Compliments to the condiments…

Product Review: Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise and Jamonnaise

This review is a Yorkshire-inspired post after a visit to Spuds and Berries Farm Shop in Brackenholme (nr Selby). If you haven’t already visited this example of what a good farm shop should be, then I would urge you to do so. The fantastic fresh display that greets you as you walk through the door will make you want to explore further, as I did, and seek out some hidden food gems! If you haven’t spent all your money on fabulous food in the shop then you should explore further into their café where you’re likely to be served some of the great products on sale next door. The staff are very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. It’s a must for any Food Adventurer.

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: someone that demands a little more from their dips and wants a different experience; food adventurers who aren’t afraid to try new things

Packaging

My comments are the same for both products. The matt black labels and lids portray a sense of simplicity, class and quality. The distinctive pastel yellow contents of the jar make the label stand out well on-shelf giving it a good presence and visibility. The Jamonnaise product does a brilliant job of communicating the right messages to the shopper from the front of the product: ‘making boring food brilliant’ and ‘a devilishly clever mayo combo of chilli jam and rapeseed oil’. What more do you need than that? My only negative comment would be that the Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise fails to communicate any USPs to the shopper; you actually have to work quite hard to tell it’s rapeseed oil if you’re not well-versed botanist. Rapeseed oil has some important health benefits that, if communicated clearly, would broaden the product’s appeal.

Price

£3.95 – this is exactly what I’d expect to pay for products like this. It’s artisan, it’s different and that’s something that you should expect a premium on.

Delivery

I tasted both products0 on their own and then with a water biscuit; please be assured that’s not how I usually enjoy my condiments but it’s the best way to ensure I’m not masking the flavours with a hearty skin-on chip!

Yorkshire Oak Smoked Mayonnaise

This is a great alternative to mayonnaise. It has a smooth creamy texture with an undercurrent of earthy notes that come from the rapeseed. Unlike the synthetic, unrecognisable mayonnaise that large manufacturers vomit into jars and force down the throats of de-sensitized consumers, this didn’t leave a sickly taste in the back of your throat; the creamy aftertaste sat and lingered softly for a while. The only drawback of this product is that I would have liked a more intense oak smoked flavour which would have added another layer to the mayonnaise. However the smoking process is quite a delicate balance and there’s always a risk it can completely overpower some of the other subtle flavours in the jar.

Jamonnaise

I loved this! It is layered to perfection in my opinion. The first flavour that hits you is the soft, sweet fruit which is succeeded by the earthy rapeseed and topped with a gentle chilli after burn. The intense cream, the delicate sweet and the subtle heat compliment each other really well. I can think of so many different uses for this product: as a dip, as a nacho topper, as a pasta sauce or to stir through a large bowl of hot, mashed potatoes.

Verdict – in a word, serendipitous! I’m really pleased with my fruitful trip to Spuds and Berries; I’ve found two products that won’t be sat in my cupboard for long! I may be taking a trip back to Brackenholme in the near future, I hear they’ve just taken a Raspberry Jam with Dark Chocolate!

Details:

http://www.spudsandberries.co.uk/

http://www.thechillijamman.com/

http://www.yorkshirerapeseedoil.co.uk/

Northern Munkee.

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The Graze Craze…

Product Review: Graze retail packs

Graze is a phenomenon that has impressed me greatly. From beginnings as a subscription snacks business it has progressed to be the embodiment of the snacking market trend. As consumers we are hungry for more variety in their snack and Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisps just aren’t doing it any more. We are also much more aware of what we’re snacking on, where it’s come from and what it’s doing to our bodies so health has become increasingly important. Having said that, we’re still snacking because we need to fill a hunger gap and scratch that itch so a snacking product will only be successful if, firstly, it tastes good – TASTE IS KING. Graze epitomises this shift in buying habits and has carved out a patch for other businesses to follow.

However, I have a confession to make: I have never had a Graze box; I am a Graze virgin. So, today I decided to pop my (morello) cherry! I bought three varieties of the retail translation of Graze that I picked up from a Sainsbury’s Local in Holborn which specialises in food-on-the-go.

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: people bored with mundane snacks, conscious about what they consume and with a hunger for great tasting products

Packaging

I love the packaging. The biodegradable sleeve encapsulates the business ethos and the messaging is clear, simple and puts across the products’ USPs. The packaging lends the product perfectly to lunch boxes and to be consumed on-the-go.

Price

£1.20 – for a premium snack this is a realistic price point; however the more value-conscious consumer may trade their calorie conscience for an 80g portion of fried snacks instead of a 25g snackette and get more bang for their buck.

Delivery

Thai Sweet Chilli Dippers

A small, but adequate, portion of light dippers with just enough thick, sweet chilli sauce. This is a great conversion of a trendy bar snack but Graze have taken the starchy, powdery elements of the snack out and replaced it with a light crunch. At just 83 calories the sweetness it feels like a, permissible, indulgent snack.

