Thanks to our pal Chomper on twitter me and Marmaduke the marmot (note to self, must google what a marmot is) were recommended a British chocolatier based in Lancashire by the name of Beech’s Fine Chocolates. This company was established in 1920 (which I think is around the time that Uncle Bear was stitched) and uses ethically sourced all natural products, most of which are also suitable for vegans (and bears).
This wonderful company were very kind to send me some chocolates to review, but first I paw you over to Marmie who very kindly took time out to write this very special review for my blog:
Marmie Megève here. I love chocolate – particularly dark chocolate and chocolates with centres that have a high crunchy nibble factor – so was very pleased when my twitter pal @Chomper_TC recommended I try Beech’s Fine Chocolates. The company is based in Preston and offers a wide variety of products, all made using only natural ingredients. The texture of the chocolate bars is firm, so you can manoeuvre each segment in your mouth for the slow-melt, full-flavour pleasure. As a bit of a ginger nut, my favourite of the chocolate bars is the dark chocolate ginger, the rich, aromatic flavour flooding your mouth as you roll it around. We marmots are keen on roots and shoots, so I count the luxury stem ginger chocolates as practically a dietary requirement. You can go for the combined flavour, chew-it-all-together experience or, because of the firmness and texture of the chocolate, you can nibble that off and then enjoy the crunch of the crystallised ginger separately, if that is your preference.”
Thanks Marmie. And now back to me, where I will review three different types of boxed chocolates, all of which will make great gifts for friends, loved ones (or just yourself):
OOH!! What do we have here?
1. Teddy Bears’ Picnic: delicious milk chocolates with soft caramel centres, shaped in a bear family!! How lovely. I really enjoyed these as i’m quite the fan of soft centres. 5 paws out of 5
2. Anglesey Sea Salted Truffles and Marc de Champagne Truffles: delicious, decadent, bold flavoured, firm textured, soft-ish creamy centred- all words I would use to describe my human. Also applicable to these milk truffle chocolates, each box emblazoned with the sentence “All you need is love and chocolate”. The sea salted truffles are deliciously salty and sweet and complex. Delicious. The champagne truffles are rich and fruity and toasty, just like real champagne. A wonderful accompaniment to a bottle of bubbly on a special occasion I reckon. 5 paws out of 5
My good friend Angel Honey Dog tells me her mum was quite the chocolate tasting expert in her time, so they have helped me to write better reviews by sending me this magnificent journal in hardback-form, to record all my future observations. And what a magnificent production it is:
The book has detailed a Forward, an author bio of both myself and Honey, introduction, beautiful images and illustrations designed by Honey, and a hundred tasting pages to be filled in by me each time I trial a chocolate (are you sure 100 is enough Honey?)
And now to baptise my new book with its first review- an intriguing chocolate bar by Fenwick’s and The Chocolate Smiths entitled “Beer”. This was kindly sent to me by Kenny Koala- model, chef, singer, dancer, bear. If you haven’t purchased his marvellous vegetarian cook book with profits going to the RSPCA, why the devil not? Go now! I can wait………… Done? Okay, let’s continue.
This is billed as creamy milk chocolate with the taste of Irish stout (think Caffreys), and whilst I agree with the first part, the second I’m not so sure about. This chocolate has somewhat of a yeasty aftertaste, which puts me in mind of the Marmite chocolate I tried previously. Something that my friend Tourguide Ted agrees with. Not terrible, but not stunning either, this gets 3.5 paws out of 5.
It’s Olympics time again, and what better way to celebrate these feats of stamina, strength, athleticism and patriotism than with…. beer!! Let us all be inspired.
So first it’s time to find out if Ade Adepitan (paralympic athlete, TV presenter, journalist, world traveler and all round nice guy) likes chocolate:
So there you go chaps. Depends on what type. I think you will agree that never have truer words been spoken. Thank you Ade.
1. The White Hag “Oatmeal Chocolate Milk Stout” 5.2%alc
This was kindly given to me by Tourguide Ted at our last tweetup in Greenwich earlier this year. When I say given, I meant it had to be forced from his brofur Theo’s clutches, but eventually I won. The White Hag is an Irish brewery and is named after a witch/ creature/ Mother Nature (delete as appropriate) who shaped the form of the land and is present in everything through the water of the earth. I think the brewers need to stop inhaling the fumes of their own brewery.
