Monday, 26 September 2016

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcoholic

I was lucky enough to receive a lovely box of Zotter chocolates recently, I've tried Zotter's hand scooped bars before but had never been fortunate enough to give their boxed chocolates a go. Thankfully all of the chocolates in the box were non-alcoholic and reading the details on the website the flavours sounded intriguing and delicious. 

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcholic  

In the box there were 12 chocolates which according to the website were meant to be :Caramel Nougat, Hazelnut Nougat Light, Mint Jelly, Coffee Cardamom,Wild Berry, Passion Fruit Banana, Pumpkin Seed Endorphin, Pineapple Endorphin, Cappuccino Endorphin, Vanilla Endorphin, Honey Endorphin and Hazelnut Pot. However it stated that these could change depending on availability.

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcholic

On opening the box and looking at the menu I could tell that I was going to have a difficult time of determining which chocolate was what, not only was the menu in German (which is fine I can use Google translate) but also not all of the chocolates in my box were on the menu. I guess it was going to be a bit of a guessing game and seeing what I got, slightly frustrating as I do like to know what I'm going to eat and choose depending on what flavours I fancy at the time.

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcholic

Each chocolate is very dainty and a lot lighter than other boxed chocolates I've had before and some were a lot easier to distinguish in terms of flavours than others. Some packed heaps of flavour, others were slightly more mellow and made it quite difficult to determine what they were.

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcholic

The textures of each chocolate were all pretty good, a contrast of smooth truffles, crunch from nuts or coconut flakes and a firm yet wobbly mint jelly. However I wasn't blown away, yes they were nice and they all did taste pleasant enough but they were definitely not as exciting as I was hoping them to be. Tasty but slightly dull.

Zotter Biofekt Heart Non-Alcholic

Taste - 6.8/10
- Not horrific but not mind blowing.

Texture - 7.3/10 - Good range of textures.
Appearance - 7.0/10 - Dainty looking chocolates, pretty box.
Price - 6.0/10 - Priced at £12.30 they work out at just over £1 per chocolate, considering the size of each chocolate and the fact that the flavours aren't amazing I don't think it's great value for money.
Overall - 6.8/10 - Pleasant enough but I won't be rushing back.

They still would make a nice gift for someone who perhaps doesn't like as strong flavours in chocolates.

Online at Zotter's website here.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fifth Dimension : The Personal Selection Box

It was my birthday recently and birthdays to me are all about chocolate, it's certainly one of my favourite gifts to receive especially when it's products I haven't tried before! I was lucky enough to receive this lovely looking box of Fifth Dimension chocolates as one of my presents. I had come into contact with Fifth Dimension before at the Specialty Food Fair a few years ago and had enjoyed trying a couple of their range but had never had the chance to purchase a whole box of their filled chocolates before, based in London their aim is to combine classic and unusual flavours with single origin cocoa and they have won multiple chocolate awards so I couldn't wait to tuck in!

Fifth Dimension Chocolates

 Fifth Dimension Chocolates    
The chocolates are visually appealing, dainty and elegant looking with ornate designs and shapes, with each one being named after a specific city and incorporating flavours that may be associated with that city into the chocolate. I loved this idea, a nice way to add a bit of personality to the chocolates! In my selection I received : San Francisco, London, Hanoi, Bangkok, Turin, Meaux, Hong Kong, Boston, Vienna, New York, Kagoshima and Genoa.

Fifth Dimension Chocolates

San Francisco  - Mandarin & Star Anise  - Our inspiration comes from an all-American city that's home to a melting pot of flavour and boasting the largest and oldest Asian community in North America. Bite into our chocolate and release the liquorice taste of star anise, sweetened by a golden burst of mandarin that will linger on your tongue like a liquid American dream.

Biting into this chocolate the sharp bitter taste of liquorice of the star anise is what hits you first before leading way to sweeter, citrus notes from the mandarin. Refreshing yet intense, with added creaminess from the milk chocolate shell that helped balance the eat.

