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Fox's Classic

Wednesday 20 Jul 2005

Regulars of the site will know that we hold the work of Fox's biscuits in the highest regard, but as some have spotted we have managed to overlook one of their staple offerings The Classic. Well lets get that sorted out as Norman Cook would get a sample to repeat over and over, probably by holding down a little button or something, "Right Here Right Now".

Now straight away I'll cut to the chase and tell you why we have over looked these biscuits for so long. It was simply their name that put me off. Yes I know that's a poor reason but I'm sure it's true. You see despite the biscuits having obvious qualities, made by Fox's, that golden crunchy biscuit they do so well, chocolate covered and cream up the middle, I couldn't get past the name. Even for Fox's Classic seemed a bit presumptuous. How was it a classic? I thought of classics of fields of human endeavor, such as art, engineering and entertainment and tried to square this with the world of biscuits. Surely the Bourbon or the Rich Tea are classics. This rather complex chocolate bar wannabe was surely too contrived to merit such a name. And so I passed it by time after time, like somebody who frequents the same places as you and yet have never spoken to.

However, the readers of NCOTAASD tend to spot such obvious oversights in our coverage of the planet's biscuits and so after yet another email imploring me to try the Classic I finally decided that it was time to clear the air and formally introduce ourselves to one another. This took the form of me popping in a 14 pack (two inner packs of seven) into my shopping basket. As with all NCOTAASD formal introductions the proceedings included a big mug of tea, and where chocolate covered biscuits are concerned a big knife to cleave them in half and study their inner workings.

Immediately I began to feel a little sheepish, as all the elements of the biscuit worked together in an unaffected display of Fox's biscuit craft. Yes there was a note of coconut in the biscuit but it played its part competently against the oatmeal. As I saw off my second Classic it slowly dawned on me. I had set this pleasant little biscuit too bigger a stage to play upon, it was a Classic within the bounds of Fox's biscuit kingdom. All the elements were there, the sweet Fox's chocolate, the soft cream filling and of course the light golden crispy biscuit. I apologised for the misunderstanding then let the younger members of staff introduce themselves.

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Leafy Pie and Green Tea Pocky

Tuesday 21 Jun 2005

We all know that the Japanese are bonkers, but surely they must put all that on hold when they take a pause in their busy days for a cup of something or other (I'm being deliberately vague here) and a biccy. Well probably not, which is really what we were hoping for. So when Tom our book editor said he had brought back some biscuits for us from Japan after visiting his sister in the New Year we were quietly optimistic. When he also added that his sister had suggested some really nice shops were you can get really wonderful morsels and Tom had said 'No I think we should just go the nearest 7 to 11', we knew we would be in for a treat.

Looking like an after shave box, all black with bronze details, or possibly something to do with golf, Leafy Pies seem as if they are aimed at the gold medallion wearing segment of the Japanese biscuit buying public. If you still hadn't made your mind up then manufacturer Morinaga have added the English strap line 'The New Standard Biscuit'. This is the sort of excellent nonsense we were after. Turfing around their website which is a very odd mixture of 90% Japanese and 10% English reveals that they use this as their company wide strap line, it's that good. They also have some biscuits called 'Well'. Perhaps they are working on some new ones called 'Errm', and 'Actually'.

Inside the box are six small yellow sachets with a design on them that looks like a small bronze and black tartan ribbon with a gold leafy pie seal on it. The small sachet is something we have come to expect of oriental biscuits, and is preposterously small by western tea break standards. The two petite leafy pies within compared to chocolate digestive look like a juggernaut parked next to a mini. The leafy pie is very light indeed, and this would appear to be due to it being entirely hollow. It would seem that those puff pastry pie lids that you get on steak pies in pubs might have been the inspiration for this biscuit. A thin sugary glaze and an upper coat of chocolate complete the package. Biting one of these fragile little biscuits causes it to collapse into a little apologetic ball of damp pie crust in your mouth. A mere few seconds later you find yourself wondering if you really did just eat it, or did you simply imagine the whole thing. If this is what the Japanese are used to then the effort in despatching a HobNob would probably leave them exhausted and gasping for breath.

