Cake Pops and PopKakes.

Top of the Pops?

For what seems like years the question on so many lips has been: what’s going to be the new Cupcake?

Will it be Macaroons, they speculate? Whoopee Pies? Gourmet Eclairs?

Not that it really matters, but if I’m totally honest, I’m not sure that Cupcakes were ever that excellent anyway (a lot of the time that icing is way too sickly). Nevertheless, they are kind of fun – and, like it or lump it, they’ve made a lot of people lots of money.

So. What will happen when people get bored with over-coiffed Sponges?

Well, one potential candidate is the Cake Pop: a tasty ball of Cake crumbs covered in Chocolate or Icing and perched on the end of a stick.

The first one I tried was at Global Feast – homemade by MsMarmiteLover – and made a very nice intro indeed.

Since then I have seen them in lots of places – and sampled some more of them too. They’re not everywhere yet, like Cupcakes have been, but they seem to be on the up.

Until fairly recently, however, the ones that I’ve had have been reasonably samey: just a fairly plain Sponge with a colourful coating.

Thankfully, though, some folks are branching out. Like the guys at PopKakery, whose selection of flavours currently numbers ten.

The box they sent me contained four kinds from their range, with pretty good-looking exteriors to match: the MochaPop (Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate); the Red Velvet (Chocolate Cake with dyed Sugar and White Chocolate); the Krumbles ‘n’ Kreme (Cookie Cake with a sweet Crumble) and the PopNoir (Dark Chocolate inside and out).

They were pretty darn tasty too, I can tell you.

Like Truffles, each filling was wonderfully moist, with a lovely Chocolatey crunch.

*CHOMP*

The MochaPop was particularly good, especially given I’m normally not keen on Coffee: whatever they mixed those Cake crumbs with was seriously moreish.

The Dark Chocolate Cake, meanwhile, was super rich – kind of eggy, but in a good way – while the patches of Cookie inside the Krumbles ‘n’ Kream weren’t quite as crunchy as you might expect (though the bits on the outside were more than enough compensation).

In the end, the only one that didn’t bowl me over was the Red Velvet – maybe because it was what I’d looked forward to most.

Sadly, it lacked that great zing of Cream Cheese, being more like your average Chocolate Cake – only jazzed up with a layer of red Sugar.

Still, on the whole, they were better than most Cakes, mainly because of that excellent Chocolate/Crumb ratio.

So. Could Cake Pops be the new Cupcakes?

Well, if you believe in things like Dessert trends, then perhaps.

But I don’t.

In this Pud-Hog’s humble opinion, a Cake is either tasty or it isn’t.

A better question would be: are Cake Pops more delicious than most Cupcakes?

And my answer? Yes. Yes, they are – especially those from PopKakery.

Though smaller they’re far less sickly, they taste great wrapped up in Chocolate, and they’re super moist all the way through.

The only downside is the thing that makes them stand out – quite literally, as it happens.

In short, I don’t like the sticks.

Plastic or wood they’re always inedible – and seem like a waste of resources. Why not sell the Cake Balls as Truffles, like Lucky’s? Why add any more to the landfills?

It’s not even like the insides cling on to the stick very well. If you try to eat them like lollies – like I have – you’re almost guaranteed to drop a few chunks on the floor.

A minor quibble? Maybe. But when they taste as good as those PopKakes did, you’ll want to eat every crumb.

Maltby Street Treats: La Grotta Ices.

STOP. Right now. Whatever it is you’re doing can wait.

You ought to read this.

You need to read this.

The Pud-Hog has made a discovery, see, and to say that it’s a good one is an understatement. It concerns the city of London and some of the finest Ice Creams I have ever tasted.

All from this lowly brick building at Spa Terminus, just metres from the Little Bread Pedlar:

What? This one?

Looks fairly run-of-the-mill, don’t you think? Small? Humble? Easy to miss?

Why, if it weren’t for the colourful sign you might hurry past thinking that nothing was there. But that would be a serious mistake.

Come closer, Ogglers, and check out that blackboard menu…

A.K.A. Today’s Flavs

This board, dear chums, marks the home of La Grotta Ices. And, my, don’t those flavours sound exciting?

For those who can’t make out those bright chalky letters, the options (at least for last Saturday) read as follows:

  • Pinenut + Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ices £3.50
  • Chocolate + Espresso Choc Ices £3.50
  • Chestnut Cremolata £2.50
  • Toasted Hazelnut Brittle £3.00
  • Quince Custard £3.00

That’s right, Ogglers. QUINCE. CUSTARD.

