Author Archives: Gary W Hartley

BAI ANTIOXIDANT INFUSION: KULA WATERMELON

BaiKula

Nobody knows what ‘Bai Antioxidant Infusion’ means; least of all its makers.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped them.

This drink is absolutely disgusting. Working off the strange mouth-drying sensation that Oasis fruit beverages do so well despite their liquid form, Bai Antioxidant Infusion takes the reigns and rides that horse off a cliff.

Watermelons are nice. Most teas are nice. This is nice hung, drawn and bottled, and all for well over £2. I can’t begin to work out how they could’ve fucked up a theoretically simple beverage so absolutely.

Naturally, I can only write about my experiences with the kula (again, meaning unknown) watermelon model. The other fruit flavours in the range may well be delicious. But just because the possibility of a thing exists, doesn’t make it in any way likely.

To make matters considerably worse, the label features a completely nonsensical story about Robin Hood in the most afterthought piece of narrative branding the world has ever had inflicted upon it – see below.

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That’s right, the marketing team behind Bai Antioxidant are advocating for its product to be made illegal. Edgy. Banter. Both. Or Something.

Given that is a company that is shifting enough units to justify a Super Bowl commercial starring Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken, I can safely say I understand the world less than ever.

If this is what antioxidants are all about, then I’m throwing my hat in with the oxidants.

TASTE/ EXPERIENCE: 1/10

TASTE/ EXPERIENCE + MARKETING: -5/10

PINGVIN LÆKKERMIXEN

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Average Food Blog does not shy away from niche international foodstuffs, and after a Danish friend left a half-finished bag of these Scandi snacks in my home, it provided a perfect opportunity to slip back into a subgenre of mediocre food writing we know so well.

First things first: on the packaging reads the words ‘Blød SKUM’. This means ‘blood SCUM’, and I have no desire to hear the views of either a) Google Translate or b) Danes as a means of proving me otherwise.

The pingvin after which these sweets are so named is also illustrated on said packaging, taking on a downright threatening pose. Armed with knife and fork, instruments of no traditional role in the eating of liquorice sweets, it is a blatant admission that the blood scum in question is of human origin.

As it transpires, the liquorice/blood scum mix is very pleasant.

I am an unashamed Liquorice Allsort fan, against all whims of fashion and good taste, and despite the addition of blood scum, these are very much playing on a similar stage. In fact, with all due respect to Bassett’s, the murderous polar bird sweets are the headliners, to Allsorts’ mid-afternoon set.

There is a broader palette of flavours here, from a deeper, more oaky liquorice than the British tongue is quite used to, to the tang of fruit. The sugary bits are more subtle than Bassett’s, more an exciting courtship than a hook-up in a pub toilet.

While this is not a Euro sweetmeat selection on a par with Isleri + Eurocrem or even Salam de Biscuiti, it is a solid, varied and worthy effort from our north European neighbours. Ultimately, though, not one for the squeamish.

7/10

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK

7-cheese

 

Guest blog by Dan Simpson

 

A cheeseboard at Christmas is de rigueur these days, and the supermarkets want to make it easy for you by offering a convenient cheese selection pack. Why spend two minutes choosing your own cheeses from the same shelves for a lovingly custom-made cheeseboard when you can just buy this and be done with it? I’ve eaten three of these atrocities over the holidays, and I’ll tell you why.

I have attempted to write individual reviews of the seven cheeses on offer in this selection: a difficult task, given that were you to spear a bit of any of these cheeses at random, you would not be able to distinguish one from another. The box says to “Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow flavours to develop” – though you needn’t bother, since the flavours develop like a poorly-taken low-light night-time photograph: you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.

Brie

Brie is a bad karaoke version of cheese: the coward’s Camembert. And Camembert is itself a spineless cop out in the face of Vacherin. To choose Brie is to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I despise taste. But we have not chosen Brie: it has been chosen for us in this box of cheese-approximations. Which is appropriate, given your decision to buy this selection in the first place.

Cheddar

Some will say that cheddar – the most popular and, yes, often blandest of British cheeses – deserves no place on a civilised cheeseboard. Those people are snobs, and wrong: an aged cheddar, full of flavoursome bite and crunchy tyrosine crystals, is a strong part of the line-up, holding its own against the blues and soft Frenches. This cheddar is not that. This is a disgrace: not just to cheddar, but to all cheese.

Red Leicester

Indistinguishable from the cheddar, aside from the highlighter-pen-neon orange.

Edam

When chewing on this theoretically hard cheese, all rubber texture and polybutadiene taste, you may be forgiven for thinking that you forgot to remove the plastic that each of these cheeses comes vacuum-sealed in. Looking down to check and realising that no, this is it, this is the experience of this cheese, it may cross your mind to fish the packaging out of the bin and eat that instead.

Stilton

This is acceptable, in the way that Stilton often is. It tastes like a blue cheese: no more, no less. Your cheese selection is in trouble if this is the best thing on offer.

