Monday, November 25, 2013

Snowy Road Squares

There were so many interesting things in my local Marks & Spencers. Is that it - both plural...both possessive? Hm. Is this why people always say M&S instead?

I rarely shop there, as it's a bit expensive but not necessarily exciting; even more so I used to only pass one on my way home that was always absolutely heaving with people. Now I have one very near my actual  house, and even though the hours are not at all conducive to a person who works (closes at 5 pm, really?) I managed to have a browse over the weekend.

I guess I should've realized that there would be lots of cool Christmas stuff out, but I was still surprised at the amount and how the selection wasn't just like, Jaffa cakes with red middles & Santa shaped chocolate. Oh, there were tons of Santa shaped chocolates, but there was more - much more. I'll be reviewing a few of these things in the coming weeks, but first up is the most exciting and most seasonal:

Snowy Road Squares are white chocolate rocky roads, basically.

And I love rocky road. Sometimes it is bad, like when there are barely any biscuit pieces and virtually no raisin or cherry pieces, but when you get the ratio right it is one of the most perfect desserts ever. I wasn't a fan of a rocky road ice cream in America, so it took me awhile to try the bars here in the UK, but I'm so glad I did.

You can probably tell that this is a good variety to me, as there are lots of visible chunks of cherry - nary a square was missing cherry. The little white chocolate swirl was nice, and did a serviceable job of binding the top bits to the underlayer. The marshmallows were a sweet combination of pink and white, and really blended in nicely with the white chocolate. It did look pretty festive and cute - I guess the cherries can be discarded Santa hats.

In contrast to most rocky road I have tried, there is actually more 'biscuit' than there is chocolate in these - but I'm not complaining.

The taste was just super - if you're in the mood for sweetness. The cherries are sweet and soft like jelly, the biscuit is sweet and crunchy, the white chocolate is sweet and smooth, and finally the marshmallows are also sweet and bouncy.

Now, the best rocky road I ever had was made by my mother in law and had dark chocolate, cherries, and ginger biscuit pieces. It was insanely good, crunchy and not too sweet.

On the other hand, I love white chocolate and 'very sweet' things most of the time, so this goes right up there as my 2nd favorite rocky road. The only improvement that I think could be made to this is ginger biscuit pieces rather than the sort of plain, buttery biscuit that are in these. It would just add a nice bit of heat and contrast to what is otherwise purely sugar in various textural forms. Again, not that I'm complaining.

Get on it, Marks and/or Spencers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mentai Mayo Cheetos

Another weekend, another odd Japanese Cheeto flavor. Previously I've reviewed Cheeseburger Cheetos, and Avocado Salad Cheetos - two foods that I have eaten in non-Cheeto form.

This time though, it's a Cheeto of a different stripe: rather than being a Japanese Cheeto flavored with a traditionally Western flavor, it's a Japanese Cheeto flavored with food that probably isn't known by a sizable portion of my old high school...Mentaiko Mayo.

"Zuh?" You might be asking - or you're way more cultured than me and you're all like, "Creamy Steaks, you big dumby! Mentaiko Mayo is cod roe mixed with mayonnaise...wait a minute, do you not know what cod roe is? Egg mass, dumbass" you'd say, proud of both your cultural reference, rhymes, and knowledge. Well, aren't you cool - I actually ate these Cheetos though, and that's got to count for something in this world.

I suppose the little red dots are meant to look like flecks of roe - pretty cool.

Upon opening, these smelled like smoky bacon chips. I was worried they would smell like fish (one of my top Worst Smells) but luckily it was just artificial smoke & bacon. Weird, but not disgusting. I do hate the taste of bacon chips though, so I was apprehensive.

I've never eaten cod roe before & mayonnaise isn't so high on my list of Top Foods either - so I wasn't sure what to expect from these especially since they smelled like bacon.

The first taste was kind of tangy and buttery like mayonnaise - since I don't make a habit of eating mayonnaise without any sort of accompaniment I can't say if it tasted exactly mayo, but it had the same tangy zip.

