Scandinavian For Value

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A quick update.

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Sorry I’ve not posted for a while, but I have a physics exam in a couple of weeks and I have been studying for that.  I might be able to squeeze in a short review between now and then though.

In other news, my local Netto has closed and has been replaced with Morrisons.  This is a pain as the nearest Netto now is awkward to get to.  Also, you may have noticed that I have yet to visit an Aldi store.  This is because it is just as awkward to get to, so I will have to stick with Lidl for now.  The other alternative is to start reviewing stuff from “Heron Frozen Foods”, though it isn’t a yellow-fronted Eurostore.  It is actually based in Hull with many stores across the North of England, and they do sell a lot of “what on Earth is this?” type brands.  That goes in it’s favour, but it isn’t one of the Eurostores I set out to write about.

Incidentally. the products that are available in these stores are not technically cheap nasty produce, in my opinion anyway.  I am fairly certain it is all the typical branded stuff that you’d buy in Germany, Sweden or wherever except it has been rebranded in English and shipped over here.

Also, I’ve just realised that I’m not mentioning the nutritional information of the stuff I’m reviewing.  This is important, after all, the product could be like manna from heaven itself and be dirt cheap, but it’s no good if it’s packed with sulphites and MSG.

Written by just1bloke

8 June 2011 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Yellow stuff

with 4 comments

For some reason I have started to eat more toast than I used to.  It’s become my new snack of choice as a replacement for no snack at all.  So really I shouldn’t. But toast isn’t toast unless you can smear it in proper butter, not just some long-chain hydrocarbon such as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better” or the alternatives with similar plays on words based on the confusion with butter substitute.  None of which taste like butter at all.

So, I bought some Country Life, which was excellent.  After that had gone, I replaced it with some Tesco butter.  This wasn’t excellent. In fact, it should really have been called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Margarine“.  It wasn’t much cop frankly.  It was rock hard and I had to soften it on the radiator first.  It would’ve been easier to spread a piece of solid candle wax.   I soldiered on through it though as I’m not the sort of person who’ll ditch something if there’s (technically) nothing wrong with it.  Eventually, it ran out and whilst in Netto purchasing the biscuits reviewed previously, I picked up a packet of “Hollybush Butter (fnaar)”.

Hollybush Butter

I will admit, the double entendre name was the deciding factor in buying this.  I’ll let you all decide what Hollybush Butter might be a euphemism for.

So, what does Hollybush Butter (fnaar fnaar) have to say for itself?  Well, the tagline is “A taste of luxury… at a price you can afford“.  A bold claim.  So, I loaded the toaster with bread and examined the packet some more.  It is also “Blended butter from more than one country”.  What the hell?  Are we not able to make enough butter in this country?  Are they importing the scrapings from the butter churns in other countries and mixing it together here?  I suspect this is the spreadable equivalent of a bar of soap you’ve made yourself by squeezing together all the little left-over slivers of soap in the bottom of the soap-dish.  Evans Rees (Butter) Ltd are the company behind Hollybush Butter (fnaar) and are based in Swansea.  Not in a lovely Welsh dairy, but in a brown unit on an industrial estate just off the M4.

However, on the side of the packet is this “Quality Guarantee”:

“If, despite all the care we have taken, this butter disappoints you in any way at the time of purchase, please return it to me in Swansea, giving the date purchased, and the name and address of the supplying Retailer.  I’ll refund your replacement value, including your postage.  Applies to UK Mainland only.”

Followed by a signature by ‘Russel Carman” (or thereabouts).  That is quite a personal guarantee.

So, the toaster pops, and I open the packet in order to sample it.  It is a very light yellow colour, the same shade as tooltips in the Windows OS.  I assume that’s what colour butter is supposed to be rather than some of the bright yellow examples I’ve had before.  The other thing that struck me was how soft it was.  It wasn’t particularly warm in the kitchen either, so it doesn’t seem softened by the heat.  It spread effortlessly, easier even than the Country Life.

