Monday, 16 November 2009
I am pleased to announce that from now until Christmas you will get no fewer than one Hotel Chocolat review a week thanks largely to the fact they sent me a big box full of festive samples to get stuck into. It has been a fair while since I last reviewed a Hotel Chocolat slab product so it was nice to see that the chaps in the HC innovation department come up with no less than four new flavours for Christmas this year. Starting off in no particular order I first decided to try out this Orange Nice Spice flavour which consisted of '70% dark chocolate with orange and a dash of chilli'. As I have said I was not particularly drawn to this slab over the others or anything but it sounded like quite a nice one to start this years Hotel Chocolat Christmas reviews off with.
Out of the four slabs this was the only one to come in the conventional 100.0g size and was split into two smaller 50.0g slabs. Aesthetically speaking Hotel Chocolat have done well with the outer packaging of the slab products this year and I thought that the box for this Orange Nice Spice variant looked clean in design whilst bringing a nice bit of glamour with some sparkling red and silver snowflake patterns. Inside the slabs were protected by a thick foil wrapping which further maintained the outer sophistication with another sleeking looking pattern. The slabs themselves looked and smelt as if they were fresh out the factory with some dark smelling cocoa scents that had hints of spicy fruit emanating whilst the surfaces gleamed, sharply reflecting the light with the sugar coated orange pieces also catching the eye.
As good as this chocolate looked and smelt it tasted absolutely abysmal .... only joking ;) haha it tasted delightful! The dark chocolate base incorporated everything that usually makes Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate so great and its clean tasting earthy cocoa flavours established themselves as soon as the chocolate hit my tongue. Having reviewed so many other products aside from Hotel Chocolat recently it was wonderful being reunited with the rich taste of their dark chocolate and the flavours of the ebbed and flowed with the thick, longing melt as it developed on my tongue. If I have heard one criticism of Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate before it is that it is a little on the strong side for some people but I think the critics would be hard pushed to apply generalisation here as there was ever present sweet, juicy orange undertone throughout the taste. In addition to the orange oil present in the chocolate the sugar coated orange peel pieces further brought an added fruity sweetness to the taste and were best enjoyed once the hint of chilli had developed in the mouth which unsurprisingly in the latter stages of the melt. With the orange pieces bringing a minor note of coolness to the feel in the mouth this did slightly offset the heat brought to the party by the chilli, however this would be the smallest of small criticisms and was not something that bothered me in the slightest at the time.
Overall this was a splendid way to kick off my Hotel Chocolat reviews this year and the guys there have done themselves proud once again formulating yet another delicious tasting chocolate combination. One of things I was most pleased to see when I first opened my box of goodies this year was that Hotel Chocolat have done a great job with the packaging and presentation which immediately gives their range huge gifting potential. What makes this gifting potential even grander is that fact that you get chocolates likes this one on display today. With the dark chocolate at its usual high quality and the orange and chilli flavours added in correct proportions this was always going to be a chocolate I was going to savour from beginning to end. If your a dark chocolate orange fan I can assure you that this is one you won't feel let down by if you invest in it. Cracking start ...bring on the next slab!
9.1 out of 10
Sunday, 15 November 2009
I'm going to keep my ramblings short this week as I want to run a small competition giving you all the chance to win these fabulous prizes ....
1 x Ritter Sport Karamell Nuss
1 x Galaxy Amicelli
1 x Storck Riesen
1 x Schogetten Tiramisu
So the Question ....
'As of the 15th of November how many product reviews have there been on ChocolateMission?'
All answers that are +/-10 within the correct answer will be entered into the prize draw. Answers on e-mail to the usual Jim[@] chocolatemission.net .... the winner will be revealed in the November 29th edition of '7Days of Chocolate Reviews'. Unfortunately this competition is only open to my UK readers.
Good luck to you all and have great weekends
News from the Chocolate Market:
* Divine Chocolate is supposedly the chocolate of choice for all top chefs ... SEE HERE
* Cadbury Caramel Bunny vs Nestle Kit Kat Bunny ... lets get ready to rummmmble ... SEE HERE
* Sugar Puff chocolate cereal bars have been launched ... SEE HERE
* A closer look at the new Cadbury Flake ad ... SEE HERE
Post from other Blogs I enjoyed this week:
* Impulsive Buy - Not only has it been Marvo's birthday this week but he has also been treating himself to some cool looking 'make-your-own' smoothie products ... SEE HERE
* GiGi Reviews - Reviewed a really unique looking chocolate bar that was made of dark chocolate, pepper, vanilla and pumpkin seeds! It got an 11 out of 10 rating so it must be good ... SEE HERE
* Foodstufffinds - Found an instant coffee that contains added antioxidants - Green Coffee! Could be worth a try! SEE HERE
* Chocablog - A guest writer from Canada got their mits on some new 70% Kit Kat and Aero products from Nestle. I hope they bring them out here in the UK... SEE HERE
* CandyBlog - Following my own G&B review this week Cybele reviewed a Peanut variant that I haven't ever seen here in the UK ... SEE HERE
Saturday, 14 November 2009
A few weeks ago during my search of the UK's best chocolate cake bar I reviewed McVitie's Penguin offering and noted that I hadn't actually given the original bar a ChocolateMission review yet. Given how often I used to have these tucked into my lunch box during my school days I felt obliged to sort this sooner rather than later, thus today is the day! For those who live outside the UK wondering what the devil a McVitie's Penguin bar is I can tell you that they are produced by McVitie's (firstly in 1932) and are formed of chocolate biscuits, with a milk chocolate creme covered in milk chocolate.
Although I was going to buy a pack anyway I managed to stumble across a these on a half price offer in my local Tesco at the price of 54p for a pack of 9 separate bars, that is 6p a unit for the mathematically challenged! One thing I have always loved about Penguin bars is the look of the product as down the years it has managed maintain a modern look yet still kept it's branding and colour schemes consistent from since I can remember. One of the first things I think about when Penguin bars pop in to mind are the insanely awful (but wonderful!!) jokes that appear on the film packaging of each bar ...'where do penguins keep their money?' .... 'in a cold bank' ....groan :) Terrible jokes aside the actual chocolate bars look rather good with the three distinct layer clearly visible when cross-sectioned. Apart from a minor sweet smelling chocolaty aroma the bars didn't offer much in the way of smell though at this point I was still more concerned with trying to figure out the on-pack joke.
