Tuesday, 9 February 2010
At the back of 2009 I was sent a package of chocolates from Germany from ChocolateMission reader Susie. In the selection she was so kind enough to include several Moser Roth Mousse bars, the first of which I reviewed in January the Moser Roth Mousse au Lait Noisette (See HERE). A few weeks on and I have been trying another variant from the range in the form of this Mousse au Chocolat Classic which on pack is described as 'Edel-Bitterschockolade mit Mousse au Chocolat-Fullung' ... that is dark chocolate with a chocolate mousse filling to us English speaking. This all sounded pretty grand to me but this chocolate had a lot to live up to given the quality of the closest equivalent Lindt Mousse au Chocolat Dark bar I reviewed back in 2008 (see HERE).
Like the Mousse au Lait Noisette last month this bar came in a 187.5g form that was split into five mini bar servings. I often compliment Moser Roth on the attention they pay to detail with their presentation and I was once again very impressed by the quality of their packaging and their chocolate crafting. Indeed, both the outer box and inner chocolate looked very good and far more stylish than you would expect from a discounter brand. Inside the box, sleeved packets separated the chocolate in to handy serving sizes which also kept the chocolate both looking and smelling fresh emanating some fragrant cocoa scents.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph this chocolate was always going to have a tough time given that it was going up against one of the finest Lindt products I have ever tasted. I did however get a little optimistic when I read further into the details on the packaging which stated that the bar was coated in 85% cocoa dark chocolate at which point hopes were raised that this bar was going to be full of flavour with some fine mousse textures. Well If I am honest this chocolate fulfilled one of these two desires - it did indeed have the variable textures from crisp outer chocolate to fluffy mousse innards but it sadly lacked the depth of flavour I was hoping for. The outer chocolate did substantiate a reasonable unsweetened cocoa taste but it never went above or beyond what you expect from say a mass produced dark chocolate confection. It wasn't quite as ill flavoured as Cadbury Bournville but at the same time I wouldn't say it was as tasty as either Ritter Sport or Galaxy's dark offerings. The other thing that mildly disappointed me was the lack of progression shown in the taste from the outer chocolate to the inner mousse the change up in textures was nice but it would have been lovely if the inner mousse actually brought the taste forward.
Overall it was always going to be a bit of an unfair comparison but ultimately this Moser Roth Mousse au Chocolat Classic didn't reach the standards of it's Lindt comparator. Despite it's 85% cocoa min solids billing the chocolate simply wasn't strong or flavoursome enough and it lacked the quality in terms of taste that other mass produced dark chocolates offer. It wasn't all bad mind you - just like the Mousse au Lait Noisette the textures displayed by the chocolate were superb and I loved the crispness of the outer chocolate moving into the softer mousse filling ... it was just a pity that the mousse didn't offer anything to the taste. What I think this chocolate could have done with is an added flavour in the mousse, which I guess leads me on to trying the dark chocolate mousse with chilli bar nicely next week :) As far this bar goes I wouldn't recommend it if you like you dark chocolate strong and flavoursome. By no means a disaster but just treat yourself to the Lindt.
7.3 out of 10
Monday, 8 February 2010
Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
Rounding off the Hotel Chocolat Valentines Day chocolate reviews this year I today bring you my views on their 'Magnificent Heart - Fruit & Nut Bliss' product. This monster chocolate heart was similar in stature to the 'Heart Strings' chocolate that I reviewed last year (See Here) and came described as a 'dark chocolate heart with raisins, cherries, hazelnuts and pecans'. Given that this hefty heart retails for £28 in the Hotel Chocolat store (See HERE) it was going to have to be something pretty special to prove worthy of its price. On that note please remember that all you ChocolateMission readers can get 10% off any Hotel Chocolat order when spending more than £15 by entering the code JIMVAL10 ... reading this site was going to pay off eventually huh!?
With the name 'The Magnificent Heart' this product appeared pretty cocksure of itself but I can do little to dispute that given that it looked fantastic in its 650.0g stature. The packaging and presentation was simply superb and I loved everything from the decorations on the heart itself to the smaller touches like the branded stamp seal which gave a real sense of it being a grand reveal when opened. This Magnificent Heart was yet another one of those chocolates that I felt guilty breaking up into smaller bits - it felt such a shame when I had to snap off a section for the photo above. As mesmerising as the product was aesthetically, what was also striking was the smell that emanated from the box when the seal was first broken. Wafts of coffee, dark chocolate, fruit and nut were all very evident and were highly indicative of the taste that followed.
