Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chocosophy product launches: New Milka range, Zico chocolate coconut water, Stone Grindz

Spain gets three new Milka chocolate snacks 

Mondelez International's milk chocolate products brand, Milka, has launched three new products in Spain including Choco Moo, Choco Tutti and Cake & Choc. 

Milka Cake & Choc is a tablet-shaped cookie filled with Milka chocolate nuggets, Milka Choco Moo is a cow-shaped cookie covered with Milka chocolate, and Milka Choco Tutti is a cake comprising two layers of chocolate sponge cake topped with Milka chocolate. These products have been around in other countries, but will be new to Spain and will hopefully be imported here too soon.


Zico chocolate coconut water

US-based company, Zico, that sells packaged coconut water has introduced chocolate as its newest flavour.  Apart from chocolate, Zico Pure Premium Coconut Water is available in flavours like Pineapple, Latte, Passion Fruit, Mango, Strawberry-Banana, besides the natural one. The introduction of the chocolate flavour will please many health-conscious chocolate lovers, and will be available from July 1 with independent retailers in the US. The chocolate-flavoured drink will be sold in 400 ml and 1 l resealable cartons.


Stone Grindz Morrocan Mint & Cashew chocolate

Artisanal chocolate makers, Stone Grindz, have introduced a unique flavour called Morrocan Mint and Cashew that is 100% raw and organic. Despite being made with the old-age stone grinding technique, the chocolate professes to be smooth with a lovely earthy flavour. 

What truly makes Stone Grindz chocolate unique, aside from being 100% raw and organic, is the texture. As the name implies, the company's entire product line, including coconut butter and superfood bars, is made using a stone grinder. This gives the chocolate a rough, sandy texture like that of traditional Mexican chocolate, and it means that mix-ins like nuts and fruit are ground into fine pieces along with the beans to be strewn evenly throughout the bars. Stone Grindz products are available at farmers' markets in Scottsdale Arizona, US.

Chocosophy news: Healthy chocolate, Barry Callebaut Academy, Cadbury picnic table

Indian-origin Brit creates world's first 'healthy' chocolate

Indian-origin math graduate has created the world's first 'healthy' chocolate that has a negligible 20 calories per piece. Combining his love of chocolate and his background in math, 25-year-old Aneesh Popat created these chocolates using flavoured water and cocoa. His chocolates do not have the sinful ingredients like cocoa butter, cream, gelatin and eggs. Popat's creations are already being supplied to Michelin-star restaurants and are expected to grow in popularity, especially among health-conscious chocoholics. I want some of these despite that corny punchline that follows the brand name - The Chocolatier : A niche by Aneesh. :/


Barry Callebaut opens chocolate academy in South America

Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, opened its first Chocolate Academy™ center in South America, the 15th center worldwide. Located at Paulista Avenue in São Paulo, the Chocolate Academy™ center is a state-of-the-art teaching and training facility for culinary professionals at all levels interested in strengthening their skills in working with chocolate and learning about new techniques, trends and recipes dedicated to the Brazilian market.
The center’s offerings include a wide range of training courses and demonstrations for customers in all sectors: chocolatiers, chefs, pastry, bakery and other chocolate experts as well as culinary professionals working in hotels, restaurants and the catering business.


Cadbury creates life-size chocolate picnic table in London

Trust Cadbury to come up with the most creative ideas for marketing. To mark National Picnic Week (June 17-23) in the UK, Cadbury made and placed a 60 kg edible chocolate picnic bench at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire. The bench could support a family of four and was created using 400 Picnic bars, almost 64 kg of Dairy Milk, peanuts and puffed rice. The bench was covered in glaze to protect it from the elements.

New chocolates at The Cocoa Trees

Since I first visited The Cocoa Trees, the Singapore-based chocolate chain store brand, has been throwing one delight after another my way. Apart from their impressively vast spectrum of spectrum of over 40 varieties of international branded chocolates under one roof, ranging from Belgian chocolate, Anthon Berg, Ferrero, Lorenz, Sorini, Mars and Fazer; the chocolate boutique conducts events such as chocolate dipping sessions to help Indian consumers appreciate chocolate.

