Ride and Fly

June 21, 2017 at 14:00 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You may remember some time ago I impulse purchased a luggage trailer. My initial review was not 100% favourable, and to be honest since then it’s pretty much stayed in the garage unused.

However, the other day I had to go away on business, and the mid-morning flight timing seemed to suit cycling to the airport, plus the trip was going to need checked-in luggage, so I decided to bite the bullet and ride to the international terminal.

I duly dusted off the trailer, packed it pretty full and set off.

The first thing I noted was when I packed. The internal dimensions of the bag are not as large as the external size would suggest, and the zipper opening only allows you to open just over half of it. So it’s not that easy to pack. If also means the most easily accessible and largest part of the bag is the bit at the top, so this bit tends to end up packed more tightly that the bottom bit. This means the weight is distributed towards the top, which exacerbates the somewhat unstable nature of the trailer. More on this later…

Anyway, I coupled it up to the fixie, kissed everyone goodbye and set off. My family waved me off at the doorstep and then went inside as I pulled away. This was lucky, as had they remained a moment longer they would have witnessed me falling off as I turned out of the drive, sprawling unceremoniously on the road. Why? Well, the nature of the coupling means you can’t take a sharp right hand turn, as the back wheel jams up against the tow arm. It’s not an issue in normal riding, but low-speed manoeuvring  carries this risk. Perhaps this is true of all trailers, I’m not sure, but it certainly wasn’t a very auspicious start.

I dusted myself off, and tried again. From there on it went fairly smoothly, although I did still have this background concern about the trailer stability. Riding in traffic on pot-holed roads is a little hair-raising, as I was conscious that if the trailer hit a pothole it might turn over, pulling the bike out of line. That didn’t happen, but I did experience a couple of issues with trailer stability; it tipped over a couple of times when I had to negotiate curbs or tight corners. I could see them coming, and had for the most part stopped beforehand to push the bike around, but it does underline the problem. This thing is easy to tip up.

However, leaving the shortcomings of the trailer aside, riding to the airport is great. Bike access to the airport is fairly straightforward (even if the shared path is rather narrow and directly adjacent to fast-moving traffic), and you can lock up your bike for free right outside the arrivals area. Given the utter rort on transport options to the airport, this is a rare bargain and by itself makes cycling worthwhile. There are free showers in the departures area too, so I was able to have a shower and change before I checked in for my flight. And when I got home there was no waiting about; I walked out of the terminal, grabbed my bike and set off.

The other thing I hadn’t properly appreciated is how close the airport is to where I live. Even (cautiously) pulling a trailer and having to navigate an unfamiliar route, I got there as fast as I’ve ever got there by taxi. Wow. Eleven kilometres. That’s nothing. It’s an interesting thing; my non-cycling friends consistently over-estimate distances based on driving times. It seems utterly unlikely that a journey that takes over an hour by car is less than 15km, but often that’s the case in Sydney (and pretty much universally true at peak time). Seems I had fallen for the same fallacy with regards to the airport. It’s actually right on my doorstep.

I am ashamed of myself for not doing this before. From here on, I will mostly ride, I think. I might not use the trailer much, given its poor design, but I can certainly see me strapping my bag to the back of the Radish and riding there on that. Too easy.

Scotch Finger Lemon Butter

June 15, 2017 at 13:09 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Lemons are pretty awesome, when you think about it. They can enhance just about any style of cooking or eating – whether desert, main course or drink. They can lift a roast chicken, give zing to a meringue pie or complete a gin and tonic. Yes, I’m a fan of lemons.

Arnott’s have some form with lemons too. The Lemon Crisp is a god among biscuits. It is transcendent. If you’ve never tried one, go and buy some right now. They are addictive.

Funnily enough, there is a link between the Scotch Finger and the Lemon Crisp. When I reviewed the last ‘Twisted Fave’ Scotch Finger, the one with choc chips in it, I noted at the end of the review that they were good, but ‘nowhere near Lemon Crisp territory’. Did some Arnott’s employee read this, and did this create a subliminal link in their mind between Scotch Fingers and lemons, leading directly to this new variety?

Yes, it did. It surely did. It’s surely thanks to me that we have these biscuits.

And you can thank me effusively, because these are good. I really wasn’t sure how they were going to be; on the surface it seems kind of like an odd combo. But they work brilliantly. The lemon is, well, lemony; the bright flavour adding lifted notes to the rich biscuit. It’s like a rich lemon cheescake. I’m going to give these an eight out of ten. Good show, Arnott’s. Oh, and feel free to send me a few cases by way of thanks for the inspiration…

 

Arnott’s Bites – Mint Slice

June 8, 2017 at 21:21 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Arnott’s are at it again, fiddling with old ideas. Apparently they have re-branded the ‘Chocolicious‘ range simply as ‘bites’, and also changed the flavours. In shocking news, it seems the dark chocolate version is no more. This is a tragedy, as it was by far the best one. However, in more cheery news, the Mint Slice is now honoured with the chocolicous bite treatment.