Lets not kid ourselves, with the sheer volume of products I have to review for this site there was no way I was going to be eat the entire thing myself so not for the first time this year I had some very willing taste assistants in the form of the rest of my family. Now I probably needn't even tell you this but as I am sure you would guessed the dark chocolate that made up the base of this heart was simply fantastic. Hotel Chocolat's 70% recipe is among one of my favourite chocolates ever and this heart delivered exactly the taste I was expecting with it's rich and deep cocoa flavours. With the chocolate aftertaste lined with a friendly note of bourbon vanilla the additional fruit and nut elements were allowed access to the party and both were distributed nicely throughout the entire heart shape. In line with the quality of the chocolate the cherries, raisins, hazelnuts and pecans were of a very high quality and they all tasted fresh and flavour enhancing. The cherries brought a lovely juicy tangyness, whilst the raisins were sweeter which contrasted with the chocolate nicely. Out of the two nuts the hazelnuts were my favourite with their woody flavour influence though the pecans were similarly crunchy and brought a nice savoury, buttery influence where implemented.
Overall I have come to the conclusion that 'The Magnificent Chocolate Heart' is well worthy of it's name as it was a product that was enjoyed by one and all that tried it. To look as visually stunning as it did was exceptional, but to taste just about as impressive was certainly impressive. When it comes to dark chocolate I have come to expect nothing but the highest quality with Hotel Chocolat and this was yet another product that met those standards. With the dark chocolate tasting so good the added fruit and nut pieces had to be equally as good and I am glad to say they most definitely were. Having had previous issues with soured cherries *ahem* Green & Blacks *ahem* I was surprised at how much I appreciated them implemented here and I particularly liked the way they brought a tarty edge to the taste. As I have mentioned the raisins and both types of nuts were similarly impressive and combined they made for a delicious and progressive taste. If I was to have one criticism about the product it was that at times it was awkward to break up and needed a lot of force for that to be achieved. This small gripe aside if price is no issue for you this Valentines Day I would strongly suggest this Magnificent Chocolate Heart as both the presentation and taste bring the sort of WOW factor that I am sure will be appreciated by any lucky recipient.
9.0 out of 10
Sunday, 7 February 2010
Poor old Mr Bunbury has taken a bit of a beating on ChocolateMission in the past few weeks but that hasn't stopped me parting with yet more of my hard earned pennies to try the last of the three offerings from his range. Having tried the Mr Bunbury Millionaire Shortbread's and Madagascan Brownies I today took on his 'Biscuit Cakes' which just like the rest are also produced not too far from me in Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey. These Biscuit Cakes came described on-pack as 'digestive biscuit cakes crammed with raisins and positively bathed in rich Belgian chocolate' .... positively bathed?? Of all the on-pack blurbs I have never heard that one before!
You may have noticed that since I reviewed the Millionaire Shortbreads and Madagascan Brownies they have both changed from being portioned in packs of 5 to smaller 12 pack pieces. Unlike those variants these Biscuit Cakes are still portioned in the five serving format and I ate them across the course of one week. Styled in the same format as the rest of the range I kinda liked the look of the outer packaging and I suddenly clicked that it looked like the sort of artwork you would find in an old school childrens book. Although the outer packaging looked pretty good my thoughts on the inner content was less positive. Just as I have commented in the other variant reviews the inner plastic packets looked cheap and the inner cakes for me lacked personality and appeared unappetising on the eye (especially when they crumbled all over the place when I opened each wrapper grrr!). In terms of aroma each cake piece offered a reasonable plethora of chocolaty, biscuit scents but it wasn't like they struck me as being remarkably fresh or forthcoming in smell.
Personally I had never had a 'Biscuit Cake' before but these didn't quite live up to expectations in what they actually were. In terms of taste I was expecting a far richer chocolate flavour hit, however this was never really delivered on given the limitation of the textures I experienced. With dark Belgian chocolate compromising of 35% of the total constituents it wasn't as if the chocolate taste wasn't there, it was more of a case that the taste on the whole wasn't sustained as each bite melted in the mouth ridiculously fast and before the flavours could really be sustained. The dark chocolate itself wasn't the strongest though like I perceived with the Madagascan Brownies the unsweetened cocoa flavours were not too harsh for mass consumer taste buds and established a darker than average, yet friendly chocolate experience. Unfortunately the less flavoursome and quick melting constituents were in actual fact the majority of each cake and came in the form of the biscuit pieces. Unlike your average digestive biscuit they lacked the mish mash flavours of the sugar, salt and butter influences and ultimately proved to be little more than filler. On a more positive note the raisins were plump, fruity and provided a little bit of density to the surprisingly light textured biscuit pieces but for me this wasn't enough to really satisfy my hunger to any great degree - especially when you take into consideration the nutritional contents.
