December 10th: Bits n Bobs - Jim's Christmas 2011 Guide Part #1

Hi All,

It's that time again when I run down my recommendations for Christmas. Today I bring you Part #1 featuring Elizabeth Shaw, McVitie's, Heavenly Cakes and Hotel Chocolat to name a few. These reviews will be short, sharp and concise. Any questions, thoughts and opinions are welcome - just drop off a comment.

Just to clarify, not everything featured will get a JCM score or recommendation. This guide is here to give my own personal opinion on what's 'hot' and what it is 'not'. I hope you enjoy the post.

N.B. Please contact me via Twitter if needs be @ChocMission - please do not attempt to leave comments on this post.
Mint - Kcal 504 Fat 31.6g Fat(sats) 19.9g Carbs 48.6g (per 100.0g)
Butterscotch - Kcal 524 Fat 28.8g Fat(sats) 18.1g Carbs 60.1g (per 100.0g)

Elizabeth Shaw is one of those brands that we always seeing pop-up around Christmas time here in the UK. One would normally associate the brand with it's widespread Mint Crisp Mini Chocolates, but last week I found these new bars on shelf in my local Sainsbury's priced at £1.89 each which made them a more affordable option compared to the bigger 'Mini Chocolate' packs. The chocolate wrappers were nicely presented but I was disappointed that each bar had no decoration patterns or branding. The dark chocolate mint bar was the nicer of the two given with it's better contrasting semi-sweet to sugary mint honeycomb focus. For me the milk chocolate and butterscotch was just a little overpowering on the sugar front with the honeycomb pieces in that one more coming across like balls of clustered sugar rather than the desired floral noted honey taste. I wouldn't buy either again but if you wish to try them for yourselves before buying the bigger packs then they could be of use.

Dark Chocolate Mint - 7.6 out of 10
Milk Chocolate Butterscotch - 6.9 out of 10

Heavenly Cakes Midnight Mint Cake- Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
This isn't a review but more a recommendation and a 'heads-up' that Heavenly Cakes have their seasonal Midnight Mint Cake back in-stock on their site (See HERE). You may recall this was a cake of their's that I reviewed last year (See HERE). I commented that this 'milk chocolate brownie base, topped with a layer of mint fondant and Belgian dark chocolate' was 'the best Christmas themed cake' I ate that year, so suffice to say it is well worth your attention again this year. Achieving a score of 9.0 is no mean feat here on JCM and I can confirm that this years batch is every bit as good as the last. Fans of dark chocolate mints will fall in love with this cake, I'm 100.0% sure of that.

Hotel Chocolat Yule Log Hazelnut & Ginger - Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Was it likely there was ever going to be a JCM Christmas Guide without a Hotel Chocolat product featuring!?? No obviously not :D For the third year running (Yes, I know I've been doing this to long!!), my pals at HC sent me a 'Yule Log', with this years flavour being their ginger and hazelnut variety. With the past experiences in fresh memory (See HERE & HERE) this was one that was welcomed with sheer delight when the grand unveiling of our Christmas sampling package took place. Suffice to say this wasn't one that let us down and it was met with an even grander seal of approval than the logs that had come before. The base praline gianduja was utterly indulgent, and had a rich cocoa nuttyness that was in a real standout class of it's own. The woddy nut focus of the base was further compounded by the whole hazelnuts pieces that littered the top of the entire log. The more savoury flavour focus beautifully contrasted with the sweet, syrupy ginger slithers, which with their softer jelly like texture created an intriguing mix up of textures. A portion of this tucked alongside a dark coffee is an experience worth investing in.

8.6 out of 10

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Cake Bars - Kcal 141 Fat 7.1g Fat(sats) 3.6g Carbs 18.1g (per Bar)
Biscuits - Kcal 50 Fat 2.9g Fat(sats) 1.5g Carbs 5.6g (per Biscuit)

Whereas it seems the rest of the market are content with slapping a picture of Santa/Rudloph on the front of their packs and calling their products 'Winter/Christmas Editions', McVitie's appear to have chosen a slightly different strategy. Indeed it seems that McVitie's are happy just pushing their 'Temptations' product line, a range that started out as just biscuits, but have now followed up with some cake type offerings. I purchased the two products you see today at Tesco (£1.00 of course), where on a aisle end they had all types of different 'Temptations' varieties. The white chocolate with inner milk chocolate biscuits turned out to be just as nice as than the previous Praline variety I had tried (See HERE), and the light milky flavours went nicely with the buttery biscuit base. Whilst the biscuits were the nicer lighter option of the two, the Cake Bars provided a more substantial snack and they tasted pretty good to boot. The base cake and outer chocolate components established a Galaxy like creamy sweetness, though it was the 'creamy topping' layer that gave me greatest pleasure. This element was heavily vanilla noted in taste and brought a highly desired moistness alongside the chewy chocolate caramel. Neither of these will fill you with Christmas cheer, but bravo McVitie's for breaking the mould and not jumping of the bandwagon.

White Chocolate Truffle Biscuits - 7.3 out of 10
Chocolatey Cake Bars - 7.7 out of 10