Salted Fudge & Peanut Cookie

This is a perfect little snack. It has the right blend of sweet goodies to keep a snacker interested but still sufficient health benefits to fit within the Graze portfolio. Unlike other products in the market, the balance between sweet and salty is pitched just right.

Lemon Drizzle Flapjack

This last snack is pure indulgence. The stodgy oats are offset by the light, airy lemon drizzle topping. This product is set apart by other flapjacks as it doesn’t leave a fatty grease on your fingers.

Verdict – in a word, converted! As a former Snacks Buyer and a self-confessed Food Adventurer, I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to join the Graze Craze. I have always been a fan of the brand but now I can say that I’m also a fan of the products. In the week that Metcalfe’s has signed a deal that might see it lose its identity, I hope the team at Graze never lose theirs. I think I might be developing a Graze Crave for my future snacking…where do I sign up?

Details: https://www.graze.com/uk/

Northern Munkee.

My Fair Tradey…

This post is about some fantastic Food Finds that I’ve discovered on my Food Adventures and I will be reviewing a range of Organic and Fair Trade chocolate bars from Traidcraft.

Before I dive into my review I want to offer some comments and thoughts on Fair Trade, ethical sourcing and sustainability. Don’t worry I’ve kicked my soap box to one side but this is a big issue that we should at least be aware of; being a Food Adventurer is all about awareness of what we’re eating, from all aspects.

Ultimately I believe that the Fair Trade mission is a fantastic thing and, where possible, I will always support Fair Trade. It is a great way of alleviating poverty in commodity producing regions, returning ownership back to the producers and ensuring that the planet has a sustainable food source that is protected for future generations. However, over the last couple of years there has been a moral blurring on the products that carry the Fair Trade mark. For me, and many other ethically conscious foodies, Nestle and Mondelez have sullied the mark. Yes, they both have an extensive CSR program but the mark for them is a sales and marketing tool as opposed to a desire to pay a fair price for raw materials (I’ve included a couple of links below to help you make up you own mind). This doesn’t mean that I’ve lost faith in Fair Trade and what it stands for, it just means that the foundation have made some decisions that I don’t agree with. There are a number of suppliers who have decided to continue buying ethically but not to pay money to the foundation to carry their mark which I think is a great compromise.

That being said, if the decision I faced was a choice between a Mars bar without the mark or a Cadbury bar with the mark, I’d be Cadbury every time.  So my appeal to you is: whatever you choose to buy and eat, read the label, it might tell you more than you were expecting.

Traidcraft is a fantastic business that endorses and enthuses about all things Fair Trade to build sales and awareness for a noble cause. So not only does it taste great, it doesn’t come laden with the tears of an underpaid, malnourished workforce…

So, onto my review!

northernmunkeebites.milkchocolate

Product/ Review: Traidcraft Chocolate (Milk, Dark, Milk Caramel Espresso, Dark Almond and Orange)

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: chocoholics and those with a moral buying compass.

Packaging

The packaging for this product is spot on for the category and consumer. The messaging on pack is simple but it calls out the key messages: cocoa %, organic and fair trade. The gold embossed print makes the product stand out on fixture and enforce the premium price tag. When you open up the box there’s even more information on the other side telling the Traidcraft story about ‘so much more than chocolate’. The only element missing on the packaging is any provenance and this is becoming more and more important to consumers. On visiting the website I discovered that this could be that the cocoa is made from a blend as opposed to a single origin; this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s lower quality than single origin chocolate and I believe it’s a miss to not include any provenance claims.

Price

£2.25 is a very reasonable price for 100g of quality chocolate. It’s definitely market appropriate and still accessible for anyone wanting to dabble in high-quality, ethical chocolate.

Delivery

I’ll take each bar in turn as they all offer something quite different.

The first bar I tasted was the 38% Milk Chocolate. Now, I am a milk fan so I was excited to find a milk with such a high cocoa percentage. I wasn’t disappointed. The initial hit of cocoa is followed up by a smooth, creamy warmth. Loved it.

Next, I moved up the flavour profiles and tasted the 38% Caramel Espresso. The first thing that you notice about this bar is the coffee smell that comes from the chocolate, for me it’s a little strong and overpowers any other notes. This contrasted with the taste as the coffee flavour was dumbed down and was less Espresso and more Macchiato. The coffee nibs and the caramel pieces added a great texture combination to the bar which worked really well.

I then moved onto the 55% Almond and Orange bar. The first flavour that hit me was quite a bitter cocoa which was intensified when the citrus hit me. The almonds came into play as I chewed and were softer than I was expecting. The harsh cocoa flavours soon subsided and left a creamy, chewy chocolate. I didn’t want this bar to end.