Overall I am afraid the axe has come down again on poor Mr Bunbury who has once again copped it so speak on the ChocolateMission rating system. I think I have gone into enough detail above on where the problems of this product lay so I will save repeating myself and provide you with some more sweeping conclusions for the brand as whole! The Mr Bunbury company is somewhat of a rarity nowadays ... coming from nowhere the brand has on-shelf presence in at least one (maybe more!?) of the UK's biggest supermarkets but for me it isn't offering the consumer the right proposition. The Mr Bunbury brands retails for £1.99 which is a price premium when compared to the other products sitting next to it on-shelf!? If the products offered something a little more special than say the Cadbury, McVitie's Cake Bars etc then this premuimality would be justified - but I personally haven't seen any evidence across any of the three variants to back this up. I would love to be able to support a local brand but I just can't recommend any of the three Mr Bunbury products to my readers - he either needs to give a little more (better product), or take a little less (lower price!).
5.8 out of 10
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Friday, 5 February 2010
First off I would like to apologise to all the readers who logged on to the site today expecting to read yet another light hearted and informative chocolate review ... I am afraid today you get more of half review, half rant! At heart of matters today this Thorntons Lovebirdsxx offering takes centre stage and it can billed as a product constituting of 'two milk chocolate lovebirds decorated with dark and white chocolate with a smooth chocolate heart truffle'.
Together the birds and single truffle piece weighed in at 170.0g and would set you back £5.99 if bought in your local Thorntons shop. Speaking about the presentation ... boy where do I start!? As if the transparent plastic box wasn't cheap looking enough Thorntons sure did a job of making the inner bird shapes look ridiculously tacky which is something I think completely out of kilter with their premium brand positioning. Upon unsealing the plastic case of pure tackiness I was met with some standard chocolaty smells which did little to detract my attention from the perfectly formed yet gaudy looking birds.
Sigh - now where do I begin with the chocolate!? Frankly the 30% milk chocolate delivered nothing more than your run-of-the-mill sugary milky taste and just had nothing about it that made it stand out as good quality milk chocolate. The white and dark chocolate that 'decorated' the birds did little more than just that ...'decorate'. The dark chocolate in particular had no cut through in regards to the taste whatsoever, whilst the white chocolate did nothing apart from bring a cheap sugar rush to already sweet milk chocolate base taste. In fact the only redeeming thing in regards to chocolate for this Lovebirdsxx package was the single chocolate truffle which actually brought some additional notes of butter and caramel to the party in and amongst it's soft truffle centre. It wasn't the highest quality truffle I have had recently but it was a damn sight better than the birds.
Overall I don't think I need summarise my thoughts on this product as think they are laid bare in the above paragraphs. What with current affairs with Britain losing one of it's most renowned chocolate brands it is with great regret that I have to keep banging on about how I think Thorntons are in continuous decline. This product summed up everything that I think is wrong with Thorntons at the moment - they are producing way too many substandard chocolate products and are trying to play in parts of the market that don't fit their brand. Personally I used to to think that Thorntons held very prestigious brand equity - they were a brand that commanded a price premium because they produced high quality, sophisticated chocolates. These Thorntons Lovebirdsxx were neither high quality chocolate or sophisticated and it is products like this that I think are destroying what is left of Thorntons premium brand position in the eyes of consumers. For the love of god Thorntons we don't have many British chocolate producers left ... get your house in order!!!
6.2 out of 10
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Fox's Rocky bars are a staple for many a lunch box here in the UK and they are one of the best selling chocolate biscuit bars of all time. Rocky bars are available in two different flavours - Original and Caramel and are distributed in most supermarkets and food retails outlets. I normally stay a away from the chocolate biscuit bar sector as they are a slightly different proposition to your normal chocolate bar, but for todays review I decided to give the Rocky Caramel bar a crack at the ChocolateMission rating system. The Rocky Caramel is a bar constituting of a biscuit base, topped with caramel and covered in milk chocolate.
