Monday, 31 January 2011

January 31st: Thorntons Continental Selection


If you have been keeping tabs on the site this month you will have seen me working my way through the different price tiers of Thorntons' selection boxes. If you need reminding, I started off by reviewing their pretty dismal standard Chocolate Selection (See HERE), then moved on to their Premium Chocolate Selection (See HERE). Today I bring you my review of their Continental Selection, a box I bought in it's 175.0g form, priced at £7.50 in my local Thorntons shop.

This Continental Selection came billed as 'pralines, truffles and mousses covered in milk, white and dark chocolate with Swiss, Belgian, Spanish, Italian and French influences', and supposedly contained fourteen pieces. I say supposedly as I was denied trying one of their Pistachio Marzipan chocolates, which was unfortunately nowhere to be seen. I have to say it was one of the of the pieces that stood out to me when I looked in the snazzy menu included in the pack, so I was disappointed not to see it included. Speaking of the presentation, this was a very nice looking box of chocolates and I liked the subtly and elegance of both the box design and the inner truffles.

Plenty of pieces to get through so lets get on with it ...

Alpini - This milk chocolate covered piece hosted a centre of hazelnut and almond praline, and was decorated by a light dusting of white chocolate. The textures of the crisp chocolate, exterior dusting and slightly gritty filling were pleasant, but the nuttiness of the praline was disappointing and was overawed by the sweetness of the outer chocolate. Standard.

Vanille Truffle - The outer white chocolate of this truffle made for a delicious creamy taste that led smoothly in to the bourbon noted truffle centre. Compared to the plainer filling pieces this flavoured one was more progressive and richer in taste as it detracted from the sugaryness sweetness and left a longing vanilla note in the mouth. Very Good.

Chocolate Truffle - I liked the aesthetic appeal and soft, sensuous textures offered by this chocolate, but unfortunately it didn't quite have the taste to match it's appearance. Although differentiated in terms of it's silky feel, the milk chocolate truffle centre was still equally as sugary sweet as the others. Standard.

Ganache Au Marc De Champagne - An absolutely fantastic chocolate! This was one of the finest champagne truffles I have tried - even up their with Hotel Chocolat's. The crisp outer chocolate shell led beautifully into the creamy, champagne noted cream below. The champagne volume was well measured and tickled the tongue to leave a lasting impression in the mouth. Spot on. Superb.

Vienesse Truffle - Every chocolate selection has it's dud and this was no exception. Remember when I reviewed this in it's bar form (See Here)? Unfortunately I was given a stark reminder when I tried this. Flavourless and bland. Very Poor.

Valencia - The Spanish influenced chocolate in this selection proved to be one of the best, and I loved this dark chocolate covered orange flavoured truffle centre piece. The dark chocolate coating really made the difference here and provided a beautifully contrastive unsweetened cocoa taste that was enhanced delightfully by the sweet orangey syrup held withing. A delightful fruity chocolate. Very Good.

Sicilian Lemon Mousse - This was another I have tried previously in bar form so I knew exactly what to expect here. As I perceived then, the white chocolate outer portion was delicious, but the inner mousse filling was unsubstantial and lacking the desired lemony zest. Still one that will satisfy white chocolate fans though. Good.

Catalana - This was one of the finer pieces in the entire selection and displayed a terrific amount of different textural elements for such a small truffle. The outer chocolate was further crisped by some tiny honeycomb pieces, whilst the inner caramel noted truffle was further supplemented by the most terrific smooth cream layer at the base. I delight for it's progressive cream and caramel flavours, as well as it's luxurious mouth presence. Superb.

Cappuccino - A complete carbon copy of the Caffee Latte piece included in the Thorntons Premium Collection (See Here). To repeat myself from there 'the coffee flavours were tasty, but mild mannered amongst the sweeter cocoa flavours that developed. Good.

Hazelnut Slice - As you can see from the photo, this was the piece that was portioned twice instead of the Pistachio Marzipan. Although I would rather of had the pistachio chocolate, this was a decent enough replacement, and unlike some of the other nut enhanced chocolates the hazelnut actually managed to cut through in the taste to a reasonable degree with it's woody influence. Texturally a little dry. Good.

Mousse Au Chocolat - I groaned when I saw this on the menu! This was a filler piece for the box i.e. an uncomplicated, generic chocolate included for the sole reason to take up space. Just as I thought it was pretty unexciting - sweet milk chocolate with a light, non-progressive chocolate mousse centre. If they had portioned this twice I would have been very annoyed. Standard.

Diplomat - 'Traditionally when one Continental diplomat exchanged a gift with another, it was custom for the present to be wrapped in a gold leaf' .... what!?? Unfortunately reshaping and wrapping the Alpini chocolate didn't make it any different :D Standard.

Cherry Truffle - We end on a high note here. The unsweetened dark chocolate shell, sour fruity cherry puree and sweet chocolate truffle centre made for a wonderful flavour and textural experience. I wasn't expecting to think that much of this chocolate but I really liked it. Very Good.

Overall this wasn't the best chocolate selection box in the world, but it was a noticeable step up in quality from the other two Thorntons boxes I tried earlier in the month. Whilst there were both 'filler' and missing pieces included in the selection, I would say the variety on offer was still very good, and it did contain a decent array of fruit, nut and caramels with different chocolate type exteriors. Priced at £7.00 I think this box comes in at half the price of the likes of Hotel Chocolat's selections and only a few pounds more than the Thorntons Premium Collection. On that basis I would tentatively suggest them as a sound option for gifting if you are in need of a chocolate selection box. I would suspect that moderate expectations would be exceeded.