Last time I saw such an intriguing list was on the side of the Sorbitium Ice Cream van. But they didn’t do any Choc Ices.

No, sir.

In fact, the last time I had a Choc Ice was years ago – and it was just your average supermarket fare: nice, but nothing special – and nowhere near as tasty as a Magnum.

Naturally, I was keen to try one of La Grotta’s gourmet varieties – but first we were lucky enough to sample the other Ice Creams on offer.

They were delicious.

The Hazelnut Brittle was packed with candied Nut – like a crunchy Praline in frozen form.

The Chestnut Cremolata was milder and much lighter – apparently not being an Ice Cream per se, but more of a milk-based Sorbet.

Meanwhile, the Quince Custard wasn’t custardy at all, but a gorgeously fragrant hit of what tasted like Fruit Sherbert (POW), followed by a sweet and milky aftertaste.

Excellent work, indeed.

Even so, nothing – nothing – could quite match up to what I then opted to buy: the Pinenut and Candied Orange Cedrat Choc Ice.

The reason that God made Ice Cream

OHMYWORDITWASFRIGGINGAWESOMEWOWZERSHOLYBALLSGODDAMN!

Sorry… must breathe… calming down…

Mmmmm.

So where should I start?

Well, obviously, despite being the drizzly, cold November day that it was, this Choc Ice ROCKED MY WORLD. So hard did it rock, by the end Magnums started to seem like bars of frozen ditchwater in comparison.

Seriously, this Choc Ice had it all: the softest and creamiest centre, a thick coat of luxurious, crisp Milk Chocolate, and a flavour that pretty much BLEW MY MIND.

Apologies for all the capped-up letters, folks, but you know it’s my go-to when I get excited. AND I AM EXCITED. Besides, how else can I convey just how deeply I loved this product?

Oh me, oh my! What an intense experience!

It was the flavour of the Ice Cream within that really stole the show: like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.

The best way to describe it would be to say that it was like eating the sea. Not in a bad way, mind (after all, actually eating the sea would make you very ill). Instead, it was more like the atmosphere of the sea: the breezes, the sunshine, the slightly briny air.

Perhaps it was the fragrance of the Cedrat (a citrus fruit that’s slightly like a Lime). Or maybe it was the generous dose of Pine Nuts.

Whatever. Then combination of these, the Chocolate and all that Candied Orange was really, really magical.

And marvellous.

And moreish.

Seriously, I urge you, Ogglers: if you’re anywhere even remotely near London next Saturday, be sure to go to Bermondsey and get some goodies from La Grotta.

Whatever the weather, your taste buds will love you forever.

Snowy Hills.

The hills are alive – with the sound of munching

Contrary to what its title might suggest, this isn’t a post about the sudden random weather freeze in London (snow in Raynes Park? On the first day of November? WHAT?!) .

Instead, this post is about something much more enticing: my favourite cake from Honeybuns, Dorset’s tastiest gluten- (and wheat-) free bakery.

They may sell these glorious Shortbreads all year round, but for me they are an autumn treat, being regular tasters at Screen Bites (the Food/Film Festival which generally keeps me sweet until early November).

As it happens, if it wasn’t for their appearance at Screen Bites, I might never have given them a go. Wrapped up in their plastic jackets they look fairly normal – nice and golden, but hardly show-stopping.

The taste though?

Oh.

By which I mean oooooooooooooooh.

Concealed beneath that sparkling sugared surface are some of the tastiest layers I’ve tried: a crunchy Ginger Shortbread, plus the juiciest, loveliest topping of some squidgy Lemon Curd-laced Sponge.

Honestly. I don’t know why I bother writing proper words sometimes. Let’s just stop and ponder those tastes for a moment.

Aah.

Mmm.

Mmm.

Ahem. Now back to blogging in multiple syllables…

Truly, Ogglers, this is a cake of champions – and I do not say this lightly. As well as that gorgeous sweet tang, there are so many awesome textures (Sugar crystals, Shortbread, Sponge), with an overall feeling of lushness that makes me want to melt into the floor.

Clearly these wheat- and gluten-free types know just what’s good for the gob. Using Almonds and Polenta instead your average Wheat Flour makes for a much more exciting nibble: I love the crunch and graininess they create, not to mention that added Almond moisture.

