Tag Archives: Gary W Hartley

VIENNETTA/ ARCTIC ROLL

viennettaBirds-Eye-Arctic-Roll-Raspberry

Born for a double-bill, Viennetta and Arctic Roll both sit in a unique socio-economic and philosophical niche. They are also both, clearly, ice cream centred.

This pair of freezer fancies are low-value products with ever-diminishing status – possibly even maligned. They are most commonly seen in highly mediocre convenience outlets such as Costcutter and Spar. They are local and relatable, yet so highly contrived as to be vaguely mysterious.

They are the dickhead mates with hearts of gold, there when you need them to somehow both mock your situation and improve it, if only for a short while. They are a cold warmth, a gaudy backslap in times of struggle.

Reader, I have been in both Viennetta and Arctic Roll moments on many occasions. Admittedly, Arctic Roll is generally a fallback in the case of no Viennetta stock, and my consumption of it so infrequent that I neglected to notice that it had been both discontinued and revived. Regardless, the links continue.

Wall’s and Bird’s Eye, the respective manufacturers, find themselves struggling for relevance in a world of faux-artisan options. It is somehow incredible that these products cling on to the shelves of mainstream commerce, yet they do, rather like the fallen big-time comic now doing free shows of the same material in the upstairs rooms of pubs at the Edinburgh Fringe to die-hard returning customers.

It is time for the reviews, I suppose. OK then.

Viennetta is almost indistinguishable across its various flavour and colour guises. This is reassuring. The ice cream is more often than not initially rock hard, then on the verge of melting after three minutes in a bowl with no intermediary period of consistency. This is also reassuring. The crunch of the chocolate layered effect is delectable, the chocolate itself less so. All in all, it is uniquely of itself.

Arctic Roll offers a vanilla/raspberry and a double-chocolate option. The latter is untrue to the source material, so should not be considered as an edible option. The soft-sponge-meets-ice cream effect does not pack the punch of the Viennetta. Ultimately, despite also being uniquely of itself, it does suffer additionally in comparison to its review-mate due to it bringing back horrible flashbacks of school lunch hours.

There may not be many years of shelf life left for these hardy veterans of low-brow dessert. My advice: stockpile.

Viennetta: 9/10

Arctic Roll: 7/10

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WETHERSPOON FISH AND CHIPS

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Having covered off Curry Club and Chicken Club in a fastidiously lazy manner, it seems only right that I move trudgingly on to Wetherspoon’s Friday night offering, which is controversially not deemed a Club, but ‘Fish Friday’.

Alright then, Fish Friday, you contrary fishy weekend revolutionary, what have you got?

Well, first of all, a limited selection of items riffing on the basic concept ‘fish and chips’, and second of all, the kind of lovingly-crafted utter mediocrity you can expect from every Wetherspoon meal other than either ham, egg and chips or gammon, egg and chips.

It was clear to see that the fish was patchy in coloration once the batter began rolling off like Wilko wallpaper, which in itself could be seen as problematic if trying to look for positives about the meal. Any forensic would surmise that blows had been made against the flesh of this beast – battered to death. Geddit? Yeah? Yeah? Good.

The chips were good, bordering on excellent. They always are; Wetherspoon employs star chip chefs in any given locality. The peas were convincingly chip shop-esque, in the sense that a Tony Blair rubber mask is convincingly Tony Blair-esque.

In short, replace the fish with ham or gammon and you’re on to a winner.

An additional observation is that perversely, during Fish Friday in the Wetherspoon outlet I happened to be in (Coronet, Holloway Road, London) there was also an offer available on strawberry daiquiris. Nobody whatsoever was drinking them, with or without a fish-based meal.

FISH: 3/10

CHIPS: 8/10

FISH AND CHIPS: 5/10

MRS CRIMBLE

Crimble

I won’t hear a bad word said against Mrs Crimble. Her macaroons are delectable.

But look; I was as suspicious as the next baked goods consumer at the advent of the Mrs Crimble’s cranberry macaroon. My guard immediately fell to pieces on mouth entry. It’s arguably an improvement on the coconut model; an innovation hitherto thought impossible.

Much gluten-free food is overpriced, pointless, weird-textured twaddle peddled by cynics at those who are fearful of their bodies, their minds, and life. But Mrs Crimble applies herself with love and attention to detail that must be recognised in the top echelons of media that Average Food Blog surely embodies.

Sure, there are lesser vehicles in her garage: the bakewell slices are strong performers if not quite reaching peak Crimble, and the flapjacks are derivative of every pre-packaged flapjack in Christendom: decidedly mediocre. But she has not lost my trust while she continues to roll her macaroons off the production line.

If Mrs Crimble got herself into a war, I’d be on the front line with her, battling gamely against the amorphous armies of gluten with a joyous mastication of macaroon in my gob.

MRS CRIMBLE’S COCONUT MACAROONS: 9/10

MRS CRIMBLE’S CRANBERRY MACAROONS: 9.5/10

FIG ROLLS

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Ladies and gentlemen, before I start typing solely in capital letters, I want you to strap yourself in for a stunning revelation.

OK? Good. Off we go.

