Confirmed sighting: Seabrook Hot and Spicy Wasabi flavour
Posted: 23:02 Wed 15-Apr-2009. Price: £1.15. Location: Morrisons, Denton. Sub-flavours: Wasabi, Mustard, "Oriental", 2 Chilli. Nutritional unusualness: Has more horseradish powder than salt in the listed ingredients.
A quick post-Easter sighting this week, as "Dave" reports: Amazing. Neutral, not-crispy smell on opening the bag. Usual Seabrook thin crinkleyness to the crisps, and yet they pack a powerful hit of wasabi - noshing down on several crisps at a time will deliver a powerful emptying blow to the throat and nose, as wasabi should. Excellent! For what I believe to be the first adoption of wasabi by a British manufacturer (possibly any manufacturer), it's an excellent implementation, and couldn't have gone to a finer and more innovative portfolio than Seabrook. Recommended - hunt down and eat.
..."Dave" supplied the photo here, but Zeddy paid only a pound for the same product in East Kilbride Morrisons, trumpeting: "Found these buggers at last! I stumbled upon them quite by accident when I was looking at Red Sky crisps and wondering what all the fuss was about. These have a real wasabi flavour and cause your nose to tingle slightly upon consumption. Thumbs up from me for these." In other spicy surprises: Burger King's latest Texican Whopper is "topped with delicious taco coated chilli con carne, spicy jalapenos, onion, crispy lettuce and Cajun mayonnaise"; or, as a more oesophagus-soothing alternative, LanesHealth's Throat Coolers are "a range of flavoured ice bars" - in other words, vaguely medicinal ice pops!
Confirmed sighting: Red Sky crisps
Posted: 12:48 Sun 22-Mar-2009. Price: £1.59. Location: Sainsbury's, Market Harborough. Sub-flavours: West Country Bacon and Cream Cheese; Anglesey Sea Salt, Sour Cream and Herb; Roasted Red Pepper and Lime.
"Nick T" reports: As you can probably tell by the twitch and the drink habit, I work in advertising. And I can tell you with some authority that there is no less innovative or creative industry than the giddy world of FMCG marketing. Their stock-in-trade is to spot a consumer trend, shamelessly copy it within an inch of intellectual property law, then try to petulantly reclaim the entire sector as their own rightful territory and otherwise give the original golden goose a good shafting. Past "me too" products have included Cadbury's Aztec (not really a Mars bar at all, mi'lud), cyclonic vacuum cleaners (Dyson who?), and every energy drink that's not Red Bull in any way, honest.
And now, clap hands, here comes Red Sky, Walkers/Pepsico's attempt to leech off the good works of true artisan snack pioneers such as Kettle, Tyrrell's and Burt's. Witness the hyperbolical guff on the pack: "We only use the best ingredients from Nature's Kitchen..." blah blah blah. A cynic might continue: "...and when Nature's Kitchen has finished, we send cheap spuds to a sodding great factory in Coventry/Leicester and put them through the same mass production process as everything else we churn out, but this time covered in a thick, thick marketing budget to help screw over the people who gave us the idea. Cheers guys."
None of this is to say Red Sky is a bad product. This flavour, just one of the new range's imaginative advance guard, actually contains bacon and real cream cheese - and what a relevation THAT must have been for Walkers. The taste is pleasant enough in an anodyne way, with a good crunch and attractive packaging. It's just that Red Sky is simply unnecessary. The originators' ranges are excellent, and there's plenty of good competition from supermarket own-brands (take a bow Sainsbury's). So will Red Sky prove to be a brand manager's delight? I hope not. We should reward real innovators. Disingenuous rip-o... sorry, 'tributes' like this should just be pitied for lack of corporate imagination. Kids, just say no.
...Another impassioned analysis from "Nick T" today - while, amid the pleas for Mild Curry Flavour Wotsits ("They were fantastic but very shortlived, I would say they only lasted about six months, 1985-6. I would willingly campaign to bring them back" - "Chris Wyatt") and Smith's Scampi Fries ("We found them easily in Scotland (Paisley), but here in the Midlands it's a Scampi Fries-free wasteland!" - "Simon J. Mills") comes "Oli's" more unusual request, inquiring: "Does anyone have the little paint image of Crisp Commando mascot from ilovecrisps.com?" Try http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.ilovecrisps.com, Oli - could this be what you're looking for?
