Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hotel Chocolate, Hallowen H-Box

Happy Halloween, everybody!

This is one of my favorite days of the year. It's got most everything I love: candy, horror, spooky paranormal stuff, dressing up, monsters, and candy.

I've always loved it - evidence here, portrait of the blogger as a young candy lover.

Not much has changed, except now I probably wouldn't have eaten the Sugar Daddy, as I have my adult teeth and have to adjust accordingly. Those Junior Mints would be long gone, though.

So, being that this IS my favorite day that isn't my birthday (which usually also includes a horror movie and lots of sugar) I tend to go crazy for anything that gets a Halloween theme. Food promotions that I'm usually cynical about, like using a Santa shaped mold and making the same old chocolate bar or slapping a beach ball on the 'Summer Edition' of orange Fanta, get a Halloween pass. Put a pumpkin on Babybel, and I'm 10x more interested in it, even though the contents is exactly the same. KitKat with a bat on it? Sold!

Sure, I much prefer when an actual new flavor is attempted, but I'm a lot easier going on package theming - provided I like the theme, and I do very much like skeletons and witch hats.

This Hotel Chocolat variety box did not disappoint in theming, with some good molds being used and a particularly well crafted skull... but what about flavors?

See what I mean, very nice packaging - black and bright purple are very nice 'witchy' Halloween colors, and we've got a good splash of red and orange, Halloween's other trademark shades coming up from the chocolates.

In case you don't know what flavors these are, let me give ya a rundown:
-Oozy Eyes of dark and white, filled with caramel...whatta fright!
-white and milk Praline Pumpkins, guaranteed to getya heart thumpin'
-Caramel chocolates, plain and salt, oh so good you'll join a cult
-Gianduja Bombes, that don't rhyme with tomb...
-Cherry Caramel Chocolate Skull, can't say that with your mouth full

So quite a bit of caramel & quite a bit of hazelnut paste. Kind of easy, especially in the UK market - not that there's anything wrong with that, sometimes the classics are just what you need.

Starting with the Oozy Eyes, they're nicely molded little spheres that look pretty eyeball-y, and they have a thin chocolate coating with a runny caramel center. It's plain caramel, not salted, so the white chocolate seems very sweet and the regular chocolate was a bit more balanced.

The Praline Pumpkins were really nice, probably my second favorite of the bunch since they tasted like a firm Nutella - the white chocolate was particularly good!

The caramel chocolate domes were basically just like the Oozy Eyes, except one was the salted caramel, which I've previously reviewed - to sum up, I think Hotel Chocolat's salted caramel is quite good, but it isn't salty enough to beat some of the more high priced varieties like Melt or Paul A. Young.

The gianduja bombes tasted a lot like the Praline Pumpkins, but just a bit more chocolate-than-hazelnut.

The 'Crystal Skull' was the final piece I tried, and there is only one in the box.

Mm! That is a great mold, I love that the jaw is finished and lax like that - just good, looks spooky, not just cute.

It is described as caramel chocolate with cherry crystals, but I was expecting it to be kind of plain milk chocolate. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I had a bite and found out that it actually was quite cherry flavored! The crystals were crunchy bits of something like sugar, flavored like cherry candy, and the chocolate was mild, sweet, and milky.

I'd happily buy one of these as a solo chocolate, but unfortunately you can only get it in the box. D'oh!

All in all, a good box that I really enjoyed sharing while watching a spooky movie last night, but I would've enjoyed it just a bit more if there had been some stronger/more creative flavors, like Pumpkin Spice Pralines, for instance - or even some of the chocolates that Hotel Chocolat already makes, such as Licorice Caramel or Apple Cider.

UK readers, I highly recommend grabbing one of these if you can once they go on sale (presumably) tomorrow, as they're all quality chocolates, if not a bit boring for something that is Halloween- themed, and the Crystal Skull is an interesting flavor combination that works really well.

