Thursday 31 May 2018

M&S Assorted Popcorn 6 Bags

This turquoise packet contains 6 little packets of popcorn: 2 sweet (in a red bag), 2 salted (in a blue bag) and 2 sweet & salty (in a shocking pink bag).
Why salted, but sweet & salty? Who knows? Who cares? Well, anyway, I'm not sure that popcorn is Marks & Spencers' forte. Over the years we have taste tested a whole slew of crisps and crispy snacks from Marks & Spencer and some of them have been great, and some of them haven't, but I don't recall any of them being... well... meh.
Perfectly OK. Just not very thrilling. Not very exciting. I think this popcorn, these popcorns deserve more flavour. A bit more oomph.

And, I don't know. Call me picky if you like, but I don't know why M&S chose these colours for the packets. Turquoise, pink and blue I get. But the red doesn't work for me at all. And somehow this multipack of popcorn didn't pass the thrill threshold either.

Slightly Red Haired Bristolian kindly donated this popcorn as part of a taste testers' night out (or in my case, in) watching season 3 of Shetland. Yes, you too can buy Shetland on DVD, send out for pizza, taste test some popcorn and be just like us. But I wasn't that impressed with this selection.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Ethiquable Chips Pomme de Terre Blue Varietes Anciennes du Perou

The second packet of Peruvian crisps the Chef and I discovered, much to our surprise, in the very nice cafe between Geneva Airport railway station and the airport itself.  It's very civilised at Geneva; you take the train to the airport, and no mucking about with waiting for a bus or struggling through the rain, you simply transfer elegantly from one to the other. Huzzah!

Anyhow, this little packet of crisps from Peru was not entirely what the reluctant taste testers were expecting (except they had already seen the red version).

The bite is very soft compared to what we would normally expect. And the taste is a very gentle salted, with a lot of potato . Quite unusual really. Normal potato crisps don't really taste of potato do they? And Managerial taste tester (who it turns out was reading this blog at the weekend, I can't think why) noted I said he hardly ever commented (which is true), so he commented.

And what he said was, these crisps looks like fruity bird mess. What? Well, you know when the birds have been at the blackberries and their poo goes all purple? Well, that's what he meant. And I think we kind of agreed!

Saturday 26 May 2018

Lay’s Wokkels Paprika

Well, this is exciting. Noble Friend has been to Amsterdam and brought back some packets of crisps for the reluctant taste testers and me to try, and what fun; Wokkels are crispy spirals.

Cliffs of Moher taste tester was much struck by these crunchy spirals and I must say I thought they were very good too. Strangely not very tasty (which you know I like) at first bite, and then a hit of paprika. Very nice. Lovely light crunch, I think Cliffs of Moher would have liked more on the paprika front. But hey ho, it’s a pretty good snack.

I always wonder if spiral crispy snacks are going to have a hard inner er... spine?.. the way spiral pasta does. But in some mysterious way extruded potato copes with the shape better and you don’t get a harder core.

Apparently all the reluctant taste testers in the building (quite a lot of us work part time) really enjoyed this crispy snack. They all got snacked up quite quickly,

Apparently Noble Friend’s Antique Fan friend delights in pointing out suitable sources of crispy snacks for us to try so I mustn’t forget to thank him too.

And extra thanks to Noble Friend for the Van Gogh Museum bag. I’m so pleased she enjoyed visiting the museum.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Cheetos Ketchup

Złap jedna z millionów naklejek na ubrania! says the blurb on the packet. Isn’t that exciting? I expect. I confess I found it very difficult typing Polish but do admit that the new iPad produces almost all the diacritics I needed which is brilliant. And pretty impressive.

I found another packet of Polish crisps in North London. Well, Cheetohs aren’t crisps but you get the picture. Lucky for you lot in internetland that I don’t live in darkest rural something-shire or we might be discussing an endless selection of pork scratchings instead of a weird array of crispy snacks from who knows where. Yes, that does sound hopelessly crountryside-ist I know. But having lived here in North London for a very long time I am conscious that people who live in the countryside are often very short changed on the crispy snack front.