One thing that McVitie's must commended on is the fact that a few years ago they removed all the hydrogenated fat from the product. I guess the argument is they should never have been there in the first place but in 2007 United Biscuits removed them from the product entirely, I just wish a few more manufactures would do this. One thing I think we could all take from the Penguin Cake Bar review was that the standard of the chocolate wasn't all that high and I am afraid to say nothing about this bar changed my mind whatsoever. The outer milk chocolate layer was noticeably thin and failed to generate the degree of flavour of even the most standard of milk chocolates (Nestle etc) before it melted away revealing the biscuit layer. The biscuit below was thankfully more giving in terms of its flavours establishing a corn cereal taste that had touches of brown sugar and salt. Sat in the middle of the biscuit the final chocolate creme element brought a softer element to the crunchy biscuit as well as bringing a much needed touch of chocolate to the overall taste. Although I wouldn't say that these Penguin bars were the most flavoursome they were relatively good size for a mid afternoon snack.
Overall my feelings are pretty mixed about these McVitie's Penguins. One part of me wants to criticise them for their lack of telling flavours but another can't help but love the heritage of the product and the way that it is presented. One thing that I think has to be considered here is the price - for my money I would have struggled to buy even one Cadbury Dairy Milk bar for what it cost to be a nine bar multi pack of these Penguin bars. Granted these were on a half price offer but even then you would still be getting four times the amount. As far as chocolate quality goes these are certainly nothing to shout about but they do offer a relatively nice biscuit based option. Penguin bars have been around since I can remember and hope they don't go disappearing anytime soon - if only so we can still moan about the awful jokes on the wrappers.
7.2 out of 10
Friday, 13 November 2009
This is a review that has materialised as a result of a request from ChocolateMission reader Phil who asked me to review these back in September. I am not someone who is overly keen on mint and chocolate combinations but when push comes to shove I am more than willing to give them a try. This is a first time outing for the Bendicks brand on ChocolateMission so it is probably worth telling you a little about them. Bendicks produce their goods in Winchester, Hampshire and all of their goods sport one of those fancy Royal stamps of approval (like Colman's mustard and Duchy Original products). Described as 'bitter chocolates with a firm peppermint fondant centre' these just had to be good ... especially if the queen likes them ;)
I am aware that these Bittermints chocolates come in a variety of formats but I just so happened to pick up a 100.0g tube shaped box. The presentation gets a thumbs up from me and I liked the way the product managed to pull off a sleek but non-pretentious look. The outer packaging was designed well with the black background nicely decorated with some stylish looking silver and gold fonts, whilst inside the chocolates were nicely protected with thick, branded green foil wrappers. When cross-sectioned the inner fondant felt very firm and emanated a very powerful peppermint aroma that smelt wonderfully fresh.
I have to say when I first saw how thin the dark chocolate outer layer was and how strong the inner peppermint layer smelt I was expecting the chocolate to be all but lost in the taste. What I did fail to take notice of however was that on the packaging the chocolate was actually stated as 95% cocoa minimum so it should of been of little surprise that this wasn't actually the case. These chocolates were best eaten in two bites and were just perfect for letting them sit on the tongue and melt away as they gained heat. With its 95% cocoa content the chocolate was noticeably strong from the outset and generated a really wonderful strong, unsweetened roasted coffee like flavour note in the mouth. Although the taste came across as somewhat bitter at first the flavours were soon wonderfully balanced by the sugar based peppermint fondant centre. The taste was fantastically balanced with both it's bitter and sweet influences and they provided a full spectrum of flavours in the mouth. Due to the very strong taste just two of these bittermints left me feeling satisfied and refreshed.
Overall I wouldn't ever recommend these as snacking chocolate that has a role for everyday consumption but on the contrary I would recommend them as a very suitable range of choice of chocolates for say after a dinner party or to compliment an afternoon coffee. Despite the layer being extremely thin the actual chocolate content of this product I thought was very good. These might not appeal to the mass market but for those of you who do enjoy rich tasting dark chocolate the quality on offer here was high. As I have stated above the combination of the sweet tasting peppermint centre and the bitter outer chocolate was really well executed and this is what really appealed to me about these chocolates and left me coming back for more. In my opinion I think these are a nice step up from the Nestle After Eights which offer a similar sort of proposition and eating occasion but just aren't as good in quality. I can certainly see myself buying these again at some point again in the future.
8.5 out of 10
Thursday, 12 November 2009
I think we are all aware by now that Green & Black's chocolate isn't one of my favoured ranges here in the UK. Apart from the odd bar like the Espresso, it is range that I have often found unremarkable and it has often disappointed me with it's not so special taste but over inflated price. In an effort not to be swayed by my previous experiences I thought I would give a few more of their bars a chance on the ChocolateMission rating system and picked up a few more flavours from their selection. The bar in the line of fire today was this Ginger variant which came billed as 'dark chocolate with crystallised ginger'. As previous experiences have shown dark chocolate and ginger can be a matched made in heaven when done correctly.
As you can see from the photo above this was another bar from G&B's standard 100.0g range and was split into the usual small sized blocks. Although this isn't exhibited by the wrapper above I have noticed recently that G&B's have started to change their packaging across some of their flavours - with the primary brown colour and indicative secondary flavour colour swapping round. I seem to remember writing about exactly this in a previous review so as you can imagine I view this packaging reformulation quite favourably. Unfortunately though the ugly looking, brown dominant packaging is still prominent across many of the flavours in the range, including this Ginger bar. On more of a positive note the chocolate itself smelt pretty glorious with a nice spicy ginger element evident amongst a strong current of bitter dark chocolate scents.