8.2 out 10

Saturday, 29 January 2011

January 29/30th: '7Days of Chocolate Reviews' - Edition 65

### Competition Winners ###

Hi All,

Thanks to all of you who submitted your votes for the ChocolateMission 2010 Readers Choice Award. Votes are being counted and verified :D and the post announcing the award winners will be up on the site on the 19th of February.

In the mean time I'm sure you all want to know who the lucky winners of the Ritter Sport chocolates are. Well I can reveal that ....

Ryan Stockhurst, Dorset UK
Fiona Matten, Cardiff UK
Steven Ferris, Windsor UK


Have all won. Congratulations to you guys. I will be sending out an e-mail asking you for your addresses so please respond ASAP.

Thank you to everyone who sent me their votes. There were some very kind responses in there. There will be plenty of more chocolate being given away in the next few weeks so don't worry if you haven't won today.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my reviews of all the new products this week. I certainly enjoyed writing them up. More exciting stuff to come next week of course - I hope you all take the time to visit.

JIM


News from the Chocolate Market

* Kellogg's are bringing out a new chocolate cereal ... See Here

* Nestle are launching a new 70% dark chocolate Kit Kat (Credit: Phil) ... See HERE

* Cadbury are launching two new selection boxes ... See HERE

* Maltesers is helping out with Red Nose day this year ... See HERE

* The new Kit Kat advert is rather good. Check it out ... See HERE

* Nevermind all this talk of a double dip recession. Its the 2014 chocolate drought we should be worried about ... See HERE


Valentines Day 2011 is coming ....



It may still be two weeks away, but you can never be too prepared for Valentines Day :D Just as a little teaser I thought I would drop in these photos of the Hotel Chocolat Valentines Ribbon Tied Selection. This little box consisted of 8 chocolates - five chocolate hearts (more on that in a minute!), and two praline chocolates (pictured) that you will have seen reviewed before in previous selections.

I've resisted doing a full on review for these, as I was also the lucky recipient of a Hotel Chocolat Melting Hearts H-Box (a larger version box of these!), a product I will be reviewing for you next week. In the mean time, why don't you head on over to Hotel Chocolat and get your orders in early.


Delivered Chocolate Gifts from Hotel Chocolat

Friday, 28 January 2011

January 28th: Hot Chocolate Project - Part # 1

After many requests, kettle boiling and stirring, I finally have the great pleasure of bringing you the first part of my Hot Chocolate Project. The Hot Chocolate Project is a ChocolateMission side project to find the 'best hot chocolate in the world' :D First of all lets get the boring stuff out the way ...

Testing Conditions & Reviewing principles:

To keep the comparisons fair I will adhere to the following consistencies - hey if we are going to do this, lets do it properly :D

* All drinks will be consumed during the evenings
* All drinks will be made using 150ml of milk and then topped with boiling water
* All drinks will be prepared (i.e. stirring times) as instructed on pack
* All drinks will be rated on the new scoring chart, which includes the whole new criteria of 'drinkability' i.e. the texture of the drink (grainy/smooth/textured etc).

... shall we just get on with it :D


Maltesers Instant Hot Chocolate Drink
Kcal 99 Fat 2.4g Carbs 18.0g
'Maltesers Instant Hot Chocolate Malt Drink'


The 25.0g of powder came in an attractive looking foil sachet and emanated a familiar smelling set of malt and chocolate fragrances. When mixed the drink produced a thick layer of froth on the surface, giving it a nice head for the duration of the drinking time. The liquid did have a hint of roughness to it, but I thought this suited the malted nature of the drink. Unfortunately when it came to the taste I didn't feel it delivered entirely on the Malteser billing. To my taste the drink was more sweet and sugary that it was malty or chocolatey. If you ask me, for the 99 calories you may as well just have a bag of Maltesers and get the real deal.

7.3 out of 10


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Cadbury Instant Hot Chocolate
Kcal 115 Fat 3.2g Carbs 18.7g
'Instant Hot Chocolate Drink'


This hot chocolate mixture came in a instantly recogniseable Cadbury coloured sachet and contained a hefty 56.0g of powder. In order to make sure the blend of the drink was suitable I did use a little more hot water with this one, and I was rewarded with a fabulous textured drink that had a gorgeous smooth viscosity to it. The extra thickness made for a more fulfilling and substantial proposition compared to many of the other hot chocolates I have tried. Although the aromas suggested a somewhat generic chocolateyness, taste wise it was recognisable as Cadbury with it's sweetened cocoa and cream flavours. Towards the end of my mug I was feeling the sugaryness was getting a little much for my liking, but I can't deny that it delivered the desired Cadbury experience.

8.0 out of 10


Cadbury Highlights Dark Chocolate
Kcal 40 Fat 1.6g Carbs 3.7g
'Instant Low Calorie Hot Chocolate Drink with Sugars & Sweetners'


If you look behind the original Cadbury Instant Hot Chocolate sachet in the photo above you should see the rather effeminate looking, pink coloured Cadbury Highlights Dark Chocolate. In the interest of being thorough, I of course only thought it suitable to try out the low calorie alternative from Cadbury - I know this will be of interest to you January dieters :D In terms of 'drinkability', the 22.0g sachet provided a thinner drink in comparison to the original described above. The mouth feel was still smooth and non-grainy, but it didn't provide quite the satisfaction, or luxuriousness of the aforementioned. In terms of taste the plainer chocolate alternative was fine, though a little undistinctive and didn't leave the same chocolate flavour hit impression. The drink was fine for a lower calorie proposition, but I'm not sure I would buy it again.

