Friday, March 22, 2013

Pepperidge Farm, Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk & Crispy Chocolate Pecan

Pepperidge Farm cookies are commonplace in America, but I've only seen them at one Tesco in the UK. I've never been crazy for them, but I do think Milanos would be really well liked here, just based on how nice they are dipped into hot beverages.

Anyway, I don't have any Milano cookies to review, I have two other varieties!
One soft baked, and one crispy. You may recollect from earlier reviews that I am not a big fan of shelf stable soft baked cookies, but Pepperidge Farm has a reputation for prestige, so my hopes were higher than usual. Again, the package suggests microwaving the cookies will improve them--but unfortunately I do not have a microwave. Times like these I miss it.
Hm, looks a lot like a bigger version of the Country Ma'am cookies. Just weird little pudding cookies, or the kind made out of cake mix. The texture is also just like Country Ma'am, kind of sticky and dry. I think these would be much improved by microwaving, it would soften them up at least. The flavor wasn't that amazing though, it was quite floury and artificially buttery. The chocolate chunks and the cookie base don't mingle together at all, which is a shame as the chunks are actually quite nice. I can only imagine these are really meant to be microwaved, because eating it plain is kind of a drag.
These look more like my style of cookie! It is also a promising sign that I can see a few pecans embedded within. The texture was fine, like any crunchy store bought cookie and the taste was much improved from the soft-baked batch. The base flavor tasted natural, like a 'real' cookie with butter and vanilla extract, and the chocolate chunks and pecans blended nicely, and didn't seem like a different taste stuck onto the cookie. The flavors were melded, unlike the soft-baked. Is the difference between one of these and like, a Boasters, enough to justify the kinda increased price? Probably not--but if you want to try something new and you like pecans I can definitely suggest the crispy Pepperidge Farm. As for the soft one, I certainly wouldn't buy it again, but if you like similar cookies I'm sure you won't be annoyed by this slightly larger one that uses nicer chocolate.

Friday Feature: Food I'd Like to Eat, Wendy's Edition

Wendy's is a fast-food chain in the US that is known for square hamburger patties, and at least among my peers, as being slightly classier than alternative burgers. Wendy's does taste better than McDonald's, the patties are vaguely spiced and the cheese feels real. Wendy's has much nicer fries than Burger King, but hey, who doesn't...and Wendy's has one thing that neither of those places has ever really been able to emulate: chili. Why don't you make your own damn chili cheese fries, cries Wendy's, we've got a vat of the stuff cooking, we can't do all the work for you.

Wendy's also has locations in other places, most notably (for me) in Japan. Apparently Wendy's existed in Japan a few years back, but closed down because they couldn't compete with the other fast food chains there. They reopened there recently, however, and celebrated by offering some crazy fancy burgers. It started off with a foi gras burger and a truffle cream burger, but that was sometime last year, and things have changed... For the better?

 (cribbed from Wendy's Japan site)
Going off the photos and corroborating articles about Wendy's that have been Google translated, I think I've got a pretty good idea of what these burgers are. Starting from the left, it appears we've got a chili & bacon burger, an avocado & wasabi burger, a bacon burger, and a chili burger. Clearly the first two are the stand-outs. I'm surprised that bacon & chili isn't a more common combination, I can really picture it working! The saltiness of the bacon, and the spice of chili...quite the savory blast, I'd reckon. Wasabi and avocado also sounds awesome, creamy and hot--nice.  The other two, well, I could get those anywhere...
(grabbed from Wendy's USA site)
This one is from the US, the Asiago Chicken Club. In America, Wendy's isn't really known for there limited editions, or even specialty burgers. I've got some respect for Wendy's in that regard, they found what works and have stuck with it. Then again, I love limited editions, so! I'd pick this one over my classic spicy chicken sandwich just because I know that Wendy's has amazing chicken (for fast food, haha) and who doesn't like bacon and asiago cheese? Also, ranch sauce. Damn! I'll get one of these and some chili cheese fries, please.
(as you might guess, taken from Wendy's Canadian site)
I've never had poutine, and I'm sure Wendy's isn't the best example of it, but it looks tasty and this is an article about Wendy's, not the best poutine in Canada! If you don't know, poutine is a Canadian treat consisting of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. What could go wrong? I know that Wendy's does delicious fries, I love cheese curds, and gravy is always welcome.

Wendy's might be a bit boring, but I've never had a bum burger from them, nor a bad batch of fries, so I'm just as excited to eat more Wendy's on my upcoming trip as I am excited for the new stuff back home.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hotel Chocolat, Salt and Pepper Egglets

I think I've mentioned in the blog before, I've dabbled in 'experimental' baking. By that I mean when I was a teenager I ruined many a batch of otherwise decent chocolate chip cookies by putting in like, anise or bits of gummi bears or something. I made olive oil brownies once, but not by following a recipe, just by substituting olive oil for the vegetable oil. It didn't turn out well. My largest screw up was definitely the time I added a bunch of black pepper to chocolate cookies. They tasted disgusting...Before hand, many of the issues just caused bad after-tastes, weird textural problems, and unseemly goo. These just tasted straight up horrible, and they looked like tasty chocolate cookies. You could see my gummi bear junk coming a mile away, but these were tricky, and tasted 100 times worse. That was the last gasp of my weird cookies phase.

So, from that point on I've been incredibly wary of black pepper with chocolate. Wary, but strangely drawn to it...I've just got to know if someone else can do it better.
Thus my purchase of Hotel Chocolat's Salt and Pepper Egglets. I really like the shape of these things, they're quite perfectly formed little eggs, and a decent two bite size. They're super smooth and glossy, too. There are a bunch of different varieties, and I would've reviewed the Strawberries 'n' Cream variety but I ate them so quickly I barely had time to consider how they tasted...except for delicious. Maybe I'll get another package before the end of the season!

So, these are praline filled eggs flavored with salt and pepper. Specifically, "a pinch of sea salt and a hint of black pepper". I'd say that was about right, yeah. The chocolate was the same mellow Hotel Chocolat milk chocolate, which is my favorite of the mid range milk chocolates. The praline is smooth and hazelnutty, with a really subtle hint of black pepper. It was hard to tell as I hadn't ever had the Hotel Chocolat praline in general, but I do think there was a bit of salt. The black pepper was really interesting, and subtle enough that had I not known that was the intention I'd just think it was a regular praline...maybe with a hint of chili or some other warming spice. I think these are super cute, both in shape and theme, and they are executed well. I'd definitely recommend having a box of these laying around at Easter!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rice Krispies Squares, Totally Chocolatey Mint

It's no secret that I'm very hard to please when it comes mint. Pair it with savory dishes, and I'm already feeling queasy. Mix it with chocolate, and I'm absolutely going to need lots of sugar and chocolate to make it through. I used to like chocolate mint quite a bit more, but my tastes have changed and I've soured on it.