The butter in action.

It was delicious.  Very buttery, salted but not oversalty, not greasy and very tasty indeed.  I was so impressed I loaded the toaster once more.  I heartily recommend giving this butter a go.  At 99p for 250g, it’s definitely worth it.  In comparison, Asda butter is £1.24 for 250g and Tesco is £1.14 for the same weight.  Country Life goes for £1.30 and Lurpak is £1.60.

Scores:
Taste – 8/10
Spreadability– 9/10
Colour – 7/10
Value For Money – 7/10
Impression Given by Packet– 6/10

Total:  38/50

Written by just1bloke

22 April 2011 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Netto For A Change

with 2 comments

“Netto, It’s Scandinavian For Value” proclaimed the blonde girl in a non-descript Nordic accent whilst wearing a comedy viking helmet in the adverts, even though that Scandinavian isn’t even a language.  Netto translates as ‘net’ in Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Danish.  Also, she was about as Scandinavian as I am.

Netto does carry quite a reputation as being a cheap-ass store for people who ‘are too pikey even for Iceland’.  But, I wasn’t going in there to observe the regular clientele (though whilst walking round, I smelt alcohol on at least three different people, and I mean a lot of alcohol too).  No, I was there to try their wares.  Well, I actually went in for some finger rolls for the sausages I was cooking for tea.

They didn’t have any.  But they did have a good few brands I’d never heard of, so I thought I would give them a try.  I bought some biscuits.

First off, Chestertons (sic) Choc Chip Cookies. 

Chestertons Choc Chip Cookies

On the back of the packet, these are described as “A golden brown cookie with a crunchy texture made using real chocolate chips“.  The ingredients list them as being 17% chocolate chips.  There is no mention of the percentage of cocoa solids.   So, on to the product itself.  I ripped open the packet and tipped some out.

Chestertons Choc Chip Cookies

These were rather tasty.  They contained a good amount of chocolate chips and were indeed crunchy.  The chocolate didn’t taste cheap either and the biscuits themselves are not a bad size.  There isn’t much more I can add except that they were 45p for 200g.  Although this is quite cheap, Asda Smart Price cookies are only 32p for 200g, but they do taste a bit odd.  The Asda brand are 49p for 250g which is better value but unless you did a double-blind taste comparison between the two, I doubt you’d notice the difference.  The lesson to be learned here is don’t bother with branded cookies, they’re over priced.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Crunchiness– 8/10
Choc-Chip Density – 8/10
Value For Money – 5/10
Size idealness– 6/10

Total:  34/50

Next off, it’s Chestertons (sic) Milk Chocolate Digestives.

Chesterons Milk Chocolate Digestives

Described as “Wheatmeal biscuit, half coated in milk chocolate“.  Is there any biscuit more familiar than the chocolate digestive?  There is no mention of the amount of cocoa solids in the ingredients but it does say that they are 24% Milk Chocolate.  They are also “produced in the UK for Netto Foodstores Ltd.”.  A quick check of other packaging shows that seems to be the norm for these lesser known brands.  Whereas Asda/Tesco/Sansbury etc all have their own brand, it seems with Netto, Aldi and Lidl the manufacturer make the product exclusively for the store but keep their own branding.

Anyway, so I tore the packet open and tipped them out.

Chestertons Milk Chocolate Digestives

Nothing particularly remarkable, they looked like every other milk chocolate digestive biscuit on the market.  They tasted like every other milk chocolate digestive biscuit on the market too, although the chocolate did taste a lot like Galaxy chocolate which does earn them extra marks.  They are an ideal biscuit to go with a cup of tea, but has its flaws.  They require a certain dunking technique.  It has to be quick otherwise the chocolate melts.  They were 45p for 300g which, unlike the choc chip cookies above, it a far better deal than similar biscuits from other stores; Asda’s brand are 88p for 300g and Tesco’s are 87p for the same weight.  Asda Smart Price and Tesco Value Range biscuits are both 37p for 300g, but to be honest do seem to have a curious after taste to them.  To put it into perspective,  McVities are £1.30 for 400g.  By weight, that works out twice as much, but I seriously doubt they are twice as tasty.  I’d go for Chestertons, especially as the chocolate, which is a reasonably thick layer, tastes a lot like a famous brand.

