November 30th: Bits n Bobs November 2012

Welcome to my monthly 'Bits n Bobs' post where you will find some mini-reviews of some of the products I didn't feel quite justified a full JCM seeing to. Below you will see some of the latest releases from the likes of Burton's, Nestle (thanks @CybercandyLTD!!), McVitie's and Lindt.

Nestle Smarties Vice Versa (Canada)
Kcal 245 Fat 9.0g Fat(sats) 6.0g Carbs 37.0g (per 50.0g)

Huh!? Nestle Vice Versas???? Didn't you just review them last month I hear you ask!? Well my observant JCM readers you are correct! I did indeed review the recently re-released Nestle Vice Versas here in the UK - See HERE. What I have for you today though is a real treat, and it comes courtesy of my pals @CybercandyLtd who sent me these Canadian sourced Nestle Smarties Vice Versa - you can buy them on their site ya know ;-) - HERE. We all know I like to be thorough when it comes to my chocolate reviewing, so despite my not so great UK product experience, reviewing the Canadian sourced Vice Versa was an opportunity I didn't want turn down.

Lets start with the differences - Canadian vs UK. The first obvious disparity was the branding. The Canadian chocolates carried heavy reference to the Smarties parent brand and if you look really closely drop the last 's' in the Vice Versas name. Moving swiftly on to more important matters, the chocolates inside the packet were totally different to the current UK Vice Versas. Indeed it soon became apparent that these Canadian Vice Versa were a whole lot closer to the old style Vice Versas we used to get here in the UK back in the day. The candy shells were a lot thinner and the two chocolate types far more differentiated. The white chocolate had more of a sweet dried milk driven flavouring and there was a touch of vanilla on offer when eaten in isolation from the bolder tasting milk chocolate pieces. The chocolate quality was nothing more than average but by the time I had finished the 50.0g bag I felt they had provided a sufficient chocolatey snack. These Canadian Vice Vera weren't anything too special, but those unsatisfied by the current UK ones will certainly get their nostalgia fill from them.

7.0 out of 10

Rocky Fizzy Cola
Kcal 111 Fat 5.9g Fat(sats) 3.5g Carbs 13.2g (per biscuit)

Over the last few months I've brought you all a couple of reviews of Burton's new Rocky Chockas range (See HERE). Those biscuits are a line extension of the traditional Rocky's biscuit bars, a range that has seen very limited innovation down the years (See HERE). That was until now of course, and following suit with most other brands in the biscuit bar sector, Burton's have seen fit to produce their own limited edition offering for Rocky, the intriguing sounding Fizzy Cola bars. I found these on sale in Tesco on a half price £0.74 deal for a 174.0g, 9 bar multipack. They came described as 'shortcake biscuit with cola flavour cream fully coated in milk chocolate' - this unique proposition got my attention from the get go!

Aesthetically nothing about the bars looked untoward, and one would have easily have mistaken them for one of the original Rockys had they been none the wiser. The taste however was a different matter altogether. Unique? ... yes .....Cola flavoured? ... somewhat .... To my liking ... unfortunately not! Indeed I'm afraid to say I didn't particularly like these. The biscuit and milk chocolate elements were as expected, however the cola cream was not at all what I wanted from such a snack. In my opinion the cream was too aggressive in its 'cola' flavour and it created a sour, excessively cheap, sweet taste that reminded me of the god awful cola flavoured Hubba-Bubba bubblegum I used to chew as a kid. Credit where credit is due, it was nice to see Burton's trying something a little different, but by my estimation it wasn't a successful experiment that paid off. I most certainly wont be buying these again and I cant recommend you do either.

4.4 out of 10

McVitie's Dessert Temptations Banoffee Cake Bars
Kcal 144 Fat 7.4g Fat(sats) 3.8g Carbs(sugars) 13.7g (per bar)

My non-stop observing of my local supermarket shelves most recently led me in the direction of these new  McVitie's Dessert Temptations Banoffee Cake Bars. These Banoffee themed bars are one of three flavours that form this new range and came billed as 'sponge cake topped with a banana flavoured creme, a layer of toffee sauce, covered in milk chocolate'. The other two flavours, which I may review at some later date, were also present on the shelf, though it was this banana flavour that sounded liked the most exciting. I'm sure this wont come as much of a surprise, but I did indeed find these on an introductory £1.00 offer. At £0.20 a bar I thought that represented good value for money.

