Arnott’s Mini Jatz

May 25, 2018 at 11:34 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott’s have been expanding their range of ‘mini’ biscuits, perhaps driven by the glowing review I gave to the Mini Scotch Fingers. There’s quite a few now, so this week we turn our attention to the Mini Jatz.

First of all, is there also a mini Savoy? The whole Savoy / Jatz thing intrigues me. It would be cool to have a selection pack with both mini Savoy and mini Jatz in it. It would facilitate very easy comparison tastings, for example.

As it is, we get the mini Jatz in a pack together with Mini Scotch Fingers and Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies. They look, well, like mini version of regular Jatz, They are crispy, salty, and quite moreish. So moreish, in fact, that I ploughed through them forgetting to count the number of biscuits in a pack. There’s enough there for a small snack. But you will want more after you finish them.

A solid eight out of ten for this mini contender.

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Stop lines and police lines

May 19, 2018 at 11:42 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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[click pic for video] Every day, I cycle through Sydney Olympic Park. As do many cyclists; it has wide roads, relatively light traffic and bike lanes – although they are the worse-then-useless painted on sort.

Some of the junctions have stop signs. But the roads are wide, the traffic is light, the sightlines are excellent (especially on a bike), so traffic pretty much never stops – just slows and then continues.

I, of course, do this on my bike. Having to come to a complete stop and then pick up speed again is tiring and unnecessary. In many places, it’s perfectly legal to do this, of course. It’s called an ‘Idaho stop’, after the first jurisdiction that introduced this rule for bicycles. And interestingly, research shows that places that have implemented the Idaho stop have lower bicycle accident rates at stop lines than those without.

Bu, of course, not in cycling-hating Sydney. Not only is it technically illegal not to completely stop, the police seemingly have nothing better to do that wait behind the bushes at the side of the road, watching out for errant cyclists.

One of those cyclists was me. And, sure enough, neee-naaa nee-naaa, I was pulled over. And I got a ticket. Now, since the even-more-anti-cycling-than-usual roads minister Duncan Gay, fines for bicycle offenses have been jacked up. The fine for this trivial thing? $330. Seriously.

But to make it worse, when I received the ticket it also had three demerit points on it. Now, you can;’t get demerit points for riding a bicycle. Think about it – it makes no sense to lose your licence for something you don’t need a license to do. The NSW Transport Act makes it quite clear that demerits apply only to motor vehicles. But the cop apparently did the paperwork wrong. So not only are the cops vindictive, they are also incompetent.

I didn’t want to schlep to court, but found I could plead guilty by post but ask for mitigating circumstances. I wrote a rather ranty and incoherent letter to the magistrate, and had the fine reduced to $200. But with costs and ‘victims of crime levy’, the total fine ended up being $367. Oh well. At least the demerits were taken off.

If only the police would spend time on offences that actually cause danger and death. Like riding too close to bicycles. Nope, no chance of that…

Arnott’s Shapes Nacho Cheese

May 5, 2018 at 21:56 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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In 1985, Coca-Cola changed the recipe for Coke. Before doing this they engaged in endless trials and taste tests, in order to combat sliding sales against their main rival, Pepsi. But it backfired – everyone hated the new taste. Not long after, Coca-cola re-introduced the original recipe again, and sales rocketed – to the point that many people believe the whole thing was a ploy to drive sales.

I sometimes think about this when I look at the Arnott’s Shapes display in the supermarket. Do you remember the Shapes fiasco? A few years ago Arnott’s changed all the Shapes recipes, and everywhere exploded. The reason, you see, was that the new ones were not very nice. The Arnott’s social media team battled manfully on for ages; trying to tell everyone that it was all OK and the new ones were nice really, but in the end all the old flavours were brought back.

So now, when I go into the supermarket, there are acres of Shapes, all of which proudly sport the ‘Original’ tag. The new flavours are nowhere to be seen. Are they even still in production, I wonder? Are Arnott’s now selling more shapes than they were before? And was the whole thing a Machiavellian plot? This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.

But wait, what’s that on the bottom shelf? A lonely pack of New Shapes, with ‘baked in flavour’. It seems Nacho Cheese has survived; a relic of  this ill-thought our experiment. There never was a Nacho Cheese flavour in the old range, so it seems this new one has somehow survived. So I bought some.

So what are they like? Well, they are quite nice and crispy, with plenty of flavour. It’s sort of cheesy tomato flavour; the box mentions ‘Mexican spices’, but to be honest it’s more Bega Tasty with Masterfoods tomato sauce than Manzanillo. They do the job that is required if them – to be a sort of slightly artificial-tasting savoury snack that you can mindlessly eat when doing something else – maybe watching the sport, yakking at a party or even writing a blog. (Yep, I’ve pretty much finished the box already, having opened it just prior to writing the opening words above). I’m going to give them a five out of ten, with a bonus point for being a survivor.