As for cod roe, like I said I've never had it, but as I continued I had a flavor that must've been the mimic of cod roe. They tasted quite creamy, with just a hint of a seafood taste - similar to scampi/lobster/fried shrimp...the very best kind of fishy taste. There was still that little bit of tang, like mayo but almost like lemon on a lobster.

Now, all this is of course on a crisp-ity crunch-ity Cheeto, and not a delicious melting fleshy lobster; so lobstermen around the world, your job is not in danger. Thanks for all that dangerous fishing, by the way.

Would I get these again? Probably not, because even though the taste was pretty good even I have to draw the line at some point...some foods are not meant to be crunchy, and lobster/fish & mayo are some of them. In the grand scheme of things, these are some of the weirdest Cheetos I've come across (barring the as-of-yet reviewed Pepsi Cheetos) and they taste pretty nice, so if you were hosting a dinner party dedicated to weird flavors (a party theme I highly recommend) these would be a great appetizer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Russell Stover Red Velvet Santa

I'm glad I've came around to Russell Stover, elsewise I might've never even heard of this Red Velvet Santa.

Red Velvet makes so much sense with Santa, even though I've never thought to put the two together...I mean, what fabric do you think that suit is made of, polyester? Get real, no way that would keep out the cold. Santa's a velvet man if I've ever seen one...and I have. It's Santa. Santa is the velvet man.

So, he's not looking too different in this package, he's still your classic white-bearded Saint Nick, Teddy Bear in tow. No indication of what the chocolate is going to be like, but since it says 'Red Velvet Santa' I presume it will be Santa-ish in shape.

Doesn't look like Santa at all. Maybe it's meant to be his beard. I can kind of see that...Also, a chocolate beard seems thematically appropriate for Santa - just his style.

Very nice vivid pinky-red color, and the texture seemed quite thick like refrigerated cookie dough. It didn't smell like anything, not even like chocolate.

The texture was thick, and only slightly grainy. It was like refrigerated dough.

It's coated in dark chocolate, which is a really good thing because the inside is basically cake mix with white chocolate and sugar. It tastes like cake mix & white chocolate, but funny enough much less strong or artificial than I would've guessed. That was the way it was for the Caramel Apple Big Bite, as well. It tasted like a cake pop, sort of, coated in dark chocolate. It was nice, but it was sort of missing the part of red velvet cake that makes it very special - the cream cheese frosting.

It could've used a bit of a tang to the inside - that would've been better. As it stands, it kinda tasted like a vanilla-centered dark chocolate truffle. I wouldn't have guessed red velvet, or even cake, really. I'd totally eat it again, but it was just a basic kinda chocolate, really - sort of disappointing! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Avocado Salad Cheetos

Have you ever eaten a vegetable and thought, "Man...if only this was a Cheeto..."

I know I have!

So, along the same lines as the Cheeseburger Cheetos, I heard about these Avocado 'Salad' Cheetos. They had to be mine...along with like, 5 other bags that I will review eventually...and another bag of the cheeseburger ones. So sue me, it was a deal.

I've never eaten avocado salad before, unless you count guacamole which I guess you wouldn't, because it isn't salad. I like guacamole, though! Close enough.

The packaging seems to show slices of avocados & onions...maybe bacon or ground beef in the background? Kinda weird, but I really have no idea what it is meant to be, except the avocados.

So, pour 'em out:

A bit of a subdued pea-green color, and a strong smell of butter & salt. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe a darker green? They're very cool looking though, kind of like they just have a green glow rather than a full-on opaque green color.

They taste very buttery, a bit salty, quite sweet - it reminded me a lot of the very best kernels in a bag of popcorn; the ones that have lots of butter, a little salt, and the natural sweetness of the corn popped through. The only thing is, that every single one of these had that 'best popcorn' taste, and they all had the soft crispy crunch of a Japanese Cheeto, as I've previously explained.