I hope my photo does it justice, but just in case it hasn't I must pass mention at just how inviting these cakes looked. As you will see in my cross-section both the layer of banana cream and toffee sauce were both very generously portioned and this was something that carried through to the taste. The base layer of vanilla flavoured cake and coating of milk chocolate were neither anything out of the norm though they did a nice enough job of carrying the inner fillings. Although visibly separated it was how the two combined which for me made these cakes a little bit special. The banana flavours were fruity and forthcoming (non-synthetic!!) and the toffee sauce delivered a well rounded butterscotch taste. I only seldom buy cake bars other than for reviews but I would happily buy another pack of these if I was craving a banana flavoured snack - worth checking out!

8.2 out of 10  

Lindt Lindor Milk Chocolate Bar
Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Who doesn't love the odd Lindt Lindor truffle!? When it comes to everyday chocolates that you can buy in any old supermarket etc I think Lindor are one of the better options to go for if you are after an affordable box of chocolate truffles. Over the last five years I've managed to sample tons of different Lindor flavours ranging from the plain milk chocolate (See HERE) to the more obscure Stratiacella flavour (See HERE). Last August you may recall I even reviewed the Lindt Lindor Milk - a 150.0g bar format of the wonderful Lindor range (See HERE). New for Q3 2012, Lindt have seen fit to further increase their portfolio with the introduction of a smaller 38.0g bar offering.

I found this bar on sale in my local newsagent store where it was retailing for £0.69. Compared to other bars of similar size this was a little on the more expensive side, though the smart looking wrapper did at least look very premium and justified the price somewhat. The bar was long and thin and was divided into 6 separate blocks that were just about the correct size to consume in one. The milk chocolate was of the standard I expected and had a sweet cocoa taste with a very crisp, fresh tasting milky undertone. According to the wrapper these blocks of milk chocolate contained 'a smooth melting filling' to give the Lindor effect. Unfortunately I found the truffle sensation was almost completely lost - nowhere near as significant as the normal Lindor truffles. This for me was a big disappointment and I couldn't help but feel just a little cheated out of my promised Lindor experience. This bar tasted absolutely fine but I'm not sure I would buy this bar again due to the Lindor aspect not being totally delivered on.

7.1 out of 10

November 28th: Christmas 2012 Advent Calendars

In just 3 days time chocolate fans around the globe will be waking up with big smiles on their faces. Why the smiles!? Well of course it is the first day of the final month of the year - indeed believe it or not December will be soon upon us and that means just one thing - ADVENT CALENDARS-A-GO-GO!!!!!

Many a ChocolateMission fan has requested I review advent calendars before but I'm afraid I'm traditionalist and I cant bring myself to open one up before the date is due. However, what I am happy to do is to share what advent calendars we decided to go for here at ChocolateMission HQ! To be honest with you here at ChocolateMission we got sent a lot of different calendars so I've just selected what I think are the 'Best of British' and also 'Best of the rest(of the world!!)'.

This Hotel Chocolat The White Advent Calendar is a beautiful looking thing I have to say! The 125.0g calendar contains 24 Christmas themed white chocolate shapes - Christmas Trees, Santa, Reindeers ... you name it, they are all here! At £12.00 its a little more expensive than your average calendar but if you are a white chocolate fan willing to push the boat then this has to be a sure fire winner. Buy HERE.

The Hotel Chocolat calendar is very cool, but this Ritter Sport one is seriously, seriously awesome! This 400.0g calendar contains 24 mini sized Ritter Sport chocolates squares and is made up of 12 different flavours including many favourites: marzipan, milk chocolate, white chocolate, yogurt ,chocolate cornflakes - essentially all the good ones. Seeing which of these varieties we get each morning is certainly going to be entertaining and at € 8.99 value for money is going to be no issue! Buy HERE.

In a few days time I will post some pictures of what lay behind some of the doors! Make sure you let me know what calendar(s) you have this year over on twitter - @Chocmission

November 26th: Artisan du Chocolat Northern Star

Ladies and gentlemen it is now under one month until Christmas Day - scary huh!? Well don't worry yourselves too much! I have you all covered when it comes to chocolate gifts this Christmas. My comprehensive run down of what is great and good this year continues today with me checking out this Artisan du Chocolat Northern Star. You may recall a few weeks ago that I reviewed AdC's amazing Artisan du Chocolat Gingerbread Chocolate House and thought it was absolutely exceptional. Well their standards have now been set so they had a lot to live up to with their Artisan du Chocolat Northern Star tree decoration product.

