31 Jul 2013

Hyper Japan 2013 & a mini Haul!

I had a great time at Hyper Japan last weekend, a large event celebrating Japanese culture and food at Earl's Court in London. The above Pocky and snack heaven is courtesy of the fabulous Tofu Cute stand. I bought quite a few things from there but overall I didn't actually spend too much. I was very impressed by the Tofu Cute stall as the prices were reasonable and I was pleased to learn that they also have a UK website. 

A few note pads, a panda fan, Lucky Cat erasers, and some Japanese sweets are the main bulk of my mini haul! I also bought a few china bowls which I forgot to add to the photo, but I'm sure they will feature in some upcoming reviews.

This is quite a small food haul for me, but there wasn't really that much to buy that I haven't already seen elsewhere. I couldn't resist buying the Pocky Panda Cookies & Cream which I've already reviewed. The brightly coloured package in the middle is one of those DIY candy kits by Coris. I found some strawberry Glico Collon, which is something I've always wanted to try purely because of the name! I also bought a tube of peach flavoured Hi-Chew sweets, after the success of the Golden Kiwi variety I tried earlier in the week, and they were just as tasty. The tube of Puccho Cola are fantastic too, they have a fizzy centre and lots of sweet cola flavour.

I also managed to pick up a few mini Japanese Kit Kats in Blueberry Cheesecake and Strawberry Cheesecake flavours. These were being sold individually.

Lastly, there is this Limited Edition Cadbury Cherry Ripe Burst bar which was the only thing I bought from the CyberCandy stall. I was expecting to buy a lot more from them, but unfortunately the prices were much higher than I'm used to from their website and shop, which was very disappointing. I ended up spending more money with Tofu Cute instead. Anyway, I'll be reviewing this Limited Edition Cherry Ripe Burst bar and the Kit Kats very soon.

It was worth going to Hyper Japan just to try a traditional Tai-yaki fish shaped cake. I mentioned these before in a review about a strawberry and wafer snack which was based on a Tai-yaki (HERE), however I'd never actually tried the original cake. These were cooked on a shaped griddle, in a similar method to a waffle, and had a sweet red bean paste in the middle. They were freshly made, hot, and absolutely delicious.

Jack & Jill Magic Creams - Peanut Butter Cream

These Jack 'n' Jill Magic Creams might have a nursery rhyme sounding name, but they're not your average snack for kids. These are delicious little peanut butter filled crackers from the Phillipines. They were very kindly sent to me by @Banjo_Chocolate, and add a new country to my Around the World challenge.

Once I opened a pack I was genuinely surprised by their appearance. I was expecting these to be either a custard cream type biscuit, or a basic wafer, with a flavoured filling. Instead, these are triple stacked, thin layers of savoury cracker.

Each pack has three segments which are easy to snap off along the perforated lines. The actual crackers are very light and are quite similar in taste to a simple water cracker but with a more buttery edge. Inside there is layer of delicious peanut butter which has the perfect balance of sweet flavour and saltiness. Even though the layers are quite thin they still pack in lots of peanut butter flavour.

I have to admit I loved these Peanut Butter Creams. They're completely different to anything I've tried before. These usually come in packs of 10 individual portions and can be found in many Asian grocery stores.

Thank you once again to fellow snack fan, the lovely @Banjo_Chocolate, for sending me these Jack & Jill Magic Peanut Butter Creams. Please take a few seconds to like the Bring Back Banjo Chocolate Bar Facebook page. All support is greatly appreciated :)

Grocery Gems Verdict: Jack & Jill Magic Creams

RATING: 8.5 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely!
Nutrition: 150 calories per pack. 
Purchased: Available from many Chinese grocery shops.
Price: Usually around £1.50 for 10 packs.

30 Jul 2013

ChokaBlok Banoffee Bonanza Review (Tesco)

I recently tried the some of the new ChokaBlok 80g bars which are exclusive to Tesco, and was extremely impressed by the delicious flavours (see my review of the Excrème Brûlée & Very Berry Eton Mess bars). Those bars had been very kindly sent to me by Hannah from The Review Addict blog, and it wasn't long before I decided to try another bar from the range; the Banoffee Bonanza.

