Arnott’s Shapes Mini Bites Chilli Cheese

July 11, 2021 at 20:00 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment

Well, after a brief hiatus, we’re back with the next in the new series of Shapes – Chilli Cheese. Now, chilli. I like chilli. Oh yes. Love a spicy curry, a hot chilli, some fiery snacks. Oh yeah. And cheese. Cheese is good too. Love some strong cheddar, a tangy stilton or a creamy brie. Yum.

Bu chilli and cheese together? This I am less sure about. They just don’t seem to be quite the thing. Yes, I know about nachos. But even so. Chilli and cheese just seems like something that won’t really work. So how does Arnott’s manage this difficult marriage?

On one level, admirably. There is a good cheese flavour here, nice and rich. And the chilli is also there; these are probably the most spicy Arnott’s snack I have ever tasted. They even have little flames emblazoned on each biscuit to warn you. the junior Chillikebabs struggled with the heat, So this is pretty good stuff.

But. In the end, it is what it is. Chilli and cheese. Two flavours that just don’t really work together. So in summary, they taste exactly like you think they will taste. Like cheese and chilli, both fighting it out on the palate, but never joining in a harmonious blend.

I’m going to give these a 5 out of ten, plus a bonus point for trying.

Arnott’s Shapes Mini Bites Sour Cream and Onion

May 2, 2021 at 14:30 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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There’s a new Shapes variant in town! The whole new range, actually, called ‘Mini Bites’. I was hoping these might be the ‘extreme‘ range from a few years ago making a come back (which I maintain were a great snack with a terrible name), but they are not. They are smaller and much fatter – in fact, they remind me of a snack called ‘Fish’n’chips’ from my childhood in 70’s UK. You can google this if you like, or I can save you the bother and let you know that they have been revived! How exciting. Ho hum. But anyway, we’ve moved on from the 70’s and it’s time to look at this very up-to-the-minute twenty-first century snack.

They are little, quite puffy biscuits that are quite soft. They are small enough that we really need to pop two or three into your mouth at a time, which is kind of fun, and makes them extra addictive, I think. The sour cream and onion flavour is exactly what you would expect – it has a slight tang, a slight sweetness and is very moreish.

And they are quite addictive. Not as bad as the Vegemite shapes, and of course nothing compared to that crack cocaine of biscuits, the Lemon Crisp. But it is hard to stop once you pop, as the slogan of a rival cream cheese and onion snack might say. I ate the entire box in one go, and didn’t share even one of them with Chillikebab Jnr I, even though she is a chip off the old block when it comes to snacks. (Chip. Geddit?).

But are they any good? Well, there is nothing wrong with them, and I did eat a whole box. But, but, but, there’s something not quite right about them. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it’s to do with the small size and form factor. So, despite not being able to in any way elucidate what the problem is, I am only going to give them a five out of ten. Sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles…

Arnott’s Monte Carlo Black Forest

March 16, 2021 at 20:18 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott’s have a bit of a thing for the Black Forest. There’s been a few different attempts at recreating this retro 70s desert in biscuit form, with mixed results, but now they have decided to give the Monte Carlo a go. This may not be a bad idea; the original Monte Carlo did taste rather like a cake, so perhaps it is a good starting point for another cake recreation.

Now, I’m going to admit something here. I secretly rather like Black Forest Gateau. You know, the proper version that comes in a box with a round cellophane panel in the top, with piped cream, glace cherries and all the rest. When I was a teenager I used to work in a restaurant with delusions of grandeur, and this was one of several such gateau that we had on the sweet trolley (yes, it had a bone-fide sweet trolley). I recall at the end of the shift, if there was just one or two rather manky pieces of gateau left from a cake we would eat them, as they would be hard to sell (well, that was the justification at the time, although I’m not sure Bernie, the rather fierce restaurant manager, knew about this arrangement or would have approved). And the one you hoped to get was Black Forest. It was sophisticated and decadent, much better than the boring nut and orange one, or the rather peculiar one called ‘Ali Baba’. So yes, I have fond memories of illicitly eating black forest in the back kitchen with my fellow wait staff after a long shift serving prawn cocktails and steak diane.