The Northern Star is a 200.0g mix of macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, praline rochers, ginger, apple, orange, strawberries and raspberries pieces. All of these multiple different fruits and nuts come   covered in different chocolate types - white, dark and of course milk chocolate. The transparent plastic packaging was perhaps understated compared to the Gingerbread Chocolate House, though I thought it was fit for purpose as it allowed the impressive visual of all the different chocolate coated pieces to be displayed in full view. Another thing that didn't fail to grab my attention were the gorgeous array of fruity, spicy, nutty chocolate scents that emanated from the box - this certainly had promise.
Doing the taste testing for this product was certainly fun as it was really a case of chocolate covered fruit and nut roulette :-) Indeed without a menu to guide I was left to my own devices when it came to   finding out what was what. I guess that might be somewhat annoying if you are aware there is something in the mix you don't like, but personally since this wasn't an issue I was more than happy pouring myself small handfuls and enjoying the contents like that. The pieces I found myself enjoying the most were the milk chocolate brazils, pistachios, praline truffle bits and dark chocolate coated ginger. The orange and strawberry fruit pieces were also highly notable but I thought the nuts were just on a different levels as they were so crunchy fresh and their savoury, salty flavours complimented the sweet, creamy chocolates perfectly. One handful soon led to two, then five, then ten :-) The mix was just epically moreish.

Overall I would love to recommend this as a fantastic tree decoration but I'm afraid I just cannot do that :-) The reason I say this is not because this is a bad product - oh no! Much the opposite in fact! Trust me this Artisan du Chocolat Northern Star wont last two seconds on your tree! This mix of chocolate covered fruits and nuts is just way too tasty to last any amount of time to be considered a tree ornament. If you are disciplined enough to keep the selection unopened then you may be ok, but the minute you open it I suggest it wont be long before you find yourself asking the question - 'where did it all disappear to!?'. I think you will seriously struggle finding fruit and nut mixes covered in chocolate as high quality as this.  My tip - is don't buy one!? buy five!! Yet another for the Christmas wishlist!

8.4 out of 10

Chocolate in Las Vegas

I hope you are all enjoyed the reviews this week. I do try my best to cover all of the best chocolates from around the globe - on Monday the Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creation Jelly & Crunchie Bits bar from Australia - See HERE, the Kit Kat Chunkys from Bulgaria - See HERE and of course Friday my review of the UK's own Hotel Chocolat's Earl Grey Canapes - See HERE.

Speaking of chocolates from abroad I recently had a friend of the site (name Jess) contact me asking me whether I would like to share her top 5 chocolate and candy stores she found during her visit to Las Vegas earlier this month. Whilst getting around Vegas she came across these fine establishments. I've included some details below on what they have to offer ...

1. Sugar Factory
In her own words Jess said "This was the place that keep your local dentist in work" :) :) "The Sugar Factory flagship retail location is a sweet-lovers’ dream filled with 6,000 square-feet of delectable treats, scrumptious chocolates, and an incredible array of candy-inspired apparel and novelty items."

2. Jean Philippe
Jean Philippe P√Ętisserie offers gourmet chocolates and candies. Their chocolate shop at the Bellagio features the "world’s tallest chocolate fountain". Supposedly it is "a sight to behold for any chocolate lover".

3. M&M’s World
Jess loves M&M's so she was in chocolate heaven here. M&M's World Las Vegas is located in the Showcase Mal and features a rainbow wall filled with 22 M&M’s colors, a huge retail area and a candy making station where you can personalize your M&M’s with a message.

4. Godiva shop
Jess said she did most of her Christmas chocolate shopping here. From what I know Godiva make very posh, expensive chocolates and the few products I've tried from them have been exceptional - See HERE. Jess said there were several of their stores in and around Boulevard.

5. Vosges
Jess said she didn't have much of a chance to look around in here but she said some of the chocolates looked 'interesting'. I've not managed to try any of their chocolate yet but I hear that their Mo’s Bacon Bar (a chocolate bar filled with bacon bits) is absolutely superb ... that must have been the one she was on about ;)

Do you have an international chocolate experience to share? Contact me on twitter @ChocMission and I will share it with the rest of the ChocolateMission following.