6.8 out of 10


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Skinny Cow Instant Indulgent Mint
Kcal 37 Fat 1.4g Carbs 4.0g
'Mint flavour instant hot chocolate drink mix with added sugar & Sweetener'


My only prior experience with this Skinny Cow brand was with a pretty dodgy ice cream I was given once so I wasn't holding out much hope for this hot chocolate mix. Closer inspection of the sachet pack gave me the revelation that this was in actual fact a product produced by Nestle - that was knowledge to me at least. Speaking of the sachet I didn't think the design work was the most attractive - whats up putting a huge barcode on the front chaps? Aroma wise the powder did little to excite, though prior expectations this was going to be a watery tasting cocoa abyss were thankfully none founded. Despite the sachet containing only 10.0g of powder, the drink retained a sufficient semi-skimmed like milky thickness even with the added water. Compared to some of the other branded options above, the chocolate flavour hit was mild, though the mint element came through relatively well in the latter stages of each mouthful making the taste somewhat passable considering it's low calorie/fat proposition.

6.3 out of 10



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I hope these first four reviews have whett the appetite for the reviews to come. If you have any hot chocolate suggestions/requests be sure to drop me a comment or an e-mail.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

January 26th: Snickers Maximus

Kcal 269 Fat 15.0g Carbs 27.8g

If the three so called 'new' products weren't enough for you this last Monday you will be pleased to see that today's review contains another 'innovation' for 2011. Indeed, at the start of the month Mars sent a PR statement announcing the launch of this limited edition Snickers Maximus. This new limited edition bar is supposed to be the 'the next phase in Mr T’s campaign', and the launch is being supported by a £1.5m TV and radio campaign'. The Snickers Maximus comes billed as a 'Snickers without nougat, leaving even more room for the maximum serving of nuts and caramel'. Despite trying a million and one different Snickers bars from all across the globe in the last few years, this wasn't a variation I had yet tried ... lets see how it did.

It came as no surprise to me that this bar came in a smaller 52.5g compared to the 58.0g original - this is the size that all Snickers limited edition have come in down the years. I'm not one for usually getting all that fussed about wrappers, but I would of expected more of an effort from Mars than just the change to a beige and brown colour scheme and minor branding changes. Why not use our man Mr T for a more decorative pack? I'm no graphic designer but they could have made it a little more exciting. In better news there were no issues when it came to the bar keeping it's shape despite the lack of a firm nougat base. When I pierced the wrapper the usual glorious peanut sweet scents overcame my senses, smelling every bit as enticing as usual.

For those of you wondering the chocolate, caramel and peanut ratio of this bar was 31.0% chocolate, 42.0% caramel and 26.0% peanuts. For what this bar was, this was a decent proportional mix, and the bar still managed to retain the original Snickers bars great quality of allowing each constituents say in the taste. The flavour development was obviously lead by the outer milk chocolate, which melted at fine rate supplying it's standard chocolate flavour hit to every bite with it's sugary milky cocoa emphasis. Below the chocolate, both the caramel and peanuts were blended into one, ensuring the bar kept some level of viscosity even at room temperature. The golden caramel was chewy even when soft and when heated supplied it's usual array of sweet, buttery toffee flavours. Comparatively the roasted nuts were crunchy and salted in taste, providing a contrast in flavours that was dexterous and of course totally delicious. The only thing missing ... well duh the nougat!?

Overall I felt my experience with this bar was very similar to the times when I used to come across solid milk chocolate Kit Kats as kid. The fact that things weren't how they usually are was a novelty for a second, but at the end of the day the lacking element (in this case the nougat) didn't benefit the product at all. Quite simply without the nougat the taste wasn't as progressive or interesting, and I certainly didn't get the same level of satisfaction that I do from a normal Snickers. If there was ever a bar suitable for being a limited edition it is certainly this one, as I don't see anyone repeat purchasing having tried it the once. Unless you are someone that doesn't like nougat (I have genuinely never met anyone that has said this haha!) I just don't see the point in recommending it for any reason other than to just say you have tried one. It would be harsh to brand this bar as pointless, but I'm personally struggling to think of a reason for making it - wouldn't of it been cooler if they had given us the new Snickers Peanut Butter Squared they have now in the US? What do you guys think?

7.5 out of 10

Monday, 24 January 2011

January 24th: Nestle Aero Superpost

You may have noticed that Nestle have been busy since the turn of the year, with a lot of 'new' products being released across their Aero brand. I use the term 'new' somewhat loosely considering two of the three products have been seen before in past years, but with that I also bring you the first of my Easter 2011 product reviews .... in January :D ... I'm nearly as bad as the supermarkets who I hear began their Easter merchandising on Boxing Day.

Below you will find reviews of the Aero Caramel, Aero Orange & Aero Bubbly Lamb. All these products are now widely available across the UK, and I would love to hear from you all with your opinions. Please be sure to leave your thoughts ...

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Aero Caramel
Kcal 189 Fat 9.6g Carbs 23.3g

The most dedicated ChocolateMission reader might remember that this was a bar I reviewed back in 2008. Since then the bar became a victim of Aero's range cull around 2009, but as with the rest of the flavours that got canned around that time (Orange & Dark), it has made it's return. Before I ate this 2011 version I did take the time to read back my review from 2008 - to cut the long story short for you ... "Overall the Aero aspect of this bar (the airated base) was quite pleasant ... the caramel aspect of this bar was poor".