Seems like I’m not the only fan either – these cakes won a Great Taste Gold Award in 2010 (that’s a Gold two stars, in case you were wondering).

Then again, they’ve been in my good books since 2006, the year that Screen Bites first entered the world.  As far as I’m concerned, that ought to give me first dibs on the next batch I see.

Never mind Snowy Hills – I’m up for a whole Snowy Mountain Range. No need for boots and hiking gear: just a plate, a corner, some Cake, and half an hour to myself.

Trespassers will be shot – so make sure you get your own stash.

Your taste buds can thank me later.

The M’Hencha.

Schrödinger’s Cake: so is it delicious or not?

There aren’t enough things in the world that make me go ‘Wow’ after just one mouthful. Too many cakes are average or dull; too many companies treading the same old routes.

As a result, when I see something different – with new flavours or textures or names – I tend to get a little bit excited. Sometimes, as with those Terroni Twists or that crazy Sugar Mouse Biscuit, this excitement leads to a terrible anticlimax, followed by hours of serious moping.

So it’s no wonder that I had mixed emotions while anticipating the next new and promising cake: the M’Hencha, made by Sophie’s Baked Delights, an artisan baking company based in Gloucestershire.

In theory, there was nothing to be afraid of. For starters, it sounded delicious: a Moroccan-style Pastry Cake, created with Rosewater, Almonds, Pistachios and various Zests (i.e. most of my favourite flavours).

Better yet, it had collected some major accolades: not only a Three-Star Gold Award from the Guild of Fine Foods, but a place on the Top 50 Foods in Britain list; the only cake on it, as far as I could see.

In other words, this was the best cake in Britain, as ranked by the Guild.

So far, so good…

Let’s put the awards aside, however. I had a more pressing concern: would it satisfy the stomach of the Pud-Hog?

What if I thought the M’Hencha was boring? What if it didn’t live up to its title? Would my taste buds have to be decommissioned? Would I be shamed out of writing reviews?

As soon as I got my sample (no thanks to Royal Mail, who decided not to tell me it had arrived two days before!) I ripped the box open and took a deep sniff.

A promising smell of Rosewater drifted upwards and – despite telling myself that I should wait until after dinner, or at least warm it up for a bit – I couldn’t resist a small mouthful.

So how was it, I hear you ask?

It was ‘Wow’.

So Wow, that I said so aloud, to an empty room.

Somehow, despite having sat in the sorting office for two days, the M’Hencha was juicy with Almonds and Lemon Zest, bursting with fragrant Rosewater.

It took all my strength not to eat the whole thing right then, but I’d been advised to crisp it up in the oven in case of staleness (not that I could detect any), so I managed to ween myself off.

As it happened, in all the excitement of Chocolate Week, my next M’Hencha munching was postponed for yet more days. In the meantime, the goodies were safe in the freezer.

Yesterday I defrosted them at last, and popped them in the oven for ten minutes. No longer was I afraid of disappointment. And rightly so.

Sweet Rosewater perfumed the Hog House, while the Man and I pulled our steaming M’Hencha apart.

Or should that be Mmm’Hencha?

The warm coil of Pastry split, as soft as fresh-baked Bread, and the two of us gnawed in silence.

No wonder it went down so well with the Guild. Like a Baklava, but more delicate, the M’Hencha was crisp and perfectly moist. Crunchy with Pistachio, zinging with Citrus juices, not too sweet and not heavy in the slightest.

Twas sheer Pastry perfection – and just as exciting to taste as I’d hoped.

The question remains however: is the M’Hencha Britain’s best cake?

As outstanding as it was, I’m not sure I can truly say for certain: I need to nibble the rest of them before I can pass such a judgement…

In the meantime, if you fancy making that call for yourself, you can snap up a free sample on the M’Hencha’s very own website.

Go on, Ogglers – get in on the champion chomping.

That way, everyone wins.

Screen Biting.

Roll up! Roll up! It’s time to dine…

There are plenty of food festivals in this bounteous land that we call the UK – a jolly good thing too, I might add. But how many of those celebrate the meeting of film and food? As far as I know there is only one…

Now in its eighth year, Screen Bites takes place in various towns and villages across Dorset and Somerset in October and November.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s what British autumns are made for: local halls hosting local producers, food-based films, and loads (and loads) of the tastiest samples.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve been to this festival every year since it began. Nowadays, having snagged a role as a volunteer, I get in free (hooray!).

