Saturday, March 17, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Sugarcane Juice

     Yet again I'm talking about a product distributed by the Goya company, based out of Secaucus, NJ.  I've discussed this company's wares before, such as in my posts about pigeon peas (February 10, 2018), Spanish cookies (January 6, 2018), and Brazilian cookies (May 25, 2016).  What makes this one a bit different is that the food or beverage isn't from a Latin American country, but Thailand instead.
     Sugarcane juice is a syrup derived from pressing sugarcane stalks.  If there are any strict constructionists concerning culinary terms reading this (and I hope there are), I should point out that "juice" is not technically accurate, since it's not a fruit or vegetable juice.  Sugarcane juice is a popular beverage worldwide, essentially everywhere but the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia.  This liquid is also the precursor to making the alcoholic drink rum.  Staying on alcohol, in Madagascar they make a fermented sugarcane juice drink, called betsa-betsa, as a cheaper alternative to beer.  And in Vietnam, kumquat juice (see December 24, 2012 post) is commonly added to improve the flavor.
     Looking up "health benefits of sugarcane juice" online will provide quite a bit of reading material.  One website extolled its alleged benefits versus the common cold, fevers, jaundice, tooth decay, and UTIs.  But as you can guess from my use of the word "alleged" in the previous sentence, I don't think these benefits have been proven scientifically as of yet.  Sugarcane juice does have decent amounts of iron, electrolytes, calcium, and magnesium.  There are some health detriments to it though.  Drinking it raw can be dangerous.  Consumers can get infected with Chagas disease, or Leptospirosis, so be mindful of that.
     As a slight aside, I learned that 70% of the world's sugar comes from sugarcane, and the remaining 30% from the sugar beet.  Brazil and then India are the largest producers of sugarcane.  And there's controversy about the use of the term "evaporated cane juice" on product labels.  Apparently this is a cheat, a way to hide that foods or beverages contain sugar.  Kind of like other intentionally misleading or "doublespeak" expressions, such as saying a used car is "pre-owned," or that an assassination was an "extrajudicial killing," or that a person is not broke, but exhibiting "negative cash flow."
     Anyway, the Goya sugarcane juice, or "guarapo de cana," was a yellowish-brown color, and closely resembled apple juice.  I found its taste to be rather weird, almost tea-like.  It was surprisingly bland, too.  I figured anything made from sugarcane would be very sweet, by its very nature, but not so.  Overall I was very disappointed, and I won't be buying this one again.  I was further amused to read that the ingredient list consisted of water, 35% sugarcane juice, citric acid, and....sugar.  Not that it seemed to help!

     Also, I'm happy to announce that the horror comic I talked about in last week's post, "The Empties," attained its Kickstarter goal.  This bodes well for the series' continuance.  Congrats to Kristen, Eli, and the others.  And thanks to any readers who helped out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Review and Information About the Comic Book "The Empties"

     Recently I corresponded back and forth with a fellow horror author, Kristen Renee Gorlitz.  She sent me a free copy of Issue 1 of "The Empties," a comic book she wrote.  The artist was Eli Powell.  Also involved were Marshall Dillon and Alexander A. Garcia.  Comic books (aka graphic novels) are not a medium I've partaken of much--aside from reading Disney and Hanna-Barbera character comics when I was a kid, Peter Bagge's "Hate" comic series when I was an adult, and a handful of others.  But I gave this one a shot, and I'm glad I did.
     The main story in "The Empties" so far is about Derrick, a Michigan-based cook who's learned devastating news about his wife--she's having an affair.  But, in the background, there's something strange and unsettling going on in the surrounding area.  Some of the locals are acting a bit strange, or even monstrous.  The plot takes a story ripped from the real world and runs with it, with horrifying results.  Also, my frame of reference is admittedly limited, but I really enjoyed the artwork.  Artist Eli Powell certainly doesn't shrink from showing disturbing images!  The issue I read (and presumably the entire planned series) was in black and white, which gave it kind of a classic, "Night of the Living Dead" type of vibe.
     Once again, I'll be referring readers to a Kickstarter campaign.  Included at the listed address is, obviously, a lot of information about the comic, its creators, and the details about the campaign.  And you'll find images from "The Empties" itself, and even a free preview of it.  So I encourage everyone to check it out.  The address is:

     The Kickstarter campaign runs through Friday, March 16th, 2018 12:00 p.m. EDT 
      And the cover of the comic is below.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mexican Cookies

     For this post we're jumping back over the Atlantic, back into the Western Hemisphere.  The local Food Lion grocery here had a better than average supply of Mexican cookies (or "biscuits," if you're from other parts of the world), so I bought up a good sample.  I went with two kinds from the Gamesa company, one from Galletas Juanita, and and one from La Moderna.
     Gamesa is a giant in the world of Mexican cookies, as it's that country's biggest manufacturer of them.  The company also makes cereals, flour, and pastas.  To give a brief history, back in 1921 the Gonzalez brothers--Ignacio, Manuel, and Alberto--bought up enough stock to control the Lara pasta company.  They rechristened it the Factory a Biscuits and Pastas La Industrial, SA.  In 1948 the name changed again, to Galletera Mexicana SA.  Finally, in 1978, the company changed its name yet again, to Gamesa.  In 1990 it was absorbed into the American PepsiCo company.
     The La Moderna Group was founded in nearly the same year, in 1920.  This pasta-making business was then known as La Fabrica de Pastas Alimenticias La Moderna company, and was owned and operated by the Vendral brothers and Don Alberto A. Henkel.  Normally I'd follow the owners and name changes up through to the present, but I'm going to abstain on this one, as the company history is extremely complicated and detailed.  Suffice it to say that the La Moderna company recognizes Eduardo Monroy Cardenas as its founder, and he acquired the business in 1959.  See the official company website for more information.  Besides cookies, La Moderna also sells flour, pastas, and some salty snacks.
     I'm going to have very little to say about the final company, Galletas Juanita, because I found their website to be extremely terse.  My inability to read Spanish also surely didn't help out matters, as the translation I got seemed a little lacking, too.  I can tell you that the logo for their Juanina brand is a girl with pigtails carrying a tray(?) and a flower, and who looks thrilled to be doing so.
     Anyway, here are the ratings.

1) Gamesa Barras de Coco, coconut flavored cookies.  Made for the Frito-Lay company in the U.S.  These were yellowish-brown cookies which were roughly rectangular and about 5 cm. (about 2 inches) long by 2.5 cm. (about 1 inch) wide.  They had a rough exterior, and 3 small holes along the center axis.  They were crunchy, and had a definite detectable coconut flavor.  They weren't very sweet.  So I found them to be mediocre at best.

2) Gamesa arcoiris, marshmallow cookies.  These were layered, with a base yellow brown cookie platform covered with 4 marshmallow pieces atop this.  The shape was square, about 1.5 inches (about 4 cm.) to a side.  And the marshmallow bits were 2 pink, and 2 white.  These were pretty good. The marshmallow was suitably creamy and tasty, with a satisfying crunch at the base.  So not spectacular, but better than average.

3) Galletas Juanita company, Juanina brand of tartaletas surtidas.  These were roundish, with scalloped edges and a dollop of hardened jelly in the center at the top.  There were four different flavors.  The cookie base for all of them was good, kind of soft and chewy.  The apricot kind probably had the strongest flavor.  Alas, I'm not that fond of apricot, so this wasn't that great.  The pineapple kind was more bland, and not that pleasing, either.  Conversely, the blackberry variety was good--rather tart, in a good way.  And the strawberry kind was tasty, too.  Therefore, I enjoyed the cookie part in all of them, but the fruit jelly topping flavors were a little inconsistent.

4) La Moderna Marianitas, pecan flavor.  They were roundish, with scalloped edges around the circumference, about 6 cm. (about 2.25 inches) in diameter, and a hole in the center.  And yellowish-brown in color.  These had a slight pecan tint to them--not as good as Pecan Sandies, say, but solid once more.