Frankly I could have cut and pasted the majority of that old review and stuck it here. The milk chocolate was it's steady self, whilst the caramel (what there was of it!) was still poor and lacked the flavour depth of most immediate comparators (Dairy Milk etc). I guess in a way, the lesser portioning of the caramel was a good thing guven it's poor quality, however this lesser portioning wasn't supplemented by any additional chocolate. Yes indeed like the majority of the mass produced products these days, this bar had just been reduced in size since it was last with us (now 38.0g vs the 42.0g bar of previous times). Overall news of this bar being brought back didn't ever excite me, and it unfortunately didn't surpass my low expectations.

6.7 out of 10


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Aero Orange
Kcal 542 Fat 30.7g Fat(sats) 18.7g Carbs 60.7g (per 100.0g)

Unlike the Aero Caramel above, the Aero Orange was never a bar that made it on the ChocolateMission rating system before being taken out of distribution a few years ago. For this reason I was more looking forward to trying this one than the other two products on show today - my hopes were additionally increased when my mother mentioned it used to be one of her favourite products from her childhood.

This bar is currently being sold in a 100.0g form and can be found (unless you are very unlucky) for £1.00 in most good retailers. The bar came sectioned in sensible sized blocks and I ate around a quarter of it to myself and then shared the rest amongst some of my work colleagues. The milk chocolate, well, ... sugary, milky and average are the words that spring to mind. Of course it was the orange aerated centre that led the mainstay of the taste - unfortunately like the caramel in the bar above it did very little for me. The orange centre melted with the expected delightful mouth feel and supplied a fair orangey fruityness to the initial moments in the mouth. To my disappointment, this initial pleasure was ruined by a strong undercurrent of sugar, which quickly made the taste sickly and impossible to eat in any satisfactory quantity. Fans of sweet chocolate will welcome it's return, but I won't be buying again I'm afraid.

6.9 out of 10



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Aero Bubbly Lamb
Kcal 145 Fat 8.3g Carbs 15.6g

I will keep this one short as I'm actually a little embarrassed I have an Easter product featuring on the site before January is even through :D The Easter products are being released increasingly early with every year that passes, it is all getting rather silly in my opinion (Boxing day!?? Oh come one!). Anyway, one of the new products from Nestle for 2011 are these Aero Bubbly Lamb, which you will again be able to find in most good retailers throughout the UK.

As you can see from the photos there is really nothing too special about these lambs. They are quite simply Aero milk chocolate, shaped as lamb figurines, with the typical Aero aerated centre (see Aero Orange review above for my thoughts on the chocolate quality). The lamb design will no doubt attract some interest from a younger audience, but for me this was fundamentally just an Aero milk chocolate shaped figure. Pleasant enough, but there are a million other snacks I would reach for first.

7.0 out of 10


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As I said it would be brilliant to get all your views on these Aero products. Be sure to share your thoughts.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

January 22/23rd: '7Days of Chocolate Reviews' - Edition 64

Thornton's Milk Chocolate with Mango
Kcal 531 Fat 31.6g Fat(sats) 19.4g Carbs 52.9 (per 100.0g)

This week I thought it appropriate to kick off '7Days of Chocolate Reviews' with a special feature containing this latest offering from Thorntons. As with a few previous charity contributing products I have resisted awarding this chocolate a score, as I don't wish to be influencing your purchase decision on this basis.

More importantly than any score out of ten, I think it is worthwhile more looking at how this chocolate is positively influencing the lives of some very needy people in Haiti. This can be explained no better way than by Thorntons themselves ...

"A year on from the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, the country is still rebuilding and desperately needs investment. By buying this Thorntons Chocolate Block with Mango, you will be contributing to Save the Children’s life-changing education work in Haiti – reaching thousands of children with safer schools, classroom equipment and quality teaching."

Quite simply from every bar sold, Thorntons will be contributing a sizable £0.91 to Save the Children's work - you can keep up-to-date with the total contribution thus far HERE.

So what does the bar taste like you ask? Well to be frank it was neither the best or the worst offering I have tried from their square bars range. My score for taste would have been 7.5. The 37.0% chocolate was tasty enough with it's creamy sweet milk flavours, but I felt the mango pieces could have been a little larger as they didn't create quite the same zingy fruity impact I was hoping for. At the end of the day I just don't think it matters anyway, chocolate prestige really isn't the issue here. If you are shopping around this weekend I would urge you to go to your local Thornton's and buy one of these bars. You not only reward yourself with a half decent chocolate, but you can also feel pretty happy that a large chunk of your money has gone to those who really need it.

JIM


News from the Chocolate Market

* Nestle have relaunched some of their sharing bags ... See HERE

* Cadbury have a new Creme Egg campaign ... See HERE

* Chocolate is good for you :D so say Tea4Life (do you want to see a review of this?) ... See HERE

* Ferrero's Kinder Bueno White has a new recipe (I will update the review soon with my thoughts!) ... See HERE

* These guys look familiar ... Heavenly Cakes launch a gluten free product range ... See HERE

* McVitie's are bringing out a new Penguin Caramel Wafer ... See HERE

* Kraft are denying they are going to sell Green & Black's ... See HERE


Posts from other Blogs I enjoyed this week

* Foodstufffinds - Any blog post containing that hilarious Crusha advert deserves a shout out on ChocolateMission ... See HERE

* GiGi Reviews - Gi has just posted the most awesome recipe for alcoholic whipped cream :D :D I'm sure this will interest a fair few of you ... See HERE

* Gone Chocco - It's always interesting to see what other countries make of our chocolates. It's a bit early for the Easter reviews on ChocolateMission, but that hasn't stopped Gone Chocco ... See HERE

* The Candy Enthusiast - This is probably the only chocolate in the world I would never try. I hate mushrooms!!!! ... See HERE

* Chocolate Reviews - Lee does try some fancy pants sounding chocolates doesn't he :D check out his review of Jean-Paul Hévin 64% Papua New Guinea bar ... See HERE

* Foodette Reviews - It's been almost like baking week on Foodette Reviews. Check out her several adventures in the kitchen this week baking various products ... See HERE

Friday, 21 January 2011

January 21st: Eat Natural Selection 2011


It's been nearly two years since I last took a look at the Eat Natural range (See previous reviews HERE) but since the turn of the year I have received a few requests asking me to check out some healthier chocolate options. Back in 2009 the Eat Natural brand was still relatively unestablished here in the UK, but since then their range has grown quite considerably with several new variants and products (cereals etc).

