Sunday, 30 November 2008

November 30th: Hotel Chocolat Christmas Fusion

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

This review of the 'Christmas Fusion' slab wraps up my look at the Hotel Chocolat 'Christmas Peepster Box'. What with the success of the 'Christmas Bauble', 'Christmas Chimes' and 'Heavenly Holly' variants I was pretty confident that this slab would offer a similarly pleasurable experience. Described as 'creamy cinnamon spiced white chocolate swirled with 40% cocoa milk chocolate', this was the first product outside of Germany I have seen to include cinnamon as an explicitly stated ingredient. 

As with the others from the range, this slab came in a 100.0g form that provided me with two plentiful servings. I liked the looked of this slab, unlike the 'Christmas Bauble' the mixture of the two different chocolates included the fantastic swirl pattern, which just made it look that little bit better. The Christmas tree decorative piece wasn't the greatest looking, though the snowdrop pieces further added to the spectacle of the slab aesthetically. As well as looking well presented the bar smelt fantastic. As soon as I opened the plastic packaging I was met with a glorious combination of nutty, spicy, dairy scents - this didn't fail in furthering my already high expectations. 

The contrast in flavours between the milk chocolate and enhanced white chocolate was absolutely superb. On one hand the milk chocolate offered a clean and crisp, pure cocoa taste that as I have referred to so many times really is milk chocolate at its finest. The other white chocolate had a wonderfully creamy, buttery taste. The added hazelnut and cinnamon elements were most noticeable during the absolutely divine aftertaste, which was heavily influenced by the nutty, spicy flavours. Aside from the taste, the textures of the two chocolates were also very distinguishable. The white chocolate was noticeabley softer than the milk chocolate. Although the melt was still as incredibly smooth and thick as the milk chocolate, the white chocolate did melt the faster of the two meaning that it didn't last quite as long in the mouth. This wasn't too much of an issue though, as aforementioned the aftertaste of the white chocolate left a long impression in the mouth. The pieces of the slab I most enjoyed were the 'swirled' pieces that combined both the different chocolates - the milk chocolate tree printed on the white chocolate part of the slab in particular provided a delicious finale.

Overall this was an absolutely fantastic and innovative slab from Hotel Chocolat. This was definitely my favourite from the 'Christmas Peepster Box', and thankfully lived up to all expectations - I left it till last for the reason it looked the most interesting of the lot. The mixture of the as ever superb 40% milk chocolate and the spiced, nutty white chocolate was one of the most unique combinations I have ever tasted - especially for chocolate made by a UK based company. The only slight fault I could find with the chocolate was the slightly softer nature of the white chocolate - as mentioned though this really was of no great concern given the lengthy flavour longevity. I would seriously recommend this as a great Christmas chocolate. Having also now reviewed the whole 'Christmas Peepster Box', I would also whole heartily recommend the product - it has a classic range of both classic and innovative chocolate combinations. If you want to ensure putting a smile on someones face this Christmas, Hotel Chocolat in my opinion is the way to go.

8.9 out of 10 

Saturday, 29 November 2008

November 29th: Matchmakers Cool Mint / Zingy Orange

Matchmakers are one of those brands that seem to have been around since the beginning of time. Well looking at the Nestle website that doesn't seem to be an entirely accurate statement - they were in fact first launched in 1968. Their name was derived around the premise that these were meant to be given as a 'token of love' .... hence ...'match making' .... hence Matchmakers. They also used to be about a third of the size they are today - that was back in the day when they resembled matches far more closely.  
Today the brand sits under the Quality Street umbrella and is available in two different variants - Cool Mint and Zingy Orange. On pack the products were described as 'mint/orange flavoured chocolates with skimmed milk chocolate, plain chocolate and boiled sugar pieces'. Hmmm boiled sugar pieces?? ... not the most appetising sounding thing ever eh!? 

I was reasonably impressed by the presentation of both the variants. Both came packaged in small cardboard boxes, which as you can see by the pictures adopted the Quality Street purple colour scheme. Inside the product was contained within a plastic tray, with extra protection offered by a cushioned paper layer. The only thing that I thought could really have been improved was that the Matchmakers could have been contained within plastic/foil packets for freshness .... they were just loosely rolling around which meant that after a few days of being left opened they were not all that fresh looking or tasting. 

Cool Mint:
Kcal 81 Fat 3.5g Fat(sats) 2.3g Carbs 11.6g (per 4 sticks)

A sweet, minty smell was instantly striking once the box was opened - it was quite enticing and provided a very indicative insight to the taste of the product.

As the smell so strongly suggested the mint was very much the dominant flavour. Each stick had a very strong peppermint taste - for me this had its upside and its downside. On one hand I enjoyed the fresh and intense flavouring, though on the flipside it truly diminished the presence of the chocolate. To be honest I could hardly taste the chocolate at all, the mint element was just so amplified and dominant. The sugar pieces did bring a pleasant enough crunchy element to the texture, however they did unnecessarily further sweeten the product. Due to the nature of the very sweet and intense flavours I could only eat a few of these at a time - they were not the most fulfilling of products ever.