     Overall, then, my impression of the Mexican cookies was favorable, but not wildly enthusiastic.  All of them were at least okay, and some were slightly better than that.  I should note that these were all noticeably inexpensive, as all were about $2.50 for the box or container.  The Gamesa boxes in particular were huge, containing about 40-50 individual cookies.  So these selections were a good value, for solid, if not awesome desserts.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Belgian Beverages

     Today we'll be heading back to one of the Low Countries in Europe--Belgium.  I've returned to North Carolina for work, and the local grocery contained a few surprises, a few exotics.  I saw three kinds of Belgian fruit drinks for sale from Looza--mango, peach, and pear.
     The origin of the Looza company is a farm in South Limberg owned by Lord de Laminne de Bex.  The farm was the Comte de Looz, and he started the company in 1947.  It was one of the first to apply pasteurization techniques to apple juice.  The company's drinks grew in popularity, and by the 1960's Looza was exporting to other countries.  Reportedly Looza is so big in Belgium that its name has become synonymous with fruit juice drinks there.  In 1998 Looza was bought out by the American conglomerate PepsiCo.  In 1999 the company began marketing a "smart," vitamin-enriched beverage called Looza ACE.  Currently Looza makes 26 different flavors of juice drink, including orange, apple cherry, tomato, and passion fruit, in addition to the ones I already mentioned.  The logo switched from a cannibalistic apple man in 1949 (he was shown drinking his own, or presumably other apple men's "blood") to the current brand where the two "o's" in Looza resemble fruit, with a leaf coming off of them.
     My bottles were distributed by another of Pepsi's holding, the Tropicana brand.  All three of the bottles were 1 liter (33.8 ounce) and made from glass.  Also, all three had "from concentrate" printed on their label, which seemed unusual to me--usually drinks are proudly proclaiming that they are not.  Each contained the respective fruit puree concentrate, water, and sugar.  And for the peach and pear ones also ascorbic acid.  Here are my impressions.

1) Looza fruit drink, pear flavor:  This one was a cloudy, yellow hue, much like pear juice, clearly, which made up 42% of the total.  It tasted exactly like I thought it would--like pear juice.  Since I'm not a fan of pears, or their flavor, I wasn't very taken with it.  It wasn't terribly undrinkable or anything, just bland and boring.

2) Looza fruit drink, peach flavor.  This one was 38% juice, and was a cloudy yellowish-orange color.  Once again, it closely resembled the fruit it's made from.  Since I like peaches, I also liked this drink made from them.  Much better than the pear kind.

3) Looza fruit drink, mango flavor.  About the same cloudy yellowish-orange tint as the peach one, and also was made of 38% actual fruit juice.  Decent, but a little thinner than I wanted.  It was certainly tastier than the peach, but not as rich as the peach.  However, yet again, it's like the fruit it's made from--mangoes are okay to me, but not one of my "go to" fruits.

     Just to flesh this out a little, I'll close with a brief list of some of the more famous Belgians.  Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin were excellent tennis players, and each was recently elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame.  Some of Belgium's famous painters include James Ensor, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jan van Eyck.  The creator of the Smurfs also came from here--Peyo (real name Pierre Culliford).  Finally, there's famous cartographer/geographer/cosmographer Gerardus Mercator, of the famous projection maps.  There's a bit of a controversy, though, as both Germany and Belgium claim him as one of theirs.  I'll let these countries argue that out.
     So, I thought two out of the three Loozas were pretty good.  They were a bit pricey, though--about $5 per bottle.  I am definitely intrigued by the Looza ACE variety.  Aside from the vitamins, it contains sausage juice.  I'm very curious about how this flavor works, or doesn't, when mixed up into a fruit juice drink.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Complete List of NFL Title Winners

