Showing posts with label guilty pleasures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guilty pleasures. Show all posts

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chocolate review: Cicada Artisan Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt

I continue with the recent series of posts on chocolates. It may seem as if we are having too much chocolate but these are ones we tasted weeks or days ago and we do try to manage our "cache" so that we have good chocolates to enjoy whenever we want to. Among the good one we got to enjoy is this artisan chocolate from Sydney.

Cicada Almond & Sea Salt packaging looked quite quaint
Details on the chocolate at the back
Close-up showing the ingredients, info on the maker and nutrition information

This is really good chocolate and my only regret is not being able to buy more of these when I was in Sydney. The taste and texture were just right and not raw as you might expect from an artisan chocolate. I have written before about the chocolate and sea salt and the saltiness here is just right and does well to enhance the chocolate.
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Chocolate review: Venchi Nocciolato Fondente/ Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts

Another bar the Clairvoyant bought from the Venchi shop in Rome is this dark chocolate with hazelnuts.

Venchi's Nocciolato Fondente
Information on the chocolate at the back
This chocolate claimed to have at least 56% cacao.
Nutrition information on the bar
This was another hit in terms of quality. The chocolate was just right in terms of the mix of smoothness and bitterness. This was definitely another good buy from the trip to Rome and the Clairvoyant, who recently was in Hong Kong, made the observation that Venchi chocolates at HKIA seemed to be significantly more expensive than those she bought in Rome. I guess that's because the shops at HKIA have a margin of profit? I was a but surprised though because you can get Venchi chocolates at Bacchus at a relatively good price.
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chocolate review: Valrhona Christian Lacroix Grand Crux Noir

I almost forgot writing about this box of chocolates and so I'm posting this on this All Saints' Day and perhaps try to put some "Undas" angle to this article.

The box is already quite enticing and perhaps what led to this being purchased at the duty free shop
Details at the back of the wrap-around packaging
I enlarged this a bit to clearly show the four type of bonbons
Nutrition information and the price tag on the cover
The box after the removal of the fancy cover
As if the suspense was not enough there's another cover for good measure
Removing the cover reveals 16 bonbons
A close-up of the bonbons

Priced at 35 USD when it was purchased, this was definitely a good buy. The exquisite chocolate bonbons seem more appropriate for Valentine's Day but is perfect for any day including today. As mentioned in the movie "Forrest Gump", life is like a box of chocolates. At times, it can be simply sweet. Some times it can be quite spicy. I don't think you really don't know what you'll get because in many cases, you can have a fair expectation of what you'll get or what you can look forward to. But then the latter cases are those brought about by one's actions and the consequences are to be expected if not wanted or desirable. That is life and how those who went ahead of us lived it. We remember them today and with love.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chocolate review: Vietnamcacao Valentine Chocolate

We close October with another chocolate I got from the trip to Ho Chi Minh City. This is a dark chocolate from Vietnamcacao curiously called Valentine chocolate. I guess, this is being marketed as something you give for Valentine's Day?

Vietnamcacao's Valentine dark chocolate
Details at the back of the package
The chocolate claimed to contain 75% cocoa powder but only 24% cocoa butter
Information on the maker

At 2.50 USD (about 128 PHP), this chocolate is better than the company's Origin, which I featured in a previous post. It doesn't taste as raw as it is more refined even for a 75% cacao content. However, it is not as smooth as the Henk chocolate we ate before this one. And so among the three Vietnamese chocolates I have written about so far, this will be #2.
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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chocolate review: Twenty squares 55% cocoa dark chocolate blood orange

The haul of chocolates from Australia in July included a bar of Twenty Squares chocolate. As we have already found that dark chocolates and oranges go quite well together, this was a no-brainer purchase for me. It did not disappoint. I bought this one from the convenience store at the ground floor of my hotel in Melbourne and as I wasn't able to open it while there, I decided to get another bar in case it was good and we wanted to have another.