Before that, however, I was easily lured by the promise of bounteous food and films: at a mere £8 a pop, you get a whole lot more than you would at any Cineworld complex.

So far, each night I’ve attended has been Pud-Hog heaven, and last Saturday – at Winfrith Newburgh – was absolutely no exception.

I won’t go on about the film (for, entertaining as Dinner Rush was, there wasn’t a great deal of pud being eaten). Instead, I shall focus on what came before: in other words, the food.

The hall was bordered with tables and samples, and before my duties started, I got the chance to taste my way around.

First Stop: Fudges Biscuits

There were plenty of perennial Screen Bites favourites (some of my favourites too, as it happens).

Lemon Zest Biscuits and Florentines came from Fudges Bakery and were so delicious that I lingered perhaps a little longer than I should have. The former were beautifully crisp and buttery, while the latter made my taste buds sing: chewy, thick with Dark Chocolate, with the slightest hint of Ginger in the mix.

Superb.

Next to them were some treats from Honeybuns – wheat-free bakers extraordinaire – who donated a load of their Almond Moon slices (Shortbread, Cranberry, Polenta and Nuts) as well as their AWESOME Heathcliffe Brownie.

If only all tables could look like this…

I don’t cap up ‘awesome’ lightly, you know. I do it because ol’ Heathcliffe gives those K & C Brownies a run for their money: incredibly moist, thick, orangey and – better still – choc full of White Chocolate chunks.

I tidied away a few crumbs there, I can tell you – just the bits that dropped off, mind. S’cleaning, innit?

Still, that wasn’t all for the Pud-Hog. Just three feet away was a table adorned with the wonderful wares of Chococo: the Ice-Cream-Soup-making, Jubilicious-Tea-serving, Chocolate-coated saviours of Swanage.

Dream Dinner Party, Number One

Here were not two, but four bowls of goodies: Milk Chocolate Buttons, shards of Chocolate Honeycombe (in which you could actually taste the Dorset Honey!), Dark Chocolate studded with freeze-dried Raspberries, and a load with Raspberries and Meringue.

I was sorely tempted to shout out ‘BOMB!’ and hide by the Chocolate while people ran screaming.

Good thing that I didn’t though: if I had, I would have missed out on some equally exciting tasters – namely those passed around by Provisio, during a talk from its founder, Lisa.

Here was a chance to try some Mulled Ale (I told you this is what autumns are made for), as well as the night’s second Brownie: a dark, squidgy square made with Hall & Woodhouse Ruby Ale, the aptly-named Poacher’s Choice.

Yoink!

The room was filled with appreciative murmurs, and when my tongue met a damp plummy pocket I couldn’t help but join in with the crowd.

Ambrosi-ale, indeed.

The film was due to start at 8pm – just enough time to check out some ‘historic’ jam from Four Seasons, then buy up a tub of Purbeck Ice Cream (of course, I went for Honeycombe again).

While the crowd settled down I took stock of what was left: a few bits and pieces of Chocolate, some tasty lumps of Bread from Oxfords Bakery

Would anyone like some? I asked (admittedly not in my loudest voice). Thankfully everyone else was too full.

Chococo + Loaf =

All the more for me then, Ogglers. And a tastier bready combo I have never tasted (with the exception of those Chocolate Naans, of course).

Screen Bites? Screen Beauts, more like.

Not a small amount of Screen Gobbles in there too…

Paul A. Young’s Truffle Tasting Session.

For my final post on the Cake and Bake Show, let us head back to the Chocolate Zone, where all the tastiest treats can be found. See those benches in the corner? Take a seat: you’re about to take part in something quite delicious.

It’s Sunday, it’s half past one, and Paul A. Young – London chocolatier extraordinaire – is about to begin a free gourmet tasting session. Goodness knows why there’s not a stampede, because what we’re about to receive is undoubtedly some of the best chocolate action in London… if not the world!

No wonder he’s so happy!

For the record, this is the man who created the Billionaire’s Salted Caramel Shortbread. Not to mention those lovely dark cups of spiced Hot Chocolate – and that obscenely gooey recipe for Chocolate Brownies.

Yes, Ogglers: I’m a fan. Even after that Chocolate Gnocchi disaster. So when I learned he was planning to hand out free tasters, I hot-footed it there so fast I almost singed my trotters.

Within minutes it was time to try the Bakewell Tart Truffle, and in our front row position, the Man and I were some of the first to be handed one. While others waited, I sniffed and took a bite.