Now it has added three renowned premium products Goldkenn Crystal Gold Bar, Swiss Dream Napo Box and Hershey’s Kisses Tin to their vast repertoire.

Goldkenn Crystal Gold Bar: Wonderfully crafted Swiss milk chocolate praline with a dash of cocoa sprinkles, encased in a refined gold and transparent crystal effect exterior. The premium chocolate comes in a 200g bar, priced at Rs. 1395.

Swiss Dream Napo Box: Crafted with superior ingredients having the finest taste, bringing the experience of an authentic Swiss lifestyle through the chocolates. The Swiss chocolates come in a 300g box, costing Rs. 695.

Hershey’s Kisses Tin: Uniquely shaped and deliciously tender Hershey’s Kisses milk chocolates in a classically decorated tin, with a rustic vintage charm. The chocolates with the old school charm come in a 240g tin, worth Rs. 995.

The Cocoa Trees outlets can be found at three stores in Mumbai and one Mumbai airport, three in Pune, one in Delhi T3 domestic airport and Goa.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk Orange Peel

I am spoilt I am. With every exotic foreign chocolate I sample, Indian chocolates seem to slide a notch lower  on my scale. Not that all foreign brands and makes are good, but Cadbury India's (Mondelez International) mediocrity gets more and more manifest. Disgusted by their innocent (read messy) eating ad pitch, I had kept away from this product for a long time (which adult eats chocolate like that? Ew.). But I decided to give it a shot to see what the big deal was all about.

Cadbury Dairy Milk (or CDM as they like to call themselves on the website) decided to launch Silk as a premium product above their insanely popular repertoire. In fact, popular is an understatement, because no other chocolate brand in India offers any real competition to them.

What makes Silk premium are its shape, texture (apparently), packaging and price. I like the little paper note that is wrapped over the trademark gold foil, that enumerates Silk's finer points. I agree about the dome-shaped squares fitting snugly in one's mouth. But the chocolate DOES NOT melt in it. Even at room temperature, the chocolate does not dissolve in the mouth. Unless, of course, I try my Silk in Mumbai's sweltering summer. To me, the whole 'creamy, silky' chocolate business seems like a sham.

And that's not the only let down. The orange peel flavour is mild and there are almonds in it for no apparent reason. What I expect from a flavoured chocolate is an intense enough scent and taste; a lovely tang in case of orange peel. But the flavour in this is diluted and the nuts don't help. A 65 g bar costs INR 50, which I don't mind too much, but anything seems like a waste when I am given a sweet milk chocolate. All I'm going to say is that I have felt the Silk lately, and what an underwhelming experience it was.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk - Coconut Rendezvous

Whatever else the US may be famous for, it is certainly not chocolate. The only American chocolate brand that I have read about with any consistency over these months of chocolate blogging is Ghirardelli. And it is unsurprising because the company apparently has a Lindt & Sprungli connection 1. The brand is named after founder Domenico Ghirardelli, an Italian chocolatier. Having been established in 1852, it is America's second oldest brand (the oldest being Baker's Chocolate). It is also among the few brands in the world that control the bean-to-bar aspects of production.

I was naturally excited to find it at a specialty food store in Chembur, Mumbai. However, they had only a couple of variations and I had to bring back a milk chocolate bar. So my first Ghirardelli experience was to be with Gourmet Milk Coconut Rendezvous.

Once the card wrapper is opened, one sees a lovely light golden foil embossed with the Ghirardelli brand name. The chocolate bar is also branded with the Ghirardelli logo, that has a quintessentially American eagle in it. The chocolate bar has a sweet aroma and I was afraid it might be a little too sweet by the time it reached my palate. And right I was. The chocolate turned out to be disappointingly sweet; even for a milk chocolate. I might as well be drinking Milkmaid.

That said, the chocolate is exceptionally smooth and has a lovely, creamy texture. The coconut adds texture, but I found it dry and it did not do much for me in terms of flavour. For example, I'll think of Bounty first when someone says coconut chocolate and not Ghirardelli Coconut Rendezvous. Milk chocolate lovers may like it, but it isn't worth spending INR 490 for a 100 g bar.