Austrian smoke flavoured processed cheese

This cheese doesn’t even have a proper name, merely a description of what it is. It’s an obvious joke told by an observational comic – with a bad Austrian accent designed to cover the deficiency of thought behind it. Adding ‘Austrian’ to the name to give it some continental gravitas is a superficial marketing trick no one is fooled by. And, given what Tesco have already done to Edam and Brie here, I can’t blame the EU for wanting nothing more to do with us.

Wensleydale with Cranberries

Grow up and buy some chutneys, and allow people to decide what fruit-flavours they want with their cheese – instead of foisting dried-up bits of cranberries into our mouths, which have the consistency and appeal of dead flies.

Summary

The word ‘selection’ in this product is a lie – it implies that thought and care has gone into the choosing of these cheeses. This is a magnificent smorgasbord of sub-mediocrity, adding up to much less than the sum of their parts. A cheeseboard can be a glorious showstopper: a bountiful overflowing of colours and shapes, textures and taste. Thoughtlessly bunging out this greyed-out selection box wastes that potential, and makes a mockery of indulgence at Christmas. Am I saying that this cheese selection has the power to singlehandedly ruin Christmas? Bitter experience says: yes.

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK: 7/10*

*It’s still cheese, and cheese is always welcome

FERRERO ROCHER

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Reader, I know full well what you want me to write in this blog.

You want me to go straight in on The Ambassador, don’t you.

You want me to put down on this niche blog what you’ve always wanted to express, namely this: fuck you, The Ambassador. Fuck your impeccable taste in mediocre sweetmeats, your mediocre moneyed guests with shit accents and over-enthusiasm for your mediocre sweetmeats.

Fuck everything you stand for, The Ambassador, you utter besuited prick. Fuck the diplomatic codes of politeness, clandestine soft intelligence gathering, sweetmeats arranged like ancient tombs.

But I can’t express any of that with honesty, no matter how much you might want it. Average Food Blog cannot be the crowd-pleaser you so eagerly crave.

Because Ferrero Rocher, if you look beyond all the abject wankery of Ferrero’s marketing department, are pretty decent.

Sure, it’s hardly the world’s best chocolate or premium nuts involved in the mix, but the combination of flavours and textures is somewhat compelling, especially within the context of finding yourself lolling in the sort of advanced state of passivity that only major Christian festivals can bring.

They are not the best of their food genre but nonetheless are indelibly linked to serial eating, much in the same way that Pringles are not a leading crisp but have the same effect.

Of course, there is some possibility that mind-altering chemicals have been injected into each and every bobbly, spherical melting pot of doom to make me feel this way. That ultimately I’m being duped, that the powers that be have got their claws into AFB in a way that strongly suggests the direct or at very least implied involvement of yes, you’ve guessed it, The Ambassador.

OK OK, fuck The Ambassador. You happy now?

Season’s Greetings to all on the internet.

FERRERO ROCHER: 7/10

GRANDE STARBUCKS AMERICANO COFFEE WITH A DASH OF MILK AND SUGAR IN A TAKE AWAY CUP

starbucks

Guest blog by Mansour Chow

Okay. Let’s get this part over with before I can truly begin.

Yes, it was from Starbucks.

I know. I know. It’s a company that thrived through an unethical and aggressive clustering model, opening multiple stores near independent businesses so that the overall share of coffee sales for the independent businesses drops significantly causing them to stagnate, or worse, to fold because they don’t have the vast resources to ride out the storm. Naomi Klein, in No Logo, describes it as this:

The idea is to saturate an area with stores until the coffee competition is so fierce that sales drop even in individual Starbucks outlets.”

It worked because, again, according to Klein:

“…while sales were slowing at individual stores, the total sales of all the chain’s stores combined continued to rise. Put another way, Starbucks the company was expanding its market while its individual outlets were losing market share, largely to other Starbucks outlets… but the chains’ aggressive strategy of market expansion has the added bonus of simultaneously taking out competitors.”

So, yeah, I bought the coffee from Starbucks: a company that, until the practice was exposed and became too controversial, undertook lease-poaching against independent coffee stores, offering higher rents to landlords under the noses of those independent businesses, causing closures and evictions for the independent coffee shop, only for it to quickly be replaced by a Starbucks.

We’re talking about Starbucks: a company which in 2012 had ten-year sales of 3bn in the UK, but paid only £8.5m in corporation tax (and nothing from 2008-2012). This is a company with *arguably opaque accounting practices, *arguably using creative accounting to give the impression that they’ve made losses in order not to pay corporation tax. A company that currently appears (*arguably) to be using the same sort of creative accounting to give the impression that they make less profit than they actually do in order to pay very little in corporation tax.

Yes, I know. Starbucks: a company that has only just starting paying the national living wage, significantly less than what the Living Wage Foundation recommends.