There is an interesting tangy note though, that is more of an aftertaste than an instant flavoration - I'd say it's kinda like dill. My husband suggested that they tasted like some kind of German dill crisps from Aldi? I've never had them, but I'll take his word for it because they do taste like dill. So, kind of herby & tangy, a bit sweet, kinda salty and quite buttery.

They're very tasty, and an interesting flavor that is a bit hard to pin down - I'd suggest them over the Cheeseburger Cheetos if you're looking for intriguing flavors, because I bet you can already taste a cheeseburger corn snack, somewhere in the back of your mind - but can you conjure up the taste of an avocado salad corn snack? Didn't think so.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Russell Stover Caramel Apple Big Bite

It's true what they say, you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. I don't think any American expat expects to be missing the Russell Stover display in their local CVS when they come to the UK, but here I am, wishing I could walk into a drugstore and see Russell Stover, of all brands.

I'm not sure there is an equivelant sort of brand here in the UK, as the chocolates available in grocery stores basically go from 'pretty good' to 'quite nice'. You can get crummy, cheap chocolate in America just as easily as you can get Hershey's or Ghiradelli, but I feel like you've got to seek out the cheaper stuff here in the UK.

Russell Stover is considered to be lesser-quality chocolate than Hershey's, Lindt, or any of the other American grocery store mainstays - on the same level as Palmer's - cheap novelty chocolates more or less just sold at holiday time.

Now I'm beginning to think reputation is a bit unfair to old Mr. Stover.

I mean, when is the last time Hershey's stuck their neck out and tried a caramel apple chocolate? A few years ago with Hershey's Kisses, yes...but uh, this is now! And this is Russell Stover, formerly known to me as purveyors of cheap assorted chocolate boxes for guilt-stricken spouses, and children's holiday confectionery. Clearly, times have changed since I last bought a Marshmallow Easter Bunny.

 This isn't even the weirdest product they're selling! Expect a review of this Red Velvet Santa soon.

So, kudos to Russell Stover for trying something new, but is it just a valiant effort with some chocolate that's too far gone to be good?

Keep in mind that this is 2 oz worth of caramel, and it cost just a little more than one American dollar. Zowie. The shape is very good, it looks like an apple and it could easily become a skull with a tiny hat at Halloween - smart move, Stover. The streaks of dark chocolate are a nice touch, really reminds me of caramel apples that have chocolate stripes as decoration. Makes even more sense that the other Caramel Apple chocolate in the line is coated in peanuts, an even more classic combo.

 It's quite a heavy bar, and it smelled like chocolate and apple. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtly of the smell, considering apple stuff can sometimes be dreadfully strong - although my most recent experience with apple chocolate was very good, so I suppose leaps and bounds have been made in the apple flavoring market since I tried years ago.

It's funny, but I was really expecting this to be runny caramel. Instead, it was that sticky, chewy stuff - a bad sign for me. I'm not so into caramel one way or another, I think it's a nice way to deliver sugar and a much better way to deliver salt & sugar, but if I'm going to eat caramel I always prefer it to be runny & dribbly. The more I have to chew, the less I like a food. I'm kind of a giant baby like that.

So, I split this one in half with my husband as neither of us have the stomach for 2 ounces of pure least not tonight.

It tasted very good, like a big version of the Caramel Apple Milky Way I had earlier this season, maybe a bit more subtly apple - but boy, that caramel was sticky. If you like chewy caramel, than this would be a real treat, it would last a long time and taste very nice. I was torn, because it was quite a bit smoother than chewy caramel usually is, meaning it sort of slid down instead of sticking to my mouth and didn't necessitate that much chewing, but it was still more than I could handle - even just eating half of it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the caramel, the apple flavoring, and even the chocolate - especially for the price these sell at in America. The chocolate was in keeping with the American chocolate I grew up on, sweet but without much 'milkiness', and the caramel was smooth and sweet with a delicate apple flavor, not a blaring twang of fruit. My personal taste in caramel means I wouldn't buy this one again necessarily, but I'm glad I tried it and I'll eat the peanut one in due time. Probably not my next candy bar, but it will get eaten. Or I'll give it to somebody who likes chewy caramel...but who does? ;)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mint Chocolate Pringles, UK

Did you know Pringles aren't actually potato chips? Legally, they will never be under the same banner as your Lay's, your Walker's, et cetera...They're made of dried potato matter, and can best be described as potato-based snacks...where less than half of the ingredients are actually potato.