I'm eager to try Ghirardelli's dark chocolate offerings, but I'm definitely never buying this again.

RATING: 2.5/5

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Baking Magic, Khargar, Navi Mumbai

The joy of chocolates apart, Chocosophy is beginning to get sweet new acquaintances into my life. I got in touch with Baking Magic through my dear friend, Reema, and was asked to come over and review the place. Although Khargar was far and I did curse the traffic on my way there, my tryst with Baking Magic was worth all my time and effort.

L-R: Dorothy, Yuga Sreejeev and Nalini Sreejeev
Baking Magic, a cafe & bakery in Khargar, Navi Mumbai, is the kind of place where people go for a quick bite or to satisfy their sweet cravings. The business is a joint venture by Nalini Sreejeev and her partner, Manju Daryanani. It started out as a hobby for the two women, but as orders grew, they decided to turn it into a full-fledged business. The first outlet was opened in Bandra in 2007. They eventually moved to Seawoods in Navi Mumbai and finally to Khargar, where they are currently located. Daryanani moved to Dubai in due course, where she runs a sister outlet called Cake Story. In Mumbai, Sreejeev not only handles the business, but even does some baking firsthand. She is, of course, helped by her lovely daughter Yuga, who helped design the space and looks after some of the marketing. A design student, Yuga also designed the cafe's lovely logo.

The pastry showcase and the wall shelves with breads

I was met by these lovely people at the cafe and then some wonderful sights. A shelf full of desserts greets a customer up front, to the left are shelves of breads and savouries and to the right are specimens of cutomised cakes and boxes of chocolates. I couldn't help but admire the handiwork on the cakes, imagining the possibilities. There were wedding cakes, baby shower cakes, themed birthday cakes, festival cakes... you name it!

Custom and themed cakes

These cakes are the superstars of Bakin Magic's repertoire, but Sreejeev also takes up a lot of corporate orders for chocolate. They've delivered to companies like Jet, Wipro, and Ernst & Young among others. They also make custom chocolates for private events (in bulk orders, obviously). A specimen made for a bridal shower is seen here. Inventiveness is the key word for Nalini and her peers at Baking Magic.

Custom chocolates
After a while came the difficult task of choosing goodies for the review. Trust me, a chocolate reviewer's job can be a hard one when it comes to making choices. Undecided, I threw down the gauntlet to Nalini and Yuga and asked them to pick their bests for me. Over a cup of some lovely hazelnut coffee (a Baking Magic specialty), and a tasty chicken roll, they suggested I try their Chocolate Cup Mango Mousse, the Chocolate Overload Pastry, Chocolate Waffle and Chocolate tarts.

The Chocolate Cup Mango Mousse was one of the most interesting-looking things on the menu, so I went for it first. The mango mousse is served delicate rose-shaped chocolate cups, which need to be inverted to be served. Interestingly enough, Baking Magic serves only eggless desserts at the cafe. They include eggs in their recipes only if a custom order so specifies. The mousse was quite fluffy and delicious by itself, but with the chocolate, it acquired a different, more brilliant personality. 'Embellished' with edible glitter, the mango mousse-filled chocolate rose makes for a very tempting dessert.

Mango mousse in chocolate cup

Next up was the Chocolate Overload, a chocolate pastry true to its name. Made from alternating layers of chocolate cake, chocolate cream and chocolate icing and topped with chocolate bars like Kit Kat and 5 Star, this one sure is the right indulgence for chocoholics like me. Soft textures and rich chocolaty flavours make this one great dessert.

Chocolate overload
I was almost dying of overeating at this point when Nalini suggested I try their chocolate waffles. And who can say no to chocolate waffles? Since the chefs had left for the day, Nalini herself whipped up a waffle for me and boy, was it lovely! Filled in with chocolate and topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, the waffle was a decadent treat. The waffle itself was a tad thick (I like mine much thinner), but when there is so much chocolate to go with it, who cares?