This stout was very smooth and full-bodied, with no hint of smokiness. Couldn’t taste any chocolate though, so it loses a paw point. 3 paws out of 5
Austmann Brewery is a small Norwegian craft beer company based in Trondheim. My friend Camilla very kindly brought me a bottle on her last visit to London, and I have previously tried their “Three Old Ladies” pale ale and enjoyed it very much. That beer was named in honour of three ladies who financially backed the company when no banks were able to give them a loan! Cheers to that!! Stupid banks.
Oh dear, all the label blurb is written in Norwegian. I may actually have to rely on my tastebuds *gulp*.
Words that come to mine as I sip this lovely porter are… smooth, well-balanced, tasty, strong, so very strong… did I mention it was 7.5%abv? I enjoyed this beer very much, but I think I might need a little lay down now… zzzzzzzz. 5 snoring beers out of 5
Lingering in my chocolate cupboard (under lock and key at all times, naturally) for a long time has been a bar of chocolate sent to me courtesy of Kenny Koala bear. Manufactured by Fenwick’s, they of 19th century department store fame; and The Chocolate Smiths, which I assume are a chocolatey version of the eighties band, this bar is named “Chip Shop Special”.
Now I have tried Curry Sauce flavoured chocolate before, and the results weren’t as bad as I thought it would be. This, however, looks to be another level. So I bravely donned my Boba Fett helmet for protection, poured myself a beer (well known to be the only way to kill a bad curry) and opened her up.
The 35% Belgian milk chocolate looked surprisingly nice and shiny, and had a lovely snap to it. The embedded “chips” were not too salty. And the overall taste wasn’t actually too bad at all- like a background hint of mild korma. All in all, I would say it was pretty good. Certainly a wonderful gift for the curry lover in your life. I give it 3.5 paws out of 5.
Thank you Kenny! And now a humble request- please take a look at Kenny’s human’s fund raising page. She hopes to volunteer on a children’s project in Peru and is getting closer and closer to her target every day. Please dig deep and sponsor her and Kenny for such a worthy cause if you can. Big big thanks.
On a final note, you’re probably wondering about the Flake reference in the title to this post. Well, the beer I chose to wash my “curry and chips” down with was an “Ice cream pale ale” by Northern Monk Brew Company. Its creaminess put me in mind of a Boddington’s beer, which in turn reminded me of this:
*It’s like Dracula, but more chocolatey! (And less bitey).
So who has been showing the chocolate love on twitter since our last visit to Jezzer Checks Chocs?
Tony Singh, one of Scotland’s finest- you have definitely given the best answer so far. Well done sir, I salute you.
And Gregg Wallace, “seasoned diner” and Masterchef presenter- it just goes to show that all that fine dining can’t stop a guy loving a good old Toffee Crisp.
1. Fuffle (part 2)
You may recall from my last review that these Fudge/ Truffle hybrids are handmade in Bromsgrove Worcestershire, and are a favourite of Lucky‘s mum, who very kindly sent me some to try just before Christmas.
Last time I tried the Tia Maria flavour. This time I bring you “Chocolate Raspberry & Vodka Fuffle” and “Chocolate and Jack Daniels Fuffle“. The ingredients simply lists sugar, butter, cocoa powder, UHT milk and either 4% vodka with natural raspberry flavour or 4% JD. Because they are freshly made, they have very short expiry dates, but can be frozen for up to 6 months (who’d want to do that?!) In addition, they are suitable for vegetarians and are gluten free. So that makes them a health snack, right?
Well what can I say, but both bars were delicious. They score highly on crumbliness (texture), nominess (palatability) and rubbing tummy afterwardness (satisfaction).
