Friday, 18 December 2009
Having recently moved to an area that doesn't have a Marks & Spencer (shock horror!) it has been a while since I last reviewed a product from their range. In terms of quality M&S can vary from the superb to the pretty abysmal - rather like the people who I think make their chocolates Thorntons. On a shopping trip in London last week I had a chance to pop in to the M&S in Convent Garden and this bar immediately caught my eye was queuing up to pay for some other items. This Cookies & Cream bar is one of the latest additions to the M&S portfolio and constitutes of 'dark & white chocolate with a vanilla mousse and cookie pieces centre'. The description sounded tempting enough but could the product match up?
Just like a few of the other bars from this range the bar came in a 33.0g serving that didn't look all that big aesthetically. Looking at the packaging and the actual bar itself, what it didn't have in size it certainly made up for in looks itself and I was impressed by the overall presentation of both. Covered in a matted foil wrapper the product had a contemporary look and it kept the inner bar looking fresh and certainly looking the part when cross-sectioned. In almost complete contrast the bar didn't offer much in the way of an aroma and failed to register anything of note on my smelling senses aside from a sweet dairy smell.
Putting the lacking aromas aside I was still expecting great things from what looked like a bar that offered a unique proposition but I was to be greatly disappointed by what was on offer. Out of all the different layers the most flavoursome was the outer white chocolate which offered up a sweet dried milk like taste that had just a hint of vanilla. One of the most disappointing things of this bar was the outer coating of dark chocolate which brought absolutely nothing of note to the taste at all. Having tasted many mass consumer friendly 'dark' chocolates before I was well prepared for an unsweetened milk chocolate type taste however what I was confronted with was an even milder flavoured chocolate that brought nothing to party whatsoever. With the outer dark chocolate light in terms of flavour what I was not expecting was the filling to offer even less. The vanilla mousse was practically flavourless and the small crunchy pieces of 'cookie' were similarly lacklustre adding nothing aside from the odd gritty bump in the weightless centre. Looking at the nutritional information I can't believe that nearly half this bar was actually fat - the levels of saturated fat (8.4g - nearly 50% of your GDA) for a bar so small is unbelievable.
Overall this has to be one of the greatest ever letdowns in ChocolateMission history. For a bar that sounded so awesome in proposition, what was actually reality couldn't have been more disappointing. To get the record straight there was nothing about this bar that actually tasted bad - hence the 5 score for taste! What was the main problem was that so many of the different layers offered little or nothing to the overall taste - the main perpetrator being the outer coating of dark chocolate which I would have thought would of had a great say in things. It is a telling statement to make when I say that the strongest tasting layer out of the lot was the white chocolate which wasn't even portioned that greatly in comparison to some of the others. In all the dark chocolate, inner mousse and cookie pieces just didn't contribute and made for a bar that lacked in it's satisfaction credentials. This wasn't just any letdown ... this was an M&S letdown!
5.4 out of 10
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Bringing the Hotel Chocolat Christmas 2009 reviews to a conclusion this year I today bring you my views on not one but two potential stocking fillers for you. If you remember back to October one of my one and only Halloween reviews was on the Hotel Chocolat Munchkins which I hailed as 'not one of the best Hotel Chocolat products ever, but a step in the right direction in terms of producing new smaller products for their portfolio'.
Well obviously the Halloween Munchkins went down quite well with the general public, and with that we have been treated to two new variants this Christmas in the form of these Snowballs and Winter Berry flavours.
Below are my thoughts on each ...
Hotel Chocolat Munchkins Snowballs
In line with expectations the standard of the white chocolate was about as good as you are going to get, with the deep full flavoured cream undertones nicely complimented by the hint of vanilla that was present in the aftertaste. In addition to providing something to the product visually the dusting of icing sugar also gave each and every piece a nice cooling sensation when initially placed on the tongue so it wasn't only there for aesthetic appeal. Out of the two this variant was where the inner cookie had a stronger say in the taste and it provided additional notes of shortbread brown sugar whenever crunched into. The 115.0g bag lasted only a matter of minutes between a small of group of us.