Chocolate waffle

Since I was almost dead from a chocolate OD, I decided to take the chocolate tarts home rather than stuffing my face some more. When I tried them later, I found the chocolate filling to be creamy and not-too-sweet and the tart crust nicely crumbly. I was one happy girl at the end of the day. :)

Baking Magic is making magic with its baked goodies and confections in Khargar and if you are any place near, it's a must-go-to place. Chocosopher recommends.


Baking Magic
Shop no.9, Regency Gardens, 
Sector 6, Kharghar, 
Navi Mumbai

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hot dark chocolate at Le Cafe, Chembur

Finally! A decent cup of hot chocolate.

After my disastrous run at Costa Coffee (where both the hot chocolate and the Beglian Chocolate Frappe suck) and at The Chocolate Room, where the hot chilli-infused chocolate is just so, I was beginning to lose hope. Can no one make a decent cup of hot chocolate, I asked of God. And the answer lay right in my neighbourhood! Since the hotel Jewel of Chembur opened, all their F&B spaces have been talked nd written about. I frequent their pub, Astrix, but I'd never tried their restaurant, Moksha or cafe, Le Cafe... until today.

The pretty cafe overlooks the busy station road and has a lovely ambiance. I settled in with a friend at a cozy corner table and without thinking twice, ordered the hot 'dark' chocolate. I had to put this 'famous' cafe to the chocolate beverage test, given my bad experience with them so far. A cup of steaming hot chocolate was presented to me in some time with a 'Facebook F' dusted on it. Why it was written in the reverse is anyone's guess.

I didn't care really, as long as the hot chocolate was good. I took my first sip and baby, I was in love! The beverage went down my throat smoothly, its dark and sweet flavours warming my heart more than anything. I sipped on gleefully while my friend tried to suppress his amusement at my orgasmic expressions. But I couldn't care less. I HAD FINALLY FOUND A GOOD CUPPA HOT CHOCOLATE!

Past the froth, the hot chocolate looked deliciously dark and I should have remembered to ask the cafe what drinking chocolate they use. I'm fairly sure it was drinking chocolate and not a melted chocolate-milk infusion. It still was very rich and delish. However, I have to admit, it started tasting extremely sweet halfway through the cup. Not that it stopped me from downing it wholly! This monsoon, you must have this lovely hot dark chocolate from Le Cafe, if you're in Chembur and need some heart warming.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Parle Golden Arcs Choco Filled Rolls

This curiously unbranded product has been in the market for a while now and thanks to its promoted page on Facebook, has a great fan following. What I want to know is why Parle doesn't want its name stated clearly on the packet. It may have to do with Parle's primary positioning as a 'affordable confectioneries' brand, and Golden Arcs doesn't exactly fall in that category. Although at INR 35 for a 150 g pack is cheap, it is definitely not in the Parle G category - a product most associated with Parle.

Golden Arcs obviously wants to compete with the chocolate-filled cookie category, which has become very popular lately, with products such as Sunfeast's Choco Fills entering the market. Golden Arcs is much more competitively priced and will offer stiff competition to high priced products in the segment. Not to forget, it offers a number of fruit flavoured varieties, as opposed to the competition that offers only chocolate.

As for quality, they aren't far behind, though the packaging is a little sloppy. The plastic tray inside my pack was breaking apart, as you can see in the picture above. But the pack is designed well and looks premium.

The product itself is also decent, shaped square with a crunchy and not-too-dense cookie exterior. The inside is filled with gooey chocolate, which is rather sweet to taste. But the biscuit and chocolate come together well and make for a decent enough product. While Parle's Golden Arcs aren't quite at par with Choco Fills, their pricing point is their winner. Chocosophy recommends!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lindt Excellence Dark - A Touch of Sea Salt

When I started this blog, I liked Lindt the best. Seven months and nearly a 100 posts later, I still like Lindt the best. What I love about Lindt, as a brand, is their inventiveness with flavours and willingness to push the boundaries. Sure, there are other brands out there that experiment with flavours, but few do it as successfully as Lindt. The last brand I was really impressed by was Elizabeth Shaw, which equalled Lindt's standards of excellence. But brands like Elizabeth Shaw are difficult to find in India, and Lindt has to be the go-to brand when one is seeking truly fine chocolates in India.