Overall the influence of the chocolate on the taste was very minimal, this definitely isn't a product for chocolate connoisseurs. Saying that if your a fan of mint products it is a pretty safe assumption you will get some enjoyment from these.  

7.4 out of 10  

Zingy Orange:
Kcal 81 Fat 3.5g Fat(sats) 2.2g Carbs 11.7g (per 4 sticks)

Much like the mint variant these had a very forthcoming aroma. The orange flavouring was very evident, with the product radiating a pretty nice fruity smell. 

The flavour progression of this variant was more developed than the mint version. The chocolate had far more of a bearing on the initial taste - it was not until the aftertaste where the orange flavouring was truly dominant. The chocolate quality was not the highest, but was passable - it had a largely milky taste that was made increasingly sweet by the added sugar pieces.  The flavouring of the orange was a welcome addition, it reminded me a lot of Terry's chocolate orange in that it had a nice long fruity taste. As with the mint variant I found the added sugar pieces an unwelcome addition to the taste, though I again could note their added benefits to the texture.  

Overall these were the variant I marginally preferred mainly due to the slightly less intense, sweet taste delivered by the orange flavour. This meant that not only was the chocolate more prevalent in the taste, but I was also able to enjoy more of these at a time, making them a more fulfilling product. 

7.6 out of 10

I think it is a fair conclusion that Matchmakers are pretty far from being a high quality chocolate offering, though saying that I don't think they have ever claimed to be. Matchmakers certainly deliver one thing - and that is flavour! Both mint and orange variants deliver in respect to their stated flavours, although their prominence does come at detriment to the actual bearing of the chocolate on the overall taste.  Matchmakers aren't a product I would say you should go out your way to try, but at the same time I definitely wouldn't say avoid them ...  after all they must be doing something right to have stood the test of time!

Friday, 28 November 2008

November 28th: Lindt Eiscafe-Pralines

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Those of you who have been following Chocolate Mission for a while now will be aware that I am a massive fan of chocolate and coffee combinations. Somewhat surprisingly my favourite coffee flavoured bar so far has been the Twix Java, one of very few worthwhile limited editions. Being the fan I am, you can probably imagine my delight when Dean-German-Grocery sent these Lindt Eiscafe-Pralines through. These chocolates were formed of a combination of white chocolate and mocha milk chocolate that was studded with small coffee pieces.

Being a Lindt product the presentation was top notch. The chocolates came in a stylish looking box, that contained 12 chocolates (90.0g). The box was nicely designed with an enticing looking picture and gold font. Inside the chocolates were well protected within a tray, as well as one of those cushioned paper layers. The chocolate pieces themselves were well presented in branded foil sleeves; I liked the aesthetic appeal of the shell shapes, though they were not the greatest size to eat in one mouthful. Upon opening the box I was met with a very pleasant mixture of coffee and cocoa smells - combined they smelt remarkably mocha-like.

As you can see above the chocolates were layered with the white chocolate on the bottom of the product. This meant that when placed in the mouth the initial flavours were very milky, with quite a prevalent vanilla element. As the white chocolate melted away the stronger flavours of the mocha chocolate came into play, adding a more intense but still quite creamy mixture of cocoa and coffee flavours. Contained within the mocha chocolates were small crunchy granules of coffee that when encountered added a real burst of strong coffee beans flavours. I can't say I hugely enjoyed the slightly grainy texture they brought, but there was no doubting the extra coffee hit they delivered to the overall taste, was highly worthwhile and extended the flavour longevity immensely. Though very enjoyable, these were not the richest of coffee chocolates I have tried - I easily ate half a pack in one sitting.

Overall these were a very pleasant tasting chocolate coffee combination. These were one of the creamier offerings I have tried of this mix - most others have used dark chocolate. The combination of the white chocolate and mocha chocolates made for a very milky and creamy taste, which added with the coffee pieces delivered a superb cappuccino/mocha taste. I can see how some people may be put off by the perceived over intense flavours of dark chocolate and coffee combinations - for those people I think this would be a highly appropriate choice.

8.3 out of 10

November 28th: Lindt Christmas Nascherei Macaroon

Kcal 550 Fat 35.0g Fat(sats) 22.0g Carbs 52.0g (per 100.0g)

I am quickly coming to the end of the Lindt Christmas goodies Dean-German-Grocery sent me, but I have been saving this particular bar as it appeared one of the most interesting out the range. Comprising of 'white chocolate with coconut almond pastry pieces on a milk chocolate base', it certainly sounded unique.