I will resist to rant about the ridiculously small sized G&B's blocks as I have touched upon this point so many times in the past, but even with the nature of the dark chocolate this was still a frustrating problem. If I was G&B's I would make their bars smaller in length, thicker and divided into bigger blocks. I think this would not only make the chocolate look better but it would also help the taste of the chocolate as each piece would have more time to develop flavours in the mouth. With the chocolate smelling as bitter and strong as it did I was really quite surprised when I placed the first piece in my mouth as I was met with some very languid and quite meagre cocoa flavours. To be honest I was expecting far greater strength from a chocolate billed as 60% cocoa min and I was a little disappointed with the volume of the dark chocolate taste. With the dark chocolate offering little more than a mild, unsweetened cocoa flavour set the ginger was thankfully a lot better and brought a bit of life to what was really a quite dull tasting chocolate. Unlike billed the ginger wasn't crunchy or crystallised in form but was actually quite soft and chewy when left to melt on the tongue. The ginger element wasn't particularly fiery or hot but brought a pleasant note of mild spice and warmth to the mouth. Out of all the dark chocolates I have had recently this wasn't the most satisfying but a 30.0g serving certainly did a reasonable job and went well with a cup of coffee.
Overall this was yet another G&B's offering that I would have to describe as 'nothing special'. At the heart of it's averageness the actual dark chocolate base was pretty underwhelming and didn't measure up in terms of it's 60% cocoa billing or it's strong smell that emanated out of the foil wrapping. On reflection the poor quality dark chocolate was really quite a shame given that the ginger element of this chocolate was actually pretty good. As I have described above this wasn't a really strong or hot ginger flavoured chocolate but the volume of the spice was nicely controlled with a sweet, syrup like undertone which took the edge off the normally quite harsh flavour edge. It is true that I do like the stronger flavoured dark chocolate but as previous reviews have shown I do have an appreciation for the slightly milder ones also. This was by no means a horrible bar of chocolate but having tried a fair few G&B's products now I am quickly coming to the opinion that they are too reliant on the flavours they incorporate into their bars and are not taking enough care with the actual chocolate. I have a few more G&B's bars to review in the coming weeks so time will tell whether this is a valid conclusion.
7.2 out of 10
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Back when I published my reviews of the original and caramel Cadbury cake bars loyal ChocolateMission reader Alan suggested I try this Cadbury Triple Choc Roll. This product can be found sitting in most supermarkets cakes section and costs just over the £1.50 mark. I am not going to get to hung up over this point but I think I should bring to the attention of everyone that the marketing guys at Cadbury obviously aren't quite at one with their multiples. Described as a 'Triple Choc Roll' I think it is almost natural to think that the product contains three different elements of chocolate. A quick look at the packaging suggested I was in for more than I was bargaining for and I read with great delight that this product constituted of four different chocolate formats - chocolate sponge, chocolate buttercream, chocolate sauce and lastly a milk chocolate coating.
This product failed to state and actual weight though it provided six large sized servings that each made for a fulfilling snack. Aside from the glaring inaccuracy of the 'Triple' branding (seriously this in very tongue in cheek!), I thought the product was presented well and it incorporated the purple Cadbury colour scheme to good effect giving the product a nice colourful look. Inside I was delighted to see that despite the flimsy protection of only one layer of plastic wrapping the inner cake roll was in immaculate condition. When I cut into the roll the cross-section looked appetising with each of the different layers distinctly obvious. As promising as the product looked I was further impressed by the smell which was a mixture of fresh cake and Cadbury chocolate aromas.
In previous Cadbury Cake Bar reviews I have often commented that I was disappointed Dairy Milk chocolate wasn't used, however this wasn't such an issue here due to the sheer amount of different chocolaty influences to the taste. Each an every layer was very sweet in terms of flavour but there was a consistent milky undertone that kept the sugary sweetness nicely in check. Starting with the outer milk chocolate I have to say it was little on the disappointing side and I would liked it to have just a been a bit thicker in order to give the outer portion just a little bit more crispness when bitten into. In my review of the Cadbury Cake Bars I did comment that the cake was a little on the bland side but in this instance I thought it was wonderfully complimented by the chocolate buttercream and chocolate sauce elements. Where the buttercream brought an extra dimension of buttery, sugary flavours the chocolate sauce delivered a very welcome moistness to each bite with a syrupy chocolate influence on the taste. The cake itself was dense and fulfilling yet still maintained a nice fluffiness and melted in the mouth nicely allowing the other buttercream and sauce elements to come to the party. Just as the packaging suggested I split the roll up into six servings which lasted a matter of minutes in my office environment - I was lucky I managed to grab a bit for myself!
Overall I have rated this Triple Choc Roll higher than the original Cadbury Cake Bar and on reflection the reason for this seems to lie solely at the inclusion of the chocolate sauce. I think in this cake roll the addition of the chocolate sauce brought the cake element to life and not only helped the problem of the cake being too dry but also brought an extra surge of sweet, chocolaty flavours to the taste. If I was to make this product better I would of made the outer chocolate thicker in terms of its portioning as it would have made the initial bite all that more pleasurable with the extra crispness that was only present to quite a minor degree. Personally I only tend to have products like this one at Christmas time once I have had that spoonful of Christmas cake and decided I don't like it and thus move on to the 'Christmas Log'. Those 'Christmas Log' products tend to be quite dear in terms of price though I think you would get as much pleasure out of buying one of these, sprinkling it with icing sugar and adding a decorative piece of holly on the top. Taking off my 'Martin's Money Saving Expert' cap for a minute I would also recommend this as a nice product to share between family or friends - it gets a ChocolateMission thumbs up.
8.0 out of 10
2010 UPDATE ... Here is my review of the Cadbury Mint Choc Roll that I wrote a few months after ....
Kcal 160 Fat 6.9g Fat(sats) 4.3g Carbs 16.3g (per 1/6th)
Following my review of the Cadbury Triple Choc Roll last year, I just couldn't help myself when I saw a 'Mint' version on a £1 deal in my local Tesco. Given my positive review of the Cadbury Mint Cake Bars, I was hoping that this Mint Choc Roll was going to be just as well executed and liked the sound of 'chocolate sponge filled with mint flavoured buttercream, covered in milk chocolate'. For those wondering what is behind the sudden emergence of so many cake based reviews on ChocolateMission I can reveal that it is the consequence of my work office being obsessed with any product involving the word cake - unsurprinsgly they always seem more than happy to help with the taste sampling.