Finally I tore into the 70% Dark. I was expecting quite bitter flavours based on my experience with the Almond and Orange bar, but that didn’t come. Instead, the first flavour released was an intense dark berries that burst with creaminess as I chewed. The bar held quite earthy and rustic flavours that lasted way after I’d finished eating.

Verdict: In a word – fantastic. This was exactly what I expect from a well made chocolate bar. The flavours were sufficiently different to warrant their own space and would accompany a smooth red wine or an earthy coffee very well.

Details: http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

For those of you interested in learning more about Fair Trade and, in particular, Nestle please see the links below to make up your own mind.

archive.babymilkaction.org/pdfs/nestlefairtrade0210.pdf

www.nestle.co.uk/csv2013/socialimpact/…/nestlecocoaplan

Northern Munkee.

Ale Mail for NYE2016

This post was inspired by a Foodie Christmas present I received this year which was a selection ‘Box of Brew’ from Beer52.com.

Craft Ales have exploded onto the UK alcohol market with trendy pubs and microbreweries leading the way in the on trade market and a whole plethora of small producers finding their way into retail. Brew Dog has been a particular success story over the last 12-18 months having fully utilised social media and the power of crowd funding to grow their income and brand awareness. This revolution has also done wonders for the Beers, Wines and Spirits category because it’s driven a huge amount of value because retailers can now charge £2 per bottle rather than 50p with some of the ever-promoted big brands.

Subscription beer clubs have sprouted on the back of the on/off-trade success to allow fanatics to experience wares from lots of different producers, selected based on individual preferences, delivered straight to your door. What a fantastic idea! Clubs such as Beer52.com and Flavourly.com have done the foraging for you and unearthed some buried truffles of ale, packaged them up and sent them straight to you door. All you have to do is open, enjoy and evaluate so you can decide whether you want to see more from that particular small business. So that’s exactly what I did!

Now, I am not a hipster. I have never sported a top knot nor have I cultivated a beard for any other reason than laziness and therefore I am not your typical craft ale drinker. If truth be told I’m more of a cider support than an ale ally. However, I can’t profess to being a Food Adventurer without being, well, Food Adventurous. So I wholeheartedly decided to take on the challenge and enjoy my Christmas Craft Ale last night, alongside Jools Holland on NYE2016.

I’m going to rate the beers I tried on three measures: quaffability (did I enjoy the drink?); appearance (what did I think of the look of the liquid and packaging?); overall (how likely am I to buy it again?). I will also rate my overall experience from Beer52.com

The first bottle I tried, and remembered to make notes on, was from Gypsy Inc. and called Gypsy No. 5. It was a 6.2% cloudy ale with a strong, hoppy initial flavour that evolved to leave a lasting, smooth, caramel finish.

Quaffability: 8/10

Appearance: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

I then explored a darker ale from Brew Fist called Caterpillar Pale Ale. It was darker in appearance than the Gypsy Inc. and, although it was 5.8%, had a much harsher, almost peppery, initial hit with harsh citrus tones to finish.

Quaffability: 4/10

Appearance: 7/10

Overall: 5/10

My next selection was made purely with my eyes, I loved the packaging. It was a small aluminium can from Them and Us. When poured, it delivered a smooth 4.5%, almost, gas-less ale with light fruit flavours. The deep mahogany hues in the glass were almost mesmerising!

Quaffability: 8/10

Appearance: 10/10

Overall: 8/10

Finally, because I could have continued all evening but I would have become more and more nonsensical, I unleased an American Pale Ale from Emelisse. This was a much lighter and gassier beer at 3.5% and appealed to my familiar tastes much more than the others. It gave a very light, crisp and refreshing drink with delicate citruses at the end.

Quaffability: 10/10

Appearance: 9/10

Overall: 9/10

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by my Ale Mail and, although it wasn’t something I would have chosen for myself, I’m a convert! With a good salty snack and some rugby to watch I could happily work my way through some more craft ales. The delivery from Beer52.com was well presented, easy to follow and guided me through this new experience. I would definitely recommend this gift for a foodie. Note to self: keep on being Food Adventurous!

Northern Munkee

Product Review: Bim’s Kitchen

Review – African Tigernut, Coconut and Cashew Butter [Bim’s Kitchen]

Rating: 7/10

Appeals to: nut butter enthusiasts and Food Adventurers.

Packaging

This is a really exciting sub-category of spreads with a lot of growth coming from peanut and other nut butters which means there is a lot of noise on the fixture and new entrants to the category. The growth is being driven by health conscious consumers looking for a protein-rich snack and shoppers demanding more from the category; products like Sunpat are great for hitting a price point but the synthetic delivery isn’t exciting shoppers any more. So, to compete in this arena, you must shout out your USPs from the busy shelf; does Bim’s Kitchen achieve this, I’m afraid not. The packaging is good but, in my opinion, it doesn’t talk directly to the people visiting this space in supermarkets. It does, however, fit well within the rest of their portfolio as African food specialists so they might find their niche in World Foods rather than in a heavily saturated marketplace.