Scores:
Taste – 8/10
Dunkability– 6/10
Chocolate generosity – 8/10
Value For Money – 8/10
Familiarity– 9/10

Total:  39/50

Written by just1bloke

18 April 2011 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Many Fruits

with one comment

Along with the Vitafit Juice, I also bought a carton of Linessa Light Multivitamin Nectar. 1.5L of the stuff.  This was in the more regular Tetra-Pak style carton with a screwtop lid.  I’d never heard of Linessa, and if you would’ve mentioned it to me before today, I would have assumed it was a port on the Black Sea.  But no, they make Multivitamin Nectar.  A ‘nectar’ is a fruit based drink which isn’t 100% juice and could be diluted or have additives.

Linessa Light Multivitamin Nectar

On the carton is depicted 9 different fruits.  The ingredients list 12, so for some reason they have chosen to not include grapefruit, mango and guava in the picture. It’s not all juices (from concentrates) as the apricot, banana, mango and guava are purees. It states it’s 55% fruit, and enriched with 10 vitamins, so it seems it’s ideal for the breakfast table.   A 200ml serving is but 46 calories.

You know how with juice cartons, there’s often a lid which then conceals a foil seal that must be punctured or ripped open?  With this product, the lid has teeth which cut the foil in one swift movement.  Very clever.  Except no, it doesn’t cut it right off otherwise it would fall in, but it leaves a flap of foil that acts like a heart valve.  When it came to pouring it out, it got in the way and the juice spurted into the glass like blood from a severed artery pulsing at a healthy 65bpm.

Once I poured a serving, the first thing that shocked me was the colour.  It was a very bright orange.   I suspect that’s the Provitamin A (beta carotene) giving it that colour.  It’s like ‘red diesel’.  Customs & Excise will know you’ve been drinking this because it’ll stain your bladder and kidneys bright orange and then you’ll get done for not paying fruit-juice tax.

So, tasting.  It’s quite thick.  Not thick like a smoothie, but closer to smoothie than juice.    Also, even though apple, orange and pineapple are the three main elements of the drink, I couldn’t really taste them.  The main flavours I got was the mango and guava followed by the banana and the passion fruit.  There was a citrus twang in the background  but it wasn’t very pronounced.

Because of its viscosity, it’s not a great thirst quencher, but as a carton of something to have on the breakfast table, it’s perfect.  And the carton, 1.5L for 79p is an absolute steal.  Compare this to a litre of Five Alive for £1.20.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Swiggability– 6/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Accuracy of packaging – 5/10
Cardiovascular mimicry – 7/10

Total:  33/50

Written by just1bloke

15 April 2011 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Vitafit Orange Juice from concentrate

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Waiting at the bus stop yesterday, I decided to pop across the road into Lidl as I was thirsty.  I went for fruit juice as I wasn’t in the mood for something fizzy so I picked up a bottle of orange juice and a carton of exotic fruit juice.  First off, the orange juice.  In a glass bottle no less.  A glass bottle with an unusually wide neck and a curious flat metal cap.  It looks like a cross between a vase and something they’d give you in hospital to pee into.

Vitafit Orange Juice from concentrate

It claims that it has a fruit content of 100% and is “Rich in vitamin C“.  Also, “with 8% fruit pulp”.  As with chocolate, there are strict guidelines about what you can call orange juice, or orange drink, or orange juice drink or all sorts of variations.  If you’re so inclined to know more, it’s under the “Fruit Juices and Fruit Nectars Regulations 1977”.