My husband has no beef with chocolate mint, so we bought these Rice Krispies on his behest. Fact is, I don't even like Rice Krispy treats. They're too sticky for me. See, I like to be able to put out of my mind how horribly I'm treating my teeth while I eat snacks...and these things are a real reminder that I'm doing terrible damage to mankind's weakest point. Not to mention that they're so boring. Cereal and marshmallows, huh, that sounds great...hey does anyone around here have some Lucky Charms?
Really, I was setting myself up to fail eating this as my afternoon snack. The wrapper is nice, really makes it clear that there is chocolate and mint in there...I guess. At least they're not trying to deceive anybody.
Maybe if you're a fan of Rice Krispies, this image is mouthwatering. To me, it illustrates the food version of a shrug. It smelled kind of minty, and felt quite solid as opposed to homemade squares which are always gooey and melting and getting gunk on your hands...yurgh. Taste wise, not much to say, there was just a slight taste of mint and a slight taste of chocolate, and that's it. Not a strong taste, but I should be thankful for that given how much I don't like chocolate and mint. My husband's opinion was pretty much the same. He says that after eating one he had no interest in eating the rest of the 4-pack, and that the chocolate mint taste was 'NOT good'. You can tell who the wordy one of the family is! So, now we've got two Rice Krispy squares that hopped a chocolate/mint sidecar to Dullsville. Guess since they're so inoffensive we can save them for sweet-hungry guests.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mr. Kipling Lemon Bakewell Tart

Apparently these were out last year for Easter too, but I did not notice. I think I was suspicious of the li'l pies that Mr. Kipling releases, but after trying the Mississippi Mud variety I was pumped to have another.
The color is a bit saturated in this photo, the lemon icing is not that fluorescent. These are really pretty cute, they actually look like tiny pies. My only little issue is that it is quite hard to get the pie out of the tin without it breaking up a bit and causing a lot of crumbs. Doesn't matter too much, but you'll definitely want to put a plate underneath this before you chow down.
I did, but then I put it on the counter for a better picture of the innards. So we've got a lemon jelly candy on the very top, followed by lemon icing, then a bit of lemon curd, and then some lemon sponge all encased in pastry. The crust seems like it is the same as the mississippi mud pie variety, as previously reviewed by me, Hannah at the Review Addict, and Foodstufffinds. Kind of graham tasting and crumbly. The sponge was okay, it all tasted like lemon so I couldn't get a good handle on the taste of the cake. I think it could've been vanilla cake and it would've been exactly the same...It was soft and kinda buttery, though! The lemon curd plus the lemon icing is a sweet citrus overload--well, it would be an overload if I didn't like it, haha. Oh man, it is so sweet. That's the deal with sour fruits being turned into candy, they have to add so much sugar to compensate for the natural tang. I always feel extra bad for my teeth with citrus sweets because the natural acids plus the sugar has to be really terrible. The lemon jelly candy is so unnecessary though, even though it is pleasant it is just more sweet, but with actual grains of sugar embedded in it. So we've got manual exfoliation in addition to the citric acid and the sugar. Whoops.

If you like lemon, this was really tasty with a cup of tea. At just under 200 calories, it is a pretty fair afternoon treat. I felt pretty I ate an entire miniature pie. I'm looking forward to trying more of the bitsy tarts in the Mr. Kipling lineup!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Koala no March, Custard Cream Puff

As a baby/child/person with easy access to them, I used to snack on Koala's March cookies like there was no tomorrow. What's not to like about these biscuits? They're poppable, cute, and tasty. A great snack, especially for little hands and people who appreciate bears doing cute things stamped on to their cookies. There were only two flavors available in the USA back in my day, chocolate and strawberry. I was all about the chocolate, of course. Apparently, there is a flavor in America now that is like a reverse koala--chocolate cookie with white chocolate creme inside. I think I would've liked that one best, but alas, not around back then. However! I've made up for lost time by snatching up these Koala no March straight from NapaJapan, in the flavor 'Custard Cream Puff'.
D' cute is that! I like to imagine all my desserts were put together by a sleepy bear. Or is he just so proud of his fine work for Lotte that he's coyly blushing? Either way, d'awwww. You can see from the illustrations that this flavor is meant to be like a choux pastry cream puff. So, I was expecting just a sort of creamy vanilla flavor, because I've been suckered into things like this a million times only to end up with the same sort of taste. Never does it taste bad, but there are only so many differences between cream puffs, cheesecakes, vanilla custards, egg tarts, et cetera that can be translated through fondant centers. The smell after I opened the box was incredibly tangy, like yogurt. An eyebrow was raised, and a few koalas were scattered onto a plate.
The gangs all here: starting from the left we've got Creamy, Schleepy, Punchy, and dead center, uh...Franklin! The first to get crunched was Punchy, he was lookin' at me funny. The biscuit seemed much crisper and crunchier than your classic Koala biscuits from the USA, or derivatives like Hello Panda. They also had air pockets in them, which was a bit of a marvel because of how thin the biscuit shell was to begin with--how did it manage air bubbles? I wonder if this was meant to replicate a choux pastry shell...The inner creme was the familiar solid fondant from every other koala snack, except it seemed less sticky and claggy this time around. It could be that it was just fresher, or that the snacks from the USA use a less-quality creme, but this could also be an attempt at replicating a creme puff's delicate and dissipating inner fluff. The only slight disappointment was the flavor. Even though the smell was tangy, the taste was the same sort of vanilla dairy taste I had in the last few dairy/milk products I've had from Japan. Not as sweet as the plain vanilla Hello Panda, but a bit bland.

Fact is though, that these Koala cookies are meant for kids, so maybe I'm expecting a little too much from them in terms of taste. An adult palette might be able to tell the difference between custard and vanilla cream, but for a kid the exciting bit is probably that the koala is wearing a chef's hat this time around.

