Monday, 24 July 2017

Savoursmiths Truffle & Rosemary

Here's a good example of a crisp that sounds utterly disgusting and turns out to be pretty good.

I really dislike truffle. I think it quite unnecessary to add such a strong musty flavour to perfectly good food and thus make it inedible. And quite a lot of my friends agree with. But I am aware that there are truffle fans out there and very likely this crisp was created with them in mind.

Now the reluctant taste testers and I have tried Torres Selecta Black Truffle crisps and most of us found them very unpleasant. Seriously not nice at all.

We also tried M&S Ever So Posh Hand Cooked Parmesan Asparagus & Truffle. That was back in 2014 (doesn't time fly, crisp fans?) Actually, they weren't too bad because basically the Parmesan flavour took over and we couldn't really pick the Asparagus or the Truffle.

Anyway, once bitten etc, so we approached these crisps with a little trepidation. And found we'd made a fuss about nothing. This is small crisp with a nice crunch (not too hard) and a gentle rosemary taste with a tiny hint of what was probably truffle. Rosemary can be a bit overpowering if not used in moderation but I recall a very nice bag of Kettle Chips Sea Salt with a Hint of Rosemary. It's not a common seasoning in crispy snacks but it can work very well.

And the reluctant taste testers, together with the Chef were pleased to approve these Truffle & Rosemary crisps.
I like the purple and green metallic colours of the packet but it took me a while to work out what the weird peacock person was up to. I thought she had her hand in a muff but it seems she is juggling giant truffles (sort of).

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Savoursmiths Parmesan and Port

Masters of flavour & faber says the packet a little mysteriously. Make room for a finer set of flavours, a better breed of snack. Hmm.
Well, I'm not sure. I was in my local Waitrose checking out their selection of flowers because I had been nudged (I hesitate to say bullied because the bully is far too nice) into joining in the flower festival at our local church. One of our local churches; we have 2 huge churches (and a largely Jewish population!). Anyway, there I was but their flowers didn't feature the colours I was looking for so I bought a packet of crisps instead. The packet does rather draw the eye don't you think?

I never saw this brand of crisps before but they must be putting themselves about. The Family Vegetarian tells me that shortly before she stopped working at the the very fancy gastropub in the next village they received a taster box of this brand. Apparently the Wagyu Beef & Honey Mustard flavour was wolfed down by the kitchen staff, and some unspecified bloke at the bar ate the bag of Parmesan & Port. But as neither other packet got eaten, the boss gave the remaining packets to the Family Vegetarian because "your husband's a chef". So watch this space for 2 more flavours.

I took this packet in to work for the reluctant taste testers to try. And I think they, and I found them a bit weird. For a start, the crisps are a bit pink. It's the Port. You don't really taste the Port that much, there's a sharp or sour taste that isn't really Port, but you really can smell it. But I don't know why you wouldn't just produce Parmesan flavour crisps?
Wouldn't that be much tastier? Because not only could the reluctant taste testers not pick this flavour; Tall taste tester thought Apple & Pork (?), and lightly Red Haired Bristolian hazarded Cheese & Chive (a little more accurate), but all of them seriously disapproved of crisps with alcohol. Not crisps with a glass of wine you understand; but crisps with added alcohol. Like Tesco Finest Limited Edition Prosecco & Elderberry Crisps. We weren't mad for them either.

Although having reported on the reactions, I can also report that almost all the crisps got eaten anyway. And the Chef started out by saying "ugh yuk" and found that he had finished a bowlful without noticing. I had one. Not for me thanks.
And just because I can, here are the flower arrangements I made for the church.










Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Snyder's of Hanover Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pieces Salted Caramel

Hmm... the name of this crispy crunchy snack seems to go on forever. The actual flavour is Salted Caramel and they certainly do taste of Salted Caramel.

I think the reluctant taste testers and I tried these Sweet & Salty Pretzel Pieces just before I was dragged off to hospital in early March. They've sitting around since then and are in pretty good condition considering. Paper clips seem to work as well as a kitchen clip at keeping the bag tightly shut. Which is lucky as here we are 4 months later.

As with all these Pretzel Piece snacks this has a huge great crunch which is fabulous, but of course as usual it looks like a snack cobbled together from the remains of an nasty accident in Snyder's kitchens. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that's what happened once upon a time and gave someone a marketing idea.