Sad to say, these biscuit do not really get close to that experience. They are but a pale imitation of a black forest gateau, to he honest. A bit chocolaty, a bit sort of indeterminate cherry, some sweet creme, but that’s it. That said, they are not bad. I’d go as far as to say they are better than the original Monte Carlo; they are a bit less sickly I think, or at least more interesting. So nothing wrong with them as such, just not what I was hoping for. I’m going to give them a five out of ten.



Arnott’s Double Cheeseburger Shapes

February 7, 2021 at 16:48 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Now, I am not averse to snack food, as you will know. Nor even full on junk food, for that matter. But there is one particular (and popular) fast food option that I Do Not Like At All. This is not a new, bah-humbug old person thing. I’ve never liked it, even since I was a teenager. Flat, pappy, tasteless, soggy burgers with absolutely no redeeming qualities at all. Both the bun and the meat patty, for example, have absolutely no flavour or texture. Now, for me, I feel both of those items are necessary to make themselves heard in a burger. They are, after all, the defining feature of the thing. But in this particular version that I am talking about, they are essentially absent. All that’s left is a lot of rather sweet sauce kind of stuff, and a flaccid gherkin. This gherkin, but the way, is the only aspect of the whole thing that has any taste whatsoever. As I understand it, aficionados of this ‘burger’ ritualistically open the lid and discard it before eating, a silent protest against flavour. I am talking, for those who have not yet twigged, about Maccas. Revolting. Literally any other option is better than Maccas.

But it remains popular, with over a million Australians going into a Maccas every day. I guess, then, when Arnott’s came to do the cheeseburger Shapes thing, they went with the lowest common denominator.

Having got that out of the way, we can now, of course, reveal that these new Double Cheeseburger Shapes are revolting. To be fair, not quite as rank as the meat pie ones, but a close second. Neither of my kids liked them – they ate a bit of one, screwed up their noses and went away looking for water. I had a handful, manfully going through them to see if there were any redeeming features, before throwing them in the bin, mostly uneaten.

So what do they taste like? Well, actually in one way they capture a Maccas cheeseburger rather well. You see, the only thing you can taste is flaccid gherkin. It literally just tastes of gherkin. Poor quality gherkin at that. I feel like Arnott’s have not done their research here. They have created a flavour that is the same as the thing that everyone picks out of their cheeseburger because they don’t like the taste. I don’t feel these are going to do well, chaps. Sorry. I’m  going to give them one out of ten. Avoid.

Arnott’s Triple Cheese Toastie Shapes

February 4, 2021 at 17:34 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Hold the front page! There are some new Shapes flavours in town! And of course, your intrepid reporter will sample them for you so you know whether to buy them or avoid them. So let’s get into it.

This new flavour is cheese. Triple cheese! Why triple? Well, according to the ingredients, they contain Parmesan, Mozzarella and Cheddar. Three cheeses. Triple, you see. We’ll come back to those three cheeses in due course.

The biscuits are sort of triangular, and with a nice crunch – very standard Shapes territory. They are all the same – there’s no odd ones, or confected controversy.

So what do they taste like? Well, they are sort of cheesy. Jnr Chillikebab the First was confident she could taste three different cheeses. I was less sure. I thought there was a tang of vomit in there. You know, that kind of cheese flavour that tastes like sick. It’s not a lot, but it’s there, and to me, off-putting.

I’m much less confident about the three cheese thing than the junior. Maybe my taste buds are old and worn out. But, it my defence, those three cheeses listed in the ingredients? There’s just 0.3% of those cheeses. That’s about 0.1% per cheese. If a pack weighs 165g, that means just 165mg of each cheese per pack. That’s 1.5mg of each cheese per biscuit. That is homeopathic cheese. I’m frankly sceptical that Junior can actually taste that. Ho hum.

They are OK. But really not that great. I’m going to give them a four out of ten.

New Year’s Day Ride

January 10, 2021 at 15:09 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I finally got my fixie back! After weeks and weeks stretching into months it is finally back. What a relief. And, it turns out, rather hard work to ride. Two months of electric biking have taken their toll on my fitness, it seems.

So, on New Year’s Day, mindful of the admonishment of my friend Neil Alexander (who has been advocating for bike riders to get out on Xmas and NY mornings for years, as they are the best days on the calendar for riding), I wend for a ride.