The product came in a 100.0g bar, which did me well for two servings. Presentation as ever with Lindt was of a high standard. The bar was packaged nicely in a stylish wrapper, which had a nice picture of some macaroon biscuits on the front. The chocolate was wrapped in a layer of branded Lindt foil, this not only maintained the look of the bar, but also retained the very pleasant milky, nutty smell of the chocolate that made itself instantly known once the foil was opened. One thing that was noticeable about this bar in comparison to other Lindt products was the size of the blocks. They were a lot smaller compared to all other Lindt bars I have ever tried. To be honest this wasn't ideal, as when breaking the pieces off, the separate milk chocolate and white chocolate layers tended to break away from each other.

The base was comprised of milk chocolate, eating this the 'right-way' up meant that the milk chocolate established its flavour base first. As is the case with most Lindt products the chocolate was very forthcoming in its cocoa flavours, considering its relatively low 30% cocoa content it was actually quite intensely flavoured. The milk chocolate was of a good standard, though the real standout factor in this bar was the simply superb white chocolate macaroon layer. It had a bit of everything - a wonderfully creamy, biscuity, nutty taste and a fantastically smooth melt with added crunchy pieces. All the different components to the taste made this a hugely enjoyable experience - I still can't quite believe how they packed the macaroon flavours into such small blocks. On the whole this was a very satisfying and pleasing chocolate.

Overall as far as Christmas Chocolates go, this has to be up there with the best of them. This bar combined both milk and white chocolate superbly, as well as somehow integrating a delightful biscuity coconut element in to the overall taste. The combination of the differing taste elements and contrasting textures make for a bar that I would really recommend. This bar had great quality chocolate and delivered in terms of its promised flavour ingredient ... you can't really ask for much more.

8.4 out of 10

Thursday, 27 November 2008

November 27th: Hotel Chocolat Fruit & Nut Christmas Wreath

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Hotel Chocolat have really spoilt me this Christmas sending me a whole load of goodies - this one though really was a bit special. This Fruit & Nut Christmas Wreath was humongous and incorporated '74% dark chocolate with, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries and jumbo golden raisins'. Weighing in at 450.0g the blurb on the back of the box suggested I 'slice and share' with friends ... so I did, and my were they grateful!!

My one criticism of the 'Christmas Peepster Box' so far has been its failure to incorporate a festive theme on its outer packaging, this was not a problem with this Christmas Wreath. The Wreath came in a really stylish looking outer cardboard box, it had a nice classic Christmas feel - it didn't go over the top with the design work but just had a few elegant patterns. Inside the box the Wreath was kept well preserved in an inner plastic tray, which was an additional nice touch. This brings me to the look of the Wreath itself ... neither my words or photos will be able to do it justice ... it simply was the most extravagant and fabulous looking chocolate product I have ever seen ... we all nearly felt guilty eating it. The artwork of the Wreath shape was fantastically crafted into the surface and it was just full to the brim of all sorts of fruit and nut pieces. Frankly it just looked absolutely superb, and was a real talking point when we were consuming it. The smell of the Wreath was also pretty enticing, with woody, nutty scents highly prominent in and amongst the ever forthcoming cocoa aroma.

Although some of the fruit and nut pieces were slightly hit and miss, there was no doubting the credentials of the 74% dark chocolate - it was excellent. It had a very thick melt, that released ever strengthening lovely cocoa flavours. The dark chocolate resisted ever becoming overly intense with a delicate vanilla note that when combined with the sweetness from the fruit made for an exquisite aftertaste. As I have mentioned some of the fruit and nut elements were far superior than others. The taste and textures of the nuts were largely very good, with the hazelnuts and almonds adding some enjoyable buttery, nutty crunchy elements to most bites. The same however can't be said of the pistachios - they didn't seem to contribute too much too the taste aside from a slightly awkward tasting savoury note - their softer texture was also least enjoyable of the three nuts. The raisin and cranberry pieces both highly contributed to the taste where present, both providing sweet fruity elements. The more acidic nature of the Cranberries were vastly enjoyable against the creamy chocolate, though the dried nature of the cranberries meant the skins of the pieces disrupted the smoothness of the texture. Five of us managed to eat this Wreath over the course of a night, breaking pieces off every so often. It was a bit of a messy business but it just added to the whole extravagance of the product even more.

Overall I have to say this proved to be one of my favourite ever products I have reviewed on Chocolate Mission - everything from the presentation, smell, taste ... it was all absolutely sensational. There were some minor issues with some of the fruit and nut pieces, but I must stress this was real nit picking. The combination of the dark chocolate and fruit and nut pieces provided a rich taste that was highly variable due to the range of the different ingredients. The real sell point for me has to be the look of the product, I don't think I am exaggerating when I say it was a piece of art. Although like me you may be tempted to keep this all for yourself, it was really satisfying sharing with friends and would be an ideal centrepiece for any Christmas celebration. I needn't bother probably writing this as you could probably guess as much from my lavish praise - this is a product I really recommend.