Happy Halloween, pals! The spooky things might not stop, however - I did say all week, after all. Mua ah ah.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Peach Pocky

You're probably thinking right now, "Peach Pocky? Now, what could be so scary about that, on lo this Halloween review week? Inaccurate flavor, no vitamin C, the customs fees?"

You haven't seen the packaging yet. I suggest the faint of heart & any people currently eating peaches avert their eyes about now.

oh god no he's coming back this way its right behind us no

Oh, he just wants a kiss. Haha...okay...that's fine. Yes. If you're eating a peach right now, whatever you do, don't turn it around to make sure that it isn't making this face - I can assure you that it is, and you don't want to know about it.

Man, this thing is a grim spectre of a mascot. You're probably wondering what the hell it is, and I've only got a half-answer for you: Dwarf Encyclopedia. Apparently just a series of books, DVDs, and various characters goods in Japan that are all about these weird little imps that live in gardens and look like that. They're all disturbing blends of old men and vegetables, and after a little while they look less gross and more interesting. I'd never say they reach 'cute' levels, as many websites seem to suggest they do if you keep looking at them, but at least they stop being so ugly. I mean, I think they always stay pretty grotesque and I like Cubic Mouth. From an artistic point of view, they look very cool - but would I want to stare at one for very long? No, I'd definitely think it was going to blink into existence the second I looked away.

Anyway, that explains why this creepy peach man is on the front of this box of Pocky. So, how's it taste?

Peachy! If you've ever had Pocky before, you know the drill - at least half way. The biscuit is saltier than a cookie, but sweeter than a pretzel and has a satisfying crunch. I was shocked to find that I had yet to review a Pocky on this blog: the closest I came was this Lotte Toppo, which is sort of like reverse Pocky.

There is a difference between coating quality in the Japanese version and the Thai, Chinese, et cetera releases. The Japanese version are the originals, and have a higher quality 'chocolate' that doesn't feel so much like cheap fondant coating your mouth. It's more like actual chocolate.

So the peach flavor is translated really well, much better than I would've expected. It tastes sweet and tangy, a bit like peach yogurt. I've had peach hard candies before that were way too sweet and didn't have any of the tang you would expect from an actual bit of fruit - they tasted more like peach iced tea or canned peaches in syrup.

 This tastes most like peach yogurt, or like peaches themselves. There were only a few in the pack, and it was just one little envelope inside the box which made splitting them more of a challenge, but it was worth it.

Oh, and there was more of this freaky guy & his friends on the back.

So how many of these netherworld chimps can you spot? The answer: enough.

I had a really fun time with the packaging on these, and the Pockys themselves are super tasty. If I were younger I would've been going crazy for these little Dwarf Encyclopedia guys, they would've flipped all the right switches of creepy, foreign, and cute. Get your own pack at OyatsuCafe, and maybe keep the empty box in your garden to ward off...anything. You know, scarecrow style.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Spice M&Ms

Happy Halloween...Week!

This week I've got some posts brewing in my cauldron that are all somewhat spooky, or at the very least autumnal....Will any of it be ghastly or bewitching? Boo knows!

First up, we've got these Pumpkin Spice M&Ms straight from the US of A. They're a Target exclusive in America, which isn't too surprising at Target often has the best Halloween aisle, the best limited editions, and over-all just the best place to shop in the US for general home goods that aren't total crap, but aren't that great either. There really isn't an equivalent place in the UK, I suppose it is a mildly upscale grocery/'big box' store, which you just don't seem to get here. Maybe a really big, really nice Sainsbury's? Anyway, Target rocks and if you visit America you should find your way to one immediately upon arrival.

Aw yeah, pumpkin spice M&Ms. When I spotted these at Target during my vacation I literally did a double take and tip-toed backwards to the display. Like all red-blooded patriots I'm crazy about pumpkin pie so I snatched 'em and brought 'em back home with me, so I'd always have a taste of A'murrrca's favorite seasonal treat. I guess the UK's is blackcurrant or something? That's a shame, eat pumpkin!

