Tim Tam Toffee Apple

July 26, 2016 at 15:24 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Atim tam toffee apple packnother day, another Tim Tam flavour. I feel a little sad about all this, actually. A new Tim Tam flavour used to be a major event. Something pretty seismic. Certainly worthy of significant excitement.

tim tam toffee apple biscuitBut now, well, some of that is gone. Flavours come and go, and unless you are quick you might not even realise it before it disappears again, only to be replaced by yet another. What used to be something sweated over; the evolution of a cultural icon, now seems to be a mere pawn in the commercial objectives to keep major supermarkets onside. Exhibit a) – these are only available in Woolies.

Sorry, didn’t mean to get maudlin there. Let’s get into this.

For me, toffee apples are associated with Halloween. Generally they consist of cheap hard caramel over an even cheaper apple, jammed on a stick. I haven’t had one for years, but I think the generally accepted way to eat them is to chew off the toffee bit whilst aiming for minimal apple consumption, and then throw the apple away.

So how does this new Tim Tam measure up? Well, the inside is a rather startling red colour, I suppose to evoke the look of a red apple. They do have an applely (appley? Applee?) aroma. To taste they sort of do taste like cheap apple with cheap caramel, so I suppose they do evoke those childhood Halloween memories.

I’m doing them a bit of a disservice. They are actually not too bad. A bit over sweet, perhaps, and without a great deal of depth, Definitely not a classic. But far from offensive. I’m going to give them a five out of ten.

 

 

Shimano Sports Camera CM-1000

July 19, 2016 at 14:32 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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CM1000As you may have noted elsewhere in my blog, I have another camera in my bike arsenal. I’d been thinking about a front-facing camera as a counterpart to my Fly6 on the rear, and had seen the CM-1000 a few times. It looked quite good – the main attractions being it is waterproof without needing a housing, and quite low-profile. The RRP seemed to be around the $460 mark though, which seemed quite a lot, given that’s about the price of the Fly12 (the front light / camera combo from Cycliq). It also didn’t seem to have that important feature of the Fly range – the ability to automatically overwrite old files, meaning you don’t need to faff around deleting thigns to make space on the memory card.

Then I spotted it online from an Australian retailer for about $160. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, although it did cross my mind that if it was being discounted that heavily, perhaps it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…

cm1000 on barsThe camera itself looks smart enough, but shortly after getting it out of the box I discovered the first problem. It doesn’t come with a handlebar mount. This is a camera specifically for cycling made by the worlds largest bike component manufacturer. And they don’t give you a clip to mount if on your handlebars. Unbelievable. The mounting is a GoPro style one, so there are plenty of mounts available, but it’s a strange omission – which meant I couldn’t actually use the camera until I bought a mounting for it.

The camera can record at a range of resolutions, angles and frame rates, which are set via a phone app. You connect the camera to your phone via wifi, and can control the various settings, as well as downloading or deleting files and using the phone screen as a viewfinder. This should be good, but unfortunately the connectivity is extremely flaky. It just rarely successfully connects to the phone. And since I upgraded my phone to the latest version of Android, it has never worked. The only way I can now adjust the settings is to us an old android tablet I have, which seems to connect somewhat more successfully. The Google Play store is full of one-star reviews complaining about this, so it’s not just me. I’m not sure if it connects to iDevices more successfully, but for all intents and purposes the app is useless.

This means the camera really can only be used as a basic camera – you can start and stop recording, and then pull the memory card out to copy and delete the videos. Bad luck if your memory card fills up during your ride – you can only delete files with the app, but it doesn’t work, especially when you need it to.

Having said all that, the video quality is good. It records in full HD, and can also record at high frame rates (up to 120fps) if you want to do fancy slo-mo shots. (Although good luck getting the app to work to change these settings…). It has a wide-angle lens, and the setting include a very wide angle mode which captures a lot of your surroundings, if somewhat ‘fisheye’. The sound, however, is terrible. These types of cameras rarely have good sound, mostly picking up wind noise. However, the CM-1000 is a slightly loose fit in the mounting (the original part, not the bit I had to buy) – which means you not only get wind noise, you get a loud rattling sound over all your videos.

