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Archive for October 2011

Coffee Time

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Contrary to all the available evidence I do actually drink hot beverages too.  Mainly tea, but I will have a cup of coffee now and then.  Although we still had almost a full jar of Carte Noire instant in the cupboard at home, I saw in Lidl a jar of instant coffee and thought I may as well give it a whirl.  GranArom Highland Gold 100% Arabica.  £1.68 for 100g.

GranAroma and Amaretti

I’ve yet to figure out what they mean by gold coffee, because it seems the only difference is the colour of the granules and the price.  And why Highland?  There aren’t any coffee plantations north of Stirling, surely?  If so, the Scots are keeping that quiet.

The back of the label gives no clues either, it just says beans taken from the world famous plantations are blended and so on.  It doesn’t say which famous plantations.  I mean it could either be the ones on the banks of the Clyde at Lanark, or that well known plantation in Fife.

I can’t help but read the name of this coffee as Granarama, which is pretty much what Tower Nightclub was on a Friday night.

I took the lid off to partake of the aroma.  Although it’s not as good as opening a new pack of coffee grounds and getting a noseful of that, but some satisfaction can be gained from instant.  However, it isn’t in this case.  Seeing the look of disapproval clambering all over my face put my wife off having a smell too.  Hearing me utter “ugh, Christ!” convinced her that she didn’t want to drink it either.  I opened the Carte Noire just to check if my nose was working properly.  It was, the CN smells gorgeous.  Granarama just smells, well, it just smells burnt, with a definite undertone of a cigar tube.

But, soldiering on in the cause of informing the consumers, I boiled the kettle.  I then had an idea.  I would create two identical cups of coffee.  One Granarama, and one Carte Noire.  I got identical mugs, added a pre-measured amount of milk, same amount of coffee and sugar and filled the cups to the same level.

Comparing coffee

Pretty much identical in appearance

They are visually identical, but that idea of equality is deceiving.  I tried the Granarama one first, I didn’t want to be spoilt by the Carte Noire.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant.  It wasn’t unpleasant, but I found it tedious to drink.  It was the caffeine equivalent of watching a TV test card.  So much so, that I found myself idly playing noughts and crosses on a blackboard with a rag doll.

Now to make it more interesting, I had also picked up some amaretti biscuits to go with it, as seen in the top picture.  Amaretti biscuits by Ital d’Oro. (99p for 200g)  Ital d’Oro is pidgin Italian for Gold of Italy.  Being made for Lidl though makes it about as Italian as Oktoberfest.

You remember when you was inoculated against polio and was given a sugar cube with the vaccine in it?  Imagine that instead of polio vaccine, they used almond essence instead.  That’s what these amaretti biscuits were like.  Not even decent almond essence either, it tasted a bit synthetic.  They were mostly sugar and were cripplingly sweet.  I didn’t dare eat more than two in case my dentist came round and gave me a good hiding.

Oddly, the biscuits did make the coffee more palatable.  How does that work?  Maybe it brought out the bitterness which improved its chances in this test. It now tasted like the piss-poor coffee you get from piss-poor vending machines in piss-poor public facilities.  The sort of coffee that you wouldn’t want to pay more than 15p for.

Incidentally, the coffee jar informs me that I can get 58 cups out of that 100g jar.  I don’t think I’ll bother to be honest.  I think I’ll save it for visitors.  Visitors that aren’t family or friends, maybe the British Gas bloke who comes to service the boiler once a year.  And Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Invite them in, make them a coffee and then put some earplugs in whilst they do their spiel.  “That’s right, drink your coffee.  What was you saying about God?  Would you like a top up?  Have one of these biscuits.  Yeah, they are a bit aren’t they?”

As for the amaretti biscuits, I would only recommend you getting a packet if you live with someone who is prone to hypoglycaemia and needs a quick sugar boost.  Hang on, I can hear the gate.  My dentist is walking up the garden path, stall him, I’m off out the back door…

Scores:
Taste (Coffee) – 3/10
Taste (Amaretti biscuits) – 2/10
Value for Money (coffee) – 3/10
Value of money (biscuits) – 3/10
Sweetness (biscuits) – 13/10

Total:  24/50

Written by just1bloke

21 October 2011 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Beverages, Biscuits

African Special Part 2

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Yes I know, I hear you.  “What?  Another fruit juice drink?  Is this all he buys?”.  No it isn’t, but I did buy this because it was in the African promotion along with the springbok steaks, so I might as well tell you all about it.  So, what we have is “African Spirit“.

African Spirit Juice Drink

African Spirit Juice Drink is produced by “Plein Sud”.  According to the internet, Plein Sud doesn’t even exist.  It’s merely a trademark owned by Lidl themselves.  It is actually French for “full south” whatever that means.  African spirit is an “Orange & mangosteen juice drink – fruit content 30%”.

I’ve heard of mango, but not mangosteen.  Between reading it on the carton and looking it up on Wikipedia, I had already conjured up the image of an African farmer grafting mango shoots on to another fruit tree in a thunderstorm and then crying out “Give my creation life!!!”.  However, the truth is slightly less ‘Mary Shelley’.  It is a fruit that is found in parts of Indonesia.  You can certainly say one thing for Lidl, you get an overdose of internationality in their products.

There is also a graphic of an manga-style lion accompanying the tagline ‘Refreshing & Cooling’.  Well I’ll be the judge of that.  In my head, Manga-Lion speaks with one of those weird dubbed voices you get in Japanese cartoons.   I don’t understand why, in the backdrop, there is a bushman of sorts with a spear observing a giraffe through some binoculars.  What graphic artist designed this carton?  Salvador Dali?

