Friday, May 31, 2013

(Stupid?) Ass Chocolates

I don't know what to say about this, but I thought all chocolate lovers should know about this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hawaiian Host Milk Chocolate Covered Macadamias

OLORD, the world has so much chocolate! I came across this cool-sounding brand at the Andheri Landmark and had to see if the product was half as exotic as the brand name. So Hawaiian Host is a.. duh... Hawaiian brand, whose origins were laid by Mamoru Takitani of Japanese origin. Subsequently joined by his wife, Aiko, the couple began to created chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, which became a rage in Maui. The chocolates were sold locally for a while before the company, Hawaiian Host was founded in 1965.

Today, the brand has grown to market over 250 kinds of chocolates and candies to over 23 countries the world over. It has factories in Honolulu and Los Angeles, as also a distribution facility in Tokyo. Packing over 15 million boxes per year, Hawaiian Host is easily the world's largest manufacturer of macadamia nut-based chocolates.

This particular box weighing 113 g contains 21 units of hand-wrapped chocolates. Each chocolate has a pair of whole roasted macadamia nuts covered in milk chocolate. The nuts are quite crunchy and taste very much like whole hazelnuts in chocolates. Frankly, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two nuts if someone didn't label them for me.

However, the chocolate is creamy and melts beautifully in the mouth creating a lovely contrast with the crunch of the nut. The taste is quite lovely, but the chocolate pieces, as you can see, are nothing to look at. They have neither the perfection of machine-made bars, nor the finesse of hand-crafted chocolate. They just look like chocolate has been poured over the and left to dry, which is probably the case. The overall packaging is nice, but it might hurt a little to fork out INR 450 for a box of not-so-great chocolates.

RATING: 3.5/5

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz

My chocolate obsession first led me to different flavours, then different brands, and now it slowly drags me into dark, chocolaty, technical depths. The more I read labels and the back of packs of exotic chocolates, the more I felt I knew nothing. I realised soon after I started this blog that if I were to make any serious headway as a chocolate reviewer, I would have to learn about the finer points of chocolate. I started looking for books on chocolate, but apart from chocolate recipe books there is precious little - at least in India. I turned to Google for books that would help me understand chocolate's bean to bar journey, and it threw me this book among its many results. Albeit a slightly expensive foreign publication, The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz seemed the perfect place for my initiation.

David Lebovitz

I picked this book largely because of the author credentials. David Lebovitz has extensive 'chocolate experience', having worked for 12 long years at the pastry department of Chez Panisse, has trained from Ecole Lenôtre in Paris and attended Callebaut College, a chocolate school in Belgium. And this offered me just the tiniest glimpse of the author's knowledge of chocolate. As I read page after page, I took away not just lessons in chocolate, but also his enduring passion for chocolate.

The book opens with a brief introduction, followed by a chapter called 'Chocolate Explained', which is the most useful one for a new student of chocolate. In this chapter, he explains how and where cacao is grown, what the types are, how it is processed, a historical view of chocolate and even traces the origin of his own romance with chocolate. The next chapter 'Sustainability of Cacao' addresses important environmental issues pertaining to cacao farming, especially in the rain forests of Africa, and briefly, the subject of organic chocolates. The next chapter, 'A Chocolate Primer' will be very handy for bakers and cooks dealing in chocolate, but is rather technical for a 'general' student of chocolate. That said, I will always turn to the helpful definitions provided of the types and compounds of chocolate whenever I am trying to decode information on the back of a chocolate pack. The chapter that follows is titled 'Chocolate and Wellness' and puts together the scientific findings about and the proven benefits of chocolate that the media writes about so often.

The following two chapters, 'Buying Chocolate' and 'Chocolate in Paris' are largely accounts of the author's own chocolate adventures, where he writes about the world's most famous and exciting shops he has bought chocolates from, offering tips on how to buy them along the way. There is also a seven-day diary entry of the  author's experience of working at a famous chocolate workshop. While rich in information, reading this section can get boring for a 'general' reader, especially if there is little prospect of actually visiting the mentioned places. But yes, should I have the opportunity to go on a chocolate pilgrimage, I shall be holding this book close.

Finally, there is the big fat section on recipes. While it was of no import to me, it can be an excellent resource for people who don't just like to eat their chocolate but make it too.

