Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tirol Mix 9, Part 1

I got this around Christmas time from Cybercandy - I was so pleased to see that they had started stocking actual Japanese candy again, not just stuff licensed out from Japanese companies to Thai factories. The quality just wasn't as high on the snacks from there - waxier chocolate, for example. Also nice to note that Japan Centre is now stocking more Japanese snacks again...seems that the fears after the Fukushima incident have died down. Good news for fans of exotic candy!

So, in the interest of maintaining my diet, I'll be splitting this 9-pack into 2 or 3 reviews.

Very nice packaging - they're all individually wrapped and quite charmingly illustrated in different styles. I decided I'd go for Hot Cake, Bis(cuit), and the one in the middle that isn't visible - it just says Tirol, anyway.

Hey, there they are. The difference between the packaging is quite striking - the 'Tirol' looks like a classic, olden-timey chocolate wrapper, BIS looks a bit retro with the heavily stylized illustration of a biscuit, and the Hot Cake is more modern Japanese snack packaging with the realistic photo of the food. The one I was most looking forward was definitely Hot Cake, especially when I noticed that they specified butter and maple.

As you can see, the Tirol & Biscuit are milk chocolate, while the Hot Cake is white. It's a nice effect how the filling sort of can be seen through the Hot Cake.

This camera is so much better for cross sections - but I should probably stop just biting them in half. You could probably get a solid lead on my dental records from this blog.

The Tirol chocolate was the first I tried, and it was unexpected. I expected it to be a plain chocolate, and I was surprised that it was a peanut flavored taffy on the inside. It was a bit like a chewier Snickers without the nuts or caramel. A bit disappointing, but I kind of hate chewy fillings in chocolate. Chalk it up to a couple bad experiences with Riesin as a kid, what can I say...I've got fillings.

The biscuit was also a bit of a disappointment, because it was quite flavorless. The chocolate itself isn't the highest quality (in Japan, Tirol is quite cheap) so it really depends on the filling for taste. Unfortunately, this biscuit was neither sweet nor salty, just sort of...crunchy & bland.

The Hot Cake one, however, was worth the price of admission. The white chocolate was buttery and the inner mousse was buttery & sweet - the little pocket of more liquid-y sauce really did taste like maple. Huzzah! It was a nice approximation of a pancake, for sure.

I'm looking forward to having a few more of these Tirols - the 'Milk' and lemon ones in particular.

These are still available at Cybercandy, so if you're interested the price ain't so bad at all at £2.30.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cadbury, Dairy Milk Ritz

So there's been a continental European version of these out for awhile made by Milka, and they were available online quite readily last year at places like Cybercandy & Monster Sweets, I just hadn't bought one. Maybe subconsciously I knew that Cadbury was likely to release their own version since they're both owned by Kraft now.

The Milka version is with Tuc crackers, but Ritz are the same sort of thing - buttery and salty. I haven't tried the LU Biscuit version yet, as I think butter cookies & chocolate isn't that weird. Isn't that kind of what a Lu is already? The 'Petit Ecolier' one, at least. I didn't know Lu was a brand. Also, isn't a Lu biscuit a term for urinal cake or something? Sorry, I'm not normally into potty humor but that's too obvious to pass up.

So for all those reasons, I passed on the Lu and probably won't bother trying it - I'm still sort of dieting and if I can live without a treat, I should. However, my love of salty & sweet meant I couldn't survive without trying this Ritz & Dairy Milk.

It's nicely presented, I was glad that they made these in smaller sizes than the last few Cadbury limited editions (Oreo, Golden Biscuit Crunch, Nutty Caramel) which only came in that giant block. That's just asking for trouble, Cadbury. So in this bar I got 4 normal sized squares, and it was under 200 calories for the entire pack. The chocolate teapot on the front might be some sort of admission that chocolate & Ritz crackers "makes as much sense as a chocolate teapot" to which I respond, "wrong". It makes all the sense in the world.

One of my co-workers pointed out that the crackers sandwiching the chocolate give it a bit of a s'mores feel, and keeps your fingers clean as a result. I bet these would be nice microwaved a little bit with marshmallows...then again, what wouldn't be nice like that?