 

TheOtherDimension jersey

May 2, 2018 at 15:35 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You’d think, as a successful blogger and cycling activiste, I would be showered with freebies and samples of all sorts of things from companies eager to see their products tried and reviewed on these august pages.

Well, you’d be wrong. I’ve never got so much as a pot of chamois cream (or custard creams, for that matter). Now, I realise that, in general, in order to get such goodies you have to have a blog that people actually read. And it probably helps if you’re not a nutter who keeps going off about helmets, and seems to end up in court rather regularly. But still. Come on, people.

Anyway, there other day I did get a genuine freebie, courtesy of my friend Andrew. Unlike me, he is talented, and is one of the owners of the chic design agency ‘TheOtherDimension‘. They design all sorts of things, from logos to widgets. (And I note in a nice synergy they have invented things for Arnott’s. I wonder if they get free custard creams?)

Andrew is a cyclist, and was frustrated that he couldn’t find a cycling jersey that had the commuter features he wanted but which didn’t look like something you’d wear to a night roadworks party. So he brought his considerable design talents to bear, and created one.

He was kind enough to send me one, and I have to say it is terrific. Apparently it has all these clever features (like hi-viz exactly and only where it needs to be for maximum effect, high-tec reflecto fabric stuff and infinitely large back pockets), but I just like it because it’s super comfy and looks great.

I have no idea if you can buy them. If you can, I suggest you do. But if not, ha ha. You see, that’s the kind of exclusive-blogger-lifestyle that I now lead, with my super-exclusive bespoke jersey. Oh yeah.

Quark’s Academy- Catherine Pelosi

April 28, 2018 at 21:30 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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The last time I reviewed a childrens’ book was I think in 2010, when my eldest daughter was just a few months old. My, how time flies. She’s now devouring books on her own at a prodigious rate – perhaps I should get her to review them on this blog, as it would dramatically increase my post count. She probably reads nine or ten books in the time it takes me to read one.

As a holiday activity, she went to a kids writing workshop at the rather marvellous Better Read Than Dead Bookstore in Newtown, which was in part run by Catherine Pelosi. In preparation, she read Quark’s Academy, a junior fiction book about a strange science academy that takes talented children scientists and supposedly helps then to perfect their inventions as part of a fantastic competition. After she’d finished it, I read it too.

From the beginning the Academy is a rather sinister place, and the three main protagonists – Augustine, Celeste and Oscar – gradually overcome their suspicion of each other and end up working as a team to uncover the horrific secrets of what really happens in all the strange laboratories.

The story is a madcap mix of crazy inventions, clones, robotic animals and time travel and it all reaches a huge finale, which, to be honest, didn’t really make much sense but was fun nonetheless. I really liked that two of the main characters were female and science-y – gender stereotyping in children’s literature is really a thing, so it’s refreshing to find a book without it.

The elder junior chillikebab loved it, and especially liked the twist at the end where it turned out that…….

But that would spoil the surprise. The workshop was great too, and now she has her copy of the book signed by Catherine Pelosi, she’s doubly happy.

 

Arnott’s Jatz Cracked Pepper

April 13, 2018 at 14:01 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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What is it with snooty Italian waiters and pepper grinders? You know, when you go to a trying-to-be-upmarket restaurant, and you want some cracked pepper on your pasta. So you ask for some, and the waiter disapprovingly comes over with a huge wooden grinder (surely he’s compensating for something?). You smile weakly, and gesture at your plate. Whereupon he gives a cursory twist of the top, leaving a  homeopathic quantity of pepper on your dinner. Forcing a smile, you ask for more, and another half turn is grudgingly given, before the pepper is whisked away, never to be seen again.

The whole charade drives me nuts, which is why I take my own pepper grinder out to dinner with me. I furtively pull it from my pocket to administer a heavy dusting when required. I guess it could also come in handy if I were to be mugged, sort of as a middle class pepper spray. I’d just grind it into the muggers face.  Although muggers in the Inner West of Sydney would probably complain it’s not single-origin tellicherry.

Anyway, I’m glad to say that Arnott’s have not been measly with the pepper in the Jatz cracked pepper. It has a good peppery flavour, and goes well with rounded cheeses, or indeed as a snack on their own. Indeed, the only criticism (which is not really a criticism per se) is that they make a less good snack than the original Jatz simply because the pepper becomes a bit overwhelming by the time you reach the fifteenth biscuit or so.

One interesting aside – those black bits you can see aren’t peppercorns. They are poppy seeds. I’m going to give them an eight out of ten. Very tasty.

 

The Auschwitz Violin – Maria Angels Anglada

April 6, 2018 at 08:43 | Posted in books | 1 Comment
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This slim volume is a delicately written novella with an intriguing premise. A luthier, interred in the terrors of Auschwitz, is forced to make a violin for the camp Kommandant. If the violin is not of an acceptable standard, he faces terrible consequences.

