BBQ with Chocolate!

BBQ Mini-Series: Xocolat Spice Fusions by Coeur de Xocolat

So, it’s officially the British summer and it’s that time when we fellas refuse to wear sun cream, go an offensive shade of puce and revert back to our Neanderthal instincts by making a fire to burn meat on.

I love BBQ season but living in the UK makes it tough to predict and event more difficult for retailers, producers and eateries to plan for. However each year the offering keeps on getting better and better and the categories that the BBQ occasion spans is ever increasing. We would now happily shop the meat aisles, bakery, salad section, spices, oils, condiments and, of course, the booze aisle. BBQ is much more than a category in retail; it’s an occasion, a mood, an ambience and something that the whole nation, nay the world, goes crazy for.

BBQ has increased in popularity over the last few years with the explosion of street food trucks and festivals that have shown the common household cook what is possible with a fire, a hotplate and a bit of food soul. If we get invited round to a friends for a Saturday afternoon Barbie it’s no longer acceptable to serve salmonella sausages or botulism burgers. Now we expect brioche buns, sliders, low and slow briskets, sliders, kofte, shawarmas and a fabulous infusion of world flavours and tastes all on an undersized paper plate.

Now, I’m good with a pair of tongs and a hotplate but I don’t profess to being an expert by any stretch so I’d recommend you check out the BBQ Geeks for some absolutely top tips and the perfect BBQ.

This mini-series explores some of the new and great products and recipes that I’ve foraged and found this year to make Britain’s BBQ season great. So, even if we need to turn to supplements rather than the sun for our vitamin D, we can always enjoy well-cooked, well-seasoned and well-complimented meat.

Xocolat Spice Fusions

Rating: 9.8/10

Appeals to: a true Food Adventurer and someone that demands more from their BBQ. If you love meat, BBQs and chocolate you’re in for a right treat!

Packaging

This product is hot off the press and was only just made available a couple of weeks ago. The packaging is simple but on trend with the chalk and chalkboard effect. My only criticism of the packaging is that there is a lot of text on the back and it’s quite small but other than that I’m a fan. I especially like the personal touch from David (@dghchocolatier) who is the creator of the range.

Price

£4.00 – for the category and size of the jar it’s absolutely spot on. You get a lot out of the jars which range from 70g-90g so £4 for a few meals is quite good.

Delivery

Chocolate as part of a savoury dish is something that is still quite alien to a Western palate but it’s slowly creeping into common usage with dark chocolate in a chilli con carne or a Mole sauce being widely accepted. However chocolate was a savoury ingredient for 3000 years before it became a sweet treat so it actually works really well. The chocolate in all of the flavours isn’t too prominent, instead it works with the ingredients of the rub to enhance and change the overall delivery slightly as opposed to usurp any of the other elements.

Ras-el-Hanout with Chocolate

I actually used this jar as a spice to flavour rice and it worked brilliantly. The familiar aromatic notes of the ras-el-hanout was met by a rich dark chocolate that brought out fruity tones and a lingering sweetness that played softly with my brown rice.

Jerk with Chocolate

This concept works brilliantly. Jerk is a fantastic spicy and smoky flavour on its own but when the cocoa is introduced it takes it a whole new level. Love it! I went simple with this one and marinated some chicken with some olive oil and then straight into a hot pan.

Smoky Paprika with Chocolate

This Spice Fusion is similar to the jerk but much sweeter with the chocolate reacting with the sweet peppers. I opted to use this jar as a dry crumb baked atop a beautiful Scottish salmon,

Steak Seasoning with Chocolate

This jar has to be used with red meat and left to marinade overnight. The chocolate adds a real depth and texture to the seasoning and really cuts through a good cut of meat. Perfect!

Verdict – in a word, sweet-fusion! I know that this concept is something that doesn’t necessarily sit right with all of us but believe me when I say you need to try this before you pass judgement. Chocolate and meat is a brilliant combination for any Food Adventurer to seek out.

Details: http://www.coeurdexocolat.co.uk or http://www.xocolatshop.com

So all that leaves me is to ask: what’s your favourite BBQ recipe, tip or trick? Come on folks, leave me a comment below because sharing is caring.

Also, before you go take a look at my blog on a fantastic condiment I reviewed earlier in the year; it’s the perfect accompaniment to any pork dish.

Northern Munkee.

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Pimp My Egg…

Product Review: Crackin’ Egg Co

Snacking is one of the fastest moving and most lucrative categories in food retailing; it’s constantly evolving where we, as consumers, become increasingly time poor and demand a more portable, convenient repertoire.