Just like the Cadbury Triple Choc Roll this Mint variant came with no catch weight but was large enough to split into six amply sized servings. Aside from the addition of the mint branding and green colour the packaging looked no different to the original and incorporated the usual Cadbury Purple colour scheme to great effect with some realistic on pack illustrations. Where I felt this product looked a little more interesting than the standard Triple Choc was when it was cross-sectioned as the bright green mint buttercream glistened amongst the rolled sponge layers giving it a vibrant and colourful look. In addition to looking pretty cool I also noted that a slight minty aroma could be detected amongst the normal Cadbury chocolaty scents.
I will spare you the whole 'Waaaah this wasn't made with Dairy Milk chocolate' spiel as I am getting pretty used to it not being used across their entire portfolio. To be honest the secondary recipe isn't much worse anyway and once it again it provided a fitting coating for the inner sponge and buttercream. Just as expected the outer chocolate provided the usual sweet, milky Cadbury Milk Chocolate taste which led nicely into the milder chocolate noted buttery flavours of the inner sponge. As I have experienced with the Cadbury Cake Bar range the cake wasn't the strongest tasting but it certainly held up it's part of the deal providing a bit of viscosity and sustenance to the product. Of course the real defining part of this product was obviously going to be the mint buttercream and I can thankfully report it gets two thumbs up from me. It had a nice cool feel on the tongue and provided some subtle peppermint flavours with a delicious creamy undertone that complimented the cake and outer chocolate well. In addition to providing a cooling freshness the buttercream also brought the necessary moistness to the drier cake layer which made its presence all that more welcome. As I said in my opening paragraph my colleagues were all too willing to help me out eating this and it survived only a matter of minutes once opened.
Overall I enjoyed this Mint Choc Roll more than the original Triple Choc Roll and thought it was marginally superior due to the extra dimension brought to the product by the mint flavouring. I am always a little cautious with mint flavoured chocolate products as sometimes the mint can overpower the chocolate in the taste, however this thankfully wasn't the case here and the mint buttercream was balanced superbly with the outer chocolate coating and inner chocolate cake. I can imagine that I will be buying one of the Cadbury Choc Roll products again in the near future given how well they go down in the office and I can confidently say that it will be this Mint variant that I will look for on the shelf ahead of the Triple Choc offering. If your a fan of the Cadbury Mint Cake Bars there probably isn't quite enough here for me to say that you have to buy this product over them. At the same time though I no doubt think you would get some pleasure out of this Mint Roll - it is certainly great for sharing with others.
8.2 out of 10
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
In my efforts to review some more UK based chocolates I recently got in contact with local chocolate producers Montezuma's who kindly obliged in sending me some of their newest products for me to review. Over the past year or so I have reviewed around twelve different offerings from Montezuma's speciality bar range with the quality ranging from pretty poor to actually pretty good. One thing that has been consistent across Montezuma's speciality range are the odd names they have given each of their variants and todays offering was no different. I guess with the name 'Hula Hula' Montezuma's have tried to encapsulate a Caribbean sort of theme and this was little surprise given the milk chocolate and coconut constituents.
Just like every Tom, Dick and Harry from this range the bar came in a 45.0g serving that was split into six individual blocks. Again the packaging incorporated the same style Montezuma's design work and I have to say I thought the the mix of the orangey red and brown colours worked well to give the box real stand out. Inside the chocolate was wrapped in the usual Montezuma's ghastly plastic packaging, though this was soon forgotten about once I opened the packet and smelt the glorious coconut led chocolaty smell that greeted me. In addition to smelling great the chocolate also looked pretty appetising with what looked to be a great deal of coconut nicely mixed throughout the chocolate.
If you have read any of my recent Montezuma's reviews (like the 'Snackle' the other day - HERE), you will be well aware that they have a pretty good quality milk chocolate. As with so many of their other bars the milk chocolate here was formed using 34% cocoa solids and 22.5% milk solids and it unsurprisingly formed the basis of the taste. Compared to the average milk chocolate this was noticeably stronger in its cocoa than its cream based influences and it offered up a crisp, clean taste. Like I have said in previous reviews I still stand by the judgement that Montezuma's chocolate doesn't have as much personality as other more mass produced brands as it doesn't seem to have a very distinctive taste. Luckily though what this Hula Hula bar did offer up was really tasty coconut dynamic that really added a great deal to the overall taste. The coconut was simply delicious with its milky, nutty flavours and it also brought a delightful crunchy element to the texture that was best enjoyed once the chocolate had melted away. Not surprisingly I ate the entire bar of this in one sitting and I would say that given the high amount of flavour and reasonably large sized serving it was a pretty fulfilling snack.
Overall this was yet another product that has left me thinking that there is a shocking lack of coconut flavoured chocolate bars out there on the UK market. As I have said above Montezuma's have a fair standard milk chocolate but at the same time it isn't really anything that special which means that the ingredients that compliment it have to deliver if the product is to be of a great quality. What was pleasing with this bar was that the coconut element was indeed very good and I felt that it brought extra dimensions to the taste and textures of the milk chocolate. As I often do I like to say how if would ever have a product again near the end of my reviews. The answer I would give if posed that very question for this bar would be a unanimous Yes! Personally this was a chocolate bar that I really enjoyed so if you like your Bounty bars then I would really consider giving this bar a try.
8.4 out of 10
Monday, 9 November 2009
You have to realise that your reviewing too many chocolates when a package arrives at your house with a note saying 'as promised please find enclosed' and you have no idea you are expecting them. Hey, I'm not complaining - perks of the site and all, suffice to say I was happy to receive this Thorntons Metropolitan selection box courtesy of one of their PR agencies SALT.
As they normally do with boxes of chocolates I get sent my family were all too happy to 'help me out' tasting them and giving their input for the ratings.
Just to make things difficult we all had differing opinions when it came to the presentation of the product. Although we could all appreciate the relatively nice looking design work on the outer box there were comments about the choice of colour and decoration of the inner pieces. Indeed, I myself didn't like the fact that half the pieces had cool looking patterns printed on their surfaces, whilst others looked boring and plain ... why not all of them!?