ISBN: 978-1-58008-495-6
Ten Speed Press
Price: Approx. INR 940

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Chocolate Room, Ghatkopar, Mumbai

While I believe that Indians don't care much about chocolate, the mushrooming chocolate cafes in the country seem to suggest otherwise. One example is the wildly popular chocolate cafe chain, The Chocolate Room, which is originally Australian, and just seven years old! Thanks to its franchise model, the cafes are now found all over the world, notably India. India has over 50 such cafes in India, with around eight in Mumbai itself. The master franchisee for India is Ahmedabad-based Vikas Punjabi, and the Mumbai, Ghatkopar cafe is owned by Kapil Aggarwal. Interestingly though, it was The Chocolate Room, Ghatkopar's social media handler, Sundeep Dawale, who invited me for a review. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

I reached this cozy little cafe, located wonderfully on a busy circle in Ghatkopar, making it impossible to miss. It's a snug little arrangement with just three tables, and gets pretty crowded in the evenings when people walk in for their desserts post dinner, but I don't think anyone's complaining because their stuff is so fantastic. 

Upon entering, the product counter seduces you in upfront with sinful-looking chocolate cakes and pastries lined up, while a product-display shelf called 'The Chocolate Shop' entices you with other offerings to your left. Odds and ends like chocolate gift boxes, warming mugs, fondue pots, cuddle cups and chocolate bouquets are there for customers to buy.

I also noticed this quaint little chocolate Taj Mahal on the counter, which is apparently a popular gift of choice for young people (in love). The half kg 'monument' costs something like INR 600 and I thought it was very cute!

I was greeted by Sundeep, who told me how he became part of The Chocolate Room story. He was a regular customer at the cafe, and eventually his passion for chocolate and acquaintance with Kapil got him involved with the cafe's social media activities. It was with his guidance that I began the difficult task of choosing from their vast and reasonably-priced menu. As you can see here, they have a huge selection of hot chocolates, teas, pastries, shakes, frappes, waffles, sundaes and coffees.

I, of course, went into my 'Charlie in the Chocolate Factory' mode and wanted to order everything. I think I covered a big base because I sampled a Choco-rum shot, a Chilli-infused Hot Chocolate, a Lindt Dark Chocolate Shake, an M&M's Milk Chocolate Shake, a Chocolate Avalanche, a Hazelnut Praline and Chocolate Tarts. And for those wondering, this shameless list had less to do with my gluttony and more with Kapil Aggarwal's generous hospitality. Here is what I thought of all I sampled:

The Choco-Rum Shot:Very sweet and very intense, the Choco-Rum shot is a drink of molten dark chocolate spiked with a rum flavour. Served in shot glasses, this is a drink for those who can handle strong flavours. I wish the rum were real, though. :)

Chilli-infused Hot Chocolate: Because hot chocolate has disappointed me in most places, I was keen to see how The Chocolate Room fares with it. I picked the chilli-infused hot chocolate to see if they could balance this tricky spice while keeping the taste of chocolate intact. The drink arrived in a cuddle cup and pretty much won me over after I took the first sip. While the chocolate was not very rich, the amount of chilli was just right. I can imagine how wonderful this warming beverage be on a winter evening.

Lindt Dark Chocolate Shake: Shakes at The Chocolate Room are pretty popular, and I therefore tried not one but two of them. I ordered a Lindt Dark Chocolate Shake first, which arrived in a tall glass, garnished with a piece of a Lindt bar. The shake was thick with whipped cream, milk, chocolate sauce and crushed Lindt chocolate. While the taste was great, I did not enjoy the graininess that came from the crushed chocolate and overall, the texture was a little too overwhelming for me.

M&M Chocolate Shake: Because one must also do justice to milk chocolate, we ordered the M&M's Chocolate Shake. Similarly blended as the Lindt Shake, this has milk, cream, chocolate sauce, crushed M&Ms, topped with whipped cream and M&Ms. This one was much sweeter, and seemed somewhat smoother than the Lindt shake. A fan of dark chocolate as I am, I found this the better of the two.    

Chocolate Avalanche:As the name explains, the Chocolate Avalance is a decadent dessert and one of the  most popular things on their menu. With chocolate mousse pudding, chocolate-walnut brownie, Dutch Truffle pastry, chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate shavings and chocolate sticks going in it, it is a chocolate lover's dream come true. Extremely rich, this dessert is best had on special occasions and with special people. I give it a 4.5/5 rating.

Hazelnut Praline: I was nearly dead from chocolate overdose by the time I sampled the aforementioned things, but Kapil insisted I try the Hazelnut Praline. I gave in to their only chocolate-cream based dessert and lost myself in the rich hazelnut textures and flavours. While I found it a wee bit hard, the taste more then made up for it.

