Slightly late this year. Coming in at number 5, pop pickers….
5. Michael Kiwanuka- “Love and Hate”
Only out for a week, this is a very good album with Marvin Gaye-esque soul and R&B influences. I was initially put off with its lead single “Black Man In A White World”, which suffered from the twin misfortunes of mediocrity and being played to death on national radio. However, give the album a chance and you’ll find some very strong song writing and great production. Unfortunately, I suspect Love and Hate is destined to be played only as backing music to middle-class dinner parties across suburbia, which is a shame.
4. Kendrick Lamar- “Untitled Unmastered”
Kendrick Lamar is a Californian rapper who is rightly causing established popular artists such as Kanye West some sleepless nights. This compilation of unreleased demos and outtakes is short and has some rough around the edges recordings (as is to be expected). However, seek out the diamonds in the rough, such as the almost jazzy number below, and you will be greatly rewarded.
3. David Bowie- “Blackstar”
What can I say that hasn’t already been said?
2. Bat For Lashes- “The Bride”
For me, Natasha Khan is way up there among artists such as Kate Bush, Bjork, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie, as a singer who’s creativity stretches beyond just the musical art form. Her latest album is (dare I say it) a concept album which follows the story of a bride who’s fiancé dies on the way to their wedding. That simple sentence hasn’t really sold it well, but listen to the album (as a whole) and a beautiful piece about love, loss and overcoming trauma will emerge. Really wonderful.
1. Radiohead- “A Moon Shaped Pool”
Continuing to march to beat of their own drum, Radiohead turn out an album of mainly ethereal ballads. In this humble bear’s opinion, beautifully constructed songs with lovely melodies that only reward the most patient listeners (as it should be). Interestingly, they have finally recorded a studio version of True Love Waits, a song that has been knocking around since the 90s, and which they use here as the closing track. Worth the wait.
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:
Put down your Easter eggs and prepare yourself for more opinions on chocolates I have nommed recently. All for your benefit of course. But first, as is now traditional, let us find out which member of the “Twitterati” (copyright some idiot) enjoys cocoa based confections….
Mr. Burgess, of indie band The Charlatans fame, I salute you sir.
1. Fazer Mignon
My lovely Finnish friend Lisa Bear did kindly tell me last year about a very special type of Easter egg made by one of the country’s biggest corporation, Fazer. A chocolate egg THAT ISN’T HOLLOW. Imagine, it friends…. a completely solid chocolate egg- it’s like every cub’s dream come true. Except my dream DID come true this year, because look what Lisa sent me:
A selection of Finland’s finest chocolates, including Fazer Mignon- a paw-made solid chocolate egg inside a real egg shell! The recipe apparently came from Germany in 1896, which, I’m reliably informed, is around the year Tourguide Ted was born!
Included was a handy leaflet with ideas on how to decorate the eggs. As I am a very creative bear, I think you will agree that I did a very good job on mine:
The filling itself is an almond and hazelnut nougat, and very velvety smooth in texture. Almost like a solidified Nutella.
Absolutely delicious. Puts hollow eggs to shame. BOW YOUR HEADS IN SHAME HOLLOW EGGS!!! The Mignon and the other Fazer Chocolates Lisa sent me, including a milk chocolate bar, a chilli flake filled bar and a soft peppermint filled dark chocolate bar, all scored very highly indeed. I give them all 7 paws out of 5. Well done Fazer, well done Finland, and well done my tummy *rubs tummy with satisfaction*.
2. Hershey’s Kisses with Macadamia Nuts “Muana Loa”
On a recent trip to Hawaii, Tourguide Ted picked up some special edition Hershey Kisses filled with Muana Loa macadamia nuts. (More recently, Diesel Bear sent me some very special Carrot Cake flavoured Hershey Kisses, but more on that in a future blog).
You can find Tourguide Ted’s comprehensive review of his Hawaii tour here.
According to the packaging, the first macadamia tree was planted on Big Island in 1946. According to my teddy bear tastebuds, I enjoyed this very much. 6 paws out of 5
3. North ‘Proper Coffee and Cardamon’
A certain lovely pal who happens to go by the name of Boo Boo Bear Green very kindly thought of little ol’ me (yet again!) on a recent trip to the shops:
I have reviewed North Chocolates before, and found them most delightful. I especially like the “shop local” and handmade in Newcastle aspects of the company. This particular flavour was gluten free and suitable for vegans. The dark chocolate was minimum 70% cocoa, and the coffee used was 100% Pure Lintong (Sumatran).
Cardamon is a seed derived spice which I am very familiar with as it is used in Indian cooking a great deal. It is the third most expensive spice after vanilla (which has been in the news recently) and saffron. It has a number of claimed health benefits, and the fact that my human is still alive might be testament to that (possibly). All I know is this chocolate bar was super duper scrummy. 5 paws out of 5
4. Booths ‘Sweet Fig with essence of Port’
In the above picture you will see that a couple of months ago I received a lovely chocolate bar from Reddy Teddy, a pawesome Star Wars Valentine greeting from Duffy Bear, and wicked anime glasses from J-List, a company that exports unusual (and frankly insane) Japanese foods and toys to the rest of the globe. As you can see, Wilfred is in his pyjamas, paw-made by wonderful Snuffy in Canada. Please check out Snuffy’s excellent anipal social media site canbesocial if you get a chance.
The sweet fig chocolate bar was very tasty (5 paws out of 5). All I kept thinking as I was eating it was this would be wonderful accompanied by a full bodied red. Any excuse hey? So cheers everybody and Happy Easter!!
*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.
Please join Biddy and me for a twitter tea party in aid of Aching Arms charity. They provide teddy bears and bring comfort to parents after baby loss. Their charity aims to support the emotional and mental health needs of bereaved mothers and fathers in the UK.
*This virtual tea party is for everyone, not just stuffies!*
As well as collecting donations, we will have much fun and jolly japes during the afternoon, with noms and mini-competitions too! So please join us on Sunday 13th March at 3.15pm GMT. Be there, or be… umm…. hungry!!
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.