I found these on special offer (74p) in my local OneStop shop for a multi pack of 9 bars. Although I didn't like the look of the packaging on display here I am quite aware that by the time this review gets published the new style Rocky packaging will have been rolled out. The pack shots I have taken above are the old style wrappers and I think you will agree it is lucky they have been changed because they very cheap and tacky. Personally I think the new designs are a bit cleaner and I like the direction they have gone accentuating the 'R' for the branding. The chocolate bars themselves I thought looked pretty good though I remember being a bit bigger when I was younger. The caramel looked appetising poking out between the biscuit and chocolate layers, though even when removed from its wrapper the bar failed to make an impression in regards to its aroma, registering little more than a faint biscuity smell.
As I have fleetingly mentioned above it wasn't an all too uncommon occurrence for one of these to appear in my lunch box as a nipper so I was already well aware of what I was really in for. To my surprise things had changed very little though I have to say that the cut back on the milk chocolate was very obvious compared to the bars I was having years ago. For such a cheap product per unit the milk chocolate was actually surprisingly ok and it was no worse than the quality of milk chocolate that you get on any Nestle bar. As I have mentioned above what was disappointing was the thickness of chocolate layer which I have to say was embarrassingly thin and thus lasted for only a matter of seconds in the mouth with its fast melt. The biscuit element to this bar was not exactly out of this world, yet like the chocolate it held up its part of the bargain with its wheaty, sugary taste providing a degree of sustenance. The part of this bar that I have always thought was disappointing, and still to this point do, is the caramel layer which tasted almost like a gooey sugar layer. With better quality products you get touches of butter, toffee and burnt sugar but the caramel on offer here was one dimensional and ultimately just rather poor. Like many products nowadays it is almost like someone has stuck the Rocky bar from a few years ago in the wash on a too high temperature, the bars are noticeably smaller and personally I thought it wasn't the most satisfying of snacks.
Overall I was never expecting miracles from this Rocky Caramel but I certainly thought it had potential for hitting the low 7s on the ChocolateMission rating scale. Ultimately that score proved a little out of reach for this product even though I was rather kind in the score I gave the packaging. The bar didn't quite hit the 7.0 rating because of two fairly obvious reasons - the portioning of the chocolate and the quality of the caramel. Simply put the chocolate needed to be kinder in its portioning and needed to implemented a bit thicker in order for it to have a greater say in the overall taste. Frankly the caramel in Rocky bars has always been a bit on the dodgy side so I wasn't really that surprised at the quality on offer here. On the whole I think the Rocky Caramel is far from being the best chocolate bar out there but I have to say that for the price (especially when halved!!) I don't think you can really argue with what it offers.
6.6 out of 10
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
If I was to say I was either disappointed or surprised when these Hotel Chocolat Melting Hearts popped through my door I would be telling a lie. Indeed when Hotel Chocolat asked me which of their Valentines Day products they should send along for me to sample this year these immediately caught the eye. The billing of a 'breathtaking collection of flavoured chocolate hearts' sounded pretty damn good to me so I made sure I requested a box to try for myself to of course give you all an idea as to whether they were good enough for your special someones ... any excuse eh ;)
Included in this Melting Hearts selection box there were nine different flavoured milk and dark chocolates - six of which were portioned twice and three that were only portioned once. In terms of presentation it won't surprise you to hear that I thought Hotel Chocolat did a pretty good job of things and I liked everything from the well designed outer box to the inner tray and padding which came complete with a nifty menu.
Below are my brief thoughts on each of the chocolates - thanks again to my family who assisted me in rating each on the scale of Very Poor to Superb.
Chocolate Mousse - This was probably the least exciting piece in the selection but it wasn't exactly disappointing in its flavours. Like all of the milk chocolates the outer coating was formed of Hotel Chocolat's 40% recipe so it immediately established a kind cream based cocoa taste in the mouth. The inner filling wasn't the most progressive in terms of flavours, however it was wonderfully smooth melting with its soft texture. Good.
Coffee Praline - This was one of the pieces that I ear marked from the menu and I made sure that I nabbed both before other wandering hands could lay claim to them. Just as I hoped the dark chocolate was simply delicious and the volume of cocoa flavours was spot on establishing a deep and rich taste. Speaking of the inner coffee filling it was just as brilliant and the roasted bean flavours cut through the chocolate wonderfully. Superb.
Milk Praline with Cocoa Crispies - Crispies!?? Really!? I couldn't believe it when I read this on the menu. Normally I associate rice cereal with manufactures looking to 'pad' out chocolate as they often take up considerable amounts of space and are a cheap ingredient. Whilst the outer chocolate was still very flavoursome the bitty and crunchy filling was neither as sensuous as the chocolate mousse truffle or as flavoursome as the majority of the others. Standard.