Yes, Starbucks: a company whose coffee is alleged to be extra-roasted (burnt) to disguise the poor quality of the beans. Starbucks, whose coffee frequently performs poorly in taste tests.

And yet I knew all that and still had a coffee there. What does that say about me? I’ll tell you what it says about me. It says I’m a piece of shit. Okay. I admit it. I’m a god damn piece of shit. What more do you want from me?

Oh, you want to talk about the takeaway cups? Well, good. So do I. Let’s talk about the takeaway cups. 

I know they can’t really be recycled. I know that Starbucks deliberately (*arguably) gives the impression to customers that the cups can be recycled, even when only two extremely specialist recycling plants in the UK can do it.

I knew all this and yet I still had my coffee in a takeaway cup anyway, even in that knowledge.

Okay? Are you happy? I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again. I’m a piece of shit. I’m scum. What more do you want from me? An apology? Okay, I’m sorry. I’m genuinely sorry. Are you happy now? Of course you’re not happy. Your kind will never be happy.

***

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can actually tell you about something far more important: the so-called warning on the cup. It reads:

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

Can you believe that? Let me write it again in case you don’t believe what you’ve just read.

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

Okay, I copied and pasted that one. So let me truly write it again (technically type it, but I think this qualifies as both nowadays, doesn’t it?).

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

The fucking cheek of those bastards. I mean, seriously. You know what I’m getting at, don’t you?

How they hell do they know I’m going to enjoy it?!  How dare they assume! I’ll be the bloody judge of whether I enjoy their beverage or not. I won’t have it suggested or NLPd into me. I won’t allow it, and I won’t stand for it. Capitalist pigs. 

Notice they say ‘extremely hot’. Extremely hot. Extremely hot, not just hot, but extremely hot. Fucking show-offs.

Well, if it’s extremely hot, then how the hell am I about to enjoy it? As far as I’m concerned, if it’s extremely hot then it’s too hot. And if it’s too hot then I’m not going to enjoy the fucking beverage.

And how the hell do they know it’s extremely hot? How do they know when I’ll choose to drink it? What if I wait for it to go cold? Then their fucking smug warning on their cup is a complete lie.

But it was a fucking lie anyway.

It’s all a lie. We have been raised in a consumerist society of blinkered and distorted vision. It creates idiots like me who buy coffee from unethical companies in cups that I know are bad for the environment. It confuses us into thinking we can’t make a difference. It throws doubt into our brains so we feel any actions to cause less harm, minimise risk or even do good are a drop in the ocean.

It’s the same system that tells us everyone can be a winner, but it’s all a fucking lie. I mean, look at me. Tell me honestly, do you really think someone like me can ever be a winner? Come on, just tell the truth. You couldn’t even say that with a smidgeon of conviction. Just be honest with me. I can take it. Exactly, I am a disgusting piece of shit and my existence is beyond worthless.

As for the coffee, I don’t think it’s as bad as snobs say.

Overall rating: 5/10

*Please don’t sue. I’m skint enough as it is

CARROT-FLAVOURED BREAD STICKS

breadcarrot

And never the twain shall…oh.

Bread sticks. Carrots. Average foods, both. I have often thought that the two should be combined.

Wait, did I write ‘often’? I meant ‘never’.

Greece has, though, long decided to bring the two together in mastication matrimony. And fair play to it, because as things have transpired, it’s proved a worthwhile endeavour.

Bread sticks are of reliable quality and frequency in Greece, so if anyone was going to pull this stunt off, it would be here. And it’s a stunt worthy of a beige, bready Evel Knievel.

The eating sensation goes something like this: bread stick, bread stick, no this is just a bread stick, wait a minute, here it comes, yes!

It’s a little sweet, mildly aromatic. Overall it’s not as bland as a bread stick, not as healthy as a carrot stick. The bread stick is the winner here, and the carrot can rightly feel a little exploited.

7/10

GREEK SOUR CHERRY BEVERAGES

cherry-cordial

Not remotely representative of my drinking experience

To be absolutely clear from the start: Greece loves a sour cherry beverage.

From the down and dirty fizzy numbers manufactured by Vikos and Loux and served up in stunted plastic bottles, to the heady heights of cartoned work from Life and Amita, this nation is a Mecca for enthusiasts of this fruity, fruity drink genre.

And they are absolutely all good. Tangy and sweet, they pack a wholly satisfying punch.

Greeks have suggested that by making do with Kiosk and supermarket brands, I am accepting the scree of an altogether richer seam of juice drinking. While I’m sure this has more than a grain of truth, I’m content where I am.

Who am I to hunt down the home-made sour cherry-based delights of a Greek grandmother, when anything that comes after would surely lead to a life of slightly reduced joy?

I am confident there are sour cherry beverages operating in the above-10/10 echelons in numerous locations in Greece. If they come my way I will engage with them, but they will not be actively sought.

Let it be known that Average Food Blog does not seek perfection.

GREEK SOUR CHERRY BEVERAGES: 8-10/10