Well, what else can the label tell us? A 200ml serving is just 82 calories and 76% of your RDA of vitamin C.  The ingredients comprise only of ‘orange juice from concentrate’.  Also, it seems Danish for orange juice is “Appelsinjuice“.  1 of your 5-a-day, suitable for vegetarians and no added colours etc.

So, after shaking the bottle I poured out a serving.

Glass of Vitafit Orange Juice

Apologies for the photograph, but my camera phone had trouble focussing on the glass.  If you email me, I’ll send you a ‘Quality Control’ sticker to put on your monitor.  The juice is a decent healthy colour, i.e. not fluorescent orange.  A lot of foods are colour enhanced to make them fit some sort of ideal.  For example, some chicken feed contains additives that make the yolk a really bright yellow, almost orange.  And tinned peas seemed to be mixed with luminous green paint.  It really isn’t necessary and I hate it.  I like my food to look like food, not like an artistic experiment into vivid colours.

It tasted very good, like proper good quality OJ.  It reminded me a bit of Don Simon orange juice, but less sharp.  I had expected it to be acidic, it seems that manufaturers of cheap OJ top it up with battery acid or something to give it that extra tang.  It never works though, I had some Asda Smart Price OJ recently and it dissolved my fillings and left my tongue feeling like I had been licking ice-lollies made from Mr Muscle.  This is nothing like that, it isn’t sharp and so you can actually taste the orange in it.

That 8% fruit pulp is certainly noticeable and if like me you prefer your OJ with bits in, then you’re going to love this.  Any higher pulp content and it would become an orange based gazpacho.

Summing up, Vitafit Orange Juice is a cracking OJ, very pulpy if you like it and quite mellow for a citrus juice.  However, at 75p for 750ml it isn’t in the cheaper price bracket for OJ, and there are cheaper ones out there, but this is far from a low quality juice that doesn’t taste of oranges at all and that lifts the value for money score.

Scores:
Taste – 7/10
Texture – 8/10
Value for Money – 8/10
Unusual Containerness – 5/10
Tongue Friendliness – 9/10

Total:  37/50

Written by just1bloke

15 April 2011 at 11:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Sweeties

with one comment

Along with the Northwood muffins, I also bought a bag of sweeties.  Mister Choc – Milk Chocolate Peanuts in a crisp coloured shell. 99p for a 250g bag which is a fair size.  It’s not the sort of pack you’d eat to yourself, unless you’ve earned the nicknameHungry Daveor something similar.

Mister Choc – Milk Chocolate Peanuts in a crisp coloured shell

No catchy memorable product name here, just a brief summary of what you’re buying.  They are essentially peanut M&Ms, which those older readers will remember as being ‘Treats’. (Remember them? Treats?  What happened to them, eh? – Peter Kay).

I imagine Mister Choc carrying a few scars, prone to violence and mood swings and like Willy Wonka, has a history of people trafficking.

It also proudly claims to have no artificial colours.  This actually means “we haven’t listed E-numbers in the ingredients because as we know, E-numbers are bad and make children climb the walls and have learning difficulties“.  With the exception of seaside rock, every product now lists the proper names for E-numbers anyway.

Now, trading regulations in the UK (and probably the rest of Europe) state that if you say something is chocolate, it has to contain a minimum percentage of cocoa solids.  If it’s lower, it has to be called chocolate flavoured.  I assumed that Mister Choc’s Milk Chocolate Peanuts etc would contain ‘barely legal chocolate’, but no.  The ingredients listed 25% minimum cocoa solids.  Compare this to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk which purports to contain 20% cocoa solids.  This generally unheard of brand is more chocolatey (is that a word?) than Britain’s favourite chocolate bar.  That has earned it many more marks in my book already.  In my opinion Dairy Milk shouldn’t be allowed to be called chocolate at all as it tastes of cardboard that’s been steeped in cheap drinking chocolate.

Right, looking at the packet, there are two red triangles at the top.  These are to trick you into thinking you can tear the packet open.  It doesn’t and you can’t.  It only serves to psyche you up before making you viciously hack at it with a machete.  I suppose it’s to make you appreciate them more once you’ve fought your way in.