These were perfectly tasty, but not radically different from other teensy bear biscuits that have came before it. If they were available as a flavor here in the UK, I'd  get them before strawberry, but maybe not before the classic chocolate. This won't stop me from buying every other milky custard variation that comes out in Japan though, but I'm kind of a sucker.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fanta Peach and Apricot

Fanta in the UK intrigues me...There are quite a few variations, including frequent limited editions...but never grape? Really, they're more or less always based around orange or yellow fruits. Is it safe to say that grape flavored things just aren't very popular here? In the US if you're releasing anything with assorted fruit flavors, ya got grape or you're bust. What I'm trying to say is, give Grape Fanta a trial run in the UK! If you can risk it with a billion versions of vaguely tropical yellows-and-oranges, you can give goodly grape a fighting chance...right?
Of course, I did try the latest lurid and sunny Fanta variety when I stumbled across it; peach and apricot, sounds promising! Apricot isn't a extremely popular flavor, and peach is usually second fiddle to a stronger fruit. The color is quite similar to orange Fanta, maybe ab it more yellow, and the smell was a lot like tropical soda of any stripe.

I've never had any kind of squash, but apparently this tasted quite a bit like Robinson's peach squash mixed with Lilt. The Lilt I can see, as I drank my fair share of that--it has the same tropical taste as Lilt, or Rio...or Tropical Fanta...or Mango and Passionfruit Fanta. Nothing to really differentiate itself, unless my tastebuds are just completely borked. Kind of disappointing, really. I mean, it was a perfectly suitable soda in that style, but it just wasn't exciting or all that different from every other Fanta limited edition I've had in the past few years.

So far my favorite Fanta available here remains classic orange, followed by Beach, which is at least pretty different than the norm with the strawberry and kiwi blend--even if it is a bit oversweet, at least it is a change of pace. I wish I could've tried the pink grapefruit flavor!

Friday, March 15, 2013

William Curley Chocolate Selection Box

After my awesome Dessert Bar experience at William Curley, we picked out a few chocolates to sample at our leisure back home.
We chose to get a 9 piece box, with a few pieces being tried by both my companion and I--and a few flavors specific to each individual.

First up, one that we both tried: Yuzu truffle. They're the two that have golden sparkles on the corners. If someone had asked either of us to guess what this flavor was, we wouldn't have guessed yuzu, or even citrus. It tastes like a high quality dark chocolate, albeit one with strong fruity notes. There was a little piece of candied citrus embedded in the ganache, but it was so tiny it was basically impossible to taste it, outside of it being sugary and more jelly-like than the rest of the truffle. I think that yuzu is so expensive and therefore only a small amount would've been used, and that dark chocolate has so many natural fruit/citrus undertones made this chocolate just taste like a very nice dark chocolate truffle. A bit disappointing, but only in that we were hopeful about tasting a strong citrus flavor.

Next we both tried the Japanese black vinegar chocolate, which did have a pleasant vinegar-y taste. Sweet and vinegar-y is a rare taste combination, but it is a bit similar to sweet and sour. The two tastes sat together very well. Since a sweeter chocolate was used, it kept the whole taste from being too bitter or sour. It was my favorite of the bunch. I do really like vinegar, however, so my opinion might be husband who tolerates vinegar enjoyed this one too, but not as much as I did. I think it is important to note that it didn't taste like white vinegar, or malt vinegar, it really tasted like the sort of vinegar that is used in sauces and cooking in Asia. Very gentle, not pungent, but unmistakably vinegar.

We also both had a fresh garden mint, and I did not like this one. Safe to say I hated it, kinda. My husband loved it. My problem with this chocolate was all on me though--it is about time I stop trying things that say they're garden mint, or fresh mint, or anything like that. They always just remind me of mint with savory dishes, which is one of my top worst food combinations. Mint and lamb makes me want to cry. Mint on a salad will ruin what is already a hard food for me to like, and mint on anything else is traumatic. Mint should be sweet for me to even kinda like it, I'm coming to realize. This just tasted like chewing a wad of mint leaves and then taking a big hunk out of a dark chocolate bar. So herbal...Miserable for me, probably great for people who like mint. I'm not going to do this to myself again; Creamy Steak fans, mint is off the table.

Then we started in on the chocolates we picked out individually. My husband got an apricot and wasabi, which had an apricot jelly filling and no discernable wasabi taste. He didn't care for it, but it sounded kind of nice to me...because it had no wasabi. Wasabi is great on lots of things, but it is not great with chocolate.

I had the pistachio and toscano, which had a green marzipan paste filling. The pistachio taste was subtle, but noticeably pistachio rather than almond. I was surprised that it was a marzipan filling, I was expecting that it was going to be like a praline filling, or maybe a cream. It was a pleasant surprise, though, because I like marzipan.

We also had an unidentified spiced chocolate that was quite tasty. Doesn't feel right to review it without knowing anything about it, though! It wasn't listed on our selection box identity card, so...cinnamon-y and nice, I guess. Sorry!

One thing I really took away from this selection box was how different the standard chocolate was between William Curley and the other chocolatier I have the most experience with, Paul A. Young. The William Curley dark chocolate blend was much fruitier and sweeter, whereas the Paul A. Young basic dark chocolate is quite smokey, strong, and can sometimes verge on bitter. The kind of dark, snappy stuff that kids universally hate, and I can't eat without a tall glass of milk or a sweet filling inside it.

I would say that William Curley was more of a sure thing (give or take that mint truffle), classic, and inoffensive; but Paul A. Young is more dramatic, fun and risky. I am happily going to scoff chocolates and desserts from both places, and I would suggest the same for anyone else who loves chocolate and is indecisive! I really need to do a salted caramel head-to-head one of these days...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Penguin St. Clement's Mini Rolls

I don't know much about St. Clement or his cake, but he was apparently some kind of fan of citrus. This cake is a bit different than the usual St. Clement's cake, as it is a chocolate sponge, covered in chocolate. Makes sense, given that it is under the Penguin line and Penguins are covered in chocolate...right?
Pretty cute wrapper, I like the big penguin foot in the foreground, but I do wonder how happy that penguin actually would be traipsing through a field of wild flowers in the warm, spring sunshine...I'd love it, but I'm not a flightless, non-migratory bird who lives in one of the coldest climes on Earth.
Your classic mini roll cake, the only difference is that it is completely enrobed in chocolate, whereas a lot of the shelve-stable roll cakes are mostly dipped, but not fully. Nice! Feels 20 percent more decadent with the addition of a bottom layer of chocolate coating.
Eugh, pardon the poor destruction of the cake, it can't be helped. As you can see the inside is a pretty lurid shade of yellow. The chocolate coating was nice, very milky and sweet, very similar to the chocolate on a Penguin. The cake was like any ol' sponge, maybe a bit more chocolate-y than others cake rolls I've had. The inner cream was great, strongly flavored with orange and lemon, and not too sugary. Smooth too, rather than rough and gritty. The combination of chocolate and orange is classic, and adding lemon to it doesn't change much except make it a bit more zesty. Has Penguin ever made cake rolls before?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

William Curley Dessert Bar

I have a particular interest in William Curley, as he shares my maiden name...William. Really though, I received a voucher good for two people to share the 'dessert bar experience' for my birthday last year, and I figured now was as good a time as any to cash it in! We went on Mother's Day weekend, because it isn't impossible that I will be a mother someday, after all...and I have a mother, so the holiday is really just so fitting for me.