7.5 out of 10
In regards to taste the outer chocolate held many of the characteristics of the above but obviously with a heavy dash of red berry fruits. Considering I am not the greatest fan of the likes of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries etc the sound of an added fruity element to the mix wasn't really to my preference but in actual fact I found these to be pretty much nearly as good as the Snowballs. Although I would say The red berry element was added nicely into the chocolate and tasted 'real' (i.e. not artificial!) I did feel it detracted focus from the flavours of the inner biscuit and at times I was left wanting the sweetness of the vanilla aftertaste rather than the tarter offering which was brought to the party here. Again just like the Snowballs it was more of a matter of these lasting minutes rather than hours and they were gorged before we knew it.
7.5 out of 10
Overall I have indeed copped out of scoring one better than the other as although my preference would lie with the Snowballs the other two people I ate these with said that the Winter Berry were the better out of the two! So what can you take from this!? ... well lets just say there were pretty much as good as each other and it will be solely down to personal preference as to which you would prefer. Just as I said on the Munchkins review back in October these are not the greatest Hotel Chocolat product you will ever taste but if you put it in perspective these are more of a fun, sharing sort of product that I am sure would go down wonderfully well with anyone that was gifted them. I guess if you are looking to do Hotel Chocolat gifting on more of a budget these would be a fantastic product to gift - they taste good, have all the prestige of the Hotel Chocolat brand and whats more they looked pretty damn cool to! Hotel Chocolat have come up trumps this Chritmas with their range and whilst these might not be at the forefront of many wish lists they would make fantastic stocking fillers.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
At the back end of last month I brought you the first of two seasonal limited edition chocolates from Thorntons in the form of their Creme Brulee bar. A few weeks down the line from that relatively disappointing offering I today bring you the second and last review from this selection - the Thorntons Winter Fruit Crumble bar. Constituting of a 'winter fruit mousse with crumble pieces, covered in milk chocolate' this didn't strike me as your typical British product, with only German produced Ritter Sport and Milka equivalents springing to me top of mind. It was going to be interesting to see whether Thorntons could produce a product of a similar quality, one thing was for sure that it wouldn't take the greatest of efforts for it to be better than the Creme Brulee bar.
This bar came in a 35.0g size which similarly to the Creme Brulee struck me as pretty small compared to the average size chocolate bar you get on the market nowadays. Aesthetically I had no problems with this product whatsoever and thought the outer wrapper looked nicely festive with its dark red and purple colour scheme which was complimented nicely by a few silver snowflake patterns. Inside the bar itself also looked fantastically tempting with the bumpy surface studded with some small sugar crystals which glistened against the denser looking red coloured filling. Taking in the smells from the bar a decent array of fruity scents were showcased, however I did have that nagging sense that they were a tad artificial.
A thing I rarely complain about with Thorntons is the standard of their chocolate and once again I can have very little complaints about what was on offer here. Given the size of the bar the actual thickness of the outer milk chocolate layer was reasonably good and it delivered a creamy tasting, sweet chocolate flavour hit with each and every bite. Of course as is the case with the majority of products like this the true quality of the product was of course going to be dependant on the inner winter fruit mousse filling which for me was a bit of a mixed bag. What I liked about it was the soft, yet relatively dense texture which was nicely broken up by smaller pieces of dried fruit and crunchy crumble pieces. The dried fruit pieces in particular delivered some wonderful bursts of red fruit flavours with strawberry and raspberry influences brought to the party. What I didn't enjoy so much about this bar was the fact that just as I had perceived with the smell I did get a sense that the taste had a artificial edge and that the fruit flavours at time were perhaps at little chemically derived. In comparison to the Creme Brulee variant I did find this bar a little more satisfying which is something I would mostly attribute to the thicker chocolate coating.
