Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Oppo Ice Cream: Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

Lot-O-Choc is meant to be a site purely for chocolate reviews; but if there's a product that catches our eye and although it may not be 'chocolate' in the normal sense, contains chocolate in some way,shape or form then we are quite happy to review it, especially if it as delicious as what we are about to talk about...

Oppo Ice Cream : Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

Rewind a couple of months ago, I was sitting at work when a colleague of mine briefly mentioned in passing conversation about an ice cream brand he had encountered, whilst at a nutrition seminar, which had less calories per serving than an apple! Being the massive gym fiend, avid nutritionist but also sweet toothaholic that I am I was intrigued to learn more. This ice cream brand he so briefly mentioned, was Oppo ice cream, set up by a couple of brothers they've recently launched 3 ice cream flavours into Waitrose stores and online via Ocado - per tub they average around 375-400kcal and per serving around 70-80kcal, in my mind, this meant that it was completely acceptable to eat the whole tub without feeling any guilt whatsoever. The ice creams are made mainly using whole milk, coconut oil and sweetened with Stevia, whilst each flavour contains a 'superfood' of some sort. There's Salted Caramel & Lucuma, Madagascan Vanilla + Baobab and Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina  with each tub split in half to show 'opposites' - where the name Oppo was derived from I do believe, that you can enjoy something that tastes so indulgent but is actually good for you.


Oppo Ice Cream : Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

I quickly set out on my hunt across London to attempt to find some, as soon as I tried them I was hooked, unfortunately the only 2 flavours I could find in my local Waitrose were the Salted Caramel + Madagascan Vanilla, I say 'unfortunately' but realistically these flavours are still amazing and I managed to get through at least a couple of tubs a week whilst I was living down there. Anyway, when I was back home in Newcastle last week, I found out my nearest store...a 25 mile drive away stocked all 3 flavours, so off I set on an ice cream haul and was delighted to eventually be able to try the Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina.


Oppo Ice Cream : Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

So what exactly is it like? Opening the tub up the colour of the ice cream is slightly more 'algae like', darker green, compared to your regular light green mint choc chip ice creams that are so often gracing the supermarket freezer aisle - this is probably in part due to the spirulina nature of the ice cream. However don't let this deter you as the flavour is delicious.


Oppo Ice Cream : Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

It's a lovely natural, refreshing mint flavour, there is a slight earthy backnote, again the spirulina, but I think this just adds to the complexity of the flavour and is definitely one of the best mint ice creams I've ever had. The chocolate swirl is delicious and is actually a 'raw chocolate swirl', made using blossom honey & Peruvian cacao powder, it provides a lot deeper, richer flavour than the normal chocolate sauce you may be used to tasting in your ice cream. Together the rich chocolate swirl + the refreshing mint ice cream provide a wonderful taste experience.


Oppo Ice Cream : Mint Choc Swirl with Spirulina

I have no shame in saying that I eat the whole tub every time and just love how it slowly melts in the tub; its got quite an unusual melt to it - it's definitely creamy and certainly not some disgusting 'iced style dessert' that you may be thinking of when I talk about 'low calorie ice cream', but I love how long it takes to melt, slowly turning into a creamier liquid round the sides whilst the chocolate swirl remains smooth and free flowing throughout, I can easily make the whole tub last a good 40 minutes.


As you can tell from this review I'm pretty much in love with the concept, brand & overall product, I would go as far as to say its one of the best products that I've ever tried and will rave about it to anyone who will listen - I wish these guys the greatest success and I shall carry on 'Eating like a hippo and feeling like a hummingbird'.

Taste - 9.4/10 - Delicious, can't rate it highly enough, the mint choc swirl is definitely my favourite flavour but the other two are equally good. Can't believe how great it tastes for how low calorie it is.
Texture - 9.7/10 - The texture of this ice cream is one of my favourite things about it, I love how long it lasts with a slow creamy melt.
Appearance - 8.9/10 - Branding is excellent, good decent chocolate swirl throughout, some may be slightly deterred by the darker green colour but once you taste it you won't go back!
Price - 7.9/10 - Regularly priced at £5.49 a tub for 500ml its certainly not a cheap ice cream, but with all of the high quality ingredients in it and the whole 'superfood' element I can't imagine it really being priced any lower. I still think  its competitive, only putting it slightly higher than the likes of Ben n Jerrys & Haagen Dazs; whilst I certainly think that the quality justifies the price. On the plus side its on special at Waitrose currently - 20% making it £4.39
Overall - 9/10 - You can tell how highly I think of it - quite simple, go out and try some for yourself.
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WHO FOR?
Absolutely ideal for anyone on a New Year diet who doesn't want to compromise on taste, or for anyone quite simply looking for a healthy option and to not worry about how many calories they've eaten when they've eaten the whole tub of ice cream!