     Since the NFL season just ended, I thought I'd give a comprehensive list of how many NFL titles each team has won.  I know I sometimes forget how many titles each team has won, and when their last one was, so I thought it would be convenient to have this all down in one place.  (And yes, in case anyone is wondering, I was extra motivated to do this because my Philadelphia Eagles just won the Super Bowl.)
     Just as some background, the NFL started in 1920 (under a different name for the first couple of years, but it was the same organization).  From 1920-32 the NFL title winner was determined by the best won-loss record, with tie games not counted.  Then, from 1933-65, the two division/conference winners met in an NFL Championship Game, with the winner being the NFL title holder.  An alternate league, the All America Football Conference (AAFC) played from 1946-49, and determined their own title winners.  Three of these AAFC teams, with the Cleveland Browns being the most notable, joined the NFL in 1950.  The American Football League (AFL), started in 1960.  From 1960-65 its two division winners met in an AFL Championship Game.  From 1966-69, the respective winners of the AFL and the NFL met in what was eventually known as the Super Bowl, with that winner being the pro football champ.  In 1970 the AFL merged with the NFL, and became (with 3 former NFL teams) the American Football Conference, while the old NFL teams became the National Football Conference.  The Conference winners then meet in the Super Bowl to determine the NFL title winner.
     Hope that's not too confusing.  Anyway, I'll list each current team below, grouped by Conference and current division.  Then I'll include any Pre-Championship NFL titles (1920-32), then NFL Championship Titles (1933-65), then Super Bowl Era titles (1966-2017), AFL titles (1960-65), and then all time titles.  I'll use city and team name abbreviation to save some space.  Also, I'll use the year expressed as a two digit number--64 is 1964, 12 is 2012, and so on.  Since all Super Bowl era titles are well past the NFL Championship titles years, and Pre-Championship Game years, I hope this isn't confusing, too.  Also, bear in mind that before since about 1970 playoff games, and the Super Bowl, are played in January or February of the following year.  So for example I'm listing the Miami Dolphins as the 1973 NFL title winners, but they actually won the Super Bowl in early 1974.

Team                    Pre-Champ.       NFL Champ.        SB titles       AFL         Total Titles   
                             NFL titles             Titles                                     Titles

NE Patriots                                                                01, 03,04                        5 (all SB era)
Buff. Bills                                                                                        64,65        0 (but 2 AFL)

Miami Dolphins                                                           72, 73                          2 (both SB era)

NY Jets                                                                          68                               1 (SB era)

Pitts. Steelers                                                            74,75,78                          6 (SB era)
                                                                                  79, 05,08

Cleve.Browns/Balt. Ravens               50,54                 00,12                            6 (4NFL, 2SB)

Cincy. Bengals                                                                                                  0

Cleve. Browns (New)                                                                                       0         

Jack. Jaguars                                                                                                     0

Houst. Oilers/Tenn. Titans                                                            60,61           0 (but 2 AFL)           

Houston Texans                                                                                                0

Indy/Balt. Colts                                 58,59                70,06                              4(2 NFL, 2SB)

Dallas Texans/KC Chiefs                                            69              62               1 (but 1 AFL too)

SD/LA Chargers                                                                            63               0 (but 1 AFL)

Oak/LA Raiders                                                      76,80,83                            3 (all SB era)

Denver Broncos                                                       97,98,15                           3 (all SB era)                         

Phila. Eagles                                    48,49,60               17                                4 (3 NFL, 1SB)

Dallas Cowboys                                                       71,77,92                           5 (all SB era)

Wash. Redskins                                 37,42              82,87,91                           5 (2 NFL, 3 SB)

NY Giants                   27                34,38,56           86,90,07                           8 (1Pre, 3NFL,
                                                                                     11                                     4 SB era)

Minn, Vikings                                                                                                    0

Detroit Lions                                  35,52,53                                                     4 (All NFL era)

GB Packers           29,30,31           36,39,44            66,67,96                           13 (3 Pre, 6NFL,
                                                       61,62,65                10                                      4 SB era)

Chi. Bears              21,32              33,40,41                85                                  9 (2 Pre, 6 NFL,
                                                      43,46,63                                                          1 SB era)

NO Saints                                                                    09                                  1 (SB era)

Carol. Panthers                                                                                                  0

Atl. Falcons                                                                                                       0

TB Buccaneers                                                            02                                  1 (SB era)

Cleve./LA/St.L                               45,51                     99                                 3 (2 NFL, 1SB)

Seattle Seahawks                                                          13                                 1 (SB era)

Chicago/St. Lou./      25                   47                                                              2 (1 Pre, 1NFL)

SF 49ers                                                                  81,84,88                             5 (all SB era)

Note:  The Cleveland Browns (the original version) won all 4 AAFC Championships (1946-49), so for folks that want to count these, that would bring their total championship titles won to 10.  Also, staying on the Browns, readers will notice that I'm grouping the original Cleveland Browns with the Baltimore Ravens, which is unlike what the NFL does.  In short, the Browns relocated and became the Baltimore Ravens starting in the 1996 season.  Then, an expansion franchise was granted to Cleveland, and they were named the Browns once again, starting in the 1999 NFL season.  In all these lists I refer to the later, 1999 version of the Cleveland Browns as the "new" Browns.  For teams that kept the same players, coaches, team name, etc. but moved to another city I include all the city names, with a slash, such as SD/LA Chargers.  The Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Oilers eventually became the Tennessee Titans, but they are considered the same teams, historically, so I've grouped them together, accordingly.