We've tried 4 different packets of Pretzel Pieces before but they were all savoury flavours like Hot Buffalo Wings but these are Sweet & Salty which is a very different taste. These pieces of pretzel are swathed in piles of flavour dust which delivers a great thwack of Sweet & Salty flavour. And the Salted Caramel is very caramelly.

It reminds me of the olden days when William Morris Fan taste tester who worked with me and the taste testers before ever the taste testing was invented, introduced me to Sweet & Salted as a flavour for the first time. She rushed out to one of the local kosher delis and produced a snack such as I had never seen before  - I think it was popcorn. Wow! That must be less than 10 years ago. Amazing. Crispy snack flavours have come on apace since then. Although possibly that comment applies more to the UK than the USA.

Never attempted this sort of flavour? Definitely worth a try. Go on. You know you want to.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Miss Vickie's Applewood Smoked BBQ

Crafted with care since 1987 says the packet. Many of the crispy snack companies I have discovered have been set up far more recently so this probably qualifies as a fairly long standing brand of snack.

I read that Miss Vickie's started out as a farm house crisp made by a a couple called Vickie and Bill Kerr who farmed in Ontario (which is in Canada) but at some time it was bought up by Frito-Lay's. Which means of course that like so many crispy snacks it belongs to the mega marketing monster that is PepsiCo.

So far I have only tried one packet of Miss Vickie's crisps and that not very enthusiastically. Partly because as you probably know I'm not mad for barbecue or BBQ as a flavour. I know a lot of people who love barbecue but I could live without ever tasting another BBQ flavoured crisp. And then there's another reason. As I write I have 7 pills to take each day and one of them, I forget which, has a depressing side effect: it affects your appetite. And in my case it means I don't really fancy crispy snacks just now. I'm just hoping I get over it.

These are the Miss Vickie's flavours listed on Wikipedia: 24 of them and only 2 discontinued. I'm a bit sorry I shall never get the chance to try the Honey & Roasted Garlic flavour. which sounds rather interesting.
  • Miss Vickie's Original Recipe (1987)
  • Miss Vickie's Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar (1987)
  • Miss Vickie's Jalapeño (1998)
  • Miss Vickie's Hand-Picked Jalapeño (1999)
  • Miss Vickie's Country Onion with 3 Cheeses (1999)
  • Miss Vickie's Roasted Garlic & Herb (2001)
  • Miss Vickie's Harvest Onion (2002)
  • Miss Vickie's Sweet Chili & Sour Cream (2003)
  • Miss Vickie's Lime & Black Pepper (2004)
  • Miss Vickie's Smokehouse BBQ (2005)
  • Miss Vickie's Honey & Roasted Garlic (2005) (Discontinued in 2009)
  • Miss Vickie's Roasted Red Pepper Grill (2006)
  • Miss Vickie's Vintage Cheddar & Red Onion (2007)
  • Miss Vickie's Creamy Buttermilk Ranch (2008)
  • Miss Vickie's Unsalted (2008)
  • Miss Vickie's Mesquite BBQ (Discontinued in 2008)
  • Miss Vickie's Rosemary & Basil (2008)
  • Miss Vickie's Crinkle Cut Original (2009)
  • Miss Vickie's Balsamic Vinegar & Sweet Onion (2010)
  • Miss Vickie's Reduced Fat (2014)
  • Miss Vickie's Applewood Smoked BBQ (2015)
  • Miss Vickie's Sour Cream & Caramelized Onion (2016)
  • Miss Vickie's Harvest Cheddar and Herbs (2017)
  • Miss Vickie's Farmhouse White Cheddar (2017)                               

I am going in to work about 6 hours a week now (don't knock it I can't manage any more just yet) and took this packet in to see what the reluctant taste testers had to say. I'm sorry to have to tell you that most of them quite forget they need to tell me what they think, but Slightly Red Haired Bristolian was pleased to approve these crisps.

Not very large crisps, with a slightly heavy bite and a very bright colour, these crisps seem to me to taste strongly of applewood (which I wrongly imagined to be one of the ingredients - it's not). Strange and not really for me. Still, Smokehouse BBQ (on the list above) sounds a lot nastier.
PS The Chef tried one of these crisps and thought it was horrible. He absent mindedly had another and before he knew it had eaten a whole bowlful.

