Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Food I'd Like to Eat: Chocolate Edition

Living here in the UK, I do feel that we get a fair share of chocolate treats. Like very rarely do I think, "Man, I wish we had that over here." It does happen though, and here are a few things that have me wishing I could trade in some crummy new-style Creme Eggs for something from further afield.

This is kind of a cheat because I've had this one before, from France - although I guess this brand is Swiss. It was so amazing, stiff & nutty praline cream surrounded by blonde chocolate. Blonde chocolate, if you're not sure, is like Valrhona Dulcey or an upmarket Caramac. Kind of white chocolate flavored with caramel. These were really just amazing - very satisfying, quite sweet, with a lot of nutty flavor from the center.

I loved Cherry M&Ms when I was younger when they first came out, and I hadn't seen them in ages! So when I saw they were back, I was like - oh yeah, how romantic. Unfortunately, duh, they're only in America. They've also released a Strawberry version, but to me that one seems like it would be a bit too sweet and not have the tangy edge of a cherry chocolate.

Another cherry chocolate! This combo doesn't get a ton of play here in the UK, except in cake form. This one would obviously be way better than the M&Ms, it's dark chocolate and a much higher quality brand.

I found two different varieties of peanut butter & jelly chocolate bars on this US small-batch producer website, Mouth. Uhhh I'd try both. I love peanut butter, I love jelly, I love chocolate - I just know this combination would work really well. Salty, sweet, and tangy!

This one is passion fruit jelly, and it seems super tall. Looks...good. Like, what's not to like? Unless you're allergic to peanuts. This one is by Fixx Chocolates.

This one is 'peanut praline' and raspberry pate de fruit. Also, apparently, described as 'crispy'. Reckon it's like crunchy peanut butter, then? This one is by Tumbador Chocolates.

Finally, these strange 'chocolates' called Il Morso are made of coffee beans & cocoa butter, so it's not really coffee flavored chocolate, it's a coffee based confection. Like, an entirely new thing. Cool though, I'd love to try it! There are a few flavors; Americano (plain), Coffee & Cream (well...creamier, I'm sure), Mocha (added chocolate) and Matcha Green Tea (no coffee, matcha instead!). I'm down to try them all. Unfortunately they're only in the USA for now, but this more than the rest seems like the sort of thing that would take off in the UK!

Well, that's about it for now - any chocolates you've seen overseas that you wish would make the journey to the UK?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Paul A Young, Golden Sugar Coated Caramel Bombs

Happy 2016!
Long time no see, readers! Let's just say one of my 2016 resolutions should be to update my blog more frequently. Unfortunately, January 2016 comes in with your classic dieting proviso, so I can't promise tons of reviews. I'll definitely try & make more time for the blog, regardless. Maybe more round-ups of interesting foods of the world?

Hope everyone had an awesome holiday with lots of good food & drinks going around. One of the snacking highlights of Christmas for me this year was these Paul A Young x Billington's Sugar Truffles.

This is the second time in my memory that Paul A Young has paired with Billington's for a sugar-based truffle - the first time around that I tried it was a triple sugar truffle that was just extra sweet. Shouldn't have shocked me, right? Anyway, I also recall they were presented alongside the regular Paul A Young truffle selection - I don't remember a box this adorable, that's for sure.

See, looks like a box of sugar. Except instead of a bunch of boring old sugar, it's 9 truffles made out of sugar! Oh, and chocolate, and probably a little salt or...I'll cut to the chase.

These are extremely delicious. If you have any kind of sweet tooth whatsoever, you will like these. Where I remember the sugar collaboration truffles in the past being just a bit too sweet, these are just the right level. That awesome Paul A Young dark chocolate, just a bit fruity & tart, topped with a wee bit of crispy sugar, and on the inside...A caramel with a ganache texture & a true brown sugar edge. You know the taste difference between baked goods made with brown sugar & those made with white sugar - think that, but through the medium of caramel and probably using one of the nicest & most flavoursome brown sugars in the world.

 I think there must be a bit of salt included as well, because these really stay on the right side of sweet for something that hinges on it's use of a specific kind of sugar.