9.1 out of 10
 

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

November 26th: Lindt Weihnachts Edelbitter-Chocolade

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Today courtesy yet again of Dean-German-Grocery, I tried another component of the Lindt Christmas range - the 'Weihnachts Edelbitter-Chocolade' ... roughly translated as 'Bitter Christmas Chocolate'. The bar was comprised of a 70% dark chocolate that was filled with a chocolate mousse that was hinted with our favourite Christmas spices :) coriander and cinnamon. Will someone please explain to me the significance of these spices to the Christmas period!? We hardly get them in chocolate here in the UK, but as we have seen from the German Christmas bars (Milka etc!), these ingredients are very common indeed.

This bar was presented much the same as the (terrible!!!) Lindt Christmas Punch, with the 100.0g bar separated in to podded sections, definitely a unique and interesting way of presenting the product. As with every Lindt product under the sun the presentation was top quality, with the packaging combining some impressive exterior looks with some fresh keeping inner foil layers. Taking the bar out of its foil wrapper, some enjoyable strong cocoa scents quickly made their presence known. Their was an underlying hint of cinnamon, though the cocoa was largely dominant - it was highly appealing.

The exterior chocolate that lined the pods retained many of the same attributes as the Lindt Excellence 70% bar I reviewed way back in June. The chocolate had an initial bitter, smokey set of flavours that grew kinder and kinder as the melt progressed, up until the point I would describe as nearly verging on sweet. At the centre of the pods was a mousse filling that was noticeably lighter than the thick melt of the coating chocolate. The flavour of the centres was noticeably milkier, though the spices largely dominated the overall taste. In other offerings containing these cinnamon and coriander ingredients, their flavours have always been noticeable, but never as strongly present as in this bar. Like the initial intensity of the chocolate, at first the strength of the spices, especially the cinnamon, was a little startling. As I consumed more and more, the flavours simmered down into a more agreeable enhancing contribution to the taste, rather than a dominant one. Due to the strength of the flavours, this was a product I enjoyed over several sittings; and was most pleasant eating alongside a morning coffee.

Overall despite being largely enjoyable, I wouldn't say this is a product that is best consumed in great quantities. The flavours were very imposing, and definitely one of the richer chocolates I have ever tried. Like I have stated above, I found consuming this bar in small servings most enjoyable. Just letting one block slowly melt on the tongue, allowed for the slow release and flavour progression that some bars can only dream of. I think this is an offering of quite an acquired taste, and one that is meant for a specific situation. This is not your Kit Kat bar with your lunch time sarnie type of chocolate, but one that demands time and effort into its consumption. If you have the patience, and tolerance for the more strongly flavoured chocolates, this is a bar I would very much recommend.

8.4 out of 10

November 26th: Goplana Grzeski Kokosowe

Kcal 545 Fat 31.8g Carbs 54.3g (per 100.0g)

I took my first, and rather unsuccessful dip into the world of Polish chocolate last week with the Nestle Princessa. Had I already known how truly awful that bar was, I might not have been so keen to review anything from Poland again. Saying that I bought, this Goplana Grzeski Kokosowe bar at the same time as I bought the Nestle Princessa - so in the interest of not having it lieing in my review box for the next few months I thought I would just take the plunge.

This bar comprised of a 'white chocolate-coated wafer, filled with coconut cream'. It took an unnervingly similar form to that of the Princessa - coming in an exactly the same 36.0g serving size and with the same type of packaging. Whats more the actual bar looked exactly like the Nestle product, just with the obvious variation in it's colour. Fearing the worst, I took the bar from its wrapper and and was actually met with some reasonably nice smelling coconut scents. They were not quite as strong as other coconut products I have had (Bounty etc), but in comparison to the Princessa this actually smelt pretty good.

Despite comprising of only 2.7% coconut, the smell translated into a reasonably nice tasting coconut creme. It offered a nice cool, milky nutty flavour that on the whole was largely enjoyable. The white chocolate was as unfortunately equally as flavourless as the milk chocolate of the Princessa and really struggled to establish anything more than a sweet minor milky flavour. Not only was the flavour of the white chocolate largely forgettable, but its texture was pretty poor too. It had a waxy, grainy melt that was altogether pretty horrid. The wafer element was slightly better implemented in this bar than the Princessa - it didn't suffer the limpness that I found in the Nestle bar, and had a relative crunch. The coconut flavour left a lingering sweet flavour in the mouth that made this a largely more satisfying snack than the Princessa.

Overall despite still far from lighting any fires, this Grzeski bar did a lot of things better than its Nestle comparator. It tasted superior thanks to the pleasant coconut creme - the white chocolate was still distinctly lacking in quality, though, even that was marginally better than the milk chocolate of the Princessa. This combined with the extra bite of the wafer meant by and large this was an ok product ... I stress the word ... ok!! This isn't a bar I would massively recommend, but my faith in Polish products to an extent has been restored.