Friday, 14 July 2017

7Days Bake Rolls Salt

We had left over guacamole from the other night's chicken tortillas (possibly as unauthentic as can be but the Chef has lived in Mexico) so the Chef said he'd buy some crisps to eat it with. I suggested Bake Rolls but apparently the Garlic flavour which the Chef likes best sells out really quickly and they don't get more Garlic Bake Rolls until all the other flavours like Pizza and Mushrooms & Cream ones have gone too.

But he went down the road anyway and came home with this packet of Salt flavour. Which sounds rather dull doesn't it? I mean... just Salt? However, since there was nothing else in the house suitable for scooping up guacamole, we tucked in. And were pleasantly surprised.
Tasty. A very nice combination of saltiness and fabulous crispy baked taste. It's a shame that guacamole isn't very photogenic but then green gloop rarely is, but I think we can recommend this crispy snack as one of those that don't seem to taste of much while at the same time tasting very good indeed. And just the job for scooping up a dip.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

What do people do with crisp packets?

What indeed?

Well, throw them away mostly. Almost no crisp packets are currently recyclable in the UK so what are you, obviously a keen recycler and champion of the environment, going to do to salve your conscience? Perhaps you might make your own Christmas decorations? It may take you a while so better start now.
Or what about weaving a bag? There was a link to the instructions on the same page as the Christmas decoration suggestion but sadly it no longer works. But the photograph I have borrowed from that page shows the bags are very pretty. There's probably another place to find instructions; I expect I didn't look hard enough.
Of course handbag designer Anya Hindmarsh designed a bag to look like a crisp packet. Perhaps these bags are a trifle more expensive than a recycled crisp packet bag would be (18ct gold anybody?) and somewhat swankier than your average Lay's or Walkers packet they are rather fun. I want one! I'm going to borrow one of her images.
And what about making a dress or perhaps it is a wearable work of art? Here's a student called Rebekah modelling the dress she made from dozens of packets. I wonder how sturdy this is? From experience I know that crispy snack packets split very easily. I would have thought she might be better off printing the packet designs onto cloth; but then she would not have won an award for sustainable design.
As I said, crisp packets split very easily but I also wonder about washing them. They are usually so very greasy and I think you might get fed up with your project before you had produced anything clean and shiny enough to work with. So this dress may have won an award for sustainable design but I wonder how much precious water was used in its making?

It seems that one man from Hull grills (grills! you'd think a crisp packet would catch fire under a grill) empty packets and turns them into balls, which he will then makes into a work of art. Hull is the UK City of Culture this year and Gary Key has decided that's the way  he wants to join in. History has yet to relate whether or not Hull City Council will consider his offering to be art or not.

If you can't bring yourself to embark on any of these exciting, though possibly arduous projects, what about folding your empty packet into the smallest tidiest piece of rubbish possible? Here are some instructions to help you out.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A Visit to Reims in 2016 (France)

In fact despite me begging the Chef to stop in Reims because I long to visit the cathedral, we actually stop at Tinqueux which is a suburb of Reims. And 2 minutes walk from the very comfortable Novotel there is a giant Carrefour supermarché. And we pass through Tinqueux at least 4 times a year.

I love it. I enjoy shopping a lot and all the more if I don't actually need to buy anything. And frankly I don't need to buy crisps or crispy snack. I just do.

Check out the huge array of crisps. I am certain the crisp market in France has got noticeably larger in the last 4 years, and certainly the range of crispy snacks was larger last year than in previous years.
I can see Pringles here, and the Carrefour own brand version, about 12 different flavours by the look of it. Also tubs of hula hoops which in the UK come in packets not tubs. And then to the left of the Pringles we move into the Biscuit apéritif section where the products are usually packaged in boxes.

I have scrutinised this photograph very carefully and have determined that there are 13 different Lay's flavours on the shelf; Poulet Rôti (roast chicken), Fromage (cheese), Cheese & Onion (yes, that's French for cheese & onion), Jambon Braisé (braised ham), Paprika, Bolognaise, Spicy (French for spicy), Barbecue, Moutarde Pickles (French for mustard and pickles, a very weird but rather fabulous flavour if you ask me but I have only tried the Bret's version), Saveur Giant (bonkersly this appears to be French for cheeseburger flavour these days), Salt & Vinegar (you guessed, French for salt & vinegar), á l'Ancienne which is a sort of old fashioned style of crisp the French seem to be very fond of, and Deep Ridge Barbecue. Phew. 