A cornucopia producers from multinational corporations to startisans have sought for new ways to steal a share of the market. This quest has seen a number of innovations hit the market place over the last ten years with health taking a leading role in terms of the snacking shoppers’ needs. However, as I’ve mentioned before, in this category TASTE IS KING. A successful snacking product needs to be firstly, great tasting and secondly, healthy. The era of Slimming World punishment eating has gone and health conscious shoppers and snackers are making lifestyle changes not short, sharp shocks to the system.

This review presents the ultimate in the cusp of the snacking trend. It takes the uber-convenience of a ready-to-eat boiled egg and pimps it! It is the definition of taste meets convenience.

Here’s what I thought…

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: gym junkies, health conscious, time-poor snackers

Packaging

I really like the packaging and branding. It’s not over the top but it’s targeted right at the early-adopter target audience with a matte cardboard sleeve that provides good shelf presence when it’s compared to other similar products on the market. The producers have also been careful to call out cues that are important to the snackers they are targeting: low GI, low in carbs, GF. The cleverest thing about the packaging, in my opinion, is the egg itself. Want to grab someone’s attention? Do an Avatar and paint yourself bright blue!

Plus there are some egg-cellent egg-based puns on-pack and who can resist joining a pun-off, even if it’s just for the crack?

Price

£1.59 – now if you sit there and work out the value in comparison to pack of a dozen eggs then you’ll be disappointed, but don’t do that. This price is for two eggs, which is an ample snack. If you compare it to other things being bought as snacks this is bang in-line with where it should be. Plus you can often pick them up on promotion at 2 for £2.50.

Delivery

Brilliant. I am already a fan of hard-boiled egg; whether they’re fresh or pickled I love them and they were a staple of my diet many moons ago when I played sport. However, this is taking them to the next level.

The flavour sachets add a depth to the flavour and lift the fleshy egg textures. There is always a danger that you drown the egg but this has been portioned just right. This is a great substitute for any other mid-afternoon snack and I’d take these over a bland sponge cake any time!

Verdict – in a word, egg-squisite (sorry!)! This is a great example of how fast-paced and alive the snacking category is and Crackin’ Egg Co have fit perfectly into the mould of what people expect: healthy, tasty and convenient. Great work Egg Men!

Northern Munkee.

The Perfect Pair…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Cocoa & Roast Club

This is the final instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Cocoa and Roast Club with Coeur de Xocolat/Lulu Coffee

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters those who enjoy the finer things in life.

Packaging:

The packaging was simple and minimalist but it just built my expectation to tear my way into it!!

Price: 

£19.99 which is the perfect price for the experience that Cocoa and Roast Club is introducing.

Selection:

Coeur de Xocolat Milk Chocolate with Salted Toffee & Dark Chocolate with Peppermint

Lulu Coffee Guatemalan Single Origin

Cocoa and Roast Club have created more than a food subscription box here, they’ve created an ambience, an atmosphere and a moment in your life. Food pairing is an art not a science and there is no more perfect example of pairing than a hot drink with an indulgent treat. Most food subscription boxes on the market, whilst great, are simply a personal shopping and discovery service; Cocoa and Roast have gone one step further and have infiltrated 30mins of your weekend by asking you to grind the beans, boil the kettle and savour the rich cocoa and coffee.

This particular combination of cocoa and roast went together like green and grass so I need to take a moment to pause and walk you through it: I opened with a sip of the coffee which commences with rich caramel tones that morph into deep earthy flavours and a soft nutmeg finish. The salted toffee bar presented a delightful mirror of flavours starting with a velvety smooth cocoa and caramel blend and into a salted lift to close. The flavour journey presented sweet into earth into sweet into salt and I found myself queuing up for another go!

Verdict: in a word, sign-me-up (still just one word)! I’m a big fan of this breed of subscription box. I enjoy the forage and discovery in farm shops, markets and festivals but having an expert guide you through the flavour experience as a reassuring maitre de maison is fantastic.

Northern Munkee.

Dark, thick and saucy!

Product Review: Salubrious Sauce Company Original British Breakfast Sauce

I love a good table sauce but a really good one is difficult to find. We’ve been conditioned over the years by Warren Buffet’s Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) that tomato ketchup and brown sauce should be thin, lifeless and synthetic but that’s just not true!