Sticky Toffee & Banana (Left) - The three chocolates above were only portioned once so it didn't take long my mother to lay claim to this banana flavoured piece. According to her the outer chocolate melted nicely in to the centre which was slightly drier and tacky in texture with a golden syrup like stickiness. In terms of flavours the toffee element came through strongest establishing a delicious caramel like taste although it did somewhat dominate the banana fruit influence which came as minor disappointment to her. Good.
Pistachio Praline (Back) - I don't think it will take you to long to identify this piece in the picture above with its bright green filling. As with all the rest of the milk chocolate pieces the quality of the chocolate was very high and the creamy flavours led nicely in to the nutty filling. In the past I have been disappointed by weak pistachio flavoured chocolates but this chocolate really had a powerful pistachio influence that delivered a tasty salty kick to the taste. Superb.
Caramel Praline (Front) - I absolutely adored this chocolate! It sounded like it was going to be Superb and it simply was! The creamy outer milk chocolate melted softly in to the caramel praline filling and brought the standard cream rooted flavour base. The centre itself was sinfully smooth on the tongue and the raw hazelnut notes blended nicely with the butterscotch flavours to deliver a long lasting delightful taste. Superb.
Macadamia & Coconut - When are manufacturers going to get the message that they just don't do enough with macadamia nuts!? The last time I tasted a macadamia flavoured Hotel Chocolat chocolate was in their Seriously Dark Selection where their Macadamia Bite got a Superb rating. Quite frankly this chocolate was equally as good - the macadamia came through in the filling with a superb buttery taste that had a delightful salt hint. The coconut element was AWOL but this didn't matter to me one little bit - I nabbed both of these ones!! :D Superb.
Orange Praline - I left these to my mother and sister so we will have to trust them with their rating! Although neither are dark chocolate lovers they both enjoyed the outer coating and felt it was just about right in terms of strength. Both commented that the filling was fantastically smooth and the orange fruit influence came through nicely providing a long lasting sweeter side to the taste. Very Good.
Gianduja - Having eaten my way through a 300.0g box of Hotel Chocolat Gianduja Cubes not long ago I knew exactly what to expect here. The milk chocolate was creamy and delicious whilst the centre was nothing short of divine with its hazelnut lead taste and butter like melt. I needn't elaborate anymore on this chocolate apart from writing the word. Superb.
Overall with every Hotel Chocolat product I review and give over 9.0 out of 10 my recommendations must be getting more and more diluted in what they mean to you all. Unfortunately I just can't do anything but recommend these products when the quality is so consistently high - yet again Hotel Chocolat put together another fine selection of chocolates that are worthy of being gifted to anyone this Valentines Day. If you look above at all the individual ratings for each of the chocolates you will see there were some real standout pieces, namely the Gianduja, Coffee Praline, Macadamia & Coconut, Caramel Praline & Pistachio Praline. I guess a criticism that I could levy at this selection would be that out of the prestigious few named above two of them were portioned only the one time, which of course came at great disappointment when it was established just how great they tasted. I better round this up now as this review is getting a little on the long side ... summing up in simple terms this is a selection box that I am sure would go down an absolute treat to anyone it was gifted to - I very highly recommend it.
9.1 out of 10
Spend £15 @ Hotel Chocolat and get 10% with the code JIMVAL10
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Monday, 1 February 2010
6.2 out of 10
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Kcal 71 Fat 4.6g Fat(sats) 2.8g Carbs 6.7g (per chocolate)
Some of my more observant readers may have noticed at the back of end 2009 that I had a slight disagreement with UK manufacture Thorntons regarding some of the contents of my Christmas 2009 reviews. Having been assured that this was merely just a case of miscommunication I was more than willing to let bygones-be-bygones and was very grateful to receive a box full of samples containing some of their latest Valentines Day 2010 range. First up today we have these I♥You Truffles, which came described as 'milk, white and dark chocolates with a smooth chocolate truffle filling'.
These truffles came in a 60.0g box that contained five separate pieces that quelle surprise spelt out 'I♥YOU'. Looking at the packaging I was really surprised to see that these were presented in a pretty tacky looking transparent plastic box. I had no problems with the design work printed on it but to be honest the outer box struck me as tacky and cheap which are not two descriptive words that you would want to by synonymous with a present you would gift for Valentines Day. Inside the truffles themselves looked fair - I personally would have preferred to have seen all the chocolates heart shaped but it was a least nice to see a bit of differentiation from the outer chocolate layers and truffle filling when cross-sectioned.
