JW the Beef and Burger Bacon Baron (yes its really him!) join Rod and Hugh in the studio to discuss why British food has a bad reputation and to taste test some food to beat that reputation (and a few that support it).
British foods (from Myers and Keswick) reviewed by an American palate
Myers and Keswick (pronounced “kessick,” you wanker) is the spot in NYC to get all of the best British fare, both packaged and prepared. I fancied a visit to the shop and was fortunate to have a tour guide from across the pond – none other than JW the Beef and Burger Baron. Or “J. Dubbs, Triple B.” translated to American.
JW gave a guided tour of Myers and Keswick. He pointed out basically every single item in the shop, denoting nearly everything as a “must try” item. Knowing limitations on the Hungry Dads petty cash fund, I limited our purchases for Round #1 to the below choice selections, curated carefully by JW.
Popular culture has been traditionally unkind to British food. But for every boiled tomato, I think there are dozens of extremely tasty treats from the old country loading with flavour.
Bangers – The first half of the infamous duo of “bangers and mash.” Without underselling them, these essentially taste like breakfast sausages, but they are the size and texture of a bratwurst. I ate mine without any mashed potatoes, and the experience felt a tad incomplete. But they were certainly tasty.
Sausage Roll – A sausage (maybe a banger?) encrusted in a somewhat flakey breading (maybe deep fried?). I ate mine cold and did not regret it. I am sure that a fresh, warm, toasty sausage roll is its own delicious experience. But I was pleasantly surprised how tasty it was cold – since often cold fried stuff has a certain nastiness to it. No such nastiness here. All tastiness.
Scotch Egg – What’s inside this breaded ball? Well, egg. But based on its size there must be something else right? I bit into my scotch egg with absolutely no idea what lay inside. Could’ve been more egg. Could’ve been lobster (to which I am allergic). It was in fact…meat. Super yummy meat. Sausage. Pork sausage I believe. Almost a ham/bacon flavor to it. So like the layers of the earth, there was a nice breaded external crust. Then a hammy, sausage inner layer. Then the exterior core of hard boiled egg white. Then at the absolute core was the yolk – also hard boiled. It’s like a hard-boiled egg, but EXTREME!
Fruit Pastilles –At first bite, the taste and crunch of oversized sugar granules on the exterior, lead you to believe that you are just eating a flattened out gumdrop – flat on both sides, about ¼ thick. But the Fruit Pastille is a bit different than the gumdrop beyond its shape. It’s harder – not full on Jujy-fruit-hard – but you’ll need to engage your molars for sure. Then, once you get through the sugar shell, you’ll realize that they are just a tad bit less sweet than your standard American gumdrop.
Eight British Chips – RANKED
Tayto Smoky Bacon (the BIG 37.5g bag) distinct from American bacon flavor in that it did not taste like bacon bits. That is nether a compliment nor an condemnation. My sense is that in Britain, bacon is a bit more like ham than the American super crispy uber salty. That translated here. Will say, I did not detect much smokiness, which I do not necessarily think is an issue of cultural flavor. But as with 99% of chips we review – yes, they are tasty. They’re chips! (Note: as I write this, Mrs. Gallon commented on them, about 20 minutes after she tried them together. She thought they tasted like vomit (her words) and the taste stayed with her.
Hula Hoops (Salt and Vinegar) – Same as the Original (below), but better. As much as I enjoyed the original Hula Hoop in its shape and texture, the flavor there is a little too plain. Frankly, I had to look at the package to determine that it was potato based (as opposed to rice, or soy, or horse hooves). Salt and vinegar is a distinctly British taste that lives perfectly on the Hula Hoop.
Walkers Cheese and Onion – Walkers (literally the same logo as Lays, with the word “Walkers” inside) gives us a great chip. But it should really be called “Onion and Cheese.” Or better yet “Onion, Onion, and Cheese.” Plenty of Onion in there baby. Of course we have to compare these to America’s sour cream and onion chips. They are similar, but no no green specs flecked atop each chip. Also about sixteen times more onion taste. Mrs. Gallon will not be pleased whilst cuddling tonight.
Hula Hoops (Original) – These are a top notch snack. First, they are pretty unique in my vast snacking experience, made out of a sturdy ring of potato. The thickness is the treasure here. Whereas a lot of snacks pride themselves on being “crispy,” or “melting” away, Hula Hoops promise thick snacking for a violent crunch in each bite. Every hoop feels like a Godzilla level destruction in your mouth.
Walkers Salt and Vinegar – Walkers (British for “Lays”) classic British flavor offered in a chip. Solid chip and in form, very similar to the American Lays. The taste was a little too vinegary compared to my beloved Salt and Vinegar Hula Hoops, which were more mild and pleasing to my sensitive American palate
Quavers – These light and crispy chips have some good flavor. Purportedly cheese flavored, but the folks at Walkers must have snuck plenty of garlic in there too based on my breath afterwards. Quavers succeed in their mission, which is to be crunchy. But this type of snack is low on my list based on how light it is. I like my snacks dense and filling. This bag would have to be three times as big to convince me it was worth it (especially in comparison to the dense and sturdy Hula Hoops).
Twiglets – I was most curious about Twiglets because they seem to be the most uniquely British in name and reputation. In sum they taste like burnt Cheetos without the cheese and with ashes of a house fire sprinkled on top. Sounds terrible right? Yeah. But somehow they aren’t terrible. I found them oddly compelling and kept going back to the bag. My guess is that these are a Vege-mite type of flavor that my American taste buds just aren’t yet evolved to receive.
Delightfully Floaty Fizzibly Melty Prawn Cocktail Flavour Skips – I, Hugh Gallon, have a shellfish allergy, so much of this review as the opinions of my dear wife, Mrs. Gallon, and also, friends of the show Mr. and Mrs. Gary Costello. Mrs. Costello was the biggest fan, comparing them to perhaps a shrimp salad type of taste. She noted a strong aftertaste but didn’t seem to find it off-putting. Her five year old daughter also enjoyed them. My guess is she enjoyed the texture, which were a puffy, melty, foam type of texture. Sort of fun to feel it disintegrate in your mouth – hence the made up marketing term, “fizzibly.” Gary Costello tried one with an open mind, but was almost immediately turned off. He was then even further turned off by the aftertaste. I, despite m allergy decided to dig in after checking out the ingredients. I determined with relative certainly that there was no actual prawn inside. Although soy and gluten allergies abound (go figure). It seemed safe. I did not like them. But on account of my allegory, I don’t eat the stuff and have no taste for it. If my allergy went away tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the most gourmet shrimp in the world. Mrs. Gallon, a shrimp enthusiast, would not eat them at all. While you may not consider that a review of the snack, since she never ate any, her response is a review of sorts. It speaks to the lack of this snack’s cultural flexibility. Her deeply American palate was not even interested in entertaining this “exotic” snack. Granted, I have seen prawn flavored snacks on the regular from Europe to Asia. But in the U.S…not so much.