Overall thankfully this bar was a few steps ahead of the other seasonal limited edition Creme Brulee offering from Thorntons and I would have to say that on the whole it was much the more well rounded option out of the two. Just as I said in the opening paragraph the UK alternatives to this bar are few and far between, with only the real comparators being the German produced chocolates from the likes of Lindt, Ritter and Milka in the form of their many fruit flavoured yogurt bars. Although I would say that this chocolate struggles to compete with the likes of them, what Thorntons offered up here was far from a disaster and I did get a reasonable amount of satisfaction from the chocolate, crumble and dried fruit element of this bar. The only part that I felt slightly let it down was the actual base constituents of the mousse filling which was fruity but had a sweet, artificial edge that partially hampered my enjoyment of the overall taste. It perhaps isn't the best in it's part of the market but it was a nice try by Thorntons and I would welcome more innovation like this from them in the coming future. If you really enjoy your Thorntons chocolate then this could be an inexpensive option for you to try from their range.
7.4 out of 10
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Two Hotel Chocolat reviews in two days - surely this must be a mistake!? In actual fact not! With only a few working days left until Christmas I still have one or two Hotel Chocolat Christmas products to get up on the site but fear not I will endeavour to do so before they stop taking orders that they can't deliver in time for gifting on the 25th! The product grabbing the limelight today is a totally new development from Hotel Chocolat this year - the 'Chocolate Log'. Formed of a 'blend of chocolate, hazelnut paste and chopped nuts' this was going to be my first ever taste of Hotel Chocolat's attempts at a solus gianduja type product. Having had tasters of what they could do from some of their recent selection boxes I was expecting great things.
These Chocolate Logs come in two formats - the first being six smaller 'Logs' and the other this 190.0g format that me and my family have been feasting on for the past few days. Aesthetically speaking this bigger 'Log' wont be the prettiest thing you will ever have seen pictured on this site but it was nicely packaged in a splendid silver box and the concept of cutting bits off like a cake was something a little different from the norm. Indeed slicing through the first thing I noticed was the wonderful scents of cocoa and nut that emerged when blade cut through the soft yielding surface. The log was a little messy to eat due to it's crumbly nature, however I guess this isn't the sort of product you would consider eating out of the home anyway.
The packaging suggested that this was not a chocolate for dessert but rather shared over a coffee so it made for a suitable accompaniment to my normal 'pick me up' mid morning/afternoon cuppa. As you can imagine this was not your everyday sort of chocolate and this was immediately established as soon as I tasted the first piece. In comparison to the usual Hotel Chocolat chocolates the texture was drier and had a slightly grittier feel in the mouth. This may sound bad but to be honest this was very much in line with expectations and totally what you would expect from a gianduja product. In terms of taste each and every piece literally exploded with flavours as soon they entered the mouth with strong influences of cocoa and hazelnut prominent throughout the duration of the soft, quick melt. Despite the cocoa coming through aggressively the taste was very finely balanced and never verged on any sort of bitterness and had a smooth flowing taste. If I was to have a criticism it would have to be in the direction of the chopped pistachios and hazelnuts that were present throughout. With the chocolate taste so strong the pistachios in particular had a hard time cutting through in their chopped nature and it was only very sporadically that they became evident.
Overall I would give Hotel Chocolat ten out of ten here for concept and ingredients but more of an eight out of ten for final execution. In terms of the quality of the chocolate on offer here the 72% recipe was once again outstanding with it's finely balanced cocoa rich taste wonderfully complimented by the superb hazelnut paste and chopped nut ingredients. If I was to change one thing I personally would have cut down on the chopped nuts and would rather have gone for fewer whole nut pistachio and hazelnut pieces. I not only think this would have made the 'Log' look even more exciting but I think it would have helped the pistachios in particular come through greater in the taste, as in their chopped nature they did fail to cut through the richness of the cocoa flavours. This minor criticism aside I would say that Hotel Chocolat have managed to craft yet another innovative and exciting product to add to their vast collection. This product isn't perhaps for everyone but if you enjoy your dark chocolate and nut combinations I would certainly recommend you take a look at grabbing one of these this Christmas.