I do almost no ‘leisure’ riding these days. Family takes priority, and whilst I rack up a lof of km on the bikes going to work and back, to the shops, and other errands I rarely just ‘go for a ride’. But I did, and I with some trepidation decided to go to Watson’s Bay. This is a route that is quite familiar to me, as it used to be something I did fairly often BK. (Before Kids).

It’s a nice route (when traffic is light – it’s not that great otherwise), as it goes up over a set of ridges, and the back down to water level through a variety of waterside suburbs – Rose Bay, Double Bay, Rushcutters Bay and the like. Up and down, up and down. Some of the inclines are quite steep, especially the climb out of Watson’s Bay. I used to dance up those hills on my fixie ten years ago – how would I go now?

Well, it was hard work. Fun, but hard work. And, dear readers, I have to admit that I stopped for a breather half-way up tine climb out of Watson’s Bay. The reason, of course, was to take the picture of the Sydney Harbour Heads that adorns this blog. Oh yes, I just stopped to take a photo. Nothing to do with aching legs and gasping for breath. Oh no. Not me.

Of course, it was at precisely that moment that a whole group of cyclists went sailing past me up the hill. They were pretty much the only riders I saw all morning, and they were there to witness my shame. But they all had gears, so yah boo sucks to them.

Anyway, I now have a New Year’s resolution, which is to get my legs back working again. I’ll try Watson’s Bay again next New Year’s Day, and we’ll see if there is any improvement…



Lord of the Rims

December 6, 2020 at 14:54 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have found it extremely difficult to get my bike serviced over the past few months. The bike shops I contacted were so busy they were not even taking bookings. Trying to buy spare parts online was almost impossible, as everywhere was out of stock of everything. It’s because of the pandemic, of course. When we first went into lockdown, everyone went out and bought bikes. Many of those bikes are only now being delivered, so shops are flat out. Which is great. But it meant I could not get my bike serviced.

This was a problem, as my fixie was sort of disintegrating. The drive train was shot, the headset bearings were worn, the tyres were gone, the front brake whatchamacallit lever for getting the wheel off was broken, and my front rim was very worn. But with no other option, I kept riding it as I called shop after shop trying to book it in.

Finally I found one, and rode over there for them to take a look. They noted down all the bits they needed to order, and told me  they should be there in a few weeks. A few weeks went by, and they didn’t call me. So I called them again, and they had misplaced the list of things they needed, but were ordering them now. A few more weeks went by, and I called them again. Hurrah! The bits had arrived. But they had lost the chainring somewhere, and the rim was not the right one. A few more weeks, I was promised. Really soon now. Any day really.

And then my rim disintegrated. I was on the way home, and the braking just got super juddery and was making alarming banging noises. The rim was literally splitting apart. I continued home rather gingerly (and slowly), and then took my bike to the bike shop.

They have now had it for 5 or 6 weeks, and it is still not really. Some other problem with parts not arriving or something. It really is extremely frustrating. In the mean time I have been riding the electric bike. In fact, I have put over 1,000km on the clock whilst waiting for my fixie to be fixed. I feel like my legs are atrophying.

Hopefully soon now. Any day…

Arnott’s Iced VoVo Lamington

November 11, 2020 at 06:20 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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I was so sure I had looked at these. So sure. Along with some other Lamington variant of something else for so long ago. Surely I’ve written extensively about Lamingtons. I feel sure I have.

Well, a search of this site reveals I have not. the word ‘Lamington’ does not appear anywhere in the eleven-odd years of blogging I have undertaken on the (undoubtedly important) topics of books, biscuits and bicycles. Amazing.

Apologies, dear reader. But never fear, the drought of content relating to Lamingtons is about to end, as we look at another biscuit variant from Arnott’s. (They seem to have dropped the ‘twisted faves’ tag, but I guess these are in a similar vein.)

But first, for my international readers, what is a Lamington? Well, along with the pavlova, it is Australia’s contribution to the great global dessert trolley. And, much like the pavlova, it was probably invented in New Zealand, but hey, Australians have never been shy of stealing the best ideas from their smaller antipodean neighbours (cf. flat white coffee and global pandemic management).