London - Stout Caramel  - London is one of the greatest cities in the world. So, filled with London pride, we've created a chocolate using a classic London flavour. The rich, dark chocolatey notes of stout give a surprising 'cor blimey' kick to the caramel. Cheers!

If you can imagine one of the richest, most luxurious caramels you've eaten, then this is most certainly up there with them. I really wasn't sure how I was going to find the addition of the stout but it helped add an additional depth to the caramel, which melted smoothly in the mouth.

Hanoi - Ginger Caramel  - Peppery and pungent with a hint of lemon, ginger always reminds us of the rich riot of tastes in Asia. We've fused its piquant spiciness with the smooth sugar-sweetness of caramel, and wrapped them both in chocolate. Inspired by our travels to Vietnam's vibrant capital city Hanoi.

Well this chocolate certainly did look vibrant, with its orange/bronze sparkly exterior. The vibrancy lived on in the eat with the ginger caramel packing a punch of flavour. It was spicy but not tongue tingling so and the caramel helped to mellow things out by lifting the earthier ginger notes with a dash of sweetness.

Bangkok - Mango & Passion Fruit Caramel - Mango juice, the tantalising zing of passion fruit, a luscious explosion of sweetness. Travel with us to Bangkok - we are confident your taste buds will relish this juicily fruitful chocolate journey.

I really do wish that this chocolate had been white chocolate, I feel as if the mango and passion fruit flavours would have 'popped' a lot more and made it feel more of a light, tropical experience. I felt the dark chocolate dragged down the exotic notes in the mango and passion fruit, not to say that it still wasn't tasty. I just think it could have been improved by using a lighter chocolate.

Fifth Dimension Chocolates

Turin - Hazelnut Gianduja - Gianduja is the delectably sweet chocolate infused with hazelnuts that defeated an emperor and saved a city. Before Waterloo - there was Turin. To fend off Napoleons invading army, the good denizens of Turin stirred their cauldrons of melting chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. Little wonder this deliciously delectable smell completely distracted the enemy. Surrender to its intense, nutty richness. You'll be helpless to resist to.

I think it was quite clear from the offset that I was going to enjoy this chocolate, I love gianduja and this was everything I wanted it to be. Smooth, creamy, the perfect balance of nuttiness and sweetness. Not the best I've ever had but still heavenly.

Meaux - Wholegrain Mustard - The famous 18th century gastronome Brillat-Savarin said "If it isnt Meaux, it isn't mustard." Too bad he's not around to try our chocolate! We think you'll be pleasantly surprised!Indeed I was pleasantly surprised, I really didn't think that mustard in a chocolate would be all that pleasant but in fact it was, it added a deep, richness to the chocolate that made it eat so luxuriously. I am also pleased that there were no nibbly grain pieces within the chocolate!

Hong Kong - Soy Caramel - A city of skyscrapers, mystical traditions and heavenly flavours, and a city that loves to eat has excited many a gastronome. Inspired by our childhood memories, this malty-sweet soy caramel is oozingly rich, and alluring smooth. Memories are made of this.

Flavours like soy/miso work really well in sweet dishes, they help to add an extra flavour dimension that lifts the overall experience. This was certainly the case here, the savoury flavour of the soy sauce provides a wonderful counterbalance to the sweeter caramel.

Boston - Peanut & Raspberry  - First mentioned in a Boston Cooking School magazine in 1901, peanut butter and jelly is pure USA. Our American homage to this transatlantic treat combines smooth peanut with raspberry pâte de fruits. 

This was the chocolate I was most excited about eating in the whole box. It was one of the chocolates I had sampled when I had seen Fifth Dimension at the Specialty Food Fair and I'd loved it then. Safe to say I still thoroughly enjoyed it now, the peanut flavour is what hits you first, rich and nutty before being cut through with the sweeter, fruity raspberry. I loved the textural contrast of the pâte de fruits too as opposed to a ganache/caramel.

Fifth Dimension Chocolates

Vienna - Coffee Caramel  - The city of music and coffee houses and even a chocolate museum! We serenade Vienna with roasted ground coffee fused with smooth buttery caramel. A chocolate concerto to make your taste buds waltz.