After quite a trek around the London area (closed Circle line, boo!), we made it to the William Curley Patisserie in Belgravia, very near the Sloane Square tube station.

It was such a pretty cafe, with gentle, sparse jazzy music playing quietly. It really reminded me of visiting coffee shops and patisseries in Japan, specifically Tully's Coffee, which was quite the hangout spot for me and my husband. Honey lattes forever!

We had the option of either sitting at the bar and watching the desserts be assembled, or sitting at a table. We chose the table, but next time it might be fun to sit up at the bar and watch! The service was very friendly, and all the dishes were explained to us as they were brought out. No complaints at all for the atmosphere and for the staff, both were just perfect.

I didn't get a picture of our drinks, but included in the £20pp for the dessert bar is a choice of a non-alcoholic drink. I got the hot chocolate that had hazelnut, and it was delicious. Thick, not served boiling hot (personal pet peeve, so glad that I could drink it soon after it arrived!) and tasting very much of dark chocolate and hazelnut. Not too milky or dully sweet, it was unmistakably high quality chocolate. My desserting companion got the caramelized sesame and miso milkshake, and my sip was quite nice. Can't say I tasted much miso, probably thankfully, but the sesame was nicely nutty and sweet.
The four course dessert set started off with a champagne granita, which is a bit wasted on me as I hate champagne. I really liked the icy texture, it was a bit more like a jagged/irregular snow cone, but champagne as a flavor just does nothing for me. I think it was a nice champagne? It was a good start though, very refreshing in the iciness!
The granita was shortly followed by a cherry blossom panna cotta with a cherry compote. There were little redcurrants on the top, too. The panna cotta was creamy and perfectly cooked, set firmly and not too squishy and jiggly. The cherry blossom flavor was quite delicate, a mix of tea and light cherry. The cherry compote on the bottom was a good balance of sour and sweet, and eating the two together really upped the cherry taste (as you might guess, ha) but also I was surprised by how much I could still taste the tea flavor from the cherry blossom. I think I'd still suggest eating them separately, so you can really experience the delicate taste of the panna cotta by itself.
After that came what I would call the dinner of the dessert menu, the pain perdu with caramelized apples, raisins, and cinnamon ice cream. Pain perdu, or as you might know it, french toast, is bread fried in a sort of custard mix usually topped with something delicious. This one is no different, custard-y spongy bread soaked with caramel sauce, topped with rum raisins and caramelized apples. Did I mention a side of cinnamon ice cream?
This was one of the tastiest desserts I've ever had, and that's saying something, because I have eaten more varied desserts in 20-odd years than many people have eaten in their entire lifetimes. Those people probably don't like dessert that much, granted, but I'm just sayin', I know dessert. The cinnamon ice cream was perfect sweet cinnamon, not overly sugary like a 'cinnamon bun' flavored ice cream, or too hot and spicy like someone's couture ice cream who is trying to make a name for themselves...Just right. Mixed with some caramel sauce, an apple chunk, and some was like the most perfect apple cobbler a la mode, ever. The only shame is that the dessert menu changes pretty regularly, so you might not get the chance to try this one. I'd ask while booking if they'll be doing a pain perdu, for real. It was just right, all around. Easily the best dessert I've ever had that featured both apples and raisins.
The final dessert, the dessert of desserts if you will, was unsurprisingly the sweetest and most traditional of them all. Chocolate millie feuille with orange vanilla sauce and orange and yogurt ice cream. Everybody loves chocolate orange! The millie feuille is pretty nice, there was a thin slice of chocolate on top, chocolate mousse underneath, and two layers of crunch, one nutty and one not. It was high quality chocolate, but I'm not crazy for mousse and the crunchy layers kind of overpowered the rest of the millie feuille. The ice cream, however, was amazing--the real star of this plate's show! It was tangy and naturally orange flavored, kind of like a clementine rather than an orange, as it was a sweeter citrus taste. The yogurt came through, but it didn't taste like a frozen yogurt, which can be a bit sour, it tasted like a creamy, whole milk kind of yogurt. Reminded me a bit of a Dreamsicle. I loved it!
The final course were petite fours: a raspberry marshmallow, rosemary and olive oil chocolate, and a blueberry and cream tart. The raspberry marshmallow was super, springy and juicy tasting. I always say I don't like marshmallows, but then I have one like this and remember how nice they can be. The blueberry tart was a bit strange, just because the blueberries themselves tasted kinda like tomatoes! The weren't very sweet, but they also weren't that tart, they were just kind of wet and a tomato. The cream or custard was okay, it was like the sort of tart innards you get in any kind of traditional fruit tart. Pastry shell was fine, a bit basic. The rosemary and olive oil chocolate was quite good, it didn't taste particularly savory, it was a lot more like a brownie made with olive oil rather than a an accidental dose of rosemary in some chocolate. I liked that, though--sometimes chocolates made with savory ingredients are just terrible, rather than challenging and unconventional, haha. It was nice to have one that erred on the side of chocolate rather than a ganache that is weird for weird's sake.

Speaking of the chocolates, after our dessert bar experience we bought a box to split! I'll review those later, but I can tell you that they were quite nice, particularly the black vinegar ganache. I'm certainly looking forward to returning to William Curley!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Matcha Green Tea KitKat

This one will be a bit of a quickie, but there isn't too much to say about a tiny bar of rather accurately flavored green tea latte confection, really!
So, this Matcha Green Tea KitKat is available from the Japan Centre for shipping from within the UK, and from JList in a much larger package if you're willing to wait for shipping from Japan...which actually has never taken much more than a week and a half or so, if customs doesn't become an issue. Then again, I've only used air mail, EMS, and SAL...the boat option seems like it will definitely take longer than that. Might as well spring for a seat on a plane for part of your candy's journey.
I really love the color of this bar, it is very true to life for matcha powder, and the smell was definitely strong, milky green tea. The green tea flavor was really nice too, very creamy and sweetened from an actual white chocolate base rather than just a 'white confection' sugary base, which contributed to the natural milkiness of the flavor and made it taste more rich rather than just sharply sweet. It definitely tasted like a matcha latte, a bit more sugary than usual, but the same vaguely sweet, kinda grassy taste that you get with actual green tea. The texture was also a bit powdery, when I was chewing it sort of turned into more of a paste than your traditional KitKat would, and I would assume this is because actual matcha powder was used. It was a lovely little snack if you like sweet and milky matcha, and it is a shame that this flavor will probably never be widely available anywhere else except Asian territories, because I'd happily eat it alongside milk chocolate KitKats. If you have any love in your heart for green tea, it is definitely worth trying at least once! If you've never had green tea, or matcha, you probably won't hate this because it is quite sweet and milky, but you might be surprised by how 'green' it really does taste.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pepsi White, Japan

Continuing on from my earlier reviews of NapaJapan treats 'n' sweets, I've got a new citrussy soda pop to tell you about!