These may not have been the most esoteric of Paul A Young truffles available at any given time, but I'll be damned if they weren't tasty in spite of their relative tameness. That's a true master chocolatier, indeed! Are they still available? I'm not sure, if someone wants to enlighten me I may just go pick up another box, haha.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Red Velvet Crunch Creams

Red velvet is a funny thing, isn't it? Most British people I speak to about it think it's really awesome, and most Americans seem to try & fit the 'flavor' into as many objects as possible. While in America you can easily find red velvet inspired cookies, ice creams, and even red velvet bagels, here in the UK it's still kind of left to the realms of cake.

So that's why I was surprised, pleasantly so, to spot these biscuits at Waitrose this week. I'm a fan of the Fox's Crunch Creams line, it's got a couple of my favorite things: crunch, and cream. What I don't like is Vinnie, the American panda who slings these limited edition flavors. I've ranted about him before, but long story short Americans don't say "biskwits" and I'm certain that the Italian American Anti-Defamation League would really have a problem with him. He's just a bad mascot, but he shills for some interesting biscuit variations.

The coloration on these are really great, a nice rich & deep red for the biscuits and off-white cream. They're quite brittle cookies, being crunchy and all, and I prefer them dipped in tea. Of course, since they're quite dry & brittle you need to move fast lest you want them to drop into your mug while dipping.

The biscuits themselves are very subtly chocolate-y, just like red velvet flavor always is. I mean, it is just a low intensity chocolate flavor, isn't it? The big highlight is, as always, the cream cheese frosting - or cream, in this case. Now they do specify in the packaging that it's 'cheesecake' flavored cream, but what is cheesecake if not sweetened cream cheese, eh? I did find it odd though, considering red velvet cake is so strongly associated with cream cheese frosting - maybe not everyone in the UK would see cream cheese as a good biscuit filling, but yeah, cheesecake is hard to say no to.

So there is just a bit of tang, some vanilla, and a lot of creamy & sweet flavor. Coupled with the subtly chocolate-y biscuits, this is a nice little afternoon snack. They're really sweet, but would you expect anything less from a red velvet flavored cookie?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jaz & Juls Chocolate House, Islington

I've recently started a new job in Angel - it's been exciting to explore the area, as it's one of my favorite places in London. It's doubly exciting as there are so many new openings in the neighborhood, too.

Juz & Juls Chocolate House is one of them, having opened up earlier in November. I'd never tried one of their hot chocolates before, but apparently they're quite well known in markets and such! They also stock their online shop with the hot chocolate mixes.

It's a nice little shop at the bottom-end of Chapel Market, keep in mind if you're going there that it's pretty easy to miss, and you may look around and be like, "hey, this doesn't look like a chocolate cafe would be around here, I'll turn around, maybe I did miss it!", as I did, but yeah - it's real far down the road.

Once I did find it, it was a cozy little place (additional seating downstairs, apparently) that seemed relaxed. They sold chocolate bars as well, including Marou and The Grenada Chocolate Company. Also, they sold their own hot chocolate mixes in store to make at home.

There were a large variety of flavors, including 3 'origin' styles and about 5 or more flavors including mint, chili, white chocolate, and the one I ordered - Orangeytang - which is spiced orange. Very Christmassy! You can get a few different toppings: including whipped cream, coconut cream, and marshmallows. I was tempted by coconut cream, but since I was already getting a flavored hot chocolate I didn't want to mess with the flavors too much - so I went classic cream instead.

 This cooled it down enough for me to drink very quickly, it could almost be qualified as a gulp. A festive gulp. The chocolate flavor was milky & not too sweet, but the tangy orange flavor sweetens it up a bit. The spice level is nice, certainly no heat, so just a bit of 'holiday spice' or mulling spices. I also was given tons of cream, which was great for me, a real cream freak. It was a classic English and milky hot chocolate, not too thick.

There were plenty of baked goods in addition to the hot chocolates, and at pretty reasonable prices for nice looking niche bakery items - about £2 each. The pecan pie particularly looked delicious & gooey. I'd like to try one of them sometime, but for me the issue is that I don't really want to combine a sweet hot chocolate with a sweet cake. I mean, I could, it just doesn't seem right. They also do coffee though, and you can have any of the hot chocolate flavors made into a mocha. That's pretty nice!