November 23rd: Hotel Chocolat Canapes 50% Milk Chocolate with Earl Grey Tea

Kcal 263 Fat 19.0g Fat(sats) 12.0g Carbs 18.0g (per 47.0g - 9 canapes)

My pals at Hotel Chocolat have been feeling a little left out as of late so they got in contact last week offering me the chance to try some of the new additions to their chocolate Canapes range. I wont be doing anti-Brit stereotypes any favours by saying this, but I was instantly drawn towards this 50% Milk Chocolate with Earl Grey flavour given my partialness to a warm 'cuppa'. For those unaware Earl Grey is is a 'tea blend with a distinctive flavour and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit' (Thanks WIKI). I usually choose more traditional tea blends, however I have been known to vary up my afternoon tea routine with the odd Earl Grey.

These canapes came in a 95.0g box that contained 18 chocolate pieces. The style of packaging and design were not something I have seen before from Hotel Chocolat. I liked it, though it did remind me of a certain Thorntons Metropolitan chocolate box I reviewed a few years (See HERE). The canapes chocolates didn't look particularly special to the immediate eye with very basic pattern work. The smells that emanated from the box however did have a little something special about them, although it was more fragrant spices than traditional Early Grey scents.

With Hotel Chocolat 50% milk chocolate on offer I was convinced from the outset these were never going to be a disaster and my confidence was well founded. The 50% cocoa recipe made for a milk chocolate that was a little less sugary than most traditional milk offerings, though the underlying milky creamyness still maintained it at a 'sensible' level of sweetness for your average consumer. The Earl Grey element really came in to play both taste and texture wise during the latter stages of the melt development. At this point I could detect tiny granular pieces that would indeed turn out to be authentic ground Earl Grey. It was upon discovery of these that the chocolate developed a very noticeable floral, fruity aftertaste that left a lasting, longing flavour stamp in the mouth. The all new nutritional information stated 9 canapes as a serving but I felt more than satisfied with my chocolate hit after 3 or 4.

Overall these Hotel Chocolat Canapes 50% Milk Chocolate with Earl Grey Tea haven't convinced me that Earl Grey tea should have presence in all milk chocolate I eat going forward but I don't think for one minute that was ever Hotel Chocolat's intention. As noted on the outer packaging these are chocolates for entertaining purposes - to create a nice alternative for after dinner parties etc. Judged in that sense I think these are a very accomplished set of chocolates and I would have no qualms myself serving them up for that aforementioned occasion. The Earl Grey team element is delivered to it's greatest potential and those who are partial to that tea blend will for sure get a lot of enjoyment out of these. These Earl Grey flavoured canapes are just one of a whole new set of variations to the Canapes range - I suggest you head on over to Hotel Chocolat to see the others. If you have any requests you know where to find me - @ChocMission

8.0 out of 10

November 21st: Kit Kat Chunky White / Hazelnut Cream / Caramel

I think I could almost start my own separate mini-site given the amount of different Kit Kats I have tried in the last five years. I don't think I have made much of a secret of the fact that Kit Kats are one of my favourite chocolates and my search to find the worlds best has seen me try bars from the most unlikely of places. Off the top of my head I can think of the UK, US, Australia, Japan, Germany all having a stab at the JCM scoring system so far. Today I was giving a chance to these three Bulgarian produced White, Hazelnut Cream and Caramel Chunky offerings. All were slightly smaller 42.0g bars vs standard 48.0g UK Chunkys. As you can see from my pictures apart from being a little flatter they looked no different to our UK bars.

Kit Kat Chunky White (Bulgaria)
Kcal ??? Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs ???

Back In January this year we had a Kit Kat competition here in the UK pitting four Chunky flavours up against one another to determine one winner to stay part of the permanent range (See HERE). Out of the selection my preference lay with the eventual winner Peanut Butter, though it has to be said that I was caught by surprise as to how much I liked the White Chocolate Chunky on offer. As it came second that bar is sadly now gone from UK distribution but I was hoping that this Bulgarian one might satisfy my craving for one. Unfortunately I have to report that it didn't live up to it's UK sibling, with neither the chocolate or wafer constituents matching up. The chocolate was more of a sugar fest offering and lacked the milky creamyness of the bar I tried earlier this year. The wafer was also blander in it's wheat flavours and was also not as crunchy or crisp to the bite. By the end of the third block I had that horrible throart burning sensation building up at the back of my throat. This one was definitely disappointing.