8.6 out of 10
Monday, 14 December 2009
8.6 out of 10
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Saturday, 12 December 2009
First up from my box of treats from Susie I decided to re-open my investigation into finding the best chocolate cake bar and tried two variants from Milka's Tender range. The Milka Tender range is very similar in proposition to the Cadbury Mini Rolls that we have here in the UK (Review HERE) with core constituents being sponge cake with a creme filling, covered in milk chocolate. Of course like most chocolate products in Germany this is a range that is available in several different flavours - two of which I tried today.
Before I get into how either tasted it is of course worth passing comment on the finer details of each. Both flavours I tried today came in 37.0g packs that I consumed in single sittings. Aesthetically I thought they both looked aweomse and the foil wrappers maintaintined the inner mini rolls in immacualte condition despite the extensive travel. Out of the two I wouldn't say one looked better than the other, though the coffee hinted smells of the Tiramisu smelt the more appetising.
Milka Tender Milk:
Kcal 157 Fat 7.3g Fat(sats) 4.5g Carbs 21.0g
One thing I can say about both of these products was that the chocolate was tasty but woefully portioned. If you look at my expert photography above *ahem* you will see that the chocolate was very thinly spread across the cake which you wont be surprised to hear wasn't advantageous in any manner. Like most Milka milk chocolate products the sweet, creamy Alpine Milk flavours were soon established though the vanilla hinted cake soon took over the majority of the taste.
My main source of criticism of the Cadbury Mini Roll is that the creme filling is pretty poor but this is not an accusation that can be leveraged at the Milka Tender Milk. Conversely the filling was more milk based in its flavours than it was sugar. This meant it provided a refreshing dairy based taste whilst also providing the quite dry cake with a pleasant bit of moisture.
7.5 out of 10
Milka Tender a la Tiramisu:
Kcal 157 Fat 7.4g Fat(sats) 4.1g Carbs 21.0g
Being the coffee nut I am this was of course the one I was really looking forward to and it thankfully didn't disappoint. Again if you quickly take a glance at my snaps above you will see that this bar also was criminally portioned in the chocolate department ... come on Milka we know you can do better than that!
Out of both variants I was surprised to find that the Tiramisu creme filling was actually a little more plentiful than the milk creme which was all good considering how tasty it was. Just like the variant above the outer chocolate and cake elements were of a good standard though it was again all about the filling. Just as the smell suggested the filling was creamy but had a strong hint of coffee with a slightly cheesy aftertaste. Believe me this was nicer than it sounds ...think cheesecake not Stilton :) It perhaps was more of a cappuccino flavour rather than a tiramisu one but hey it tasted good and I guess that is all that counts.
8.1 out of 10
Overall these were two cake bars that I really enjoyed and had it not been for the scantily portioned chocolate I could have seen them scoring even higher than they have done. In comparison to a lot of the UK cake bars I have reviewed over the past few months these were unique in the fact the creme fillings were absolutely spot on and Tiramisu especially stuck out as a really well executed flavoured creme. Thanks to Susie I have a few more flavours to try from the Milka Tender range so expect those reviews to come very soon. For the time being though if you come across either of these I would certainly suggest they are worth a try.
Friday, 11 December 2009
It is only 2 weeks until the big day and the time for getting your Hotel Chocolat Christmas orders in is drawing near. Having taken you through two of the four limited edition slabs already I today have the pleasure of showcasing you the third variant from the Hotel Chocolat festive range. With the Orange Nice Spice and Cinnamon Crunch slabs setting the standard pretty high, this Nutty Noel slab had a lot to live up to but I was quietly confident it could do. Now I am aware it is quite traditional for families to have bowls of nuts lieing around the house at Christmas but I wasn't completely sold by the Christmas credentials of a slab formed of 'milk chocolate with almonds, pecans and hazelnuts'. I am not saying it sounded bad, but at the same time I don't think it could it had the same Christmassy appeal as say the Cinnamon Crunch.
This variant came in a 100.0g format in one single thick stubby slab. The packaging was in line with the rest of the other mini slabs from the range and looked very pleasing on the eye with the silver fonts and snowflakes patterns again communicating the Christmas theme in a stylish manner. Inside the slab was kept within a thick foil wrapper which not only maintained the flawless surface conditioning but also the wonderful smelling chocolate and nut scents fantastically. Breaking the slab into pieces was no easy task but it was nice to see that it was filled with a large variety of nut pieces that were pretty evenly dispersed.
