Saturday, March 31, 2012

Choka Blok Ice Cream Review

   It's been a bit busy around here (moving out of one apartment, on hold in another while waiting to move into our house, etc), so apologies for the pause in blogging lately. While I've got a minute, I thought I'd throw up a review of Choka Blok ice cream.
 Now, let me preface this review by first saying that so far, we've found UK ice cream to be sadly lacking when it comes to quality and taste. One brand I tried honestly tasted like a caramel-scented CANDLE, not ice cream. Fine if you like wax, otherwise.....not so much. So, I was really hoping that Choka Blok would live up to the advertising.
Here's what they say about themselves, directly from their website:

About ChokaBlok.
ChokaBlok is a luxury range of chocolate and ice cream – crammed with sweet treats and delicious extra bits.
Our Ingredients
We always start with great quality ingredients and then get to work creating irresistibly mouth-watering goodies. Using lashings of chocolate, gooey bits, crunchy biscuit, caramel, honeycomb and more, all our products are chok-full of sweet treats in every gorgeous mouthful.

See why I had high hopes for this brand? I grabbed their 'American Dreamcake' off the shelf one afternoon since it was on sale, and we gave it a go that evening. The American Dreamcake label brags 'A rich and creamy mix of cheesecake and dark chocolate ice creams swirled with chocolate frosting, chunks of cheesecake, and chocolate brownie pieces'. Sounds really indulgent, right? Especially when these are the first few lines of ingredients: Fresh Whole Milk, Sugar, Double Cream, Skimmed Milk Concentrate, Water, Glucose Syrup, Full Fat Soft Cheese, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Pasteurised Free Range Egg, Wheat Flour, Butter, etc etc etc.
 But, what did we get, for all those calories and fat grams? A very cheap feeling ice cream, basically what tasted like vanilla ice cream mixed with cookies n cream. Sigh. If I'd wanted generic cookies n cream ice cream, I would've paid (less) for it! I won't even bother rating this ice cream, since there's no way I'm buying it again. Choka Blok, for all your claims to be classy, rich, and indulgent, you're more like a frozen hamburger patty masquerading as filet mignon. Massive fail!
 Lesson learned? The UK cannot do ice cream right. If you've got reason to believe otherwise, please let me know so I can stop paying way too much for Ben and Jerry's!
  Next few posts will likely be about Bruges and Brussels, unless I find time to write again before we go. Chocolate, beer, and....chocolate, here we come!

                             Disappointing tub of Choka Blok.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Holiday Weekend: St. Patrick's Day and Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day!

  It's definitely a holiday weekend here in the UK: today is Saint Patrick's Day, and tomorrow (March 18th) is Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day.
 Since pretty much everyone knows about St. Patrick's Day, I won't get into it, but the concept of Mothering Sunday interested me, seeing as Mother's Day in America is always celebrated in May.
 I did a bit of googling and discovered that Mothering Sunday was originally a pagan celebration in the Roman religion, celebrating the mother goddess. As Rome converted to Christianity, Mothering Sunday (Laetare Sunday) was moved to the fourth Sunday of Lent, honoring the Virgin Mary and the 'mother' church. By the 16th century, people would return to their mother church on this day, often with their own mothers. Later, it was the only day of the year that servants were given off, in order to attend church and be with their families.
 By the 1920s, this custom had lapsed throughout most of Europe, but it was revived in the UK by the 1950s. Merchants, meanwhile, saw a way to make some extra money, so Mother's Day also began to be celebrated, on Mothering Sunday. So these are actually 2 separate celebrations, just on the same day with very similar names. Most people believe they are one and the same (as I had before I was enlightened by wikipedia) but Mothering Sunday is Christian, while Mother's Day is entirely secular.
 Well, to make the most of this weekend's holidays, Keila and I did a some shopping downtown this morning. I was under strict orders to buy myself a little something for Mother's Day, but of course Keila ended up coming home with a load of new clothes, and I didn't find anything. We did at least find a St. Patrick's Day hat--it's not as celebrated here as in the US, so we were lucky to find anything at all! Happy holidays!

                                     Keila on the high street

                                       Examining a Mother's Day sign

                                        She already loves shoes!

                                      The hat was a bit big! For more pics with her face showing, visit

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Caramel Egg Taste-Off!