6.6 out of 10

Kit Kat Chunky Hazelnut Cream (Bulgaria)
Kcal 227 Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs 25.3g (per bar)

I normally do the whole 'save the best until last' thing but as you will see above and below this would have been a very negative review of Bulgarian Kit Kats had I left it until then. Luckily I do have good things to say about this Kit Kat Chunky Hazelnut Cream as this was a bar I really did like. Unsealing the wrapper I was immediately confronted with some strong hazelnut scents so I thought this one was going to have promise from the outset. Sat above the wafer in the traditional Kit Kat Chunky filling placement, the hazelnut cream filling delivered everything I wanted it to and even the same lacklusture wafer as described in the white above couldn't spoil it. Indeed the hazelnut tones added a delightful woody nuttyness to the sweet milk chocolate and the savory element to the nutty taste not only tempered the sweetness but also made a delightfully contrastive set of flavours. Unlike a lot of hazelnut flavoured mass produced chocolates this was an unreserved nutty offering - imagine a Kinder Bueno style Kit Kat and you wouldn't be far off what you get here. I would buy this one again in an instant.

8.5 out of 10

Kit Kat Chunky Caramel (Bulgaria)
Kcal 227 Fat ??? Fat(sats) ??? Carbs 25.1g (per bar)

The Kit Kat Caramel Chunky is bar that has split my opinion down the years. From our awful UK bar (See HERE) to the fantastic Australian (See HERE) the quality varies considerably from country to country. The main reason for this tends to be whether Nestle decide to use their gooey caramel, or caramel cream filling. Sadly I have to report they went for the latter in Bulgaria - Boooo!!!! Boo, indeed! This bar wasn't by all accounts a smaller version of the one we get here in the UK. The caramel cream looked the same and unfortunately tasted the same with the sugar intensiveness set to maximum. The bland, soft wafer and generic Nestle milk chocolate didn't make matters any better, but at the end of the day it was the heavy brown sugar like influence of the damn caramel filling that made this a bar I certainly could have lived without. This bar simply served as a timely reminder to just how awesome the Aussie one was and how our UK (and Bulgarian so it seems!) Chunky Caramel pale in comparison. Suffice to say I wouldn't buy this one again and I wouldn't suggest you bother either.

6.9 out of 10

Overall the Caramel and White offerings were both disappointing as they were either equally bad or worse that the Kit Kat Chunkys we had/do have here in Britain. Fans of bars like the Kinder Bueno and Ferrero Rocher will want to check out the Hazelnut Cream as it does a very similar job of creating a decent nutty offering for the mass produced consumer market. Bulgaria is now officially ticked off the JCM Kit Kat list :-)

November 19th: Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations Jelly & Crunchie Bits

 Kcal 252 Fat 12.2g Fat(sats) 7.5g Carbs 32.0g (per bar)

2012 has been a very busy year for Cadbury here in the UK and we have literally been bombarded with new products left, right and centre. Taking a look further afield it appears that the British market isn't the only one to have seen some NPD by the folks at Joyville. My pals @CybercandyLtd were recently kind enough to give me the chance of seeing what has been going down in Australia - namely the new Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations range! According to a Cadbury spokesperson in Aus, this new range would bring a 'combination of extraordinary ingredients and delicious flavours ... we know Marvellous Creations will surprise and delight anyone who loves chocolate'.

To my knowledge this Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations product line is available in two size formats - the 290.0g/300.0g bars and the 50.0g bars (the ones currently being stock at Cybercandy). There are currently three different flavours in the range - today I got to try the Jelly & Crunchie Bits variety. In hand the bar felt very chunky and I liked the fact that it came in the same matted, plastic foil material that all of our Dairy Milk bars here are packaged in. The decoration of the wrapper was very cool - full of colour, fanfare and altogether just very fun and exciting to look at.