Twenty Squares 55% dark chocolate with blood orange
Details on the chocolate at the back
I like a good story about the chocolate I am eating and there is one for this chocolate, which claims to be gluten free with no artificial ingredients.
Nutrition information

Needless to say, we enjoyed this chocolate, which was smooth at 55%. It was as expected for dark chocolate with orange. Its a good thing we have another bar in our cache. This series on chocolates I bought from my trip to Australia will be overtaken by posts of chocolates I brought from my more recent trip to Vietnam. Then there is also the haul of Italian chocolates from the earlier European trip the Clairvoyant had in May. I will try to post about each of these chocolates as we eat them from time to time.
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chocolate review: Henk Dark Chocolate 65%

Another chocolate I got from the recent trip to Ho Chi Minh is this one with real nice packaging. Henk chocolate produced this dark chocolate with a box that gave you a nostalgic feel of a postcard. The image is that of Bin Thanh market

Henk dark chocolate

So co la den translates to dark chocolate

Nutrition and other information at the back
The first question I got from the wife when she tasted the chocolate (I let her sample it first.) is if this was milk chocolate. I just had to check as I remembered making sure to pick up only dark chocolates from the shelf at the duty free shop in Saigon's international airport. It is a dark chocolate and a smooth one. Its creamy even for a 65% dark chocolate, which I thought indicated its very good quality. This was definitely better than the previous Viet chocolate I featured in this blog. This is a steal at 4.00 USD (about 200 PHP) for a 100g bar. I will definitely get these the next time I am in Vietnam and spot them in a shop.
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chocolate review: Vietnamcacao Origin 75% cocoa

The trip to Vietnam last month yielded not a few bars of chocolates. It got very interesting when I was a store at the airport that sold local items. Apparently lost among the shelves of coffee was a shelf of Vietnamese chocolates. I couldn't find these earlier so it was a delight to see many brands and variants. Among those I bought

Vietnamcacao's Origin 75% dark chocolate's box states "Technology of Belgium"
Ingredients and nutrition information at the back of the box

This chocolate was the first one we sampled after I arrived home from the airport. The chocolate was okay but I thought it was a bit raw-tasting compared to the more refined chocolates I've tasted. The comparison would be with the Freefood Co.'s Coco Dolce dark chocolates that I featured before in this blog. This was not as refined as the label would have you believe (Technology of Belgium). The chocolate retailed for 2.50 USD or about 125 PHP.  That is quite expensive for 35g bar of chocolate that's not as smooth as other chocolates I have featured before. However, you could probably stretch it as an artisan chocolate. I wouldn't.
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Monday, September 25, 2017

Atis in Vietnam!

Atis or sweetsop is my favorite fruit. One of the highlights of the trip to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) aside from the conference I attended, was going to Ben Tanh Market where may of us got our souvenirs to take home. On the Sunday we were there, we checked out the fruit stands to get some to eat back at the hotel. I was delighted to see they had atis, which was also in season in the Philippines, only that theirs were larger and heavier. We haggled a bit as we tried to get a feel of the prices for fruits. My friend brought lanzones, too, and both of us thought it over if we were going to buy some of the large chicos that was also available and ready to eat. The atis, we were told, can be eaten the following day.

I bought a couple of these large atis
Here's a standard pen for reference on the size of the atis

We didn't get to eat our atis until 2 days later. It was worth the wait though as we were treated to really juicy fruit with just the right sweetness. I shared my fruits with other colleagues who weren't able to join us at the market earlier.

I brought some of the seeds with me back to Manila. I will be planting those and hopefully they will grow and bear fruit in the future.
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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Chocolate review: Los Lacayos Nougat

One of the highlights of my trip to Australia was going around a Saturday outdoor bazaar in Sydney. There, I spotted a stall where they were selling artisan chocolates. This attracted me and I struck up some small talk with the vendor, who explained their chocolates were all handmade and not the mass produced kind. I forgot to ask about the exact source(s) of the cacao but she did say it was fair trade beans. I got a few bars for 4 dollars each, just making sure I got only the dark chocolates instead of the milk chocolates. It didn't hurt that the packaging are quite attractive, too, as evidenced from this dark chocolate with nougat


The details are at the back of the package
The chocolate is produced by Cicada Artisan Chocolate and proudly made in Australia. They have a website that you can easily google for more information about their chocolates. This one claimed 70% single origin chocolate from Papua New Guinea. The chocolate itself was enjoyable and the nougat sandwiched by the chocolate gave you something to chew on especially if you stored the chocolate in the refrigerator for quite some time and ate it immediately after taking it out of the ref. My only regret is getting one bar to take back home. I probably should have bought at least two. :)

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chocolate review: Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs

The first chocolate bar I bought in Melbourne was this one that was made in Madagascar. I spotted it on a shelf that featured locally made chocolates among the mass produced ones. I got one and another bar of chocolate made in Australia to satisfy my chocolate cravings on the cold nights there.

This bar was proudly made in Africa, Madagascar to be precise
The back of the label contains much details about this chocolate.
The label explains that the makers wanted to change the world by making a better bar of chocolate. They did this by making a bean-to-bar chocolate in Madagascar.
Nutrition information including this chocolate having at least 63% cacao content
Another view of the back of the label with the flap up to show some nice information on the cacao used in the production of this chocolate. They used heirloom cacao, which is said to guarantee the highest quality of cacao.

