisps so the good strong taste here was a welcome surprise.
Everyone knows the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so I have included two other Pisa monuments with today's crisp. If you ask me, the fabulous Baptistry (seen here with a little stretch of the Mediaeval walls) would be a world-renowned building if it wasn't for the Tower, and this little church on the bank of the Arno, Santa Maria della Spina, is pretty special too.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Carrefour Petites Crêpes Fourrées Au Comté et Saveur noix

This is a pretty little crispy snack from Carrefour. Another style of snack I don't think I have seen before.

Tiny little parcels (not much crêpe about these really) about the size of the middle joint of your forefinger, stuffed with what the French description calls une preparation, basically a soft squishy mix. Not unlike the soft squishy mix you find in a KP Cheese Football. Only a bit posher. Well, considerably posher to be honest.

There were several different flavours on the shelf and I picked this Comté cheese and nut flavour pretty much at random. It's hard to concentrate properly when you hit a giant supermarket with the sole purpose of buying crisps, and don't have much time to spare, and you're trying to remember what you've tried before and what you haven't (somehow the printed crib sheet I took with me stayed in my coat pocket), and there are inexplicably other people trying to buy crisps too. It's ghastly!
I'm not sure I chose right. This flavour is OK but I think Carrefour would have done better to just use Comté cheese and leave the nut flavour for another time. Comté is a flavoursome cheese and does not need to be messed with to make it tasty.

However, I don't want you to run away with the idea that these little cheesy parcels are nasty. Because they're not. And they are quite posh. It's a drinks party nibble not a snack for a night out with the lads.

And for your delectation and delight here's another view out of the window here. The sky is blue, the sun is shining and it's snowing lightly. The Chef (as I write) is up the mountain disporting himself on his skis. And for those of you interested in geography, that's Italy behind those peaks.

And this is a big closeup of the same view taken with the Chef's fancy camera.

Friday 11 March 2016

Bret's Frites Goût Crème Oignon

Well, this pop art style of packaging is a new departure for Bret's. But then, these "frites" are a new  departure as far as I am concerned too.

I was expecting one of those square crispy cunchy snacks, shaped like a chip (french fry), you know, extruded from some machine. But this is a strange flat strip of crisp instead. Bâtonnets de pomme de terre it says on the back of the packet. Never seen nothing quite like it before. And I'm wondering about the flavour too. Is it cream and onion? Or perhaps a sort of cream of onion soup flavour? It's hard to tell.

Incidentally, did you know that the French have recently decided to change the spelling of onion? The French word for onion obviously. They can change la langue de Molière if they must, but no messing with la langue de Shakespeare please. The English/Americans can do that all on our own thanks very much.

Anyway, the spelling of onion has previously (and for goodness knows how long) been oignon. But oignon is henceforth to be spelled ognon. Doesn't that look odd? Here's an article from The Guardian you may find interesting.

Not a bad crispy snack, good crunch, quite a lot of flavour dust and a good creamy, oniony flavour. Just a bit of a surprise.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Carrefour Croustillantes Goût Bolognaise

Road trip!

Sounds a lot of fun doesn't it? And it usually is. Sadly for us this time we had horrible weather. Lots of rain, quite heavy at times, and much spray when overtaking heavy lorries on the motorway. No fun at all for the poor Chef who has to drive the entire journey. I gave up driving because I couldn't cope with all those other crazy people on the road. You just never know what they will do next.

Quite apart from the rain, we had to turn round three times to avoid an accident in the Jura, and then we were running rather late so got caught up in the Friday evening traffic escaping Geneva and Lausanne for the weekend.

But here we are. And look at all this lovely snow! I was here in March last year, out in the garden in a T shirt to prune the hazel hedge. No chance of that just now. The hedge is covered in catkins but also in snow. Lots of snow.

And today we tried these Bolognaise flavour crisps from Carrefour.

Looking at the shelves in a big Carrefour outside Rheims it looks as though they are making a big effort to produce all sorts of own-brand crisps and crispy snacks. And this is their version of a Bolognaise flavour crisp.

OK. It's not a bad crisp. But not too fabulous either. Some of the crisps are quite highly coloured, presumably with Bolognaise flavouring, and some are not. All have a good crunch, but the flavour is somehow not quite what I was expecting.

The Chef is no help at all. He says they seem OK but he would have to compare the taste with the spaghetti Bolognaise on the menu up the mountain. Well, that's not very helpful is it?

There is a small child staying at the flat next door. He has trampled their snow like anything. The snow in our garden, however, is pristine and fabulous. And, as I look out of the window just now, all sparkling and wonderful. Jut like snow hardly ever is in London.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

M&S Full on Flavour Lightly Sea Salted

So, erm, full on flavour but also lightly sea salted eh? Bit of a contradiction there wouldn't you say? 