Anyway, another offering from Chester the front man for Cheetos (front-cheetah?). Or possibly trouble maker; again see the packet blurb. Not speaking or reading any Polish I really have no idea why the packet, which features quite a bit of Polish text, suddenly breaks into English to say trouble maker.

1 Kup product promocyjny CHEETOS 

2 Sprawdź  czy wygrateś nakelkę na ubranie!

3 Jeśli wygrateś uźyj naklejki zgodnie z instrukcja i stwórz swój Cheestyle look ™️
By Chester

No I don’t know either. So what do I think? Quite bright orange, quite a soft bite which of course you expect from puffed extruded corn snacks, and I wasn’t convinced by the tomato ketchup flavour. All round not back except... except it really does gum itself to your teeth mid-mouthful. I could do without that, and Tall taste tester wasn’t that impressed either. Noble Friend wasn’t that keen on the ketchup. It’s not as good as Heinz tomato ketchup she said. And taste tester from the New Forest really liked this crispy sticks a lot.

Exciting news. This snack packet appears to be recyclable. At any rate there is a recycling triangle on the back with 90 in it. Whether or not I can find anywhere prepared to accept this class of recycling I don’t know.

And I quite forget. You get a free temporary tattoo.

Monday 21 May 2018

O'Donnells of Tipperary Hickory Barbecue Flavour

Hmnn... I confess I am quite disappointed. Cliffs of Moher taste tester told me this was a truly great crisp with a fab flavour. And guess what? I didn't much like it.  But I shouldn't be surprised because I almost never lie the barbecue flavour crisps and of course that's what this is.

However, worry not readers, because the reluctant taste testers paid no attention to my pickiness and liked this handsome Irish crisp anyway. And I suspect that unless you share my unreasonable dislike of BBQ as a flavour, you will enjoy them too.

This really is a handsome crisp and if it didn't taste all wrong for me I think I'd like it quite a lot.

So don't listen to me, listen to the reluctant taste testers and know that they approve. And this crisp won an Irish Food Award in 2013.

Friday 18 May 2018

M&S Paprika Hand Cooked Crisps

The Chef is particularly fond of some Paprika crisps from Swiss crisp giant Zweifel, so when I spotted this little packet of Paprika crisps from Marks & Spencer I could not resist. I thought he’d like to try.

And the Chef was keen. So keen in fact that he ate the whole packet before I was able to take a picture and commemorate these crisps for all eternity. I can of course go back to my local branch of M&S to buy another packet, in fact I think the Chef may kick up a fuss if I don’t, but somehow it’s not the same if I photograph a subsequent packet.

He tells me this is a very nice crisp and he really enjoyed it. I got one of the very last crisps not snacked up by the Chef. A very nice crunch I thought. And good taste too. And a totally different crisp from the Zweifel version.

I think I’ll be back at M&S soon. With any luck getting a couple of packets will stop the Chef being so grumpy. He’s not interested in the Royal Wedding, he doesn’t know anything about Yanny or Laurel meme, and he doesn’t care at all about the FA Cup Final. Oh dear.
Because I don't have a crisp shot here's the flower and bract of Davidia involucrata. I think they're just beautiful.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

M&S BBQ Sausage & Smokehouse Ketchup Hand Cooked Crisps

This is a flashback to the complicated crisp days of History Graduate taste tester with the fancy recipe flavour. Well, perhaps not a fancy recipe, but definitely lots going on in the flavour department. Rather more than I would tolerate in a home cooked dinner. I might be OK with a barbecued sausage but I wouldn't want barbecue flavour, and I am very fussy about my ketchup. It's got to be Heinz tomato ketchup and no messing.