Because Lindt is so easy to get in local Indian markets, one can get the most recent flavours released in the international market. I spotted a pack of Lindt Dark chocolate - with A Touch of Sea Salt not long ago and was most fascinated. Yes, chocolates with salted caramel have been around for a while, but I've not seen any other brand with this kind of flavour. A pack was duly bought and brought home. Between reviews, I had to keep this pack in the fridge for a little while, which resulted in a fat bloom (the whitish layer you see on the bar in the pictures), much to my disappointment. Even after I left it out for a while, the lovely dark colour did not return.

But given that the chocolate has only 47% cocoa solids, one shouldn't perhaps expect too dark a colour. But because fat or sugar bloom does not affect the taste of the chocolate, I didn't fret too much. The chocolate has a beautiful rich aroma, although the chocolate is not as rich as its higher cocoa ratio cousins. Left on the tongue, the chocolate melts beautifully, releasing its semi-sweetness and eventually a salty flavour from the salt crystals embedded within.

It's hard to explain how salt and sugar complement each other so nicely, and you had best experience it yourself. That said, I wouldn't rate it as highly as a Lindt Dark Chilli Chocolate or a Lindt Dark Wasabi Chocolate bar. Priced at INR 235 for a 100 g bar, it isn't all that expensive and if good quality dark chocolate is what you want, Lindt is your best bet.

RATING: 3.75/5

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Win Win Magic Crunch chocolate-filled corn snack

I think I'm convinced that Gujju businessmen are demi gods. Name it and their stores have it. Not necessarily greatthings, but yes, allthings. I chanced upon a product by a Malaysian company called Win Win Food Industries, written like this ---> Win 2. It is a corn snack with a chocolate filling called Magic Crunch. Win Win Foods makes a range of snacks and confectioneries, ranging from bakes potato crisps to biscuits & cookies, to flavoured breads. The company's products have many credentials including being No GMO (genetically-modified organisms), Halal certified, vegetarian and ISO certified. But that's no guarantee for taste, eh?

Yup, in my experience as a chocolate reviewer, all Malaysian chocolate products have been consistently crappy. And Magic Crunch Corn Snack with Chocolate Filling is no exception. Magic Crunch has another better looking variation - a dark snack with vanilla filling, but I'm guessing that's not great either.

The outer 'puff' is crunchy but oddly salty, which does not in any way complement the chocolate filling inside.   Placing salt and sugar in one confection requires the expertise of say, a Lindt chocolatier (Watch out for the review of Lindt Dark with a touch of Sea Salt!). The chocolate too is meagre and of a decidedly under average quality. In short, these chocolate-filled corn snacks suck.

A pack of 75 g costs INR 45 and is definitely not on the Chocosopher's recommended list. If chocolate-filled snacks is what you like, our homegrown Cadbury Bytes are a much better bet, though they might not be as healthy as a corn-based snack.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Nestle Bono Chocolate Biscuit

This one seems to have travelled all the way from Brasil to my local supermarket and to my kitchen and into my mouth. And boy, what a wasted trip! I picked up a pack of Nestle Bono impressed by the fancy packaging, and also because I haven't reviewed imported chocolate biscuits in a while. And what a pity that Nestle, Brasil should dent the brand's image with this sorry product.

So, beneath this pretty pack are some of the lousiest chocolate sandwich biscuits I've reviewed. The cookie is overdone, and that makes it taste slightly burnt. It might be a faulty batch, but that's just too bad. One would expect stringent quality control from a brand this big. 

Coming to the cream, there's very little of it in every sandwich. The layer of dark-ish chocolate is so thin in the sandwich that the taste hardly registers. So I did what all good children should do; licked the cream straight off the cookie and that didn't impress me much either. A complete waste for my INR 50 for a 200 g pack. So, here's rating it poorly for taste, value for money and quality.