DRIED FIGS AND FIG ROLLS TASTE EXACTLY THE SAME. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE OF ANY KIND IS THAT DRIED FIGS ARE SLIGHTLY CHEWIER, BUT THIS, AS IT TURNS OUT, IS AN ENJOYABLE ADVANTAGE.

THE MAIN IMPLICATION OF WHICH BEING THAT THERE NEVER WAS ANY NEED FOR THE ‘ROLL’ ELEMENT OF THE FIG ROLL.

I REPEAT: THERE NEVER WAS ANY NEED FOR THE ‘ROLL’ ELEMENT OF THE FIG ROLL.

LOGICALLY, THIS LEADS TO A REVEALING OF THE SECOND, NO LESS SHOCKING IMPLICATION: THERE WAS NEVER ANY NEED FOR FIG ROLLS AT ALL.

WE HAVE BEEN SWINDLED FOR ALL THIS TIME, PEOPLE.

SOMEONE*, SOMEWHERE** IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS HIDEOUS PULLING OF SOFT PASTRY-TEXTURED WOOL OVER JUST SO MANY EYES.

I’M SORRY FOR RUINING YOUR DAY.

DRIED FIGS/ FIG ROLLS: 6/10
*THE ILLUMINATI, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE FLOUR INDUSTRY

**I’M SAYING AN INDUSTRIAL ESTATE JUST OUTSIDE OF SWINDON

LIDL MEADOWFRESH PASTA SALAD

Lidl pasta salad

I’d like to start this journey into the little-discussed world of plastic-borne Germanic pastas with that bearing the term ‘Italian style’.

Lidl itself does not put this in inverted commas – and for excellent reason. I don’t think the Italians could truly have too much to grumble about with this use of terminology. I mean, you’re thinking; 69p (30% off), a good amount of pasta salad in a tub, how good could that be? The answer is quite.

It’s plastic pasta with body, aroma and the ability not to make you think about killing yourself while eating it. This is a rare thing indeed within its genre.

On the other hand, the chicken and bacon Lidl Meadowfresh salad is absolute utter bilge. It is a one-way ticket to sweet mayonaisey hell; the worst dessert ever. The mature cheddar cheese version is slightly better, but far from enough so for me to encourage its eating.

Ultimately, Lidl have really confused me with this line of goods.

LIDL MEADOWFRESH ITALIAN STYLE PASTA SALAD: 7/10

LIDL MEADOWFRESH CHICKEN AND BACON PASTA SALAD: 1/10

LIDL MEADOWFRESH CHEDDAR CHEESE PASTA SALAD: 3/10

FOOTBALL AWAY DAY TRANSIT CUISINE

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Let’s set the ground rules of this blog at the very beginning: this is not about your pie and pint scenarios available within football stadia. This is simply about the palette of options available to the hungry regular eater in the course of travel to a fixture.

It’s an all out wallow in mediocre options. This is entirely due to the base fact that UK’s transport interchanges have been co-opted by humdrum coffee chains, pasty booths and M&S Simply Food (which also sells drinks).

On my way to watch MK Dons v Leeds United, via London Euston station, I went for an M&S egg, tomato and salad cream packaged sandwich and a Delice de France white Americano.

The sandwich fulfilled the necessary hallmarks of being ‘simply food’ but arguably did take a couple of fairy-steps beyond. It was, frankly, decent. The tang of the condiment undoubtedly complimented the egg – a bit like a yoghurt-coated favourite cushion, yet at the same time, not at all like that.

The white Americano, however, was as stultifyingly bland and mildly offensive as the kind of white American that would vote for Jeb Bush. The cardboard cup displayed the matter-of-fact statement ‘Caution: contents hot’ which might make an excellent metaphor for the mundane tyranny of modern professional football, if you were feeling inclined to go down that route.

It is also a statement that is not the bringer of patronising truth it first appears; if the coffee has been drunk or simply been left to stand for a good amount of time, it would, in fact, be a total lie. Readers, I know this is a lot to take in.

My team, Leeds, won the match 1-2 in possible the most unjust result in the history of the game. But this was very much the undercard to another successful afternoon foraging the unimaginative and somewhat depressing bastions of average food.

M&S SIMPLY FOOD EGG, TOMATO AND SALAD CREAM SANDWICH: 7/10

DELICE DE FRANCE WHITE AMERICANO: 2/10

PETER’S PREMIER CHICKEN TIKKA SLICE

PetersSlice

Oh Peter, what have you done?

While many ‘Indian food-themed’ pies and pasties have at times provided a grave insult to the nation of India, this is no less than an all-out declaration of war.

This snack food has a stronger aftertaste of margarine than any tub of margarine. It is both sweet and sour in all the wrong ways, and the pastry is like chewing Amazon packaging left on a doorstep for an entire monsoon season. It is absolutely brutal.

My belief is that, given such a pleasing premise, a supreme effort is required to make a pastry-based product of gargantuan shitness. Peter, if that is indeed his real name, has achieved this. This is more a sluice than a slice.

As part of its rudimentary ‘branding’ the packaging includes a cartoon chilli bearing devil horns and offering up the speech bubble “ONE SPICY SLICE”. I truly hope that can be taken as literal and I’ve done the world a humanitarian favour by taking it out of circulation.

All this said, this still is a pasty-esque food, and for that alone, it must receive a sole and entirely undeserved point in our ten-point scale.

1/10