7.0 out of 10

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

November 25th: Pop Rocks Milk Chocolate

Kcal 161 Fat 7.0g Fat(sats) 4.0g Carbs 24.0g

Pop Rocks - 'MELTS on your tongue, POPS in your mouth' ... I must admit, I can't say this was a chocolate bar I have really looked forward to reviewing - to be honest quite the opposite. I am never one to turn down free chocolate though, so I gratefully accepted this bar from the folk at CandyPirate. Billed as 'milk chocolate with a kick', you have probably have guessed by now that this bar included the infamous 'popping candy' - those of you who wish to see my latest displeasure with the stuff see Cadbury Magical Elves & Milka Wasser.

The bar came in a 33.0g serving, although this sounded small it actually provided a sufficient enough snack accompanying my mid-afternoon tea. The wrapper was pretty nice, the design was simple yet effective and communicated the theme of the bar well with some bright colours and jazzed up tag lines. The bar itself had a non to appetising dusty surface, it was also split into a pretty curious 3 blocks, each of which were just a little to large to eat all at once ... it would have been far better split into four. I must give some props for the logos that were printed on the surface, they gave the bar some much needed character. The smell of the bar was very faint, offering only a minor sweet scent - in truth it was largely undetectable.

Now before I get a barrage of e-mails in my inbox telling me how unfair I was on this bar, please let me substantiate that there were some parts of it I enjoyed. For one I actually quite liked the milk chocolate! I was expecting it to lack flavour considering it was only really supposed to be a carrier for the selling point of the bar - the popping candy, but it actually had a degree of appeal and had a nice milky taste. Unlike in other popping candy chocs I have tried, Cadbury Elves for example, the taste of the chocolate wasn't ruined by an unecesary additional sweetness from the candy pieces - this bar maintained a pretty neutral degree throughout. Right, so on to the popping candy ... I won't beat around the bush it still wasn't to my liking. I could to a point see the appeal of the fizzing sensation on the tongue, but the popping on the back of the throat I just couldn't handle - I guess it just isn't for everyone.

Overall as far as popping candy bars go, this wasn't bad - but due to my own dislike of popping candy it was never going to score high. The milk chocolate had a relative appeal - of course it was no where near top quality milk chocolate, but it had a milky appeal nonetheless. I can pretty safely conclude now that popping candy just isn't for me - hey we all have our likes and dislikes! If your the polar opposite to me and enjoy your popping candy, then this is a bar you will want to check out.

6.9 out of 10

November 25th: Milka Delicate & Dark Black Pepper

Kcal 565 Fat 41.5g Carbs 40.0g (per 100.0g)

Delicate & Dark (aka Zart & Dunkel), is yet another line of Milka that Dean-German-Grocery have provided me samples of. The premise behind the Delicate & Dark range is that it is a more darker, more premium offering to the usual Milka range - with the standard Alpine milk chocolate mixed with dark chocolate to form a bar with 50% cocoa mass. This particular variant was billed as 'dark chocolate mixed with Alpine Milk, noted with Black Pepper' ... yes you did read that correctly black pepper. Given my utterly disastrous first experience with the Hotel Chocolat pepper and chocolate combination, I wasn't all that optimistic with this one.

The presentation of the product was pretty good. It came in a thin cardboard box that was decorated nicely with the standard purple Milka colour scheme and gold coloured text. The 100.0g bar was tightly wrapped in gold foil. Once removed, the blocks appeared nicely sectioned - each with a Milka logo crafted into the surface. Initially in taking the aroma of the bar was quite pleasant, it had some very familiar Milka dairy scents, though I soon detected the black pepper ... no joke I nearly sneezed.

I do enjoy standard Milka Alpine milk chocolate, however when not accompanied by a strong filling flavour, say caramel for instance, I can find it a little on the uninspiring side. Don't get me wrong it is pleasant enough, but doesn't have a taste that really grabs the consumer by the taste buds. Things were a little different with this bar, the chocolate was indeed more forthcoming in its cocoa notes, but still retained the milky flavours of the standard Alpine Milk. So there I was ... enjoying the smooth melt and fuller flavours of this Milka chocolate when of course the inevitable happened with the introduction of the black pepper to the taste. In a word- Yuck!! As with the Hotel Chocolat bar it tasted out of place, I just didn't get the mix at all. It wasn't half as strong as the peppercorns in the Hotel Chocolat bar, but it still just tasted all wrong. I did eat 50.0g of this in one serving, though it was neither an experience that was satisfying or that enjoyable.

Overall I think you have to remember is that this site only reflects one mans views on a product, and it just so happens this man really doesn't get the mixture of chocolate and black pepper. I found this bar highly enjoyable until the pepper flavours came in to play. The chocolate was great tasting, which really gives me high hopes for the rest of the range. As for this bar though, I just really wouldn't recommend it. I would love to hear from any pepper and chocolate combo fans ... I just want to know if you actually exist :)

6.3 out of 10

Monday, 24 November 2008

November 24th: Hotel Chocolat Christmas Bauble

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

My third dip into the Christmas 'Peepster Box' saw me sampling this 'Christmas Bauble' slab. Those of you that are attentive will recognise the centerpiece milk chocolate 'Bauble' from the Hotel Chocolat Bells & Baubles selection I reviewed a few weeks ago. This 'Bauble' piece was 'set in to a swirling white and milk chocolate fusion' i.e. a slab comprised of both white and milk chocolate.