The bar once again looks fantastic and is generously laden with toppings. In this case there are swirls of banana flavoured white chocolate, slices of dried banana and toffee chips on a milk chocolate base.

There are lots of different textures going on in this bar with it's smooth chocolate, crunchy banana and chewy toffee. The banana flavour in the white chocolate is absolutely delicious. It's got that sweet banana taste that I love, although the flavour did get a bit lost within the larger milk chocolate layer. Then there are the plentiful toppings. I enjoyed the banana chips too and and the crunchiness they add, but the toffee chips are super sweet and made the overall bar a bit too sweet for me. However, it's still a great value bar for £1.40 and definitely worth a try for any banana fans!

Grocery Gems Verdict: ChokaBlok Banoffee Bonanza

RATING: 7.5 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes.
: 110 calories per 20g (1/4 of bar).

Vegetarian: Yes.
Purchased: Tesco.
Price: £1.40p.

29 Jul 2013

Bahlsen Hit Fun Sticks Choco Review

A very quick review for these Balhsen Hit Fun Sticks Choco from Germany (but available in Tesco). They're simple finger shaped chocolate biscuits with a chocolate free holding part on one end. They remind me of a biscuit version of Pocky sticks! They're definitely a great way to keep eating chocolate during a heatwave (not that the hot weather stopped me!).

The biscuits look very different from a standard chocolate biscuit, I can imagine they would be a good shape for dunking in tea, but I haven't put that to the test yet. They're very simple in terms of flavour- wheaty vanilla based biscuits with a smooth milk chocolate filling. It's all very well done, the chocolate is creamy with caramel undertones, and the biscuit provides a lovely crunchy base. Great for kids to eat without getting any sticky fingers!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Bahlsen Hit Fun Sticks Choco

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes - I like the resealable packaging too.
Nutrition (per 3 sticks)
145 calories. 

Purchased: Tesco.
Price: £1.00 (offer price) but it was a few weeks ago.

28 Jul 2013

Limited Edition Hi-Chew Golden Kiwi (Japanese)

I'm so excited today to be visiting Hyper Japan, a celebration of all things Japanese at Earl's Court in London this weekend. To celebrate here's the last of my recent offerings from the fantastic online Japanese store Oyatsu Cafe. This Limited Edition Hi-Chew Golden Kiwi, is a tube of individually wrapped soft chewy sweets, similar to something like Starburst (except much tastier!).

Hi-Chew is a Japanese sweet made by Morinaga that has been around since 1975 in it's current form, and one that is well known for it's unique chewy texture. It's origins stem from the 1930s with the desire to create a gum like candy that could be swallowed. There are now lots of flavours in the Hi-Chew range including Cola, Apple, Double Grape and Lemonade.

This limited release Golden Kiwi variety has the distinction of featuring realistic candy kiwi seeds for an authentic taste. They look fantastic and just like the little picture on the side of the packaging (seen above). The outer candy is yellow and infused with the black kiwi seeds, whilst the insides are a creamy white. The texture is like nothing I've ever had before in a candy, it's soft yet chewy at the same time. It starts out extremely gum-like, and lasts in the mouth for much longer than a regular chewy sweet. It's an unusual sensation at first but the candy eventurally starts to melt away. The kiwi flavour is completely delicious, very fruity and authentic, but still a strong candy flavour at the same time.

A very successful first experience of the Hi-Chew brand for me, and it's definitely one I'm hoping to try again. These Hi-Chew Golden Kiwi are currently on special offer at Oyatsu Cafe for $1.99 (usual price $2.99).

This product was very kindly sent to me by Oyatsu Cafe for review but all views are my own. 

Grocery Gems Review: Hi Chew Golden Kiwi

RATING: 9 out of 10.
Buy them again?: I'd try more from the range.
Price $1.99 (approx. £0.96).