The story is told in flashback; by the now owner of the violin – which possesses a rich and sonorous tone. The story is simply told, and quite affecting. That said, on some level the characters seemed to fall a little flat for me; it’s hard to pin down quite why. Each chapter is preceded by a fragment of a real document from the camps – a regulation, report or correspondence – which are in some ways the most powerful thing in the book.

That said, this is a great read, and being short is easy to take in in a single sitting. It will certainly stay with you for a while.

Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – Dalrymple / Anand

March 29, 2018 at 12:05 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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I got this book for Christmas, and read it whilst on holiday in January, so sorry it’s taken so long to get to it. It’s the story of the Kohinoor; the ‘Mountain of Light’, one of the worlds most famous diamonds that was owned by various Persian kings and moghuls before eventually arriving in England and becoming part of the Crown Jewels.

It’s a well researched and well written book; the first section (the early history of the Kohinoor, as it passed between the Mughals, Afghans and Persians), and the second section covers its expropriation by the British, as they subjugated the Indian subcontinent. The first section is written by William Dalrymple, the second part by  Anita Anand.

The second part I think is actually slightly easier to read, though that is in part because the history is much clearer and the thread of the narrative more contained. The first section deals with early myths and possible mentions of the Kohinoor; its possible origin in India and the various wars and gifts that saw it passed around various different kingdoms and treasuries in the region. The extraordinary riches, expressed in gemstones, of the region prior to the British invasion is quite staggering.

The section dealing with the way the British treated those territories; the way those treasuries were plundered and the last remaining Punjab prince, the child Duleep Singh, is made unwittingly to sign over all of his vast riches to the British is quite movingly told.

The book finishes with some discussion of the various voices still calling for the Kohinoor to be returned to India.

It’s a great book, and well worth a read.

 

 

Arnott’s Iced Coffee Tim Tam

March 20, 2018 at 11:34 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Some years ago, a good friend of mine married an Italian girl. (But not in Algiers). And when we went to visit, she made tiramisu. I also remember her trying to get us to say it correctly (‘Tieer – ra – meeee – su‘), with little success. Anyway, it was quite the best tieerrameeesu I have ever tasted.

If you want just a hint of how it tasted, you could do worse than go out and get some of the new Iced Coffee Tim Tams. They are the last in the new Messina flavours, and one that several of my work colleagues were particularly excited about. What is it with Australians and coffee? Just the mere mention of ‘going out to get a coffee, anyone want one?’ elicits a collective orgiastic groan, followed by excited gasps of ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’. Honestly, no decorum. I just drink tea. Bah humbug.

Anyway, these new Tim Tams sort of taste a little like coffee, but a whole lot like tiramisu. More creamy vanilla, less coffee. That said, they are really quite good – not too sweet, with a good balance of flavour. I’m going to call it – these are the best Messina flavour so far. They get a nine out of ten.

Arnott’s Choc Cherry Coconut Tim Tam

March 14, 2018 at 11:08 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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When I was a boy we would often gather around the pianoforte as a family to sing. And if that sounds weirdly Victorian, well, yes it was. I remember Mum’s crinoline used to get terribly in the way in our small dining room.

Anyway, one of the songbooks we used was the News Chronicle Songbook. It was a very old edition, quite possible also dating from the period. And one of the songs was called ‘Cherry Ripe‘:

Cherry-ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
Full and fair ones; come and buy.
If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer: There,
Where my Julia’s lips do smile;
There’s the land, or cherry-isle,
Whose plantations fully show
All the year where cherries grow.

I remember learning this song, which I would play on the piano as my father sang in his rather fine high baritone.

Goodness, enough reminiscing. What on earth has this got to do with Tim Tams? Well, here we are with the second in the new range of Messina flavours. Choc Cherry Coconut. Now, when I think of dark chocolate, cherry and coconut, I don’t immediately think of ice cream. In fact, I have never ever seen choc cherry coconut ice cream. Is it even a Messina flavour?

You see, when I think of choc cherry coconut, I think of something else. Yes, you are thinking it too. (And here’s a question – does the name of that particular sweatmeat have anything to do with the seventeenth century English poet Robert Herrick?)

Anyway, the link between these Tim Tams and all this cherry tomfoolery is very marked. You see, these Tim Tams taste exactly like a Cherry Ripe bar. The filling even looks like it. They are more crunchy, and the chocolate ratio is greater, but to all intents and purposes they are the same. Well, I would venture perhaps ever better, as the biscuit texture and additional chocolate actually improve on the somewhat flabby original.

I like Cherry Ripe. So I liked these, and an going to give them an eight out of ten. Well done Arnott’s. If you don’t like Cherry Ripe, then steer clear.

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