As many of you probably know, Japan sees a new release of a 'strange' Pepsi at least once or twice a year. Last year it was Salty Watermelon in the Spring, and Mikan White in the Winter. I tried the Salty Watermelon variety before I started this blog, but I can tell you that it was very delicious and pretty similar to melon cream soda which is a standard drink in Japan. Generally, melon cream soda tastes sweet and melon-y, but not cloying like fake watermelon can be. The Salty Watermelon Pepsi tasted much like that, but with an extremely delicate salty after-taste, and a bit more melon flavoring.

That was the past though, and you'd have a rough time finding Salty Watermelon Pepsi anywhere at the moment. This White Mikan Pepsi, however, might be a bit easier to find...but should you bother?
Cute bottle and all, but in my opinion, nah. For American readers, this reminded me of orange flavored chewable baby aspirin. For UK readers, this reminded my husband of orange flavored Lucozade tablets. The main issue for me was the after taste. It was sort of dry, throat-coating, and medicinal--a lot like the lingering taste you get with Gatorade or Lucozade Sport.

Allegedly it is a mix of mikan, a citrus fruit native to Japan, and classic Pepsi. I've had orange flavored Coke before, and I know that the combination of citrus and cola can be very tasty-however, this soda has no discernible cola spice or any familiar Pepsi taste. It just tasted like citrus soda without tang or sweetness, and with a weird after taste like powdered sports drinks and chewable medicine.
Sorry Mikan Snowman, that cute little orange nose just makes me think of Flintstone's Chewable Morphine.

I really can't recommend searching for this one. I can suggest however that if you're looking for orange cola you check out...uh, France, circa 2010, which had Coke Orange on the shelves. I have no idea if this variety is still available, actually! It was extremely nice. Apparently there is another drink sold throughout continental Europe called Mezzo Mix, which is 'cola kissed with orange'. Sounds pretty nice, I'm thinking about buying a couple cans from here, and if I do, I'll definitely do a review. Oh, and of course, the Coke Freestyle machines that are scattered about the UK and the USA have orange syrup as an option with your Coke. Well, scattered might not be the right word when it comes to the availability here, as they are only in a handful of Burger King locations in London. Why has fountain soda never taken a strong foothold in the UK? It is a massive money-maker for places like McDonald's and every gas station in America, because once the machine is installed it is a matter of gallons of cheap syrup and gallons of even cheaper carbonated water that you can charge £1.50 for, easily. Serving yourself soda from a fountain, is it considered low class or something? I just don't get it.

...And I miss fountain Coke, and being able to put crushed ice AND cubed ice in one cup. I'm a whiner.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Domino's Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza

I don't do a lot of savory reviews on this site, mostly because my dinners are usually home-cooked and pretty boring. Boring to read about, anyway. It was different this weekend though, because even though we had a fridge fully stocked with old favorites, we were both hankering for a new sensation. In situations like this, I always play the part of the pizza pusher. That is to say, I push for pizza instead of other takeaway options. I run on a pro pizza platform, plus pepperoni.

Not only was I going in hard for pizza, I was angling for the new hot dog stuffed crust. Maybe in anticipation of our upcoming trip to America, thinking we need to get used to this level of gluttony lest our systems be shocked. I know Pizza Hut had a similar pizza last year, which I'm pretty sure is now back, but we don't live in a Pizza Hut delivery zone so, eh. The only thing I'm missing from the Pizza Hut version of this is a mustard dipping sauce, but I've got my own mustard at home, thank you very much. So, the order was placed, and since it is Mother's Day and presumably not much of a day of action for pizza places, it arrived after just about half-an-hour. Score one, Domino's.
Man, when you're not hungry real life pictures of pizza are torturous. I can't believe I ate a whole bunch of that a scant few hours ago, it looks crazy. This is my classic pizza, a flavor bomb of sausage, pineapple, and jalapenos. In this ring you take a few jabs to the gut of sweetness, a left hook of savory, and an uppercut of heat. I'm sure a lot of you out there are retching, some of you might have your curiosity piqued, and some of you might be nodding sagely because you know how awesome this combination is. I've turned over many a former anchovy or farmhouse lover, because you really get it all with this set of toppings. Then again, I might just hang around with other gross people, haha. Anyway, you don't care what kind of pizza I get (although I care very much about what kind of pizza you get...) you want to know about that crazy, mixed up, cuckoo crust.
Welp, that sure is a hot dog inside a pizza crust. We got a medium pizza, and at the end of every slice it felt like you were eating an additional standard size hot dog. Completely gratuitous, but was it at least tasty? Yeah, it tasted pretty nice, if you don't mind cheap hot dogs. These were bare bones, gushy and about as meaty tasting as the fat off of a pork chop, but completely edible. We ordered it with the optional American-style mustard surrounding the hot dog, and it was extremely chintzy. Mustard, of all things, should be free-flowing. Luckily we had an entire bottle of French's here at home, and it got put to good use. One of my favorite foods as a picky jerk of a kid was 'Mexican' pigs in a blanket, hot dogs wrapped with cheese encased in a firmly wrapped tortilla. Dip those bad boys in mustard, and you got yourself a meal fit for a king...a child king who mislabels things as Mexican when they're actually just variations on American party food. Blame it on the unincorporated land that is Don Pablo's.

