Friday, 22 May 2015

Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts

Walking into Hotel Chocolat recently there were so many new products in their summer range I wanted to try; in particular their Summer Sleekster selection looked delicious - however I've been a member of their Tasting Club for quite a while now and it was their specific Summer Desserts selection that tempted me rather than the sleekster you could buy in store.

Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts
  
It has pretty much all of the chocolate in you'd be able to buy instore anyway; albeit a couple of unique ones but I just preferred the look of the overall selection. The box is split into certain 'sub units' of chocolates; there's 'The Sorbets' - Passion Fruit, Blackcurrant, Lemon & Lime, 'The Classics' - Chocolate Fudge Sundae, Banana Split, Caramel Chocolate Pot & Eton Mess, 'The Cheesecakes' - Caramel Cheesecake, Rhubarb & Ginger Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake & Raspberry Cheesecake, 'The Patisserie' - Mousse au Chocolat, Carrot Cake, The Brownie & The Blondie and finally 'The Aperitifs'  - Limoncello, Mojito, Cocoa Gin Martini & Peach Bellini.

Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts


The Sorbets
Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts


Passion Fruit - Passion fruit ganache enrobed in white chocolate - I like the small dainty size of these sorbet chocolates, it doesn't make you feel as guilty as eating the two of them! A delicious, tropical, zingy passion fruit flavour. Pairs perfectly with the white chocolate. Reminded me of Artisan du Chocolat's Creme de la Creme Eggs I reviewed at Easter.

Blackcurrant - Blackcurrant ganache enrobed in milk chocolate - I'm not a massive fan of blackcurrant in chocolates as I normally find them too sharp and acidic; however I was pleasantly surprised, this was really well balanced between sharp/sweet. Personally I would have preferred this coated in white chocolate, but I suppose there needed to be some milk chocolate option in the sorbets.

Lemon - Lemon ganache enrobed in white chocolate - A lovely light, sharp citrus flavour that pairs perfectly with the white chocolate. A nice refreshing chocolate.

Lime - Lime ganache enrobed in dark chocolate - Definitely my least favourite of the bunch, the dark chocolate coating just made it a bit too much of sharp, bitter eat for my palette. Still pleasant but I wasn't tempted to eat the second one.

The Classics
Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts
Chocolate Fudge Sundae - Rich sticky toffee sauce, 50% hazelnut praline, 40% milk shell  - I've actually tried and reviewed this chocolate before here and absolutely loved it. It's everything I could possibly want in a chocolate, smooth, nutty praline, thick, sticky caramel and delicious milk chocolate. However...it doesn't really taste particularly of chocolate fudge!


Banana Split Banana-white chocolate with lusciously thick caramel  - This was one of the chocolates that I was really looking forward to trying within the box and Hotel Chocolat definitely nailed it here! The banana flavour is delicious - not artificial whatsoever and the caramel is gorgeously smooth. However I think this would have been better named 'Banoffee Pie' as it's much more like this than a Banana Split, which I think would be interesting to be seen done with the classic flavours of Banana Split - strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, banana and nuts! Maybe an idea for next year!

Caramel Chocolate Pot  - Ooozing salted caramel, layered with 50% milk hazelnut praline  - Quite similar to the Chocolate Fudge Sundae in terms of texture and eat, albeit with a slight tang of salt, hazelnut praline, is as always, rich, nutty and the most beautiful melt in the mouth texture.

Eton Mess  - Creamy strawberry mousse, topped with meringue and raspberry  - I've had this chocolate so many times from Hotel Chocolat and it never disappoints me, it's so good! I much prefer fruit flavours done as mousses as opposed to ganaches/creams. The strawberry flavour is light and fruity and paired with the creamy white chocolate and crunchy meringue it is utter heaven.

The Cheesecakes

Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts
Caramel Cheesecake
- Classic sour cream cheesecake flavours mingling with a layer of soft caramel  - I love Hotel Chocolat's cheesecake chocolates; I think there are quite a few 'cheesecake' style chocolates out there that pose their simply under the name 'cheesecake' but offer little in terms of flavour of that cheesecake tang. This is certainly not the case here, the sweet caramel pairs really well against a slightly sour cheesecake layer. Utter heaven! Definitely my favourite cheesecake chocolate in the box.


Rhubarb & Ginger Cheesecake - Sour cream cheesecake contrasted with rhubarb & ginger truffle  - This was probably my least favourite cheesecake chocolate; purely because I think rhubarb is quite sharp/sour anyway that paired with the sour cream cheesecake layer doesn't offer as good a contrast. It's still tasty, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I would go out and buy a selector of this, also I didn't feel the ginger flavour was particularly prominent.

