Monday, November 30, 2015

Red Velvet Crunch Creams

Red velvet is a funny thing, isn't it? Most British people I speak to about it think it's really awesome, and most Americans seem to try & fit the 'flavor' into as many objects as possible. While in America you can easily find red velvet inspired cookies, ice creams, and even red velvet bagels, here in the UK it's still kind of left to the realms of cake.

So that's why I was surprised, pleasantly so, to spot these biscuits at Waitrose this week. I'm a fan of the Fox's Crunch Creams line, it's got a couple of my favorite things: crunch, and cream. What I don't like is Vinnie, the American panda who slings these limited edition flavors. I've ranted about him before, but long story short Americans don't say "biskwits" and I'm certain that the Italian American Anti-Defamation League would really have a problem with him. He's just a bad mascot, but he shills for some interesting biscuit variations.

The coloration on these are really great, a nice rich & deep red for the biscuits and off-white cream. They're quite brittle cookies, being crunchy and all, and I prefer them dipped in tea. Of course, since they're quite dry & brittle you need to move fast lest you want them to drop into your mug while dipping.

The biscuits themselves are very subtly chocolate-y, just like red velvet flavor always is. I mean, it is just a low intensity chocolate flavor, isn't it? The big highlight is, as always, the cream cheese frosting - or cream, in this case. Now they do specify in the packaging that it's 'cheesecake' flavored cream, but what is cheesecake if not sweetened cream cheese, eh? I did find it odd though, considering red velvet cake is so strongly associated with cream cheese frosting - maybe not everyone in the UK would see cream cheese as a good biscuit filling, but yeah, cheesecake is hard to say no to.

So there is just a bit of tang, some vanilla, and a lot of creamy & sweet flavor. Coupled with the subtly chocolate-y biscuits, this is a nice little afternoon snack. They're really sweet, but would you expect anything less from a red velvet flavored cookie?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jaz & Juls Chocolate House, Islington

I've recently started a new job in Angel - it's been exciting to explore the area, as it's one of my favorite places in London. It's doubly exciting as there are so many new openings in the neighborhood, too.

Juz & Juls Chocolate House is one of them, having opened up earlier in November. I'd never tried one of their hot chocolates before, but apparently they're quite well known in markets and such! They also stock their online shop with the hot chocolate mixes.

It's a nice little shop at the bottom-end of Chapel Market, keep in mind if you're going there that it's pretty easy to miss, and you may look around and be like, "hey, this doesn't look like a chocolate cafe would be around here, I'll turn around, maybe I did miss it!", as I did, but yeah - it's real far down the road.

Once I did find it, it was a cozy little place (additional seating downstairs, apparently) that seemed relaxed. They sold chocolate bars as well, including Marou and The Grenada Chocolate Company. Also, they sold their own hot chocolate mixes in store to make at home.

There were a large variety of flavors, including 3 'origin' styles and about 5 or more flavors including mint, chili, white chocolate, and the one I ordered - Orangeytang - which is spiced orange. Very Christmassy! You can get a few different toppings: including whipped cream, coconut cream, and marshmallows. I was tempted by coconut cream, but since I was already getting a flavored hot chocolate I didn't want to mess with the flavors too much - so I went classic cream instead.

 This cooled it down enough for me to drink very quickly, it could almost be qualified as a gulp. A festive gulp. The chocolate flavor was milky & not too sweet, but the tangy orange flavor sweetens it up a bit. The spice level is nice, certainly no heat, so just a bit of 'holiday spice' or mulling spices. I also was given tons of cream, which was great for me, a real cream freak. It was a classic English and milky hot chocolate, not too thick.

There were plenty of baked goods in addition to the hot chocolates, and at pretty reasonable prices for nice looking niche bakery items - about £2 each. The pecan pie particularly looked delicious & gooey. I'd like to try one of them sometime, but for me the issue is that I don't really want to combine a sweet hot chocolate with a sweet cake. I mean, I could, it just doesn't seem right. They also do coffee though, and you can have any of the hot chocolate flavors made into a mocha. That's pretty nice!

The wifi was a little spotty when I was there, so while they have a card reader that works through the iPad, I'd recommend bringing cash! I'll be back in sometime this winter for more delicious bits.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Sandwich at Tesco

The festive season is upon us! I've often been overheard mumbling about how the UK should get a proper holiday for in-between Halloween & Christmas. I mean, yes I know about Bonfire Night but it's kind of a mid-level holiday, isn't it? It's no stitch on the celebratory American Thanksgiving, am I right? It's a nice enough evening, but there are just a handful of products that get released specifically for Bonfire Night, and most of them get released alongside the smattering of Halloween goods. So - you need a separate, distinct all-day affair of a holiday. Maybe with some time off, even. Any suggestions? Smart alecks, I await your "Thanks(for getting rid of those puritans)giving" responses.

Anyway, this year like all others brings with it some awesome festive-themed food. Your classics like Christmas Lunch Pret sandwiches, mini yule logs, and one of my personal faves - the Festive Hot Pot at Eat. A real stand out this year was this: the Chocolate Cherry Sandwich from Tesco. It got covered as being 'bizarre' at the Evening Standard, but I don't find it too strange. 

Not too strange to eat, at the very least. As someone rightly pointed out in the article, Nutella is often eaten betwixt bread - so what's the big deal? I also know that cream cheese & strawberry sandwiches are popular addition to an afternoon tea, so yeah, chocolate & cherry doesn't seem such a stretch anymore.