Funny enough, these M&Ms are pictured in a bloody skull bowl that I bought at the aforementioned Sainsburys!

They smelled like chocolate and cinnamon - it's interesting that the fine folks over at M&Ms headquarters decided to combine chocolate and pumpkin pie spice, when the natural assumption would be white chocolate and spice, as white chocolate lends itself very well to imitating other flavors. Like, the Candy Corn M&Ms (to be reviewed later this week) are white chocolate based, as were the Carrot Cake M&Ms. I guess pumpkin pie is very rarely coupled with chocolate -usually the only accompaniment is something light like vanilla ice cream - so I was surprised to see the pairing here.

The color combination is nice, Halloween-y but also just autumnal, so you could have these out past the 31st without being considered tacky. I guess black & orange after Halloween is like white after Labor Day.

They tasted really good - mostly chocolate with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. Not too spicy and not at all 'hot spice', just warming, like pumpkin pie or a chai latte. It tastes mostly of chocolate, which I think is good. They're just as easy to eat as regular M&Ms, which isn't the case with many of the limited edition flavors!

I wish I could link you to a place to buy these in the UK - really, I do - because they are awesome.

There are a couple of places that stock some great American candy at decent prices (being an American, imports from my homeland always seem crazy priced, but hey, I get it)  but unfortunately none of them have these Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, probably because they are a Target exclusive.

 There are a few bags on Ebay from UK sellers, but since I haven't bought anything from any of them I wouldn't feel confident in linking to any specific one, but feel free to search them there and you'll find them for about £4.00. Worth it, I say! They'd be quite tasty in brownies, as well.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pumpkin Pudding KitKats

Mmhm, it's Halloween time! I absolutely love Halloween - and at this time of the month, it is completely appropriate to start obsessing over it. Of course, in my head I started much earlier, but now I can tell everyone how I feel about the season.

I love it! I'm changing my desktop wallpaper daily to be a new monster (today is...Pumpkinhead), watch horror movies and old Twilight Zones, and I'm going to finish reading The Shining and start Dr. Sleep. I love Halloween. It's the weather getting a bit chillier, the abundance of nice warm snacks & drinks, the flavors & smells of such drinks & food, and all the scary bits and horror.

One of the best parts is definitely pumpkin. Unfortunately, this has not caught on in the UK yet. I feel that it's getting there, but I think this island just ain't ready for this particular sweet-vegetable jelly. You can get a pumpkin cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery, which is grand - and Starbucks has finally got on the ball and released the Pumpkin Spice Latte in the UK this year and last...but there's lot of other bits that haven't been adopted. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin milk, pumpkin chocolates, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin bagels, or my other interests like pumpkin candles, pumpkin lotion...Nice, but all in America only, so far. D'oh!

Except - Japan. Japan is a marketplace that seems to love risk, and will give any flavor combination a shot, at least. So I wasn't surprised that there were pumpkin KitKats, and there have been tons. This post is about this year's KitKat though...Pumpkin Pudding KitKat.

Cute bag. Interesting choice to make it a green pumpkin, which definitely exists, but isn't your standard spooktacular seasonal spectre. Also, it is full of pumpkin pudding! Which looks like pumpkin mousse. It's just a very nice illustration, isn't it?

So, open 'em up.

 D'aw - the cuteness continues! I like the ghosts a lot. This is presented in the same format as many Japanese KitKats, which is a small 2 finger bar, about half the length of a regular KitKat & minus 2 fingers. So, tiny...but only 60 some calories because of that, so you take the good you take the bad and then you have 2 more KitKats.

Even before I opened up one of these individually wrapped bars, the bag smelled like pumpkin! Not spicy, but like sweet pumpkin - like pumpkin pudding, actually.