Chomp

‘Don’t eat it yet,’ Paul implored through his portable mike… but it was too late: the party in my mouth had already started.

This truffle had all the textures: crunchy roasted Almonds, a gooey Raspberry reduction, and a smooth Milk Chocolate Ganache made with Amaretto and Marzipan.

And yes: just like he promised, it tasted of Bakewell Tart.

Unlike some, their truffles always do what they say on the tin. Which is why I was so thrilled to try our second taster: the Soreen Malt Loaf Truffle.

I managed to wait before chomping, this time… but not for long

For those of you unlucky enough not to have tried Soreen Malt Loaf in its original (non-truffle) form, I can tell you you’re missing out. Studded with raisins galore, Soreen is the squidgiest, gooeyist thing you can find on a shop shelf, its only downside being the way it sticks to the teeth like glue.

Thankfully, the Truffle had thrown off this particular property; and, while it may have looked like a miniature Chocolate Scotch Egg, it tasted unmistakeably like its namesake.

Covered in fine toasted Malt Loaf crumbs, the thin Chocolate shell gave way to a rich Ganache filling, textured like softened Butter (which was hardly surprising, given that Butter was one of its main ingredients).

Truffle Number Three was another newby, though slightly more ‘grown up’. The flavour? Black Cardamom, Chinese Stem Ginger and Ginger Wine.

PLUS Ginger and Black Cardamom Sugar *drools*

While it wasn’t as much of a crowd-pleaser as the others – too smoky for some, apparently – in my throat it went down just as happily (as you know, this Pud-Hog LOVES her spices).

Even so, nothing slid quite as smoothly as these:

Our salty grand finale (ooh er)

Made from a tried-and-tested recipe, which has been unchanged for nigh on ten years, this Sea Salted Caramel Truffle near enough swam along my tongue, making my taste buds squeal with delight as it went. The salt level was perfect: just enough to bring out the Waters and help it on its way.

Indeed, with its almost liquid centre, this is a truffle that does all the hard work: all you need to do is pop it in and let it melt. In a word (or two): sheer decadence.

Apparently Mr Young has one a day, and when I heard that fact I was most surprised.

Only one? I thought. How unnaturally restrained!

Then again, when you’ve got a few shops full of hand-made Chocolate, why limit yourself to a single kind of truffle? I can now name at least three more that are worth a jolly good chomp. One of each ought to keep a man going.

Or two…

Or three…

Or four…

The Cake and Bake Show.

Twas a grizzly day in London town yesterday, but inside Earl’s Court there was plenty to keep people warm. It was Day Two of the first ever Cake and Bake Show – and it was heaving.

A sell-out exhibition, the queue alone made one massive source of body heat. As did the crowds inside.

Some of the content was heart-warming too. Particularly our first port of call: a demo presented by the fabulously homely Mary Berry – the baking queen everyone wants to hug. Not that you could get close enough to do so at that point (especially after her Bake Off sidekick Paul Hollywood appeared – to the sound of a collective swoon).

Paul and Mary present on stage (radiating saintly light)

Much more of a draw (for this Pud-Hog at least) was the Marketplace, where various cake-makers hawked their wares. Here were loads of familiar faces (such as Paul A. Young and Pistachio Rose – about whom more later on), but also some intriguing newbies – the most interesting of which was Suhaav, a company selling eggless, vegetarian Cake Balls (the Man bought a Lemon Zest one for 75p, and it was mouth-wateringly moist).

And we all know moist balls are the best

On the whole, there weren’t that many samples to try – with Paul A Young’s tasting demo being a notable exception. Indeed, in the way of most exhibition-type events, it was more about businesses hawking their ‘Show Bargains’: icing; decorative tools; display cases; time-saving inventions…

In a semi-journalistic mode, I kept my eye out for trends as we went, and I have to say – for better or worse – Cupcakes still appear to have the crown in a death-grip. One way or another, the majority of stalls were devoted to them, and freshly-bought Cupcake Carry Cases (looking like transparent toolboxes) seemed to be tucked under plenty of arms.

Thankfully, though, it wasn’t all about shopping. Away from the throng of buying and selling were a few cool displays to awe and amaze. In my favourite area (the zone with all the chocolate demos, since you ask), one man carved a dinosaur skeleton from a solid chocolate slab. Twas sadly too big to stash in my bag, but impressive nonetheless.