I snatched it up as soon as I found one, and I'm happy to report that it is indeed delicious, if you understand going in that you're about to eat a sweet sandwich. The bread is advertised as being cinnamon, and it does have a subtle hint of sweet spice to it, like a very subtle cinnamon bun without frosting.

I'd liken the chocolate filling to something similar to American style chocolate pudding, sort of flabby - certainly not dense like a traditional 'chocolate spread' as sold here. More on the custard side of the spectrum texture-wise, with a fairly generic chocolate flavor - certainly not dark, but identifiably chocolate. The cherry does come through pretty nicely, and I think they went with actual bits of cherry fruit interspersed into the chocolate filling. It's not artificial tasting or all that strong.

The mascarpone cheese really kind of feels like an after thought, or a bit of a bulking agent, but then again it may cut through the richness that would otherwise be present and mellow it out.

This was a tasty little sandwich, don't believe the negativity opinions! I will admit I don't understand when exactly you should eat this - I had half as an evening snack, so I suppose something like that? It's certainly not a good choice for a lunch time meal deal. 

Sorry for the low quality iPhone pics, I just had to hurry as I was quite hungry!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Whopper in the UK

Happy Halloween Eve, everyone!
So the big news of last week was the surprise release of the Halloween Whopper here in the UK. I'm not crazy about Burger King usually, but I've got to support any fast food restaurant that is willing to release a Halloween themed burger, especially in the slightly unresponsive-to-spooks UK market.

There aren't many Burger Kings in London - so I had to make a special trip to Leicester Square. They also have the Coke Freestyle machine, which was...nice, but every single machine available was either broken, or was missing some element, such as Sprite or Coke base syrups, and no ice available at all, anywhere. What is it about fountain drink machines in London and them falling into disrepair? Meh, I wasn't there to review the Coke Freestyle machine, so it's not a biggie.

Couple differences between the UK Halloween Whopper & the USA Halloween Whopper include: the use of barbecue sauce instead of A1 Steak Sauce, and natural colors rather than artificial colors. I respect both decisions, as even though I like A1 it's not something well known in the UK in the slightest, and it's just a sort of tangy sauce. Using natural colors I think will also ensure there will be no instances of green poops in the UK, at least not resulting from this Whopper.

All that being said, the bun is still super black. Everyone I was eating with was shocked, I suppose we all expected it to be not so densely dark. I was also surprised by how matte it was, no sheen to it at all.

I forgot that Whoppers had a lot of 'fresh' vegetables on them, the most noteworthy to me being the large pieces of onion unlike the McDonald's dehydrated variety. That definitely adds a real onion-y bite to the burger, which is nice coupled up with the barbecue sauce. I always take out tomatoes so I can't comment on that, but the lettuce was fine. I mean, it's a Whopper. It's fine.

Basically, it tastes like a Whopper with a bit of barbecue sauce. The novelty factor is what really makes it special - and if you like Whoppers you'll like this. Mostly, I'd recommend buying it so that the UK gets more cool stuff in the future!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Puccho Salted Salmon

I'll cut to the chase, this was disgusting. Disgustoid. Highly illogical. Unpleasant.

Watch me eat it.

Friday, October 16, 2015

OyatsuBox October Unboxing

Hi everyone! Sorry I skipped September's OyatsuBox - I did receive it, but I was on vacation for a lot of September so I never really got around to doing an unboxing. Needless to say, I did open it up - lots of nice stuff in there but alas, no real review material.

So, moving right along to this month's unboxing. The October box is really good, even in the mid-range tier. So take a look and see what you think. The one thing I'll say is a bit more Halloween theming wouldn't have gone amiss, but I know that's a lot to ask. :) We did get cute Halloween Koala March cookies, so pretty good! I also happened to get a rather  s p o o k y  gachapon toy.

Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hammond's Candy Corn Chocolate Bar

I've got a weakness for candy corn. For me, it's just one of the classic Halloween treats - and I've got a super weakness for Halloween. Whenever I see candy corn flavored anything, I've got to give it a try. In a world that has happily taken pumpkin spice on board as the fall flavor, candy corn often gets left behind. I mean, I get it, it's kind of just honeyed sugar bits. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's a bit boring. In the past years I've reviewed Candy Corn Oreos, and tried but did not review Candy Corn M&Ms & the Hershey's Candy Corn chocolate bar. Consensus? Very sweet for the Hershey's bars with a bit of a chew factor, lots of honey flavor in the M&Ms and generally pleasant for mixing in with other candies or popcorn. In all honesty, I think I like candy corn thematically more than I actually like it in practice.

Now I'm trying probably the classiest candy corn crossover, the Hammond's Candy Corn Chocolate Bar. Hammond's is a sweets maker that straddles the line between drugstore mainstays like Hershey's and fine chocolates like Vosges. They do some interesting things with chocolate (see bacon & potato chip bar) and some interesting things with hard candy (birthday cake lollipop!) - but this was the first time I'd actually seen them do something seasonal with their chocolate line. I picked this bar up at Target back in America.

So, to start, this is a milk chocolate bar filled with candy corn flavored fondant. A nice amount of embossing, and segmentation is solid.

 Long story short, it's a milk chocolate bar filled with fondant. To be fair, the fondant is a bit runnier than usual and sort of a caramel/fondant hybrid...but the taste? Purely fondant. Like most of the good candy corn products, it tastes like honey in it's sweetness instead of just pure cane sugar.

