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McVities Taxi

Thursday 27 May 2004

Earlier this week we made one of our biannual visits to Lidls, we would go a little more often but its quite far away. Wifey has learned to mostly put up with my excessive excitement about going to Lidls. I love it as its the closest experience one can have in the UK to going into a small everyday continental supermarket. I also like how Lidls can sometimes surprise you with our own British brands. So I was delighted this week to spot a big pile of McVities Taxi biscuits, which I haven't seen in ages. Maybe I haven't been looking in the right places, however, in Lidls they shone out like a beacon.

I'm not sure, but I seem to remember the launch of the Taxi biscuit to be coincident with the zenith in popularity of the american TV sitcom of the same name which ran from 1978 to 1983. Of course Taxi the series was the spring board for such names as Dany DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman and the bloke who played Geoff Goldblums dad in Independence Day. Although the characters and comedy were unusually entertaining for a US show, the best bit for me was at the end when the receptionist used to say "Goodnight Mr Brookes" and the bloke walking off down the corridor used to grunt "Euuhh".

Anyhow, biscuits. Yes, I had quite forgotten how good a Taxi is, laminated from wafer, caramel, wafer, chocolate cream, wafer, caramel and wafer, and all covered in chocolate. This is definitely mid morning treat material. Of course there will be obvious comparisons to the Tunnocks wafer, and the most striking difference is really in texture. The Tunnocks has many more thinner layers, whilst the Taxi has fewer and thicker layers one of which as we said is cream. The result is a much softer biscuit, whose layers shear slightly as its munched. It also means that the Taxi tastes more like an ensemble of its constituents rather than an indivisible whole.

Of course the outcome of all of that is that they don't last very long. At approximately 21mm square by 80mm long they are also quite diminutive for a chocolate count line, and you should allow for at least two per person per mug of tea. The caramel accounts for 39% and the chocolate which has a slight taste of vanilla for 37% of the Taxis mass. The packs still have that distinctive blue and yellow checker, which again makes me suspect that its Yellow cabs rather than black cabs which have inspired the name. The strap line "Miles more caramel" goes some way to explaining the name. Perhaps "A complete law unto themselves when it comes to caramel" was too long.

Yes I'm very pleased to rediscover the Taxi, and no doubt this will signal the withdrawal of the product by McVities.

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Foxs Ginger Creams

Sunday 16 May 2004

Nathan Rippon got in touch last week shocked at the ommitance of the Foxs Ginger Cream from our review archive. It's good to know that we still shock people even after all these years even with out trying. Still we thought it would calm him down a little if we got a pack in for a spot of reviewing.

Well Foxs are well known for this style of biscuit, which to be fair they do better than anybody else. Foxs very first products were Brandy Snaps, which are almost as much a toffee as they are a biscuit. This ability to produce sweet, light, crunchy, brittle biscuits is something that Foxs seem to do better than anybody else I can think of, witness the Butter Crinkle Crunch.

So where are we on this little chap? Well it's ginger we are looking for and indeed it's there, both in the the biscuit and the cream, but it's really not going to blow you away. If anything, the cream has more recognisable ginger flavour than the biscuit. Personally I would have liked it if Foxs had cranked it up a notch or two, but maybe that would make it a less accessible biscuit. In fact the younger members of staff and the Wife accessed most of them, and I had to make a bit of a final stand to see off the last three.

I was interested to see that the cream had a gentle tint of marigold orange which comes from the addition of beta-carotene. I tried hard to photograph the cream but somehow it stayed hidden, due to quite a deep overhang on the biscuit. I think this has got to be the first biscuit with beta-carotene in it that I have ever had. Although perhaps something with orange icing has used it and I never noticed.

As I expect you know beta-carotene is the pigment that makes carrots orange, and it can be artificially synthasised. It is converted by the bodies metabolism to Vitamin A, which makes it a provitamin. So now you know, a provitamin is not a vitamin as used by professionals, it's a metabolic precursor. The one that is in shampoo, Pathanol or provitamin B5, never gets a chance to be metabolised, as it is applied to your hair which is dead. It just coats it in a slippery film. And, while we are on the subject of hair, what is going on with those people in the L'Oréal hair gel ads? Presumably there is something fairly powerful in there that can cross the blood brain barrier and make you think that it's fine to go outside looking like you've slept with your head caught inside in a machine that makes coat hangers. Still, I guess we should all just be thankful that they have stopped pretending to play saxophones whilst jumping through japanese people's walls.