Price

£5.25 for 190g is very steep and it will standout like an anaphylactic thumb against the competition. I would see this as direct competition against the likes of the fantastic Nut Shot or Pip & Nut and at this price point it isn’t going to worry them too much. As a shopper I fully appreciate that cashew nuts are an expensive commodity, particularly in comparison to peanuts, however this message is lost on the packaging and just seems a little out of touch.

Preparation

I enjoyed this with a couple of slices of lightly toasted white bread. The website suggests that it could be used as an ingredient for a sauce but I felt this would mask a lot of the subtle flavours.

Delivery

FANTASTIC! I have sampled one other cashew and tigernut butter and it was quite powdery and hard-going. This restored my faith in this style of nut butter. I cannot fault the delivery at all. It was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury and a really great food.

Verdict: In a word – frustrating. The food is phenomenal but, because of the failings of the rest of the product, I don’t believe people will pick it up to give it a chance. Having said that, with some tweaks to purchasing and packaging I believe this would be a brilliant proposition. There are a few barriers to entry but as a Food Adventurer I am happy to pay a premium for an exciting and great tasting spread.

Details: www.bimskitchen.com

£5.25

Other variants: African Baobab and Peanut Butter,

Northern Munkee.

 

 

Product Review: Punjaban Sauces

Review – Tamarind Curry Base [Punjaban]

Punjaban Curry Base - Label Front

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: time-pressured foodies who want to serve a restaurant quality meal in less than half an hour and for less than £10

Packaging

Packaging is so important for small producers and it really can be the difference between a great product working and a great product withering. Most small producers have a great story behind their food but most of them struggle to get that story, and their food, off the shelves.

Punjaban, meaning Punjabi lady, has opted for classically premium packaging with a mostly black label. I like the fact that they have featured Charlie, the creator, so heavily on the packaging as this is a great way to get people to buy into your mission. The label design is very simple but I do find it effective. The curry base is nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free but this isn’t over communicated on the packaging – which, for me, is a big plus. I have a real issue with food products whose main selling point is what isn’t in it; have some pride and tell me why your food tastes so amazing!

The fact that this product is a curry base, not a sauce or paste, may be lost on some users but the instructions are idiot-proof so this won’t be too much of an issue.

One potential miss from Punjaban is that they have opted to put their products in glass jars. I appreciate the fact that glass is much cheaper to buy in small runs than bespoke and innovative packaging but the Cooking Sauce category has left the glass jar behind and moved into (slightly) more exciting things like pouches, tubs and bags.

Price

£2.50 is a reasonable price point for a handmade sauce and it does signal to the shopper that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill curry sauce. It certainly won’t break the bank when you add your recommended 650g of protein, a pilau rice and some appropriate breads.

Preparation

Punjaban Curry Base - Cooking

This was very simple and took me less than 15 minutes to do, even with a couple of additions. I chose to fry my turkey in butter first, which is one of the options the directions gives. The aromas that hit me as soon as the base hit the hot pan were incredible. I could almost taste each individual spice used which you don’t expect from a jarred sauce. Once I’d followed the directions I chose to add a small handful of fresh coriander, not because the flavours were lacking but you can’t beat fresh herbs, and a spoonful of crème fraiche to soften the heat a little. I served the dish with a side of pilau rice and a small glass of Chenin-Blanc Voignier.

Delivery

Punjaban Curry Base - Served

The flavours that came through from this curry were spot on. The first to swallow your taste buds was a deep tomato that sat beneath a crisp layer of spices that set in after your first chew. The heat wasn’t offensive but it lingered at the end of each mouthful to let you know it’s there. My only potential criticism is that it was a bit too ‘saucy’ and may be the extra water recommended in the instructions wasn’t required, however, as a regular curry eater, it should be a compliment that this was one meal that I didn’t want to end.

Verdict: In a word – brilliant. As a dish this worked fantastically well and I’d be proud to serve this at a dinner party and pretend that I’d spent all day searching for the right ingredients to produce an authentic Punjabi meal. This certainly represents a step up in terms of quality from the plethora of £1 curry sauces that adorn supermarket shelves. The only reason for docked points is that I question whether I’d pick this product up in the first place based on appearance alone. It’s not clear from the packaging that it houses a fantastic quality product. I have no doubt that once people try it they will clear their cupboards of any remnants of Uncle Ben’s curry sauces but what will encourage them to find this hidden gem?

Details: www.punjaban.co.uk

£2.50

Other variants: Bombay Potato, Hot Authentic, Medium Authentic, Mild Authentic, Naga Chilli, Butter Chicken and Keema.

Northern Munkee.