I mean, what is candy corn but fondant that's been hardened into a corn shape? The real appeal of this bar comes from the seasonality, which I do feel down in my heart. The bright orange filling, the sweetness, and the creamy & high quality milk chocolate all remind me of great times at Halloween. It's not the sort of bar I'd buy more than once, but I would certainly include one in a gift basket, and I may buy one each year if it comes out. The milk chocolate is high quality, and it did encourage me to seek out Hammond's bars again if I see one that catches my eye. The price point is really good for bars with this variety of flavors & quality.

It's just not a very unique or particularly tasty bar, unless you're really into Fry's Chocolate Creams from the UK. British expats who are missing Fry's, seek this one out. People who enjoy sweet chocolate & appreciate Halloween - you seek it out too, but maybe just the once.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Twirl & Dip Soft Serve in San Francisco

Ah, San Francisco. I had a lovely time there - thanks for asking, running commentary in my head! One of the places I was most excited to try was the Twirl & Dip truck, heralded as the best soft serve ice cream in America. I love soft serve ice cream, and while I've had some that was marginally better than others, I've never had any that was like, "This is far and away better than a McDonald's Vanilla Cone."

That is, until I tried Twirl & Dip! We had a nice little stroll through Golden Gate Park, as evidenced by these photos of my greatest foe, the outdoors:

. It's so...bright. In order to cajole me outside, I was informed that the Twirl & Dip truck was situated in Golden Gate Park, or rather, the very near outskirts of it. There was a massive line when we arrived on Labor Day weekend at about 4 pm, which is to be expected. It moved relatively quickly though, I mean - it is ice cream, so you really won't be waiting long.

I ordered a vanilla cone with dark chocolate TCHO dip, with an olive oil & sea salt sprinkle. Not only did it sound crazy delicious & right up my salty-sweet alley, it's also the most highly recommended item on the menu. Well, I didn't plump for the specially crafted sugar cone, so I didn't get the most highly recommended version. I did my own slightly cheaper variation using a cake cone. That being said, the sugar cones sure looked cool. They were sort of embossed with attractive retro patterning. As you can see the cake cone is plenty photogenic, with the big soft peak of ice cream coated in dark chocolate really taking center stage anyway.

So, onto the taste. Most soft serves are vanilla in name only, tasting mostly just sweet & milky. The better quality ones out there will taste the slightest bit vanilla, but never reaching the heights of say, a quality true vanilla ice cream.

I'm pleased to say that this vanilla soft serve tastes as strongly of vanilla as a high quality, natural vanilla bean ice cream. It's warm and sweet with rounded edges, just like the best vanillas. The chocolate dip is where this really shines, though. As a long time player in the salty-sweet game, I can tell you that this is a special mix. Dark chocolate which isn't too bitter, married to delicious flecks of mild sea salt - the olive oil just lends a bit of savory oomph & warmth to the proceedings. If you've ever tried a brownie made with olive oil, it's something a bit like that.

The price can quickly rack up on these cones, however. I believe mine was about $5.50, with the base soft serve & cone being $4.50 and an additional $1.50 for the dip. If you spring for the fancier cone, you're looking at a $7 soft serve. So, yeah - judge for yourself whether or not you think a real A+ soft serve experience is worth nearly $10, but I certainly felt that the $5 ball park was acceptable for such a perfect dipped cone. I'd convince someone else you're with to get that fancier homemade sugar cone, and just take a photo & a quick nibble before you dig into your delicious and cheaper option.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Candied Yam Cupcake, Hummingbird Bakery

I'm no stranger to Hummingbird Bakery's charms - particularly around this time of the season when they regularly bring out pumpkin flavored bits. I've reviewed the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie and also a 'head to head' battle of the butter & sugar titans in the form of a Jam Doughnut Cupcake & a Strawberry Milkshake Cupcake.

So, while this year they've neglected poor, pitiful pumpkin quite a bit (who knows, maybe they're saving it for November?) they have, in fact, released 2 very cool & as far as I know totally new cupcake flavors. First - Snickers. Which I'm sure is absolutely fine, but I also feel like I could write that review without ever tasting it. Chocolate frosting, perhaps with a 'nutty' component (think Nutella), filled with caramel, and chocolate cake. On top, as you may suspect, half a fun-size Snickers. If someone brought me one just on a lark, I would eat it before they could even turn around and walk away, sure - but when it comes to buying it myself for the blog...well, I went with the more exciting option.

Candied Yam Cupcake. Huh. That's something I can't really presume anything about. While many American families enjoy the gooey sweet potato/marshmallow/"candied yam" dish on their Thanksgiving table, mine did not partake. Not sure what I'm on about? Take a look at this recipe. Basically, it's cooked sweet potatoes topped with a brown sugar & cinnamon mix, with brulee'd marshmallows on top. So how do you make that a cupcake? Turns out the answer is with ease.

It's a natural, really. The cupcake base is cinnamon & nutmeg like a classic spice-based cake with more vegetal sweetness like you find in a good carrot cake. That's because it's a 'sweet potato' based cake. Look ma, it's healthy! Then the frosting really tops everything off, chuckle chuckle. It's like whipped marshmallow creme with a bit of toastiness on the top. It's also the perfect amount to just be an excellent compliment to the slightly spiced cake. Since it's marshmallow based, it's extremely sweet - if they had stacked it as high as say, the Red Velvet Cupcake pictured below - purchased only for comparison's sake, of course - it would've been over the top. 

The texture was excellent too, with a dense & moist cake (you can expect a quality level sponge from Hummingbird in my experience) and the marshmallow frosting was very light and whipped - as it should be with something that sweet.