These indulgent health bars aren't my usual choice of snack, but I was able to track down two new flavours with relative ease in my local Holland & Barrett health store. Both 45.0g bars came in at a pretty price £0.89, though I guess this was to be expected given the proposition and ingredients. If you look at the wrappers from the 2009 reviews you will see that little has changed in regards to the presentation, which I personally think is fair given that it was never bad in the first place. Puzzlingly the wrappers still lacked nutritional information (you would of thought consumers of these sort of products would be interested in that sort of stuff), but nonetheless every other detail you may ever wish to know e.g. ingredients, production method etc were included.

Here are my thoughts on the two flavours:

Eat Natural Dark 70% Chocolate Brazils & Apricots

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

I am sure you will agree that this was the uglier of the two bars :D the unidentified green bits caused me to quickly refer to the ingredients list upon where I quickly learnt that they were in fact pumpkin seeds. I'm sure someone will inform me of the health benefits, but I have to say they did little for the taste and proved more an annoyance getting trapped in my teeth. In regards to the other constituents this bar was a bit of a mixed bag, with some mouthfuls full of flavour, whilst others proving relatively tasteless depending on what was portioned where. The apricot cranberries and raisins were all plump and juicy, and provided the desired fruity sweetness to the very plain tasting rice base. On the flip side the brazil nuts were pretty lax in their flavour contribution, and it was only really where the coconut was present that a nuttiness came through. Billed as 70% dark chocolate I was hoping the base was going to contribute a grander chocolate flavour hit than it did. Unfortunately the chocolate came across very diluted in it's cereal bedding - I understand heavier portioning would have hampered the 'healthy' proposition, but it was begging out for a thicker chocolate base.

7.3 out of 10



Eat Natural Cranberries, Macadamias & Dark Chocolate

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

The less alien looking bar emanated some tempting nutty scents when unsealed from it's wrapper which was unsurprising given it's heavier portioning of nuts. Fundamentally this was largely the same bar as the one above, just with some minor differences in the portioning of some constituents. I don't know what strength the chocolate was this time, but it yet again cried out to be more generously portioned as the smokey cocoa flavours struggled to cut through the more dominant savoury rice cereal base. Although lacking the apricot of the above, the cranberry fruits took more of a leading role making for a tarter fruity taste than in the previous. As you may have guessed, it was the nuts where I felt this bar had more going for it, and this was mostly down to the copious amounts of coconut involved. Indeed, the shredded coconut added a very nice milky nuttiness to almost every bite, whilst the less prominent macadamias contributed some more additional subtle buttery nut flavours when encountered.

7.6 out of 10


Overall these where both sound offerings from Eat Natural, though both were crying out for a thicker layer of dark chocolate to supplement the tasty fruit and nut constituents. What with the company going from strength-to-strength and branching out in to new areas, I think it may be worth them considering making an an actual chocolate bar range. If they paired up the great quality fruit and nut produce with some high quality chocolate, then I think they could be on to something quite special. Do any of you have any favourites from Eat Natural? Have you tried either of these two bars?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

January 19th: Meiji Chip! Chop

Original Chocolate - Kcal 361 Fat 18.8g Carbs 43.2g (per 65.0g)
Roasted Nut - Kcal 324 Fat 15.4g Carbs 41.9g (per 65.0g)


It may be a new year, but the usual suspects are still supplying the samples for this ChocolateMission! Yes indeed you may have been able to guess that these Meiji Chip! Chop were another product sent to me by J-List - a Japanese goods exporter who have been sending me the latest Kit Kat, Pocky and Meiji products for a good while now (See HERE).

On their website, J-List describe the product in focus today, Meiji Chip! Chop, as 'triangle chip cereal shapes filled with chocolate'. This sounded like a fair premise to me, and I was even lucky enough to try out two different variants - 'Original Chocolate' & 'Roasted Nut'. Before I tell you about both of them, I must quickly pass mention to the quality of the presentation for the range. Both 120.0g boxes were well decorated with typically colourful looking decorative pictures and fonts. The cereal triangle pieces were contained within foil packs, which kept a nice fresh state even after being opened for a few days. The aesthetic appeal of either variant wasn't great, but it was at least nice to see a thin layer of chocolate nestled in the middle of each piece.

Being the adaptable product they were I tried both of these flavours in a number of different situations - dry on their own, on top of ice-cream and as part of my usual wheat flake cereal. Out of all three of these methods, I thought the latter two were the were where they shined best. A few pieces supplementing my cereal in the mornings certainly livened my usually dull mornings nicely. When it came to the two variants I tried the, 'Roasted Nut' flavour (silver packaged ones) were my favourite and were the ones I finished before the plain originals. The reason for my preference was quite simply because they offered everything the plain variant did, just with an additional minor flavour note of woody hazelnut. This supplementary hazelnut note complimented the existing sweet and salty wheaty chocolate flavours very well. Another thing that I really liked about these Chip! Chop was how the thin inner chocolate filling layers managed to register some moistness without compromising the crisp cereal texture - they were exactly as displayed on the packaging.