I ate this 100.0g slab in the two standard servings - as usual leaving the 'finale' Bauble piece till last. The only disappointment of course was with the lack of Christmas theme on the exterior packaging. I liked the look of the slab, however it didn't quite have the intricacy of the swirl pattern of the previously reviewed Hotel Chocolat Milk & White Fusion. The distinction between the milk and white chocolate was more simplistic - half white chocolate and half milk chocolate - it lacked the overlapping effect like in the 'Fusion'. The slab emanated some very familiar scents - the strong dairy and cocoa smells never fail to entice.

Both milk and white chocolates were on top form in this slab. Both chocolates textures were divine as ever, slowly melting into a thick double cream like consistency. The 40% milk chocolate delivered all the usual smooth, milky, cocoa led flavours with its clean, crisp taste - utterly fantastic. Similarly the white chocolate didn't fail in delivering its sweet, buttery, vanilla edged taste. My only disappointment with this slab was a result of its design work. As I have previously mentioned there was very little overlapping between the two chocolate types - individually the chocolates were absolutely superb, but it would have been nice to have had more of a mixture between the two. The only instance were the chocolates did mix to a worthwhile degree was the 'Bauble' piece that was more set into the white chocolate side of the slab. The mixture of both the chocolates delivered a full flavoured, creamy taste like no other - it is not often I eat chocolate that was this enjoyable.

Overall despite not reaching its full potential due to the design of the slab, this was yet another instance of pure quality from Hotel Chocolat. Further collaboration of the two types of chocolate would have been preferable, though individually they didn't fail in delivering their utterly luxurious separate tastes. I whole heartily recommend this slab - it is the perfect way of experiencing the greatness of both Hotel Chocolat milk and white chocolate in one fantastic product.

8.4 out of 10
    

Sunday, 23 November 2008

November 23rd: Cote d'Or Sensations Brut 86% Cacao

Kcal 605 Fat 54.5g Fat(sats) 33.5g Carbs 19.0g (per 100.0g)

This is my first review of a Cote D'Or product, and what better place to start than the brands most appropriate comparator bar to Chocolate Mission's top rated Hotel Chocolat 85% Dark Chocolate ... easy start huh!? I know very little about Cote D'Or apart from that the brand is from Belguim and has a rich heritage that stretches as far back as 1883. I have seen a few of their bars in and around the UK, but Dean-German-Gorcery provided me with the bar for todays review.

I was instantly impressed with the presentation of the product. It came packaged in a nice cardboard box, that had a stylish, elegant design - it certainly gave the impression of a premium chocolate brand. The bar itself looked nice, the Cote d'Or elephant logo was cleanly crafted into the surface, which I may also add had a very clean cut, smooth looking appearance. The smell of the bar reminded me very much of Lindt chocolate. The cocoa scent was very prevalent and forthcoming as soon as I opened the foil wrapping. All signs up until here were good ... but of course the truth is in the taste.

One thing I did notice on the back of the cardboard box was the fact this bar contained over 600 calories and a near 55.0g of fat per 100.0g. I am sure I have probably consumed bars with similar levels, though this struck me as bloody high. I ate this the only way it deserved to be, served at room temperature, letting each block melt slowly on my tongue. The rate of the melt was ok, it took a while for the chocolate to get to melting temperature, though it did have a nice smoothness. Despite having a nice soft feel in the mouth, the chocolate once melted felt ridiculously thin in its melted state. Not only was the chocolate thin, it was near totally devoid of strong flavours .. how can this be from a 86% cocoa mass bar you ask!?? I am still asking myself that very question. Only when the bar was in its furthest stage of melt did it offer any (and i mean any!!!) sort of worthwhile taste. Even then the cocoa flavours were not even that forthcoming - they were just completely underwhelming. The aftertaste was very short lived, with the flavours all but disappearing within seconds of consumption. To make sure my taste buds were not deceiving me I ate 50.0g in one sitting, and then came back to the rest later in the day - at which point I took one square, had exactly the same flavourless experience and just didn't bother with the rest.

Overall this bar absolutely flummoxed me, I don't have a clue how Cote d'Or have managed to create a flavourless chocolate bar containing 86% cocoa, but my does it appear they have tried their best. The bar had many of the attributes of a premium chocolate offering, it had the look, smell ... even the texture to an extent. However, it just seemed completely devoid of meaningful flavour. Sure the cocoa flavours were evident, but this was only at the last stage of the melt, and even then the taste was neither strong or long lasting. To be honest I would leave this bar well alone, save your pennies for Hotel Chocolat or Lindt.