Strawberry Cheesecake - Sour cream cheesecake with a layer of tangy strawberry - Extremely similar to the Eton Mess chocolate in terms of flavours offered; however with a bit more of a sour/tang back note. I couldn't decide which one I preferred more, as both are equally delicious!

Raspberry Cheesecake - Sour cream cheesecake with a layer of tangy raspberry  - The only cheesecake chocolate that isn't currently offered as a selector pack; not as good as the strawberry variety but still tasty, I don't love fruit flavours with milk chocolate and with this one being coated in milk chocolate rather than white I didn't feel it balanced as well. However still a lovely zingy, tangy, fruity flavour comes through.

The Patisserie

Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts


Mousse au Chocolat  - Soft and intense Ghana 85% dark cocoa, creamy 50% milk shell, panned in pure cocoa powder  - Like the most rich, indulgent chocolate mousse you've ever had. The higher cocoa % gives quite a luxurious, dark eat, one to pop into your mouth and let melt to fully appreciate the more complex flavours offered and the gorgeously smooth, truffle like centre.

Carrot Cake - Natural carrot juice, spiced walnut praline, topped with vanilla-white  - Since I saw these in store I was really excited to try them; I actually picked up a selector pack of these as I didn't realise they were contained in this box. The woman at the till who served me said she hated carrot cake but actually really enjoyed these chocolates; which kind of explains to you what they're like. Yes they're delicious chocolates that use some of the components of carrot cake, but it doesn't really taste like carrot cake. More of a sweet, lightly, spiced praline. I'd love to see one that incorporated the tangy flavour of the cream cheese frosting (in my opinion the best part of carrot cake).

The Brownie - A rich blend of dark and caramel chocolate, pecan praline and pecan pieces - I think this was one of the first chocolates I ever tried from Hotel Chocolat;  they've recently restyled it however with a new, sleeker look. It still eats deliciously; the milk chocolate shell is thinner than I remember, allowing the centre to be the star of the show, which is exactly the way it should be, lovely and smooth with nice nibbly pecan pieces throughout that give a lovely crunch.


The Blondie 
- Caramel-milk, wafer praline, white chocolate custard with crispy caramel - Quite possibly one of the best chocolates I've had from Hotel Chocolat in a long time, utterly delicious, gorgeous contrasting textures and although it has a lot going on in it the flavours just work, light and nutty, sweet and vanilla-like with undertones of caramel. I think I'm going to have to go out and buy one of these selector packs now!!


The Aperitifs
Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club Summer Desserts
Limoncello -
Limoncello centre enrobed in dark chocolate  - It's pretty much a given that I'm not a huge fan of alcoholic chocolates and Hotel Chocolat's alcoholic chocolates certainly pack a punch. I bit into this one and thought at first that the alcohol wasn't that strong just getting a lovely light refreshing lemon note and then the alcohol hit me. Wow it's strong!


Mojito  - Made the classic way: strong on the rum, crushed mint, lime.  - I thought the Limoncello one was strong! It was certainly nothing compared to this one, they're certainly right when they say strong on the rum! I ended up just nibbling the mint flavoured white chocolate, which was delicious, off of the chocolate and leaving the strong alcoholic centre!

Cocoa Gin Martini  - A chocolate gin ganache enrobed in milk chocolate - Again, far too strong for my palate, a huge hit of alcoholic, burning gin, I just ended up nibbling the milk chocolate off again.

Peach Bellini  - A peach & prosecco ganache coated in milk chocolate - I thought this would be lighter on the alcohol and would have a bit more of a lighter peach flavour; however it was still far too strong for my palette. Alcohol lovers will absolutely love these chocolates as they certainly are strong on the alcohol - however they just weren't to my taste.

Overall I'd go as far as to say that this is one of the best box of chocolates I've had in a long time; normally I find summer chocolates too fruit based for my liking so I liked how there were a selection of flavours to suit all tastes in this box. You can buy most of these chocolates in store at Hotel Chocolat now; but I would strongly recommend the Tasting Club, it certainly never disappoints me!

Taste - 9.2/10 - Spectacular; only disappointment was the alcoholic chocolates - purely my taste preferences though. Highlight has got to be The Blondie - I'll certainly be making a trip for some more of these!
Texture - 9.3/10 - Smooth pralines, rich, thick and sticky caramels, light ganaches.
Appearance - 9.3/10 - Stunning. The box is gorgeous as well.
Price - 8.0/10 - I paid £25.00 plus £3.95 P+P so £28.95 for 48 chocolates makes them £0.60 each; great value!
Overall - 9.0/10 - A beautiful selection of chocolates with something for everyone.
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WHO FOR?
A chocolate to suit everyone's tastes - a great box to have in to share.