Due to the packaging having several gaps for air to breathe in and out it was not surprising that the chocolates didn't emanate a particularly strong aroma when the box was opened. The pieces weren't scentless but the minor dairy sweet smells failed to ignite much anticipation which in hindsight was possibly a good thing as it would only have meant I would have been more disappointed. As you can see above all the chocolates that contained letters (i.e. 'IYOU') were formed of outer white and milk chocolate with a truffle fillings. In regards to chocolate quality I am afraid I have to say these were really nothing special and this was mainly driven by the lack of variable flavours offered up. The taste was very much led by the outer milk chocolate which failed to register anything greater than run of the mill sweet milky flavours that had a pretty minor level of cocoa input. The white chocolate that formed the top of each chocolate offered little aside from an added burst of sugar to the taste, whilst the inner truffle filling felt lighter in texture yet added nothing progressive in terms of flavours. Similarly the heart shaped piece offered nothing more flavour wise and instead just had a touch less sweetness with it's mass consumer friendly dark chocolate top.
Overall I simply can't recommend these Thorntons I♥YOU Truffles for a number reasons - all of which are not actually touched on above. One of the biggest turns off for me when it comes to these truffles is the price of £1.99 which I personally think is a contradictory as it is on one hand steep for the quantity of chocolate you get, but on the other not exactly an impressive amount of money to spend on a person who you supposedly 'Love'. Don't get me wrong I am well aware that in hard times like these not everyone is able to spend a lot of money on throw away days like Valentines Day but seriously come on ... you have to spend more than £1.99. Speaking of the actual chocolate it wasn't horrible but neither was it the quality I was expecting from Thorntons and the same could be said about the packaging which I thought was cheap looking for a brand that is supposed to be nearer the high end of the chocolate market. I have a few more items from Thorntons' Valentines 2010 range to review in the coming days ... lets hope they prove to be a little better than these were.
6.5 out of 10
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
I think I made it quite obvious last year how little I buy in to holidays like Valentines Day and Halloween but despite that I feel a duty to my readers to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of the chocolate offerings on the UK market. Starting today over the coming week or so I will be looking at Hotel Chocolat's Valentines Day range. It has probably been impossible for you all to miss but all ChocolateMission readers can receive 10% off their Hotel Chocolat orders if they spend over £15 and input the code - JIMVAL10 ... I hope some of you make good use of the code on the Hotel Chocolat Website - See HERE.
Last week I received a big batch of samples from my pals at Hotel Chocolat and with the help of my family got stuck right into these Chilli & Nibs Sweethearts. In terms of proposition these looked like a simple variation of the Caramel Sweethearts I reviewed last year, however I thought the billing of 'solid chilli flavoured dark chocolate hearts with cocoa nibs' sounded a little more promising than the previous year's effort. In terms of packaging all the usual Hotel Chocolat swagger was encapsulated by the nicely designed outer box and inner tray and padding combo and I thought the red colouring was a good choice to communicate the chilli flavouring. The hearts themselves were not quite so impressive looking as the additional cocoa nib pieces scuffed the surface of the chocolates which spoilt the intricate design work somewhat.
Although we were a little disappointed by the aesthetics of the chocolates I am glad to report that it had no ramifications on the overall product. In regards to smell they emanated some fine roasted and burnt cocoa notes which was highly indicative of the taste experienced. As soon as I read that the chocolates were formed of Hotel Chocolat's 70% recipe I knew we were all in for a treat and these didn't fail to disappoint. Each heart piece was best eaten in two mouthfuls and I loved the dexterity of the textures created by the smooth melting chocolate base and the crunchy nib pieces. In terms of flavours the unsweetened cocoa taste was substantiated as soon as the chocolate hit the tongue. The volume of the cocoa grew with progression of the melt, however the taste never became overly bitter due to the presence of some milky undertones. Speaking of the additional chilli and nib elements one had a far greater say in the taste than the other and it was the chilli adding a lovely spicy kick to some, but not all of the heart pieces . Indeed this was something noted by not only me but my whole family - the chilli was a little inconsistent in that in some pieces it quite prominent, whilst in others undetectable.