Here's the tragic reality of Pringles - they have some of the most reliably 'creative' flavors, but the base product is crap. Just total crud. They're dry, they're crumbly, they always seem like they've gone soft & stale, and they're way too salty, regardless of the flavor. Pringles are good for licking, and absolutely horrible for crunching. Also, I always feel sick to my stomach after eating more than like, 5 of them.

Luckily, eating more than 1 or 2 was not an issue with these Mint Chocolate Pringles.

They're absolutely one of the worst things I've ever had the displeasure of thinking about, let alone eating.

It's a blurry, no good picture because I need to write this quickly to alert the world as soon as possible that Pringles has openly declared a war on traditional Christmas flavors. There is also a Sweet Cinnamon flavor, that I can only assume is just as bad. Seriously, nearly at a loss for words with these - and I like salty & sweet, loads.

If you blow this picture up you'll see salt crystals, sugar granules, and I'm certain upon closer inspection Ol' Scratch, the devil, Lucifer - what have you - wearing a Santa hat.

Yes, these are quite gross...fiendishly so.

Not only do they maintain that classic Pringles dry clay texture whilst chewing, they taste like garbage. No really, they taste like a discarded piece of Trident on a tortilla chip. So incredibly bad, and no chocolate. I refuse to accept that there was any attempt to make these taste like chocolate, because if so I'm afraid I've lost confidence in chemicals period...and science in general. The ingredients list cocoa powder, but as you can see those Pringles are completely white - and it's unlikely they used a specially processed cocoa powder that removed the color, because there is absolutely no way anybody put that much thought into these Pringles.

It just tasted like garden mint extract, sugar, and then lots & lots of salt. Salty mint, how festive.

Here's the thing - potato isn't naturally salty, so why bother adding the salt when you're making a sweet thing with potatoes? People do make candy with potatoes, it's not common practice, but they certainly aren't salted into oblivion before being combined with peanut butter or chocolate. If you boiled a potato and ate it with whipped cream yeah, you'd be crazy...but even you wouldn't be crazy enough to put salt on it first. C'mon.

I'm supposed to like this - I like salty & sweet combos, I appreciate 'wacky', and I like limited edition flavors. This is just a swing and a miss from Pringles, which was probably made worse for me because I don't like Pringles at a base level, but adding sugar and spearmint gum into the mix was not the way to my heart.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cheeseburger Cheetos

If you're reading this blog, I assume you are at least a little like me...Not content with just one snack food, you want your treats lost in the masquerade.  Chimeric concoctions like Pumpkin Pudding KitKats, and Candy Corn Oreos. That's me. That's us.

Chips (or crisps) are the easiest conduit for this, since in they can be quite tasteless by their lonesome (being that they are corn and potato byproducts), and often necessitate flavor-blasting of some sort to set themselves apart from the crowd. The only problem is that it ain't always an easy feat, ya know... making reconstituted corn slurry taste like something other than salt. Plenty try it, oh sure, and the packets of Spare Rib Pringles littering discount shops across this great nation are all the proof you need that it doesn't always work.

So what about you, Cheeseburger Cheetos? Either you got it, or you don't.

Again, Japanese packaging means a glossy, realistic photograph of the actual food. It's so different from American packaging, where it's usually a heavily airbrushed illustration of food, or a mascot.

Interesting to note that the cheeseburger seems to have a huge squirt of hot dog relish on it, which isn't exactly kosher. Get it, pickles, relish, kosher? Ah, you get it. Apparently relish is commonly used in Canada and Alaska as a burger topping, but not in the USA. I'm open to relish on a burger, but it was just a bit strange to see it featured so heavily on this photo when it's not regulation.