6.9 out of 10

Saturday, 22 November 2008

November 22nd: Hershey's Take 5 White Chocolate

Kcal 200 Fat 10.0g Fat(sats) 5.0g Carbs 25.0g

It seems an absolute age since I last reviewed a Hershey's product, but fear not as **I SHOP 4 YOU II** today supplied me with yet another limited edition from the Take 5 range. I have reviewed the original Take 5 and peanut butter variants before, both to mixed results. Today I tried the White Chocolate variant - those of you who have forgotten what comprises a Take 5, it it is formed of pretzel pieces, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and in this instance a white chocolate coating.

The bar came in a 42g serving size, this didn't prove to be the most sufficient snack - I was still quite peckish after eating it. The presentation was all rather fair; the two pieces came in a reasonably nice looking foil wrapper that displayed the contents clearly. Inside the packet a inner cardboard sleeve protected the product ... always a nice touch. The pieces themselves were also reasonably well presented. They lacked any really branding or intricate detail, though I could appreciate the distinctiveness of the layering of the inner fillings. I did enjoy the aroma that came from the product - some enjoyable nutty, dairy smells emerged and became increasingly strong when the pieces were bitten in to.

Unfortunately this variant shared a few of the same problems as the peanut butter variant. I found that the outer coating really lacked flavour and had a waxy, slow melt. The white chocolate had a very mild milky flavour, however offered very little aside from this. Fortunately the combination of the contrasting sweet and salty flavours of the peanut butter and pretzels did give the product some degree of enjoyable taste, but even these were short lived. The pretzels were lacking the real crunchy that I desired, however were flavoursome enough to warrant their presence. The caramel element lacked real presence, which was a shame as I thought the sweet, buttery flavours it did add where present, were nicely varied from the salty peanut elements. As stated above this wasn't the most satisfying of snack in terms of hunger. I think this was largely down to the flavours being very short lived.

Overall this was a bit of a lacklustre variant, largely due to the lack of quality from the white chocolate coating. Despite the best efforts of the nicely flavoured pretzel and peanut butter layers, the lack of flavour and poor texture of the coating really came at detriment to the overall taste. Out of the range the milk chocolate Take 5 is still head and shoulders above both the Peanut Butter and this White Chocolate variant. If you were going to go for a Take 5 product that would be the one I suggest.

6.9 out of 10

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November 22nd: Cadbury Shots

Kcal 15 Fat 0.7g Fat(sats) 0.4g Carbs 2.1g (per sweet)

These are a Cadbury product I don't see all that often. Their distribution may vary by region, and for all I know you guys may see them all the time, though here in sunny old Surrey these are very rarely come across. Saying that I did manage to pick up a lone pack in a random One Stop shop. These Cadbury Shots are Cadbury's answer to M&M's, Minstrels etc, billed as 'sugar coated balls of Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate'.

These Cadbury Shots came in the form a 200.0g bag, which I shared with some friends. The packaging and presentation I thought lacked the usual Cadbury charm. The packaging was quite plain in it's design, and the chocolates looked nothing more special than glazed Cadbury Tasters. Don't get me wrong there was nothing wrong with appearance, it was just nothing special either. Hard shelled, sugar coated products commonly lack decent aromas (see M&Ms!!), though this was not true of the 'Shots'. The familiar Dairy Milk smell was ever present, maybe not quite as strong as with other Cadbury products, but it was reasonably forthcoming and enticing.

Though sharing the bag with three other people I managed to get my fair share. In relation to other sugar coated chocolates I would say these were a relatively fulfilling snack, something that was largely down to the strength of the Dairy Milk chocolate. Even given the extra sugar from the hard shells, the Dairy Milk was still quite nicely balanced with its delicious creamy taste. The presence of the sugary shells for me wasn't all that favourable. As mentioned they did little to enhance the taste, and to be honest they spoilt the best way of enjoying the texture of the chocolate, due them needing to be crunched. Dairy Milk is a chocolate that deserves to be longfully left to melt on the tongue, the inclusion of the hard shells meant this wasn't entirely possible.

Overall these were another relatively decent product from Cadbury, though they would never be my favoured means of enjoying Dairy Milk. The sugary shells didn't allow the enjoyment of the slow melt of Dairy Milk, slowly sucking on these gave a the taste of sucking on a sugar cube, which meant at the end of the day they could only really be chewed - which was far from my favoured means of enjoying the chocolate. The Dairy Milk chocolate hit was still delivered, but just couldn't be enjoyed for as long as desired. If your a fan of your hard-shelled chocolate such as M&M's, Minstrels etc these are probably worth you looking at. A fair Cadbury product, but far from anything spectacular.

7.8 out of 10

Friday, 21 November 2008

November 21st: Hotel Chocolat Christmas Chimes

Kcal ??? Fat ?? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Today I tried my second slab from the Hotel Chocolat Christmas 'Peepster Box', the 'Christmas Chimes'. This slab included a solid base of 74% dark chocolate with a rather familiar looking milk chocolate bell placed in the middle (see Hotel Chocolat Bells & Baubles!!).  It isn't all that often you see dark and milk chocolate combinations - I certainly haven't had a Hotel Chocolat mix of the two, so this was a new experience for me. 