27 Jul 2013

Glico Pocky Mango Mousse Review

Here's another review of some fantastic Pocky, although this time they're from China rather than the usual Japanese Pocky I've featured. These were very kindly sent to me by the lovely @Banjo_Chocolate who obviously knows my tastes very well! I'm also really pleased to be able to give the Mousse range of Pocky a try. These Pocky Mousse feature a thick creamy coating that is double the thickness of a standard Pocky.

Immediately I can see just how generous the frosting on these Pocky is. They're perfect for those people that aren't impressed by the thin coatings on the usual Pocky sticks.

The thick mango frosting is absolutely delicious, it's just like a mango ice cream type flavour. Nicely fruity but sweet and creamy at the same time. They're great to eat in this hot weather too, quite light and no messy fingers at all. I highly recommend giving the Pocky Mousse a try if you find them (try your nearest Chinatown or Chinese grocery store). They're available in quite a few other flavours too, such as a Matcha Green Tea Mousse.

Thank you so much to @Banjo_Chocolate, for sending me the Pocky Mango Mousse. Please support the campaign to get Mars to bring back the much missed Banjo Chocolate bar - especially by liking the Bring Back Banjo Chocolate Bar Facebook page. Thank you :)

Grocery Gems Verdict: Pocky Mango Mousse

RATING: 9 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely!
Nutrition: 130 calories per pack. 
Purchased: Available from many Chinese grocery shops.

26 Jul 2013

FUEL 10K Review & WIN TWO WEEKS Supply of FUEL Breakfast Products!

I was recently contacted by FUEL in order to review their range and also offering my readers the chance to WIN two weeks supply of Fuel products! See below for full details of the prize. The FUEL cereal range currently consists of an Energy Granola which boasts an added Guarana and Vitamin B mix, in either Chocolate Loaded or Nut Loaded varieties.  There is also an innovative Liquid FUEL Breakfast milkshake in Strawberry, Caramel Latte or Chocolate flavours, each with 20g of protein and less than 1% fat. Lastly, there are the quick and easy Porridge Pots which come in three delicious flavours; Golden Syrup, Apple & Cinnamon and Forest Fruits.

The FUEL packaging is certainly different. It's masculine black box and slightly angry looking eye immediately command your attention! The large silver letters proclaiming FUEL YOUR 10K HOURS introduce the basic idea behind this whole range. Inspired by the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers, the 10k hours theory explains that perfection is achieved after 10,000 hours of practise. As FUEL themselves say "our products are designed to provide the morning sustenance to anyone on the 10k hours journey - whether they're an athlete, artist, businessman, musician - anyone who is in the pursuit of excellence!"

FUEL NUT LOADED GRANOLA. I'm sure most people can relate to that philosophy in one way or another, and it's a great idea for a breakfast range, but the real test is whether the products taste good! I tried out the FUEL Nut Loaded Granola which is a wholesome mix of oats, seeds and roasted nuts, such hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts and coconut. The granola is extremely tasty with generously large chunks and a delicious caramel flavour providing a background sweetness. The combination of guarana and added b vitamins is supposed to provide a natural energy boost, which is certainly something I need in the morning! I also found this granola great to enjoy by putting it into little pots to nibble on during the day as a filling snack.

LIQUID FUEL  - STRAWBERRY. A quick solution to a breakfast on the go are these Breakfast Milk Drinks. My hubby is one of those people who very rarely makes time for breakfast, so I gave him a Liquid FUEL drink sp that he could try it at work. It's a delicious drink, that tastes very similar to a strawberry milkshake, but with the added satisfaction of knowing that it's packed with protein and low in fat.

FUEL INSTANT PORRIDGE POT - GOLDEN SYRUP. I'm a huge fan of porridge, it's one of my favourite breakfasts, but I have to admit that I've never tried an instant porridge pot of this type before. I probably had quite low expectations about the flavour, but I'm happy to admit I was completely wrong. I left the porridge for longer than the time given on the pot (2 mins), as it hadn't quite thickened up enough in that time, but once it had, I loved the flavour and the sweetness from the golden syrup. The whole thing was very filling and satisfying, and I'll definitely be trying these again!