Mm! Pale orange. It smells so much like pumpkin - like pumpkin pie! Pumpkin pie isn't as spicy as other 'pumpkin' flavored foods, at least most pumpkin pies aren't - so it gives you a bit more of a pure idea of sweet pumpkin.

These taste like pumpkin, like pureed and sweetened pumpkin with white chocolate - and a bit of cinnamon. So there is a touch of spice to the sweet, but that's definitely taking a back seat. If you can picture eating a spoonful of canned pumpkin with quite a bit of white chocolate, you're about on the right track - and it is nice.

These were really delicious, and I can picture them going really well with some milky tea or even a pumpkin spice latte.

 Grab them from OyatsuCafe and get it in time for Halloween!...or Autumn, at the very least.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Caramel Apple Milky Way

My second review after coming back from America, and boy are my wings tired - as they were never meant to type, that is.

So, I'm going from fancy-schmancy chocolate to the lowest of the low - that's right, Milky Ways!

I have no love for Milky Ways, whether they're being called 'Mars' or not. They're just not my style - fluffy nougat and caramel need to be broken up with peanuts - ergo, Snickers, or something...anything other than the dull, chewy sweetness of caramel and nougat.

So, I bought these for the novelty - they were actually my 'office treat', since it is customary in my office to bring back treats after you've been on holiday. I assumed I wasn't going to like them that much, so I figured no skin off my nose if they were all eaten by my co-workers.

So, I brought them in, opened them up, snatched up 4 to take home to try in my own sweet time, and came back to the office within 24 hours to find the remaining 36 bars completely gone. So, yes, they were a big hit.

I still hadn't tried one, and was really just putting it off - even after my husband raved about them, as well. There's just something so boring about Milky Ways, even when you're telling me that they're apple flavored. I just close my eyes and picture mushing up nougat and caramel for a minute and I feel like I've eaten it already.

Also, artifical apple flavor isn't really my bag. When I was in middle school these things were absolute gold for my classmates - kind of like cough syrup is these days - but I never got into them. I would've much rather had one of those vanilla flavored Tootsie Midges, or better still, any candy not made by the Tootsie company. I just think apple flavored things taste a bit like the way potpourri smells.

So, finally I decided to try one of the two Milky Ways that I had left at home - and brother, was I wrong about everything.

When unwrapped, I was quite surprised. The apple smell was subtle, and not at all as tart or artificial as I thought it would be. Sure, it was fake - it is apple chocolate, after all - but it didn't smell unlike a real apple, so that's something! Also, it was distinctly a 'red' apple as opposed to a Granny Smith, which is much more sour and what apple flavored candy often tastes like.

They tasted just like red caramel apples, it was nuts. Particularly, it was like a caramel apple with chocolate chips across it - one of those 'gourmet apples' that are completely over the top.

Sure, the texture was still like Marshmallow Fluff and sticky caramel, but this time it just kind of worked - mostly because there was an interesting and well-done flavor to it, as well. The main problem for me with Milky Ways is the taste - its like a marshmallow, just plainly 'sweet'. By adding a pretty natural, and subtle apple flavor they elevated themselves by about 10 plateaus. I wonder what other flavors would work with a Milky Way?...And I wonder if the UK will ever seen interesting variations on the Mars bar - because that all caramel one was quite a lame effort comparatively speaking!

Funny enough, I couldn't find them at any of the main American import webshops in the UK, but there are a few sellers on Ebay.

Also, be on the lookout for an opportunity to try one of these, along with tons of other snacks from li'l ol' me...Keep your eyes on my brand new Facebook page for more details this weekend.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Matcha Snack Round-Up

This is a Matcha...Snack...Round U-U-U-UP!

First off, I've got a couple of drinks from OyatsuCafe's illustrious Stick Menu, this time the two matcha lattes to follow my earlier review of the hot chocolate.

And hey, what better to go with matcha lattes than matcha biscuits? Ergo, Matcha...Snack...Round U-U-U-UP!