Confirmed sighting: Phileas Fogg Poppadoms Indian Red Chilli
Posted: 17:05 Sat 28-Feb-2009. Price: £1/ 70g bag. Location: Tesco. Nutritional unusualness: Sour Cream And Mild Mexican Chilli, or Salsa And Mexican Chilli tortillas; Mexican Sweet Chilli, Sea Salt And Indonesian Black Peppercorn, or Irish Cheddar And Onion Chutney crisps.
reports: Apparently Phileas Fogg snacks were "never fully de-listed, but were not widely available and have not been actively supported by United Biscuits for a number of years" - I never really "got" what they were trying to do with the brand (a tie-in with an ancient Jules Verne book?), but it's taken me almost 80 days to get through this "world" of new varieties (clever wording, I know, cheers).
I agree with this reassuringly similar-minded blog that the Poppadoms have an authentically deep-fried taste, plus a "gentle burn" from the chilli, but for me the real finds are the most natural-tasting tortilla chips I've ever had from a shop, the Sour Cream ones being intriguingly mildly cheesy. The various crisp flavours don't bring much to an already crowded market, but are worth a try for a pound a bag - though I paid about £1.59 for mine, instead of sensibly waiting for Tesco to "move onto sale prices later on in the promotion".
...For the same reason, I'll see what happens with the price before splashing out on Walkers'
Buffalo Mozzarella, Southern Style Barbecue or Oriental Red Curry Sensations - though they've taken the Walkers name off another new range they're launching: the Red Sky brand believed to be "targeting upmarket rivals such as Kettle Chips and Burts" (in Sour Cream And Green Herbs, West Country Bacon And Cream Cheese, Anglesey Sea Salt, or Roasted Red Peppers And Lime).
International sighting: Pringles Extreme/ Restaurant Cravers
Posted: 18:38 Fri 13-Feb-2009. Price: $1. Location: Walmart, Davenport, Florida. Sub-flavours: Screamin' Dill Pickle; Cheeseburger; Onion Blossom.
Zeddy reports: On my hols and saw these early in my stay. The Dill Pickle ones are superb with an authentic taste. You do however find yourself burping the flavour back hours later. The Cheeseburger ones taste OK, quite cheesey/meaty if not up there with a Whopper. They are also a lighter Pringle that is crispy rather than crunchy. The Onion Blossom tastes like onion I suppose. I have tried to get Pringle to produce pickled onion variety for the UK by emailing them loads, no reply. I then find these in the States. Hmmmm, you guys don't play fair.
...Nice one Z - here in the UK, we'll have to make do with
nine new variants of Phileas Fogg "exotic" snacks, Walkers' Buffalo Mozzarella or Southern Style Barbecue Sensations, and perhaps wider distribution of Seabrook's Hot and Spicy range. And, in the absence of the traditional Valentine's tie-ins this year,
my "restaurant cravings" have been barely satisfied by either McDonald's Winter Feast (which tasted mostly of basil and tomato sauce), and KFC's Blazin' Boxmaster (not as interesting as the fact that the KFC near Baker Street tube has started using an Argos-esque order-and-collect system). That said, I am going to miss Subway's 6" Ham for £1.49 deal, which I was eating so often that I had to vary the salad options by asking them to "Pick two from the top row, and three others", Countdown-style.
Confirmed sighting: Walkers Do Us A Flavour shortlist
Posted: 21:02 Fri 23-Jan-2009. Price: £1.20 for 6 bag multipack - or any 2 for £2. Location: Asda, Plymouth. Nutritional unusualness: Each 25g bag contains 8.2g fat (12% of your daily amount), 130 calories (7% of your RDA).
"Magnetic Ham Sandwich" reports: Well at last Walkers have narrowed down the huge amount of Do Us A Flavour suggestions to just a final 6 for us all to sample, and the results are interesting to say the least. So here's my breakdown of what we've got to choose from... Starting with the headline-grabbing Cajun Squirrel flavour, which carries the disclaimer that no real squirrels were used to make the flavour, although not too many of us will know what a squirrel actually tastes like of course. There is a slightly 'nutty' aroma upon opening up a pack though - make of that what you will. The actual crisps are just mildly spicy and quite pleasant.
The Fish and Chips flavour does a good job of replicating the smell and taste of a fish in batter bought from your local chippie. If you're brave enough to eat a whole pack of these, they do get better the more you eat. However a lot of people will be put off instantly by the strong fishy smell of these crisps. Third in line comes Onion Bhaji flavour, in blue packets. They have a good smell, but are not spicy enough for my liking. Crispy Duck and Hoisin flavour is a likely winner, even though the taste is quite similar to Walker's current BBQ flavour, with a strong Hoisin sauce taste.
The Builder's Breakfast is another unusual flavour, tasting mainly of egg. Apparently bacon, toast and beans are also present in this flavour, but the egg taste dominates. You'll either love or hate this flavour I reckon. Lastly there is the Chilli and Chocolate flavour. I'm not sure this combination works too well in a crisp. The cocoa-y choc taste hits you first, but is very soon replaced with a strong chilli taste. This flavour is sadly not a successor to Tudor Crisp's legendary Chocolate flavour from the 1980s. In a taste test in our office the results went like this - 1)Duck 2)Squirrel 3)Onion 4)Chocolate 5)Egg 6)Fish - will this be reflected nationwide?