Overall when eaten on their own these weren't life changing, but as additional accompaniment to other foods they were a nice little product that I enjoyed across a variety of different situations. Whether they be eaten as a normal cereal, or used to top other desserts, I think these are a decent little product - they are certainly a lot nicer than some of the poorer chocolate cereal products that we have to put up with here in the UK. As aforementioned, my favourite out of the two flavours were the 'Roasted Nut' Chip! Chop - whether you like nuts or not will obviously determine where your own preferences lie. In regards to a recommendation, I wouldn't suggest you go to the expense of importing these especially just to try themselves, but if you are looking for a tasty little product to top up an existing order I would suggest them as a pretty nifty option.

Original Chocolate - 7.4 out of 10
Roasted Nut - 7.6 out of 10


Monday, 17 January 2011

January 17th: The Big Yum Chocolate Swerves

Kcal 480 Fat 20.8g Fat(sats) 12.8g Carbs 62.4g (per 100.0g)

Just before Christmas I exchanged Tweets with a company called The Big Yum on Twitter (See HERE) who kindly offered me the opportunity to sample some of their delicious sounding Chocolate Swerves. The Big Yum are a UK company founded by two people called Pippa & Aaron, a couple devoted to 'providing a refined snacking safe haven where discerning nibbles enthusiasts can take heart, learning what it’s like to be truly appreciated.' oooooh fancy guys :D (More on The Big Yum HERE). Before I take the mick too much, it is worth pointing out that as they expand their company they have committed to supporting several Charities & Foundations as they grow, so this is definitely a company with it's heart in the right place ... if only some of these mass manufactures were so generous eh!?

Pippa & Aaron were kind enough to send me a few packs of their 70.0g Chocolate Swerves, which came described as the tempting combination of 'milk and white chocolate coated salted pretzels'. These packs were in actual fact very groovy looking laminate pouches. For such a small company I thought the quality of the presentation was outstanding and the pretzels themselves were similarly impressive aesthetically. Before anyone *ahem Richard :D haha!! ahem* asks the question, these Chocolate Swerves sell on The Big Yum website for 6 x 70.0g bags for £11.40, or a 250.0g bag for £4.50.

I consumed most of my packs of these as afternoon snacks, occasionally offering some to my work colleagues for their all important second opinions. My preferred method of eating these was to place the pieces on the tongue, to let the chocolate coating melt away, before crunching down on the remaining pretzels. Eating them this way allowed the full spectrum of the sweet and salty flavours to be enjoyed - they tasted just fantastic. The outer chocolate that coated each piece was as tasty as it looked. It had a soft melt and struck a nice balance of cream and sweet cocoa flavours to deliver the desired chocolate flavour hit despite it's thin application. Once the chocolate had melted away, the crunchy pretzels hidden below burst with the promised saltiness. These Chocolate Swerves were so very moreish, but utterly, 100.0% delicious.

Overall I think the long running campaigns demanding the return of the Nestle Flipz (See HERE) can come to abrupt end because these Chocolate Swerves are even better. Comparing the products like-for-like, there obviously isn't much difference the pretzels, but when it comes to chocolate quality and standards of presentation, there is really only one winner - The Big Yum (just in case it wasn't bleedingly obvious haha!). Sweet and salty snacks are a combination that I love, and these Chocolate Swerves are a fine example of just how addictive the two together can be together. If you have any interest in reuniting yourself with the Nestle Flipz experience, or just plain fancy supporting a worthwhile UK small company then I suggest you head on over to The Big Yum website and buy yourself some Chocolate Swerves. These are some very, very tasty pretzels - well worthy of a ChocolateMission recommendation that's for sure.

8.6 out of 10

Saturday, 15 January 2011

January 15/16th: '7Days of Chocolate Reviews' - Edition 64

*** Jim's Corner ***

Hi All,

7 Days of Chocolate Reviews is back by popular demand and there is plenty to catch up on :D

Behind the scenes I have a few exciting things bubbling away including the ChocolateMission Awards 2010 (more on that in a minute!), a new 'Stars & Their Bars' post, some hot chocolate reviews, Valentines day 2011 reviews and even some new products from several of our favorite suppliers.

I will keep this section short this week as there are hundreds of news articles to post. Please make sure you check out the competition at the bottom.

Have great weekends

JIM


News from the Chocolate Market

* Cadbury are putting some money behind their hot chocolate Highlights range ... See HERE

* Cadbury are also bringing back their Creme Egg Muller Yogurts ... See HERE

* Nestle are bringing back the Aero Caramel aswell as the Orange bar ... See HERE

* Onken are bringing out a new chocolate yogurt ... See HERE

* Divine have revealed their Easter range ... See HERE

* Are you prepared for the new Snickers Maxximus ... See HERE

* The final bar of chocolate has rolled-off the production line at a Cadbury factory at Keynsham near Bristol ... See HERE

* Another factory closure ... this time Burtons are the sufferers ... See HERE

* You may have noticed that the Easter products have already been on the shelves for a month ... See HERE


**** COMPETITION ****

I need your help for the ChocolateMission awards 2010!!

Quite simply I need you to pick your favourite three reviews from 2010 and send me your selections to Jim[@]chocolatemission.net ... Please ensure you make the subject name of your e-mail 'AWARDS 2010'

Doing so will enter you into a prize draw for some Ritter Sport chocolate bars - (I will post a picture of the prize next week).

This competition couldn't be easier to enter and is open to all readers. The winner will be announced on the award post itself.