7 paws out of 5
2. Various chocolates from Cornwall
My good furiends Boo Boo Bear Green, Tourguide Ted and Reddy Teddy went to Cornwall late last year- you can find out what they got up to here. They were very kind to send me a selection of Cornwall’s finest confectionaries, including chocolates from the world famous Eden Project.
a) Eden ProjectChristmas Pudding Milk Chocolate: Handmade in Cornwall using cocoa and sugar ethically sourced from plantations in West Africa, they can’t use the stuff they grow in their giant bio balls because there isn’t enough there! This chocolate bar had added raisins, orange pieces and mixed spices, and lived up to its promise as a Christmas Pudding in chocolate bar form. 4 paws out of 5
b) Makers & Merchants Smooth Operator: this one isn’t actually from Cornwall, but I thought I’d put it in here just to confuse you. This is another Midlands chocolate company, and this handmade chocolate bar is half milk, half dark, and uses 56% min cocoa solids. It was silky smooth, just like my personality I like to think. 4 paws out of 5
c) Kernow Raspberry Chocolate: luxury dark chocolate made from sustainably grown cocoa (55.5% min). The raspberry pieces were little bits of jelly set in dark chocolate, which made this very satisfying to nom. 4 paws out of 5
d) Raw Chocolate Naked Pie, handmade in Cornwall by Living Food of St. Ives: hmm… this looks interesting. Sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, made from raw cocoa nibs. How bad can it be?
*Takes a small bite*
WHY GOD WHY?! WHAT HAVE I DONE TO YOU? WHAT FOUL ABOMINATION IS THIS? COME BACK MINT-CHOC PRINGLES, ALL IS FORGIVEN.
*Falls to knees and sobs uncontrollably*.
minus 4 paws out of 5.
3. Blog takeover by budgerigars, Tom and Jeri
*Tweet, chirp* hello, we are Tom and Jeri, and we are fed up with hearing about Jeremy’s chocolate reviews.
*Chirp, jump, sing* when we’re not busy flirting with our reflections in the mirror and preening ourselves, we like to eat special birdy noms. And lucky for us, our furiend Dutchie Duffy sent us some special treats all the way from the Netherlands. Yay!! *chirp*
*Tweet* these are our favourite mixed seeds treat, baked onto a wooden stick. As soon as human gets them out of the box we start getting excited *flap wings excitedly*. This box has three flavours- Egg and grass, Apricot and fig, and Honey and sesame. Our favourite? Honey and sesame. Look how we devoured it in one day:
*Sing* thank you Dutchie Duffy, mom, dad and nana for sending us these yummy treats!! 5 beak pecks out of 5
Back to you Jeremy, you greedy bear who freaks us out every time you go near our cage!
4. Verkade Melk “J”
Naughty budgies, taking over my blog. Well, another thing Dutchie Duffy kindly sent over was a Dutch chocolate in the shape of a letter J! For Jeremy!! Woohoo!
These alphabet chocolates are only available for a limited time in the run up to the holidays, and can be given as a gift on Sinterklass Day. I find it very interesting to learn about how different cultures celebrate special occasions, and I am honoured to have been sent this by my Dutch pal. The chocolate itself is super delicious, and not too sweet unlike British chocolates. I enjoyed it very much and I score Verkade Milk “J” 6 paws out of 5.
On a final note, I’d like to apologise if I haven’t been able to review every single chocolate I’ve been sent by all my twitter furiends (your generosity knows no bounds). Rest assured, they were ALL enjoyed very much. And I still have a lot more to go through, so hopefully I will get around to trying them at some point in the near future. Thanks again.
Hello everyone. Soon it will be the birthday of Jesus and I hope you are having a lovely Christmas (or Crispmouse for all my kitty friends out there), a happy Hannukah, or just enjoying the season’s festivities in a non-faith related manner. I think I’ve covered all my bases there.
So, as is tradition now, let us begin by finding out which celebrity on twitter likes chocolate this week…
Why it’s none other than Radio 4 comedy writer and friend to the stars*, John Finnemore! Well done, sir. Well done.
1. Hammond’s Candy Corn and Pumpkin Spice Chocolate
Twitter legend and world traveller Tourguide Ted (you all know him, said in best Citizen Khan accent) went to the U.S. of A. recently and brought me back a nice selection of autumnal-themed candy (including my favourite Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses, so sweet, so very very sweet *drools*). Ted jets around the globe so often that our friend Doctor Red had to invent the Ted Tracker 2000 (patent pending). Please take a look at his site and check out his thoroughly blogged adventures by clicking the link above.
Hammond’s Candies are made in Denver, Colorado, and their candy bar packaging is very bright and eye catching. The Pumpkin Spice is a dark chocolate bar with a creamy pumpkin spice flavour filling. One bar alone contains 320 calories, and I enjoyed each and every one of them. 4 paws out of 5.