I don’t know, and the reluctant taste testers don’t know why crisp developers go for so many complicated flavours. Honestly, and you might be surprised how many conversations we have about crisps (or perhaps you wouldn't) so we've done a major survey and most people prefer the simple flavours. Myself I usually like plain salted best.

OK, so here we were confronted with this fancy sausage flavour.

Which I didn’t like that much. Which you probably won’t be surprised about. But hey, apparently almost all the reluctant taste testers really enjoyed this packet of hand cooked crisps. The crisps themselves were fine with a nice crunch, but honestly I thought the ketchup flavour was much too sharp.

 Hmmn.... I think in the long run I'd far rather have the actual sausage with (ordinary) ketchup thanks. I think the sausages and tomatoes shown on the packet would work well. Probably you all will side with the taste testers.

Ketchup falcon barbecue et porc it says in French. Which doesn't sound at all the same thing does it?

Friday 11 May 2018

Lidl Snaktastic Sweet Popcorn

Finely sugared for a delicious taste says the blurb on this supersized packet of popcorn from Lidl.

Slightly Red Haired Bristolian brought this packet of popcorn into the office so that the reluctant taste testers could save her from eating the entire thing all by herself. She said she loved the gentle sweetness so much that she really could eat the lot. She also said that it was just exactly like cinema popcorn.

Now I am frightfully picky so I practically never go to the cinema for fear I won't enjoy the film, and if I do I almost never have popcorn. But if I do have popcorn I prefer the salty buttery kind so I can't tell if Slightly Red Haired Bristolian is right, but New Forest taste tester fully agrees with her. Er.. could the packaging design be some sort of clue?

This is a nice light sugary popcorn. I wouldn't say this was a super exciting popcorn but it is quite nice. Even Architectural taste tester; she who hardly ever comments, was quite impressed at the niceness.

It’s a pity I keep reading this as “snake-tastic” 🙂.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

O'Donnells of Tipperary Irish Cider Vinegar & Sea Salt Hand Cooked Crisps

Another sensational crisp from Irish crispmeisters O'Donnells of Tipperary. All the reluctant taste testers who expressed a preference loved this crisp. Except Tall Elegant taste tester who can be a bit picky about salt. Her one trial crisp ended up in the compost bin (we do our very best on the recycling front).

We have to thank Cliffs of Moher taste tester for buying these wonderful crisps which I understand can only be found in the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately she left them at home and we had to wait for her mum to post them. But lucky us because here they are.... or were... before we snacked them all up.

All our regulars loved this great crisp with just the right crunch and a fabulous flavour. Brand new taste tester from the New Forest took our snacking activities in her stride and enjoyed this crisp too.

I snaffled a few at the bottom of the packet for the Chef to try at home and, despite the fact that he doesn’t like salt & vinegar much as a crisp flavour, he polished them off in no time at all. His considered opinion? An excellent crisp.

Top marks all round. If only we could buy them in a handy North London branch of Waitrose (obviously other supermarkets are available).

Sunday 6 May 2018

Ethiquable Chips de Pomme de Terre Rouge Varietes Anciennes du Perou

The Chef and I were having a glass of wine and a cup of coffee at Geneva Airport, or more particularly the railway station, because we had arrived rather early for my flight. And what did I spot   in a display of gluten free products but some crisps made with traditional Peruvian potatoes.

And not just traditional Peruvian potatoes, but potato crisps made in Peru with traditional varieties of potato. Peru, the packet reminds me, is the cradle of the potato, and more than 4,000 cultivated varieties have been recorded.

I read somewhere that the potato plant is very poisonous in its original form. Apparently it’s a bit of a mystery how the early inhabitants of the Andes managed to breed an edible potato that would grow in such an unpromising environment. Much of Peru is very high; it’s very cold, and it’s dry. A far cry from the flat fields of Lincolnshire where so many of England's potatoes are grown.