To be honest, I was never a fan of the whole ‘chocolicious’ thing, a rather unfortunate portmanteau that I previously blasted as ‘try hard and derivative’. ‘Bites’ is more to the point, although I now feel rather nostalgic for the old packaging, which I think did look more classy than the new, rather utilitarian design.

Enough of all that – how are the new Mint Slice versions? Well, the Mint Slice, as you will know, I believe to be Arnott’s finest creation. So I was pretty excited about these. The individual elements – the chocolate, the biscuit and the peppermint cream – are all there. But the proportions are way different. The chart below will give you the idea:

That’s a lot of chocolate. Chocolate dominates in this new format. That’s not all bad, as it’s Arnott’s delicious high quality dark chocolate, but it does rather unbalance the texture a bit; there’s not really enough biscuit to give textural contrast and structure. These are good, but not as good as the original. I’m going to give them an eight out of ten.

Tim Tam Black Forest (take 2)

May 19, 2017 at 11:12 | Posted in biscuits | 2 Comments
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Sorry it’s taken a while to get to this. It’s another of the gelato-inspired flavours, with packaging to match the others. Except that this one is not co-branded as ‘Messina’; it looks like the same range, but lacks the endorsement of the posh-ice-cream-shop-du-jour.

There’s a reason for this. It’s not actually inspired by gelato at all. It’s actually inspired by a 2011-era Tim Tam, called ‘Tim Tam Black Forest‘.

Yep, that’s right. It’s exactly the same biscuit. Same filling, same chocolate, same chewy centre. And I have absolutely nothing more to say about it. Read the other review, or just note that it’s not that good, and gets a six out of ten.

 

Update: between writing this and publishing it, it seems the pack has now been amended and does carry the Messina endorsement. Very strange…

 

Tim Tam Coconut and Lychee

March 10, 2017 at 17:35 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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tim-tam-coconut-lycheeSo we come to another of the Messina flavours. ‘Inspired by ice cream’, or something. And once again, there’s just a whiff of recycled about this flavour…

The new twist is of course the lychee. On sampling, opinion was divided as to whether it was possible to detect any lychee at all. Most people opined that there was no lychee flavour at all, but a few souls claimed to be able to taste it strongly. Your mileage may vary.tim-tam-coconut-lychee-biscuit

Other than that, they are enrobed in that rather unfortunate ‘white‘ coating. The coconut is probably the best bit, but this is not a classic. Poor Messina. A bunch of recycled flavours that are, so far, failing to hit the mark. Perhaps things will improve with the other varieties. I’m going to give these a 5 out of 10.

Tim Tam Choc Mint

February 13, 2017 at 15:20 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim-tam-choc-mintWow! A whole new set of Tim Tam flavours have been launched. And with funky packaging too!

This new range has been ‘inspired by Gelato Messina’. For those of you who have not heard of Gelato Messina, it’s a posh ice-cream shop, and currently flavour-du-jour of the hipster classes. Move over Zumbo; this is the new cool in desserts. Arnott’s have clearly read the zeitgeist, ditched the patissier extraordinaire, and hope to ride the gelato craze.

There are four new flavours: Mint Choc, Coconut and Lychee, Black Forest and Salted Caramel Vanilla. Now, you may be excused for thinking that sounds all a little familiar. Arnott’s have previously ranged Mint, Coconut, Black Forest and Salted Caramel versions of Tim Tams. Indeed, some of those flavours were apparently created by the great Adriano Zumbo himself, so it must be a bit galling to not only be dumped in favour of an ice-cream parlour, but for them to steal your flavours too.

It was the Mint Choc I tore into first. To be honest, I was super-excited. The previous Mint incarnation of Tim Tam was, in my opinion, one of the finest Tim Tams ever made, and I was hoping that this would be the same biscuit, dressed up to capture those oh-so-fickle millennials.

tim-tam-choc-mint-biscuitWell, sad to say, it is not. it is similar, to be sure, but not the same. Instead of the rich mint cocoa filling of the original, this one has a slightly green-tinged cream that smells rather like the junior Chillikebabs’ toothpaste. It certainly has a minty taste, but a more creamy, almost vanillary version. To Arnott’s credit, it does actually taste quite a bit like Mint Choc ice cream. And it’s by no means a bad biscuit; they are quite yummy and easy to chomp on. It’s just not quite up to the high benchmark set by the original (which I went all out and gave 10/10 for). I’m going to give these a highly creditable 8/10. And Arnott’s – please bring back the original mint ones…

Arnott’s Entertainers Scoops – Poppy and Sesame Seeds

December 16, 2016 at 12:28 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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entertainersboxChristmas is coming. A time for entertaining. And what could be more entertaining than a box of pear-shaped mini-biscuits called ‘Scoops’?

Scoops. There’s just something unfortunately scatological about that word.