The (almost certainly untrue) legend goes that they were invented about 120 years ago when the chef to Lord Lamington, the then Governor of Queensland, had to rustle up some morning tea for unexpected guests and only had some stale sponge cake in the larder. So he cut it into squares, dipped them in melted chocolate and rolled them in flaked coconut. So delighted with the cakes were the Governor and his guests, they decreed by law that such cakes should henceforth be called ‘Lamingtons’, and should be served on the 21st July in every home in Australia for the rest of eternity. And to this day, police conduct random house-to-house checks on that day to ensure that Australians continue to observe this most important cultural and legal ritual.

So how are these biscuits? Are they authentic enough to avoid a $324 fine if eaten in place of actual Lamingtons during the July celebrations?

Well, to be honest I’m not really keen on Iced VoVos. They are rather fussy. And adding more stuff to them only makes them fussier. Now we have chocolate fighting with everything else. Possibly this goes slightly better with the coconut, but on the flip side seems rather ill-at-ease with the jam.

They are pretty much on a par with the originals, I think. Overdone, fussy, lacking in structure and with a bunch of toppings that don’t seem to get on that well. I’m going to give them a three out of ten.

Arnott’s Sunshine Coast Strawberry and Cream Tim Tams

October 27, 2020 at 16:18 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Good news; it seems the new range of ‘Crafted’ Tim Tams are still in production, so I was able to procure another variety to sample. The choc orange ones were pretty good, so how will this one fare?

Much like the choc orange flavour, Strawberry is a perennial Tim Tam flavour that seems to make a pretty regular appearance. In 2016 we had ‘Strawberry Champagne‘, and even further back in 2014 we had ‘Luscious Strawberry‘. Neither were a huge success, to be honest. Strawberry biscuits are a tricky thing. They tend to be too sweet, and have a nasty artificial tang. So have Arnott’s done a better job this time, or is it just another recycled effort?

Well, this time the strawberries come from the Sunshine Coast, so they must be terrific, right? The Sunshine Coast is up in Queensland, and the Chillikebab family have been on holiday there a few times. Right now, of course, visiting is verboten, as the state boarder is closed to us New South Welshpeople due to some sort of pandemic thing that is going on. I presume the strawberries have to get special permission to cross the border. Perhaps the biscuits have to go into quarantine or something.

So is it worth the effort? Well, I can report that these are definitely better than the previous attempts. The strawberry filling is less sweet, and has much more of a real strawberry tang. Yes, these are actually pretty good. At last, it seems Arnott’s have cracked it at the third attempt.

I’m going to give these eight out of ten. So far this new range is shaping up nicely. I’ll come to the last one in the series in due course!


Arnott’s Gisborne Orange and Dark Choc Tim Tam

October 22, 2020 at 10:16 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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Well! There is a new range of Tim Tams in town. And yes, dear readers, I am aware that they have been available for some time, so my apologies for the tardiness. But, you know, global pandemics and all that do tend to disrupt the blogosphere.

The chocolate orange Tim Tam is something that Arnott’s regularly flirts with. The last time was back in 2013, but that was merely a revival of a previous 2006 classic. I do enjoy chocolate orange. In my youth, it was associated with Terry’s Chocolate Orange, a fixture at Christmas when we would gather at my Mother’s knee and plead for a segment from the one that was always bought for her. (That, plus putting three pieces of coal on the fire, are my primary memories of Christmas as a kid. Those were the days.) It’s a decidedly retro combo, but definitely a classic and always worthy of a revisit.

In this new variety, Arnott’s have made it posh. It features oranges for Gisborne, on the east coast of northern New Zealand. New Zealand? What is this? Yes, apparently this whole range is showcasing the regional glories of Australia and New Zealand. Why New Zealand get to be part of this I have no idea; perhaps it’s part of a marketing push to sell more biscuits there. Or maybe they just grow really nice oranges.

Actually, I think it might be the latter. You see, these biscuits are lovely. The orange creme is far from the sweet, brash, 80’s vibed concoction in the original. It is darker, more bitter, more, well, orangey. And that peerless Arnott’s dark chocolate sets it off nicely.

These are great. I’m gong to give them a 9 out of 10. Great work, Arnott’s. And cheers to the orange growers of Gisborne.

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