Good Luck


Blogs I have been reading this week

* The Impulsive Buy - Drew, a new write at TIB checked out this new Special K cereal ... he must be a January dieter ... See HERE

* Foodstufffinds - Liz is as busy as ever hunting down the latest snacks and foods. I really enjoyed this review of this 'Saucy Fish Co' Salmon product ... See HERE

* ChocolateReviews - Lee has been checking out some more chilli chocolates from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm ... See HERE

* CandyBlog - Cybele posted a long over due review on our very own Mars Delight ... See HERE

* Foodette Reviews - It looks like these guys need to take some tips from Heavenly Cakes when it comes to gluten free cakes ... See HERE

* Gone Chocco - There have been plenty of Moser Roth reviews on Gone Chocco this week. How on earth did they all make their way to Australia?? ... See HERE

Friday, 14 January 2011

January 14th: Thorntons Premium Collection

In last weeks review of Thorntons Chocolate Collection selection box it was suggested to me by a number of ChocolateMission readers that I take a look at the Thorntons Premium Collection. This box of chocolates seems to have been a popular gifted item last Christmas, as a number of readers reported receiving the collection in one form or another.

For the purpose of this review I picked up the 105.0g pack from my local convenience store. For a product billed as the 'Premium' brand offering I was somewhat disappointed to find it on sale in this channel. I would of thought they would have been better off saving this line of products as an exclusive to their own branded stores - this would certainly have given it some aire of prestige other than the higher price.

In regards to presentation, I was again a little mystified to what I found. The outer box was reasonably inviting and informative, but the care taken to preserve the inner chocolates was sloppy. The chocolates themselves looked decent and relatively smart, though this was little helped by the fact they were all mixed together in a tatty looking clear plastic packet. Within the collection there were eight different pieces - my brief thoughts and ratings are below:

Vanilla Velvet - One of the more exciting pieces in the selection turned out to be rather dull flavour wise which came as a real disappointment. The outer crisp shell of white and dark chocolate initially established a pleasant cream based taste, but this was a poorly built upon by the very lacklustre flavoured sugary truffle centre. Poor.

Cafe Latte - The outer shell of white chocolate sprinkled with ground coffee acted as a nice lead in the coffee flavoured filling and established pleasant tones of dairy cream. The Latte name for this truffle proved to be a very accurate one, as the coffee flavours were tasty, but mild mannered amongst the sweeter cocoa hints that developed. Good.

Amaretto Truffle - I wasn't expecting this at all, but this was my favourite piece in the collection. The thick outer portion contained crunchy bits of amaretto biscuit which contrasted wonderfully with the softer filling. The inner almond and booze flavoured centre was weak, but spot on for my own taste. Some may question it's strength of alcoholic flavours, but I loved it. Very Good.

Dark Champagne Truffle - This was a very average champagne truffle that did it's job, although in a very unspectacular fashion. The exterior layer of dark chocolate was more unsweetened rather than raised in cocoa volume, but it did it's job nonetheless and created a decent amount of chocolatey flavours. The filling below had a boozie tartness to it that was reminiscent of champagne, however the chocolate flavours were there more dominant. Standard.

Chocolate Marquise - This was a truffle that had some good ideas, yet executed them to an average standard. The on pack description stated this piece was to have a layer of layer of crepes, but this was nowhere to be found. Instead small crunchy pieces of pancake were dispersed throughout the light textured truffle centre, which subsequently left them having little impact on the taste. The chocolatey taste created was sound but unprogressive. Standard.

Dual Layered Praline - The sound of white and milk chocolate praline together in one chocolate sounded very ambitious, but I'm glad to say they didn't do a half bad job of making it happen. The milk chocolate shell was fine for what it did, but it was the woody hazelnut flavours of first the milk, and then the creamier nut flavours of the while praline that dominated the taste. At last a chocolate with real flavour progression. Very Good.

Framboise Ganache - One of the surprises from the last Thorntons Chocolate Selection review was that I enjoyed the strawberry fondant piece in that selection, and this raspberry truffle wasn't half bas either. The sweet red fruit flavours were evident from the outset, but were thankfully quite mild mannered and avoided the fake tasting sugaryness that plagues so many other fruit flavoured chocolates. The dark chocolate could be improved but this was ultimately enjoyable. Good.

Triple Chocolate Mousse - This truffle created the most luxurious of mouth feel journeys. Starting with the crisp, thick outer layer of chocolate, the chocolate sprinkles placed on top further added an extra snap to the bite which complimented the soft whipped feel of the inner ganache below. My only disappointment with this truffle was that it failed to progress the flavours of the sweet cocoa and milk from what was established in the mouth in the first few seconds. Good.


Overall this Premium Collection was definitely a step up in quality from the Thorntons Chocolate Selection I reviewed last week, but it certainly wasn't without it's faults. As with most selection boxes there were still one or two weaker pieces, (namely the Vanilla Velvet) mixed in with the better offerings, but on the whole there were some pretty nice chocolates in this selection. What frustrated me a little bit about some of these pieces was that many of them had some really great ideas that could have been even better had they totally delivered on how they had been billed. Another slight annoyance for me is that the collection is labelled as 'Premiuim' - I don't know what other people may think, but to name a chocolate selection 'Premium' and then have it on sale everywhere (and I mean everywhere!!), in a slightly sloppy presentation style, isn't a great way to establish a premium brand offering. There are better boxed chocolates out there, but these are far from a horror show.

