Friday 29 May 2020

Tayto Snax Potato Puffs Cheese & Onion (Republic of Ireland)

Cliffs of Moher Taste Tester tells me that one of her favourite Irish snacks is Tayto Snax Smokey Bacon. Unfortunately the Chef and I can’t tell you what we think of that because Cliffs of Moher sent us a packet of Cheese & Onion flavour instead. But you know I’m not complaining, because it was super kind of her to send us such a fun present while we are all in lockdown.
I was very pleased when I opened the packet because I thought we were going to be taste testing a crispy snack akin to the fabulous UK snack Quavers. But not so.

A bit too pale, the wrong texture - too fine, and the bubbles aren’t big enough  - the bubbles are important. And of course because we are such huge fans of Quavers, the Cheese & Onion flavour didn’t seem quite right. But worst of all, the bite is too soft.

So, very sorry but I wasn’t impressed. I don’t know why I found this such a disappointing crispy snack. Sometimes it’s impossible to say. And I can tell the Chef wasn’t impressed either because the bowl of snacks remained full: he’s so greedy if he likes something it’s gone in a flash!

However, apparently while this crispy snack didn’t work as a lunchtime snack for the Chef, he was much more interested post his pre-dinner shower. And I think started enjoying his snacking. In the end he ate quite a lot.

Sunday 24 May 2020

Tayto Rancheros Bacon (Republic of Ireland)

I don’t know whether to be disappointed or not that this crispy snack doesn’t look like a fake bacon rasher. I was quite expecting something more like Snacketti Bacon Strips from Swiss crisp giant Zweifel. But no.
No, what you get is a tasty, slightly bacon tasting crispy snack. Which isn’t printed with faux bacon stripes but instead has a sort of bacon style structure to it.

This is a gently flavoured bacon snack, and all the better for it. The Chef was quite impressed and ate half the packet in an absent-minded fashion while checking his emails. This is one of Cliffs of Moher’s recommendations. Although she says they are a bit weird.
Chuck Wagon photo Courtesy Library of Congress 
What I find a bit weird is the cowboy theme. What? Do cowboys only eat bacon? From my extensive research watching many westerns when I was growing up (they used to be on television all the time: it was the fashion) I had gathered that what cowboys ate was beans. When I read The Virginian, written by Owen Wister in 1902, (which spawned a Broadway play, a number of films and a long running TV series) I was struck that the characters rode across the endless empty plains of the Wyoming Territory eating tinned tomatoes straight from the tin. And then discarding the tins so they marked the trail. I don’t think I have ever noticed tinned tomatoes in a TV western.

In fact of course, a little genuine research tells me that cowboys ate salt pork not bacon at all. Obviously beans. And somewhat surprisingly, quite a lot of dried fruit.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Russian Crisp Flavours

In the current Coronavirus emergency, most of us won’t get to Russia any time soon (if at all), so here’s a fascinating article (and photograph) from Born in a Car.
I hope Cheryl of Born in a Car doesn’t mind me passing on her article to you.

It’s a gripping list of Russian crisps I really don’t fancy at all; but that doesn’t make it any the less fascinating: lobster, crab, king crab crisps, mushroom & sour cream, cheeseburger (this is obviously a flavour close to my heart), and an unusual-sounding snack called grenki in salmon & cheese or meat jelly & horseradish flavours. I’m sure the Reluctant Taste Testers would have much enjoyed getting stuck in to this exciting selection of snacks.
If you absolutely cannot wait for a ticket to Moscow or St. Petersburg to sample a Russian crispy snack, there are Ebay sellers who specialise in these unusual (to non Russians) flavours. Just from Lay’s they can apparently supply Sour Cream & Greens, White Mushrooms with Sour Cream, Crab, Lobster, Hunting Sausage (that sounds interesting) and of course Pickled Cucumber with Dill. I suppose I could order a packet or two, but somehow that feels like cheating.
I avoid seafood, and the seafood flavour crispy snacks so beloved by the Russians, but I did buy M&S Ever So Posh Lobster Cocktail (mostly because I really liked the packaging design), and a packet of Tyrrell’s Lobster Cocktail crisps. Although I couldn’t bring myself to try the Reluctant Taste Testers seemed quite keen.
And then here’s a piece from on 7 flavours of famous snacks you’ll only find in Russia. It only features one crisp but serves to illustrate how strongly the Russians feel about dill, and seafood.
I know it’s not a crispy snack but quite fancy the cucumber flavour Sprite.

Finally, a list fromThe Daily Meal includes Lay’s Caviar at #5. Of course! I knew there was something missing.