Chocolate Dinosaurs? No wonder they’re extinct

More gasps were to be heard by the Edible Beach area, where entrants to the sea-themed decorating comp were shown. No doubt there were enough food colourings to knock out a whole Primary School; but not before transforming them to drugged-up all-night ravers.

A couple of my favourites are below (Lobster-themed wedding, anyone?), and although the standard of icing was high – and plenty ‘Beachy’ – I did wonder how many of them were truly ‘Edible’…

Unless you like seafood…

…or sweet Chip Suppers

Edibility wasn’t a problem I faced with the demos, however. Not only could you see and smell the goodies being made, it was also occasionally possible to nibble the results – as long as you were speedy on your feet.

Indeed, having watched some of the public presentations (as opposed to those in the Classrooms, which cost £8 a ticket), I eventually managed to snaffle a freshly-baked specimen from Real Bread enthusiast Aidan Chapman, who runs the Phonenix Bakery in Weymouth.

Aidan Chapman – for it is he

Though savoury (and therefore not really fit for this blog) it tasted frankly awesome – well worth the scrum I endured to grab it.

All that talk of yeast was inspiring too, making me desperate to run to the oven and start up my next batch of buns post-haste.

First, there were goodies to eat, however: Chocolate Naan from Pistachio Rose, and four fab tasters from Paul A. Young. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you about them soon. That ought to warm your cockles…

 

The King’s Cross Ice Cream Festival (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sunday).

Seven foot tall but zero calories – almost the perfect Ice Cream

At last: a festival that does what it says on the tin! No dingy concrete shop shells, or miserable shop-bought offerings (take that, British Biscuit Festival).

No, sir. The King’s Cross Ice Cream Festival, held over the weekend at Granary Square, had just what the doctor ordered: lots and lots (and lots) of Ice Cream.

Various producers turned up in their vans, or came with gigantic freezers in tow. With plenty of choice on offer – including Ice Cream Floats, Frozen Yoghurts, and DIY flavour combos – the only downside (from a Pud-Hog’s point of view, at least), was just how popular everything proved to be.

We arrived at Sunday lunchtime and, although it was apparently busier the day before, crowds swarmed around almost every stall, with queues stretching out from all the more popular places.

There wasn’t much room for casual sampling – unless you wanted to wait five minutes a time, that is. Indeed, unlike the excellent Southbank Chocolate Festival, here it was more a case of browsing menus before committing to just the one location.

Thankfully, there were a couple of exceptions, the most intriguing of which was a presentation from Lick Me I’m Delicious. Here, a dapper gent and his fair assistant demonstrated the making of Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen, using their very own portable steampunk-style contraption.

Ice Cream from scratch in minutes, you say? SOLD!

Apparently able to make any flavour within 6-7 minutes, experimentation was clearly the name of the game. They’ve even got a Glow-in-the-Dark variety in the pipeline.

In the meantime though, if you had the right elbows – and just enough patience – there were two exciting flavours to be sampled. The first – Port and Stilton – came served on a plain Water Biscuit, and was surprisingly soft and sweet. It would’ve been right up my alley, were it not for the small yet pungent chunks of cheese.

The second, though…

Wowzers.

Small but sweet

Served in a white chocolate cup, this was a sample of Salted Caramel Cookie Cupcake. Made with Artisan du Chocolat’s Salt Caramel Sauce, not to mention a generous load of crunchy cookie niblets, it was definitely worth the tortuous wait: just the right balance of salt and sweet, plenty of vanilla, and a texture that made me tingle with pleasure.

In fact, both of them were lovely on the tongue – a result of the rapid freezing process, apparently: extremely smooth, with none of the pesky ice crystals that ruin your more inferior scoop.

Still, you don’t have to have a crazy machine to make a damn good Ice Cream.

Once again, Sorbitium pulled it out of the bag – and not a tendril of Liquid Nitrogen in sight. You may remember me writing about these guys last month, in reference to a splendid scoop of Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli.

Well, one look at their menu yesterday, and I knew straight away where I would be queuing.

Ten minutes I stood in that slow-moving line, all because of the sound of one flavour. And you know what? I would do it all again in a flash.

Ladies and gentlehogs, I give you: the Greengage and Hazelnut Custard Crumble.

Ta-Dah!

A more lovely collection of words I have yet to find on an Ice Cream Van. The taste itself was even lovelier: a thick and custardy backdrop, swirling with pieces of Crumble and Nut and tangy Greengage splodges (Greengage being a wild green Plum, in case you weren’t quite sure).