Overall me and family were in agreement that these were very tasty but were not one of Hotel Chocolat's finest offerings at the same time. In fairness to Hotel Chocolate for the average manufacture these would go down as fantastic but in relation to the rest of their range there were just a few things that weren't quite right. Firstly as my old man mentioned the name .... 'Chilli & Nibs Sweethearts' probably wasn't the best choice!? I can understand sticking with 'Sweethearts' for range consistency but I personally would have gone for a more playful name - suggestions on postcards please! Going back to more important matters whilst these were simply delicious the added chilli flavouring wasn't as consistent as it should have been - as I alluded to above some pieces were very fiery, whilst others even failed to register a hint of chilli. If you or your partner/special someone are fan of dark chocolate and chilli these are well worth a look - I have a sneaky feeling that Hotel Chocolat will have better to offer this Valentines Day though.
8.2 out of 10
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
With only four days remaining in January I am really cutting it fine in my bid to find all of you January dieters a good option to satisfy your chocolate cravings. Having sampled some awful products from the likes of Unilever's Slim Fast and Boots' Shapers range I was beginning to feel that all my efforts were going to be in vain but then my hopes were lifted when I saw these new Kellogg's Fibre Plus bars in my local Sainsbury's. Indeed I first saw these bars of 'high fibre cereal with milk chocolate' announced in The Grocer last month - (See HERE). Being a fan of Kellogg's Fruit n' Fibre I needed no second invitation to give them a try.
At an RRP of £1.79 for four 28.0g bars, in comparison to other similar options these are a price premium; luckily I managed to bag these on an introductory offer of £1 which I thought was a far fairer price. Now whenever I think of Fibre cereals I often think of bland packaging and just ...well... brown coloured cereal - it hardly sets your imagination running wild does it! With that said Kellogg's did a pretty damn good job making these bars look well ... pretty flash! As you can see above the packaging has great stand out and the inner foil wrappers maintained each bar in great condition. I happen to think cereal bars are never the most exciting things ever but aesthetically these looked pretty sharp and I liked the drizzled effect of the chocolate on top which created a nice patterned design.
I ate these bars across a working work and substituted them in for my traditional mid-afternoon chocolaty snack. Given that I am reviewing these for dieters it is probably worth considering the nutritional information - 111 calories, 3.5g of fat and 20% of your daily fibre requirements ... not bad huh!? The first thing that struck me when opening one of the wrappers was the mild chocolate biscuit like smell that emanated from the bar - it hardly bowled me over but at least it was there! From the very first bit I noticed how dense these were in texture - they were very chewy in the mouth. In regards to flavours I have to say that the cereal constituents were quite bland with only the rolled oats bringing hints of wheat and flour to the party. In addition to these base flavours the syrup that acted as the bind brought a nice sweetness to the taste which was further compounded by the intermittent influences of milk chocolate. In regards to the actual milk chocolate involved it was actually surprisingly well portioned and had a say in the taste of each and every bite. Was it high quality milk chocolate!? ... of course not! Did it provide an adequate chocolate flavour hit!? ... Yeah for me it did!
Overall I think this is best I am going to be able to do for you dieters out there! These Kellogg's Fibre Plus Milk Chocolate bars were a way off being what I would deem as a high quality chocolate offering, yet at the same time they were damn good for what they were. They weren't the most flavoursome of things I have eaten but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much of a say the chocolate had in the taste and I was equally impressed at how much they satisfied my hunger. Having tried some damn horrible dieting options recently I am very surprised that I feel in the position to actually go as far as recommending these. I am not sure people who are used to sugary cereals will have much love for them but personally I think the syrup and milk chocolate more than liven up the taste to suitable levels. Dieters this is the best I can do for you I am afraid - they aren't the perfect chocolate snack option but if you are getting desperate I suggest you try mini versions of the real McCoy (mini Snickers etc!). In my opinion nothing can replace the real thing, but these are at least worth a try.
7.8 out of 10
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
January has been a month for Japanese chocolate reviews here on ChocolateMission and I can't think of a better way to end them than with yet another Kit Kat. If you have read the title and find yourself wondering what the hell Kinako Ohagi is please don't worry - I am sure you are in plenty of company! Luckily you for you guys you have me ... and luckily for me I have google :) From what I can gather Ohagi takes it name from a fall flower called Hagi, and is a rice-based cake which is traditionally covered in kinako (roasted soy flour) powder and is filled with red beans. Your probably better off forgetting trying to piece this together in your mind - just squint your eyes and take a look at the picture on the box.
Getting down to business this was a Kit Kat that was split into two packs of two finger biscuits. The packaging was again pretty awesome but hey what did you expect from a Japanese Kit Kat. Some may think that the outer cardboard packaging is excessive but I personally love it and I think it just makes the product feel all the more special. That said the inner Kit Kats themselves weren't exactly scintillating as they looked no different at all too a normal milk chocolate Kit Kat. Although they may have looked a little placid there was no escaping the lovely roasted biscuit smells that emanated when the foil wrappers were broken into and the fingers snapped.