So I opened the carton, which as you can see from the picture above, looks like it’s been stood on, and poured myself a glass.  I’ll not bother with a picture of that, because it looked a lot like the Linessa Multivitamin Nectar I wrote about in April.

Manga-Lion was right, it is refreshing.  It was also cooling, but that was due to the laws of thermodynamics as opposed to any endothermic chemistry of the drink itself.  In layman’s terms, it had just come out of the fridge.

The first thing I got was the citrus kick of the orange.  Not too strong, but enough to notice.  It was then quickly joined with the taste of what I assume is the mangosteen.  Mangosteen (as grown by Dr. Mangosteen on the roof of a castle in a thunderstorm) tastes pretty much like passion fruit, complete with the subtle flowery flavours.

About 800ml of refreshment later, 800ml which went down my gullet with alarming rapidity, I concluded that it is a fine quality beverage.  99p for 1 litre does seem quite a lot, but then I’ve been spoilt by Lidl’s prices.  In any other regular supermarket, it’s a typical price for a similar product, or maybe even more given the unusual ingredients.

Shame it was a promotion or I would buy it again.  It may well still be stocked in some stores, but I’ve not seen it since in my local Lidl.  But, like the springbok steaks, it’s worth seeking out.

Scores:
Taste – 8/10
Swiggability– 8/10
Value for Money – 7/10
International Jumbleness Factor – 8/10
Eccentricity of packaging artwork – 8/10

Total:  39/50

Written by just1bloke

20 October 2011 at 11:04 am

Posted in Beverages

African Special

with 2 comments

This is a long overdue review, and I apologise for sitting on this product for as long as I have. Brace yourself for this, it is, to date, the most unusual product I have ever seen in a shop.  Are you ready for this?

Springbok Steaks.  Yes, springbok, that is not a typo.  For those of you unfamiliar with your even-toed ungulates of the Kalahari, here’s a picture.

What my tea came from.

I was in Lidl and they were having an African food promotion, so I had a look what they had.  I got an unusual fruit juice, which I’ll write about later (yes, another fruit-juice review), a type of tomato based sauce and then I saw these steaks.  My reaction was “I’m having those!”.  I used my mate Adam’s imminent birthday as justification for paying the rather costly £4.99 for them.

So, what does the box tell us? Frozen Springbok Steaks (an African speciality from Krause Meat) are brought to us by Krause Meat, a meat suppliers 30 miles south of Hamburg who supply beef, pork, lamb, venison, springbok and suckling pig.  Oh, and ostrich too.

Although not very clear under the logo in my piss-poor photography below is the statement “… gut gegessen  …bewusst ernahrt”.   This translates as “…well nourished …eaten consciously”.  That reassures me.  I like my meat products to come from animals that have had a good diet as opposed to malnourished emaciated ones, and also that I’m not expected to be in a coma when I eat them; not least because of the logistics involved.

The serving suggestion (or serveringsforslag for the Swedish) on the box depicts a plate with £20 worth of steak scattered with chilli seeds, some slices of what looks like mango, some balls of what I assume is a sort of stuffing and some cous-cous with pomegranate seeds.  All depicted with a backdrop of an African plain with a couple of giraffes and a 30ft tall ostrich, though no antelopes at all.

On the back, it suggests I either fry or barbecue the steaks.  So, being at my friend’s house, I let him do the handiwork and he elected to fry them once they had defrosted.

Shrink-wrapped? I wasn't expecting that, seeing they were frozen.

The box contains two good sized (about 6oz) shrink-wrapped steaks.  They looked like pale beef medallions, maybe venison coloured.  We cut the packet open and our primary observation was that they appeared to contain little, if any trace of fat whatsoever.  He heated the frying pan, added a tiny bit of oil and stuck them in.

They took about 10 minutes to fry all the way through.  Unlike beef which shrinks a bit with cooking, these actually seemed to get bigger.  Not having any mango, cous-cous or unidentifiable stuffing, we decided to eat them on their own.

Cooked and served up.

With yet more evidence of the lack of ability of my camera phone to focus, I present the cooked steaks.   Not being beef, we made sure they were cooked all the way through as advised on the box, rather than leaving a bit of pinkness in the middle.  They were remarkably tender for fried steak and indeed did not contain the slightest trace of fat at all.  I expected them to be a bit gamey like venison, but they tasted more like beef, but the best beef steak I have ever tasted, and I do not make that claim lightly.  They were truly divine.

Adam added a bit of ketchup on the side of his plate but in the end didn’t bother with it because the natural jus that came out of the meat was more than enough of a sauce.  Adam was as equally impressed as I was  and resolved to visit Lidl and get some more.

Being a promotion, they might no longer be available in stores though you may find them somewhere.  If you see them, then don’t hesitate to buy some.  In fact go now.  Now, go on, go cruise around the local Lidl/Aldi stores to see if you can find them.  Go on, well read the rest of this entry first at any rate.  I cannot recommend them enough.  The only thing that lets them down is the price, but then what price good steak?   Especially one that you can eat whilst conscious.

Scores:
Taste – 10/10
Succulence – 9/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Accuracy of packaging illustration  – 6/10
Novelty value of animal used – 8/10

Total:  41/50

Written by just1bloke

18 October 2011 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Meat Products

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