Whilst he was at it Tom picked us up a pack of genuine Japanese Pocky as made by Glico. Having had lessons on the Japanese tea ceremony he plumped for a pack of Green Tea Pocky. Until now we had only experienced the French Mikado, a Pocky made under licence in France by LU. So the first thing we noticed was that the Japanese ones are much shorter and stockier than their Euro version. The Pocky is best described as a salt-less pretzel stick 80% dipped in a chocolate like coating. In this case the coating was a very particular sort of green. There was a strange and delicate perfume to them, that proved impossible to accurately pin down, sort of quince like was the nearest I could get. However biting in gave way to a sensation akin to eating spat out toothpaste foam with a twig. Although that sounds disgusting, it actually was quite an interesting experience.

So has my uninformed opinion of the Japanese changed since sampling their biscuits? No of course not, they are plainly bonkers.

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Dad's Cookies

Friday 27 May 2005

As you might expect the methods by which we select biscuits for Biscuit of the Week are complex and not simply a matter of just opening up what ever appears to be at the front or back of the NCOTAASD review cupboard. Well obviously sometimes that does happen, but just occasionally a biscuit will create a powerful calling, a bit like in the first Superman movie when Clark Kent goes to the barn to get his crystal which has started glowing bright green and is making the livestock all tense and uneasy. So ignoring Wifey's assertions that I should do the weird Japanese biscuits secured by our book's editor Tom, I have been drawn in by the tractor beam of a pack of Canadian biscuits, despite their usually off-putting title of cookies.

Some of the older biscuit eaters out there might have at this point be struggling to read this review due to large amounts of mist in the eyes. The name Dad's Cookies was unknown to me before starting NCOTAASD, but soon after I began receiving pleas for information on this biscuit which apparently was once available in the UK. Although I had no experience of it myself those who wrote to us about held it in very high regard indeed, remembering its large crunchy oaty biscuits and distinctive yellow packs with red logo. Indeed we created the missing in action section of the site in order to record the existence of such well liked but unavailable biscuits. Right from the start however something seemed odd about the Dad's Cookies messages. Why would a biscuit that disappeared in the 1970s be calling itself a 'cookie' when being sold in the UK? The reports seemed to indicate a mature and confident product, not some quick flash in the pan. Where did it come from and where did it go? The answer.. Canada (but you knew that because I already mentioned it).

Baked in Canada by Christie now part of Nabisco Canada which in turn is part of Kraft foods which in turn is part of and so on. Dad's cookies have been around for over 75 years which is a very respectable age for any biscuit, and requires that we afford it a certain amount of deference as befits its advanced years. Now, for some of that spooky green crystal action, as it turns out that company founder William Mellis Christie came to Canada in 1848 at the age of 19 from the small Scottish town of Huntly in Aberdeenshire. Yes, the same Huntly which gave us last weeks biscuits of the week from Deans of Huntly. Nabisco acquired Christie in 1928. Nabisco acquired our own Associated biscuits the umbrella company under which Huntley and Palmer, Peek Frean and Jacobs were, in 1982. Its matter of speculation on my part but perhaps there had been prior experimentation with introducing successful foreign lines into the UK through their distribution chain?

Anyhow down to business proper. The biscuits are in a lovely big glossy paper bag thing with a clever built bag tie so you can seal them back up again. Inside are ten packs of 2 biscuits in clear cellophane. As you might expect from a Canadian biscuit the pack is bilingual, one side in French and the other in English. This has the particular advantage of saying 'Biscuits' not 'Cookies' on the French side.

The biscuits are big, about 75mm across and 9mm deep. A rugged surface is flecked very occasionally with oat flakes, and very very occasionally some thing mysterious small and dark. First bites reveal this to be a hard, brittle and crunchy biscuit, with a noticeable touch of cinnamon, and there is a certain other flavour hiding in there too. A look a the ingredients and all is revealed, its raisins. However they appear to be shredded down to a fine tilth, and explains the little black flecks. Now normally I would be outraged by such a spectacle but as I've said we should give the septuagenerian biscuit some respect, and conclude that this is just their way. The oaty sugaryness was very pleasant, and the pack points out that its vegetable oil, not hydrogenated oil in the recipe. All very good.

What happened next took me by surprise some what. Having thought I had made all judgements necessary I revisited the pack the next day with a particularly nice cup of tea, and low and behold found my self fairly helplessly cutting a swathe through the little cellophane packs. I suddenly dawned on me, the biscuits were terrific. Oh dear, as I paid an arm and a leg for them in the Canadian shop just off of Covent Garden. Hardly an item for the weekly shop. And so the tale is complete, they drew me in, seduced me with their unfamiliar and exotic ways, and have now left me. The number of people missing Dad's cookies in the UK has just increased by one.

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