Anyway, these biscuits for clearly for loading up with dip, which is handy at one of those entertainment gatherings where there isn’t enough proper food to soak up the alcohol. Armed with these biscuits, you can get through most of a bowl of dip in just a few minutes.

When I first saw these, I assumed they were just a small, shaped version of an existing biscuit. But if they are, I am not familiar with the prototype. They are actually quite nice – crunchy but not too hard, with a salty / malty taste that is quite addictive. They are perfectly snackable on even without any dip. I like them, and am gong to give them an eight out of ten.

Shapes Light and Crispy – Sour Cream and Chives

December 8, 2016 at 20:15 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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shapes-light-and-crispy-boxShapes. It all seems to be about Shapes in biscuit-land at the moment. New Shapes, Original Shapes, New-but-now-original-again Shapes – it has been dominating the biscuit community for months.

And into this maelstrom comes yet another Shapes variant – the ‘Light and Crispy’ range. I snapped up a box to see what they were like.

Well, you will remember some time ago when we started on this whole ‘savoury biscuit’ thing. At that time, I was nervous about the whole cross-over with ‘savoury snack’ thing. When does a biscuit become a snack? Well, it might just be with Light and Crispy Shapes, as these are definitely dipping a toe into the waters labelled ‘snack’, if not going for a full swim.

shapes-light-and-crispy-biscuitsThey are very light (which, I suppose, given the name is hardly a bad thing), thin, crunchy ‘biscuits’. Yes, the packet still has them labelled as ‘biscuits’. So that’s OK then. You can very easily shovel several at a time into your mouth, which to me is a definite sign of ‘snack’. And when you eat them, they crunch down quite quickly.

For all that, they have a nice enough texture, and the sour cheese and chive is pretty standard for the genre. Nothing stand-out, but quite pleasant. As a snack. I’m going to give these four out of ten.

Shapes – Cheese and Bacon (New)

November 5, 2016 at 19:37 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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arnott's shapes bacon and cheese flavourThere’s an old saying amongst chefs; if you want to give something that is otherwise a bit bland instant appeal, simply add cheese and bacon. There’s something magic about that combination of fat, protein and salt that is just irresistible. But do Arnott’s capture this irresistibility with the Cheese and Bacon shapes?

Of course, the controversy is still still raging about the ‘new’ Arnott’s Shapes. I covered this new Shapes debacle last time when I looked at the Barbecue flavour. Almost half a year on, the backlash continues; social media is still alight with negativity about the new flavours, and Arnott’s have actually had to re-introduce the original Pizza flavour in an attempt to prevent street riots and the like.

Cheese and Bacon is not a flavour I have previously tried, so I have no idea what the original ones tasted like. So in one way this is a kind of more pure review, untarnished by sentimentality.

The biscuits themselves are dusted with flavouring, and appear to have flecks of bacon embedded in them. With no bacon listed in the ingredients, however, I’m fairly confident these are just coloured bits of – something. Perhaps it’s best not to ask too many questions.

And they taste sort of cheese and bacony. Salty, cheesy, savoury. Not too sweet (a fault which bedevilled the new Barbecue flavour). Nice texture. Not a classic, but pretty good. Suitable moreish. So for these at least, I’m going to give the new flavour a thumbs up with a creditable five out of ten. Those with experience of the original Cheese and Bacon can unload below in the comments…

Tim Tam Mango

October 8, 2016 at 20:08 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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arnott's mango tim tam biscuitI recently had the dubious pleasure of attending a ‘management off-site’. Not in Fiji, or even the Blue Mountains, but in Manly. Oh so glamorous.

After our executive lunch in a beachfront cafe (where they forgot to bring half the things we ordered), we had ice-cream from a concession in the ferry terminal. Oh yes, I lead the glamorous life of a business executive. The last of us to make their selection was our Operations man, an affable German still fairly new to Australia. After examining the flavours on offer, he plumped for a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of mango.

How we scoffed. ‘Amateur!’, we told him, having chosen two flavours that clearly had no chance of making a harmonious dual-scoop marriage. And, indeed, with some chagrin, he had to admit that it didn’t really work as a blend. ‘But vee do not have all ziss selection of ice-cream in der Deutschland,’ he plaintively cried. We nodded knowingly. No Australian would ever make such a flavour faux-pas.

Surely?

Well, as it happens, not a week after that inglorious management exercise in Manly, Arnott’s have done exactly that, and released a mango Tim Tam. (They seem to be in a bit of a tropical theme at the moment, having also recently done Pina Colada and Pineapple. The rumour is that this is due to the Tim Tam team being relocated to Queensland.)

mango-tim-tam-biscuitI bought some, and took them to work for people to sample, and the results were not spectacular. The mango cream is sort of OK, in an over-sweet mango flavour kind of way. But it just fights with the chocolate on the palate, and the whole thing is a sickly mess.

Sorry Arnott’s, a mango chocolate biscuit just isn’t going to work. Even a German could tell you that.

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

 

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