Would I recommend it to the average consumer over the classic Red Velvet or even a Black Bottom? Perhaps not, but I would suggest it to anyone looking for something a bit different than the usual - or anyone who just loves marshmallow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Creamy Half-Dipped Shortbreads

Europeans, here's something that you're missing out on: Trader Joe's. It's sort of like a cheap & more experimental Marks & Spencer, and it's brought to you by the same people who run Aldi. It's a beloved chain in America because their products are not as expensive as Whole Foods, posited as equally healthy, and they sell lots of things that you don't traditionally see on American grocery shelves.

Things like the following mouthful: Kona Coffee Creamy Half-Dipped Shortbread Cookies.

I really appreciate the sort of retro Hawaiian style box, it's cool - Kona coffee is of course Hawaiian in origin so it makes sense thematically. It's also just eye catching & pleasant.

The cookies themselves are in a tray, wrapped in a bit of plastic, so they stay fresher & are less apt to get stale than say, a sleeve of Digestives or a box of Oreos. I think this also helps make sure that the creamy dip doesn't get too hot or cold - keeps it insulated. Perhaps because of this, the cookies made the journey across the Atlantic with me in tip-top condition.

As you can see they are indeed half dipped in "creamy" (namedrop), which I originally thought would be similar to white chocolate in flavor & texture - you'll see how I was wrong later on. If you look closely you may be able to also spot some fine coffee bean bits, these blended very well into the sandy texture of the shortbread cookie, Some people may be turned off by the texture - they remind me of Pecan Sandies, or a slightly crumblier and less densely 'packed' Walkers shortbread.

The flavor is buttery, not too sweet, and with a subtle twinge of coffee. It's not like brewed coffee, it's more like espresso beans - not too strong, just subtly bitter & earthy.

The creamy side is very sweet with a bit of artificiality coming through in the texture - very slippy & a bit greasy. It's best dipped in some coffee, as it transfers some sweetness into the drink & absorbs some further coffee flavor. We also tried them dipped in milk - it was good too! Not sure I'd recommend them for tea, but that's just because of my natural aversion to mixing coffee & tea. It just sounds...wrong.

If you happen to find yourself in Trader Joe's, and your looking for a new kinda cookie experience, particularly if you want an accompaniment to your coffee, you'd do well to give these a try!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Reese's Spread Snacksters

Remember how disappointed you were, American former children, when you tried Reese's peanut butter in the tub for the first time - and it wasn't like Reese's cups? How about you, European teenagers & adults, when you found that imported jar on a Tesco end cap and let out an excited shout? If only I could've been there to warn's just Skippy.

Well, there's a whole new generation of Reese's spreads. They're called, aptly, Reese's Spreads. I mean, technically they're Hershey's Spreads with a subheading under the banner of Reese's. There is only one flavor in this line, the chocolate & peanut butter version. That's the one I've tried, I've course!

I found it in 'Snackster' format, which is a little pot of the spread plus a little something to dip in there. This particular Snackster came with graham cracker sticks. Not necessarily my first choice with this spread (where's the pretzel sticks, Reese's? get with it) but hey, it beats having to invest in an entire jar of the stuff and trying to come up with your own dip-ins.

To be honest, the graham cracker sticks were a bit cinnamon-y which didn't go so well with the peanut butter and chocolate. The spread by itself was actually a fair bit tastier - these could've done with a more 'breadstick' or Pocky type stick rather than something with it's own unique flavor profile. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of cinnamon with peanut butter after an unfortunate attempt at doctoring up homemade peanut butter cookies with just heapin' helpin's of cinnamon. It's just a bit too rich.

Now, onto the spread itself - it is indeed like liquefied, smoothed out Reese's cups.

I think what makes it so Reese's compared to other chocolate peanut spreads is the hit of salt and the predominance of the chocolate. Others I've had in this style (SunPat Choconut, for instance) are too sweet and the balance leans heavy on the peanut.

While that grain that really set's Reese's Cup peanut butter apart from the off-the-spoon stuff isn't really replicated, but you don't miss it half as much when there is also a big milk chocolate component and a real hit of that salty sweet Reese's flavor. I'll put it to you this way -if I had a jar of this in the house, no white carb would go unslathered. It's very nice stuff indeed, and while it sounds like it may be really rich, it managed to stay lighter in feel than say, Nutella.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Japanese Candy Giveaway!

You guys may have already guessed this, but I have way too much candy.

I need to clear some space for...incoming new candy.

Ergo, two, count 'em, two European giveaways are happening this September.

Both hearty boxes of Japanese candy! Want to know what's inside? I've made two, count 'em, two videos to show you just that. I consider them boxing videos, as opposed to your classic unboxing. Believe me though, you'll want these candies - so enter now while the videos buffer, right?

Click HERE to enter to win one of 2 boxes of Japanese candy!

Sorry to say that this giveaway is open for Europe only. Any entries from outside of Europe will have to be discounted...Again, sorry! Now onto the contents:

It ends Saturday the 26th at midnight, and I'll choose two winners on Sunday. One will win the big box, and other shall win the small. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mr Holmes Bakehouse, San Francisco - Cruffins, Doughnuts, and Choux Bombs

So we are in San Francisco for some business, and I had been doing tons of research on where to go to enjoy some great Californian grub. San Francisco is a real food-enjoyer destination, so there were tons of places being recommended. We're only here for a couple days, so there were only so many places we could manage. One I was certainly not going to miss was Mr Holmes Bakehouse.