Full prize consists of 14 days worth of FUEL products: 2 boxes of granola, 6 bottles of Liquid Fuel drink and 4 porridge pots.

To enter please answer the following question:

What is the theory for achieving perfection that inspired FUEL?

a)  1k hours Theory
b)  5k hours Theory
c)  10k hours Theory

Just reply to one of my competition tweets HERE with the answer. Or if you're not on Twitter simply send me an email to grocerygems@gmail.com with the answer and your name and address details. 

Competition CLOSES next week on Thursday 1st August at 5pm. Good luck!

25 Jul 2013

Pocky Rare CheeseCake Review

Another intriguing Japanese product from my recent Oyatsu Cafe parcel. Apparently Rare CheeseCake describes a creamy type of cheesecake rather than the darker baked kind. If anyone knows more about this flavour then please leave a comment below! There also seems to be a lemon influence to this Rare CheeseCake judging by the picture on the front of the box. It's all part of the new summer range from Glico, which includes the Coconut Pocky that I reviewed earlier this week here.

As usual the packaging is unique to the Pocky flavour, I love how no two packets that I've reviewed have looked the same thus far. For the Rare Cheesecake it's a sleek blue and white theme.

Once I opened up one of the inner packs I was immediately surprised by the cheese scent which greeted me. It's a savoury and almost cheddar like scent, but not in an overpowering way. The flavour however, is completely different, it's sweet rather than savoury. The sweetness and creaminess of the icing instantly come through followed by a very subtle hint of lemon, with a slight aftertaste of cream cheese. Ultimately it's quite a simple combination of flavours, but it still creates an unusual and enjoyable Pocky experience, and one that has pushed my powers of description to the limit!

Even though I'm not an expert on Japanese snacks, I've been loving trying all these new varieties, and I'm very thankful to Oyatsu Cafe for sending me some fantastic products. This weekend I'm going to the massive HYPER JAPAN show at Earl's Court and I cannot wait! I hope to come home laden with even more Japanese snacks and lots of kawaii ornaments. :)

This product was very kindly sent to me by Oyatsu Cafe for review but all views are my own. 

Grocery Gems Verdict: Rare Cheesecake Pocky

RATING: 8 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Probably not. So many Pocky, so little time.
Price $2.99 (approx. £1.96).

24 Jul 2013

New York Bakery Co Recipe Book

I recently received a lovely parcel of bagels from the New York Bakery Co, which also included a copy of their free recipe book; "The Nation's Favourite Bagel Recipe Book: Start Spreading". This is a collection of recipes for fillings submitted by bagel fans across the UK. It features ideas for every meal from breakfast to dinner, and from savoury to sweet.

The recipe book is completely free to download from the New York Bakery Co Facebook page.

Some of the recipes include; classic fillings such as this 5th Avenue Fill-Up recipe, which uses pastrami, guerkins and red peppers to create a New York favourite.


Or for a meaty breakfast I love this Wakey Wakey recipe which uses ham, chorizo AND bacon, with some scrambled eggs in the middle.


Or keep it simple with a sweet bagel and a peanut butter and banana filling!

There are lots of bagels in the New York Bagel Co range, check out my review of their latest varieties HERE.

23 Jul 2013

Beyers Chocolates South Africa: Chocolate Couture Selection (Woolworths Food)

I was recently sent a superb selection of chocolates to try from the largest independent chocolate manufacturer in South Africa - Beyers Chocolates. See also my Amarula Chocolates review HERE. This box of 16 Chocolate Couture Selection immediately caught eye not just because it's so visually stunning, but also as it's made by Beyers Chocolate for Woolworths Food. I soon discovered that there is a successful Woolworths chain in South Africa that had no affiliation with the Woolworths chain that existed in the UK. I certainly don't remember my old Woolworths selling such gorgeous chocolates!