The 50.0g bar was split in to six sizeable chunks that had very obvious jelly sweet pieces and crunchie bits disperesed throughout. The chocolate smelt very Cadbury esq - the dairy smells were on full offer, whilst there was also a small indicative hints of red fruit gummy sweets evident. Placing the first block in my mouth I was immediatedly met with a very familiar set of sweet Dairy Milk milk chocolate flavours. The melt was a little thinner compared to our UK stuff, but for the main part everything was standard Dairy Milk with its sweet well rounded creamy cocoa flavours establishing a very milk based taste. As the melt developed the jelly pieces became very apparent bringing a wave of sugary, turkish-delight like sweet flavours to the party. These flavours then remained for the totality of the experience as the slow melting gummy sweet texture outlasted the developing chocolate to leave the chewy pieces on my tongue once it had melted away. The crunchie pieces I'm afraid were very much an afterthought flavour wise, but they did bring intermittent crunchy texture bites which were a pleasant contrast. This was a very satisfying chocolate and the 50.0g felt like a very substantial amount when eaten in it's entirety.

Overall I felt like this new Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations Jelly & Crunchie Bits certainly lived up to its name - a Marvellous Creation. It's not a chocolate that I would attribute with chocolatier excellency, but its one that is a little 'outside the box' and off the top of my head I can't recall another mass produced offerng that offers anything quite like it. I have tried Australian Cadbury products before that have used jelly sweet pieces (see Cadbury Dairy Milk Black Forest - HERE), however this was the first one that also brought the added extra Crunchie bits element which created a great variety of textures with the smooth melting chocolate and chewy jelly sweets. I'm sure many of the countries outside the UK have been jealously looking at the amount of new products we have got this year. The Australians and Kiwis should at least feel content with thier new Marvellous Creations bars if this one is indicative of the rest of the range.

8.6 out of 10

November 16th: Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Mulled Wine

Like London buses we have no ChocolateMission drink reviews for months and then two come along at once :-) Indeed building on my Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur review from last Friday I today bring you my thoughts on one of Hotel Chocolat's newest products for their Christmas 2012 range, their Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Mulled Wine Sachets.

Before I launch into my review today I would like to give you the heads up that I am by no means a wine conniseur - far from it in fact!! My expertise in the field of wine is probably equivalent to that of a vegan judging a steak competition so please bare this in mind before taking my review too seriously.

That said I did this all properly and I can assure you there were no corners cut short when it came to making my batch of mulled wine. As you can see from the photos the contents of the Hotel Chocolat pouch contained 3 teabag like sachets. These pouches smelt so good and immediately set a festive tone with scents of fruits and spices ever forthcomig.  

To make the wine I combined the pouches with a bottle of wine into a large pan and brought the liquid to the point of simmering. At this point I then stirred in a few tablespoons of sugar to sweeten the taste and then left it on the heat for a further 5 minutes. I then removed the pan from the hob and left the wine to stand for 10 minutes. After this I then removed the sachets from the pan and poured my wine back into the bottle (via my trust pyrex jug!) and left it to further stand for a few hours.

Later that evening I then poured a large glass back into the pan to re-heat before serving - finally I got around tasting it. As I said above I'm no wine expert so please take these next few comments with a very large pinch of salt - I liked what I tasted! Before I made up the mulled wine I tasted it 'straight' so I could ascertain what these sachets were bringing to the table. Comparing the two the mulled wine was far sweeter, and had elements of warming spices, zesty fruits and yes indeed chocolate ! To be more specific the main influences on the taste were cinnamon, ginger, orange and cocoa. I could unfortunately also detect a hint of cloves, though in the myriad of different flavours it wasn't a deal breaker in terms of my enjoyment.

Overall I would classify my first ever attempt at mulled wine as successful though I'm not sure it is a process that I'm keen on repeating anytime soon. In terms of the effort required to make the drink with the eventual payoff, personally speaking it didn't do enough for me to convince me that it was worth all the faff. That said if I wanted to make a special drink for friends or family at Christmas, these Hotel Chocolate Cocoa Mulled Wine Pouches would certainly be in my thoughts especially if I knew the audience were fans of chocolate (and who isn't!!). If you are planning on making mulled wine in the next week have a go making it with these and let me know what you think on Twitter @Chocmission - there must be some experts out there!

8.0 out of 10

November 14th: Artisan du Chocolat Gingerbread & Chocolate House

As you can imagine I am currently drowning in Christmas themed product samples from many a different company. As much as I'm enjoying working my way through them all, I have to admit that a lot of them are very similar - chocolate Santas, reindeers ... you get the picture. This however is not an accusation that can be shot at the product I'm reviewing today.