Described as chocolates inspired by chocolatiers from cities around the world, this selection included both milk and dark chocolates and constituted of 8 different pieces. Below are my thoughts on each with the customary rating ranging from Very Poor to Superb. Words have been kept light in the interest of review length :)
This was one of the unloved pieces that looked really plain sitting in the box. Unfortunately it wasn't only just unremarkable in looks but also in taste. The filling had a dense mousse like feel on the tongue but failed to add anything to the sweet tasting milk chocolate apart from a minor vanilla essence note. Poor.
I had high hopes for this chocolate with its promise of 'velvety roasted hazelnut praline' but it didn't quite deliver the quality I was hoping for. The milk chocolate was unremarkable, whilst the hazelnut flavours were pretty much lost within the strong brown sugar notes generated by the inner crunchy feuilletine. It wasn't a horrible chocolate by any means but can be best summed up as disappointing. Hey ... at least it looked pretty! Poor.
This was the other of the long finger like pieces in the box and it was thankfully a lot better than the other. My mother is a big fan of chocolate orange and really enjoyed the way the orange essence flavours established themselves in the latter stages of the melt leaving a lasting fruit note in the mouth. The intensity of the orange wasn't over bearing on the chocolate which delivered a friendly, yet full flavoured dark chocolate experience. Good.
I laughed out loud when I read the description of this chocolate having just eaten one. 'Equsitie Ecuador milk chocolate with a crisp fruitiness and delicate hints of flowers & herbs' ... sorry Throntons but who are you kidding!? Granted this chocolate had a smooth enough melt in the mouth but lets be honest here it offered nothing like the intricacy in flavours that it built itself up as having. The taste was predominantly milk led with the undertones of cocoa present throughout. Summed up nicely .... Standard.
Q Couture:It probably won't surprise you to read that I thought this one looked the nicest sitting in the plastic tray. Billed as filled with a ganache noted with quince I wasn't all that excited by the actual prospect but it was actually one of the more enjoyably pieces in the selection. The dark chocolate was flavoursome with its unsweetened cocoa led taste and melted nicely into a sweeter fruit noted filling. This one looked great and it delivered .... simple really! Very Good.
This piece was very similar to the above Q Couture but just had an outer coating of milk chocolate rather than dark. For this very reason it just simply wasn't as good. Yes it had one of the pretty patterns on it's surface but as with the other pieces from the selection the milk chocolate wasn't a patch on the dark chocolate pieces. The cloudberry ganache had a minor blackcurrant like hint to it but it's tartness was balanced by the sweeter tasting milk chocolate. Good.
No prizes for guessing whether this was better than the equivalent milk chocolate piece! In comparison the depth of flavour was just far greater with the taste nicely balanced with unsweetened cocoa flavours that never entered the world of bitterness. It was by no means the greatest tasting dark chocolate I have ever had but hey, given the averageness of the milk chocolate on offer here it was made to look all the better. Good.
I immediately thought 'Uh-Oh' when I saw this one! Not only did it look exactly like Paul.A.Young's award winning salted caramels but it was billed exactly the same as 'caramel hinted with an after-hint' of saltiness'. With such a tough benchmark no surprises these came off quite poorly and frankly they didn't match up whatsoever. The chocolate was thin and lacked presence in the taste, whilst the caramel had an odd floral note that over rode the promised salt lick. I don't want to be too harsh given the standard of the obvious comparator. Standard.
Overall I think the ultimate score and individual ratings give some perspective to how disappointing this selection box was. With an RRP of £10.99 you have to expect consistent quality and this is just something Thorntons don't seem to be able to do. The milk chocolate was frankly pretty average and wasn't up to scratch with what you would expect from such a costly box of chocolates. In fairness the dark chocolate was better and there are some nice chocolates in the box such as the Q Couture and the Orange Garden. At the end of the day though, a few nice chocolates don't make a well rounded selection box and there were just way too many poor ones. I think it is a fair assumption that a lot of us will be buying chocolate selection boxes in the next few weeks to gift for Christmas and I would have to say given the price you should avoid this one.
5.8 out of 10
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Kcal 541 Fat 33.0g Carbs 54.0g (per 100.0g)
Last week I told you all how I ventured into my first ever Lidl last week and bought the remaining variants of Trumpf Schogetten range that I hadn't managed to try yet. Well today I tried my ninth flavour from the portfolio in the form of this Strawberry Yoghurt bar, which was described as simply 'milk chocolate with a yogurt-strawberry-filling' (36.0%). Over the last few months I have tried endless yoghurt filled chocolates from Germany so this one had quite high standards to live up to thanks to the preceding Ritter Sport, Ferrero and Milka bars.
Seemingly Trumpf only produce their Schogetten range in one format so it won't surprise you to hear that this bar came in a 100.0g size that was split into 18 individual blocks. I will save boring you to tears by ranting about the quality of the outer packaging again, but for those who don't yet know my opinion I suggest you see HERE. Although I was still far from impressed I thought that the light pink theme suited the wrapper more so than other colours on different variants and the actual chocolate itself looked pretty enticing. As you can see in the photo above when cross-sectioned each block had a plentiful helping of yogurt filling which had red speckles throughout. In addition to looking rather tasty the chocolate smelt very appetising and avoided having the overly artificial fruity smell that many other fruit based bars often have.
Before tasting this chocolate I had a pretty strong expectation that this chocolate would be way too sweet but I am glad to report this wasn't quite the case. In previous reviews I have commented that Schogetten milk chocolate is normally a little on the sugary side, and I was expecting with the added sweetness of the strawberry this was going to be a little too much. Thankfully this bar proved me wrong and the flavours of the centre filling gave the chocolate far more balance than I was expecting. As expected the outer milk chocolate provided some light, sweet cocoa flavours that had a minor hazelnut note but it was the yogurt filling that really took hold of the taste. Like the chocolate, the centre melted with a pleasant smoothness though it was just a tad more viscous making the flavours stick in the mouth that little bit longer. Tastewise the filling had strong cream based milky undertones that had really pleasant firm bursts of strawberry fruit coming through which made for an overall fine tasting chocolate. I ate this chocolate 6 blocks at a time which made for a nicely fulfilling chocolate that delivered on its promised flavour credentials.