I'm still a sucker for the world of hybrid pastries (Cocomaya & DumDum Donuts reviewed in the past) and this is San Francisco's popular cruffin spot. What's a cruffin? Well, break it down - it's a croissant and a muffin. You can actually get cruffins in London at Foxcroft & Ginger, although my guess is that they're going to be much less creamy & indulgent. I mean...America.

At Mr Holmes Bakehouse the flavor changes daily, and when we visited the flavor was Macadamia Nut & White Chocolate. In the past they've also had Peanut Butter & Jelly, Matcha, and perhaps best of all - Dark Chocolate Cherry. These are just the flavors that intrigued me most, but on their Facebook they update weekly with the schedule of flavors so you can best time your visit.

And oh yes, you'll want to time your visit indeed. The cruffins come out at 9:00 AM, and the line when we arrived at around 8:20 was already...extensive. The area that Mr Holmes is in is not the nicest - it's a short walk from the hotel area of Union Square but the atmosphere gets a bit unpleasant - you'll be nearing the Tenderloin which is an area of San Francisco that is considered really nasty. Honestly though, it's not that bad (still quite near the 'nicer' areas) and it's in the morning - we didn't feel uncomfortable, just don't expect a lot of interesting things to catch your eye while you wait in line for a cruffin. You'll certainly not be alone.

Crowd control was quite good, managing a good amount of people filtering into the shop without ever overwhelming the small space, and once the line started moving the first dozen or so people in front of us were out in about 10 minutes. Good knowledge to take with you - I heard that they often sell out of the cruffins by 10 AM. It seemed that being about 25 - 35 deep in the line was fine, but any further back than that and you may risk no cruffin. Worth knowing also that there didn't seem to be a spoken limit for customer purchases except cruffins, which were 2 each. The cruffins were also about $5 and the rest of the bits we got were slightly less, which I think is right reasonable. To be fair, I'm coming from London where the slightest hint of trendiness will increase some food's price three fold. Rest assured something this zany would run you £5 in London.

The shop was clean, small, and modern - it was very photogenic, as San Francisco seems to really lay the carpet out for Instagram types.

The items we bought were:

White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Cruffin
This was lovely! I wasn't sure what the flavor was when I first had bit into it, and I had assumed it was white chocolate & coconut. Macadamia nut is often paired with coconut as they share a rounded, nutty flavor - so I wasn't too off. It's covered in cinnamon sugar which pairs well with this particular flavor, but I did think to myself that there were in fact many flavors where it would've been an unwelcome distraction from the filling. The cream was custard style, thick and unctuous - no whipped lightness here! It was topped with a smattering of white chocolate covered crispies. It was about the length of my hand and nearly as thick as my palm, so quite big. Good for sharing, but uh...could be eaten by one highly determined individual.

Maple Cream Doughnut
This was sort of just thrown on at the last minute, because I love maple flavored things. Now, disappointingly, the maple wasn't that strong - that is usually a sign that the maple used was real as opposed to the much stronger flavored artificial stuff, but I was anticipating something a bit more zow & pep. That being said, this was a nice doughnut in general. The cream was slightly whippier than what was in the cruffin, and was deeply filled. This one was coated with just sugar, and the doughnut itself had a lot of buttery flavor & softness underneath the crisp exterior. It was a good one, just not the best flavor. Very high quality pastry nonetheless, but next time I'd try a filling with perhaps a bit more tang to it. They do a blood orange flavor that sounds stupendous!

Ferrero Rocher Choux Bomb
This one was a must get, as Ferrero Rochers are one of my top general, always available, universally accessible chocolates. Hazelnut & chocolate is always a big ol' double tick. The pastry is of course choux, so a bit crispy on the outside with a delicately chewy inner bit, with a buttery and not-too-sweet flavor. Atop the pastry is a pleasantly soft bit of hazelnut & chocolate nougat, which does indeed bring to mind a Ferrero Rocher. The inner cream is hazelnut flavored, and very sweet, with a touch of grain. It's sort of the texture of frosting or soft nougat, but a bit less thick.

The hazelnut is definitely the dominating flavor in this one, so if you're looking for a chocolate hit you may want to look elsewhere. The lack of chocolate does make the whole thing slightly less Rocher-like, but it's still super delicious - sweet & nutty.

If I lived in San Francisco, I'd definitely make a point of going to Mr Holmes when they had an intriguing flavor on! It's also worth mentioning that they did many other sorts of pastries, including some savory ones (a croissant with the all components of sushi inside it, for instance) which may be easier to get a hold of throughout the day. Also, their coffee was amazing - Sightglass coffee, just the filter, and it was deliciously acidic, fruity, and strong.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cadbury Marvelous Creations, Rocky Mallow Road

I've tried a few of these Marvelous Creations, but the only one I've reviewed was from Australia, the Jelly Popping Candy & Beanies bar.

So, here's a second review - my first for the UK set. I'm a little bit disappointed that the Cola & Pretzel chocolate has been phased out, but perhaps Rocky Mallow Road can fill the void? I mean, I do quite like rocky road.

Alas, this is way less rocky road and way more artificial strawberry chocolates. The jellies are extremely strongly flavored, so every bite is just crunchy & strawberry-tasting, or chewy & strawberry-tasting, depending on the other mix-in with that particular bite.

It tasted to me a lot like the Dairy Milk Strawberries & Cream, which I didn't like due to it's incredible sweetness & one-note sugarfruit taste. It's almost the exact same flavor profile, just with added chewy chunks of further sugar (mallows) and bits of shortcake. This would've been much nicer had the strawberry jellies been perhaps a different flavor entirely. Raisins, dried currants, sour berry, almost anything besides super sweet strawberry flavor.

