Well, the clocks went forward the other weekend; shops have had chocolate eggs on the shelves since December and a few days ago (as I write this introduction) March's Degustabox arrived on our doorstep - but let's not leave it there, let's bring it into the house and marvel at the delightful food inside! It usually takes us quite some time to write our review because we like to test and sample the all the items, plus I was away for a week over Easter too.
First things first, the obligatory box shot! You can probably see that there does seem to be a bit of a theme to the box this month (don't know if that's intentional), and that looks to be one of snacks and sweets and treats!
First things first though, Easter was knocking on our door, so we were not surprised to get some chocolate eggs in the box...
Lindor assorted Mini Eggs - £2.00 per Pack
Now these are nice! (I know, I usually write a lot more but what else can you say? (apparently I could say more, so I'd better get on... shame... I was enjoying munching and writing eats into my egg tasting time)).
I'm sure you've tried Lindor chocolate before, or at least found yourself watching one of the adverts on TV... but if you haven't, essentially you have a nice and firm chocolate shell with a creamy smooth chocolate filling, all curtesy of the Lindt master chocolatiers.
These eggs are delightful. The quality of chocolate is definitely high, whether it's the milk, dark or white. There is something incredibly indulgent about biting into one of these eggs. But it isn't the just the shell, it's the smooth and creamy texture of an equally tasty filling; simply wonderful.
I can't recommend them at all though; because if everyone goes and gets them, there'll be none left for me!!
Crabbie's fruits - £1.50 per bottle
Seeing a bottle (or two) of Crabbie's in the Degustabox always makes me smile - it is one of Neil's favourite things (he likes 'traditional drinks' and alcohol … which sounded much better in my head before I wrote it down... but you know what I mean). This month we were sent two flavours from the alcoholic fruit range - so no ginger in these! Our flavours were one Black Cherry and one Raspberry and Rhubarb. Neil's had the Black Cherry before, but the Raspberry and Rhubarb was a new one for him. He didn't really know what to expect, so it was the first to be sampled!
Opening the bottle - you really got a great scent of fruit! Really - you wouldn't be surprised if you got a fruity smell like this from a fragrance or something! It smelt really nice! Taste-wise - the easiest way to describe it is to say, "You remember those Rhubarb and Custard hard-candy/boil sweets you used to have as a kid (and sometimes, as an adult)? Well this tastes JUST LIKE THAT!" Really sweet with a lovely, familiar flavour. Does not feel at all like an alcoholic drink (so be careful - each bottle is 1.3 units; almost half a woman's recommended daily intake).
The Black Cherry is delicious. In my mind it tastes just how black cherry things should taste, with lots of flavour. I'd say it doesn't taste as sweet as the Raspberry and Rhubarb and while it smells alright, isn't anywhere near as fragrant either. That's not to be negative about it. If I had to pick a favourite, I'd have to chose the Black Cherry.
Brioche Pasquier Baked Bread Bites, RRP £0.50 per bag
These baked bread bites look quite promising on the packet, although I approached these with a little trepidation. Bacon flavour! I'm sure everyone knows what I'm going to say next. Bacon flavour though, it's one of those ones that keeps repeating usually for hours (days?) after eating. Oh well, eating this food and then writing about it is a tough job, but someone has to do it :-)
Opening the packet I was surprised. First things first, the bread bites are actually smaller than they look on the bag. I would describe them as "crouton-sized". This does make me think I could probably substitute these for croutons in soups and salads and it would work wonderfully.
The little bread squares are crunchy and the bacon flavour is fairly subtle, which is nice. There is nothing overpowering and - having eaten a packet about an hour or two ago (as I write this) - there has been no obvious repeating on me yet. Bonus!
You do get a little finger-recolouring from the flavouring (but not as bad as certain cheesy-flavoured corn snacks), but nothing long term - so less orange fingerprints with these.
Considering each 20g bag is less than 90 calories and the bread bites are made from real bread with nothing artificial (and, like many meat-flavoured things, are suitable for vegetarians!).
We enjoyed these and would be likely to pick them up again.
Kent's Kitchen Posh Noodles - RRP £1.75 per pot
In previous Degustaboxes we've experienced the Kent's Kitchen meal kits and have been impressed with their flavour and ease of use. This month we were sent Spicy Szechuan Posh Noodles. Like many noodles in pots, they just needed hot water and a little time (4-5 minutes) to be ready for eating.
Being lazy, and because they give a serving suggestion of "eat straight from the pot," I ate from the pot. The noodles were thin and long and had a good noodle taste, but the szechuan flavour didn't really come through until the end. This may be a consequence of eating from the small pot, it may also be a consequence of the thin noodles not holding the flavour. It might also be me not being patient and getting stuck in a little earlier than maybe I should have.
Saying that, the sauce/soup the noodles in had really good flavour and was nice and I'd say it was a good level of spiciness - warm, but not fiery!