I was overwhelmed, Ogglers. Crunchy, smooth, creamy, sweet, sharp. Everything a Pud-Hog ever wanted in an Ice Cream.

I wonder…

Could these people be the most exciting Ice Cream makers in all of London town? They might not have the wizardry, but they certainly have the taste.

I suppose it will take some more sampling to be sure. But for now, Sorbitium: I salute you.

That flavour was best at the Fest by a mile.

Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli Ice Cream.

The ice cream that’s so tasty, it wears a hat to celebrate

Once again, I have warmed to the London Olympics. Just as before – in my post about the Global Feast – the reason for this warmth is pud-related.

Thanks to the 2012 games, you see, several food vans were brought to the hood where I generally earn my wage. They were part of the Eat.St Collective, a street food movement based in Kings Cross, which is normally out of my reach.

Last week – and for one week only – a load of them parked up close to my workplace as part of a sport-induced festival. Finally, I would be getting a look-in.

On the evening I visited, however, the number of vans selling puddings wasn’t exactly overwhelming. In fact, as far as I could see, there were only two: one selling Frozen Yoghurt, the other selling Ice Cream.

Good thing it was muggy.

Good thing, too, that the flavours of Ice Cream (hand-made and sold by Sorbitium Ices) were so gosh darn exciting.

The Man and I were drawn like moths to a flame (or Pud-Hogs to a candle-covered birthday cake), and spent the next few minutes pondering all the possibilities: Sea-Salted Caramel; Cherry & Rice; Watermelon, Lime & Rose Sorbet; Dark Chocolate & Chipotle Chilli…

I was upsettingly close to Indecision-Based Paralysis when I discovered we could taste samples before committing.

Praise be!

If we hadn’t, you see, I might have not have tried the Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli, and would thus have missed out on one of the best Ice Cream Experiences of my life so far.

As you regular Ogglers will know, that’s quite a statement. After all, it’s been a great year for the Pud-Hog in terms of London Ice Cream (the Pistachio of my dreams at The Foundry, mind-blowing trips to Gelupo for Banoffee Pie and Panettone, lashings of Ben and Jerry’s at home…)

Sorbitium’s Dark Chocolate and Chipotle Chilli though: PHWOAR (and that’s an understatement).

It’s weird. I’m not normally over-the-moon about Chilli in puddings. It goes so wrong so often (too hot, overpowering, not complementary), but in this was a match made in heaven.

Perhaps it was the smokiness from the Chipotle, blending so well with the sweet – yet dark – chocolate. I felt my seratonin levels soar with every mouthful.

And what wonderful mouthfuls they were…

Somehow, my Ice Cream had softened in storage, so was served to me in a cup with a cone perched on top like a hat. The resulting texture was seriously smooth: more like eating a bowl of cold melted chocolate than anything else. So rich! So decadent! And so good for me too, I’m sure…

The Man was equally impressed by his Watermelon, Rose and Lime Sorbet.

It seemed rather lovely to me as well, but by that point my mouth was buzzing with Chocolate and Chilli – there wasn’t much space for the delicate flavours.

Ah me.

For your sake, Ogglers, I really hope they serve up that combo again. No promises though: the good folks of Sorbitium make up their flavours with seasonal ingredients, so you never know what you might find.

If it’s Sea-Salted Caramel you’ll be in for a treat (I tried a wee morsel and couldn’t stop groaning).

If it’s Dark Chocolate and Chipotle, do not pass by without smearing some over your taste buds.

Then again, by the time you track them down, they could be selling anything.

Take a look at the flavours on their website. Witness all the different sorts they made last year; combinations that may or may not be there when you stumble across their van.

Salted Honey Caramel, Damson Sherbet, Chestnut and Meringue, Quince and Cobnut…

Blimey O’Riley.

I cannot convey how excited those prospects make me, so I’ll give up and leave you with this:

Best. Flavours. EVER.

End.

 

Bubble Tea.

It’s tea, Jim, but not as we know it

Have you ever tasted Bubble Tea? Have you ever even seen it?

Until last year, my answer to both of these questions was no. Then I stumbled across an exciting joint in Soho, which sold almost nothing else. The place was called Bubbleology and I was very much intrigued…

Bubble (or Boba) Tea, it turned out, was a tea-based drink with chewy tapioca balls. Part refreshment, part snack, it was first developed in Taiwan in the 1980s, and has since spread across the globe. Now it had arrived in London.