Not really a story for this blog, but a network of private narrow gage railways was built in Lincolnshire to carry the potato crop to market. Check out the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway near Skegness for more railway fun. The Chef is a mad keen fan of railways in all their forms. He has leaflets on industrial railways and everything. It’s a bit of a surprise I haven’t been dragged off to visit any. Yet.

Ethiquable helps potato farmers continue to use the ancient varieties so they don’t disappear but sadly now only 180 varieties are grown by members of the AGROPIA co-operative. Apparently the local market has no interest in these potatoes which were all eaten by the farmers until a fair trade solution in the form of these crisps allowed them to sell their produce and safeguard the genetic diversity of the local potato varieties.

This is a very old fashioned style of crisp. The Peruvian potatoes give lovely red blotches to the crisps which have a soft crunch. Lightly salted and gently tasty these crisps are made with ethically produced palm oil from Ecuador.

Most of the reluctant taste testers quite liked this Peruvian crisp. Architectural taste tester, who almost never comments, was especially keen. I enjoyed this crisp. Not exciting or fancy but I couldn’t help liking them.

It’s good to support biodiversity, and indigenous peoples growing local products. Although I have to admit that Geneva isn’t very local to Peru, and I don’t know where else to buy this crisp. Lima perhaps?

Friday 4 May 2018

Scott Farms Sweet Potato Chips

 Another offering from Tall Elegant taste tester, and another crispy snack I probably wouldn’t have bought myself. It’s not that I disapprove of sweet potato crisps or chips; it’s just that there are so many potato based products (and goodness knows what else besides) so I don’t usually buy vegetable crisps.

This is a nice little packet of crisps/chips illustrated with a sweet potato plant. Apparently sweet potatoes are related to convolvulus or morning glory, although I gather you should remove the flowers if you want a good crop.

Scott Farms are based in Evesham in Worcestershire in the UK. The address is Asparagus Way which is a wonderful name for a road; especially in Evesham which is a very important asparagus growing area. However, headquarters is in North Carolina.

These are quite small crisps - sweet potatoes curl up in the cooking - and lightly salted. A nice taste and a nice crunch.

Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, coeliac friendly, GMO free, no added colours, grown and picked by Scott Farms and Hand Cooked in their skins. A lot of boxes ticked.

Wednesday 2 May 2018

M&S Welsh Rarebit Style Hand Cooked Crisps

Well now, the reluctant taste testers don't seem to have tried a crisp from M&S for quite a while.

Perhaps because Marks & Spencer appear to have lost their enthusiasm for launching a new flavour of crisp every other week. OK, perhaps not that often, but there was a time, remember History Graduate taste tester? When he was around we seemed to be running as fast as we could just to keep up with the new crisps. It was a struggle and in the end I don't think we got around to trying everything on offer.

Anyway, what have we here? Welsh Rarebit Style. So this is a packet of little bits of toast with cheese topping is it? In a way I wish it were. But no.

It's a packet of normal style crisps.

And, let's be positive. Tech taste tester told me he loved these crisps; he could eat the whole packet. That's nice. I'm glad he was enthusiastic. Senior and Tall taste tester (both men) wouldn't exactly admit to enthusiasm but I have a feeling they ate quite a lot of them. On the other hand Cliffs of Moher taste tester told me she thought they taste of vomit. Could it be that this is a man's flavour? I'm not sure why that should be, but that's how it has worked out.

I have to say I really wasn't mad keen myself. I thought at first they seemed far too cheesy, then there's a hit of something hot. And then it turns out I really didn't like the taste or the aroma. Oh dear. Because someone has tried very hard with the flavour; it's chock full of ingredients. Tamarind, cloves, mustard, turmeric, ginger, cardamon and nutmeg jostle for supremacy with mature cheddar cheese and I'm not sure who wins.

As someone said, it's enough to put you off Welsh rarebit. That's a pity.

And again, there's the yin yang style arrow, the green dot (although in this case it's yellow and black) showing that M&S helps to fund packaging recycling systems. Even though this packet cannot be recycled.