Candy Corn is a very American product (much like Pumpkin Spice, but that’s becoming more prevalent in Europe thanks to companies like Starbucks using it in their coffees every Autumn). A bit of online research tells me that Candy Corn is mainly made of sugar, corn syrup and confectioner’s wax, and is painted yellow, orange and white to mimic the appearance of actual corn. This milk chocolate with candy corn filling was also 320 calories, and I also enjoyed each and every one of them. 4 chubby bears out of 5
2. Baratti & Milano Gianduitto and Cremino Classico chocolate box
Goodies from Japp and Camilla
On a recent tweetup with Camilla and Japp the Bear’s Human in the Museum of London, I was very lucky to have been brought many treats from Venice (from Japp Bear) and Norway (Camilla), including beer!! More on the beer later.
First, a big thanks to Japp’s humans, who visit Venice regularly and make the most GORGEOUS jewellery out of Venetian glass- please check out their site here and maybe buy a nice gift for a loved one? I personally love myself and treat myself to goodies and treats regularly, but that’s just me.
Baratti and Milano confectioners were founded in Turin in 1858. I’m only a little bear and have little concept of time, but 1858 sounds like a very long time ago. I wonder if my human was around then. The chocolates themselves come individually wrapped, and are best described as decadence in chocolate form. Creamy, smooth nutty, yummy morsels of heaven. If any advertisers wish to use my descriptive services on their products, I am freely available and will work for chocolate or beer. Preferably both. 5 paws out of 5.
3. Stratos Melky and Laban Seigmenn
Stratos is a Norwegian chocolate company I have reviewed previously on this hallowed blog. However, I have only just discovered the “moo moo moo” commercial. Genius.
Stratos Melky is a milkier, maltier, less sweet version of our Aero Bar; less crumbly and with a thicker milk chocolate coating round the outside, this chocolate really hit the spot. And by spot, I mean my fat bear tummy. 4.5 paws out of 5.
Laban Siegmenn (translation- Jellymen) are yummy sugar coated fruit jellies shaped like people. The flavours include apple, lemon, pineapple, raspberry and peach. And of course, as the sweets are people shaped, there is only one way to eat them- BITE THEIR HEADS OFF FIRST!!!!!! 4.5 paws out of 5. Thanks Camilla.
4. Hogs Back Chocolate Lager and Tre Gamle Damer Pale Ale
As I mentioned above, Tourguide Ted gets around. On an earlier visit to (*checks Ted Tracker 2000*) Cornwall with Reddy Teddy and Boo Boo Bear Green to meet #TedMates LT, Lu, and Christian, they were kind enough to send me a selection of Cornish choccies and even a chocolate beer. The beer in question was by famous brewery Hogs Back in Tongham, and is 4.5% abv.
The Montezuma Hogs Back beer is surprisingly tasty- the beer is smooth and crisp, and the chocolate is subtle and almost tastes like milk chocolate. I was surprised by how much I liked this. Perfect on its own, or even as an accompaniment to a meal or pudding. 5 paws out of 5
Tre Gamle Damer is Norwegian for “three old ladies”, and this Belgian style pale ale was brought specially back by Camilla from a Norwegian beer festival for me to try. It 5.5% abv. Whilst I am by no means the beer connoisseur that Jezza and Arpad are, I know what I like and I like this. Also, it made my teddy ears tremble in tipsiness, so it must be good. 4.5 paws out of 5
5. Crevin cafe, pistache, vanille and caramel
Speaking of beer connoisseurs Jezza and Arpad, on a recent trip to Bruges, Brussels, they were lovely enough to send me some delicious pawcrafted marshmallow style chcolates of various flavours, all coated in a delicious crisp chocolate shell. I would love to show you a picture the chocolates in all their glory, but a certain human got his greedy paws on them and, well, see for yourself…
Well, I think it is safe to say that these chocolates were exceptionally yummy, if we judge it by drunken/ hungry human behaviour. So let’s give it 5 greedy humans out of 5
6. Fuffle (Part one)- “Tia’s of Joy”
Last, but by no means least, we have a very special selection of freshly made confectionaries sent to me by #FurryTails Spa Manager Lucky and family. Lucky enjoys my drunken antics at FurryTails. Just ask him.