RATING: 1.5/5

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Choco Swiss Cacao Premium Dark Chocolate

I came across this random chocolate called Cacao by an Indian brand, curiously named Choco Swiss at Landmark (Andheri), Mumbai. It had a curious-er website name that has a missing 'S' - No matter how dubious it all sounded, it was a new name and it had the impossible-to-resist deal of Buy 1, Get 1 Free. So, the Chocosopher had to give in.

Since the brand is completely home grown, with a Delhi-based company called Buttercup Confectionery making them, this 'misuse' of nomenclature didn't sit well with me. I was prepared to trash it, but I was surprised. The product wasn't half as bad. In fact, I was surprised that it even had a website. And if the website is to be believed, they supply chocolates to multinational corporations such as American Express, Standard Chartered Bank, Jet Airways, Blue Dart, Hutch, Grasim and IBM among others as part of their corporate chocolate gifting solutions.

The box quality was average, but the gold Egyptian design on a brown casing made it look quite lovely. One could easily ignore the juvenile name chosen for the product. Inside, uniquely enough, a plastic wrapper contained a foil-wrapped bar. The dark brown foil printed with the brand name gave way to a lovely bar of plain dark chocolate. Although the cocoa percent is not mentioned in the pack, I'd peg it at around 60%, going by its semi sweet taste. The texture was smooth, thanks to the cocoa butter it contains.

The quality is a notch higher than most Indian dark chocolates; although it might compare well with say, a Bournville. Given that plain semi sweet dark chocolates that are affordable are very difficult to get among Indian brands, Choco Swiss is a great find. Although this was a promo pack priced at INR 100 for two packs of 60 g, I daresay single packs will be priced around INR 50. I'd say they are worth it.

RATING: 3.5/5

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gold Standard Extreme Milk Chocolate Whey Protein

Page after web page has been written about the quality and performance of Gold Standard Whey Proteins, and I am a noob as far as fitness nutrition goes. But I feel compelled to write this review simply because of the chocolate angle.

I've been working out religiously for over a year now and I much prefer weight training to cardio (actually, I hate cardio). And since my trainer could not get me to do cardio or diet with any seriousness, he gently pushed me towards the path of protein supplements. I was very skeptical like all beginners, wondering if the supplements would bulk me up. But my trainer assured me that all it would do is build muscle quickly, thus helping me raise my metabolism and burn fat. There was also the question of price; I didn't feel very comfortable investing 6K on something I wasn't very sure about. 

Gold Standard is a product of American company, Optimum Nutrition Inc. (better known as ON), which, in turn, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Glanbia - a leading international cheese and nutritional ingredients group. After reading up a little about it online, I bought a 5 kg jar of Gold Standard Extreme Milk Chocolate Whey Protein, wanting to see what the fuss was all about. The world's best-selling whey couldn't be bad, eh?

I picked the Extreme Milk Chocolate flavour as the safest bet, not knowing what to expect of a protein supplement. But Gold Standard has more than 24 flavours, including unconventional ones like rocky road, root beer float, vanilla chai, and eggnog, besides many fruity flavours. There are variations in chocolate, like chocolate creme, chocolate malt, chocolate mint, double rich chocolate, and mocha cappuccino.

The powder is of a fine flour-like consistency, and the jar has a measuring scoop to help you define portions. A heaped scoop is about 30 g and considered the ideal portion size, especially after a heavy workout. One can have it either with water or milk (preferably low-fat); I've been told to have with with water to minimise fat intake. The powder mixes easily with both water or milk, provided you use a shaker. The label on the jar says it can be mixed well with a spoon too, but I've found it rather difficult.

When mixed only with water, the concoction looks dark brown and is thick, chocolaty, and rather sweet. It definitely tastes better with milk, like a chocolate milk shake would. It is a little creamy and is much more palatable than the water solution. However, one gets used to the water mix as well, due to the overall good taste of the product. From what I read on the Internet, I should find it difficult to appreciate other cheaper brands because I've started with what most call the best in the market. I reckon it is.


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