The individual chocolates all look sensational. There are eight different varieties in all, each topped with embedded ingredients; Hazelnut Chocolate Delight, Chocolate Lava, Vanilla & Strawberry Caramel, Hazelnut & Lemon Curd, Strawberry Caramel, Burnt Orange Caramel, Raspberry Caramel, and Cherry Pavlova.

Each one is like a mini dessert in it's own right! Having tried all of them I can say that they are also some of the most interesting and tasty chocolates I've had the pleasure of trying. The creamy milk chocolate used in each, has a lovely cocoa flavour which provides a perfect base for all the different flavours within.

Vanilla & Strawberry Caramel: The separate layers within this chocolate all look stunning. There's a strawberry cream layer on the bottom, with a middle layer of caramel, all topped by a dome of strawberry infused white chocolate and decorated with larger freeze dried strawberries. The vanilla and strawberry flavours work beautifully together.

Hazelnut & Lemon Curd: At first I didn't like the idea of this flavour combination but I was proved wrong, because it's completely delicious, and one of my favourites from this selection. The sweet lemon cream layer is topped with white chocolate and a crunchy nut brittle. Just yummy!

Cherry Pavlova: This is visually one of the most striking chocolates in the selection. The bright pink coloured chocolate with white meringue pieces peaking through looks fantastic. I was expecting this to be very sweet and sugary but I was pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous cherry flavour. The ingredients contain dried cherries, cherry paste and cherry pulp, which all combine to create cherry perfection! The meringue on the top is nicely crunchy but still melts away very easily. An outstanding cherry chocolate.

Raspberry Caramel: Again the fruity flavour has been done exceptionally well here. There is lots of fresh tasting raspberry flavour within the caramel layer, and it's all topped off with a lovely white chocolate and decorated with dried raspberries. Loved it!

Hazelnut Chocolate Delight: This is another great looking chocolate, with it's whole hazelnuts embedded in the top. The dark chocolate base, is emphasised by an extra layer of soft dark chocolate too. This is topped with a hazelnut flavoured white chocolate, the flavour of which is somewhat dominated by the dark chocolate. This was one of my husbands favourites.

Strawberry Caramel: Similar to the first chocolate (above) but obviously without any of the vanilla creaminess in between. This is pure strawberry and caramel flavour! The inner caramel is sweet and delicious and is topped by a strawberry white chocolate filled with dried strawberry pieces. Again, the fruity flavour is fabulous and remarkably, the whole thing is well balanced in terms of sweetness.

Burnt Orange Caramel: A classic chocolate orange with candied orange pieces on top. I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate and orange combinations but the buttery caramel centre here adds a unique and interesting touch. (My camera has done strange things to the orange colour - it's not so neon in real life).

Chocolate Lava: I love the name! The little chocolate curls on the top of this domed chocolate do make it look like a little volcano. This is a pure chocoholics delight. Simple and sweet, with milk and white chocolate and a dark chocolate soft centre.

Overall, I absolutely loved this whole Chocolate Couture Selection. The chocolates are gorgeously presented and provide pure sweet indulgence. I know that Beyers make chocolates for several UK companies and I hope they can bring this selection over here soon!

I received this product for an honest review but all views expressed are my own.

Grocery Gems Verdict: Chocolate Couture Selection

RATING: 10 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Yes, if I could find them!
Nutrition: 304 kj (info given in kj not calories) per serving. 
Purchased: Available on the Woolworths website but only in South Africa

22 Jul 2013

Fruyo Greek Fat Free Yogurts Review

It's been far too long since I last reviewed any yogurt, so I was very pleased when FAGE, known for their Total range of Greek yogurts, came to the rescue by offering to send me some of their Fruyo fat free range to try. There are four flavours in the Fruyo strained yogurt range; Cherry, Peach, Pineapple and Vanilla. They are all free from artificial colours and preservatives, and suitable for vegetarians.

