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.