Archive for December, 2010

Chocolate Review: Thorntons, 85% Dark

The Thorntons 85% dark chocolate bar is a 90g square of “intensely smooth, super-dark chocolate”. It’s part of their new-ish range of good quality chocolate squares. I’ve found Thorntons can be very hit and miss, but I’ve heard good things about this particular range.

It uses French beans from West Africa apparently and is described as ‘smooth’, with ‘strong cocoa notes’. On tasting, it is indeed very cocoa-y. Not as refined or fruity as my current favourite, Lindt 85%. It reminds me of a slightly more intense version of the Cote D’Or 86% bar.

At nearly £2 for 90g, it’s not cheap and doesn’t particularly differentiate itself from similar bars that cost slightly less. However, it’s very pleasant and I’m looking forward to finishing off the rest of the bar. And of course, I’m now keen to try the other flavours in their range..

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Chocolate review: Chocolate Garden, whole real gooseberries in fine chocolate

I picked up a box of these unusual treats at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, of all places. I’d never heard of Chocolate Garden before, but labelled as winners of the superior taste award 2009, the box of gooseberries coated in chocolate seemed too good and, well, too intriguing not to buy.

The chocolate used is 47% and while not labelled as dark chocolate does not contain any milk substance so I figured it counted as part of the series of reviews.

Further investigation (by which I mean, reading the packet) reveals that the gooseberries have been ‘candied’, i.e soaked in plenty of sugar. Rather ominously they have also had preservatives and flavouring added. The chocolate itself contains some vanillin, which implies a cheaper chocolate has been used.

Opening the packet reveals something a bit too uniform and shiny for something that’s labelled as homemade. The first bite uncovers a sticky centre that bares little resemblance in any regard to a gooseberry. Overwhelmingly sweet, there’s no taste of the tangy, tart tasting fruit I was expecting.

I can’t really comment on the chocolate, any taste has been drowned out by the incredible amounts of sugar and the (I assume) shellac glaze. I’d guess the glaze has been added to improve shelf life, but it’s a pity as it ruins the taste and texture of the chocolate.

In conclusion, they were not worth it. I’d rather save my money and have some cheap Tesco coated raisins instead, which is of comparable quality (but with less sugar!). Certainly not award winning produce.

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How to Kill a Zombie

It is well known that the only way to kill a zombie is to attack its head. However, the works of Robert Kirkman tell us that it is not sufficient to chop the head off. Instead, it is necessary to inflict severe brain damage either through the use of a blunt instrument like a spade or by using a gun. An axe can also be used, although illustrations in many works, including Kirkman’s show that the axe needs to penetrate deep into the cranial cavity to stop the zombie.

It is worth noting that zombies freeze more easily than living creatures. This can be used as a way of stopping them in very cold conditions. Please be aware that they will continue as before when they finally thaw.

The most important thing to remember when confronted with the undead is to keep your wits about you, this will be your greatest weapon.

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Project 365: 42 Days Later

I’ve been doing Project365 for 42 days now. I’m surprised and pleased at my progress so far.

I’ve tried to have each image provide a ‘snapshot’ of the day. Which means I’ve not always chosen the best photo, rather the one I felt was most representative. At times I’ve taken note of the light levels and played around with the ISO or composition of the shot, other times I’ve snapped a single image on my way to or from work barely breaking stride.

I’ve struggled recently to come up with interesting pictures, but I think that’s mostly due to illness keeping me at home and draining my energy levels. As a result I’ve been using the Retro Camera app on my phone a fair bit, which feels like I’m cheating slightly.

So far, I’ve learned to be more brave in my choice of photo of the day – just because something doesn’t meet the conventional requirements for being good doesn’t mean it’s not any good!

My favourite photos so far have been the ones that provide an interesting view of an everyday scene. For example:

For Science! – The medical school has many cabinets of fascinating medical instruments and awards. I really like the composition and the lighting in this shot.

Bonfire Night – There are always many photos of bonfire night, but I really like the silhouette of the people watching contrasting with the bright colours of the fireworks. Both the picture and the colours themselves feel really crisp.

Upper Brook Street – It’s normally a very dull, busy road, but I feel this shot nicely captures a cold and lonely winter sun early on a work day morning.

Winter in Failsworth – Another shot taken early on a winter morning. This one in much colder temperatures and I think this is gotten across in the photo.

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26 Things – November 2010

26 things is a photographic exercise published by A new list was published for November, just around the time I started Project365. I thought I could use 26 things as inspiration and to get myself thinking more about the photos I took.

I didn’t quite achieve all 26 things this time (in fairness it was a busy month), but here’s how I did:
1. Tall
2. Amazing
3. Round
4. Hidden
5. Green
6. An animal
7. Dirty
8. Early
9. Weather
10. An arrow
11. Curve
12. Tomorrow
13. Inside
14. A ceiling
15. Watch out
16. Key
17. Reflection
18. Track
19. Framed
20. Busy
21. Strange
22. Upside down
23. Spots
24. Shoes
25. Weathered
26. Sunday morning

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Chocolate Review – Hotel Chocolat, Nibbly Nibs

The dark chocolate ‘Nibbly Nibs’ from Hotel Chocolat are small rectangular pieces of perfectly formed chocolate in one of the ‘selector’ packets. The Hotel Chocolat selectors range being an affordable introduction to their range of chocolates.

Nibbly Nibs is described as ‘Caramelised cocoa crisps within dark chocolate for nibbly texture and flavour bursts’. There is no mention of the chocolate percentage on the front, but a look at the ingredients reveals that it’s 70%.  The next thing to mention is the wonderful smell upon opening the plastic packaging, these are not chocolates to be sniffed at.

Nibs are the resulting pieces of cocoa bean, after it’s been dry-roasted, cracked and de-shelled. It’s this which is normally used to create the chocolate. However, they can be eaten on their own if you want a real kick, or as is quite popular at the moment, sprinkled into chocolate to provide extra texture and flavour.

The chocolate here is lightly bitter, with a wonderful soft texture that easily melts away in the mouth to an explosion of a slightly fruity cocoa. It’s their standard dark chocolate, which is as tasty and more-ish as ever. The cocoa nibs are subtle; they aren’t evident until the chocolate starts to melt away and suddenly your mouth is full of them. They soon provide an extra kick though..

Not sort of chocolate to eat quickly, I nonetheless found my self snacking on my third piece before being able to stop myself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to work off a chocolate buzz..

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