Sadly for me, at the time we first encountered it, the Man was not up to sharing a cup – and I was too nervous to spend almost four quid on something I might not like. My hopes of having a taste were dashed, only to be reawoken when, on the streets of San Francisco, I found a cheap vendor in Chinatown.

A couple of dollars later and I had myself a ‘Thai’-flavoured Bubble Tea. And you know what? It was rank. Clearly, I’d not chosen wisely. While I enjoyed the feel of the tapioca blobs, the tea itself was bright orange, bitter and weird.

I crossed it off my To-Chew List, suspecting I’d not done it justice.

Flash forward to a fortnight ago. I had heard there was a new Bubbleology store opening in Notting Hill – and when I found out they wanted some people to give it a try I jumped at the chance so readily that my head almost hit the ceiling.

The Man and I finally popped in last night and were treated to several intriguing varieties. There was no sign of ‘Thai’ for some reason – instead we were treated to milk-based Rose and Taro flavours, along with the fruitier Apple, as well as Cucumber/Passion Fruit.

You’ll be pleased to know (but perhaps not as pleased as myself) that it was a vast improvement on my previous Bubble Tea experience.

The Man, whose preferences usually lean towards the fruitier things in life (no comment), was not too keen on the milk-based varieties, preferring the Cucumber and Passion Fruit to all the rest.

I, however, was firmly on the side of all that is creamy and rich. The Apple was a bit too sweet for me – more like a Jolly Rancher than something you’d pluck from a tree. The Cucumber and Passionfruit-flavour (exclusive to the Notting Hill branch) was, I think, much nicer – although all I could really taste was its Jasmine Tea base.

No, sir. In this Pud-Hog’s mind, the milkier drinks were where it was at.

Trust me…

It might have looked more like frogspawn, but the Rose (another Notting Hill exclusive) was unmistakeably rosy – lightly sweetened and fragranced.

And the Taro. The Taro! A revelation.

Until that point I’d only ever heard about Taro through a cousin who lives in Hawaii (jealous? me?), but turns out it’s all the rage in Southeast Asia (and when I say ‘all the rage’ I mean ‘cultivated to the max’).

A tropically-based root vegetable, used in both sweet and savoury dishes, it wouldn’t have been my first choice off the bat – but I was very impressed.

Thicker than its rosy counterpart, it was more like a milkshake than anything else, with a flavour that’s pretty darn hard to describe. This being a blog post however, and not a store giving out free samples (sorry), I suppose I should try and describe it anyway…

Think viscous, faintly perfumed, very milky – almost nutty…

That’s probably the best I can do. But basically, if you’re a fan of things like condensed milk, this drink’ll be right up your street.

Talking of condensed milk, one thing I was seriously sad about was the lack of ‘Condensed Milk and Icing Sugar’ Toasties. I’d seen them on the Soho menu, but apparently they have now been discontinued.

They say it was lack of interest. I say, let’s start a petition…

But before we get to that let’s talk about the bubbles themselves – or ‘Boba’, as they’re also known. They were just like I’d had in San Francisco: very chewy – quite a lot like jelly (while still being vegetarian) – and fun to suck up through a giant plastic straw.

As far as I could tell, the Boba in our drinks were pretty much flavourless, but that didn’t stop them being ultra satisfying. With one in almost every mouthful, there was plenty to keep the ol’ tongue well amused.

They even made weird face-shaped shadows! Hours of fun, I tell ya!

Should even that not be enough to thrill you, however, there was also the option of paying 50p extra for ‘Popping Boba’.

Goodness knows how they’re made, but they look like caviar and feel rather like swollen segments of fruit: transparent orbs with a thin, bouncy outside which ruptures between the teeth and bursts with fruity liquid. Two flavours in just the one drink.

We tried Lychee… and both reckoned it would be ace in a cocktail…

Seems like the next logical step now I think of it: get those Bobas in some alcohol and double the fun-quota instantly.

The Man, you see, can’t fathom how these drinks can appeal as more than a novelty purchase – or ‘novel-tea’ (as he so ‘witt-tea-ly’ described it. Sorry. That’s the last pun for now, I promise).

In a way, I get what he means – they are pretty novel and not too cheap (£3.75 for 500ml/£4.25 for 700ml).

BUT…

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, that’s not too heavy and has some bite, I’d say these drinks could well fill a gap in the market.

More importantly, they could also fill a gap in your stomach.