So, it's nicely presented throughout, but how's the taste? Not bad, considering it is delicious Dairy Milk and crunchy bits of cracker, but a little disappointing. When you say Ritz to me, I'm thinking buttery & salty. These were just sort of crunchy, and not really salty at all. The buttery taste was there a bit, and that was nice, but I sort of felt like they might as well have been the Lu biscuit variety.

Maybe my taste for salty chocolate is a bit out of the mainstream, so in that case it was smart for Cadbury to err on the side of caution and use low sodium Ritz. For me though, it meant it lost out what it could've been. Still very tasty, and there was a bit of salty taste, so I'd get one again & be pretty pleased. It just could've been even better.

Maybe I'll just get a sleeve of Ritz & a big bar of Dairy Milk and call in sick to work for a couple days.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Paul A Young, Selection Box

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, thank you! Also, you know that I love Paul A. Young - my favorite treat to get in the world is probably Paul A Young chocolates & baked goods. I've reviewed them a couple times on the blog (Gingerbread Caramel Shortbread, Valentine's Caramel Shortbread), but not nearly as many times as I've eaten them.

Even though he's probably most famous for some of the weirder creations, like Port & Stilton truffles and Marmite truffles, there are always plenty of 'safe' options available too. It's fun to try the weirder stuff, and I highly recommend throwing a couple into a selection box, but you'd be remiss not to also try his perfected versions of Salted Caramels, Chai Tea, and fruit/alcoholic centers.

On Valentine's Day my husband I went back to Abeno (see last year's review) and it was just as delicious and fun as it was before. Afterwards we went to Paul A Young...which we probably did last year, too! We're creatures of habit...or have we just discovered the most winning food combo in London? Do it yourself, and you be the judge.

We got a few bits & pieces, including some baked goods I'll also review - but here first is our selection box. There are a couple Valentine's specific chocolates, so I don't know how readily available they'll be from now - but there are non-specific ones also reviewed.

Chai Tea Truffles - So nice, very warming and creamy like a great chai latte. The cinnamon & nutmeg flavors are there, as are the less easy to ID flavors that make a chai tea spicy. Reminded me a bit of a chocolate egg tart, which is also spicy and chocolatey with a solid, creamy texture. Interesting that these seemed to be milkier chocolate, where many of other selections were dark.

Glenmorangie Truffle - This one was my husbands', and he describes it as 'not too alcoholic', and that it had 'a smooth ganache center'. He 'liked it'. Sorry folks, there is a reason I do the reviews, haha. It sounded nice!

Valentine's Breakfast Truffle - Probably the strangest one of this bunch, this truffle is described as being brown toast, butter, and marmalade. Quite on the money, the texture is dry but moist, like a well buttered slice of toast, and there is a large dollop of marmalade inside the truffle. It tastes just like hearty brown bread & marmalade - and of course chocolate. It was super good!

Battenburg Cake Truffle - This one was incredible. Originally I was going to eat the entire thing, but I couldn't bring myself to not let my husband try it. It tasted just like creamy almond cake batter inside delicious, not-to-sweet white chocolate. Truly stupendous, I was going to be happy with it just being like marzipan inside white chocolate, but it really was like a liquid Battenburg. A must try!

Honey Almond Caramel - Again, so good. Couldn't really taste the honey, but I never can. It may have lightened up the taste of the caramel, made it less thick. This was like his wonderful salted caramel, plus a big roasted almond, all covered in a thin layer of dark chocolate. This one I did just have to myself.

Rhubarb and Pink Peppercorn - We had forgotten what flavor this was by the time we got home, but it was one of our favorites. Very citrussy and piquant, but it didn't leave a really tart or tangy taste, it kind of ended on a gentle note unlike a lot of other tangy fruit flavors. Very well rounded.