Overall this bar was a nice little surprise and although I wouldn't say it was quite as good as the Ritter Sport or Milka alternatives it was still a chocolate that I on the whole enjoyed. It won't surprise you to hear that the thing I think let this bar down slightly was the milk chocolate but it largely took a back seat to the really fine tasting strawberry filling anyway. If I was to compare the strawberry yogurt fillings of the Ritter Sport and Milka bars to this one I would be very hard pushed to pick a favourite - this Schogetten one was every bit as good (if not better) than both of them with its creamy, fresh fruit flavours that had no inclination of any artificalness whatsoever. When put in the context of price this has to be a bar that has a strong claim to be the best of the lot when it comes to value for money. It wasn't the best fruit flavoured yogurt bar I have ever tried, but it was a pretty damn good one at the same time.
7.9 out of 10
Friday, 6 November 2009
A few readers have been commenting recently that I haven't been paying enough attention to the chocolates that we have available to us here in the UK so over the next few weeks and into the coming year 2010 (scary huh!?) I will endeavour to maintain a bit of focus on what is on offer in the UK marketplace. For me personally chocolate doesn't get anymore local than Montezuma's who produce their chocolate in West Sussex, England. It has been almost a year since I have reviewed a Montezuma's product but the guys there were recently kind enough to send me along a few samples of the latest few additions to their portfolio. Included in this sampling package was this 'Snackle' bar from their Specialty range. The Snackle bar came billed as a pretty simple offering of 'milk chocolate with cocoa crispies' so think Nestle Crunch but with a little more potential.
Like many of the other Speciality bars I have tried beforehand this bar came in a 45.0g serving that I ate over the course of one evening. Just as with my previous ten reviews from this range I liked the outer cardboard box and I think Montezuma's have done well in their decision to keep a bit of consistency with their designs but differentiate the bars through the use of colour. Unfortunately it seems that Montezuma's are still persisting with their decision to keep their chocolate plastic wrappers inside the casing. One year on I still don't think this looks good and whilst I like the fact that the chocolate is air sealed I think the wrapping is at least worthy of some branding to make it look a little decorative. The chocolate itself also looked a little on the plain side though it was nice to see the cereal pieces dispersed nicely throughout the bar and it at least smelt quite nice with it's fresh smelling chocolaty scents.
In the above paragraphs I have already mentioned the fact that the direct comparison to this bar would be the Nestle Crunch bars that are widely distributed throughout the US and Europe. What I am pleased to confirm is that this bar did indeed taste better than the Nestle Crunch but at the same time it wasn't exactly light years ahead. The milk chocolate in this bar was formed using a 34% min cocoa and 22.5% milk solids recipe so it was unsurprising that this chocolate was a little less sweet tasting and more cocoa rooted in it's flavours compared to the more mass produced chocolates. Personally though I would say that whilst this chocolate was no doubt of a fair quality it was far less distinctive in terms of it's taste compared to say Dairy Milk or Galaxy. Another thing that I have also commonly failed to understand is the addition of rice cereal to chocolate. I find more often than not that whilst it adds a relatively nice additional crunch element to the texture it simply adds very little in terms of flavour and this was very much the case here. A cereal like influence was detectable amongst the taste of the milk chocolate but it's impact was minimal.
Overall this bar just turned out to be yet another rice filled milk chocolate that never went further than just being a slightly better than average offering. As aforementioned the standard of the chocolate was higher than what you would find in the equivalent Nestle Crunch bar but truth be told it wasn't really to my preference to some of the more mass produced chocolates that we can find here on the UK market at least half the price. If you are a fan of the Nestle Crunch bars this could be worth a look at if you wish to treat yourself but I think price is a really important issue here as Montezuma's actually charge £5 for four of these Speciality bars - that's £1.20 each. When you factor this into the equation I just can't really justify recommending this bar to anyone as it does very little to differentiate itself from what is already out there to warrant the high price.
7.5 out of 10
Thursday, 5 November 2009
I have had a bit of a turbulent time with these Cadbury Desserts bars that Shopenzed have been sending me from New Zealand. Whereas the first one I tried, the Creme Brulee flavour (See HERE) was pretty excellent the next one I sampled, the Tiramisu variant (See HERE) was not quite so great. Although it is obviously not the most consistent of ranges it seems to have caught the imagination of many readers as the review requests came flooding in when this new Berry Pannacotta flavour was announced. One e-mail to Shopenzed later and it wasn't long before I had this Cadbury Dairy Milk Desserts Berry Pannacotta bar in my hands.
The bar came in a 210.0g size ... no that it not a typo!! Within one year these Cadbury Desserts bars have gone from 250.0g, to 235.0g, and now down to 210.0g. I would be very interested to hear from one of my readers from the Southern Hemisphere as to whether the prices have fluctuated at all? Anyway as with the rest of the range I thought the presentation looked swish with the Berry Pannacotta flavour communicated through an on-pack picture and pinky purple secondary colour scheme incorporated into the traditional purple Cadbury background. The chocolate itself was nicely held within a branded silver foil though neither the smell of the look the chocolate appealed to me all that much. The pink inner filling to me looked odd and it had that familiar terrible artificial sweet, berry smell that just didn't entice me in any manner.
Despite the chocolate failing to impress me up to this point I was hoping that it was going to prove me wrong like many have done in the past. Like all Cadbury Dairy Milk products I ate the chocolate one block at a time letting the blocks melt away on my tongue. Just as I expected the outer milk chocolate was of good quality and the Dairy Milk didn't fail in delivering its highly milk driven sweet chocolaty taste. Personally I think Dairy Milk from Australia and New Zealand isn't quite as thick in melt or rich in taste as our UK Dairy Milk though the differences are minimal and it delivers a similarly pleasurable experience. Unfortunately where the chocolate was the good the filling was poor - how many times have I written that over the last two years? Much like the smell suggested the filling seemed very artificially derived and the berry flavouring was very sugary in its fruity taste. The pannacotta element was delivered reasonably well bringing a slightly creamy cheesiness to the aftertaste but my feelings towards the filling on the whole were that it was reasonably poor.