I will reiterate again my slight disappointment at the lack of a Christmas theme implemented on the design of the box and packaging for the product. It just seemed a bit daft going to all the effort of making the actual slab itself look quite festive, but forgetting to do the same to the packaging. As I described in the Hotel Chocolat Bells & Baubles review the bell shape had a lot of detail crafted into its surface - it looked just as impressive implemented in this slab. The smell of the slab was just fantastic. As soon as I opened the plastic package familiar cocoa scents emerged filling my anticipation once again for another Hotel Chocolat indulgence.

I ate this offering much the same way as I ate the 'Heavenly Holly' slab - breaking off all the chocolate around the middle and then indulging on the centrepiece. The story of this slab was that individually the 74% dark chocolate and 40% milk chocolate were superb, but unfortunately together they didn't quite deliver the 'finale' I was hoping for. The 74% dark chocolate delivered all its usual fantastic flavours, it had an immensely rich cocoa taste that had elements of coffee and dark fruits prevalent throughout. I ate this slab over two very satisfying servings. At the end of the second serving I finished the slab off eating the milk chocolate bell. When eaten in isolation it delivered some fantastic creamy, cocoa flavours, however when eaten in tandem with the base it was largely dominated by the fuller flavoured dark chocolate and only managed to oddly sweeten the overall taste. Despite the lacklustre 'finale' the slab was largely very enjoyable.

Overall we all knew before that both the Hotel Chocolat 74% and Hotel Chocolat 40% were individually fantastic, what we additionally know now though is that together they aren't the best mix. The dark chocolate delivered its usual full flavoured, rich taste and really provided a fantastic base chocolate. The milk chocolate bell was equally as enjoyable providing a sweet, creamier chocolate. Unlike the white and milk chocolate in the 'Heavenly Holly', the mixture of the milk and the dark didn't quite provide the desired finish to the slab. Despite this minor disappointment, this was still chocolate of the highest quality - another highly enjoyable offering from the Christmas 'Peepster Box'.  

8.6 out of 10


November 21st: Ritter Sport Citrus Yogurt

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Despite Chocolate Mission currently focusing on delivering Christmas themed reviews, when given the opportunity to sample this summer themed Ritter Sport variant from Dean-German-Grocery I duly obliged. This 'Citrus Yogurt' bar consisted of 'white chocolate filled with lemon yogurt creme and rice crisp pieces'. As with most Ritter Sport offerings the filling was very generously portioned, accounting for 42% of the total bar.

The product came in the standard Ritter Sport format - in a 100.0g bar with fairly nice looking packaging. As I tend to do with most Ritter Sport variants I ate this in two servings, both of which were satisfying enough. As I have mentioned the packaging had a nice look, with a relevant colour scheme and resealable flap. The bar aesthetically looked pretty interesting, the yogurt creme filling stood out nicely with its plentiful portioning and lighter complexion. Within the filling, the rice crispy pieces were also highly visible, adding a nice golden colour just as the on-pack picture suggested. The smell of the bar was very striking - a very pungent citrusy, lemon scent quickly emerged once the packaging was opened. It smelt very nice indeed and proved to be very indicative of the taste.

Despite the bar claiming that only the filling contained lemon, the flavour was evident as soon as I placed the first white chocolate piece in my mouth ... for me this had its advantages and disadvantages. It was disappointing somewhat as it didn't allow for the build of anticipation that you get with most Ritter Sport bars, I am talking about the time in between the outer chocolate melting and the exposure of the filling. Though the excitement of the flavour progression was absent, the actual taste was superb. The white chocolate provided a delicious creamy, vanilla background flavour that complimented the lemon filling nicely. The yogurt filling had several elements to its flavours and textures. The lemon element was obviously very strong, but was nicely balanced placed in its nice dairy creme context. The rice crispies were all but lost in the taste, though were notable for the extra crunchy element they brought to the mostly smooth texture. It was not the most substantial of bars, though with the tangy flavours from both the lemon and the yogurt, it was both refreshing and highly enjoyable.

Overall this was certainly one of the more unique tasting bars I have tried on Chocolate Mission, and I must say I largely enjoyed it. It is safe to say that if you don't like lemon, then you will simply hate this bar, it had a very dominant grip on the overall taste. Luckily, I am rather partial to lemon, and enjoyed the fresh, fruity flavours offered. I have already stated my slight disappointment at the lack of taste progression, however I still think the white chocolate complimented the creamy filling nicely. I am a little unsure as to how well this bar would have worked with a milk chocolate exterior - my guess would be not quite as well. This is a pretty easy bar to offer recommendations for ... its simple - if you enjoy lemon and white chocolate then get involved ... if you don't leave this bar well alone.

8.4 out of 10

 

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