So, final verdict on this pizza? It was worth trying, and it wasn't gross. However, I wouldn't order it again, just because it is a bit too gluttonous, and not really worth the extra handful of calories that shoving a hot dog into your pizza adds. It doesn't taste that great. Instead, what I would suggest to Domino's UK, if I may be so bold, is to incorporate hot dogs into some kind of side dish. For example, the new Twisted Dough Balls, which are basically blobs of pizza dough with some kind of filling rolled up into them, would be awesome with a hot dog up in it served with a mustard dipping sauce. That way, you can eat bits of hot dog at your leisure, and not feel obligated to eat an entire hot dog at the end of every slice of pizza you eat. Pizza chains, I'm open to a one-off cash payment upfront or profit sharing on the sale of every Triple Twisted Dog Ball. I was thinking for the advertising we could have a CGI dough ball pulling hard against it's leash, trying to get to some mustard dip that is just out of reach, and when the leash finally snaps the voiceover will say, exasperated, 'They're off the chain!'.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Feature: Food I'd Like to Eat, America Edition

If you follow me on Twitter you may have already read that I'm planning a trip to the USA in a few weeks to visit my family and uh...catch up on snacks. I'm trying to lose weight in the mean time (so I can put it all back on in America) so there may be a few more features in the coming weeks than reviews. Here's a few of the things I'm most excited to eat when I'm back home!
(photo snatched from Max and Erma's site)
Max & Erma's was my favorite place to go on my birthday growing up, because I love burgers. I've never actually reviewed a burger on here, which is a shame, as they are my absolute favorite food. The burger is the perfect hit of fat, protein, and carbs for me. Seriously, if somebody offered my an awesome cheeseburger from a place like Meatliquor, Max & Erma's, or the old Admiral Codrington (R.I.P.) or a cake...I'd actually take the cheeseburger. It'd be a tough choice, but I just go nuts for burgers. The only problem is that they are a real 'trigger' food for me, haha. If I eat one, I'll start craving them for the rest of the week. So I try to limit my burger intake to maybe once a month at most, and I don't waste it on a McDonald's or Burger King.

Funny enough, the burger I'm highlighting in this post isn't a traditional burger, instead it is 'hand-crushed, grilled bratwurst smothered with sauerkraut, crispy onions rings & beer mustard, on a pretzel bun'. Ohh, yes. Did I mention I also love high quality hot dogs? They've got to have sauerkraut and mustard, preferably kosher or Polish, and never, ever topped with ketchup. I grew up near enough Chicago to take hot dogs and sausages seriously. I take my nitrites with peppers and pickles, thanks.  So this wacky burger hybrid sounds amazing to me. Max & Erma's have some amazing burger variations, including the opportunity to make your own burger with awesome toppings like queso and fried pickle chips. Have I ever mentioned that my dream wedding includes a make your own burger bar as the food option? Well, now you know! Feel free to use the idea, you just have to invite me.
(photo from Lay's website)
Yes, yes, and oh, yes please. I've been avoiding reading reviews of these, just because I want to go in with all the anticipation I can possibly muster. I have no idea what flavor I'm going to like best-- I went through a massive sriracha phase a couple years ago, I've always loved cheesy garlic bread, and chicken & waffles is something I've wanted to try for ages. I think I'm going to request these be waiting for me upon arrival, haha. Lay's are also a nice chip, crispy but not crunchy. I hate kettle-cooked, I always feel like my teeth are getting all jacked up when I eat those, they're like rocks.
(photo yanked from Taco Bell USA site)
This might be the thing I'm most excited for, I've been doing this for the past few days every time I remember that Doritos and Taco Bell collaborated just in time for my arrival...well, it was actually March 8th, 2012. Still, the fake cheese and fake Mexican gods have surely smiled down on me, for my years of unending support. In addition to the Nacho Cheese variety, they also recently launched Cool Ranch. My husband loves Taco Bell even more than me, and we were probably some of the first people in the UK to make the trek out to the Taco Bell location in Lakeside, and we were vaguely disappointed. Mostly just because of a few missing items, no Baja Blast, and a distinct lack of liquified cheese product. Anyway, we'll both be chomping at the bit to chomp these Dorito tacos, and gulp down some fountain Mountain Dew. Fountain everything, really!

Obviously I'm pretty into American junk food, there is a lot more I'm looking forward to in addition to these. I might highlight a few more bits I want to eat in the coming weeks, and be sure to look out for reviews of this stuff and MORE from the land of milk (flavored ice cream) and honey (high fructose corn syrup) coming at the end of March!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Nestle Joe XXL

I wasn't a huge fan of the Big Joe bar I tried from Nestle Romania, but this Joe XXL was picked up alongside it and contained chocolate, so I wasn't going to not eat it.
This bar followed the same sort of color scheme from the first Big Joe, purple with a bit of silver, but this time a lighter shade of both. Maybe because this one is milk chocolate, and the other was plain? Hm... I was anticipating this was just going to be a longer, flatter version of the Big Joe, so my hopes weren't high.
Not a lot of chocolate coating on there, and therefore not a lot of promise. The bar was a bit busted when I opened it, but that is to be expected, considering it has been imported. I took a bite, and was pleasantly surprised. It was exactly like a Quadratini, and not much like the Big Joe bar. It was a higher quality wafer, with a tasty cocoa creme filling. Seriously, it was like a squat little bar of Quadratini with a chocolate coating. The wafers are crispy and don't get powdery as you chew. The Big Joe bar from a few days ago was like a stale cake cone meant for ice cream, this is like a properly nice wafer cookie. I actually kind of like it! There are apparently a few different varieties of the Joe XXL, too: vanilla, rum, and quite inexplicably, apple cinnamon. I'd love to try those last two.

I bought both of the Joe bars at the exact same time, so I don't think the quality difference it is an issue of freshness. Unfortunately, I've already thrown out the original Big Joe wrapper, so I can't compare ingredients or sell-by dates. Best I can say is, if you see the Big Joe and the Joe XXL together (say, you're in Romania) and you're craving chocolate, get the Joe XXL. Much nicer than the dried up Big Joe...but still not as nice as a KitKat.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Country Ma'am Cookie Assortment