Overall I have to give this bar a thumbs down despite the milk chocolate being of a good standard. The one fundamental problem with this chocolate was the way the berry element was executed which was undeniably poor. Rather than mix the berry and pannacotta constituents together I think Cadbury would have been better off splitting the two. I would have kept the underlying pannacotta filling bit but I would put a layer of either raspberry or strawberry jam placed on top to bring the berry element in to the mix. I think Cadbury should have taken more care when putting this bar together. It is great that they are willing to attempt to make new and exciting flavours like this one, but having tried a ridiculous amount of fruit flavoured yogurt bars from Germany this summer I think I am in a good position to say whether this was executed effectively. Unfortunately this isn't one I would recommend from this range - stick to the Creme Brulee!
6.6 out of 10
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
I hope you all aren't getting bored of these mini cake themed reviews because I have another lined up for you today. As reported in my '7Days of Chocolate Reviews' roundup post a few weeks ago Cadbury have recently released some products that sit within the cake aisles of our supermarket and I brought you my review of the Cadbury Mini Bakes Chocolate Flapjacks just last week. Well the other variant in this new Mini Bakes range are these Cadbury Chocolate Brownies, which came described as 'chocolate brownies sprinkled with milk chocolate chunks'. Brownies are not my normal choice of bakery item, though I do remember being rather partial to M&S's one which I reviewed HERE.
The box did not display an offical weight though inside it contained 8 separate brownie pieces. Much like with the Cadbury Mini Bakes Chocolate Flapjacks I liked the presentation of the product on the whole and thought the integration of the usual Cadbury Purple themed was well entwined with the Mini Bakes branding and brownie on-pack photos. The brownies themselves looked worryingly the same small size of the flapjack pieces which I ultimately thought were too small. More positively these brownies were also included in separate plastic packets and both looked smelt very tempting indeed with some visible chocolate chunks and fresh smelling chocolate aromas that hit my senses as soon as the wrappers were broken.
I am not going to launch into another rant about how the chocolate used in these brownies wasn't Dairy Milk as I have to admit these certainly weren't lacking in the chocolate flavour department. The base of the brownies were excellent with some fresh, buttery sweet dough flavours wonderfully built upon by a delicate touch of salt in the aftertaste. Throughout the taste had strong undertones of milk and cocoa and the chocolate flavours were only further enhanced by a generous helping of chocolate chunks which delivered fine chocolate flavours bursts leaving a lasting Cadbury chocolate impression in the mouth with every bite. Despite these brownies being on the small side the dense, viscous nature of them made them seem a far more fulfilling option in comparison to the same sized Cadbury Mini Bakes Chocolate Flapjacks and they provided a satisfying snack for my mid afternoon coffee.
Overall I think Cadbury have done a good job with these Chocolate Brownies and although I think they could be slightly improved in some areas I was pretty happy with what I got here. One immediate improvement they could have made was that they could of used Dairy Milk chocolate instead of their secondary recipe, though as I have alluded to already this wasn't so much of an issue as it has been with other Cadbury products I have been trying recently. The chocolate flavour hit was still very here with both the brownie base and chocolate chunks combining to provide a surprisingly strong chocolate hit in such a small dose. With fewer calories and fat I was also surprised in that I felt just one brownie felt like a reasonably sized snack and unlike with the chocolate flapjacks I didn't feel the need to reach for another straightaway after finishing my first. If your a fan of both Cadbury chocolate and brownies then these are a bit of a no brainer - get involved sooner rather than later.
8.3 out of 10
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
The cake bar reviews have been coming in quick and fast but the search for the best one is quickly drawing to a close. At present the Thornton's Chocolate Cake Bars hold the crown as the ChocolateMission highest rated but McVitie's gave them a good run for their money with their Galaxy branded cakes. Although I wouldn't say the UK Mars Milky Way is up there as one of my favourite chocolate bars ever I certainly thought these Milky Way Cake Bars were worth a try given that seemed to offer something a little different in proposition to most the other cake bars I have tried so far this year. These came described as 'light sponge cakes with a creamy filling, covered in milk chocolate' and just like the Galaxy Cake Bars were baked by McVitie's.
I bought these in a local supermarket at the price of £1 for a pack of 5 cake bars. Looks wise I have never been the great fan of the Milky Way packaging as I think it looks a bit dated and in need of refreshing. I will admit that it does have a relatively fun and colourful look that may appeal to kids but this with this particular product only the outer packaging looked vibrant as it was made out of a foil materical. On the contrary I was a little disappointed to see that the inner bars were wrapped in that cheap plastic packaging which I feel doesn't always keep products at their freshest and certainly makes the on pack design look that bit duller. Luckily the cake bars themselves did offer a little more promise and they certainly looked very appetising when cross sectioned where the inner cream layer sat glistening in between the chocolate and sponge. In regards to smell these bars did emanate any strong scents that were immediately obvious but on closer inspection a sweet smelling chocolaty aroma could be detected.
Like with all the other cake bars I have tried recently I sampled these over a course of a week eating one every afternoon with a nice cup of tea. In line with expectations the milk chocolate was good yet certainly not spectacular in any manner with the main flavours influences being milk rooted and quite sweet and sugary in its chocolatyness. Whilst it wasn't the best quality chocolate ever it was thick enough to substantiate a nice chocolate flavour hit with every bite and it melted with relative ease to reveal the sponge and cream elements below. Both the sponge and cream layers were a bit like the chocolate really, in that they tasted nice but were by no means spectacular. The sponge was light in texture and was neither spongy or overly dense. In terms of flavour it offered quite little aside from a floury taste with a touch of brown sugar. The cake did also have a noticeable note of vanilla essence to it which was further accentuated by the cream layer on top. The cream was really quite sugary yet offered up a nice bit of moistness to the drier cake layer. Altogether these Milky Way Cake Bars were not as rich or fulfilling as the Thornton's or Galaxy Cake Bars but they did a reasonably nice job of tieing over my hunger until later in the day.
Overall I guess it is a good sign that over the course of a week I did eat all five bars from the multi pack which suggests that they would of have to have been a fairly pleasant snack. Writing this review a few days later I would have to agree with that, though I wouldn't say that these Milky Way Cake Bars did anything more for me than any other has done over the past few weeks. If you asked me to name one amazing feature about these cake bars I simply couldn't name one, they were more just an all round good product. Each layer from the milk chocolate, sponge and cream filling were all of a fair standard without any of them being either exceedingly tasty or exceedingly not. I am not sure I would buy these again in the near future given the fact I know there are better out there, but if you like your Milky Way chocolate bars these could be well worth checking out.