Given that the majority of Hotel Chocolat milk chocolate products use their 40% recipe I was surprised when I tasted my first piece from this bar as it tasted just a touch stronger. Indeed looking at the packaging the ingredients list stated that the min cocoa solids in this slab was 50% which on reflection I have to say was a good decision as it made for something a little different from the normal 40% experience. With just a little touch more emphasis on the cocoa in the taste the chocolate substantiated a relatively rich set of flavours in the mouth which only got stronger as the melt developed. As I have described above the nuts were nicely dispersed and figured in almost every single bite size piece that I broke away. Although all of the nuts had relative appeal my order of preference in terms of taste would be hazelnuts first, pecans next and lastly the almonds. The nuts benefited greatly from being implemented whole as it allowed the full on woody effects of the hazelnuts, the buttery flavours of the almonds and the more savoury notes of the pecans to shine through with greater, longer lasting effect. This was a slab that I ate over the course of two days with me breaking bits off every now and again for a treat.
Overall this was one of the better whole nut chocolates I have had recently and it is definitely up there with the best of them when it comes to this particular combination. I am perhaps still a little sceptical about the Christmas theme being tagged on to this chocolate because I think Hotel Chocolat could probably have been a bit more adventurous (like with the Cinnamon Crunch!) and at the end of the day I don't think it would have surprised anyone to see this variant as part of their standard mini slab line up. Still though this doesn't stop this from being a really high quality chocolate nut offering and it was one that I savoured with every bite. What I especially liked about this chocolate was it was nice to see Hotel Chocolat vary a little from the standard 40% chocolate recipe and the nuts were also of a very high standard tasting full flavoured and fresh. This is a chocolate I would certainly recommend for you Hotel Chocolat nutters!!
8.5 out of 10
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Ever since these rocked up in the shops way back in September the reviews requests have been flooding in (reaching double figures by October!). Long time readers will be well aware that I am pretty partial to the odd Oreo cookie with my all time favourites being the incredible Oreo Double Stuff Mint variant (See HERE). Given my fondest for most things Oreo I was pretty happy to see that Kraft had been kind enough to treat us to a limited edition White Chocolate Covered variant which you should be able to find in most supermarkets here in the UK (try Sainsburys or Mozzas!). The 'white chocolate coated chocolate flavour sandwich biscuits with a vanilla flavour filling' sounded delightful and truth be told this wasn't my first experience with them.
£2 of my hard earned money bought me a pack of 16 cookies which were separated in to foil packets containing two in each. The outer packaging I thought looked really nice and it definitely had a wow factor that caught my eye when the box was sitting on the supermarket shelf with all the other Christmas products. Inside the branded foil packets maintained each of the cookies in immaculate condition and I think you have to agree that they looked superb when cross-sectioned with the cream coloured outer chocolate appearing thick and well portioned. In regards to smell these cookies didn't really come to life until they were bitten into but at this point the usual chocolate biscuit Oreo scents were highlighted by an enhancing dairy like aroma.
As I said in my opening paragraph this wasn't actually my first experience with white chocolate covered in Oreos. As random as this sounds I remember having them many a time before when I was younger on holiday in Spain where I think they formed part of the on going Oreo range out there. Suffice to say when I was eating these I was felt an immediate sense of familiarity and I am pleased to say it was one of a good kind. Now in terms of quality white chocolate (if there is such a thing!) the standard here wasn't exactly amazing and this probably wasn't a white chocolate you would want to consume on mass or solus from anything else. As negative as this sounds it actually worked really quite well as coating for the biscuit that lay underneath with even even its slightly waxy texture being quite advantageous. With it's slow melt the outer chocolate made each bite last longer in the mouth and immediately established a milky, vanilla noted taste that complimented the chocolate biscuit and sweet oreo filling wonderfully. The progression of the taste from the sweet outer coating, to the salt hinted wheat biscuit, back to the sugary sweet filling was a thrilling ride and creamy chocolaty flavours made for a moreish yet satisfying experience. For me I felt that a packet of two cookies was a really fulfilling snack and I especially enjoyed dipping them into a mid-afternoon coffee.