...A characteristically exhaustive survey from "MHS" here - "yorkhouse" actually submitted the first sighting but didn't provide a pic or seem to have made it past the Cajun Squirrel variety, re-iterating: "Mr Yorkhouse Sr has tried a pack but was disappointed the ingredients list said they were suitable for vegetarians, with no authentic squirrel flavouring involved."
Confirmed sighting: KP Frosted Vanilla and Cinnamon Flavour Nut Selection
Posted: 10:36 Sat 13-Dec-2008. Price: £3.69 (2 for £6). Location: Tesco, Lanark, Scotland. Sub-flavours: Frosted Maple Syrup Flavour Premium Nut Selection. Nutritional unusualness: 188kcal per 35g serving.
Zeddy thoughtfully provided a pic of both flavours, but seems to be focusing on the Vanilla and Cinnamon variety as he reports: Yum-bloody-yum! "Honey roast peanuts and cashews mixed with raisins in a yoghurt flavoured coating and Belgian milk choc honeycomb." The nuts really do have a vanilla and cinnamon flavour to them making them incredibly moreish. The honeycomb nuggets and raisins take care of themselves and make it a top combination. Maybe a tad pricey for 250g but hey! It's nearly Chrimbo.
...Personally, I found these a bit too much like Planters' Vermont Gold range from last Christmas, though Mr Peanut seems to be repaying the tribute with his own range of Planters Infusions (in Japanese Wasabi; Malaysian Kaffir Lime and Green Chilli; or Indonesian Gado Gado) - at 99p/125g, a competitively priced alternative to KP's Baked and Seasoned Nuts range. Apparently also exclusive to Waitrose are Planters' Salted Peanuts and Toasted Corn; Peanuts, Raisin and Chocolate Buttons; and Salted Redskin Mix combos, but no doubt available on a wider scale (eg, your local "everything must go" Woolworths?) is Terry's all-new Cracking Hazelnut Ball Chocolate Orange.
Confirmed sighting: Nando's Peri Peri Chips
Posted: 22:41 Thu 20-Nov-2008. Price: £1.59. Location: Tesco. Sub-flavours: Peri Peri Chicken, Smokey BBQ Peri Peri, Hot Peri Peri.
Just before we get to the Nando's - the Lamb And Mint McCoy's Winter Warmers definitely taste of mint, but the Steak And Ale ones aren't as alcohol-flavoured as Tyrrells' new Dorothy Goodbody Ale and Mature Cheddar Cheese (themselves evocative of 2007's Kettle Chips Mature Cheddar with Adnams Broadside Beer). Anyway, I'm only slightly suspicious of "Charlotte Dewhurst" using the official Nando's Peri-Peri Chips product name, as she enthusiastically reports: "Tried these - they are amazing. I love Nando's and I love hand-cooked chips. These will be great for the Christmas party season!"
...In somewhat nuttier alternatives: KP have added a slightly disappointing Caramelised Onion, Balsamic Vinegar and Herbs Christmas-ish flavour to their previously-faultless Baked and Seasoned Nuts range (£3.49/400g), but at least they weren't as weird as Passion Shed's Modena Way "Jumbo pecan nuts drizzled with real Italian Balsamic Vinegar and seasoned with a piquant Balsamic and Oregano seasoning" (£2.79/175g in Waitrose).
And speaking of KP: "Hi, can anyone remember a snack that I think was made by KP - they were two savoury-filled wafers like a Twix packet with a creamy filling of cheese flavour and a bacon one I think like what you get in cheesy footballs?" "karen" inquires. "I can remember them being the best and this was late '80s/very early '90s. Help, it's driving me mad, oh and those crunchy crisps like hard Quavers - prawn cocktail packet was half pink and navy with the clear window and 10p, anyone remember them?"
Confirmed sighting: Walkers "Festive Editions" 2008
Posted: 21:45 Thu 23-Oct-2008. Price: £1.50. Location: Morrison's, Coventry. Sub-flavours: Ham and Mustard; Turkey and Stuffing; Ploughman's Lunch.
Word is that McCoy's are producing their own "Winter Warmers" limited edition (in Lamb and Mint or Steak and Ale Pie), but now it's straight over to "Nick T", who elaborates: There are few things more traditionally British at Christmas than to complain how British Christmas traditions are being commercialised. From letters to the Daily Mail whining about decorations being on sale in September to that slightly sinister man who unconvincingly claims he celebrates Christmas every day, it only takes the first sighting of that glassy twitch on the faces of the garden centre staff who know they'll have to listen to the Taiwanese dancing Santa eight hours a day for the next two months to let you know Walkers' repackaging of their hoary old "Festive Editions" can't be far away.