Bit of a shame, as I would've thought this was an easy win for the Marvelous Creations range, but for my druthers it's just overly sweet & not really much more than a strawberry chocolate flavored bar. Talk about meh!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Walker's Bring It Back: Cheese & Chive | Barbecue | Marmite | Beef & Onion

Still no luck on my part finding Beef & Onion! Watch it be the flavor I'd have liked most, as well. Here are the last three Walker's flavors that I did find. See my review of Toasted Cheese and Lamb & Mint here.

Cheese & Chive

I had anticipated these would taste about the same as cheese & onion crisps, which I'm not a massive fan of. They smelled  very similar, perhaps a bit sweeter & definitely not as strong as the classic Walker's cheese & onion. The taste is also much less pungent, with some creaminess reminiscent of a sour cream & onion crisp. I'd describe it best as a slightly sweeter, less strong cheese & onion. Nice, but still not a favorite.


Barbecue flavored chips were my favorites growing up in America (well, that and Jay's Hot Stuff) so I had high expectations here. I know that barbecue sauce has a bit of a different profile in the UK, usually a bit sweeter and smokier compared to what I'm used to which is quite tangy & a usually a bit hot. This crisp flavor followed suit - with just a touch of tang, but plenty of sweet & smoke flavors. They were very nice, and of all the crisps that could be 'brought back' this is the one that I can see myself eating most frequently. The one I like best follows...and it's back for good.


It may come as a surprise to people that I like Marmite. I know it's a real polarizing taste, but I was once heard to say "Eh, I could take it or leave it." I like it on crumpets, cheese on toast, as a flavor in a snack, and I've often theorized that it would be delicious in a stew...but it's not one of those things I really need. Funny, huh? Don't hate it - don't love it.

Regardless of that fact, these were easily my favorite of the returning crisp flavors, and I'm so happy they're just here to stay. There is something about them that's just perfect to me; salty, savory, meaty-without-artificiality, I love them. They remind me of the taste of beef & barley stew. Makes sense right, as barley is a component of Marmite. Anyway, I could happily chomp on these whenever I want crisps, so I'm glad they're just straight up back.

As for who I'd vote for, well, it would be the Marmite flavor if it was in danger of being taken away. Since they're not, however, my vote is probably for Barbecue! Nice, paired well with a sandwich, and a flavor that I don't think anyone else is really doing at the moment in the crisp world. My second vote would be Toasted Cheese, as it was also a flavor I don't see too frequently, and inoffensively tasty. I've yet to try Beef & Onion, but I'm not actually crazy about fake meat flavored crisps anyway. So, who do you guys vote for?

UPDATE! Beef and Onion...discovered!

Beef & Onion

Nice. Not actually all that dissimilar to the Marmite flavor! A bit of added onion seasoning, a bit less savory and of course a weensy bit more meaty - but in the same way that Marmite tastes like beef stew, this tasted like...beef & onion stew. I'd happily eat these as well, and they're going to get my 2nd place vote now in lieu of barbecue! Congrats, beef & onion, you finally made it.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

OyatsuBox August Unboxing

Back again with another unboxing video! This time it's August's OyatsuBox. In the video I wonder if I've received the 'Premium' or the 'Original' box, and it was in fact the premium. I've changed my subscription to save a bit of money, but I'm thinking I enjoyed the contents of the premium version so much that I may go back to it after this coming month's original box, which is already on it's way to me.

 It's only a few £s difference, and I do enjoy receiving tons of Japanese candy. I know I'd be kicking myself to find out I missed something really cool! Here's hoping next month's premium box isn't uh, that great. ;)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Food I'd Like to Eat: Burger Edition

It's August 27th, again - same as every year. Dates in months...dates in months never change.

But hey! It's National Burger Day in the UK!

As an American, eating burgers is a God-given right of mine. On my way out of the country I was given a badge that allows me to consume red meat of any quantity without receiving concerned looks from the staff, if shown to the maitre d'. Unfortunately, that badge also disqualifies me from participating in any burger-based food challenges while overseas. Anyway, I eat a lot of burgers is what I'm getting at.

My favorite burger in the whole of London? Burger Bear, of course. I haven't made it over to the Magic Roundabout yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I had a grizzly bear burger about once a week when I first started working near Old Street, I had to cut myself off because I was starting to grow a beard, but they're the best. Bacon jam, Holy F*ck Hot sauce - tasty stuff. Check him out when you're in London!

This isn't about my favorite burgers that I have eaten, however - this is about burgers that I have yet to try, but would like to. Here we go!

Tony's Bodacious Bacon Cheeseburger, Max & Erma's

This is truly bodacious. Like, radical rashers. Here is what's inside:
"Creamy roasted garlic cheese spread, smoked bacon marmalade, even more smoked bacon with lettuce on a toasted brioche bun."
Hubba hubba. Garlic, cheese, bacon,marmalade, beef. This has some of my favorite components on it. Garlic is a flavor that doesn't often get paired with burgers, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be. This burger is available at Max & Erma's, a restaurant that specializes in burgers & big bathtubs full of ice cream sundae fixin's. It should come as no surprise that this was the place I ate every year for my birthday growing up. I wouldn't hear of any other place. I may have been not into this as a kid, but now? Give it, give it, give it! With a side of bathtub sundae, please.

image taken from BrandEating (check them out for awesome US food news)

All Day Brunch Burger, Applebee's

Burgers for breakfast? Alliteration at Applebee's? This burger includes:
"Seared in with bacon & onions, piled high with fried egg, crispy hash browns, American cheese, and ketchup."
Is that brunch? I mean, yeah, kinda. I'm not sure what it means that the bacon & onions are 'seared in', does that mean they're integrated into the mince, or they're all just fried up on the same grill? If anyone knows exactly what they might mean, let me know. While I think brunch usually trends towards sweets rather than savories, I'm really glad they didn't do that with this burger. Like, imagine if they tried to Monte Cristo this with some powdered sugar or jam? Hard pass. As it is, nothing to dislike - all the best bits of a classic American breakfast, minus the sausage. Hey, Applebee's...add sausage.