These cookies come from Japan, but they weren't part of my NapaJapan order--more lucky bits from my husband's office! I had three versions to try: vanilla chocolate chip, cocoa chocolate chip and...mysterious pink chocolate chip.
Here they are, all packed in tightly onto my snacking plate. They're about three inches in diameter, and individually wrapped. Cute colour coordination, too! The idea behind these Country Ma'am cookies is that they're soft-baked, like an American style cookie. Funny thing is, traditionally shelf-bought American cookies are crunchy, like Chips Ahoy. I suppose these are meant to emulate a home baked cookie more than a factory made cookie. Apparently you can microwave these or slap them in an oven to warm them up, but I ate them room temperature.
First up is the Chocochip Cookie Cocoa, a chocolate flavored chocolate chip cookie. It smelled like a cookie, buttery and very sugary. The texture of these cookies is crunchy on the outside, and soft on the inside, just like my favorite kind of home baked cookie. It reminds me most of the texture of other soft-baked shelf stable cookies, like these Chips Ahoy as reviewed on Impulsive Buy. It also reminds me a bit of cookies baked with pudding or cake mix, very dense and soft. The flavor of this one was pleasantly chocolatey, with wee little chocolate chips as well. Certainly it isn't a strong chocolate flavor, it reminds me of the flavor of a basic hot chocolate...mostly sugar with a cocoa tone to it, but nothing like a bar of chocolate.
I thought this one looked particularly pretty, a perfect color for a chocolate chip cookie. Chocochip Cookie Vanilla seemed like it would be the plainest of all the cookies, and while that was true, it was also the tastiest one. Just the right blend of sugar and butter, with a fair amount of chocolate chips. The chocolate chips themselves aren't particularly strongly flavored, making this cookie taste mostly like dough. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
This was the only cookie in the bunch that didn't have the flavor translated into English on the packet. It tasted a bit like strawberry or peach, a little tart but mostly sweet. It was definitely some kind of fruit, and it also had chocolate chips in. The mix of tart-sweet fruit and chocolate chips was a bit strange, but it wasn't unpleasant. After a bit of Googling and translating, I figured out that this flavor is Strawberry Parfait. Well, it did taste like strawberries, and it didn't not taste like a parfait. Maybe the chocolate chips are meant to be like a topping? Apparently condensed milk is also included in this cookie, but I didn't really see that, personally. I would need to compare this to a plain strawberry Country Ma'am to make a proper review, clearly...

These were fine little cookies, nowhere near as good as home baked cookies, and not necessarily as good as the easier-to-find American equivalents like Soft Batch Keeblers, et cetera. If I was in Japan I'd want to try a few of the stranger flavors, like Morning Toast, Green Tea, or Red Bean...but I wouldn't bother importing any of the regular flavors, personally.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nakd Cherry Infused Raisins

I'm not into 'healthy' snacks. Cue feigned shock and sarcastic reading of all my other reviews.

I kind of hate all the old standbys like rice cakes, celery, hummus and carrots...Frankly, the ones that I do sort of enjoy like bananas, peanut butter, and berries all have quite a bit of sugar or at least calories, so I usually just shrug and eat a candy bar instead.
These raisins intrigued me, however. At first I was drawn in by a different flavor, the crazy, mixed up Cola-infused raisins, but then I thought to myself "I'm definitely going to hate those", and decided on these...which I could've potentially enjoyed. I've eaten raisins before and been pretty pleased with the plump sweetness, and the fact that this 25g baggie had 1 of my 5 fruit servings a day sold me. Also, I love food flavored like other food. When those grape flavored apples came out I was so annoyed that I wasn't in America anymore, because you just don't find that sort of sensory freakout here in the UK. Until now! Hell, cola raisins outrank fruit flavored fruit any day of the week in weirdness.
Blergh, now I remember what raisins look like. If some prankster left a raisin on my while I slept I'd wake up screaming. To be fair, raisin purveyors don't try and act like they're beautiful--the only time you decorate with them is when you're pretending some ants got on your food, after all. These things smelled really sweet, and kind of tart like a cherry. They tasted very sweet, sweeter than an average raisin, and had some kind of weird crystallized bits in/on them, that crunched like sugar. No added sugar in these though, so that must all be the raisin's 'natural sweetness', plus the 'natural flavoring' of cherry. I don't really taste much cherry, I think it just makes the raisins a bit more sweet. I didn't hate these, but I don't feel like I did myself any great service by eating them. The fact is, these raisins had 17g of carbs, and while it isn't specified how much is sugar, I can probably rightly assume most of that 17g is naturally occurring sugar. They are nature's candy, so while they are probably better for you in the long run than a chocolate bar, I just don't feel like they are better enough to warrant the kind of boring taste and bad texture.

I think these would be great for kids, because I'm a big advocate of not feeding them candy all day...but as an adult, one of my aged perks is that I can eat candy all day, and nobody gives me guff. Except doctors and dentists, surely paid off by the International Raisin Council.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Nestle Big Joe Bar

I was most intrigued by the name of this Nestle bar, hailing all the way from Romania. I found it in my local Budgen's, which seems to make a habit of stocking three or four new, completely random foodstuffs from various sundry locales every time I come in. My favorite are the Rainbow Cookies from Russia, who proudly say that 'Even the kids like 'em!' on their package. Hey, if you can manage to get a kid to eat a cookie with M&Ms in it, let alone actually like it? More power to ya, magic man.
Well, the Big Joe doesn't make any such bold proclamations, instead relying on you to have fond memories of that Big John song but also to accidentally sing it to yourself as Big Joe. The wrapper itself is mostly black and purple, and looks more like an energy bar or a meal replacement for weightlifters than a chocolate bar. The graphic on the front is like a lightsabre, or something else that has a glowing, phosphorescent stick attached to it. This one is purple!
As you can see it is more of that dry wafer stuff. Does anybody get their world set on fire by these things? Sure, this Big Joe bar was completely inoffensive...plain chocolate kept it from being too sweet, and the creme between the wafers actually seemed to have a fairly strong cocoa taste, but the wafers just turned to dust as I was trying to chew. There is something special about a KitKat's texture that these things just don't seem to have down. KitKats are crispy and crunchy, while the wafer in this and the PS Bar both just seemed like those 'sugar wafers' found in your great aunt's handbag. I'd totally eat them, and with interesting coatings (Caramilky PS...) and decent cremes (Big Joe's big cocoa) they can be pretty nice. I just don't think a bar with this kind of wafer in it can ever go beyond just nice.

Funny enough, the Big Joe is marketed to men in Romania, as opposed to most of our wafer chocolates here in the UK and America that are aimed at figure-conscious ladies. Even in the Romanian description of the Big Joe it says, "Today there are many products that specifically targets women (reduced calorie, lower formats, sophisticated flavors ...) but not many sweets that a man can choose convinced that just for him." Sure, this isn't a sophisticated chocolate (something apparently hated by men) but it is kinda reduced calorie. It is a big bar of airy wafer, 230 calories for a bar longer than the whole of my hand is pretty calorie conscious! Compare it to the butchy man's man chocolate here in the UK--the Yorkie standing in at nearly 400 calories for a little bar--and one looks positively Weight Watchers approved.