Lay's crisps of course are not available in the UK. We have Walkers instead with a rather different selection of flavours. We have Cheese & Onion but not cheese flavour. Salt & Vinegar but not Spicy or Moutarde Pickles. As for Saveur Giant! I have tried a number of these so I'll put some links in for you.

We also have Market Deli crisps in the photograph (2 flavours on the shelf), and Kettle Chips (2 flavours) and Tyrrell's. I wonder what the difference is between Sea Salt & Black Pepper and Sea Salt & Crushed Black Pepper? (4 flavours).

Then there are the French crisps. Vico Grillade aux herbes. I haven't tried this flavour and it sounds rather good. I haven't tried á l'Ancienne either but I can live with that because I think it's a rather dull kind of crisp. There are 3 kinds of Carrefour own brand crisps and then the Bret's crisps. Bret's crisps come from Brittany and feature flavours that are a little bit different; Chèvre (technically goat, but in this case probably goat's cheese), and au Comté which is a very nice French cheese and Chocolat Piment (chilli chocolate).

If you stand back, or in my case sit down, and list all the crisps in this photograph which is obviously not all the crisps in the store, it adds up to a vast number of crisps and crispy snacks. Huge numbers of crisps and snacks in dozens hundreds of flavours are manufactured all over the world. Tall taste tester suggested the other day that I should write a book about crisps but I think this is it. I have posted 741 different crisps and articles about crisps and photographs of crisp packets and reviews taken from magazines and newspaper. 741!! I guess I didn't look at the numbers recently. That's amazing. But it still doesn't qualify me as an expert when there are so many crispy snacks out there.
Here's what I bought at Carrefour in August 2016. See the Lay's Saveur Giant at the front? Oh dear. What a grumpy review I wrote abut that crisp.








Saturday, 8 July 2017

Smiths Potato Crisps tin found on Ebay

I chanced to see this pretty vintage crisp tin on ebay and entered a very low bid. I don't really enjoy auctions so I didn't think about it again. Apparently nobody else thought about it either and so I won the auction and the tin was delivered to me today.

I love tins. I really like interesting packaging of any kind (see my other blog: there are links on the right of this page) but you cannot beat a good tin. And oddly, while I have more than 30 tins for sweet biscuits or chocolate, I only have 6 tins for crispy snacks; one Ritz Cracker tin, one Walkers Crisps tin, three different tins for ROKA Cheese Crispies and now one for Smith's Crisps.
I imagine this is because people are prepared to invest more in a biscuit or a box of chocolates. And if the biscuits or chocolates come in a tin, hey! that sounds like a pretty good present for Auntie Madge or maybe even Uncle Dick. Few people give a prettily wrapped packet of crisps as a present. I can't think why not. One of my favourite Christmas presents was a homemade selection box of little bags of crisps. Brilliant.

Think about it. That Star Wars lunchbox you were thinking of buying for your 6 year old nephew's birthday will be a whole lot more exciting if you cram in a couple of packets of Smith's Twisted Flamin' Hot or Smith's Spicy Tomato Flavour Snaps. And if your sister doesn't like her children to have crisps..... Well, it's only once a year.
Anyway, back to my handsome new/old tin. I'd love to know how old it is because the way the blurb talks about crisps it's as though they are a whole new concept. Serve crisps with your morning bacon, chops & steaks, fish, poultry or game, cocktails etc. it says on the end of the tin. Crisps with fish? Really? I never heard of that before. Exciting stuff. I can't really see it though, especially as I don't eat fish.

And on the other end it says No picnic basket is complete without Smith's Potato Crisps. Always take a supply when cycling, walking, fishing etc. etc. Doesn't it seem odd to think of a world where you had to be told to take a packet of crisps with you. And please note; there's no mention of a packet, just "a supply". Do you suppose that in what ever olden day world this tin comes from you would actually buy your crisps by the tin?
Sounds unlikely doesn't it? But when I was a small child in the early 1960s (and I have written about this before) we used to buy ROKA Cheese Crispies in a tin. Which was expensive. So I wonder how expensive Smith's Crisps were, and did they really come in a tin? I haven't researched this at all so you may know more than I do.