Overall for the past two months these have been my biscuits of choice at work which should give you some sort of idea how much I think of them. I don't think they surpass my all time favourite Mint Double Stuff Oreo's in terms of taste but they have managed to marginally outscore them on the rating system as they offered a little more variety in terms texture and were presented the better out of the two. As alluded to above the quality of the white chocolate wasn't exactly what I would describe as outstanding but the coating complimented the Oreo biscuit below almost perfectly substantiating a roller coaster taste that swung from creamy sweet to salty chocolate biscuit which provided a fantastic variety of flavours. In comparison to the Double Stuff Mint these didn't have the same 'just one more' addictive taste but as an all round product they pip them to the post for me. I really hope these don't get taken out of distribution after Christmas as I think they deserve a place amongst the permanent UK range! I think I am going to stock up just in case!
8.6 out of 10
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Now with Christmas drawing in fast I am sure a lot of you are considering gifting the odd box of chocolates to your friends and family. With that in mind I today thought I would give one of the most widely available Thorntons selection boxes a try - their 'Classic Collection'.
This product came as a box of ten chocolates which came billed as 'classic favourites including caramel, nut, fruit and fudge centres, enrobed in dark, milk and white chocolate. The selection included eight different variants with two portioned twice.
For me the presentation was a mixed bag ... and I mean that literally! Whereas the outer golden box looked pretty swanky, inside the chocolates were all jumbled together in a single plastic packet leaving them looking not so fresh in appearance and also all smelling the same as they were all affected the sweet, fruity piece in the packet. Personally I think this is a cardinal sin and I simply just can't stand it when this happens as it tends to have an impact on the initial flavours ... which it annoyingly did!
Below are my brief thoughts on each chocolate - working from left to right as usual.
Creamy Fudge - This was one of the flavours that was portioned twice with one milk chocolate covered and one dark chocolate covered. Out of the two the dark chocolate was the better as the milk chocolate and fudge combination was a little too startling in terms of sweetness. Thorntons are quite good at their fudge fillings and I again relatively enjoyed the crumbly, sugary buttery flavours of the centre. Good.
Hazelnut Nougat - Just as with every piece the outer chocolate was briefly affected by an annoying fruity tinge though it soon settled down to provide a fair coating. This sounded one of the more intriguing chocolates out of the selection but the inner hazelnut nougat was a complete let down lacking any nutty flavours of note with its boring sweet bland taste. Poor.
Chocolate Dream - Dream!??? Hmmm I don't think so. Maybe I have been spoilt by quality chocolate truffles recently but this was seriously bad. The outer chocolate of both variants was of a fair quality but the inner 'truffle' was absolute pap! It had a rancid sweetness that on the whole just tasted ridiculously cheap. One to avoid! Awful.
Strawberry Velvet - Ahhhhh the perpetrator! This chocolate was the offending piece that initially affected the taste of all the others in the selection with its artificial fruity aroma. Surprisingly it actually tasted pretty good :) and unlike the smell suggested the centre offered a tasty fruitiness that I was actually pretty impressed with. Good.
Country Caramel - This was actually more of a toffee than a caramel with its super hard texture but lets not get into that discussion. This was a piece I relatively enjoyed but wasn't particularly all that fussed with. The outer dark chocolate was fair and established a nice set of chocolaty flavours in the mouth before the hard inner centre was sucked on. The caramel was little flavourless and grainy in texture, though I did like the change up from the softer centre pieces and did get some pleasure from the mild butterscotch flavours. Standard.
Creamy Coffee - As a big fan of coffee flavoured chocolates I was looking forward to this one in particular and saved it until last. Unfortunately it wasn't the fitting finale I was hoping for as the coffee flavours were mild if not non-existent. The soft centre did have a milky, creamy taste but it just didn't deliver the promised coffee element. Poor.