I do quite enjoy a coffee chocolate here and there but this was probably my least favourite out of all of the caramels, it wasn't as 'different' nor did I feel that it was as well balanced with the coffee being the predominant flavour and making the eat slightly bitter, without enough injection of sweetness from the caramel base. It was still quite tasty but not a show stopper.

New York - Apple Calvados Caramel  - A hotbed of irresistible flavours, this culinary capital is a 24/7 feast. In the city that never sleeps you can explore a million tastes night and day but nothing is more American than warm apple pie drizzled with caramel sauce and flambéed in calvados. This is our salute to the Big Apple.

I adored this chocolate. I was so worried with me not being a big fan of alcohol in chocolate that I wouldn't enjoy it but thankfully most of the throat burning alcohol flavour has been cooked off and instead you are left with a rich buttery caramel with a good rounded apple flavour and a subtle warmth. Utterly delicious.

Kagoshima - Yuzu & Pink Peppercorn  - Experience pure molten flavour inspired by the Japanese island of Kyushu. Our Kagoshima, with the explosive mix of citrusy-sour yuzu suffused with the warmth of pink peppercorn, ensures your taste buds will erupt with pleasure.

Unfortunately this was the only chocolate I didn't actually enjoy in the box. I had a feeling, I'm not huge on peppercorn in sweet items but the fact that I love the flavour of yuzu was enough to provide me with a glimmer of hope. I found however that the sour, sharp, yuzu flavour was lost slightly against the overwhelming peppercorn flavour and the dark chocolate shell, again I feel that this is a chocolate that may have worked better in white chocolate.

Genoa - Basil - Italians know the freshest ingredients are enough. One of the simplest spaghetti dishes we encountered uses fresh basil. Genoa is our tribute in chocolate to this wonderful yet uncomplicated dish.

I was quite surprised that I enjoyed this chocolate as much as I did, the basil flavour was just the right intensity, not making it feel like it was too much of a 'herby' chocolate but just enough to inject its subtle, earthy, sweetness into the chocolate. Delicious.

I was pretty impressed with Fifth Dimension's chocolates, their fun without being pretentious, superb quality and most eat really well, the ratio of fillings to shell is spot on and they also look delightful.  Not all of the chocolates they make were included in the selection that I got but I'm sure that the other varieties would also match up to the quality that I experienced. A nice offering for something that little bit different that will quite literally take you on a a tasting journey of cities.

Taste - 8.2/10 - Overall, really good, most chocolates were well balanced and ate well.
Texture - 9.0/10 - Superb, crisp clean snap on shells, smooth caramels, rich ganaches.
Appearance - 8.7/10 - Visually appealing and loved the thorough menu that was included, that details each chocolate. I do recently think they've changed their box design also which is more interesting than the plain black box I received.

Price - 7.0/10 - At £19.00 for a box of 12 it puts each chocolate at nearly £1.60, obviously quite expensive but these are excellent quality and quite clearly not mass produced.
Overall - 8.2/10 - A mix of innovative and classic flavours done well.

Would make a great gift for someone that enjoys finer chocolates, like me, you can also select what chocolates you wish to have put into the box so you can cater it to the person's flavour preferences.

Online from Fifth Dimension's website here.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

M&S Golden Jewels Box

I was in my local M&S a week or so ago and noticed that there appeared to be quite a lot of new chocolate products gracing the shelves - the start of Christmas goods perhaps? This ornate/elegant looking box particularly stood out, with a lone box dumped on the top shelf with no price tag or any indication of what it meant to be was (on going into my M&S since then it has been properly put out).

M&S Golden Jewels Box 

 I knew on taking it down from the shelf that I had to have it, the 'Golden Jewels Box - A selection of sophisticated hand finished chocolates with the finest gourmet flavours' including : Mango Lime & Chilli, Chai Latte, Feuilletine & Fleur de Sel, Banana & Smoked Sugar Caramel (you all know that it was this flavour that swung it for me) and Sweet Coconut & Vanilla.