Jordans Lighter Granola - RRP £3.69
Back in September's Degustabox we were sent some Jordan's simply granola, which we liked a lot. This time around, for breakfast delights, we were sent some of the lighter granola.
I'm always a bit suspicious when companies make "lighter" versions of their standard products, especially when there isn't that much difference in what the product contains. Granola is granola - how have they made it light? Are they cheating and giving a smaller serving size? (Although I don't know what a regular serving size is, so if they're cheating - I have no way of knowing!)
The 550g bag contains approximately 12 servings; the suggested serving size being 45g. I decided to test how easy it was to get the correct serving size, my first couple of attempts being 20g over the size, but getting it right on the third attempt. (Saying that though, there was little visually to distinguish between my first 60+ g bowl and the third 45g one -- I have to assume that some of the clusters and dry fruit weigh significantly more than other things... or something.
Anyway, enough of that - the taste is really good; it is full of flavour; the 45g serving (I know I keep mentioning serving sizes... it's like I'm a little obsessed or something; I might be, but I'm also aware so shhhhh) seems just the right amount to keep you going from breakfast to lunch. The flavour is great - a good mix of freeze dried fruit and oats and barley. It doesn't feel low fat or low calorie ( a serving is 180Kcal ). It tastes good.
I think for those looking for a low fat, low calorie cereal it is a good choice and I'd recommend it. I would say that you have to be careful on the serving size though, it is so tasty and the recommended size is possibly smaller than you'd imagine, so it would be easy to accidently have two or more servings without realising it.
Natvia natural sweetener - RRP £2.00
To go with our lighter breakfast cereal, we were sent a sample pack of Natvia 100% natural sweetener which claims zero calories per serving (as well as claiming to be great in tea and coffee).
I'm not someone who usually uses sweeteners. I usually find that the common sweeteners contain aspartame or something similar that leaves you with a bit of an unpleasant (at least, to me) aftertaste. So, you can probably guess, I approached this with some trepidation.
Long story short - this wasn't bad. The colour and texture of the sweetener is whiter than processed sugar. While it isn't as fine as icing sugar, there is something similar in the way it looks. I tried it, as they claimed, in both tea and sugar. Not knowing how effective it would be, I tried a spoonful's worth at a time and found it was pretty much the equivalent in sweetness to similar amounts of sugar.
There wasn't any aftertaste. I think it's safe to say it did what it said on the packet. It does say it's good for baking (although there wasn't enough in the packet for us to try it out). I'd definitely recommend it as a sugar alternative to those looking to remove sugar from their diet.
Sour Patch Kids - RRP £1.00
That's enough healthy stuff for the time being; so back, now to the sweeties. We were sent this month a 160g bag of Sour Patch Kids. Neil's had these before and liked these a lot, so I wasn't surprised when these disappeared rather quickly from the box (when my back was turned no less - tut!)
For those who haven't had sour patch kids before, the way they work is you first get the sour taste (from the sugar-style coating I believe) and then you get a much sweeter, fruitier taste from the main body of the gummy sweets.
The sour sugar coating is quite sour. If you put a handful of these in your mouth you'll probably expect 10 to 30 seconds of sourness; but as soon as that is gone you get the sweeter flavour which is really quite nice. All of the sweet, fruity flavours are well done and taste really nice. Definitely something I'd recommend for those who like a bit of sourness to their candies!
TG Green Tea
Those of who haven't encountered Degustabox before probably don't realise that the box comes in two varieties each month. One contains alcohol, one doesn't. In this months box the alcohol box had the Crabbie's fruits (mentioned earlier in this review) while the non-alcohol box contains this green tea drink.
(Again, to counteract the high sugar content of some of the treats this month, this is another low calorie item with only 30 calories per 330ml bottle). We were sent the green tea with mandarin and ginseng, and you can tell; on opening the bottle you get a wonderfully fragrant burst of citrus and orange which is a beautiful aroma. The taste is what you'd expect from a fruity tea drink, it tastes light and refreshing and is really quite pleasant.
It is a very natural taste and the bottle's label says there are no preservatives or artificial colours.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a low calorie tea based drink
Bassetts Jelly Babies, Berry Mix - RRP £1.48
Jelly Babies, one of those classic sweets that seem to have been around since the year dot... or at least as round as I can remember. There is something about them, the familiar texture, the slightly floury powder finish and the fact that they're shaped like little humans (something which, over the years has gone from rough shapes to really quite detailed)… I mean, if I were to say "Jelly Baby," you'd probably picture and instantly remember all these qualities; not to mention other things, such as a favourite, classic time lord offering a paper bag of these delightful sweeties to all and sundry...
So what's different here? These are simply just the berry mix, and we're talking the red fruits. Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackcurrant (okay, that last one is less of a red and more of a, well, black... but you know what I mean). These are all made with real fruit juice so natural flavours and, also, all natural colours.
