Arnott’s Shapes Extreme BBQ Ribs Blast

September 30, 2015 at 20:19 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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shapes extreme boxWe live in a world of immoderation. Everything around us is super-sized, extra-strong, ultra-intense. Marketers of the world conspire to convince us that their product will deliver that life-changing experience, even as we plug the mundane details of renewing our car insurance or buying a sandwich.

For the most part, Arnott’s avoids such excesses. Lemon Crisp packets are not labelled ‘OMG! Unbelievably addictive!‘. Ginger Nuts do not proclaim ‘The strongest biscuit in the world!‘. No, Arnott’s like some throwback to a more genteel time, prefer to be more understated, allowing the qualities of their products to speak for themselves.

Of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average‘. ‘Exceeding the bounds of moderation‘. Thus the dictionary defines the word ‘extreme’. And it seems Arnott’s have gone all out with this new Shapes Extreme range to do just that.

The packaging is riotous. The language is hyperbolic – ‘intense’, extreme’, ‘blast’. What on earth is all this about? It’s like seeing your grandfather at a rave party.

I have to say, my curmudgeon meter was dialled up to eleven on this one. These were going to be terrible. I could just sense it, and I took them to the checkout like some portent of doom, only buying them because of the paucity of alternative options at the servo where I stopped in a mad rush.

The fact that I was taking them to an orchestra rehearsal made it even worse. They were my contribution to supper; a supper that is enjoyed by a distinctly conservative, largely retired, and somewhat blue-rinsed collection of amateur violinists. Oh well, I thought, I suppose the trumpets might like them.

Somewhat embarrassed, I opened them in the break and sampled one. Shuddering slightly as I lifted it to my lips, I closed my eyes and took a bite.

and….    and…..

Where was it? Where was the tongue-stripping acid, the tang of monosodium glutamate, the flabby biscuit no more than a second-rate delivery mechanism for all that ‘extreme’?

shapes extreme biscuitMy god. They were actually good. Really good. Crispy and light, with a lovely texture. Flavoursome and savoury, with just the right balance of sweetness, unami, salt and spice. In some extraordinary way they reminded me of a really good naan bread in an Indian restaurant; which sounds weird but might make sense if you try them.

This was something extraordinary. Even more extraordinary was that everyone agreed. Retired solicitors queued up to get more. The double bass player who rarely speaks was heard to remark ‘mmmm, these are nice‘. They were gone in seconds, with me barely being able to grab the last few to take a picture for this blog.

So there you are. Never judge a book by its cover and all that. The only way these are ‘extreme’ is in the ‘extremely delicious’ sense of the word. Go and buy some. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to give these a nine out of ten.

NSW Ginger Nut – revisited

September 22, 2015 at 19:09 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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ginger nut packBack in 2011, I looked at the NSW Ginger Nut. A truly remarkable piece of biscuit engineering, capable of withstanding the most extraordinary forces – eating it requires an almost karate-like skill. That review remains one of the most read on my blog (which is to say viewing figures are close to double figures), and certainly the most commented.

However, in recent times the comments have taken on a worrying edge. Commenters spoke darkly of the ‘influence of the Americans’, and hinted that the oh-so-uncompromising NSW Ginger Nut had ‘gone soft’.

Is this really the case? Could it be that Arnott’s lost their way, and dared to change the recipe? And after what happened last time?

This was something that needed urgent investigation. And given the trove of scientific data I amassed last time I looked at them, I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find out if things had indeed changed for the worst.

First of all, though, I did some anecdotal trials with some randomly selected work colleagues. Did they think the Ginger Nut had gone soft? I procured a pack, and offered them around. The overwhelming consensus was that they were just as hard and unyielding as ever. Encouraging, but I wanted to know for sure.

A visual inspection yielded few clues:

ginger nut biscuitarnotts ginger nut biscuit

 

 

 

 

The 2011 picture is on the left, the 2015 on the right. What we can clearly see is that I have got better at photography in the last four years. But otherwise, they look pretty similar.

So it was time for the three-point-flexural test. I used the same board, the same weights and even the same cocktail stick, carefully retrieved from the Chillikebab archives:

arnotts ginger nut flexural test

So, how is it going to fare? Is this going to reveal that the NSW Ginger Nut is but a weak shadow of it’s former self, or is it going to stand tall, living up to it’s fine history?

Well, I started to pile the weights on top. More and more. And then, with a loud snap, it cracked.

arnotts ginger nut failure point

So what was the final tally? Well, as you can see by the high-precision weights piled on the top, it fractured when I reached 52.2 Newtons, or a little over 5kg. This result, as you will remember, is pretty much exactly the same as last time.

So you can rest easy in your beds, dear readers. It seems the NSW Ginger Nut is as strong and unyielding as it ever was. All I can suggest is perhaps those readers who had such painfully soft experiences had somehow got hold of one of the inferior Queensland varieties. So if there is a problem, perhaps it is in the logistics. Change your shopping location, seek out the NSW variety, and enjoy…

Running. Never again.

September 17, 2015 at 23:46 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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It was sports carnival day at daughter #2’s preschool yesterday, so I took the morning off work to go along.