Chocolate tarts: I must have died and gone to chocolate heaven by then, when Kapil suggested I try the tarts too. I said I would collapse if I ate anymore chocolate, so he said he'd pack some for me to take home.  I did and tried them this morning with a palate that had had ten hours of rest. And I was blown away all over again by The Chocolate Room experience.

Kapil Aggarwal and Sundeep Dawale

The only way to sum it all up is GO TO THE CHOCOLATE ROOM, GHATKOPAR NOW!

PS: I was given a bar of chocolate and a box of truffles and pralines too, but those will be reviewed in another post very soon.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chocosophy product launches: The Milk Shake Factory, Paton's, Ghirardelli, Cadbury

Paton's new postcard and Royals collection

The Australian chocolate company launched their new Postcard  and Royals collections at the TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore this month. The new postcard packs focus especially on the Asia Pacific region - the brand's biggest market, and have 21 pieces of chocolate instead of 15 to offer consumers more value for money.

For the Royals collection, Paton’s has come up with a new gift box of toffee-dipped, chocolate-covered macadamias based on the preferences of customers and retailers in key markets. The new gift box designs include more gold colouring with wider colour bands and images of the chocolates – offered in milk, white or dark flavours – have been increased in size for better on shelf visibility. The back of the box features a potted history of the family-owned company, as per


Snappers by The Milk Shake Factory

The Milk Shake Factory by Edward Marc Chocolatier announced the launch of this new chocolate innovation, called Snappers, in Costco stores in mid-April 2013. Snappers are described as a crunchy, salty and sweet snack.

“Made with crisp pretzels, creamy caramel and rich milk chocolate, Snappers are a gourmet treat everyone will love, both young and old,” the maker was quoted saying.


Ghirardelli Toffee Crunch and Mint Cookie


American brand, Ghirardelli, has launched two new filled chocolate flavors -- Mint Cookie and Toffee Crunch -- to join their existing lineup of Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel, Milk Chocolate with Caramel, Dark Chocolate with Raspberry and Dark Chocolate and Caramel. The mint Cookie can be described as a decadent refreshing mint chocolate filling blended with crunchy cookies surrounded by slow-melting milk chocolate, while the Toffee Crunch is a slow-melting milk chocolate with a filling blended with crunchy toffee bits.


Cadbury Crunchums cereal bites

Mondelez is adding to its quirky snacks portfolio by introducing Cadbury Crunchums in June. Crunchums are crispy cereal bites covered in milk chocolate. Last year Cadbury launched chocolate-covered popcorn and pretzels, and this year's launch will be massive too, in true Cadbury style. The product will be available in 105 g share bags following a 1.3 mn GBP campaign.

Nutella Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

What can I say about Nutella that the world does not already know? The chocolate spread comes from the house of Ferrero and was first made in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, a patisserie maker and one of the original founders of the company. To compensate for the cocoa shortage during the second World War, Ferrero started experimenting with chocolate products with additions like nuts. He used roasted hazelnuts and substituted cocoa butter with hydrogenated vegetable fat (palm oil) and eventually gave us the chocolate spread Nutella as we know it today. It was introduced in the market in 1964. Since then it has become insanely popular; so much so that people actually celebrate World Nutella Day on February 5.

Because the main ingredients of Nutella are sugar and palm oil (followed by hazelnuts, cocoa solids and skimmed milk), it is a rather unhealthy product to have at the breakfast table. Sample this bit of info from Wikipedia: Nutella contains 67% saturated fat and processed sugar by weight. A two-tablespoon (37 gram) serving of Nutella contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 of which are saturated and 21 grams of sugar. To put that into perspective, a typical chocolate and nut candy bar has 250 to 300 calories and 12 to 16 grams of fat.

That said, I continue to buy my jars of Nutella pretty regularly like a million others, although I'm not a fan. Before I started this blog, I hadn't paid it much heed to it. It was only when I tried the Pillsbury Choco Spread for the blog did points of comparison start cropping up between it and Nutella. Apart from its taste, it is Nutella spreadability that makes it such a popular product. See how wonderfully it glides over a slice of bread or any other carb things you want to load up with chocolate!

Nutella is smooth, creamy, sweet and everything one can possibly want in comfort food. It is both very chocolaty and hazelnutty and makes it impossible for you to stop digging in that spoon and eating it straight off the jar - the gym be damned! Yes I do that even though I claim not to like it too much. Basically, there is no hope for those who actually do and will probably polish off this 180 g jar much sooner than I will.