Also shout out to that big splat of clearly processed cheese. It's best on burgers - B.O.B.

Opening the bag, there was a very promising sweet smell of pickles - 'just my style', I thought, smirking before becoming deeply ashamed of myself.

This was my first trip around the rodeo with Japanese Cheetos -at least since I've started this blog- and I thought the texture was quite different than what we get in the USA. Number one, they're much taller and thinner than American Cheeto sticks, and the consistency is more like an Andy Capp fry than a classic Cheeto. They're kind of in the middle of puffs & sticks, in terms of air-to-Cheeto ratio. This makes them easier to munch down, and seem less greasy than their American compatriots.

I've tried cheeseburger flavored snacks before, and they've always been a bit crappy - mostly flavored with beef extract and salt. I knew these would be different because they smelled so pickle-y.

They taste almost exactly like a plain McDonald's hamburger. It was all there, the pickles, the ketchup, the mustard, the onions...everything...but...the cheese.

It's the strangest thing, Cheetos are known for being cheesy, am I right? These are cheeseburger Cheetos, and I would've presumed they'd be leaning on the cheese part of the burger, ya know? That's there forte, after all.

I think I've read before that Japanese tastes don't necessarily go crazy for cheese, as much of the adult population is lactose intolerant - which might explain the lack of American style cheese hyperblasting on these Cheetos. Nonetheless, they're quite tasty and a good approximation of the taste of a hamburger without the use of much beef extract or cheese powder. They really do taste like that ketchup/onion/pickle/mustard topping on each and every McDonald's hamburger, with the same kinda sweet but mostly savory flavor. I thought they were extremely easy to scarf, and I think this flavor would be well received in the UK and America.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Candy Corn Oreos

The frights ain't over!

I simply had to get this one in before the end of the Halloween season, because they're too nice not to review & too seasonal to review in like, a week. You'll be like, "candy corn? that's OLD news!" So, just for you guys, I ate a whole bunch of cookies. You're welcome.

The candy corn on the packaging looks very airbrushed, and so artificial. America, you're so fake...but that's fine, especially when it comes to cookies.

When I opened these up, they smelled so intensely of candy corn, I felt a bit sick. Candy corn, for those of you not in the know, is a kind of fudge-y, fondant-y textured candy that tastes quite a bit like honey, or in it's best form, buttercream frosting. Really, the entire experience of candy corn & other 'mellowcreme' treats at Halloween reminds me of hardened buttercream frosting, in both taste and texture. Leave a cupcake out over night, and come back to it the next morning and you'll be approximating candy corn pretty well.

So, is this like an Oreo with a day-old cupcake in it? Let's find out...

Dang, that's some great coloration. So vivid - you won't get that in the EU, or any place that's done research on artificial coloring on children - but I'm no child, and I love bright colors. Probably because of early exposure as a child.

So taking a bite, and it tastes quite a bit like the Birthday Cake Oreos, but a bit more 'sticky' tasting - like syrup. I've only ever tried the chocolate Birthday Cake Oreos, so these were different there as well, since the cookie was of the 'golden' Oreo variety. I really like the Golden Oreos, they taste salty and buttery, a bit like a shortbread.

So yes, it does mimic candy corn quite well - it tastes buttery, syrupy, with a bit of honey. I don't know if I would've guessed 'candy corn' straight away if somebody would've handed me this and asked me what flavor it was; but then again I don't think I'd properly ID candy corn if somebody blindfolded me and fed it to me, either. It is more about texture with candy corn than it is about flavor - but the flavor is nice, with a sweet taste more similar to honey or syrup than to just granulated sugar.

Unfortunately for my UK readers this one isn't readily available across the pond, it came back home with me from my trip to America last month - BUT, you can grab a pretty close alternative with the Birthday Cake Golden Oreos at StatesideCandyCo! I've ordered from these guys a couple of times, and they're always good - fast delivery, reasonable (for import) prices, and quite a sizable clearance section, which is my favorite part.