Here’s a sample video, taken with the camera pointing backwards on the bars. Note the car who overtakes closer than the legal one metre!

video
(not sure what went wrong with the YouTube upload there – looks very grainy. The original is way clearer.)

What else? Oh yes, the battery life is not very good. I don’y get much more than 90 minutes of recording from a fully charged battery. So I have to charge it up every day in order to record my 45 minute each-way commute.

Apparently you can connect an ANT+ sensor to it, so it can record other data along with the video, such as speed or cadence. I haven’t tried this, but apparently all this does is create a text file of data sampled every second or so whilst the camera is running. When the product was launched some years ago, Shimano promised a video editing app that would then overlay this data back onto the video, but it never eventuated. Given the last firmware update was now almost a year ago, and the current firmware clearly isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t hold your breath that the video app will ever appear. I sense Shimano are no longer actively supporting this product.

So all in all, it’s not a great product. The video quality is good, and it’s nice that it’s waterproof. But everything else is hopeless. For $160, I’m quite happy with it. Had I paid over $400 for it, I’d have been sending it back.

 

Arnott’s Chicken Drumstick Shapes

July 13, 2016 at 16:04 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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shapes chicken drumstick boxAnother day, another savoury snack biscuit to try. These are Chicken Drumstick flavour, although they are unaccountably shaped like cola bottles.

Arnott’s make quite a variety of Shapes, in all sorts of, erm shapes. And flavours – although many of the flavours kind of blur into each other. Truly I think if they switch round the packaging not that many people would notice – ‘chicken’ flavour tastes much like ‘BBQ’ flavour tastes much like ‘pizza’ flavour and so on.

This makes for somewhat problematic reviewing. I mean, a strawberry Tim Tam is clearly quite a different beast to a mint one, so there’s plenty to say. But for these – well, it gets a bit harder. They are a savoury snack biscuit. They are too salty, taste rather artificial, and are very addictive. Oh, and they have flavour you can see. Whatever that means.

To be honest, I’d steer clear of the whole regular Shapes thing, and go with the ‘shapes chicken drumstick biscuitsExtreme‘ range (which actually aren’t ‘extreme’ at all, just more tasty).

I’m going to give these a four out of ten.

 

Postscript
I
 wrote this post before I realised that Arnott’s had revamped their whole shapes line – to considerable controversy! Anyway, this review is now somewhat historical, as this is one of the flavours that was discontinued. I intend to come back to the Great Shapes Controversy very soon!

Arnott’s Shapes Extreme Loaded Mexican Mania

July 8, 2016 at 13:49 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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loaded mexican mania shapes boxLimited Edition! Extreme! Mania! Intense!

I still can’t quite get used to this line from Arnott’s. It’s like someone in the marketing department went rogue, and nobody has yet noticed. I think it is just a rogue marketing thing, as the actual biscuits don’t really live up to the billing.

Not that this is a criticism. Indeed, what you image you are going to get from the description – monosodium glutamate, loads of artificial flavours, tongue-stripping acid – are not there. Rather they are well balanced, tasty snacks that even your granny would enjoy. Clearly the bakers at Arnott’s are not going to be drawn into all this maniacal tomfoolery.

The ‘Loaded Mexican Mania’ ones are not as good as the ‘BBQ Ribs Blast‘ I tried previously, bloaded mexican mania shapes biscuitut were still quite tasty. A little bit of chilli tang (but far from ‘intense’), with a richly savoury flavour. I must say, the texture of these ‘extreme’ snacks is really very good – crisp and moreish. I’m going to give these an eight out of ten.

 

Arnott’s Salted Choc Slice

June 27, 2016 at 10:01 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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The Mint Slice is an Australian icon. Ysalted choc slice packes, perhaps slightly overshadowed by it’s better known Tim Tam brother, but to my mind actually a superior biscuit.

Arnott’s have taken this classic, and ‘twisted’ it, with an oh-so-trendy salted version, replacing the peppermint cream with what appears to be Tim Tam filling, enhanced with the addition of salt.

Salt seems to be the magic ingredient being added to all manner of confectionery and cakes at the moment. I suppose that making things even more unhealthy usually enhances the appeal. These biscuits rate a whole ‘0.5 out of 5’ stars on the Health Star Rating, so you know there’re going to be good.

salted choc slide biscuitAnd they are good. Smooth chocolaty cream, with just a hint of the salt at the end, on that rich biscuit base enrobed with thick dark chocolate. Oh yes, these are at least as addictive as the original. Eating a whole pack of these is waaaay to easy.