Fuffle are freshly made chocolate truffle bars made by a chap called Gary Davis in Bromsgrove. They come in a variety of naughty flavours, and so far I have tried just one- the chocolate and Tia Maria Fuffle.
The bars are so beautifully wrapped, it’s a shame to unwrap them. But of course I must. The bar itself has a very unusual texture, almost crumbly like a brownie. And yet smooth and not dry at all. Very strange. First bite: wow. Extremely decadent flavour of Tia Maria combined with the luxury of fresh chocolate and truffle. This is just AMAZING. Honestly, you need Fuffles in your life. I bet teddy bear heaven tastes like this. If I ever get to teddy heaven, watch out- I’m going to eat you! 7 paws out of 5
MERRY CHRISTAMAS EVERYONE!!
*one big star really, Benedict Cumbablah, who appeared in his brilliant Radio 4 comedy Cabin Pressure.
Started by my esteemed colleague and lord of the film review, Doctor Red Bear; and continued by my other esteemed colleague and lord of the travel, Mister Tourguide Ted; #AnipalMovieClub sees a rag tag bunch of stuffies, anipals and honorary humans gather on twitter to watch a chosen movie each month, giving a running commentary filled with wit and charm* along the way. This month’s chosen movie is The Ladykillers, the original 1955 version, not that travesty of a remake from the (usually brilliant) Coen Brothers.
So please grab yourself a copy of the movie and join us if you can on Saturday September 19th at 10pm BST. Further details are available here.
Now before we begin with the good stuff (the chocolate reviews), let’s see who the latest celebratory is to confess their love of chocolate…..
Over on anipal social network canbesocial.com (like facebook but without the nut jobs) I’ve just read an update from my Australian friends Benaud, Hicks and Chloe that their travelling brofur Ozzie Quirkybear is about to return home after visiting Minnesota, the Galapagos Islands and Peru! How cool is that?
Before he left he kindly sent me a family sized bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk Vegemite, which was a limited edition released Down Under only. You can see his take on it here.
In this bar, Cadbury Australia very cleverly mixed the Vegemite (the Aussie version of Marmite and the subject of constant “which one tastes better” debates) with a smooth caramel centre. The result? Something almost akin to salted caramel but with that added yeasty kick from the Vegemite. And my word it is good. SO good. Much like Vegemite itself, I can see how this chocolate might divide opinion, but I must say I absolutely adored it. Damn you Cadbury Australia- make this a permanent fixture on your shelves, not just a limited edition!! 7 paws out of 5
2. Tayto Cheese and Onion Chocolate Bar
My lovely friend Duffy was adopted in Hong Kong and lives with his mam in Ireland. A bigger Disneyland fan you’d be hard pushed to find! Tayto is a famous crisps manufacturer in N. Ireland, and when Duffy’s mam saw that they had released a limited edition Cheese and Onion Chocolate Bar, she had to send me bar!
Biting into this chocolate almost reminds me of putting crisps in the middle of your sandwich- normal smooth milk chocolate on the outside, suddenly little crispy bits in the centre. But the crisps are so tiny, you just can’t taste the cheese and onion in there. Nothing wrong with this chocolate bar per se, but I think they needed to be braver with the flavouring. As it is, it’s just a milk chocolate bar with a tiny bit of crispiness in the centre. (Not necessarily a bad thing). 3 paws out of 5
3. Curry and Chips Milk Chocolate
Speaking of being bolder with the flavours, this is more like it! Sent to me by Boo Boo Bear, who’s rapidly becoming a great source of locally manufactured chocolate bars, this is a very unusual flavour I am sure you will agree. This is manufactured by Mighty Fine chocolates and even the packaging is of high quality. Now check out the bar itself:
That’s right! There’s ACTUAL salted crisps on top! This is the way to do it Tayto.
The chocolate itself has been blended with Madras style Indian spices and definitely has a bit of a kick. As crazy tasting as you’d imagine a Curry and Chips flavoured chocolate bar would taste, I give this 4 paws out of 5. I wonder what it tastes like after several pints of lager?
*wit and charm in its loosest sense
COMING SOON: choccies from Appledore in Devon via Lucky and family, choccies from Belgium via Arpad & Jezza, and lots more besides!!