The tin is about 6.25" x 4.75" x 3.25" ( 570 x 110 x 801mm) so not very large. About the right size in fact for a small packet of crisps. At a squash. So don't forget that modern packets of crisps are giant, and you shouldn't eat a whole one all by yourself. Moderation is the key.

Plain crisps with a little blue bag of salt remind me of the Smith's crisps of my childhood. Today they are made by Walkers but you can still see the Smith's logo on the packet.

And if you are interested here's the tapestry I used as a backdrop to my photographs today. I think my Auntie V probably worked it. She was rich and had no children, and her husband (he was my great uncle) spent her money yachting. Their large house was full of beautiful things including this once fabulous footstool. But at only 8" high and 18" x 28" in this house it was a major trip hazard so the stool had to go. The tapestry I will frame because it's much too wonderful to roll up and keep in a drawer. The tin will go into the bookshelf with the rest of the collection.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A Visit to Bern in 2015 (Switzerland)

I am still mostly not at work (so far I've managed two hours at a time, two days last week: it was exhausting) but I am feeling better enough to attack all the tasks that have been sitting uncompleted on my own computer.

Way back in in 2015 I started a photobook. I usually make one for our proper holidays; a visit to Florence or Venice or somewhere, but I don't usually make a book for day trips. But in 2015 we didn't go away. We stayed home, either in the UK or in Switzerland, and made some amazing day trips.
Why am I telling you this? Because the first was a visit to Bern. Just for the day. By train. And while we enjoyed looking at the fabulous clock (800 years old according to wikipedia) and the weird statues Bern has to offer, and the fascinating way that restaurants in a city full of politicians and tourists are so reluctant to serve lunch at lunchtime (we eventually found a charming cafe run by Italians who seemed to know most of their customers by name), and the trams, and the bears (no longer thank goodness kept in a horrible concrete pit), and the fountains, we were delighted to end the day at a department store. What's better than a little light shopping?
Globus doesn't have a branch in Sion which is our nearest city, so I wasn't aware what a lovely shop it is. And I didn't know that in the basement it has a wonderful food department. Globus is handily close to the railway station so we knew we didn't have far to drag our purchases. So we bought delicious fresh pasta, and wine from the canton of Bern, and could I resist investigating the crisp department? What do you think?
Look, here's a reminder of what we found at Globus. The top shelf has Boxerchips (from Ireland) and the bottom row has Burt's (British, from Devon I think), Nandos (not sure but certainly available in the UK) and Roger's, which are from Belgium.

Globus does also sell own-brand Globus tortilla chips. but as I noted in my post they are not made in Switzerland at all but in the Netherlands. And if you like you can read all about my purchases by clicking on the links.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Pringles Original "Perfect Flavour in Every Bite"

I had to go into the hospital yesterday morning for an echo bubble test on my heart (I think that's what they call it), and have a blood pressure monitor fitted. This is horrible. I hate having my blood pressure taken; it's really painful. So I was feeling rather gloomy and in need of cheering up.

Luckily the hospital has a small shop. Quite a nice shop with lots of useful stuff for patients like extra pants and hand cream. It sells a selection of less than healthful drinks and snacks not ideal in a hospital (but also healthy fruit) and lucky for me I spotted some small tubes of Pringles at the back.

Pringles have recently been advertising an updated version of their crispy snacks featuring "perfect flavour in every bite". I don't eat Pringles very often so I honestly cannot remember how patchy, if at all, the flavour was before.  Basically "original" is quite a strong salty taste and as always with Pringles they leave a tingle in your lips. But tasty.

Do beware that this extremely tasty taste comes from 9% of the recommended daily intake of an average adult. And this in a a 40g tub of snacks. Really a lot of salt. But only the plus side; suitable for vegans.

Whether it's the case or not it seemed to me that these updated Pringles are slightly finer than before which I think is an improvement. And the Chef agreed. Certainly there were more broken bits of Pringle in the tube so maybe they are slightly thinner than before. I really do think this gives a nicer snack.

Pringles were recently named and shamed by the Recycling Association because their packaging is almost impossible to recycle. I see you can recycle the plastic lid but the metallic/card tube must be a nightmare. Come on Kellogg's, you bought this brand is 2012. Isn't it time to redesign the tube?

Back to the hospital today for a 72 hour heart scan. Oh joy.
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