Saturday, February 3, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Treats From Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England

     Recently I kind of struck myself, because I realized there's an Irish-themed store near my home and I haven't really properly taken advantage of the opportunity.  This store, called "A Touch of Ireland," sells mostly clothing, knick-knacks, and other non-edible items, but they do have a few shelves devoted to candy and snacks.  So I picked up a few--four different kinds, to be exact.  They were a Guinness Luxury milk chocolate caramel bar, a pack of Cadbury dairy milk buttons, a pack of Rowntree's fruit pastilles, and a bag of Tayto cheese & onion potato crisps (or "chips" to Americans).  However, despite the name of the store, they obviously sell things from Ireland's neighbors in the U.K.  Guinness is made in Ireland, obviously, but Cadbury and Rowntree are made in England, and the Taytos I got were made in Northern Ireland.  Hence, the somewhat unwieldy title of today's post.
     Rowntree's was started by a guy named Henry Isaac Rowntree in 1862.  The fruit pastilles line was developed in 1881.  Some of their other products include fruit gums and jelly tots.  They also invented the Aero chocolate bars back in 1935.  Rowntree's was bought up by Nestle in 1988.
     I found Tayto to be a little confusing.  That's because there's a Tayto company in Ireland that specializes in making potato crisps.  But, in 1956 the Hutchinson family started their own crisp company in Northern Ireland.  They licensed the Tayto name from their Irish neighbors, and used the same recipes, too.  Technically, they're separate companies, but they're obviously very similar, even down to having nearly identical potato-headed men corporate logos.  Anyway, the type I got, cheese & onion, is their signature brand.  Some of their alternate crisp flavors include beef & onion, pickled onion, roast chicken, spring onion, smokey bacon, salt & vinegar, worchester sauce, prawn cocktail, and autumn onions mixed with onion.  (Okay, I made the last one up, to make fun of their apparent obsession with onions.)
    Cadbury, of course, is a gigantic company.  A John Cadbury opened up a grocery in Birmingham, England back in 1862, and started experimenting with cocoa products, including a drinking chocolate as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.  The candy manufacturing company started in 1831, and prospered heavily up through the present.  In 2010 Cadbury was bought up by Mondelez International (nee Kraft Foods). The dairy milk buttons were developed in 1960.  Besides the U.K., they're also sold in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  There's also a white chocolate variant of the buttons. 
     Finally, Guinness is clearly a famous and popular brewery, best known for their stout beer.  This company has been selling their beer since 1759, and has been exporting to the U.S. since 1817.  Additionally, since 1955 the company has been putting out the annual Guinness Book of World Records.  (Sadly, the long, 400-500 page, text-based, incredibly comprehensive and detailed books I remember fondly from my adolescence have changed, and not for the better, in my opinion.  Since the mid 1990's this book has become a coffee table-type book, with less actual records, and way more photographs.  It's now more shallow and glitzy, I find.)  I did see that the isinglass controversy appears to be settled, though.  Isinglass is made from fish bladders, meaning strict vegetarians and vegans didn't drink the Guinness beers that contained this substance.  Guinness has been fazing out the use of isinglass over the past several years, and I think by now all of their beers of free of it.  (Although if you're a vegetarian/vegan I advise double checking on this, to be safe.)  The chocolate for this candy was made by Lir Chocolates, Ltd., also out of Ireland.  Other flavors of this candy are Luxury milk chocolate solid bar, Luxury dark chocolate solid bar, Luxury dark chocolate truffle bar, and mini Guinness pint chocolates.  In 1997 Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo, PLC.
     On to my reactions:

1) Guinness Luxury milk chocolate caramel bar:  This bar was made up of 12 separate "pockets" stuck together.  Each pocket was about 1.5 inches by an inch (about 3.5 cm. by 2 cm.), for a total length of 15 cm. by 7.5 cm. (about 6 inches by 3 inches).  The color was a typical milk chocolate brown.  The filling in the pockets was the caramel.  I found it "meh," or average at best.  It wasn't as sweet as I would have liked.  There is actual Guinness in it--the amount is surely not enough to get someone drunk, but the label does stress that this candy isn't for children.  Since I'm not fond of Guinness's various stouts, or stouts in general, maybe this flavoring agent explains my lackluster response.

2) Rowntree's fruit pastilles:  This was a roll of small discs, each about 1.75 cm. (about .75 of an inch) in diameter, with a sugar coating on the outside.  There were supposed to be five flavors--black currant, lemon, lime, strawberry, and orange.  My pack didn't have any lemon pastilles.  As with the Guinness, I was rather disappointed.  The black currant one was the best, but even this one was only alright.  The flavors were rather weak and bland.

3) Cadbury dairy milk buttons:  These looked like, well, buttons--thin disc-shapes, with diameters, once again, of about 1.75 cm. (about .75 of an inch), light brown in color, with the company name etched on them.  I enjoyed these.  They reminded me of Hershey's chocolate kisses, even though I recognize that European chocolates contain more cocoa, etc.  I thought this was a solid chocolate candy.

4) Tayto cheese & onion potato crisps:  These looked like a typical potato crisp, or chip.  Yellow and thin, with some being a wavy shape.  I could definitely detect  the onion and cheese flavors.  I liked these--a respectable snack.

     So, overall, I enjoyed two out of the four.  The two I didn't particularly appreciate weren't awful or anything, just not worth having again.  And I'm definitely intrigued by some of the more unusual flavors of the Tayto crisps--I'd like to give those a whirl, and will if/when I can.  I'd also like to get a hold of some of the Irish Tayto crisps, and compare and contrast these with the same flavors of their Northern Irish cousins.

     Switching topics, the Kickstarter campaign for the anthology I've been discussing for the past month or so, "Hidden Animals:  A Collection of Cryptids," is over.  As I mentioned, they met their initial funding goal, so things should be moving along smoothly.  I should be receiving the edits for my story in it very soon, and the two volumes will presumably be out as scheduled in May of this year.  Updates will follow.  And thanks for the support!

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