Regal Multireview

Monday 3 May 2004

Well I've been very busy of late, what with the new HQ to get sorted and the deadlines approaching on NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown the book, so the biscuit reviews and sit downs for that matter have been a bit thin on the ground. So, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a look at some interesting biscuits that you might encounter when heading to the Mediterranean this summer, thanks to the expansion of the European Union. All baked in Malta by Regal biscuits there are some old favourites, some new twists on old themes and regional specialties. This week we'll look at three of their range, Imqaret, Muesli Digestives and Fig Rolls.

My source of information on Malta comes from Nanny Nicey who has been there twice. She says that most people travel round the island on a fleet on ancient yellow buses that date back to the 1930s, many of which have holes where you would normally expect to find floors, windows or doors. In the capital Valletta the buses congregate around the fountains near the city gate, which is where you can buy from a cake stall the local speciality of Imqaret, date filled and deep fried pastries. They are very frequently seen at the village Fiestas which take place through out the summer months. It is as much part of the summer/fiesta scene as are our toffee apples and candy floss are when you hit the seaside in the UK.

Apparently all the old buses are now going to be replaced, not because they have finally stopped working after seventy years, but because Malta joined the European Union on Saturday, May 1 2004 (BTW my 40th birthday) and no doubt will suddenly find it has laws against buses with holes in them.

So lets begin with Regal's Imqaret biscuit. The pack straight away mentions that they are 'Baked not Fried', which for any one used to the local pastries could be important. Looking like a long skinny fig roll the Imqaret feels familiar however the taste is most definitely North African influenced with date, orange and honey. I think most people will find these quite a tricky biscuit to get to grips with and again its one of those ones that works well with a gentle heating say in a microwave, as it helps release the exotic aromas, and emulates the freshly cooked street bought Imqaret. With only 12% fat and salt free you can experiment on these quite happily.

Rimus Riley, who now sell their biscuits under the Regal Brand name, is a family owned and run company. It has been producing biscuits and snacks since 1975 mainly for the local Maltese market, and has had some dealings with the export market, but not in a consistent manner. It employs over 60 people and is currently expanding its export business following a great deal of interest in its products.

Lets turn now to their Muesli Digestive. Now Muesli can be tricky old stuff and eating some of the more rustic versions can be like devouring a lightly shredded wickerwork chair. I always remember the wholefood shop in town when I was a student selling big sacks of 'community muesli' which looked like the sort of stuff they sweep up in a sawmill, presumably the community sawmill. There would always be a strategically placed single dried apricot pressed up against the side of the pillow sized bag to catch your eye. It would also serve to detract you from the chair leg bits of old raffia matting and other assorted kindling that was in there. My skinny Czech house mate used to take roughly two to three hours to eat a bowl of the stuff, during which he would complain about a possible reoccurring jaw dislocation injury. We had to ban Muesli when it was clear our plumbing wasn't designed to take the consequences.

So I expected a fairly rustic biscuit and wasn't too disappointed, still I didn't find anything woody so they must be using a domestic grade of muesli rather than the wattle and daub grade of my student memories. The biscuits were quite hard a brittle, with almost a vanilla note to their flavour. Not really like a conventional digestive, but certainly good fun to munch, down with a mug of tea.

Finally we tried the Fig Rolls. Like the Imqaret they were cut before baking. The crust was no shrinking violet, but a good amount of fig helped make this a well balanced biscuit. I thought the fig paste tasted very authentic, possibly because the Maltese are very comfortable with the fig. However, for some, the graphic representation of a fig on the pack might be too vivid if they don't want to make that association (a bit like people who only eat meat from animals that aren't cute).

Regal sent us some other biscuits to try including Yoghurt Creams, Jaffa Rounds and Apple Strudel Rolls. Of these the Yogurt Creams were very interesting definitely tasting of yoghurt, and the Apple Strudels were very much like the fig rolls only filled with some spiced apple. The jaffa rounds were probably the least impressive, but all in all we enjoyed much of what was on offer here so that bodes well for Mediterranean biscuit munching.

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