Kuro Shogun Burger, Burger King JP
Can you believe it's been about 3 years since the first black bun burger was released from Burger King Japan? I've still not tried one, and I would like to. The bun is infused with charcoal, giving it the trademark color and perhaps, I can guess, a more smokey and burnt flavor. Or, no additional flavor whatsoever.  It's also topped with:
"Grilled eggplant and 'hashed sauce', which is apparently made with squid ink, wine, garlic, and tomato."
Sounds like it would be a bit like Hayashi demi-glace, a pretty popular accompaniment to beef in Japan. I can also see some black cheese - no idea if that's special, or just colored cheese. Either way, nice!

picture mooched from UmamiBurger on Twitter...they have no press page :(
Umami Burger, Umami Burger
This one was quite trendy when it came out years ago, and I think I missed the boat on it being a real hot property, but I still think it sounds delicious. It's topped with:
"parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, Umami house ketchup" I think the parmesan frico is like a baked wafer of parmesan, and the rest of it is self-explanatory. The whole deal with this burger is that it's supposed to be completely representative of the 5th taste, umami. It's just kinda super-savory, is the real basic idea. I'm a big fan of the rich flavors of umami, so everything to do with this burger is of interest to me. It's a small chain, and I'm surprised it hasn't made it over to the UK yet to be honest. Maybe after the dust has settled on Shake Shack? They do lots of interesting burgers, including a Korean barbecue inspired one.

Sriracha Steakburger, Steak 'n' Shake
Steak 'n' Shake really reminds me of home - they're headquartered in Indiana, so there were always tons of them when I was growing up. As a teenager me and all my friends hung out in any number of their locations, eating teeny tiny thin li'l fries dipped in unctuous neon cheese food & drinking incredibly thick shakes. They didn't do a lot of weird flavors when I was growing up, but lately they've really expanded their choices - especially with shakes!  Anyway, I'm talking about this burger right now, which is topped with:
"Two slices pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, crispy onions and plenty of authentic Sriracha sauce."
I hope the Sriracha sauce trend never ends, because it's delicious and I'm enjoying how much it's getting integrated into my life. I love a nice hot hamburger, and this one certainly fits the bill. The vinegary sweetness present in the jalapeno & Sriracha probably will keep this from being too hot, and it'll instead be palatably sour with some heat.

So, any burgers I missed that I really should know about? I'm always on the look out for interesting hamburgers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spotted: Walker's New Flavours 2015, or, Returning Crisps from Days of Yore

Red alert, red alert Britain! We've got new crisp flavors!...or do we? Queue The Who,
"Meet the NEW crisps (guitar licks) same as the OLD crisps"

Now, I've never been in the UK when these flavors were available, so they're new to me. However, this might be annoying news for long time residents of the UK. In the USA & Canada right now there is another round of Do Us a Flavor happening, so I do believe this is a replacement for that contest in the UK market. See USA Lay's flavors here, and Canadian Lay's flavors here. Personally I want the Southern Biscuits & Gravy and the Montreal Smoked Meat varieties.

Anyway, the UK has new crisp flavours for 2015:
Lamb & Mint
Toasted Cheese

Beef & Onion
Cheese & Chive

Apparently the marmite variety is just straight up back, whereas the rest of them are begging to be brought back in some sort of snack food social media blitz. I kid, because funny enough actually, the packaging doesn't tell me to use any kinda hashtag - so I don't know how they're going to rock the vote at all. Maybe it's already been decided? #walkersconspiracy

You might be asking yourself, "What is cheese & chive and how is it different from cheese & onion?" Yeah, me too. I dunno yet. I've only tried the first two varieties I listed.

Review: Lamb & Mint Crisps

These were gross. They had that gamey & sweet, herbaceous taste that 'lamb' flavored things usually do, with the non-bonus of a hit of sweet refreshing mint, as well. Not. interested. If this one wins, it's absolutely rigged. In the interest of full disclosure, I really hate mint with savory things and lamb is my least favorite meat. The target audience here, I ain't. My husband on the other hand liked these - go figure, he likes lamb & mint to begin with.

Review: Toasted Cheese Crisps

Infinitely less gross, but just a wee bit boring. However, they fill a real gap in the UK market; plain cheese flavored crisps. Sure you get tons of cheese & x crisps, but sometimes all you really want is something salty & cheesy. While I can satisfy this craving with Oddities or other cracker-like snacks, a cheesy crisp is much harder to come by. These taste appropriately cheddar-y, but there is no real hint of them being 'toasted'. I think that's just a bit of fun ad copy, because if they were really adding a toasted flavor there would be a bit more depth and less sweetness. This tastes like a fresh, mild cheddar - but, you know, a crisp. I'd try these again.

