Saturday, 7 January 2017

What is it with supermarkets never being able to make nice packaging? You obviously have to excuse the 'value' range of products, because they're crap and don't pretend to be anything otherwise. The problem comes with those own-brand products that are priced damn near the real deal. To try and sell this to customers, supermarkets jazz up the packaging and make it look all pretty and official. Well, that's the plan, but we all know turds have a certain resistance when it comes to being polished.

I think nothing proves my point much better than this... thing. Filled with "ooh, shiny!", and just about every piece of the colour wheel, it manages to stand out but look completely bland and generic all at the same time. Frankly, I think that's some achievement, and I tip my hat to Asda for coming up with such a thing.

It's quite clearly meant to rival that Smarties Sharing Block I looked at a short while ago, but I'm still yet to find the white version of the Smarties widely available, so for the time being, Asda (and other supermarkets) have the monopoly. Like the Smarties bar, Asda have got that same crappy plastic wrapping, which has the same re-seal abilities as a used plaster. Probably the same desirability, too.

Once you peel back the wrapping, your first thought will be "where's the nearest intensive care unit?" White chocolate is already a slightly off-putting colour as it is, but now it looks like the bar has an exotic disease. I may be joking around here, but I'm not joking when I say this is one of the most unappealing bars I have seen for quite some time.

When you put that thought to one side and break away a chunk, you realise that, no, it isn't Ebola, it's just a knockoff Smartie encased in the chocolate. Now you can breath a sigh of relief, wipe that sweat off your brow, and begin tasting the chocolate.

Upon putting it into your mouth, you'll quickly discover this is not one of those bars that just melt into a creamy delight in the mouth. It has that weird 'fake gloss' feel that, for the initial few seconds, feels like you've got a Lego brick in your mouth. No taste instantly bursts though, so you have to bite down to explore further.

After doing so, you find that things aren't too bad at all. The fake Smarties have nothing going for them, but the white chocolate itself is perfectly serviceable. It won't blow you away by taking you into a sensory wonderland, but it was enough to raise my eyebrows - that was when I realised looks are deceiving. It's not overly sweet, but that just makes it more tolerable to have in larger quantities, should you want to get fat and not see your fiftieth birthday.

And here's the real knocker: it's just 45p. That's it's standard price. For that price, I can recommend this bar with confidence. Obviously if you never liked white chocolate in the first place (in other words: you're a blatant racist), this bar will do nothing to change your mind, but considering this thing costs less than to use the bloody toilet in some London train stations, you can't really waste your pennies.

Buy it?     Yes, almost impossible to go wrong, even if it does look, er, off...

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to revisit the iconic kids animation that is Tom and Jerry, for the old and proven reason of Why The Hell Not®. When I watched the show avidly 10-15 years ago, the classic antics of cat and mouse used to almost literally send me rolling across the floor in fits of laughter. To me, it was near perfection. Fast forward to today, and I didn't have quite the same reaction. I was smiling, and perhaps even sharply exhaled through my nose a couple of times, but I had obviously outgrown the show somewhat. But as I sat through a couple more episodes, the old charm wiggled its way back into me. After half an hour, I was laughing once more, though perhaps this time at the casual racism more than the slapstick violence.

A couple of days ago, I decided to revisit the iconic chocolate bar that is the Smarties Sharing Block, for the old and proven reason of Why The Hell Not®. When I used to eat this bar avidly 10 or so years ago, the blend of Smarties surrounded by creamy chocolate used to almost literally send me crazy, craving for more. To me, it was near perfection. Fast forward to today, and I didn't have quite the same reaction. I was appreciating it, and perhaps even enjoyed the sensation of hitting a Smartie, but my taste buds had obviously outgrown the bar somewhat. But as I munched through a couple more lines, the old charm wiggled its way back into me. After half the bar, I was satisfied once more, though perhaps this time at the casual racism more than the slapstick violence. Wait, what?

Yes, if you didn't quite get the message through that slightly convoluted introduction, the buzzword I'm likely to use the most in this review is nostalgia - at least from my (admittedly relatively young) perspective. You see, I remember always having these Smarties chocolate bars when I was younger - it would always be my go-to treat, both the milk and white versions. And yet, for reasons I can't quite fathom to this day, it just sort of stopped abruptly. I can only assume the chocolate bar more or less vanished from the shelves, because I didn't see it for quite some time. I never forgot that taste, though.

If we jump back to the present day, we can find the Smarties Sharing Block bars more or less in any decent sized shop these days, though I'm struggling to find the individual bars still. They've been back for at least a couple of years now from what I remember, but only now have I decided to take the plunge and revisit the bar. I have to be careful here, as rose-tinted glasses can be one hell of a manipulator. Time to be serious... to the best of my ability.