WHERE TO BUY?Currently stocked in Waitrose you can check where your nearest store is on Oppo's website here failing that Ocado deliver it too.



Sunday, 18 January 2015

Hugo & Victor Sphères de Saisons (Box of 6)

I've wanted to try Hugo & Victor and chocolates for quite some time now; to me the real fascination came in the way they were presented, neatly popped into a box that resembles an old book - really novel, yet classy at the same time. The choice of chocolates is the either the more 'classic' looking options, your small rectangles, neat squares etc or the more unusual glossy looking half spheres, splashed with colour. The flavours of these spheres vary on the season; whether it be spring,summer,autumn or winter and are pretty much all flavoured caramels. There are 4 sphere flavours which are featured all year which included praline, caramel, chocolate & vanilla.

Hugo & Victor

When I picked up this little box of 6 it was December, which to me seems like winter but according to Hugo & Victor it was 'Saveurs d'Automne' - translated to flavours of autumn, anyway the main point is what the chocolates were like. The flavours I got were chestnut, clementine, lime, praline, chocolate & caramel, so 3 seasonal and 3 all year round flavours.


Hugo & Victor B

Being the huge praline (milk shell, dark stripes) fan that I am I tend to judge a chocolatier by how good their praline is - Hugo & Victor's was delicious; gorgeously smooth with just the right balance between nutty and sweet, with sugar used almost as a seasoning to highlight the flavour of the nut, this was the only chocolate in the box encased in a milk chocolate shell. Gorgeous.


Hugo & Victor

The chestnut (dark shell, light brown stripes) provided a similar praline like texture; albeit I felt the flavour of chestnut could have been slightly more powerful, it was lost slightly in the chocolate, still tasty though; whilst the chocolate (plain brown) was quite similar albeit a richer, darker eat.


Hugo & Victor

Now, moving onto one of the seasonal caramels - I loved the clementine (orange spots), the citrus flavour was light and refreshing and worked really well in the sweet liquid caramel centre. One thing I must point out is that the texture of the caramel is beautiful, smooth and that perfect sweet spot between not too runny nor too thick; whilst the thinness of the chocolate shell is astounding providing a delicate casing that just breaks down when popped in the mouth allowing the centre to quite literally take centre stage.


Hugo & Victor

Unfortunately I wasn't as keen on the lime version (green spots); I felt the lime was far too tart and the dark chocolate didn't provide much relief which just led to a rather tart/bitter chocolate which couldn't even be counterbalanced by the sweetness in the caramel.


Thankfully the plain caramel (gold) helped pull things back and just highlighted how delicious this box of chocolates were; caramel encased in dark chocolate, simple things executed superbly. I would have loved to have tried some of Hugo & Victor's other seasonal caramels - now if I only I went to Paris more often, not only do they look stunning but taste great.

Taste
- 7.9/10 - Praline, was my favourite, of course, lime was the only flavour that let this box down.

Texture - 8.5/10 - Really good, smooth pralines, great viscosity of caramel.
Appearance - 9.6/10 - Stunning, I love the whole book concept and the glossy colourful finishes on some of the caramels are amazing.
Price - 8.2/10 - I paid around €10 for this box - pretty good value I think.
Overall - 8.6/10 - Would definitely go back for more and the fact these chocolates are so delicate yet packed with flavour make you feel like you're not being too indulgent.
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WHO FOR?Make a lovely unusual chocolate gift.