Nothing but love for Paul A Young's chocolates. When you're getting one that sounds good, it will be good. When you're getting a kooky sounding one, there is a good chance it will also be good, and that's quite the feat.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Shinshu Apple KitKat

I'm getting through these Japanese KitKats awful slowly! First there was Wasabi KitKat, which was also one of very first reviews - I didn't even take photos. It was so dreadful. Then there was Golden Citrus Blend, an interesting white chocolate and citrus flavor that was quite nice. Followed shortly thereafter by Matcha Green Tea KitKat, which tasted like a delicious matcha milkshake. Then my favorite, Pumpkin Pudding - which was pumpkin-ninny.

This one was quite interesting to me, and I thought it was high time I ate it rather than let it sit around for ages getting older and weirder in my Candy Drawer. Believe me, if you saw it you'd understand the capitalization. It is a proper name.

The wrapper is nice, as are all of the KitKats wrappers in Japan. Nice little photo-style illustration of what it is meant to taste like, and this one includes a very peaceful forest scene as well. D'aww.

This is a Shinsuku Limited edition, which is referring to that cool way some snacks are marketed in Japan as being exclusive to one region or another. I love that - it would make the entire world feel a bit like an RPG. If I had to travel to Cambridge to get a specific kind of Cadbury's chocolate, I'd be all over it. For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to translate anywhere else. The wide expanse of America is a good reason why it wouldn't work there (no one would drive 10 hours or take a plane just to try a Hershey's exclusive to Montana...except maybe me) but why not here, where I could be basically anywhere in about 3 hours? Who knows!

So the chocolate. It's not like I expected it to be! I'm used to the Japanese KitKats having sort of a subtle flavor, or at the very least a quite natural flavor - but this one was quite intense apple & a bit perfumey. Not as nice or natural as the Caramel Apple Milky Way, which surprised me. The chocolate flavor was there, so it wasn't like eating an apple candle or anything.

The fruit flavor was almost alcoholic, very syrupy & a lot like a cheaper apple liquor? It was okay, but the taste was more artificial than I expected and in that way was a bit of a let down. Chocolate & apple is hard to get right, because apple is naturally not a very strong flavor - they mostly just taste sweet. Chocolate will naturally over power it, so I think manufacturer's overdo it to make sure that it is noticed at all. I've had a couple that went alright, like the Milky Way and the Russell Stover Big Bite - but this one just didn't get the balance right. It's a shame, but there are tons of better Japanese KitKats out there to try!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cafe Nero, Banana & Caramel Frappe

I'm a big fan of 'frappe' type drinks. Lots of people will tell you "if you're putting whipped cream and syrup on's a milkshake", to which I always respond so what. I didn't claim to be a puritanical coffee kinda person when I ordered the Vanilla Whizzbang with a shot of peppermint, so lay off.  Maybe it's that attitude that helped me gain 20 pounds in the last year, haha.

So, not only am I a big fan of frappes & milkshakes, my favorite flavor is banana. So after a long walk to an industrial estate that Google claimed had a KFC (it didn't) I was very let down. I was looking forward to a Krush'em, and in my sadness back in town I found myself in Cafe Nero.

The banana & caramel frappe came out ages ago now, alongside a chocolate & coconut and a strawberry & vanilla. I've been wanting to drink it for awhile, but it's been difficult to justify for the past few months. Finally I had an excuse in that very disappointing walk.

They didn't skimp on the cream. As luck would have it, the caramel sauce pump was broken so I got probably triple the amount necessary because the lady just had to ladle it in there. Allllright...
The banana flavor was so pleasant, not at all overwhelming or artificial. I think the UK has banana flavor down, whereas in America most banana stuff tastes like these horrible jerk candies, in the UK it mostly tastes delicate & like a real banana. This was a bit like a more natural flavor of banana than Frijj. The dollops of caramel add a lot of sweetness when you hit a vein, but the over all experience isn't over sweetened. Then again, I'm pretty over sweetened myself so I might be deluded by years of Tootsie Pops.

The cream was really good, probably my favorite part - an unsurprising fact to anyone who has ever spent more than a day with me. It had that coffee shop cream taste - vanilla and very 'fatty'.

It was really a great drink/dessert, and if you're a fan of milkshakes and you have somewhere in the region of 400 calories going spare, you'd be much better off with one of these than a Frijj or Yazoo.