There isn't really much I can say. These are as delicious as you remember; although the berry flavours do mean you have a little less of a selection than you would usually get - not that that matters, these are delightful... and seemed to disappear far too quickly... who suggested we should share them eh?
Juiceburst and Juiceburst Skinny - RRP £1.25 per bottle
Before I write this, I should tell you that me and Neil are already fans of Juiceburst and their flavours. We've tried them before and loved each of the flavours we had. This month, in our Degustabox though we were sent two flavours we hadn't tried before. A standard Juiceburst Cranberry and a Juiceburst Skinny Mango and Lime.
Skinny? Okay, lets do a calorie comparison. The regular has 49 Kcal per 100ml, which for the 500ml bottle means it has approximately 245 calories per bottle. The Skinny has approximately 25 Kcal per 100ml, which for the 400ml bottle means around 100 calories per bottle.
Tastewise, the cranberry tastes delicious. I mean, it tastes like cranberries. So if you have had a cranberry juice drink before, you should kind of know what to expect from this. If you haven't, um, I guess I'd describe it as a kind of dry but sweet fruit taste, with a bit of a tartness to it. You know, like a cranberry...
The mango and lime tastes pretty good too. It's not a combination I would have necessarily put together, but you get the sweetness of the mango with a bit of a hit from the citrus sourness of the lime. I think it works.
When you look at the ingredients though, you see some differences. The regular is mostly water, fruit and sugar, while the skinny is water, fruit (lots of different fruits - not just lime and mango), sugar, sweeteners and other stuff. The sweetener used is Stevoil, which I suspect is related to the Stevia used in the Natvia sweetener samples we were sent this month. To be honest, both taste good. The Skinny doesn't have any unpleasant aftertaste and I'd say doesn't taste like it has anything artificial in it.
I guess it is one of those things that, simply reducing the size of the bottle isn't enough. You do need a little bit of scientific jiggery-pokery to keep the flavour and get the calories down. To be honest though, I don't think it matters - whether you have the skinny or the regular; it is much of a muchness and for the benefits vs calories; I think benefits outweigh a few extra calories. Especially if, like all things, it is consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
BBQue Barbecue sauce - RRP £3.99
Quite often we get sent sauces in the degustaboxes. Some of them, like the sweet chilli sauce sent a few months back, are a "Neil thing." This month I am happy to report that we have been sent something that is definitely an "Ellen thing." I love BBQ sauce. When the question comes, "red or brown?" I usually say "BBQ!" It is definitely my sauce of choice, particularly when it comes to dipping or to go with chips/fries.
£3.99 seems a bit of a larger price for the sauce though, putting it towards the more luxury sauces than the "store's own brand flavour," so we were expecting something a little special. Especially the way the sauce is described as being a Bavarian delicacy with cranberries, beer, honey and apples. (There are other flavours available too).
So, we did what we usually do. When we next had take out which involved pizza, fries, onion rings and all that incredibly unhealthy stuff - well - this was cracked open and squirted into one of our little pots for our dipping pleasure.
Long story short: It was nice. It worked. It tasted good.
Short story longer: There is a really good taste here, it has the right mix of - well - just about everything which makes it have a good flavour; like the right sort of mix of sweetness and sharpness. I think you can taste that this could be a better, more luxurious sauce than others you may have knocking about in the cupboard. I do have to say though, I don't know if there's that much of a flavour range when it comes to barbecue sauces. Say, with wine - you know that a cheap £3 wine isn't ever going to taste as nice as a more expensive £30 bottle. With these sauces, I don't know that there is that much of a difference to make it worth paying extra for. However, saying that, we only used this for dipping. We didn't marinade meat with it and slow cook or barbecue. If the nice whether we've been having in April continues we might be able to get outside and give that a try (and maybe compare against other barbecue sauces) and see how much better it might be than the competition.
A second however; however, the design of the bottle is … I don't know, something a little posher and more stylish than your regular sauce bottle. I could see this looking a bit more welcome on the table at a dinner party or family get togethers than the regular, cheaper store-brand condiments we usually bring out.
So there you have it. A nice mix of snacks, breakfast stuff, sweets and drinks this month. We always are happy to recommend the boxes as we feel they represent great value for money, and it is always fun to have a little surprise each month. This month, a lot of the items within were ones we were already familiar with - so not that much in the way of new faces, more, old friends; but that is part of what you get. You don't know what's coming and it is a mystery until the moment you cut the tape on the box and see inside. (We always look forward and it's always a welcome surprise, whatever's inside!)
If you would like your own Degustabox, please go to their website. It costs £12.99 a box (including delivery) however Degustabox has given us a special offer code for our readers to get £3 off their first box. The code is:
We are very happy to recommend the service and selection they provide.