Turkish Delight - I don't think I review enough Turkish Delight chocolates but this chocolate didn't exactly inspire me to seek out any more products with any great urgency. After the fake strawberry influence disappeared there was very little time to enjoy the true flavours of the milk chocolate as it was portioned very thinly around the inner jelly. The turkish delight centre was lovely in a texture with its minor chewiness but it lacked a little in the flavour department with the rose water flavours perhaps not as strong as you would find in the like of Fry's etc. Standard.
Coconut Paradise - Did I save the best to write about until last!? Well not on purpose but it is the way it has worked out! This chocolate was really pretty good and was surprisingly coconut centric in its flavours. The outer white chocolate had a double cream like taste and smoothly melted into a crunchy centre which was lined with small pieces of coconut. Had I to choose one of these chocolates to have again this would be the one. Very Good.
Overall despite the actually variety in terms of selection on offer here the actually quality wasn't all that great. As I mentioned in the opening few paragraphs what annoyed me greatly about these chocolates in particular was the fact that for the first few seconds of the taste they all initially tasted the same due to them being stored in the same packet as the fruit piece in the selection. This didn't spoil things for me totally but it was certainly an annoyance and was not a good start to the taste for every piece. Like all selection boxes you are often going to find there are a few chocolates you don't like but for me there were just to many here with the hazelnut nougat and chocolate dream pieces sticking out like sore thumbs. Although there are a few chocolates that I did enjoy in here I just can't recommend that you gift these this Christmas. If you are looking to do things on a budget (£1.99) then this might possibly be a viable option but in that case I would just go for the £1 boxs of selected Cadbury, Nestle or Mars bars you can get.
5.5 out of 10
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Although this review initially came about after a request from ChocolateMission reader Alan I needed no further encouragement once I saw what GU were offering up here. The combination of flapjack and millionaire's shortbread sounded like a match made in heaven and the description of 'butter flapjacks with lashing of gooey caramel, covered in thick milk chocolate' had me salivating almost Homer Simpson style. For those unaware GU is a UK based manufacture whose business predominantly lies in the chilled desserts sector. As you can see here however they have recently made strides into the ambient cakes market with a few products under the sub brand 'Naughties'.
I bought these in my local Sainsbury's supermarket at the cost off £1.99 (1/3 off!) for a tub of 16 bites. I have to admit at full price I may have been put off but I thought the stylish presentation of the product made it justify its price premium against the other cheaper priced items it sat near on the shelf. Opening up the lid I was surprised to see all the bites loosely rolling around inside, though my mind was soon distracted by the terrific chocolaty smells that soon emanated from the tub. Despite the lack of inner protection the pieces themselves looked largely unblemished and fantastically appetising with some distinct layering.
Just like most cakey treats I soon found a playful way to eat each piece and by the end of the tub I had perfected a wonderful (if slightly mad) technique. My preferred method was to firstly bite off the chocolate pieces from each side, then eat the lower flapjack base before lastly enjoying the remaining caramel and upper chocolate topping. In regards to the chocolate it wasn't the best quality I have ever tasted, however it still had a nice appeal and delivered the all important chocolate hit with a surprisingly rich set of cream based flavours. The flapjack base was terrific and held back on the sweetness nicely to provide a buttery, golden syrup oaty taste with its dense, fulfilling texture. I guess my only fear was this product was that the combination of flapjack and caramel may have been overly sweet though I am glad to say this wasn't the case. The caramel was less intense in terms of its sugar flavours than I was expecting and it instead brought butterscotch and salt elements to the taste which contrasted nicely with the chocolate. There is no denying these were ridiculously moreish but I felt content eating just two with a mid afternoon coffee.
Overall I am sure you can tell these were a product I really enjoyed and thankfully I can confirm these were executed just as well as I had hoped. Millionaire's shortbread at the best of times can be insanely rich so the fear of course was that with the addition of a flapjack base to the mix the outcome would be something just a little bit over the top. As you will have read above though GU got these spot on and I felt that each of the different layers contributed nicely to a well rounded and flavoursome taste. The chocolate perhaps wasn't the greatest quality ever but it still brought the chocolate element to the party to a fair standard. The real stand out elements of this product for me though had to be the flapjack and caramel layers which were both utterly delicious. If you like the sound of these and are going to buy them in the future (which I seriously recommend you do!) my last tip for you is to keep them in the fridge ... it makes them all the more enjoyable. These are well worth considering though maybe not at their full price which I think is just a little too steep.