Taking my first bite into the Kit Kat the first thing I noticed was the glorious fresh snap of the wafers. Indeed the wafers seemed to be just a touch crisper than normal and the wheaty flavours seemed just a little bit more malty and came through just a little firmer than normal against the sweet, milky outer chocolate. Although the wafer took a greater hold of the taste the flavours that were most influential were that of the Kinako Soy and that absolutely delightful. Reminding me a touch of the Kit Kat Kinako Soy I reviewed a year or so ago the taste was influenced by a strong roasted nut element that brought peanut like flavours to the party. This varied the taste wonderfully bringing a beautiful contrast of salt and sweet elements. This contrast was simply delicious and so very moreish in every which way. Personally there was just no way I was going to be able eat just a single two finger packet in one sitting, though I definitely got a great deal of satisfaction from all four.
Overall this was one of the better Kit Kats I have from Japan in a long time especially after such hit-and-miss flavours of the Ginger Ale and Sweet Potato. As with every Nestle milk chocolate Kit Kat the standard of the chocolate wasn't sublime but it was certainly passable and it did at least allow the crisper wafers and kinako elements to take centre stage. With the kinako bringing a very peanut like influence to the taste this bar reminded me very much of our once beloved Kit Kat Chunky Peanut Butter .... oh the memories! If like me you miss that bar and want to try an authentic Japanese Kit Kat I would really suggest you consider tracking this Kinako Ohagi bar down at some point. This is a Kit Kat I would definitely have again.
8.5 out of 10
Monday, 25 January 2010
Having bought a fair few of packs of these Hotel Chocolat Ginger Canapes before I finally this time got the chance to take a few snaps so I could get a review up on the site. Indeed, these Ginger Canapes are a long time favourite amongst my family and whenever a pack is opened in our household we seem to suffer at the hands of those magical chocolate nicking pixies who spark the all to familiar conversation of ... 'who's eaten all the chocolates!?' ... 'not me' ... 'no definitely not me' ... 'I've had one' etc etc :D So what causes all this fuss I hear you asking!? ... 'Dark chocolate bases blended with essential oil of ginger and topped with crystallised ginger'.
£6.50 of your money will buy a box of 16 mini canapes pieces which together weigh 100.0g. In regards to the packaging I don't think the outer box is some of Hotel Chocolat's finest work, however I think you will agree that the canapes themselves look stunning and it was nice to see that the crystallised pieces on each piece were always evenly distributed which I think is something that paid dividends to the taste as well as the aesthetics. Removing all the padding and inner film layers I was met by a nice array of cocoa and spice scents. I perhaps expected the ginger to have a bit more of presence though it was still enticing nonetheless.
You may have been able to tell from my opening paragraph that I really like these so I won't beat around the bush so to speak. Each piece had a base of 70% dark chocolate which was about the perfect size to consume in two bites. Breaking each piece in two was of course the only time when any sort of biting or chewing was necessary when it came to the chocolate, as it was of course best enjoyed when simply left to melt on the tongue. Speaking of the melt it was as you would expect with Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate - perfectly paced and as soft as butter once warmed for a few seconds. When first placed in the mouth the cocoa came to the party incredibly quickly and initially brought small notes of coffee, red wine and charcoal. On it's own I personally would find that to be quite enough, however the ginger influences soon made for a taste that was wonderfully progressive. The ginger oil swirled into the chocolate brought a heat to the texture and spicy hint to the taste. What with the chocolate already being quite strong tasting the crystallised pieces of ginger wonderfully tempered the spiciness bringing a dose of sweet sugaryness. I won't lie and say that one canape was a satisfying amount, but just two at a time felt like quite a rich experience.
Overall I think that these Ginger Canapes are up there with some of the finest products I have tried from Hotel Chocolat. That is a pretty big statement to make when you consider just how many different products of theirs I have tried over the past two years. If you have read the above it isn't hard to see why I think so much of them, but to summarise all that I simply think it is the way that the dark chocolate is blended with the added ginger elements which makes for both a variable and delicious taste. I am sure it won't surprise you to hear that the dark chocolate is simply superb - to be honest I expected it to be myself. What I think makes this product stand out from others is the ginger, which I think takes the taste to a whole another level. If you love your dark chocolate and ginger combinations this is a product that I really think you need to try - it is absolutely fantastic.
9.2 out of 10