Once inside, I tipped them out.  They are pretty much are identical to Peanut M&Ms except for the lack of the letter ‘m’ and the patina isn’t as vibrant.  Maybe that’s the side effect of not using artificial colours.  Maybe the M&Ms factory is awash with synthetic dyes.

Colour Selection Available

See?  They have a mottled appearance.  Not like that matters.  Peanuts are a standard size anyway, and I was expecting the chocolate layer to be rather scant, but no.  It was thick.  The crispy shell was also quite thick and sturdy.  The one in the picture above only cracked because I dropped the scanner lid on it.  These sweeties seem larger than Peanut M&Ms, in fact about the size of the average grape.

They were very tasty.  The higher cocoa content really does make the difference.  They’re rather addictive too.  In the same league as Pringles and it is quite easy to put away more than you intended to until you have to make someone take them off you.

So, to conclude.  If you’re having a DVD night and want something to munch on, then sod regular peanut M&Ms, they’re overpriced.  Typically £1.50 for 185g bag.  Mister Choc’s at Lidl are just as good, nay better and are only 99p for 250g, an absolute bargain.

Scores:
Moreishness – 8/10
Crispiness – 8/10
Value for money – 9/10
Chocolate content – 8/10
Robustness of packaging – 8/10

Total:  41/50

STOP PRESS 21 Oct. 2011:  Mister Choc have dropped the “in a crisp coloured shell” and are now just known as Milk Chocolate Peanuts.

Written by just1bloke

14 April 2011 at 9:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Muffins

with one comment

Walking past Lidl yesterday, I thought I’d pop and get something for afters (I won’t say dessert, it sounds too clinical for my liking).  I spotted a pack of four muffins.

"Northwood" 4 Chocolate Chip Muffins

Never heard of the Northwood brand before, and seem to be a Lidl brand, but I thought ‘muffins are muffins, what can go wrong’?’  So I bought them, along with a bag of sweeties which will appear in another review.

As with all packaging, what you see most certainly isn’t what you get.  But in this case, Northwood have been refreshingly honest.  They declare “Giant Muffins with Chunky Chocolate Chips“.  I don’t know what constitutes as giant in muffin circles, but these were almost 8cm high and about 7cm across the crown.  Their depiction of how many chocolate chips are inside the muffin is remarkably accurate too.  Actually the picture below isn’t a good representation as it shows a large void of no chocolate chips.

Inside a Northwood Chocolate Chip Muffin.

I dismembered the muffiny goodness and my investigations showed that there were about 5-6 chocolate chips per cubic inch.  Now, the chips weren’t chunks of chocolate like you’d find in Asda Muffins, they were the common or garden chocolate chip of the kind you’d buy your kids to take to cookery class when they’re making cookies.

According to the ingredients, they comprise 17% chocolate chips.  The ingredients also list a staggering quantity of additives, all of which are given their rather scary and lengthy IUPAC chemical names.  Propylene Glycol would have sufficed for one of the emulsifiers, but Propane-1,2-Diol?  If I saw a tanker lorry jack-knife on the motorway and it said Propane-1,2-Diol on the side, I would run away as it sounds highly flammable, would strip my flesh and turn my car bumpers white.

Anyway, the muffins themselves were as tasty as the ones I usually buy from Asda.  I was expecting the chocolate chips to taste a bit cheap and nasty, and there was a hint of cooking rather than eating chocolate taste to them and that has cost them marks, but it shouldn’t put you off.  They could have been ever so slightly moister too though a dribble of custard would fix that problem.

The best bit is that they are only 99p for 4.  Excellent I say, given the size and the amount of chocolate chips within.

Scores:
Texture – 7/10
Taste – 6/10
Accuracy of packaging 8/10
Value for Money  8/10
Muffinyness  8/10

Total: 37/50

Written by just1bloke

13 April 2011 at 11:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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