8.9 out of 10
Monday, 7 December 2009
If you have a great memory you may remember all the way back last year (Christmas 2008) that I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to review one of Hotel Chocolat's famous Chocolate Wreaths ... SEE HERE. Indeed that Fruit & Nut Wreath was absolutely fantastic and earned a coveted 9.1 rating on the ChocolateMission rating system - making it one of the highest scoring products for 2008. Given this history you can imagine that I was pretty delighted to see this Hotel Chocolat Milk Chocolate Cookies & Caramel Wreath pop through the door in my Christmas 2009 sampling package and the description of '40% milk chocolate with caramel Florentine, cookie pieces and white chocolate chunks' did very little to temper my enthusiasm.
It is good to see that at least one manufacture this year has not been sneaky by reducing the size of their chocolates and just as last year this Cookies & Caramel Wreath weighed in at a mighty 450.0g. Back up was going to be needed in order for this to be consumed and as always my family were more than happy to 'help me out' as best they could :) ... I tell you they get the best deal out of this website (all the eating none of the writing!). If you have cheated and already peaked at the scoring chart you will see that like last years Wreath a magic 10.0 has been awarded for presentation and I think their can be little argument. Simply put this Wreath look amazing - the outer cardboard box was a wonderful golden colour and decorated with smart silver snowflake patterns but even this paled in comparison to the beauty (yes I really have just used that word!) of the inner chocolate Wreath which truly was a sight to behold. It was wonderfully crafted with intricate patterns etched into the surface and with visible chunks of caramel Florentines and biscuit dispersed evenly throughout. As much as we loved admiring the Wreath's aesthetic prestige the chocolaty caramel scents were just to appealing, thus it didn't last long in its unbroken state.
In totality this Wreath lasted about a week in our household with us all helping ourselves to generous chunks after meals, coffees etc. Now having reviewed probably over 30+ products that contain Hotel Chocolat's 40% milk chocolate you are all probably pretty bored of me describing it but I think it is worth mentioning the broad appeal that it obviously has. This can be no better exemplified than by the approval it gets from the older generation of my family who adore the creamy, cocoa rich taste. Whilst we all very enjoyed the base milk chocolate and added pieces of white chocolate which further reaffirmed the cream flavours what was very noticeable was that the areas that contained the Florentine caramel were the first to go. The pieces of Florentine were frankly superb and offered a little differentiation to the smooth melting, thick chocolate with light crispy bits added to the texture and delightful flavour hits of toffee and butterscotch. Whilst the caramel element was very much enjoyed the cookie pieces weren't quite so impactful on the overall taste and though they also add nice bits of crunch texture wise they did lack a little in terms of flavour offering only mild, sugared wheat suggestions to the taste. As I have said above the Wreath lasted about a week which I felt was a decent amount of time between the 3/4 of us.
Overall Hotel Chocolat have come up trumps again with yet another Christmas offering that I would strongly suggest you take a look at if it is chocolate you are planning on gifting this Christmas. One thing that you can almost guarantee with Hotel Chocolat is that if the product is mainly compromised of their 40% house milk chocolate you are going to be on to a winner but for me this wasn't what made this Wreath so special. What I think makes this product stand out from other gifting options this Christmas is the overall look and presentation of the product which I think is altogether is really special. In terms of practicality for consuming this Wreath wont be winning any prizes but in terms of aesthetic looks it is in a class of its own. I may have preferred the dark chocolate Wreath last year in terms of taste but with this Cookies & Caramel variant I was similarly impressed by the care that had gone into crafting it. If you are after a fabulous tasting chocolate product that has a real wow factor as a present I think you need look no further than Hotel Chocolat's Wreath collection this Christmas.
8.9 out of 10