Indeed this Artisan du Chocolat Gingerbread & Chocolate House stood out the minute it came out the postage box. Having not seen it before I was instantly impressed with the quality of the packaging and presentation. The house was not built out of the flimsy cardboard material I expected - no this was a very purposely built, very well decorated house model that just oozed quality and class. Part of me felt terribly guilty disturbing the ribbon tied seal, though the prospect of the contents inside made me feel a lot more at ease once I had done so.
Contained within a big cellophane packet, milk and dark chocolate coated pieces of gingerbread honeycomb came in various different shapes and sizes. The label on the bottom of the product later informed me the total contents weighed 226.0g - despite the plentiful amount these unfortunately didn't last the test of time due to reasons that will soon become obvious :-)
Regrettably I shared these among friends and boy did we enjoy them. Each chunk had a thick layer out layer of milk or dark chocolate and both melted with divine smoothness and with a delightful thickness. Hidden below the chocolate, crunchy honeycomb textured pieces lay in wait and these were deliciously forthcoming with multiple different flavour influences. Within the Cadbury Crunchie like texture there were strong elements of honey, butter, vanilla, salt and sugar on offer. The gingerbread aspect was not to be forgotten though and the after taste was laden with spicy gingeryness that left a lasting, warming sensation in the mouth for longer after.

Overall I yet again have great pleasure saying what a tremendous product this was from Artisan du Chocolat. The quality of the total package from the decoration, chocolate and honeycomb, made this a  product I can see appealing to both young and old. The quality of the Gingerbread & Chocolate House model made it stand apart from the majority of the Christmas products I have reviewed in the last few weeks, whilst the quality of the honeycomb was second to none. Being a dark chocolate fanboy I obviously adored the dark chocolate pieces, though the milk chocolate were not far off with their sweeter, creamier taste. If you are buying Artisan du Chocolat for your nearest and dearest this year I would feel very confident with your selection here if it is this that you eventually choose.

9.1 out of 10

November 12th: Hotel Chocolat 2012 Christmas Bits n Bobs Part 1

Over the coming weeks Hotel Chocolat will be featuring very prominently in the ChocolateMission run up to Christmas. With the range as vast as ever this year Hotel Chocolat appear to have kept the good and expanded further with some new chocolatey treats to have us all drooling. Today I bring you the first of my Hotel Chocolat 2012 Christmas Bits n Bobs.

Hotel Chocolat Yule Buche Hazelnut & Ginger

Hotel Chocolat have been making these gianduja logs for a few years now, but for 2012 we have this new Yule Buche range. The Yule Buche line up comprises of several mini flavoured gianduja logs that they currently have sat under their 'stocking fillers' part of their website (See HERE).

The mini logs come in 35.0g sizes and are contained within transparent cellophane packets and plastic tray combos. The hazelnut and ginger variety I tried was extremely melty and messy when handled but I did think it looked nice aesthetically as both the hazelnut & ginger were clearly evident by their large visible chunks. Upon opening the packet gorgeous nutty, spicy smells emanated out I knew I was in for a treat and indeed I was. The 70% dark chocolate was ever its glorious self and with the finely milled hazelnuts contained within, an added element of delicious, woody butteryness enhanced the usual outstanding rich, earthy cocoa. The ginger influence at first did not seem as prominent, but as soon as the candied ginger fought its way through the thick melting gianduja its sweet spicy influence was mostly certainly felt and very welcomed. Love gianduja chocolates? Check out the Yule Buche line up!!

8.5 out of 10

Hotel Chocolat Alternative Mine Pies

Are they back for 2012?? You betcha they are!!! Check out my full review of them from last year - SEE HERE!!

Hotel Chocolat Gingerbread Men

Kcal 185 Fat 11.0g Fat(sats) 7.0g Carbs 20.0g (per 6 pieces - 32.5g)

One thing I've recently come to realise is that all of the Hotel Chocolat products that have nutritional information on them (n.b. which I always report when I can!!) are the ones that are also going to be available in the US. My American readers will be delighted to be informed that these all new Hotel Chocolat Gingerbread Men fall in to that category - 'spiced milk chocolate gingerbread men decorated with white chocolate' - Yum!

