British snacks (and booze too!)

One thing I like to do when I go to a foreign country is snoop around and test out some snacks that you might not find out at home. Here are a few from my stopover in London.

The 99 Flake – a soft ice cream cone with a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar stuck in it. I actually didn’t have any this trip (was too cold at the time), but I still remember the first time I had one. It was while on a day tour of the Scottish Highlands and I spotted a little stand selling them in a little Scottish town we stopped in for a quick potty break. The cold of the ice cream makes the thin layers of the Flake a little brittle, and you can use the Flake to scoop up your quickly melting ice cream. This photo was of a stand that was just outside of Hampton Court Palace. The poor guy inside must have been freezing!

99 Flake

99 Flake

I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but I’ve really become attached to hard ciders. While it’s harder to find a quality cider here are home, over in England they are everywhere. I was told that I should try Bulmers because they were better than Strongbow, so I picked up a bottle of apple cider and another one of pear cider. They were crisp without being overly sweet and I enjoyed them, but I was a little let down by the pear cider because it didn’t taste of pears at all and was almost indistinguishable from the apple cider.

Bulmers ciders

Bulmers ciders

When you go to another country, you gotta learn the snack lingo. Over there, chips = French fries and crisps = potato chips. I think my favourite so far is still the Walkers Worcester Sauce crisps, but I tried a few other ones this time. Also in the photo is an orange Fanta. I love drinking Fanta over there because it tastes more like Orangina than orange soda. And I was intrigued by finding a Fanta Zero, so I bought it to see if the flavour changed a lot due to the artificial sweeteners (wasn’t bad but the real thing is still better). The crisps pictured here are Quavers (cheese flavoured potato chips in a corn chip shape), Walkers Max Paprika (ripple chips) and Wotsits (cheese puffs). The Quavers were kind of salty and bland. The Wotsits weren’t as cheesy-tasting as my favourite Hawkin’s Cheezies and they weren’t as crunchy either. The paprika crisps were good and did taste exactly like paprika.

Fanta Zero and crisps

Fanta Zero and crisps

As a treat one evening, our hosts made us some apple crumble topped with THE best non-dairy ice cream that I have ever had. Lactose, cholesterol and gluten-free, Swedish Glace tasted no different from a regular ice cream and had a creamy texture. I really, really wish you could buy it here!

Swedish Glace

Swedish Glace

While I was in London they launched these new Marmite cereal bars. I managed to snag a sample (and coupon) as I passed by on my way to the Tube. Interesting marketing campaign, huh?

Marmite cereal bar

Marmite cereal bar

Marmite, in case you don’t know what it is, is a yeast extract that is often spread on toast.

Marmite coupon

Marmite coupon

If you’ve ever tried Marmite (or the Australian version Vegemite), then you will know exactly how this thing tastes like. NASTY. I took a bite of the bar and then spit it back out. One of our local hosts insisted that “real” Marmite on toast was much, much better, and I didn’t like that either. It’s definitely an acquired taste.

bar close up

bar close up

I’m almost done the London posts! There are a few more to come, and then I’m moving on to Morocco.

Happy Robbie Burns Day!

Today’s entry is all about the Scottish favorite offal dish – the haggis, in celebration of Robbie Burns Day.

Much maligned for it’s taste and ingredients, haggis is a mixture of minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, onions, suet, oatmeal, and spices, which is then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled in water.

My first exposure to haggis was at the annual Heritage Days festival (now called the Heritage Festival). I was intrigued to see that the Scottish pavilion was selling haggis on a bun, and was determined to try it – partly out of curiosity and partly as a dare. It was probably not the best haggis ever, but it was decent enough that I became hooked on it. The next year, I had two orders of haggis on a bun, and was tempted to eat more. I probably could have gone to some butchers to look for my own haggis that I could cook at home, but I’m the only one in the family who actually likes it and there’s no way I could finish one on my own. Unfortunately the local Scottish association doesn’t have a pavilion at the festival anymore. There went my haggis fix.

In the fall of 2007, I took my first (and so far only) trip to the U.K. I spent most of the trip in England, but a friend of mine was living in Edinburgh at the time and I took a few days to visit. And when in Scotland, you definitely have to try the haggis. I actually ate a couple of different versions during my visit.

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