There are a number of really brilliant sauces on the market now from companies like Tiptree, Great British Sauce and this one – Salubrious Sauce Co.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a bottle of their Original British Breakfast Sauce that I paired with some Heck Square Sausages (just to ensure I was getting the full British breakfast experience!) and this is what I thought…

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: people like me that refuse to have the sauce dripped over their eyes when it comes to the real taste of our condiments!

Packaging

The label is simple but does a perfect job and invokes thoughts of provenance, authenticity and quality. The bottle is thick and sturdy like any premium sauce bottle should be.

Price

£4.25 – this is a little steep versus other products doing a similar job but as a rule of thumb the price point should be a quality indicator; this tells you that you’re not getting Daddy’s!

Delivery

This is fantastic and just what I expected. It opens with a sweet tomato flavour that bounces into chunky dark fruits and the spicy notes finish off the palate with a light, tangy lift. Now not many sauces do this but this little flavour has the power to change the profile of the whole plate and it perfectly compliments any meaty breakfast.

Verdict – in a word, saucy! I can understand why you’d settle for less if you’re having a dirty breakfast to cure a hangover at a greasy spoon; anything else you’re just not doing your stomach justice!

Yorkshire’s finest delivery…

Food and Drink Subscription Boxes Mini-Series: Posted Pantry

This is the first instalment in my mini-series covering Food and Drink Subscription Boxes.

Food subscription boxes are still a relatively new phenomenon in the UK but they are going from strength to strength. The trend really seemed to gain traction when Ben Jones posted his first Graze box to offer lifestyle-conscious snackers an alternative to the dusty vending machine in the corner of the office.

Now you can satisfy your food foraging and drinks detecting needs for almost anything without even leaving the comfort of your own wifi hotspot. There are some brilliant subscription boxes out there for meat, alcohol, snacks, artisan food, grow-your-own kits and so much more. Think of them as your own personal foodie shopper trawling through the racks of artisan food and drink to find something that’s just in your size and colour.

Product Review: Posted Pantry’s Yorkshire Box

Rating: 8/10

Appeals to: foodie foragers, local business supporters and farm shop frequenters.

Packaging:

This subscription box came parcelled up exquisitely to give a great premium feel as well as protecting the integrity of the goodies inside.

Price: 

£22.50 which, for the volume of product you receive straight to your door, is brilliant value; plus you’re getting the added concierge service of hand picked products.

Selection:

Twisted Chilli Tandoori Marinade

White Rabbit Yorkshire Honeycomb Chocolate

Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil

Bracken Hill Yorkshire Lemon Curd

Side Oven Organic Biscuits for Cheese, Organic Museli & Goldenberry’s

Posted Pantry have opted to bring together some of Yorkshire’s finest artisan producers as an introduction to quality food in the White Rose county.

Verdict: in a word, good’un! This is a great way to broaden your food horizons without leaving your own kitchen. In structuring the subscriptions regionally you also get a great sense of the story behind the producers and a greater insight into where the food comes from. Get yourself signed up!!

Northern Munkee.

Pipped to the Post!

Product Review: Pip & Nut

So it’s official. I’m an addict, but that’s ok right? The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem…but my problem is I don’t want to admit, not yet. Hi, my name is Northern Munkee and I’m a Nut Butter Nutter.

Not much has changed in the market place since my peanut butter series but this blog opens up something completely new to the category: on-the-go.

On-the-go is a very trendy category and it’s one that a lot of suppliers and retailers are desperate to get right. The beauty is that the on-the-go category is so expansive and subjective. What is it? It’s impulse, it’s snacking, it’s portion-control, it’s portable, it’s handheld, it’s over-priced, it’s…not easy to define. What this shows is a shift in eating habits that started in the early 90s and is driven by our time poor society. Take breakfast for example. When I was growing up breakfast was a meal taken at the table or at worst in front of the TV but I was definitely sat down. It wasn’t a chilled, oaty, yoghurt drink gulped down as I’m reminded to ‘Mind the Gap’ as I alight the tube! This movement in the breakfast category has been a long time coming with breakfast bars first introduced with Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain in 1996. The category has developed since then but the pace has really picked up in the last 5 years and handheld is certainly the present and almost certainly the future!

One issue this does present is competition. All of a sudden, as a supplier, you’re not just looking left and right at competitors within your category. You’re now watching your back from, well, almost anyone; even nut butter manufacturers brands…

I’m going to assess the Squeeze Packs in their own little review at the bottom of this, just to make sure I do them justice!