I’m giving them a nine and a half out of ten. Top stuff, Arnott’s.

Arnott’s Ginger Nut – the ultimate taste-off

June 20, 2016 at 14:19 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott's ginger nut full set packsYes folks, this is it. The one you have been waiting for. Buckle yourselves in, because we’re going deep into the heart of a great Australian controversy. Just who has the best Ginger Nuts?

To refresh your memory, Arnott’s make a slightly different kind of Ginger Nut for each state. In fact they make four different types, to cater for the different sensibilities of Australians. They were forced to do this after riots broke out when, after consolidating all their baking operations into NSW, they tried to foist the NSW Ginger Nut on the whole country. This is all familiar history, of course; we all know the story of how the GG had to step in, parliament was dissolved, elections were held and Arnott’s were forced, by deed of legislation, to recreate each type of Ginger Nut as used to be baked by its regional bakeries. (And you thought the Dismissal was a CIA plot…)

So let’s get into this. We’ve looked at the NSW Ginger Nut before in some detail, but to help me with this important quest I trawled through my little black book of biscuit fanatics to pull together a small team to help with the tasting – including representatives of each state to ensure a balanced panel.

First, some key stats.

ginger nut basic stats

All the packs are a uniform 250g, but as you can see the number of biscuits you get varies very widely. Queenslanders have a wide diameter but are lightweight, and the biscuits Arnott’s bake for them are large and thin. Heaviest are the New South Welsh, who are also amongst the thickest, and the biscuit Arnott’s bakes for them is of average diameter. (Hmm, I sense this line of humour is going to get stale rather quickly. Unlike Arnott’s biscuits, which have quite a satisfactory shelf life. (Please stop now. Just stop. Ed.))

ginger nut biscuits 2They do actually look quite different – the QLD one is darker, for example, and has sugar glistening on the top. Interestingly they all have exactly the same list of ingredients – but the order of the ingredients is different on each pack. So the recipes are a bit different, it’s not just how long they are baked.  They also have slightly different energy ratings – with the QLD variety having a few more calories than the others. Those on the diet should stick the the NSW ones, which are 5% less calorific than the QLD variety.

Yes yes yes, I hear you cry impatiently, that’s all very interesting, but what do they taste like?

Wginger nut biscuitsell, they do actually all taste different. The Victorian ones, for example, are more gingery than the others, whilst the QLD ones have more of a gingerbread taste, rather than a ginger biscuit flavour. Less hot, more mellow.

And of course, the texture varies quite a lot. The extraordinary hardness of the NSW variety is utterly unmatched by it’s brethren, with the SA/WA version seeming very chewable by comparison. The QLD version is much crumblier, which coupled with the thin biscuit makes them very easy to eat fast. The Victorian version has a nice crunch to it, and texture-wise is probably the closest to the Ginger Nut archetype.

Interested in some more statistics? Here’s the biscuit density, in grammes per millimetre cubed, along with the tensile strength:

ginger nut strength

Of course, there is another aspect to the Ginger Nut which is very important – that that is its dunkability. The NSW Ginger Nut, it has been oft observed, meets hot tea like a <insert inappropriate metaphor here>, yielding into soft, chewy goodness (but never crumbling into the tea, heaven forbid!).

How do the others stack up? Well, the QLD is a complete failure in this department. It goes soggy very fast, the structural integrity is gone, and the texture quickly goes to mush. Not good at all. The Victorian version is a little better, but only a little, with the exterior of the biscuit going squishy too quickly – also the stronger ginger flavour kind of fights against the tea. The SA/WA biscuits are really not bad at all in hot tea – they hold up well, and soften nicely delivering an enhanced taste. However, it comes as no surprise that the NSW Ginger Nut holds up as dunker supreme. Indeed, whilst we were doing the tasting, the SA taster (who up until then had been deeply suspicious of the NSW variety) went into raptures over his dunked NSW biscuit. ‘Oh yes,’ he moaned. ‘Oh yes, this is sensational…’

And so, we come to the final tally. For, in biscuits as in life, there can be only one winner. Only one state can stand tall. There is only one best Ginger Nut. And with that, let us reveal the final scores:

NSW:  8 out of 10

VIC:   7.8 out of 10

SA/WA:   7.6 out of 10

QLD:   5 out of 10

 

Let the riots begin…

Arnott’s Tim Tam Pineapple

June 14, 2016 at 11:52 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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The pineapple tim tam packArnott’s flavour innovation machine just keeps cranking ’em out. It seems not a week goes by without yet another Tim Tam variety hitting the shelves.