The wrapping is the classic 'LOOK AT ME' Smarties deep blue, with all the colours splattered on and the logo looking reassuringly familiar. It is one of those pseudo-foil wrappers that are actually just plastic, and therefore have zero re-wrapping abilities for later consumption. Considering how patronisingly Nestlé points out the servings on the back, you'd think they'd provide some sort of 'save for later' thing. Even Cadbury does that, and that's impressive, considering they're basically Satan now. Thanks Mondelez.

One thing you also note on the packaging is just how many smarties are supposedly in each chunk. It's a bit of a stretched truth though; there's nowhere near as many Smarties as the image suggests, but with that being said, you never go through a mouthful with no Smarties at all. So I guess there's nothing really to complain about there.

The chocolate is creamy - really, really, really creamy. It's unmistakably Nestlé - which is to say unremarkably OK - but it's like someone was pouring cream into the mixture and, whooooops, accidentally poured the whole lot in. It's a decent taste overall, and I can see clearly why my young self liked it, because it reminds me a lot of Kinder chocolate. It's also the kind of chocolate that grinds on the back of the throat after a little while. It's not amazingly moreish either, but I guess I shouldn't complain about that really.

For 120g, expect to pay £1, which is a decent price for what you're offered. You will never be fooled into thinking you're eating something premium, but if you like your Smarties and milky chocolate, then there's not too much to go wrong with here. You can accept no imitations for this one. Oh, speaking of imitations, stay tuned for future posts...

Buy it?     If you like creamy chocolate, go for it


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Not that anyone should particularly be caring about what I have to say right around now, but if someone approached me in public asking if it's a good idea to spend £1 on 100g of supermarket own-brand chocolate, I'd walk right past them, pretending not to hear a thing. But let's imagine I'm not as awkward as a scalene triangle. I'd blast "Hell no!" to them. £1 for just 100g? For that price, you may as well just buy an established mid-tier brand, such as Cadbury or a variety from the Mars group.

But Tesco are really trying their hardest to mean business here. Take the packaging, for example. If you removed the Tesco branding, you could quite easily convince me this was a bar of chocolate from a fairly upper-tier brand. I mean, the name of the bar is about as creative as the road layout on Manhattan island, but there's a touch of elegant beauty about it. It also comes wrapped in foil, and boy do I like a good foil-wrapped bar.

Once you're past that little metal delight, you're greeted with chunks with generic mint leafs printed on them - better than nothing, I suppose. What makes me grit my teeth and spit over my neighbour's garden fence is the fact you only get 8 chunks per bar. Now, I'm sorry, but in most peoples' books, one chunk is one bite, or one mouthful. If you have to split the chunk into 2 or 3 separate mouthfuls, then they become rather pointless. Mongs.

The chocolate is fairly brittle and snappy, but that's just a general characteristic of dark chocolate. The bar is thin, too, so the area of the bar tricks you slightly into thinking there's more - especially if you're used to bars such as Dairy Milk and Galaxy. That's not necessarily a mark against Tesco, more just an observation.

Anyway, the taste; the main reason why you probably came to this review in the first place. It tastes alright, and just alright. Average. Five out of ten. The plain chocolate is inoffensive, but leaves nothing of excellence for you to remember it with rose-tinted glasses in the future. If you want to view it more positively, then it's good the chocolate is only 'meh', because it will allow the mint to burst through and take over the show smoothly.

But it doesn't. Not even the slightest. Without a doubt there's mint in there - you can taste it right from the very moment you place the chocolate on your tongue, but it's not a particularly fresh kind of mint. The packet says it's 'refreshing', but it isn't. There just isn't enough of a peppermint kick to it to give it a properly dynamic taste.

If I had to describe the overall taste, I'd call it 'safe'. There's nothing shocking about the bar, but as a result, it ends up being a bit bland and boring - a stark contrast to its fairly attractive wrapping. But there you go; at the end of the day, own-brand chocolate will still be just own-brand chocolate. If you're willing to spend a bit more, there are some premium brands out there that give mint its deserved wow factor.

Buy it?     Only if you're crazy over mint chocolate - better options are available. 


Thursday, 22 December 2016

For the second post in the row, I have decided to review a chocolate product which I'm fairly certain the entirety of the United Kingdom has tried at least once. It's almost as though I want this new baby website of mine to purposefully suffer and fail in the scary world of page views and audience retention.

But no, there is a fairly decent reason as to why I'm bothering to review something as widely known as Maltesers, the favourite treat of middle-aged Mums who try to keep an eye on their calorie intake, but do a poor job of it. As the name of this site would suggest, I want this to be the be-all, end-all encyclopaedia of all chocolate, which means all kinds of products fall under the umbrella, be them big or small popularity-wise.

Anyway, full steam ahead with the review. Maltesers have always proudly claimed to be 'the lighter way to enjoy chocolate' - which gives weight watchers a false sense of security, because it's like saying a brick is lighter than cast iron - but this 184g bag kind of defeats the point of it being a light treat somewhat. Of course, they get around that by saying 'More to share!', but I personally know of no people who buy bigger bags of sweets with the sole intention of sharing. 