Rating: 9.8/10

Appeals to: nutbutter nutters, peanut fans, those against boring toast

Packaging

This is spot on. The most obvious thing about the packaging is that the brand values and personality shines through. It’s fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously which will really appeal to the excited generation of nutbutter nutters.

Price

£2.29 (250g Jar) – this is actually really reasonable for the category and, potentially, undervalues the product slightly. However this price point does allow Pip & Nut to establish itself as a credible premium option and steal some share from the palm-oil loving Whole Earth.

Delivery

So, what makes Pip & Nut different? Well it has the mark of quality that all good nutbutters should, the separation of the nut oil. It has familiar and appropriate flavours. But for me the thing that makes it stand out, and achieve the best score I’ve given so far as a blogger, is the consistency; it’s not smooth but it’s not crunchy. Your mouthful is interrupted just the right amount of times by variation in texture and nutty goodness.

Peanut Butter

This was brilliant. It had an initial creaminess presented by the nut oil that was embraced by a sticky, nutty aftertaste. I usually like my peanut butters a bit more crunchy than this but the taste was just superb.

Almond Butter

This butter is superb. It’s sweet but has a really rich texture so what it gives to peanut butter in terms of earthiness it makes up for in texture and creaminess.

Coconut and Almond Butter

These flavour combinations work perfectly well together. The oaty hit from the initial coconut flavours merge into a sweet almond paste that makes for a really light and delicate spread. This has to be my favourite of the bunch!

Honey Cinnamon Cashew Nut Butter

This jar delivers three layers of flavour. First you get a smooth sweet honey which builds in intensity as it passes onto a sweet, creamy cashew nut and the last out of the blocks is the light heat of cinnamon. What a brilliant creation.

Squeeze Packs

Quite simply brilliant. The flavour delivery was exactly the same as the jars. The packaging was absolutely appropriate to the audience and on-trend. This will appeal fantastically well to the main growth drivers of the nutbutter category: fitness fanatics. I think this is a very shrewd move by Pip & Nut and they’ve listened very closely to their customers and delivered a pack that’s more appropriate for their mission which is absolutely on-the-go. They’re priced at £0.99 RSP so, again, I believe that Pip & Nut are doing themselves a disservice here because the fitness category is expensive with protein bars commanding a premium price point. So if you’re a gym-goer, a cyclist, a runner or just one of those characters with all-the-gear-and-no-idea then you need to bin that Cyclone bar and pick up a Squeeze Pack!

Verdict – in a word, fantastic! The delivery on the nutbutters is fantastic but for me the real gem in this review is the squeeze packs. It’s absolutely bang on trend and what the category needs. I’m excited to see how the story develops with squeeze packs but I can only see it get bigger and bigger.

Details: http://www.pipandnut.com/

Northern Munkee.

Private & Exclusive!

Product Review: Privateer Jerky

So here we are again – another meat snack review and I love it! There is a whole world of outstanding meat snacks from the UK now and I won’t be happy until I’ve worked my way through the lot!

Once again this is a very different meat snack to anything I’ve tried before. We’re now into the realms of premium jerky…

Rating: 9/10

Appeals to: meat snackers, jerky fans and those with a sophisticated palate

Packaging

The packaging is really simple. A well presented card detailing the premium branding sewn to a vacuum packed, meat pillow! And what more do you need?

Price

£4.00 (40g bag) – now this is the most expensive of the meat snacks I reviewed but £4.00  for a premium snack doesn’t break the bank and you can tell from the packaging the look of it that you won’t be disappointed!

Delivery

So what’s different about this meat snack? Well you get quality chunks of fantastic quality meat that has been cared for and smoked over Applewood to create a elegant undertone that permeates the whole snack.

Black Jack ‘The Mild One’

The smoked wood notes lay the foundations that are built on by a sweet black treacle which melts slowly into the soy flavours to leave a sweet, aniseed hint as the smoke creeps around your mouth. Enchanting!

Jolly Red ‘The Hot One’

This is fantastic! There is the familiar introduction of the smoke but then the sweet notes and the chilli heat begin to waltz with each other. The heat isn’t overpowering but it builds and sits on the tongue.

Verdict – in a word, exclusive! This is unlike any of the other meat snacks that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. It is more premium, cared for and more exclusive. It’s the difference between a cigar and a great cigar. There are layers of subtle flavours that gang up on your taste buds and ambush them in a symphony of premium tastes. Great work Privateer!

Details: http://www.privateerjerky.com/

Northern Munkee.