    And just for fun, here's the five teams that won a pre-Championship Game NFL title but disbanded.

Akron Pros                          1920
Canton Bulldogs                 1921, 1922
Cleveland Bulldogs            1924
Frankford Yellow Jackets   1926
Providence Steam Rollers  1928

     Let's express this list in another way, this time from most titles to least, with many ties, clearly.
Once again, this is NFL titles only, not including AAFC or AFL titles, and not including defunct teams.

13  Green Bay Packers
9    Chicago Bears
8    New York Giants
6    Pittsburgh Steelers
6    Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens
5    San Francisco 49ers
5    New England Patriots
5    Dallas Cowboys
5    Washington Redskins
4    Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts
4    Philadelphia Eagles
4    Detroit Lions
3    Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
3    Cleveland/Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams
3    Denver Broncos
2    Miami Dolphins
2   Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
1   New York Jets
1   Kansas City Chiefs
1   New Orleans Saints
1   Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1   Seattle Seahawks
0   Buffalo Bills
0   Cincinnati Bengals
0   Jacksonville Jaguars
0   Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
0   Houston Texans
0   San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers
0   Minnesota Vikings
0  Carolina Panthers
0  Atlanta Falcons
0  Cleveland Browns (new)

Now let's move on to other lists.  Here's one of the 6 current teams that haven't won any titles of any kind, NFL, AFL, SB, etc.

Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans
Minnesota Vikings
Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons

     And here's a list of the teams that have never won a Super Bowl.

Buffalo Bills
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns (new)
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers
Minnesota Vikings
Detroit Lions
Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons
Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
Houston Texans

   The teams that have never even appeared in a Super Bowl

Cleveland Browns (new)
Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans
Detroit Lions

     My Philadelphia Eagles just ended a long stretch without an NFL title, going back to 1960.  Not quite the Chicago Cubs, but still an extensive period of misery.  Here are the teams with the longest current title-less droughts.

1947  Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals
1957  Detroit Lions

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Pigeon Peas

     Although I had never heard of them before, pigeon peas have been consumed by humans for quite a long time.  The evidence indicates that this legume was domesticated in India 3500 years ago.  Since then, this plant has spread around the world, being grown in suitably tropical/subtropical environments in Africa, South America, Asia, and North America.  The current biggest producers of this plant are the Indian subcontinent and Africa, accounting for over 90% of the total.
     Pigeon peas are eaten in three main ways.  Some folks pick them early in their development, and remove the peas from their pods and eat them as green vegetables.  Others let the plant go longer, and then harvest and dry the older peas.  And some then take these dried peas and grind them up into a flour.  These varying formats result in some nutritional changes, but in all ways the peas are still very beneficial.  They're good sources of protein, B vitamins, folate, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese.
     The plants are also relatively easy to grow.  They show admirable resistance to drought-like conditions.  And their planting requirements are evidently quite loose.  One website I looked at, Tropical Permaculture, amusingly put it, "planting depth is whatever.  Just stick them in the ground, they'll grow."  The non-pea parts of the plant are useful as well--the pods, flowers, and leaves make for decent animal fodder.  The wood is reportedly excellent for starting and maintaining fires.  Plus the peas are good nitrogen fixers for the soil.
     I was able to buy two containers of pigeon peas, in twin 15 ounce (425 gram) cans.  Both were grown in Peru.  And both were from NJ-based companies that I've mentioned on this blog before, Goya and Wakefern.

