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Arnott's Mint Slice

Sunday 15 Feb 2004

Last November the Wife visited Egypt on a covert biscuit hunt, and returned with two interesting packs which we subsequently reviewed. Also on the mission with her was amateur biscuit hunter Hazel, who was being trained up in the techniques and tactics of biscuit hunting. Given the latitude of Egypt and its attendant high temperatures chocolate biscuits were avoided. However, when amateur biscuit hunter Hazel reported in for an assignment whilst on route from New Zealand to Oz, we decided to set her a stiff challenge, bring back a pack of the fabled Arnotts 'Mint Slice', a dark chocolate covered treat whose repute is only eclipsed perhaps by that of its stable-mate the Tim Tam.

Having tried quite a few of Arnott's biscuits I've come to expect very high standards and I've also heard the Mint Slice spoken about in reverential tones. I tried to push these thoughts to the back of my mind as I bit into the Mint Slice, and maybe failed, as initially I wasn't wowed. Very much an Arnott's production with a crisp and porous cocoa flavoured biscuit base. The Mint cream is flavoured with South American mint oil and has all the elegance of an after dinner mint. The cream filling is complemented by a coat of dark chocolate which has just enough of a bitter edge to pull off the act.

Returning to the biscuits for their second tasting a few days later I was better placed to give them a fair assessment having now been formally introduced. This time I noticed how the whole biscuit behaved, with the significantly deep layer of mint cream providing lots of smooth yielding texture, plus a bit of slippage. I also have to note how regular the shape and finish of the majority of the biscuits was, enhancing the after dinner image cultivated by the mint slice. Actually I found myself missing the recent happy-go-lucky placing of the the components of the Mint Viscount, with the Mint Slice being almost clinical by comparison.

So on reflection I was impressed by the Mint Slice. It might be another of Arnott's 'adult' orientated biscuits, but that didn't cut much ice with the younger members of staff, who mounted a couple sorties on the review tin.

Now for all you aspiring amateur biscuit hunters out there, below is an example of what happens when you bring back chocolate biscuits in tropical temperatures in your luggage. Also below is a reference pack obtained in the Australian shop in London's Covent Garden. See if you can tell which is which.

The pack

Inner tray

Oh dear

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Foxs Party Rings

Tuesday 3 Feb 2004

There is an advert on telly right now where a lady has strange food related hallucinations. The cushions next to her on the settee turn into big slices of sponge cake and the rug turns into a large puddle of chocolate which she starts to sink into in the manner of someone drowning in quicksand. As a warning against bad interior design the patterns on her wall paper turn into a flock of party rings which fly across the room just missing her head. Now you would have thought that she would be well advised to find out who has been spiking her hot chocolate with mescaline. But no, it appears that she needs to eat a small portion of specific type of chicken korma curry ready meal to banish these disturbing visions. All the same, I would probably stay clear of cheese at bedtime as well, just to be on the safe side.

Yes this week we are looking at Party Rings a biscuit that somehow escaped review in October 2002, but as those of you who have played our biscuit identification quiz will know has passed through our tins. Party Rings are made by Foxs biscuits and if you doubt my word on that you'd do well to note that Foxs has trademarked not only the name 'Party Rings' but also their shape. Full marks go to Foxs for not putting one of those annoying ™ symbols on the pack where ever they write 'Party Rings' but instead hiding that information away under the seam in the pack.

The pack consisted of five wells each holding four biscuits sharing the same colour scheme. The colours are pale pink and white, orange and white, purple and yellow, pink and yellow and yellow with pink stripes. The stripes seem to be in sort of shallow 'Z' arrangement, which has then been raked by three or four wires. The icing has been applied to the back of the biscuit allowing the attractive hexagonal pattern of stripes to form the base of the finished biscuit. The hard sheen on the icing is probably due to the use of carob bean gum, and this is used in the confectionary world for the same job. Carob, or locust bean is also sometimes used as a chocolate substitute, and chewing on a whole one will give you the best idea why.

Naturally the pale biscuit base is a simple and unassuming affair with the sweet icing providing all the excitement. Now fairly obviously this is a biscuit aimed at the younger members of staff, who took to them like ducks to water. Despite the fact that during the tasting we were not engaged in any sort of 'Party' activity our enjoyment of the biscuits was unaffected. There are no artificial colours used, and any biscuits that survive the inital onslaught should be placed in a tin to keep them crunchy.

There that wasn't too scary was it.

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Kölln Cakes

Friday 23 Jan 2004

Last year we covered Brandt Hobbits from Germany, and with that particular shipment of merchandise from Tom Winter came a pack of Kölln Cakes, which were a species unknown to me. In common with a great many things in Germany that go by the name 'Cake', they are really rather obviously in our eyes, biscuits. Tom writes "Kölln is 'the name' in Oat flakes in Germany. The back of the packet reads: 'Dabeihaben isst alles' This is a play on 'Dabeisein ist alles' (participation is everything) slogan used by a charity lottery. The gist of the wordplay is 'having them with you eats them all'." Yes, hilarious wordplay indeed.

So what of these cake biscuits, how do they fair? Each is well presented in terms of its graphics which show a big ship, boat or something, and a sort of tower perhaps, or it might be a series of receding potting sheds stacked up. The year 1820, and the name of Peter Kölln, who bought his horse powered grain mill in 1795 are also present. Its probably a safe bet that our biscuits origins date back to 1820 then. Each biscuit is individually wrapped in its own cellophane sachet, with a little nick cut in one end so that we might easily open it. I've tried several and found that just a small corner seems get torn off still leaving the biscuit trapped inside the remaining 96% of the pack. There must be a technique to this.

Some people who must have the technique are the four individuals in the lifestyle shots on the back of the pack. One who is playing golf appears to have a Kölln cake sticking out of their glove, held in place by paranormal forces, Photoshop, or maybe a wire. I get quite irritated by little nylon labels in such items of clothing. This chaps golf swing appears to be unaffected by a fairly large (56mm x 83mm x 8mm) 25 gram biscuit jammed in there.

Another chap has one lodged in a strap thing round the front of his peaked cap, effectively holding the germanic snack over his right temple. I'm assuming he is some form of public servant, possibly directing traffic, however, strapping biscuits to his head may only serve to erode his position of authority. Or perhaps he's got the right idea and we should all proudly strap our mid morning snacks to our heads, using special head gear. This might be tricky for those of you who enjoy a yoghurt.

My initial taste impression wasn't favourable, putting me in mind of a dark mealy shortbread, with piquant notes of rabbit and guinea pig food. However, the Kölln cake proved to quite substantial. I then realised on my second attempt that the unfamiliar tastes and aromas were from the use of honey in the recipe. Once I was aware of this the flavour became much less alarming. Indeed by my third Kölln cake I actually grew fairly impatient with the bogus wrapping system as I was looking forward to strange shortbread. So all in all once I had stopped laughing at the initally odd taste I settled into the pack quite nicely.

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