I imagine the overlords in the marketing department standing over the poor cream filings development team, whipping them mercilessly and crying ‘more new flavours, and make them tasty!’, whilst the poor, downtrodden fillings team frantically concoct new flavours whilst dodging the flailing lashes. And having previously created the Pina Colada flavour, it seems they grabbed the pineapple part of this recipe, left out the coconut and then held it up in trembling hands to their masters, whimpering, ‘try this new Pineapple flavour, oh great ones’, in the hope it would appease them and earn a brief respite from the relentless pain.

Oh yes, it’s no fun being an Arnott’s cream filling developer.

pineapple tim tam biscuitSo I eat these in solidarity with those poor folks, but at the same time feel a bit cheated that it’s essentially the same as the Pina Colada without the coconut. Whilst I think is actually less good, as the coconut adds richness. And to be honest I’m still not sold on this whole pineapple / chocolate combo thing.

Sorry, this one only gets a two and a half out of ten. But please, Arnott’s, don’t take it out on your poor filings team.

Arnott’s Ginger Nuts. It comes…

June 13, 2016 at 14:26 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott's ginger nut full set packs

I did it. I finally assembled a full set of Arnott’s Ginger Nuts. A life ambition.

The full review arrives on the 20th June 2016.

In the meantime, here’s the original 2011 review of the NSW version, and the more recent follow-up.

Oh, and if you want to know what sort you have at home so you can play along, here’s a handy reference to the barcodes:

ginger nut bar codes

 

Tim Tam Chocolicious Velvet Mudslide

June 11, 2016 at 18:41 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Finally, I get around to writing tim tam velvet mudslide packthis one up. The last in the quartet of new Tim Tam flavours, based on ‘virgin’ cocktails. Not an actual Tim Tam, but a variety of the rather good ‘Chocolicious‘ line.

When I first reviewed the Chocolicious line, I noted that when you open the packet you get a strong smell of spirits – so I suppose it’s only natural to make use of that in a version inspired by a vodka cocktail.

tim tam velvet mudslide biscuitThese are good, ladies and gentlemen. Not quite as good as the dark chocolate ones, but pretty close. They are very grown-up and moreish, with a hint of coffee in in the truffle and a rich chocolate flavour. I liked them, and ate most of the packet in one go.

I’m going to give them an eight out of ten. Definitely the best of the ‘mocktail’ bunch.

 

From ‘d!ckhead’ to ‘Sir’ in the blink of a camera…

June 4, 2016 at 15:57 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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patrolThe other evening I was riding home from work when I happened to ride past a Highway Patrol car. Usually they just ignore me, but on this occasion, the officer evidently felt the need to share his opinion of me. Leaning out of the window, bogan-style, he yelled across to me.

‘Where’s your helmet, dickhead?’

The default approach for the NSW police is, in my experience, to be rude and aggressive. With the notable (and honourable) exception of the velocops, my interactions with highway patrol officers has rarely been pleasant. However, this was the first time I had ever had a police officer shout outright abuse at me.

I stopped, and a conversation ensued, where I pointed out I was unable to wear a helmet for medical reasons. He continued in the same aggressive tone, ‘Yeah? Yeah? You gonna tell me what it is? What’s wrong with you?’.

barcamThen, suddenly, he clocked something. I have a camera mounted on my handlebars. And it was pointing in his direction. Suddenly his tone changed. No, he didn’t need to actually see my medical certificate. He was just concerned for my safety. ‘Ride carefully, sir’, he implored me, before pulling away.

I run cameras partly for fun, partly in case a driver does something dangerous around me, so I have evidence.

But it seems they are also necessary protection against aggressive policing.

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