I rode down there with daughter #1 on the bike, and we watched all the fun of the running and obstacle races.

runningThen it was time for the big event – the Mums and Dads race. I took my place in the line, heart beating nervously. The stakes were high. This was for prestige and bragging rights. I wanted my daughter to be able to say ‘my dad’s faster than your mom’ to the other kids in the playground.

The whistle went ‘peep’, and we started running.

Now, I haven’t run since I was at school. I don’t really do running. But as a schoolboy, I was a reasonable sprinter, and with all the cycling I do I figured I’d go OK.

About four strides in, my quads petty much seized up. WTF? Perhaps it will go away if I keep going. So I keep on running; I’m pulling into the lead. But my god my legs hurt.

I have no idea whether I won or not. There was some confusion about whether we had to run back again, and even where we had to run to.

But afterwards my quads hurt. They continued to hurt as I then rode to work, and through the rest of the day, and for the ride home, and in the evening.

When I woke up this morning, they were even more stiff. I could barely move. And they’re not much better now.

I ride for an hour and a half on a fixed gear bike every day. I cycled 70km up to Newport before breakfast for a meeting, with no worries. I ferry the kids around on the bike at weekends.

But apparently running two hundred metres is too much for me.

And the worst thing? Tomorrow, it’s the sports carnival for daughter #1. So I’m going to have to do it all over again…

The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling

September 15, 2015 at 08:30 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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This is, of course, casual vacancy JK rowlingJK Rowling’s first adult fiction book, published to much fanfare in 2012. It explores the interwoven lives of the inhabitants of a small English village, touching on themes as diverse as racism, drug-taking, bullying, domestic violence, teenage sex, crime and prejudice.

Rowling herself has described it as a ‘black comedy’, which is an apt description of many of the characters. As in her children’s books, Rowling has a knack for creating extreme caricatures that somehow remain believable, and this cast of grotesques do have a certain dark, comedic quality. The plot and storylines, however, are far from humorous in their explorations of the darkest sides of human nature.

The cast of characters is large, and there are multiple storylines and plots that run throughout the book. Other reviewers have found this difficult to follow, but I didn’t find this confusing; the characters jump off the page and are so memorable it’s easy to keep up.

The writing, whilst somewhat clunky in parts, flows along well enough, despite the book’s length – although it does feel like it could do with a bit of judicious editing. There are some quite poignant moments, as well as some challenging ones – but there are also some rather long, tedious passages that could do with trimming.

It’s worth a look – it’s easy to read, and quite fun – but it’s not a great novel.

Arnott’s Jatz Clix

September 7, 2015 at 19:09 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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jatz clix boxThe ‘Best Tasting Melt In Your Mouth Cracker’. Goodness, I didn’t realise there was even a category called ‘Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Crackers’. I wonder which melt-in-your-mouth-cracker is the second tastiest?

With such questions buzzing around my brain, I took home my latest Arnott’s biscuit purchase to sample them. A derivative of the normal Jatz line, these biscuits are slightly paler in colour, and have a much lighter, more open bake. They also have more fat, salt and more sugar than the original, which I suppose is a pretty sure-fire way to get them to taste better. More of the bad stuff is always good. Oh yeah.

jatz clix biscuitYou get two individually wrapped packers of Clix inside the box. Which, I have to say, is a waste of time, as these are so addictive that you’ll probably eat the lot in one go. They are light and easy to eat, perfect for snacking on on their own, and all that fat, salt and sugar does it’s magic. Oh yes, once you start, you can’t stop eating them. They would have to rival Lemon Crisps for addictiveness.

I do fear the name could cause some problems, though. I took these to the office, and having staff calling out ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t stop eating your clix’ can, well, be misconstrued, shall we say. Or perhaps that’s just my mind in the gutter as usual.

I’m going to give these a highly commended 9 out of 10.

 

Arnott’s Shapes – Cheddar

September 1, 2015 at 17:28 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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arnotts shapes cheddar boxIt’s been a while since we had a savoury biscuit review, so when a packet of Cheddar Shapes happened into the Chillikebab kitchen I thought it might be worth a look at.

They are small, rectangle biscuits, quite crunchy, sprinkled with cheesy flavour.

Hmm, not sure there’s much more to say really. So instead, let me draw your attention to another cheesy change. I still eat a lot of Cheds, and back in 2012 when i reviewed them, the pack clearly stated ‘a crisp cracker with a baked on cheddar cheese flavour

arnotts shapes cheddar biscuitAt some point, however, that changed, and it now reads ‘a delicious real cheddar cracker, sprinkled with pecorino cheese and oven baked until crisp’. Pecorino cheese, eh? Now, I eat a lot of these biscuits, and I’m pretty confident that the recipe hasn’t changed. Was there always pecorino cheese in there? Did someone just realise, and decide the sex up the marketing? The ingredients just say ‘cheese (16%)‘. Which, I have to say, is a pretty good percentage. Cheddar Shapes can only muster up 14%. Although how much of that is actually cheddar is open to conjecture.

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

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