Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Crisp Wars - The Verdict

(One orgy of crisp eating later - sorry, Gus)

This was interesting. I am glad I decided to try more than one packet of each new flavour of crisp, because the second tasting was very informative indeed.

Onion Bhaji flavour were pretty much the same on a second try. There was a point about halfway through the second bag where I got a bit bored with them, but I think that might have been due to bad flavouring in the factory rather than a fault with the recipe per se. There was certainly the same warm aftertaste, so on balance my opinion remains unchanged.

My views on Chili and Chocolate remain largely unaltered, too. Except to say that, first time around, my judgment was clearly clouded by the awfulness of the chili flavour, in that I entirely overlooked the unutterable awfulness of the chocolate. It is like the horrible cheap rubbish you get in chocolate advent calendars, only worse. Really very nasty indeed.

A return to Builders Breakfast initially disappointed me. I got nothing new from the rather extreme flavour combination and certainly couldn't find the elusive buttered toast flavour. Then, a short while after I had finished the packet, I belched and was rewarded with a lovely taste of bacon. Mmmm.

The flavour which lost the most ground on second tasting was Fish and Chip. I'm not sure what happened, but all I could taste this time around was fish. Admittedly it was a very good recreation of the flavour of cod, but on the other hand it was a flavour which felt rather unpleasant without the texture of white fish to accompany it.

Roast Duck and Hoi Sin Sauce was the surprise of the round. I cannot begin to explain why, but on this occasion the flavours were more bearable and in fact I finished the packet very quickly, almost absentmindedly pulling crisp after crisp from the bag. These could be the new Roast Chicken flavour, too strong for most occasions but ideal for when you are a little bit distracted or concentrating on something else.

Finally, Cajun Squirrel didn't do anything for me this time around. The flavour quickly became boring. As before, it was just like eating spicy potato. I fear that there is a limit to how much of that your body can stand before it loses interest.

My final rankings, therefore, are:

  1. Onion Bhaji
  2. Builders Breakfast
  3. Roast Duck and Hoi Sin
  4. Cajun Squirrel
  5. Fish and Chip
  6. Chili and Chocolate

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Crisp Wars - Part 2

OK, time for the second part of the Walkers Crispoff. I have now sampled the second set of three flavours and, on the plus side, I'm still here.

Fish & Chips

A word of warning. If you're expecting these to be anything like the old savoury snack, which from memory was like an intensely salty and vinegary biscuit, shaped like either a fish or a chip, you'll be very disappointed. There's no overwhelming odour at all with this packet and the aroma, if anything, is exactly the same as you'd get from unwrapping a fresh and hot fish supper.

Unfortunately, this promising start is somewhat ruined by the fact that you never really get the flavour of fish or indeed chips, the latter being surprising in a potato snack. What you get instead is the taste of fresh batter, which is not unpleasant in itself, but somewhat boring after a whole packet. It is as if Walkers were so intent on not making this too salty or too vinegary, that they forgot to put any depth of flavour in at all.

Roast Duck & Hoi Sin Sauce

It is hard to know just where to begin describing this crisp. In some respects, it is done very well. You can definitely taste both the duck element and the sauce, and the balance between the two is well maintained. The problem, though, is that the flavours are not as nice as they could be. The duck flavour is somewhat fatty, like the area closest to the skin sometimes is in a roast duck, rather than the moist, flavoursome flavour you get from a well cooked duck breast. And the hoi sin sauce doesn't have the smooth flavour of the real thing; this is harsh and does not last long enough on the palate - the response provoked is 'ooh, hoi sin - oh, it's gone'. It works, but not as it should.

Cajun Squirrel

Ever eaten squirrel? Nope, me neither. Apparently, it tastes like chicken, only sweeter. These crisps don't taste anything like chicken. They don't taste cajun, either. In fact, they taste like Bombay potato dishes do.

This may make you think that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong in the mix. But this isn't so. They may not be the crisps they claim to be, but they are very tasty nonetheless. The spice balance is just right, with a warming aftertaste.

What now? Well, I am going to give each flavour one more try, in a frenetic orgy of crisp eating. It might be that I change my mind on some things, but then again I might not. I just believe that every flavour deserves a second chance to impress me. The fact that I bought two six packs of them might come into it, too.

Monday, 9 February 2009


At church on Sunday (yes, I know...) we were treated to a sermon on adultery, part of a riveting series on the 10 Commandments . I'm not sure why they didn't save the best one until last, doing them in order just seems so predictable.

Anyway, in the middle of his lecture - getting a few things off his chest, I fear - the vicar suddenly announced that "...even when you have closed the door to keep the children out, God is in the room with you when you are making love".


I don't care who they are, I don't want anyone else in that room unless my wife's invited them.

Forget about committing adultery. Now I'm too scared to commit fidelity.

Crisp Wars - Part 1

You might not be aware of this, but Walkers Crisps are currently trialling six new flavours of crisp. Consumers are asked to vote for their favourite, which will, Walkers claim, be added to their permanent range of crisps.

Being a kind person - and with the reassurance that Bupa's Online Health Check has told me that I have a better than 75% chance of living until I am 90 - I decided to try all six flavours for you. Here are the first three:

Onion Bhaji

I expected this to be absolutely awful. I thought it was either going to be a sour version of their pickled onion Monster Munch, or a flavour so overpowering I wouldn't be able to taste anything for a week. I was delighted to find that nothing was further from the truth. The onion flavour is very subtle and the spice is just right - enough to taste, not enough to overwhelm. I always find that, with good Indian food, I still have the memory of the flavour several hours later. The same was true for this crisp.

Chili and Chocolate

Of all the six flavours, I was most curious to see how this one would work. I have had chocolate with chili in on many occasions and it is one of those treats which actually pales after a while - the extra tang and heat of the chili becomes annoying by the sixth piece.

These crisps improved on that, but not in a good way. The chocolate flavour was very subtle, as if the manufacturer was scared of putting too much sweetness into a savoury snack. And the chili flavour was just horrible, bitter and nasty. To be avoided.

Builders Breakfast

To explain, these crisps are supposed to capture the essentials of a full English breakfast. There's a lot to cram in and they've left out some things entirely, such as mushrooms and black pudding. Even so, Walkers claim to have squeezed egg, bacon, buttered toast and ketchup into these crisps. I'm not sure they have succeeded. There's certainly a very strong flavour of fried egg and a hint of ketchup. You get a faint taste of something porky, but it is more sausage than bacon. Butter and toast are nowhere to be found, swamped in the attempt to create something even Heston Blumenthal would think ambitious.

The other problem is that someone did produce Sausage and Ketchup crisps a while back, so this comes over as a bit of a pale imitation - not enough sausage, not enough ketchup and far too much egg.