RATING: 3.5/5

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Little Chocolate Shop

A while ago, I saw a Twitter friend (@BziB) talking about a new chocolate goodies' shop that her sister Michelle had opened. My curiosity was immediately piqued and I congratulated her on the opening. The sweetheart that @BziB is, she offered to send some samples across and I was thrilled that I would be one of the first people to be writing about it. And there it was, waiting on my desk this morning, a beautiful li'l batch made by the lovely Michelle!

A Sophia’s (HAFT) alumna, Michelle has worked in one of the most prestigious hotel kitchens in the country at the Taj Group of Hotels. She specializes in pastry and confectionery, and has continued to make and bake passionately even after she left the Taj. For a while, she has whipped up treats for friends and family, but she dreams of owning a café eventually. The little Chocolate Shop is the first step in that direction. She believes that because pastries and chocolates are indulgences, they should always be made only from the best, healthiest ingredients.

The little Chocolate shop was started on the first of May, 2013 and operates out of a kitchen in Goregaon. And it was from there that a beautiful pack of four goodies and a small pack of savouries was sent to me. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into them! The pack consisted of a wholewheat chocolate brownie with walnut toppings, a gooey chocolate almond brownie, a butter caramel chocolate tart and a mini Banoffee pie, accompanied by a small pack of Garlic Herb crackers.

I started with the Garlic Herb crackers first, and found them crisp and subtly flavoured, just the way I like them. I think I detected some cheese in it too, but I could totally be imagining it. The herbs used in savouries like these are all home-grown by Michelle, who believes in delivering only the healthiest possible treats to her customers.

Then came the Mini Banoffee pie, which I thought was a splendid idea. These bite-sized goodies are perfect for weight-watching, sweet-toothed people like me. Imagine all that yummy, chocolate-sprinkled banana-cream-toffee goodness in your mouth at once! What's not to like, right? :)

I tried the butter-caramel chocolate tart next. The crusts of both the tarts were beautifully crumbly, and in my book, that's what makes for a perfect tart. The tart crust was filled with butter-caramel sauce, with a layer of chocolate on top. As I bit into it, my mouth was filled with the sauce, causing the most beautiful explosion of flavours with the sweet of caramel and the slight salt of butter. It was easily my favourite of the four things.

I tried the brownies next, starting with the gooey chocolate-almond variety. Perhaps because it was a day-old, the brownie had hardened a little. Tasty as they were, I did not find them 'gooey'. But I can imagine it going superbly well on a Sizzling Brownie platter with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce!

Lastly, I tried the Wholewheat Chocolate Brownie, topped with chopped walnuts. Considering there are few, if any, 'healthy' dessert options, this kind of brownie should resonate with the health-conscious. It had a dense, cakey consistency and was not excessively sweet. The chopped nuts added more character, making it quite a mouthful. Again, a little on the hard side, but I know many people like their brownies like that. A perfect choice, I repeat, for weight-watching dessert lovers.

Apart from these, Michelle makes lovely things like Baby Meringues, Dairy Free Pavlovas, Mango Tarts, Marzipan Cupcakes, and Rainbow Cookies among other things. You can check out their menu here.

Currently, The little Chocolate Shop takes only custom orders, but they will open a cafe shortly. They  currently deliver to locations between Bandra and Malad (other locations on request) in Mumbai. You can address your enquiries to Karina Varma on and can check out their FB page too for latest updates on all good chocolat-y things.

RATING: 3.5/5

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cadbury Crunchie

I think I had taken no notice of this product for so many years because the packaging resembles a 5 Star , and I make no secret of my dislike for the latter. Not that Cadbury Crunchie is available everywhere as it has to be imported from the UK. But the product has been around from as far back as 1929, when it was produced by J. S. Fry & Sons. Fry merged with Cadbury eventually and Crunchie became a Cadbury product. Crunchie has been a popular chocolate abroad and several limited edition flavours like orange, lemonade and champagne have been introduced over the years.

Crunchie is basically a milk chocolate bar with a honeycomb toffee centre. A honeycomb toffee, also called sponge toffee or cinder toffee is a sugary toffee, which is light, rigid and has sponge-like texture. For those who want to know more about the toffee-making process, head here.

Needless to say, the toffee is the most important component of this chocolate and it offers the most wonderful texture. I prefer the hard, crunchy toffee many times more than the sticky, soft caramel so many people seem to prefer.