7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

January 12th: Ritter Sport Alpensahne Praline

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

Sad as this sounds I'm starting to associate the turn of each season more with the anticipation of seeing what the new limited edition Ritter Sport flavours are going to be rather than when the weather is going to take a turn for the better :D My previous dedication in reviewing all of these flavours seems to have not been overlooked by the Ritter team in Germany, as they recently invited me to join their esteemed tasting panel. Without having to think for one second, I of course accepted their kind offer. Today I have the pleasure in bringing you my review of one of the bars they have lined up for the Spring season this year, the Ritter Sport Alpensahne Praline.

This bar came described on the packaging as 'Alpine milk chocolate with praline creme'. Those of you who know your Ritter Sport will be all to aware that Ritter currently have a praline bar available in their existing range (See HERE). When I probed Ritter about the actual differences I was informed that this new spring bar was supposed to 'create the experience of praline truffles in a convenient bar format'. This didn't really answer my original question but that wasn't ever going to stop me trying it anyway :D

As the bar was only delivered to me in prototype form it would be unfair to comment to much on the packaging. By the looks of the stick on label it appears they are sticking with the attractive looking design from last year. In terms of looks the bar looked slightly differentiated from the normal praline bar in that the filling was lighter in colour, which I thought actually looked better than the single toned original bar. When it came to the taste test there were also minor discrepancies again originating from the praline constituents. Flavour wise the creme of the latest spring variant was milkier and smoother in taste and texture to the original. The hazelnut flavours were still exhibited to a functional degree, though the creamier taste and softer texture of the Spring 2011 bar did create a trade off between it's more desirable creamyness and it's short lived flavour longevity .... some might just say I was thinking about this all too much :D

Overall I don't think this is going to be one of the Ritter flavours that sets anyone's world alight in terms of it's innovation claim stakes, but there is no doubting that it is one very tasty offering. As I have insinuated above, the differences between the two bars praline bars they now offer are minimal to say the least. Aesthetically and in taste they might differ marginally, but if we are being totally honest I think 99.0% of people would struggle to tell the two apart - especially if they weren't aware of any differences originally. The level of 'new thinking' may be somewhat limited here, but there is no doubting the quality of the chocolate. The Germans really do seem to know what they are doing when it comes to creating praline chocolates. This is just another fine example of their capabilities.

8.4 out of 10

Monday, 10 January 2011

January 10th: GU Cookies

Today I have the great pleasure of bringing you a double product review from the renowned dessert manufacture GU. Apologies to all of you trying desperately to stick to your January diets, but come on - what were you really expecting on a website such as this one :D

Back in October 2010 I posted a news article from The Grocer magazine which talked about GU's portfolio expansion with them launching a range of Cookies (See HERE). Described as adding 'some adult appeal to a category dominated by own-label and confectionery brands, such as Rolo and Smarties', I thought this sounded like a half decent idea, however I was then disappointed to read they were only going to be made available in Asda - Boo!!!

Just last week though, low and behold I found both these Caramel & Milk Chocolate and Ultimate Chocolate GU cookies gracing the shelves of my local Tesco - one came only assume that this exclusivity to Asda was just for a few months only. Anyway, £2.00 of my cash bought me a pack of two different flavours - my thoughts on them are below.

GU Cookies Milk Chocolate & CaramelKcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
'American-style cookies with chunks of chocolate and caramel'


These were the first I sampled out of the two and I was loving the fresh cookie and toffee smells that emanated from the bag when I opened it. Aesthetically the cookies were a touch pale, possibly a little under baked, but they were still pretty impressive and looked to have a decent amount of caramel and milk chocolate pieces dispersed throughout.

Texture wise these were very decent cookies and had a delightful fresh softness that yielded instantly and melted like butter in the mouth. A consequence of the cookie softness was that the flavour longevity wasn't particularly long lasting, though the limited time they did last in the mouth the flavours generated were altogether very pleasant. The base flavour generation of the cookie was predominantly dominated by a buttery shortbread biscuit taste that was enhanced by the slightest of salty hints. Where present the chocolate and caramel chunks added further interest to the experience, offering bursts of cocoa and brown sugar toffee suggestions. A whole cookie was a satisfying snack, but I was expecting that given it's size.

8.0 out of 10


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GU Cookies Ultimate Chocolate

Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???
'American-style cookies with chunks of rich chocolate'


Judging by the limited stock left on the shelf at the time, it would appear that these Ultimate Chocolate cookies were the better selling variant out of the two. In proposition and looks I personally thought they were the less appealing out of the two I'm showing you today. Don't get me wrong the cookies still smelt gorgeous and looked appealing, however I was disappointed to see that GU hadn't chosen to use two different chocolate types (e.g. milk chocolate base, white chocolate chunks etc), which I think would have made them look even more attractive.

When it came to the taste test the cookies were every bit as soft as the caramel variant, and additionally had even larger chocolate chunks to add weight to the light, crumbly cookie base. As promised on the front of pack, the chocolate taste was indeed rich, and took hold of the buttery, shortbread flavours a little more than the caramel cookies. The chocolate flavour hit was delivered with a keen sharpness and in a more satisfying sustained manner, but the flavour progression was perhaps a little limited and in need of an added x-factor like say a nut, to make it truly special.

8.1 out of 10


----------

Overall I thought these were very decent cookies but I wouldn't say they were quite there in regards to being rated as highly as the likes of Heavenly Cakes. One thing I do know for sure is that they were more to my liking than than usual supermarket own brand offerings, which I tend to find overly sugar laden and sickly. Judging by the taste I would suggest that the quality of ingredients is far superior to the supermarket cookies - I guess this is reflected in the price. Neither of these were by any means perfect, but I would buy them again and would happily suggest you guys give them a try.
 

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