My husband so graciously lent his palette to test these with me, and we decided we'd try them cold. The instructions to prepare these as cold drinks are a bit strange - you add a very small amount of water (80ml) and 4-5 ice cubes, which will promptly kinda melt in the boiling water and give you the rest of your liquid. It makes sense, of course, but it just seemed strange considering that there are drink powders out there in the world that you mix with cold milk or water. Nesquik, Crystal Light, et cetera...but hey, it worked - we got cold & decently sized drinks, even though I was a bit apprehensive.

The powders looked exactly the same, which is kind of what I assumed was going to happen. One looks a bit darker just because of the lighting - believe me, they're exactly the same.

So, I boiled 80ml of water and added 5 ice cubes to each.

This is the Blendy,

and this is the Maxim. Not much of a difference, but while I was mixing them I did notice that the Maxim seemed just a little bit frothier.

Unfortunately, the smell of these wasn't too pleasant - they kind of smelled like cat food. Tuna, to be specific. I was surprised, because I usually really like green tea and matcha lattes - iced or warm. I've had quite a few, and never have they had a 'fishy' smell like the two of these did.

Now, the taste was as expected - milky, a bit sweet, and just a touch grassy. I was perfectly happy with the flavor, but the smell was a bit overpowering and kind of took away from the whole drink. They both smelled a bit, too - so I assume it wasn't an issue of being out-of-date, I think the instant matcha lattes just might have a bit of a stink. Which really stinks, because they taste just fine!

I did a spot of research on this, as I was really taken aback because I like green tea and matcha lattes quite a bit and never smelled fish - turns out cheaper matcha can occasionally taste bitter or fishy - and even more interesting than that, if you use water that is too hot, it can ruin the taste a bit. So, I think there's a chance that the instructions in Japanese say 'hot, not boiling water', and I just used my kettle and basically boiling water. Interesting! I would've liked to experiment a bit more, but both packets are gone.

They had barely any difference in taste, so I'd suggest just going with the cheaper one (Blendy) and perhaps not using boiling water. Maybe it is also a bit nicer warm? The only thing that was off was the smell, really - it tasted quite nice still. I would say the smell is a bit of deal breaker for me though - and it could've been my own fault that it went that way (too hot of water) but I'm not sure I would try it again. Now, I would be tempted by these, as they require no heating whatsoever - couldn't mess that up!

 Now, onto the crispity, crunchity biscuit portion of the Matcha Round U-U-U-UP!

I've got two sets of matcha biscuits here, Alfort Matcha Biscuits & Petit Choco Chip Matcha Cookies, and they're both made by Bourbon. The Alfort brand is the more premium brand, while the Petit line is more budget friendly. I seem to recollect seeing tons of these in Japan for something like 100 yen. Suppose it would be like a Custard Cream versus a Viennese Melt, both made by Fox's. It's cool to see that in action elsewhere.

The Alfort biscuits are topped with matcha chocolate and have a cool ship printed on top, while the petits are just cute, tiny versions of chocolate chip cookies (but green) - complete with a bit more color at the edges, like they've been home baked! Very cute.

That's the thing that will really stick out about these biscuits - they are teeny tiny. Take a look at this comparison shot in my mitt:

I'm no good at basketball because I can barely palm a ball (and, of course, poor hand eye coordination, lack of height, asthma, general absence of athleticism & very little competitive spirit) so it isn't like I've got big monster hands. These are just tiny li'l cookies.

They were incredibly tasty, though! The Alfort particularly had high quality matcha chocolate topping, and a oat-y sort of not-too-sweet biscuit base. Reminded me of a digestive, but with green tea flavored chocolate rather than milk chocolate - and also absolutely bitsy and adorable. The only problem with them being so small is that it is quite difficult to dunk them in anything, but it can be done...just carefully. The matcha chocolate was sweet, creamy, and tasted like green tea in that way that only chocolate green tea products do. If you have any love in your heart for matcha flavors or green tea, you'd love this.