WHERE TO BUY?Hugo & Victor stores in Paris or you can order online here. However its unclear on the website as to whether they deliver outside of France.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige (Snow Crystals)

I was in Paris just before Christmas this year and popped into a Pierre Marcolini shop; having only tried his chocolates once before when I picked up a few from the concession in Selfridges I just knew I had to buy myself a box. I loved his Christmas range this year - the giant snowman complete with chocolates, was of particular highlight to me, not only was it adorable but you could be assured that the chocolates would be of excellent quality - however I couldn't really afford the steep price tag, so I picked up this delicious looking box of 'Les Cristaux de Neige' - or translated to English, snow crystals.

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige

Consisting of a box of 36 geometric design chocolates, octahedrons to be precise, they looked absolutely beautiful, all delicately arrange in the box; with a gorgeous pop up card sleeve. All of the flavours in the box massively appealed to me; white salted butter caramel, white hazelnut gianduja, dark hazelnut caramel, milk coffee gianduja, two layered dark chocolate & milk pistachio gianduja. You can tell this had mass nut appeal here.

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige


The chocolates themselves are very light; from a Belgian chocolatier, this is quite different from the usual substantial Belgian chocolates many are used to, but the flavours are exceptional. Each chocolate is perfectly balanced, just the right amount of sweetness to almost season the flavours taking centre stage. These aren't sickly sweet but nor are they too dark/bitter that you feel you aren't even having a sweet chocolate treat. Also due to the shape of the chocolates, that are filled as two seperate pyramids, you experience almost a double filling with just a thin layer of chocolate in between. I think it would be really neat to see something done where the flavours in each half were different but complemented each other to produce unique creations.

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige

My favourite chocolate of the box was most definitely the white hazelnut gianduja (the light red octahedron), it had such a gorgeous melt in the mouth texture whilst the rich nutty flavour of gianduja paired gorgeously with the creamy, sweet white chocolate.


The salted butter caramel (white octahedron with red splashes) was also incredible; again in white chocolate there was the perfect balance between sweet and salty with a smooth, sumptuous caramel that just melted in the mouth.


Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige


Dark hazelnut caramel (dark octahedron with gold splashes) was like something I've never experienced before; I've never quite had a nut flavoured caramel before and I was surprised at how well the hazelnut flavour came through, I still prefer pralines/gianduja but this was still delicious.

Hazelnut coffee gianduja (dark red octahedron) completely with nibbly coffee bits in the smooth gianduja filling provided a nice texture contrast; however I did find them a bit intrusive at times as normally I like my gianduja to be smooth, rich and melt in the mouth. The flavours were good though with a good bitter hit from the coffee balanced by the sweet nuttiness of the hazelnut filling and milk chocolate covering.

Pierre Marcolini Les Cristaux de Neige

The pistachio gianduja (gold octahedron) was also beautiful; the pistachio flavour is obviously more subtle compared to its hazelnut counterpart but comes through well & the texture is superb.
The double layered dark chocolate (dark octahedron with white splashes) was my least favourite chocolate of the box; the texture was smooth but it wasn't particularly rich/sumptuous and melt in the mouth. I also found that it was quite a robust bitter dark chocolate which didn't lend itself well to any fruity notes. It was quite robust, whilst I prefer my dark chocolates quite light.

Overall a gorgeous box of chocolates, I'm just pleased I've still got a few left to enjoy.

Taste - 8.7/10 - Well balanced allowing the main flavours to take centre stage.
Texture - 8.0/10 - Generally good, felt the coffee nibs slightly intrusive + the dark chocolate wasn't the best I've had.
Appearance - 9.5/10 - Absolutely beautiful; the chocolates are delicate, don't make you feel like you're being too indulgent, a unique shape, gorgeous design all completed with a classy finish box/sleeve.
Price - 7.9/10 - I think I paid around €38.00 for these; which worked out around just over £30.00; for 36 chocolates of this standard I actually don't think that's too bad and for a special treat/gift, definitely worth it.
Overall - 8.5/10 - A great box of chocolates, one of the best I've had in a while actually.
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WHO FOR?A nice classy gift for someone who appreciates finer quality chocolates.

WHERE TO BUY?I'm not sure whether these were just a limited edition Christmas item, but hopefully they should still have some in store/Selfridges concession, unfortunately I don't think you can purchase them on the Marcoloni website.