But anyway, does a bigger bag of Maltesers change anything as such? Well, yes, I'd say so. The regular big bags are about 110g if memory serves me correct, and it's dead easy to get through a whole bag of those. With this 184g bag though, I find it almost impossible to get through it in one sitting without physically forcing myself.

That's not to say that I don't like Maltesers, because I do. But the nature of their honeycomb-like centre means things can get pretty sickly, pretty damn quickly. Rather ironic for the 'lighter' treat, but then again, your mileage may vary. You'll likely find the honeycomb forming a disturbing hard substance on your back teeth after you've had a few, and the extreme sweetness of the honey will discourage you from binging on them so heavily; perhaps that's how they get their healthy slogan.

The chocolate itself is alright. In fact, if I was feeling pretty generous, I would go as far to say as it's quite nice. But be in no doubt, the chocolate on a Malteser is not its standout selling point. Now I'm dwelling on it, I think they only really sell well because there's not much else on the market like them right now - at least not that I can think of from the top of my head. I'm fairly confident that a rival brand could probably cook up something even nicer than Maltesers if they really wanted to, but what's the point now that Maltesers are so established in this country?

So, there we have it. They're not my favourite form of confectionery in the world, because the honeycomb inside is sweeter than Katy Perry in her California Gurls costume. They're certainly not moreish like some sweeties. But they are pretty iconic and integral to our lives - be that mindlessly munching them in the cinema, picking them up with straws in a party game (seriously, it's great fun), or kinky time with your significant other. You absolutely do not need the 184g bag unless you're sharing with people, so save a few precious pennies and get the smaller sizes if you so personally crave them.

Buy it?     Buy a smaller portion - big bag is too sickly


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Sometimes, if I really concentrate, and the house is miraculously empty, I can hear the anger-fuelled tap-tap typing of bitter UK residents making their emotions known on the Chocolate Orange Facebook page. And who can blame them? If you're not particularly in the loop with this slightly winding introduction, Terry's - no, wait, Mondelez - made the decision to reduce the size of the iconic Orange from 175g recently to 157g. Doesn't sound like much, but if you look at the tone of the Facebook commenters, you'd think Mondelez themselves have personally skinned their children in front of their eyes.

This happens all the time. Product gets a bit crapper, people are enraged, people still buy product because it's still good. Rinse and repeat. The Chocolate Orange 'scandal' (and I use that word reluctantly), seemed to hit a nerve of the general public like no other recent product though, besides the Creme Egg, perhaps. So what makes this thing so adored by us? The time felt ripe amid all this brouhaha to investigate.

The box has stayed the same for a long, long time. Why change it, though? The near-cube shape of it has become pretty much a national icon, with the blue colours contrasting nicely against the imitation fruit orange wrapping. Open the box, get rid of the tacky plastic holding, and you're greeted by old familiar. Which, to this day, still includes a sticker saying "Made with REAL orange oil". Are they asking for a round of applause or something? I would've thought striking up an orange flavour with some E chemicals would be harder work than just using the authentic stuff.

Then, of course comes the most satisfying part. Think of the person you hate the most. That ex who's a full-on snake. What a bitch. If only there was something to release such anger upon... oh wait. We have a Chocolate Orange. BANG BANG BANG. Now this person has an imaginary concussion, and to top it all off, you now have a Chcocolate Orange fit for human consumption. Best day ever.

Now the Orange has been brutally murdered, you can suddenly see how Mondelez has managed to save their precious 18g per item. 175g Oranges were, I dunno, orange-shaped. 157g are shaped like oranges who have an anorexia issue. In fact, you know how lean people can suck their stomach in and it goes really weirdly far back beyond their ribs? The 157g Chocolate Orange, ladies and gents.

But if I'm being honest, I'd rather they screwed with the weight than the ingredients any day. Shedding the weight was a downer for the Orange, but it does at least retain its good taste. The chocolate is fairly smooth, but leaves that rough feeling at the back of the throat if you have a large serving. The Orange is very moreish, and one of the quickest ways to consume '5 servings' of chocolate. Unlike some orange-flavoured things, this is really tangy, and not unnaturally so. If you took the orange flavour away though, the chocolate would be so-so. It's just not quite up there to be its own standalone thing.

It's a bit steep in the pricing: £2 in most stores. And for that price I would say it's not worth it. Almost no chocolate is worth £2 for 157g, no matter how tangy and inviting the flavour. But the Orange is almost always on offer somewhere, usually for £1. I managed to pick mine up for 90p, and for that it's a million percent worth it. It's a staple Christmas treat, and a great way to completely mess up your fitness plans.

Buy It?      When it's on offer



Search For Historic Posts