1) Goya.  I tried to branch out a little and not just eat the peas plain.  Since I'm fairly ambivalent at best about regular peas, I thought mixing them up in other meals might be more interesting and productive.  The peas themselves were light greenish or brown, and were the same size and shape as "normal" peas.  Just out of the can, alone, they were pretty bland, and similar to their regular cousins.  I ended up putting them in a couple of microwaved frozen meals--Healthy Choices' steamed chicken and broccoli with alfredo sauce, and the same company's parmesan penne pasta with spinach and portabella mushrooms.  In both cases, being in a sauce, with other foods, was an improvement.  The chicken, broccoli and alfredo sauce pairing was definitely the better one.  To be sure, though, I think I'd find just about any food to be good when it has alfredo sauce on it, so there's that.

2) Wakefern.  The pigeon peas in this can looked identical to the Goya ones in color, shape, and size.  I did notice a taste difference, though.  Although the Goya and the Wakefern selections both consisted of of the same ingredients--peas, water, and salt--the Wakefern peas were markedly inferior in flavor--less zest.  (Maybe they used different kinds of salt, or water, or less fresh peas?)  Anyway, I put these in with two other microwaved frozen dinners--Smart Ones ham and cheese scrambled eggs, and Lean Cuisine's sweet sriracha braised beef with snap peas, broccoli, and bell peppers, in a sriracha sauce.  Pigeon peas with the ham and cheese scrambled eggs weren't very good--it wasn't a triumphant pairing.  And with the beef, peppers, snap peas broccoli and sriracha was also disappointing, somewhat surprisingly since another kind of pea was already in there.

     In summation, then, if you're a fan of peas in general, you'll probably like the pigeon variety, since they're not that different.  But I certainly recommend mixing them up in multi-component dishes, rather than eating them by themselves.  And clearly, which meal you put them in can make a significant difference.  As you might expect, they are very cost effective, since each can was like $1.  But if your choices are Goya or Wakefern, I'd obviously go with the former.
     I was also intrigued by the pigeon pea's biochemical makeup.  They're kind of like less intense, plant versions of Highlanders, from the 1986 movie of the same name.  (Yes, I'm aware that this was actually a long movie series, and television series, but I don't like to acknowledge these!)  Pigeon peas are allelopathic, meaning that they give off chemicals that can negatively influence the germination, growth, and survival of other plant species in their immediate vicinity. (Some other plants that exhibit this trait are black walnut, tree of heaven, an garlic mustard.)  So bear that in mind if you decide to grow them.  But the only dramatic sword fights between the pigeon peas and other plants will be in your imagination, alas.
     Oh, almost forgot, I wasn't able to find out the answer to the most obvious question--why are they commonly called "pigeon" peas?  Some people theorize it's because they can be used as feed for these birds.  Others think this answer is too simple.  No one seems to know for sure.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Treats From Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England