The wifi was a little spotty when I was there, so while they have a card reader that works through the iPad, I'd recommend bringing cash! I'll be back in sometime this winter for more delicious bits.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Sandwich at Tesco

The festive season is upon us! I've often been overheard mumbling about how the UK should get a proper holiday for in-between Halloween & Christmas. I mean, yes I know about Bonfire Night but it's kind of a mid-level holiday, isn't it? It's no stitch on the celebratory American Thanksgiving, am I right? It's a nice enough evening, but there are just a handful of products that get released specifically for Bonfire Night, and most of them get released alongside the smattering of Halloween goods. So - you need a separate, distinct all-day affair of a holiday. Maybe with some time off, even. Any suggestions? Smart alecks, I await your "Thanks(for getting rid of those puritans)giving" responses.

Anyway, this year like all others brings with it some awesome festive-themed food. Your classics like Christmas Lunch Pret sandwiches, mini yule logs, and one of my personal faves - the Festive Hot Pot at Eat. A real stand out this year was this: the Chocolate Cherry Sandwich from Tesco. It got covered as being 'bizarre' at the Evening Standard, but I don't find it too strange. 

Not too strange to eat, at the very least. As someone rightly pointed out in the article, Nutella is often eaten betwixt bread - so what's the big deal? I also know that cream cheese & strawberry sandwiches are popular addition to an afternoon tea, so yeah, chocolate & cherry doesn't seem such a stretch anymore.

I snatched it up as soon as I found one, and I'm happy to report that it is indeed delicious, if you understand going in that you're about to eat a sweet sandwich. The bread is advertised as being cinnamon, and it does have a subtle hint of sweet spice to it, like a very subtle cinnamon bun without frosting.

I'd liken the chocolate filling to something similar to American style chocolate pudding, sort of flabby - certainly not dense like a traditional 'chocolate spread' as sold here. More on the custard side of the spectrum texture-wise, with a fairly generic chocolate flavor - certainly not dark, but identifiably chocolate. The cherry does come through pretty nicely, and I think they went with actual bits of cherry fruit interspersed into the chocolate filling. It's not artificial tasting or all that strong.

The mascarpone cheese really kind of feels like an after thought, or a bit of a bulking agent, but then again it may cut through the richness that would otherwise be present and mellow it out.

This was a tasty little sandwich, don't believe the negativity opinions! I will admit I don't understand when exactly you should eat this - I had half as an evening snack, so I suppose something like that? It's certainly not a good choice for a lunch time meal deal. 

Sorry for the low quality iPhone pics, I just had to hurry as I was quite hungry!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Whopper in the UK

Happy Halloween Eve, everyone!
So the big news of last week was the surprise release of the Halloween Whopper here in the UK. I'm not crazy about Burger King usually, but I've got to support any fast food restaurant that is willing to release a Halloween themed burger, especially in the slightly unresponsive-to-spooks UK market.

There aren't many Burger Kings in London - so I had to make a special trip to Leicester Square. They also have the Coke Freestyle machine, which was...nice, but every single machine available was either broken, or was missing some element, such as Sprite or Coke base syrups, and no ice available at all, anywhere. What is it about fountain drink machines in London and them falling into disrepair? Meh, I wasn't there to review the Coke Freestyle machine, so it's not a biggie.

Couple differences between the UK Halloween Whopper & the USA Halloween Whopper include: the use of barbecue sauce instead of A1 Steak Sauce, and natural colors rather than artificial colors. I respect both decisions, as even though I like A1 it's not something well known in the UK in the slightest, and it's just a sort of tangy sauce. Using natural colors I think will also ensure there will be no instances of green poops in the UK, at least not resulting from this Whopper.

All that being said, the bun is still super black. Everyone I was eating with was shocked, I suppose we all expected it to be not so densely dark. I was also surprised by how matte it was, no sheen to it at all.

I forgot that Whoppers had a lot of 'fresh' vegetables on them, the most noteworthy to me being the large pieces of onion unlike the McDonald's dehydrated variety. That definitely adds a real onion-y bite to the burger, which is nice coupled up with the barbecue sauce. I always take out tomatoes so I can't comment on that, but the lettuce was fine. I mean, it's a Whopper. It's fine.

Basically, it tastes like a Whopper with a bit of barbecue sauce. The novelty factor is what really makes it special - and if you like Whoppers you'll like this. Mostly, I'd recommend buying it so that the UK gets more cool stuff in the future!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Puccho Salted Salmon

I'll cut to the chase, this was disgusting. Disgustoid. Highly illogical. Unpleasant.

Watch me eat it.