7.4 out of 10
Monday, 2 November 2009
The on pack propositions were very similar but I will go into more detail of them later. I bought both these chocolates in Waitrose (oooh fancy) with the Swiss Classic costing £1.19 and the Creme Brulee £1.99. Looking at the packaging I think you will agree there is one clear winner between the two. Having said that I thought both looked far better than the average market offering.
Lindt Swiss Classic Double Milk Caramel Chocolate:
Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
This bar was described as 'Swiss milk chocolate with a milky filling and crunchy caramel pieces' and came in a 125.0g size. Unwrapping the foil layer the blocks looked very sleek and I was pleased to see some golden pieces lining the inner beige coloured creme filling.
Formed of 30% cocoa solids the milk chocolate was forthcoming from the outset and established some fine cream rooted chocolate flavours in the mouth. As the chocolate melted the inner creme filling was revealed little by little and it had a noticeably drier texture than the outer chocolate. The inner filling was sweet tasting and further went to reaffirm the milky flavours of the chocolate with a wonderful note of vanilla ever present. The caramel pieces were a not quite as impactful on the taste as I was hoping as they added only minor hints of toffee when bitten into. Although a slight let down in this instance the caramel brought a lovely crunchy element to the texture that was best enjoyed once the chocolate and inner creme filling had melted away.
8.2 out of 10
Kcal 570 Fat 38.0g Fat(sats) 23.0g Carbs 52.0g (per 100.0g)
Described as 'milk chocolate with a delicate creme brulee filling' I have no idea why I have resisted trying this bar for so long - it sounds wonderful don't you think? A product of the Lindt Factory in France this bar came in a 150.0g tablet which was split into ten big sized blocks. To be honest I preferred the size of the blocks from the Swiss Classic, though the chocolate was undeniably sharper looking with the both the outer surface and inner filling glistening giving a real sense of freshness.
Looking at the pictures above you will be able to see that chocolate on this bar was slighlty thicker though this had no effect on the taste of the chocolate whatsoever which was unsurprising given exactly the same recipe was used. The difference and reason for my overall preference of this bar over the Swiss Classic came as result of the sheer quality of the creme brulee filling - it was simply magical. The inner creme was every bit as smooth as the Swiss Classic but had extra dimensions in its flavours with notes of custard, vanilla and butterscotch adding wonderfully to the overarching creaminess. Dispersed throughout the filling there were small pieces of wafer and caramelised sugar which added delightful crunchy elements to the texture. The latter especially brought a hint of burnt sugar to the taste which really brought to life the creme brulee flavour theme fantastically.
9.0 out of 10
Overall I could clearly pick my favourite between these two bars but at the same time I think it is worth recognising how brilliant both were. For me I felt the Petits Desserts went just that bit further with its flavours and I was surprised to the degree at which the Creme Brulee flavour was delivered on. There is no doubt that this was largely down to the presence of the caramelised sugar pieces as they brought the crunchy creme brulee topping to the party with great effect. The Swiss Classic wasn't perhaps as complex in terms of taste in comparison to the Creme Brulee but it certainly had wonderful appeal with it's cream based taste. If I was to recommend one of these bars to you it would have to be the Petits Desserts, however I would have no qualms recommending the Swiss Classic Caramel Chocolate as a very close second if you are watching the pennies.
Sunday, 1 November 2009
I hope you have all had good Halloween weeks and have bags full of chocolate and candy to much your way through.
This week I received my Christmas samples from Hotel Chocolat so prepare yourselves to start seeing some reviews coming your way soon.
In addition to that I also received a big parcel of different chocolates from Germany courtesy of ChocolateMission reader Susie. The package contains so many different chocolates I have no idea what to try first ... this got my thinking about question of the week ...
'Which country produces the best chocolates?' UK? US? Germany? Japan? Other??
Let me know what you think - I will tell you my view later this evening.
Have a good week and thanks for all the ongoing contributions.
The ChocolateMission Omnibus:
Right at the start of last week I posted Hotel Chocolat's answers to the questions that all you guys sent them a month or so ago. Thanks again to Matt at HC for co-ordinating this with me, be sure to take a look at the interview HERE.
This week has been full of reviews of Nestle's and Cadbury new mini bakes / mini bites products HERE. Readers like Lottie and Steven has expressed their annoyance and this ongoing trend of 'Mini' products and I have to say I agree with them. Like reader Mark so aptly put it wouldn't hardly hurt these manufactures to start thinking about outside the box.
The review I most enjoyed writing this week was the Snickers Fudge which was sent to me by my chums at CandyPirate HERE. Whilst most were excited by the product it was duly noted by Rachel that it wasn't the cleverest move taking the caramel out the bar ... a view I very much agreed with.
Despite my best efforts to ignore Halloween this year I did yield yesterday and posted a review of the Cadbury Cinder Toffee Cake Bars HERE.
News from the Chocolate Market:
* Hancocks are introducing a new brand called Bella Vista to the UK market ... SEE HERE
* Kraft have got a new Terry's Chocolate Orange TVC coming on air for Christmas ... SEE HERE
* Cadbury's strong business will only push up the price for Kraft according to the Grocer ... SEE HERE
* Fox's have revealed their Christmas NPD which contains some tasty sounding chocolate biscuits ... SEE HERE
* Nestle are already planning their 2010 Easter range ... crazy world eh!? ... SEE HERE
Posts from other Blogs I enjoyed this week:
* ImpulsiveBuy - Marvo posted his 7th podcast ... includes Marvo man boobs ... SEE HERE
* CandyBlog - Cybele had me drooling at the sight of the worlds biggest Reese's Peanut Butter Cup! This had me drooling like Homer Simpson ... SEE HERE
* GiGi Reviews - Is running a soup competition ... yep you read that right ... a soup competition :D Get your entries in now ... SEE HERE
* JapaneseSnackReviews - These guys are awesome at getting the latest Kit Kat products from the Far East. Check out their review of the Salty Caramel KitKat mini bite things ... SEE HERE
* Foodette Reviews - I wish Starbucks in the UK did cookies like this - these sound divine. SEE HERE