M&S Golden Jewels Box 

 M&S Golden Jewels Box   
Not only did the chocolates sound delicious but they looked absolutely gorgeous, the box and the actual design/visuals of the chocolates are top notch and definitely something that looks as if it were made for the purpose of a Christmas gift.

M&S Golden Jewels Box

Chai Latte - A creamy white chocolate merged with Colombian coffee, spice and chai flavour

I do love a chai latte, there's something about the warming spices paired with a milky, sweet, coffee that is just so delicious. This chocolate hit all the spots that I wanted it to, the white chocolate shell was definitely the correct chocolate selection as it allowed the coffee/chai spice flavour to take centre stage in the creamy, smooth filling.  In terms of visuals this chocolate was absolutely stunning and definitely my favourite in the box in that aspect, I'm of the opinion that purple is definitely an underused colour in elegant chocolate boxes after seeing this!
Mango Lime & Chilli - A zesty lime compote layered on white chocolate and mango purée infused with ground chilli encased in a dark chocolate shell

This was the only chocolate in the box that I wasn't massively looking forward too, I don't particularly enjoy chilli in chocolate nor lime really for that matter. However for someone who doesn't really enjoy either of those flavours I still found it to be a pleasant enough chocolate, well balanced with not too heavy a kick of chilli and a nice tropical hint/sweetness added from the white chocolate/mango.

Feuilletine & Fleur de Sel - A fine crumbled biscuit smothered in white chocolate with a hint of Fleur de Sel salt, encased in a crisp milk chocolate shell

The only chocolate in the box to offer an additional textural component with the crumbled biscuit pieces, this chocolate worked really well.  It was the perfect balance of sweet and salty and the added crunch of the biscuit pieces offered a nice nibbly texture to counterbalance the completely smooth fillings of the other chocolates.

M&S Golden Jewels Box

Banana & Smoked Sugar Caramel  - Salted caramel with a hint of smoked sugar and cinnamon layered on creamy white filling infused with charcoal banana flavouring

I definitely think that 'smoked' is going to become the new 'salted'; I've been thinking/saying it for a while, reading it on trend websites and so on but this is the first time I have seen a smoked flavour used in a sweet product in a mainstream store. Which can only mean good things if you're a fan of smoky flavours!! Thankfully I am, so this chocolate really appealed to me, especially because of the banana component. It ate beautifully, the smooth caramel filling was just the right texture, not too thick nor too thin on top of a smooth white ganache, whilst the flavour was spot on. A good overall banana flavour with subtle salt and smoke throughout which lingered well after the chocolate had been eaten.

Sweet Coconut & Vanilla - Toasted coconut married with Madagascan vanilla in a white chocolate truffle enclosed in crisp dark chocolate

Another very well balanced chocolate, with the inner white chocolate coconut and vanilla truffle injecting a pleasant level of sweetness to balance the dark chocolate exterior. The truffle was sumptuously smooth and melted perfectly in the mouth.

Overall I was really impressed with this box of chocolates, not only did they look stunning but I thought they ate really well; they definitely had more of an 'artisan' chocolatier feel to them, due to their more complex flavours and the refinement on the actual chocolates. Not only have they been made using more innovative shapes and finishes but the thickness of each of the chocolate shells is more what I would expect from a higher end chocolatier, a lot thinner, allowing the filling to take centre stage.

Taste - 8.4/10 - Really good quality, all flavours executed as I would expect from the description.
Texture - 8.4/10 - Smooth, luxurious. Excellent ratio of shell to filling.
Appearance - 9.5/10 - M&S have definitely gone all out on the visuals here, the chocolates and the box are beautiful looking and you can keep the chocolate box to store things in after you've finished!
Price - 8.2/10 - Priced at £15.00 for 14 chocolates, it works out just over £1 a chocolate, excellent value when you consider the elegant finish and reusable box.
Overall - 8.6/10 - An absolutely stunning box of chocolates for an affordable price.
Would make a lovely gift for someone and although probably made for Christmas season they don't scream CHRISTMAS and therefore could be used for other occasions also.

Marks & Spencer's stores nationwide.