However, the end taste is rather sweet, with the milk chocolate and the honeycomb toffee coming together. Since I am not a fan of overly sweet chocolates, Crunchy is not something I would buy often. But for lovers of sweet confections, a 50 g pack for INR 50 might be a good treat.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

La Confiteria Delaviuda Milk - Lait

From what I could gauge from the translation of the brand's website, La Confiteria Delaviuda is a Spanish brand, that was established in 1927 in Toledo, Spain, by Dr. Manuel Lopez and his wife, Maria Rojas. While confection-making was Lopez' family tradition, he didn't live long enough to carry on. After his death in 1939, the business fell upon his widow's hands. Maria, along with her children, determinedly carried the business forward and came to be known as the 'sweet widow' for her quality confections.

Today, the brand sells a variety of chocolates and obviously sells in many parts of the world, landed as it has in a supermarket shelf in Mumbai.

After my tryst with sugar-free dark chocolate, this sugar-free milk chocolate was the perfect find. I wanted to see how milk chocolate would compare with dark chocolate sans the sugar. I was disappointed. The sugar-free Milk - Lait La Confiteria Delaviuda chocolate has a very strong aftertaste of the artificial sweetener, Maltitol. Although Maltitiol, a sugar alcohol, is a popular sugar substitute of its sweetness and low calorific content, it leaves an unpleasant taste behind, at least as far as this European chocolate is concerned.

That apart, I love the package design with a fail-safe solid colour combination of blue and red with white - like the UK or US flags. The bar is plain looking, without any branding. The bar isn't splotchy looking like it is in the picture - that's just fridge-frost. Also, a 100 g bar costs INR 195 - too steep unless you're a diabetic chocoholic. All in all, a product you'd like to give a miss.

RATING: 2.5/5

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Butlers Honeycomb Crisp Milk Chocolate

The best thing about running this blog is that everyday I go to bed knowing that there will be more chocolate tomorrow! THERE ARE SO MANY BRANDS AND VARIETIES OUT THERE! Every time a friend returns from a trip abroad or I from the supermarket, there is something new to be eaten, enjoyed and written about. Oh, the world is a sweet, sweet place.

This sweet offering, for instance, has come all the way from Ireland. Butlers was founded in 1932 by an Irishwoman Marion Butler, who initially called it Chez Nous. The small company was based in Dublin and was bought over by Seamus Sorensen in 1959; the Sorensen family still owns this brand. The Butlers brand was born in 1984. Today, the brand's luxurious chocolates are sold in over 35 countries globally, and it is best known for its cafe chain format.

Among its many varieties, is this milk chocolate with an intriguing ingredient - honeycomb! Honey in food, yes. But honeycomb!? I was most curious about how it would taste. The honeycomb (10%), along with rice crispies (5%), has been added to this chocolate for crispness. The result is a wonderfully crunchy bar of chocolate with a hint of honey. But crunch and smoothness apart, the bar is pretty regular.

A consumer won't know what honeycomb tastes like from this bar. I was also disappointed with the excessively sweet milk chocolate. Overly sweet milk chocolates are my biggest problem with Indian milk chocolates as well.

Milk chocolate lovers will quite like this product, but I see no reason why anyone should pick this up over a regular Cadbury Crackle, especially when a 100 g bar costs almost INR 220.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Godiva milk and dark chocolate pearls

Another fine example of the Beglian chocolate legend is the brand Godiva that makes some of the world's most luxurious chocolates. Originally a Belgian company founded by Joseph Draps in 1926, it was bought over first by the American Campbell Soup Company in 1972 and then by the Turkish Yıldız Holding in 2008. Godiva is currently owned by Yıldız Holding - Turkey's largest consumer goods manufacturer. Godiva is known the world over for its gourmet chocolates, especially their gold ballotins.

I was given these two tins of Godiva pearls - milk and dark chocolate - by a friend a few days ago and I was really keen to see what the Godiva reputation was all about. The nifty looking tins are of the flip open type and contain 43 g of pearls - 80 to 100 pearls maybe. They're perfect to slip into purses and other such and generally show off to people. I LOVE THOSE TINS!

Glazed on top, the chocolates melt in one's mouth rather quickly and taste quite good. Notice how I don't say 'great', because they.. um.. aren't. Yes, the chocolates are smooth and appropriately sweet, but they don't make for a memorable taste experience. It may also have to do with eating smaller quantities - one or two pearls at a time - that don't offer enough gustatory information. Incidentally, the pack also lacks information on cocoa quantities and such. The point is, Godiva's milk and dark chocolate pearls are underwhelming.

What is not underwhelming is the price; quite the opposite actually. One teensy, albeit adorable, tin costs almost INR 400, from what I gauged from the Internet! But I'm not writing Godiva off yet. I shall leave my judging for another day when I get hold of a gold ballotin for which the brand is so famous. But I'm certainly never buying or gifting any more Godiva pearls.

RATING: 2.5/5

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