     Recently I kind of struck myself, because I realized there's an Irish-themed store near my home and I haven't really properly taken advantage of the opportunity.  This store, called "A Touch of Ireland," sells mostly clothing, knick-knacks, and other non-edible items, but they do have a few shelves devoted to candy and snacks.  So I picked up a few--four different kinds, to be exact.  They were a Guinness Luxury milk chocolate caramel bar, a pack of Cadbury dairy milk buttons, a pack of Rowntree's fruit pastilles, and a bag of Tayto cheese & onion potato crisps (or "chips" to Americans).  However, despite the name of the store, they obviously sell things from Ireland's neighbors in the U.K.  Guinness is made in Ireland, obviously, but Cadbury and Rowntree are made in England, and the Taytos I got were made in Northern Ireland.  Hence, the somewhat unwieldy title of today's post.
     Rowntree's was started by a guy named Henry Isaac Rowntree in 1862.  The fruit pastilles line was developed in 1881.  Some of their other products include fruit gums and jelly tots.  They also invented the Aero chocolate bars back in 1935.  Rowntree's was bought up by Nestle in 1988.
     I found Tayto to be a little confusing.  That's because there's a Tayto company in Ireland that specializes in making potato crisps.  But, in 1956 the Hutchinson family started their own crisp company in Northern Ireland.  They licensed the Tayto name from their Irish neighbors, and used the same recipes, too.  Technically, they're separate companies, but they're obviously very similar, even down to having nearly identical potato-headed men corporate logos.  Anyway, the type I got, cheese & onion, is their signature brand.  Some of their alternate crisp flavors include beef & onion, pickled onion, roast chicken, spring onion, smokey bacon, salt & vinegar, worchester sauce, prawn cocktail, and autumn onions mixed with onion.  (Okay, I made the last one up, to make fun of their apparent obsession with onions.)
    Cadbury, of course, is a gigantic company.  A John Cadbury opened up a grocery in Birmingham, England back in 1862, and started experimenting with cocoa products, including a drinking chocolate as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.  The candy manufacturing company started in 1831, and prospered heavily up through the present.  In 2010 Cadbury was bought up by Mondelez International (nee Kraft Foods). The dairy milk buttons were developed in 1960.  Besides the U.K., they're also sold in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  There's also a white chocolate variant of the buttons. 
     Finally, Guinness is clearly a famous and popular brewery, best known for their stout beer.  This company has been selling their beer since 1759, and has been exporting to the U.S. since 1817.  Additionally, since 1955 the company has been putting out the annual Guinness Book of World Records.  (Sadly, the long, 400-500 page, text-based, incredibly comprehensive and detailed books I remember fondly from my adolescence have changed, and not for the better, in my opinion.  Since the mid 1990's this book has become a coffee table-type book, with less actual records, and way more photographs.  It's now more shallow and glitzy, I find.)  I did see that the isinglass controversy appears to be settled, though.  Isinglass is made from fish bladders, meaning strict vegetarians and vegans didn't drink the Guinness beers that contained this substance.  Guinness has been fazing out the use of isinglass over the past several years, and I think by now all of their beers of free of it.  (Although if you're a vegetarian/vegan I advise double checking on this, to be safe.)  The chocolate for this candy was made by Lir Chocolates, Ltd., also out of Ireland.  Other flavors of this candy are Luxury milk chocolate solid bar, Luxury dark chocolate solid bar, Luxury dark chocolate truffle bar, and mini Guinness pint chocolates.  In 1997 Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo, PLC.
     On to my reactions:

1) Guinness Luxury milk chocolate caramel bar:  This bar was made up of 12 separate "pockets" stuck together.  Each pocket was about 1.5 inches by an inch (about 3.5 cm. by 2 cm.), for a total length of 15 cm. by 7.5 cm. (about 6 inches by 3 inches).  The color was a typical milk chocolate brown.  The filling in the pockets was the caramel.  I found it "meh," or average at best.  It wasn't as sweet as I would have liked.  There is actual Guinness in it--the amount is surely not enough to get someone drunk, but the label does stress that this candy isn't for children.  Since I'm not fond of Guinness's various stouts, or stouts in general, maybe this flavoring agent explains my lackluster response.

2) Rowntree's fruit pastilles:  This was a roll of small discs, each about 1.75 cm. (about .75 of an inch) in diameter, with a sugar coating on the outside.  There were supposed to be five flavors--black currant, lemon, lime, strawberry, and orange.  My pack didn't have any lemon pastilles.  As with the Guinness, I was rather disappointed.  The black currant one was the best, but even this one was only alright.  The flavors were rather weak and bland.

3) Cadbury dairy milk buttons:  These looked like, well, buttons--thin disc-shapes, with diameters, once again, of about 1.75 cm. (about .75 of an inch), light brown in color, with the company name etched on them.  I enjoyed these.  They reminded me of Hershey's chocolate kisses, even though I recognize that European chocolates contain more cocoa, etc.  I thought this was a solid chocolate candy.

4) Tayto cheese & onion potato crisps:  These looked like a typical potato crisp, or chip.  Yellow and thin, with some being a wavy shape.  I could definitely detect  the onion and cheese flavors.  I liked these--a respectable snack.

     So, overall, I enjoyed two out of the four.  The two I didn't particularly appreciate weren't awful or anything, just not worth having again.  And I'm definitely intrigued by some of the more unusual flavors of the Tayto crisps--I'd like to give those a whirl, and will if/when I can.  I'd also like to get a hold of some of the Irish Tayto crisps, and compare and contrast these with the same flavors of their Northern Irish cousins.

     Switching topics, the Kickstarter campaign for the anthology I've been discussing for the past month or so, "Hidden Animals:  A Collection of Cryptids," is over.  As I mentioned, they met their initial funding goal, so things should be moving along smoothly.  I should be receiving the edits for my story in it very soon, and the two volumes will presumably be out as scheduled in May of this year.  Updates will follow.  And thanks for the support!