The Petits were a bit more grassy and less sweet, but they had a very satisfying crunch and a buttery taste that only ever seems to be present in chocolate (or 'choco') chip cookies. The combination of matcha, plain chocolate, and butter was really nice, and a bit more exotic than the matcha chocolate covered variety. These were even harder to dunk though, since they're smaller and round, so I kept thinking how nice it would be to just dump the entire packet into a bowl and cover it in milk, like the World's Most Indulgent Cereal. Or as I like to call it, Cookie Soup: Patent Pending since I was 9 years old.

Which ones would I buy again? Quite hard to pick! I'd say that the Alfort were the nicer ones, the ones I'd be most likely to eat on a day-to-day basis, but the Petit have such a thick, buttery crunch that really reminded me of something from my childhood. Maybe I'd get Petit again in another flavor, as I feel that the green tea in those was a bit 'muskier' than I prefer - the Alfort had a nice, delicately grassy and sweet taste by contrast. So, Alfort for the Matcha, and Petit for some other time & some other flavor.
(OyatsuCafe so kindly provided me with some products for review, but all opinions are just my own!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Koume Umeboshi Gummy

It's no secret I love Japanese candy - all the evidence is right here on the blog in my new Japanese category.

This gummy marks my 20th Japanese candy review - that is very nearly catching up to UK reviews - the country I actually live in. Wowza.

The only thing that keeps me from going absolutely apenuts on Japanese candy is that so much of it is gummy - don't get me wrong, if you give me a gummy I will gladly eat it - but I'll be thinking of chocolate or cookies.

Fact is, there are tons of different chips, chocolate, and biscuits in Japan, they're just the hardest things to ship and therefore you won't necessarily find them with as much ease as you'll find a bag of gummies. That's fine; all the more reason to go to Japan.

So, this particular gummy is Umeboshi flavored, by Koume. Umeboshi is a pickled, sour plum and it is very popular in Japan - as far as I know it is not considered a sweet, but is eaten regularly with rice and as a healthy accompaniment to lunch. I love pickled food, but alongside savory dishes - then again, I quite like sour candy (even as an adult) and can see where pickles have a natural sweetness to them. It might be a matter of taste, though!

With all that in mind, I was quite looking forward to trying this sweet & sour gummy. The packaging is very charming, with a sort-of classic illustration of a blushing girl - definitely makes me think of traditional Japan, which makes sense as umeboshi is a very traditional Japanese flavor.

Opening the package, I was surprised that it smelled like fresh cut grass. A nice smell, but not one I'd immediately associate with either candy, pickles, or plums. Then again, I don't go around smelling plums. Pickles & candy, on the other hand...

They're cute little bits, about thumb-sized, kinda wrinkly (like the actual umeboshi) and covered in sanding sugar (unlike a real umeboshi).

The texture was very good - this is a bouncy kind of gummy, not too chewy but also not marshmallow-y soft & powdery. The sugar was really fine, and just sort of dissipated into sweetness once it was in my mouth.

The first taste is sugar with a spicy, kind of cinnamon background, and then it get sour for awhile - but a natural kind of sour, like a citrus fruit or a pickle - and then it gets spicy again.

In the end, the flavor really reminded me of persimmons. I grew up in Indiana, one of the few places where saying something tastes like a persimmon might actually mean something to somebody, so let me explain a bit. Persimmon tastes like spicy & sweet fruit, sort of like a 'Autumn' candle, or something. They're not too strongly flavored, but they're very distinctively spicy to me. It is a very interesting taste, especially with this gummy that has a sour break in between two periods of spicy sweetness.

If you've tasted and enjoyed persimmons, or even just the idea of a sweet&spicy/sour/sweet&spicy candy sounds interesting to you, these definitely are worth a go. I really want to try an actual umeboshi now - and it's rare that a candy encourages me to try a new kind of fruit...usually it just reminds me how bad real food is compared to artificial flavoring.