This retailed for 5.25 AUD or about 208 PHP, which is a relatively inexpensive price to pay for high quality chocolate. There are other mass production chocolates that are priced higher than this but are inferior in taste and texture. I thought this chocolate was an excellent product out of Madagascar/Africa and regret having only bought I more to take home. I am sure the Clairvoyant would also enjoy this crunchy chocolate, particularly the fine blend of sea salt and cacao nibs for one to munch on.
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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Chocolates in Australia

The convenience grocery near the service apartment where I stayed at in Melbourne had a good variety of chocolates for me to enjoy. I bought a couple of bars to tide me over what turned out to be very cold nights in this southern Australian city. One bar was a "bean-to-bar" chocolate from Madagascar (proudly made in Africa) and another was made in Australia from local and imported cacao.

Chocolates for my Australian winter in Melbourne

I was only able to finish the Madagascar chocolate and it was wonderful. I will be writing about this and each of these chocolates that I bought (I bought many other bars) as I taste them. My only regret for now is that I was not able to get 2 bars of each. But then I already look forward to the next trip to Australia and that next time I hope will be with my family.
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Monday, July 24, 2017

Hello Australia!

I'm traveling again and this time it is to a place I or the Clairvoyant have never been to before - Australia. I am now at Melbourne to participate at a symposium at one of the major universities here. Afterwards, I will have a couple of nights in Sydney en route to Manila. I have many friends and former students in both cities but will likely only have time to meet up with a few. I have a niece and grandnephew in Melbourne whom I haven't seen in 17 years so that's a meeting I look forward to.

We landed at Sydney Airport at 6:30 AM - just about daybreak

This is the first time I am staying at a serviced apartment instead of at a hotel. I found that it's less expensive, the location is great and the apartment allows me to cook (okay heat) and launder my clothes as it comes fully furnished with a kitchen and washer & dryer. I will definitely take note of these conveniences for our future trips, especially those with our daughter.

The view from my apartment

Obviously, I will be writing a lot about my trip to Australia in my future posts and these would likely include places, food and other interesting stuff about the land down under. Abangan!
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chocolate review: Funky Monkey by The Bakeshop, EDSA Shangri-La

Last December, we picked up some chocolate bars at the EDSA Shangri La hotel. We stayed there for a couple of nights as we had some pest control work on our home. The hotel made some really good chocolates that we had enjoyed in the past and we wanted to try out some of what they had. One of the bars is curiously named "Funky Monkey Marshmallow & Crispies".

Funky Monkey Marshmallow & Crispies Homemade Milk Chocolate Bar
Some details about EDSA Shangri La's in-house chocolate

Though we don't usually buy milk chocolates, we made an exception for this one because of the marshmallow and crispies. This was the chunky kind that you will enjoy because of the ingredients. The bar did not disappoint but of course, we found it too sweet for our taste buds. Still, I would recommend this chocolate for whoever loves milk chocolate and especially those loaded with ingredients that make you chew. I seem recall that the bar cost 250 or 300 Pesos and the price is fair for a very good chocolate in a 180g bar.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chi Spa, Shangri-La EDSA Plaza

One of our guilty pleasures is getting a massage. We find massages soothing, relaxing, detoxifying - if done the right way. I've experienced massages where the therapist seems to be going through the motions and you can tell that by in many ways including the way they transition from one part of your body to the other. In certain cases, the therapist can't seem to estimate the right amount of pressure she's supposed to apply so that it won't be painful during and after the massage. Among those we've gone to are Nurture Spa in Tagaytay and Sofitel's Le Spa. These two have good menus of massages and we think their staff are well-trained. Last December, I finally was able to go to EDSA Shangri-la's Chi Spa, which is supposedly one of the best spas in the country.

Impressive lobby
Lounge area where clients wait for their turn of service
Another section of the lobby displaying spa products for sale
I just had to take a photo of this exquisite chandelier hanging in the middle of the lobby
We were served tea while we waited to be called
Inside the changing room - the showers, toilet and steam sauna are in this area
Massage tables in one of their suites
The view from the seating section just across from the massage area
Seat where you can wash
Entrance to Chi Spa from the hotel building
Chi Spa didn't disappoint and their service made you feel really cared for. I thought the massage was one of the best if not the best I've had for some time now. It was very relaxing and definitely a pleasant experience. I already look forward to trying out Chi Spa at Shangri-la's Mactan resort.
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