These solid milk chocoalate pieces came as a 65.0g pack that contained 12 pieces within. Straightaway I loved the gingerbread men concept by the look and presentation as I thought it was a fun and unique way of delivering the very christmassy flavour. Opening the box the ginger influence was immediately evident and I was straightaway reminded of sweet smelling, fresh ginger cake. Biting the arms, legs and heads of the cute looking gingerbread men was an act that at first left me with feelings of guilt :-) Funnily enough guilt became very much an afterthought as the delightful spicy chocolate soon took over my senses leaving me feeling nothing but sheer happyness. These milk chocolates were just gorgeous. Epically sweet and creamy, yet with strong cinnamon and ginger flavours that left a longing taste in the mouth for a great deal of time after the silky melt had been and gone. Hotel Chocolat Gingerbrad Men - double thumbs up!

9.0 out of 10


9th November: Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur

Happy Friday all!! To greet the weekend I have a post for you that is a little different to our traditional chocolate reviews! Indeed today I bring you my thoughts on a chocolate liqueur. This 70cl bottle was sent to me by my pals at Thorntons, and it came billed as 'chocolate flavoured cream liqueur made with Vodka at 17% alcohol'. I'm not much a drinker myself (I especially avoid spirits!), but I do like the odd social one or two :-)

In order to give this Thorntons offering a credible run on the ChocolateMission rating system I dusted down the scoring charts I used on my previous ChocolateMission hot chocolate project that I did a few years back. As you will see below the criteria now accommodates for 'drinkability' aka how pleasurable/easy it is to consume.
To make this a fair test I tried consuming this drink in a number of ways: firstly in 'shot' form, then as a long drink with added ice, and lastly poured over ice cream to my dessert an added wow factor. The latter of the three methods was definitely my favourite. Taste wise despite it's rather under powered alcoholic volume (17%), the vodka element was still subtly detectable and left a lasting warmth and liqueur taste in the mouth. Dangerously although the alcohol was identifiable, it always underlying a very creamy chocolate milk guise which meant that it was very smooth going down the hatchet and thus very, very drinkable.

Overall would I recommend it!? Hmmm I dunno it depends what floats your boat. If your a Bailey's drinker seeking alternatives it would be worthy of a look at. If you do treat yourself to a bottle I urge you to act sensibly :-) You will realise rather quickly that it is all to easy to get down you :-) It certainly has Christmas potential!!

7.7 out of 10

November 7th: Ritter Sport Lactose & Gluten Free Range 2012

From what I have gathered, Ritter Sport appear to be a brand that pride themselves on giving their customers what they want. Whether it be their large number of flavours, limited editions or multiple pack sizes they seem to cater for all tastes and occasions.

Despite being well aware of their keenness to provide for one and all, even I was surprised to see them launch such a niche new product line that I'm showing you today. As you will have obviously clocked by the title of the post, the latest range of bars to be developed by the Ritter folk in Germany  is the new Lactose and Gluten free range.

According to the Ritter site these bars 'use a slightly modified formulation of milk chocolate with a lactose content of less than 0.1 g/100g and noble Arriba cocoa from Ecuador'. The current range consists of two flavours: 'Milk Chocolate' & 'Milk Chocolate Hazelnut' - Here are my brief thoughts on them:

Ritter Sport Lactose Free Milk Chocolate
Kcal 557 Fat 35.0g Fat(sats) 21.0g Carbs 50.0g (per 100.0g)

The taste was less on the creamy side compared to normal Ritter milk chocolate and the after taste was not as long sustained as I tend to find their chocolates are. With that said in a blind taste test I think the majority of people would very much struggle to identify this as a chocolate with special dietary adapted ingredients.  It more than satisfied my chocolate thirst and the chocolate flavour hit was still well and truly there.

8.0 out 10

Ritter Sport Lactose Free Milk Chocolate Hazelnut
Kcal 573 Fat 41.2g Fat(sats) 17.5g Carbs 41.0g (per 100.0g)

I think we all know what a proponent I am of nutty Ritter Sport chocolates so quelle surprise I've given this one a slightly higher rating. My reasoning!? Why the gorgeously divine whole hazelnut pieces of course! As ever they were plump, fresh and amazingly forthcoming in woody, savoury nut flavours. Again the chocolate wasn't as creamy as usual, however all could be forgiven what with prestige of the hazelnuts.

8.2 out of 10

Overall I was very impressed with this lactose and gluten free range and would have no qualms whatsoever recommending it to anyone who suffers from those dietary limitations. I think this review is best ended by the reaction my lactose intolerant work colleague gave to me when he tried them 'they taste great - you cant taste any the difference'. That says it all really doesn't it! Bravo Ritter Sport, the lactose and gluten free community salute you.