I'll be reviewing the rest of them throughout the week, however I couldn't find Beef & Onion so I may have to skip that one! In the mean time, tell me if you remember any of these crisps from bygone days? Which was your favorite? Are you happy they've brought back some flavours, or would you have preferred another round of Walker's Do Us a Flavour crisps?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bao London

Bao! Bao!!

The place that everyone is talking about, and queuing up for. Before they opened up their Soho restuarant, Bao was a much-chased street food truck. I participated in the chasing and was happy to catch one of their classic pork buns & a limited edition "Heart Attack" fried chicken bun at an event. It was lovely - this was around 2013 and towards the beginning of the steamed bun craze. Around the same time I also reviewed Flesh & Buns, and worked right above Yum Bun. Those were the days, mate. Now my office has moved to Moorgate and I'm staring out the window at insurance companies, Pret, and Cafe Nero - not even a big Pret at that.

So since my lunch options more or less stink now, I've been enjoying going out to eat at the weekend even more. We managed to get into Bao relatively quickly by queuing before they opened, and being a small group of 2 we could fit onto the bar quite easily. I recommend visiting Bao in small groups because of this - it's a small restaurant and as you know incredibly popular - a big group will likely spend a longer time waiting than a small one. If you must go as a group of 4+, make sure you all arrive at the same time.

Bao has expanded the menu beyond the namesake buns and has been adding new things throughout the year. I was most looking forward to the buns in all honesty, but I was curious about other items. Unfortunately I ate at Bao a number of weeks ago and therefore I've forgotten the exact names of some of the menu items, but I certainly remember the experience.

I had two drinks - two, count 'em, two drinks. The peanut milk was a small serving (very inexpensive on the menu, so a suitable size if you ask me) of creamy peanut deliciousness.

When I was googling around for peanut milk afterwards I stumbled upon a pretty interesting story. It became popular in San Francisco via the KK Cafe, which was operated by a Taiwanese couple in America. The story is interesting because people claim that the peanut milk helped them to heal from traumatic injuries, immune system illnesses, and more. It had a real cult following in that city. Bao could get into a side business selling bottles of this stuff, especially if their recipe is also dairy and grain free!

My second drink was the foam tea, an oolong tea base with a foamy & sweet milky top. I tried in vain to find a recipe for 'foam tea', but the foam itself remains elusive. It's a bit fatty, a bit sweet, and richly dairy. My guess it has something to do with condensed or evaporated milk, as that's a popular dairy ingredient in that region of the world. Regardless, it goes so well with the smooth & refreshing cold tea, which I believe is a cold brewed oolong of some sort.

Thinly Sliced Steak, Aged White Soy Sauce -  The soy sauce was rich with umami & pleasant saltiness, and it thoroughly imbibed the steak with much the same. It was a great way to start things off, and this is a surefire winner for Bao - even among people who may otherwise not enjoy the less familiar flavors. Basically, you can't go wrong with this one, but for my druthers there are more exciting options.

The turnip greens were garlicky, vinegar-y & topped with sprinkles of salty & dare I say 'cheesy' century egg. Nice dark greens were used, you could tell that care was taken in which produce they sent out. If I was guaranteed such dark & flavorsome vegetables with every dish, I'd eat salads a lot more frequently!

Trotter Nuggets - Very soft & porky with a hint of ginger. These worked well and certainly made 'trotters' appetizing, but for me they didn't hit it out of the ball park like the rest of the menu did. Lovely stuff, but the flavors were a bit more familiar and therefore less mind-blowing to me. I'd like to try trotters again though, but maybe not in nugget format.

 - A bit of citrus zest, firm but yielding flesh to the scallop, and a lovely garlic citrus sauce with a rounded, savory bean base to it. Feel free to slurp the sauce out of the shell once you've eaten the scallop. If anyone gives you guff, tell 'em "CreamySteaks sent me with strict orders to slurp this sauce!"

Lamb Bun - Incredibly well spiced with coriander, some hint of a familiar Thai spice (perhaps Thai basil?) and garlic. The meat was soft & not at all gamey. The bun, as always, was soft & creamy with a gentle whisper of sweetness. This was my favorite one, and I'm not usually a lamb fan.

Classic Pork Bun - Hard to beat. Perfectly marinated and soft pork, peanut & cilantro garnish. There is a reason Bao has risen as high as it has - and that reason is very hard work & this pork bun. It's a must try!

Pork Belly Confit Bun - Most subtle & gentle of the buns, very little spice but very high quality pork with a great fat-to-meat ratio. The shallots are gentle and add a bit of textural change to what would otherwise be a real soft & gushy fest. There is a sauce, but I don't recall what it was meant to be, sorry!

Deep Fried Bao with Horlicks Ice Cream - I loved this! The deep fried bao was like a doughnut, softer on the inside and definitely leaning more yeast than cakey, and filling it with ice cream is a no brainer. I really appreciated that the bao itself was only subtly sweet, and the Horlicks ice cream was also strong in it's maltiness. It wasn't just a sugar rush, you could really appreciate the flavor of the dough, the sweet ice cream base, and the malt. The only thing I'll say it was a fair struggle to eat with just a spoon, as the bao is a bit tough for cutting using just that. I recommend asking for a small fork or knife as well.

The one thing I felt was missing at Bao was Taiwanese beer as a drink selection. When we went, they were serving Japanese beer (I believe Asahi?) which I do enjoy, but I think it is always more fun to match national beers to their national foods. Certainly not a deal breaker, but I am looking forward to them expanding the beer selection a bit.