And, right on cue, here they are again. Ham and Mustard still smells better than it tastes and, thanks to its unfortunate plasticcy tang, remains a distant poor relation to the mighty Brannigans. Turkey and Stuffing is fairly convincing as long as you don't have a plate of real turkey and stuffing nearby, but still shares the saccharine sweetness I find in many of Walkers' recent offerings. Finally, and presumably only as a makeweight, is the bizarre addition of that fine old Yuletide favourite, the Ploughman's Lunch. Pardon? Step forward Cheese and Onion in a jaunty new packet.
Walkers will sell a ton of these to mugs like me of course but after the lipsmacking expectation of their recent Do Us A Flavour campaign, what an opportunity has been lost here when they could have come up with something truly different. For now, the company's efforts just reminds me of a forlorn panto clown on Boxing Day telly, honking a horn at the end of his career and trying to convince us we're having fun. (Note to Snackspot: might be worth keeping this one to republish this time next year, and every year, for ever.)
Confirmed sighting: McCoy's Limited Edition Extreme
Posted: 22:03 Thu 09-Oct-2008. Price: £1.54/multipack. Location: Asda. Sub-flavours: Chicken Madras, Spicy Paprika, Red Hot Chilli.
"Taras" reports: A very bland offering from McCoy's. You'd think, based on their standard chilli flavour, that these would be a flavourful kick up the backside, but no dice. The packets warn "Extremely hot and spicy", but to be honest they're about 1/3 the spiciness of Flamin' Hot Monster Munch. I'd try to assess these on the chilli hotness scale but I'd imagine it wouldn't rate enough to be significant. Chicken Madras is the best of the three flavours. Stick with standard McCoy's.
..."Taras" returns after a near two-year absence to expand on a previous passing mention - but, in my defence, I have at least marvelled at the unusual plate and rotary pizza-cutter that accompanies the Pizza Express Theo Randall pizzas submitted by "Belinda", who declares herself: "Very excited, have had RSS feed for ages but FINALLY found something to submit - new pizzas at Pizza Express! (see below - copied and pasted from their website.) Bit disappointing to be honest so I just ordered my usual American Hot because you can get two-for-one on any main course (not just Theo Randall pizzas) with their online voucher."
"Theo's Piemontese - Yellow and red peppers with fresh oregano, garlic, red onions and mild, nutty fontal cheese. Seasoned with anchovies, tiny lilliput capers, and bursting with flavour. Theo's Tonnara - Named after the traditional Italian method of tuna fishing, this rustic pizza has a tomato and creme fraiche sauce, yellowfin tuna, nicoise olives, anchovies, garlic and lilliput capers.
Theo's Gamberettini - A delicate marriage of brown shrimps and grated zucchini, with a [That's enough Theo Whoever-He-Is - Snackspot]."
Confirmed sighting: Kettle Chips Cheshire Cheese and Chutney
Posted: 00:30 Fri 03-Oct-2008. Price: £1.59. Location: Tesco, Rugby.
"Nick T" reports: In my 1980s photo collection I have a cherished snap of David Niven, pictured on the balcony of his Cap d'Antibes villa. His eyes retain that twinkle of past wild lives lived; a raffish flair which the world finds hard to replicate - yet, ravaged by motor neurone disease, his frailty betrays a sad emptiness.
I was reminded of this image whilst trying Kettle's latest offering: their "reimagining" of that classic '80s snack, the ploughman's lunch. Authentically tangy and moreish it hits so many long-forgotten spots, yet something is mysteriously lacking. But what? I inspect the long list of ingredients. Nutritious lard? Check. Artery-enhancing salt? Check. Dried cranberries, celery and liquorice extract? Er, check all them too.
...Not to interrupt "Nick T's" unexpectedly poignant posting, but this is just what I had in mind when I originally wanted to call the site I Have A Mouthful Of Crisps, And I Must Scream. Anyway, back to "Nick": "...It's the cheese. Cheshire cheese has a delicate, elusive piquancy and there's just not nearly enough of it here to cut through the dominant sweetness. Long a fan of Kettle Chips I applaud their efforts but guys, if you're going to show your company's American roots by putting cheese in everything, then let's taste it."
"I don't wish this to sound too critical. These golden little oval beauties are still a commendable addition to Britain's snack canon, but are only a seasonal line so snap them up before they disappear. Dear, misty-eyed old Niven would have loved these with a sundowner to remind him of near-perfect summer pub lunches back in Blighty, and so will you."