Thursday 14 May 2020

KP Velvet Crunch Cheddar Cheese & Onion Gourmet Bites

Well now. For some reason I thought this crispy snack was going to be a potato crisp. But no. It’s made with tapioca and cassava and is more of a very fine-grained Popchips style of snack, or perhaps the texture of a Bunny Bites. You will have noticed that this misconception is entirely my fault because obviously I failed to look at the picture on the packet: patently not a crisp. However, it wasn’t just me. The Chef thought the same.
So, this fine, and perhaps velvety, snack from Ireland seems to be made on the same premises as Tayto snacks. Now, Tayto is owned by Intersnack as is KP Snacks, but for some reason the Tayto and Velvet Crunch brands don’t want to advertise this. And so far as I can tell, Tayto hasn’t gone down the KP Snacks route. But the ownership of crisp companies is often convoluted and complex, so let’s move on to the taste.
So what did the Chef and I think? A bit more oniony than cheesy. And the texture is so oddly light you rather eat them without noticing. I think I would prefer a snack with more substance. A bit more of a crunch. This crispy snack may have 60% less fat than standard crisps but (a) it isn’t a crisp, and (b) it has a fair percentage less crunch. And I think crunch is important.

Velvet Crunch was relaunched by KP in 2017 to reflect its new “healthier positioning”. I suppose that’s why the number of calories features so large on the front of the packet. Interestingly, the two other flavours, Thai Sweet Chilli and Salt & Vinegar, have 1 less calorie each than today’s snack.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Tayto Mighty Munch Hot & Spicy (Republic of Ireland)

Goodness gracious! What terrifying creatures we create to convince the children to eat crispy snacks. As if we need to. Mighty Munch, made to scare the mightiest of appetites, these hot and spicy flavour snacks will stomp all over your taste buds. As a mighty muncher, you don’t scare easily. You’re not afraid of what goes bump in the night or crunch in the dark. Boo.. see, you didn’t even flinch!
Very similar to the U.K.’s much loved but terrifying-tasting Monster Munch, this maize based snack is amazingly tasty. Mmmn... yum yum! Obviously they gum themselves to your teeth just like every other maize based snack but that is only to be expected.

 I’m not sure what they actually taste of (I mean, you know, spice extract? What is that exactly? Which spices? Who knows?) but I’m not sure it really matters. And apparently these crispy snacks have been dunked in a volcano for maximum tastiness. Do they have volcanoes in Ireland?
If you’re looking for a full frontal bonkersly tasty snack this could be the one for you. I got mine posted to Switzerland by a friend (amazing!) but perhaps you could visit Ireland for a holiday one day? Or get yourself some Irish friends.
And if you haven’t seen one of those TV programmes about the making of crispy snacks and can find an online video of a machine extruding maize snacks, it’s definitely worth taking a look. Unfortunately I am writing this in a country where none of the videos I’m thinking of is available so I can’t choose a good one one for you. But I know they’re out there. It’s a very exciting process!

The Chef wasn’t quite prepared to admit to enjoying his Mighty Munch; but he did say it’s a very moreish snack and if you have a bowl of them set right in front of you, you won’t be able to stop yourself. And he did eat quite a lot.

Suitable for vegetarians.

Monday 4 May 2020

New Zealand Crisps

You have probably noticed a sudden, very welcome, influx of Irish snacks on the blog. Which is very exciting and just what we needed. But since I already wrote this I’m going to post it anyway.

Because New Zealand is so far away for most readers, we don’t get to try their crispy snacks, and indeed have no idea what’s on offer for the crispy snack or chip fan. Interestingly, New Zealand, like the U.K., doesn’t have Lay’s crisps. What they have instead is Bluebird, which is owned by the mammoth PepsiCo which also owns Lay’s. Of course. But there’s also Heartland (100% Kiwi owned to the bottom of the bag), and no doubt many more.

I have only ever  tried one packet of crispy snacks from New Zealand: my lovely friend Dutch taste tester and her husband Vinyl Collector brought back a packet of Bluebird Burger Rings from their honeymoon and the reluctant taste testers and I liked this snack a lot. Very tasty!
In fact, my friends visited New Zealand again earlier this year. Possibly simply to sample the crispy snacks. They sent me this photo ⬆️ just to make me jealous. Because that’s what friends do.

However, I have a mystery packet of New Zealand crispy snacks waiting for me in Mallorca. The Chef has a skiing friend who recently visited New Zealand and very sweetly brought me back a packet of ... I don’t know what. But instead of returning to Verbier where he sometimes lives, Skiing Friend decided to go to his house in Mallorca instead. Well, that would normally be just fine, only the local post office there has decided against accepting any international parcels for the time being. Apparently it’s all packed up in a jiffy bag ready to post, but there is still a danger that Skiing Friend might succumb to temptation, break in to the parcel and snack them all down in the middle of the night. 
While we wait for the Mallorca post office to change its mind, and perhaps the world to get back to normal, here’s a (very long, 122 varieties of crisps long) list of New Zealand crispy snacks ranked by Madeleine Chapman for The Spinoff : she really does seem to have a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of her native crisps. So many New Zealandish crisps, indeed, that you may feel the need to scroll through to the top 10.

I confess I have a weakness for the Bluebird packaging design. Why a penguin? It’s weird. But who cares? It’s fun. If I ever visit New Zealand you can tell I will be in the nearest shop looking for the crispy snack aisle.