(OyatsuCafe so kindly provided me with some products for review, but all opinions are just my own!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chuao Chocopods

 I'm back from America! I was so jet lagged all week - surprisingly so, it was much worse than it usually is. Maybe because it was only a long weekend? Either way, I'm feeling quite a bit more normal today, but this entire week was a bit of an unfocused blur. Sorry, work!

I brought back tons of sweets 'n' treats from the USA, a little less than usual since I will be back in December, but let's start off with the very first treats I got: I picked up these Chuao Chocopods in the Dulles Airport. I'm sure I looked quite manic, all harried and shiny from the flight, laughing as I carefully chose from the small display of ChocoPods right next the register while my husband stared absent-mindedly at a shelf full of novelty bubblegum. What a scene. I'm sure airport gift shop staff are used to it.

Chuao does a lot of different chocolates, all of them in the style of Vosges, or other chocolatiers that go for strange combinations. Less esoteric than Zotter, for instance - or, maybe just more geared for American tastes. I appreciated that they had these small bars, or 'Chocopods', because there was no way I'd want to plump for an entire bar of weird chocolate from a brand that I had yet to ever try.

The three varieties I selected were Potato Chip, Firecracker, and Salted Chocolate Crunch.

This picture can serve as a stand in for all of the Chocopods, as they are all shaped & embossed like this - the only difference is a subtle shade variation between milk and dark.

The first one I tasted was Salted Chocolate Crunch: dark chocolate with sea salt and toasted breadcrumbs. I was looking forward to this one most, since I love salted sweets & never tried breadcrumbs in chocolate before - I mean, who has?

Turns out there is a pretty good reason we don't see a lot of breadcrumb chocolate - it's kinda gross. I like crunchy enough in chocolate, but the bits in this were more like jagged pieces of stale bread. It was pleasantly crispy, more like stale food that has that weird mix of damp chewiness and crunch. Did not enjoy. Also of note, the dark chocolate seemed kind of cheap - waxy, and it didn't melt nicely at all in my mouth. Just kind of sat there, cold feeling with bits of stale bread crumb. Worst of all, it wasn't even that salty. Not into this one, I'm afraid - I couldn't even recommend it for the novelty.

Next up was the one I was second most excited for: Potato Chip. Milk chocolate with kettle chips and a hint of sea salt. This was a lot more like what I thought Salted Chocolate Crunch would be like! The kettle chip bits were crispy & crunchy, no damp chewiness and no weird, waxy mouthfeel. The milk chocolate was creamy and reminded me of Dairy Milk, so that was quite nice - and the salt taste was much more pronounced in this, probably because the kettle chips themselves were salted, and a little bit extra was added in with the chocolate. I would've happily eaten a big bar of this one, I'd recommend it. One of the nicer potato chip chocolates I've tried...However, I still have the Tayto Cheese & Onion Crisp bar to try.

The last one I tried was Firecracker, dark chocolate with popping candy, sea salt, and chipotle. So, chili chocolate with popping candy, more or less. I forgot that I don't like chili chocolate - something I forget with some frequency. D'oh! Well, as far as chili chocolate goes it wasn't too spicy, just spicy enough...the popping candy was cool but didn't add much to the chocolate (as usual), and the sea salt was good! Always a fan of salt in chocolate, but it wasn't enough to stop this one from just being a bit too rich for me. Everytime I eat chili chocolate, I feel like I'm willing heartburn into my world.

Over all, my experience with Chuao was pretty good - I think I've been spoiled by super premium chocolate in Europe so American dark chocolate will almost always taste a bit crummy. For all I know maybe these bars had been in the airport gift shop for ages, so they're not the best example of Chuao chocolate.

All in all, I think Vosges is a bit higher quality for easy-ish to find American 'weird' chocolate bars, but if you see the Potato Chip bar, give it a try.