I for one am a fan of chocolate without any gender stuff attached to it, but in this instance it doesn't even really make stereotypical sense. In a way I applaud it for defying social chocolate gender cues, but in another way I think they were just being very cheap by pumping it full of wafer, but made it physically big so men could be convinced it was a hearty chocolate anyway. Either way, they won't have to worry about this girl eating inside their powdery, dry clubhouse again. Until I review the Big Joe XXL, that is.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ritz Cracker Sandwich, Camembert and Black Pepper

Continuing along with my NapaJapan order reviews, we've got the first example of my cheese-based snacks. I loved Ritz Bits as a kid growing up in the USA, they were a snack time staple. Best of all, I was the only person in my family who loved them, so I had them all to myself. My personal favorite was the classic cheese. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure you can't find the Ritz sandwiches here in the UK, and there is no artificial cheese spread that has the same consistency as whatever the hell is in Ritz Bits...
So these crackers came from Japan, and the flavor is 'Black Pepper and Camembert'. There are only nine in a box, which would be a suitable snack for one person...but I split this, so I was still feeling peckish afterward. Again the illustrations on the box are so charming, there is just something about the color combinations and composite art that kind of lends the box a retro, 70s vibe.
The Ritz cracker looks exactly like every other Ritz cracker ever created, and the cheese is the same consistency as always--sort of disconcertingly similar to Oreo cream. It smells oddly spicy--not hot, more aromatic spices--and not so oddly cheesy. When I had a sandwich as they are intended to be eaten, cheesy innards crunched alongside the cracker, it tasted mostly like nutmeg and cream cheese. Very odd! When I split the two halves and ate them in the manner of an Oreo I got to the bottom of the nutmeg taste. For some reason these Ritz tasted like sweet nutmeg crackers, they don't have the same buttery and salty taste that traditional Ritz have. The cream by itself tastes strongly of black pepper and a milky, kind of delicate cheese. Confession... I totally thought camembert was a strong, stinky cheese. My husband is much more familiar with these sorts of things, and according to him it did taste like camembert with black pepper. I'll take his word for it and slink back to my Kraft singles.

These are definitely better eaten cleaved apart, and I think it would be an amazing snack if I could extract the peppery, mildly cheesy filling and put it into a classic Ritz...but as it stands, that cracker just isn't to my taste. I think a lot of it has to do with memory and nostalgia, the fact that it is a Ritz cracker sandwich, but not as I knew it, makes me dislike it rather than just think 'Huh, nice cracker!' I think if it was just a matter of a different filling, it wouldn't be an issue at all--probably because there are already lots of varieties of filling for Ritz, anyway.

Taking my emotional response out of it, the nutmeg actually goes kind of nicely with the cheese, reminds me a lot of cheese balls at parties, probably because of the subtle sweetness from the toasted nuts. When I was describing them to my husband he just looked more and more grossed out. Basically, it is a ball composed of real cheeses, fake cheeses, cream cheeses, rolled in nuts and served with crackers. To me it is a classic trashy American food, but it seems like it hasn't made the same jump that stuff like cheeseburgers, casseroles, pulled pork and chili cheese fries has.

Funny enough, the cracker most often paired with cheese balls? Ritz.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lotte Toppo Whip Milk Custard

I recently made an order from NapaJapan with a bunch of new Japanese snacks, and somehow I managed to theme my entire order around cheese and custard...minus one exciting citrus soda pop. They'll all be reviewed in due course, and you can see for yourself my apparent obsession with 'the three C's' of Japanese snacks.

Today I've sampled the Toppo Whip Milk Custard, by the sweet luminaries down at Lotte. Did you know Lotte is actually a massive company, with interests all over the world in chemicals, hotels, baseball, and insurance? In addition, of course, to snacks and confectionery. I was quite surprised, I had expected to find just a list of different kinds of gum and pretzel sticks when I read their Wikipedia article...Nah, they're huge! So Toppo is in the same ballpark as Pocky, Mikado, Lucky Stick--a biscuit tube either dipped or filled with chocolate. Nice playing field, if you ask me.
This particular flavor is 'Whip Milk Custard', so I was half expecting the filling to be a bit more whippy than the usually dense, fondant textured chocolate that is in/on these type of snacks. I love the illustration on the box, I took a closeup shot of the whipped cream on the spoon.
I think it looks so sweet, the whipped cream plus the spangly bits and snowflake sprinkles. If someone served that to me as a dessert, I'd be perfectly happy. Really gives the package a wintery, festive look. Another look at the box, and the actual illustration of the sticks is very accurate.
Score one for truth in on-box advertising! They're even about the same length as shown on the package. As you can see this is different than its biscuit stick brothers in that it is made of pretzel rather than plain biscuit. Instead of animal crackers, this tastes like pretzels--a whole wheat, sort of hearty taste compared to Pocky. If you've ever had unsalted pretzels, the base tastes almost exactly like those. They are also a lot heavier and more substantial. Eating an entire box of these would certainly feel like a full snack, whereas a box of Pocky similar in size is nice but will probably leave you wishing you had another box. This box was eaten pretty quickly, split between two people, but I think there was about 16-20 sticks in a box, about 10 in each foil pack.
No idea why my hand looks so...ombre in this picture, but here is sort of a bird's eye view of the inside of these sticks. As you can see the filling is much like what you see in a Koala March or Pucca cookie, thick and sticky. This type of filling coats your mouth a bit, but not as badly as some other oily confections like almond bark or candy coating/mockolate like you'd use for cake pops. The flavor of the filling is very buttery with a caramelized sugar taste. I can definitely taste the dairy, it doesn't taste like just vanilla or white chocolate, although there are notes of both. I can see where custard comes from, and while it wouldn't be my first guess as to what this flavor is, I do see vanilla sugar with butter and milk.

Interestingly, the cream has a cool feeling while you eat it, which combined with the taste combination would've had me guessing vanilla ice cream was the intended flavor.

I think these were most similar to Pucca, except for that Pucca doesn't seem to have a vanilla least anymore. There was a Salty Vanilla flavor at one point that I think would've been a good match and perhaps easier to find in the UK since Pucca is stocked in Longdan and other Asian grocery stores. Unfortunately imports from Japan to businesses took a huge nosedive after the nuclear disaster, and haven't really recovered since. Most of the Japanese snacks in Cybercandy and the Japan Centre are now imported from Thailand and other areas where they are also manufactured. So you can still get the big players like Koala March, Pocky, and Pucca...but the stuff that is Japan-only has become much harder to come by. I hope that this changes soon, and that restrictions (self-imposed and otherwise) in the EU are lifted soon.

Until then, if you're looking for a Japanese snack fix I can only say positive things about NapaJapan. Shipping was quite quick even with SAL (about a week and a half from door to door), the customer service has always been brilliant for me, and they update regularly. Also, the prices are quite reasonable, especially for those of us in the UK--home of the consistently decent exchange rate!