Strained yogurts seem to be the next big thing in yogurts. I've previously tried them in the super thick Danio range (review here) and loved the dense texture. Fruyo yogurts are very similar texture wise but they have the added bonus, in my opinion, of having the fruit flavour within the yogurt rather than layered separately at the bottom. I much prefer the yogurt being fruity and not just plain.

Cherry Fruyo- The fat free strained Greek yogurt creates a luxuriously thick experience with lots of fruity flavour. There are generous chunks of cherry pieces throughout the yogurt too, adding extra bursts of satisfying fruitiness.

Pineapple Fruyo - The super thick yogurt is again bursting with fruity chunks. The pineapple is extremely sweet and very moreish. This was my husbands favourite of all the flavours.

Peach Fruyo - Peach is usually one of the first flavours I try from any yogurt range and this Fruyo did not disappoint. This was my favourite fruity Fruyo flavour, closely followed by the Cherry.

Vanilla Fruyo - I love the fact that there is a vanilla in this range. It might seem to be a simple flavour but I find it quite hard to find a simple vanilla yogurt in individual servings. There are little black specks from the vanilla seeds throughout the yogurt. The sweet flavour and thick texture makes this taste more like a dreamy dessert rather than a yogurt!

I also tried the Total 0% Fat Free Greek yogurt. This unsweetened yogurt, with it's deliciously thick texture, is perfect for enjoying with a drizzle of honey in the morning. The large tub goes a long way and provides several servings.

The Fruyo strained yogurts are all extremely generously sized and due to their thick nature, I find them very filling to eat. On several of these recent very hot days I've been having a tub for lunch and it keeps me full for ages. It's not often I say something like this, but I'd actually like to see these tubs available in smaller sizes too - my kids love the flavours! Edit: The Total 0% range is available in smaller 170g tubs :)

Grocery Gems Verdict: Fruyo Yogurts

RATING: 8.5 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Absolutely.
Vegetarian: Suitable for vegetarians.
Purchased: Available at Waitrose.
Price: £1.09p per 170g pot (also on 4 for the price of 3 offer).

20 Jul 2013

Double Fruit Oreos - Raspberry & Blueberry and Orange & Mango (China)

When it comes to handing out exciting Oreo flavours, it would seem that the UK is at the bottom of the list. If you want anything more interesting than vanilla or chocolate cream fillings then you're going to have to look further afield. These Double Fruit Oreos for example are from China. When I spotted them in a shop in London's Chinatown, their dual coloured centres instantly reminded me of all the fantastic varieties I've only ever seen on American blogs such as The Impulsive Buy (Watermelon Oreos anyone?).

The outer packaging for these Double Fruit Oreos is certainly bright and inviting, but the inside of the box simply consists of 9 Oreos sitting in a plastic tray.

Raspberry & Blueberry Oreos

The filling looks fantastic, at least to my only-ever-had-plain-Oreos-before-eyes. The scent is immediately extremely strong and fruity but intensely artificial at the same time - verging on a fruity bubblegum scent. The actual taste continues in the same vein with quite an artificial undertone to the generic berry flavour. The difference in taste between the raspberry and blueberry creams was not as strong as I hoped, as they both have a very similar fruity flavour. However the blueberry side does have an extra sour edge to it that is thankfully missing in the raspberry cream.

Orange & Mango Oreos

Again the filling looks very colourful. Happily, the scent here is slightly less artificial than before, with a sweet citrus fruitiness. The flavour works quite successfully with the outer biscuit, creating a classic chocolate & orange combination. The mango component is not particularly strong in itself, but it does add an undertone of tropical flavour to the dominant citrus notes. The result is an extremely sweet cookie, but it was ultimately my favourite out of the two Double Fruit Oreos.

Overall, I'm not disappointed in these Oreos. They're one of those products that I'm just pleased to have found and had the opportunity to try!

Grocery Gems Verdict: Double Fruit Oreos

RATING: Raspberry & Blueberry - 5.5 out of 10. Orange & Mango - 7 out of 10.
Buy them again?: Probably not.
: Unable to read the information.

Purchased: Sweetshop in London Chinatown.
Price: £1.99p each pack.

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