Perhaps. But none the less this is a pretty good lightly salted crisp. And the reluctant taste testers ate quite a lot of them without having very much to say about the flavour. Which is salty but not too salty. And not "not salty enough" as some lightly salted crisps are.

So not bad. But not terribly exciting either. 

This crisp benefits (as estate agents cannot stop themselves saying) from the new thicker more plasticky packaging with a gusset. Only some of Marks & Spencer's crisps have this new style of packaging; some of the new crisps have it, some don't. I have no idea why.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Yamayoshi Potato Chips Chili (Chilibee)

Tall Elegant taste taster bought this packet of crisps from the local Japanese shop too. Boy was she out of control! Buying two packets of crisps at once.... Mind you, it's been a very stressful time at work just lately. I felt so stressed I bought cake and you know that's not a good sign.

These chilli crisps are a beautiful rich golden colour tinged with chilli red, nice crunch and you get about two seconds to enjoy a very pleasant flavour before a wacking great thump of chilli heat kicks in. You know I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to chilli. I thought they were really hot. Dutch taste taster told me she liked these crisps a lot. And she ate quite a few to prove it.

Not for the faint hearted but a good choice for chilli fans I think.

Monday 7 March 2016

Yamayoshi Potato Chips Wasabi (Wasabee)

Tall Elegant taste tester fancied sushi so she too made her way to the local Japanese shop. Actually, I think she was seduced by the idea of wasabi Kit Kats which apparently are big in Japan. Imagine, she had no idea that while in the UK we have about... two (if you're lucky) Kit Kat flavours, in Japan they have loads of fascinating options.

Anyway, no luck on the Kit Kat front, so she bought lunch (mostly salmon I believe) and some crisps. Wasabi crisps. Extremely wasabi crisps.

Now I don't like wasabi. Before I ever tried it I had a feeling it would not be for me. Someone said not to worry because it's like a combination of horseradish and mustard. Is it though? Well unfortunately for me I don't like horseradish and I'm not very keen on mustard either. So I'm not a wasabi fan.

But everyone else in the office seems mad for wasabi. And these crisps were very popular with the reluctant taste testers. Even though we only started this packet after lunch it was all eaten up in no time.

I gather that these crisps have a very fresh, very genuine wasabi taste and are to be recommended. 

Sunday 6 March 2016

Tohato Spicy Potato Rings

Giraffe Fan taste tester decided to have sushi for lunch. And while she was in the local Japanese shop she came across this crispy snack. She said the crazy chilli face on the packet called to her and she felt compelled to buy it.

Well, the packet of this crispy snack is entirely in Japanese as is the website so I find I am totally reliant on Google Translate to tell me what's what. And we have to take what Google gives us because we don't know any Japanese speakers to ask. Plus I am grateful to the Japan Centre website for telling me what to call this crispy snack.

Tyrant came back habanero says the Tahato website, and It was reproduced horse spiciness of sale at that time "tyrant habanero". Blended with habanero at the time and the same amount of vegetables and taste, a combination of several kinds of spices, it is a horse spicy snack to become a habit and the pungent taste is in harmony in a well-balanced says Google.

And then Habanero is, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is the origin, is the most famous spicy pepper in the world. The spicy degree of, will be used units of Scoville, but the pungency of the habanero is about 300,000 Scoville. This is about 80 times the jalapeno, hits to about 10 times the hotness of Tabasco. "Red Savina Habanero" is, "The world's hottest spice" as a certified to Guinness, the record was 577,000 Scoville.

The difference in the taste of the pepper is due to breed, the only value of the Scoville also simply can not be compared element, pungent taste of habanero has also been a different unique thing as a typical red pepper and jalapeno of Japan.

But just in also features with a fruity aroma, not painful, is a charming spice fragrant scent remains after the aggressive pungency.

And er... Habanero manufacturing process
  The spicy pepper to snack. For us that depresses the unexplored area it was a way of habanero, not become thorny road. The development staff, goggles and mask and gloves are necessities. This is because direct, or touch the hand, if those about to enter the much less eye, because beyond description hell is waiting.
Let's put in a look at the development landscape that lesson has been kept alive learned from the fury of habanero. This is the blurb that encourages you to look at a little snippet of video showing a food scientist making this crispy snack while wearing gloves, goggles and a face mask (all but a hazmat suit).

There is a lot more to this website so why not take a look for yourselves?

These crispy little rings have a deceptively gentle taste for about 10 seconds, followed by a huge great rush of hot chilli spiciness. I mean, check out the 5 chillis on the packaging. This surely has to be an indication that this crispy snack is pretty hot.

Really tasty. We liked them a lot. But you can't eat too many at a time. And they do look weirdly like a bowl of little elastic bands. Plus the crazy chilli on the packet is really quite scary.

And finally, I know you will want to know. Yes, you can fit these little rings on your finger.