WHERE TO BUY?
You have to be a member of the Tasting Club to order these, they have an introductory offer on at the moment for your first box for £9.95. If you want to sample just some of the chocolates in the box though you can pick up most of them in Hotel Chocolat's stores or online here.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Cadbury Dairy Milk Puddles Mint

Having previously reviewed the Cadbury Dairy Milk Puddles Hazelnut variety and being disappointed I was hoping that the mint version would fair better; I was slightly less dubious about this offering - liquid mint/mint crèmes naturally work a lot better than hazelnut in liquid format!

Cadbury  Dairy Milk Puddles Mint   

I've tried Cadbury's Australian Mint Crème filled block before and was thoroughly impressed with it and hoped that this bar  could be executed just as well. The format of the bar is quite different; as described previously the bar is not in a block format but consists of a thin layer of Dairy Milk chocolate dotted with 'puddles' filled with a smooth liquid mint filling.


Cadbury  Dairy Milk Puddles Mint


Breaking into one of the puddles the colour of the filling isn't the most appetising, with an odd tint of green, the flavour however is a lot better with the pairing of the refreshing mint and the creamy Dairy Milk chocolate going really well together. The mint flavour certainly lends itself a lot better to the liquid format.

Cadbury  Dairy Milk Puddles Mint


The Dairy Milk chocolate surrounding the 'puddles' was slightly tainted with mint flavour throughout and with it being thinner melts a lot quicker in the mouth than a standard cube of Dairy Milk would.

My real qualm however comes with the format of the bar; I get where Cadbury have tried to go and I applaud them for bringing some new innovative NPD out; rather than just sticking these fillings in a standard block. However I just don't think it's particularly satisfying; if the mint filling had just been put into a standard block, like the Australian version or if the surrounding chocolate had been made thicker, then I would probably be more inclined to purchase it, it would be more satisfying and probably better value for money as at 90g this bar doesn't really offer the best value compared to other Cadbury products.

Cadbury  Dairy Milk Puddles Mint


Nevertheless its still a really tasty bar and definitely has more going for it than the hazelnut version; if I fancied something minty then I would probably pick it up as an impulse buy, I don't however think it's a bar of chocolate you would keep in the cupboard to last you over a period of a few days.

Taste - 8.3/10 - Light minty filling pairs well with the creamy Dairy Milk chocolate.
Texture - 7.7/10 - The liquid mint texture works a lot better than it did with the hazelnut!
Appearance - 6.4/10 - I'm still not a massive fan of the bar format and the green centre is slightly off putting.
Price -6.5/10 - Is a nicer bar than the hazelnut version; however at £1 on offer and £1.49 regularly for 90g I think other Cadbury products offer better value for money.
Overall - 7.2/10 - A nice enough bar that I would probably purchase now and again for something a bit different. A mint chocolate offering was definitely a needed gap fill for Cadbury.
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WHO FOR?Mint chocolate lovers!

WHERE TO BUY?
All major retailers.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

M&S Earl Grey Almonds

M&S Earl Grey AlmondsAnother one of the cute dinky chocolate/confectionary products that M&S have launched for their Tastes of the British Isles range is these Earl Grey Almonds; consisting of caramelised almonds coated in white chocolate flavoured with Earl Grey, brightly coloured yellow these certainly jumped off the shelf at me!

 

Earl Grey is one of those flavours that can be quite polarising; however I'm quite fond of it as a flavour and was interested to try it in the coating of these almonds. Strangely enough I would never normally buy nuts to snack on alone; however coat them in something - especially chocolate and that completely changes!

M&S Earl Grey Almonds

The nuts are a good decent size with a great level of thickness of chocolate enrobing them; they certainly haven't skimped on the coating! The nuts are really nicely caramelised; offering a great crunch and resistance to bite when you bite into one. I definitely think these are more of a nibbly/munching chocolate snack than one you would let melt and savour!

The flavours work really well together; the light citrus of the Earl Grey pairs really well with the sweetness of the white chocolate and the subtle creamy nuttiness of the almond; I can imagine this is probably one of those snacks where people try it, thinking they're not going to like it and come away pleasantly surprised with how good it was!

M&S Earl Grey Almonds

Not only do these offer something different to your standard chocolate covered almond but they are also incredibly moreish and am debating whether I should go out and buy another pack, or whether they're too dangerous to be left lying around the house!

Taste - 8.2/10 - Pleasantly surprised with how good these were. Flavours work really well together and the Earl Grey is present in just the right amount.
Texture - 9.3/10 - Almonds are caramelised beautifully; great thickness of chocolate.
Appearance - 9.3/10 - Look stunning.
Price - 8.0/10 - £3 for the pack, pretty good value if you ask me!}
Overall - 8.7/10 - A really nice alternative chocolate snack.
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WHO FOR?
More suited to the older palette; don't think this would be one for kids.


WHERE TO BUY?

Marks & Spencer stores nationwide.