    In the spirit of commercialized Easter (after all, it's less than a month away), I caved in to the 3-for-1-pound caramel egg deal at the grocery store last week. 'Pound' being Great British pound, although it may also well refer to the amount of weight that 3 of these little buggers will add to the balance on your scale. Evil eggs.
  Anyway, seeing as I had these shiny caramel eggs staring at me from the kitchen table every time I walked by, I decided to taste one each night for three nights, and then decide which was the best. The contenders were: Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Egg, Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Egg, and Thorntons Caramel Melts Egg ('Gorgeously gooey caramel in a milk chocolate shell').
  All things were going according to plan, until I somehow ate 1.5 eggs on the second night. Still, I figure that 2.5 eggs in 2 nights isn't awful, and I'll even justify the extra 0.5 egg by saying this: the first half an egg I ate on night two was so not worth eating that I pitched it into the garbage and just moved onto the final egg. See? Taste testing at its best! And actually, it probably would've been most fair to eat all of the eggs at once and judge them that way, but no way was I going to gorge myself on 3 eggs in one sitting (tempting as it might have been). So forgive me if I'm a bit vague on the differences between Egg 1 and Egg 3 when I compare: I'll blame it on the 24 hour time difference in tasting.
  So, on night 1, I started off with Thorntons Caramel Melts egg. Reason for starting with this one was simple: Keila got ahold of the eggs, and this was the first one she managed to unwrap.
 How was it? Delicious! Thorntons makes lots of bon bons and boxed chocolates here. While they're by no means artisan chocolates, they're also pretty darn good in comparison to your average boxed chocolates. Pretty tasty chocolate for being milk chocolate, and the caramel inside was nice and creamy. Top points to Thorntons!
 Night 2 rolled around, and Keila had attacked the Galaxy egg just before bed, ripping off half the shiny foil. So I took a big bite of that one...and immediately thought 'Ugh, cheap chocolate!' It just You know what I mean if you've ever had the cheap stuff, like those fake 'chocolate flavored' bunnies and eggs Palmer makes around Easter. Honestly, who in their right mind buys imitation chocolate??  Galaxy's stuff wasn't quite that bad...but anything that reminds me of Palmer has got to go. And, on that thought, I threw the rest of the Galaxy egg into the bin. In case you're wondering, the caramel was cheapy tasting too. Not at all creamy. Yuck.
 On to the third and final egg (had to get the cheap chocolate taste out of my mouth!). Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Egg. I already knew what to expect with this one, having consumed numerous Cadbury caramel eggs over the years. And it didn't disappoint. Classic Cadbury taste (real Cadbury, not fake licensed-to-Hershey's-made-in-the-US Cadbury) and pretty decent caramel inside, too.
 Still, overall, I'd say that Thornton's wins this taste-off. Cadbury is good, of course, but I dislike the fact that they add vegetable fat to their chocolate. Thorntons relies on good old cocoa butter instead of cutting costs like Cadbury does. Perhaps I'm becoming something of a grocery-store-chocolate snob, but Cadbury is losing favor in my eyes by contaminating their products in such a way.
 Final consensus: if you're out and about and looking for some caramel eggs, pick up Thornton's Caramel Melts!


                      The contenders: Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Egg, Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Egg, and Thorntons Caramel Melts Egg

                                         Keila examining the Galaxy Caramel egg: Shiny!

                                Inside the Thorntons Caramel Melts Egg

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Keila is 16 Months Today!

    Keila is 16 months old today! Time seems to be going faster and is Keila. Here are the updates on her various areas of progress:
 1. Speech. She is talking a lot!!! Keila now gets out her toy mobile phone AND her corded phone and will happily talk into both of them. She's mastered the art of walking and talking with the cell phone, and sometimes will also use blocks or toy bananas to talk into, too. As for actual words: 'Oliver' is still a strong favorite, but new ones include 'No no no no no!' (oops), 'An Pan Man' (a Japanese cartoon character of which she has the stuffed doll, 'Up', 'Gaagug' for dog now instead of 'daa', and 'Baa' for bird. I think there are others but they aren't coming to mind at the moment.
 2. The day after she turned 15 months, Keila popped 2 more teeth through, upping her count to 16. 4 more to go! She may/may not be teething again right now. She's been holding her mouth and ear a bit today but also has a cold, so we've got to head over to the doctor in a bit and make sure it's not an ear infection.
 3. Sleep! I'm not even going to discuss it any more. If and when she does start sleeping through the night, I'll let you know.
 4. Keila is great on her own two feet now! We go to the playground a lot, and she walked about 2 blocks on her own downtown a few weeks ago. Now if only I can convince her that climbing isn't always a good thing....
 5. Food issues...lately, she doesn't want any sort of protein besides beans. I've tried ground turkey, ground beef, fish, eggs prepared all ways, paper-thin slices of ham, etc etc etc. If only tofu was as easy to get here as it was in Japan. Otherwise, Keila is eating well, lots of fruits, veggies, and healthy grains. If you've got any sugggestions for the protein problem, let me know!
 6. We've got all sorts of new actions going on these days. This kid continues to amaze me in terms of how fast she's learning. Recently, Keila loves to have me sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' while she follows along with the actions (and hums, too). I had to repeat it 5 times one afternoon....need I mention that I really don't like that song any more? 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' is also a good one, but definitely a runner-up to 'Twinkle Twinkle'. Last week, Keila saw me cleaning off some of her toys with wet later, she got them out herself and proceeded to not only wipe the toys but also Wasabi, at least for as long as Wasa allowed.
 Keila wants to do anything and everything herself now, to the extent that she shoves away our hands if we're trying to help her. We definitely have a strong-willed little girl! Oh, and she had her first temper tantrum last week, when we had to leave the playground earlier than she wanted. The fun has begun!
 7. Just weighed Keila and measured her height this morning...she's at 10.4 kilos and 80.5 cm. Which is both skinnier and shorter than I was expecting. Still fine for her age of course, but I need to check her growth lines to make sure we're still on track!
  That's it on Keila until next month!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Cadbury Creme Egg Ice Cream

          Easter products appear in stores early here, and I first spotted this Cadbury Creme Egg ice cream in mid-January. The label proclaims: 'Delicious vanilla ice cream with Cadbury chocolate chunks and added Goo'. Goo apparently being the yellow 'yolk' bit inside Cadbury Creme eggs.
 Based on this description, I was expecting ice cream that tasted like, you guessed it, a Cadbury Creme egg. Not too much to ask, considering the name, right? Apparently I was aiming too high. What I actually got was vanilla ice cream with little chocolate specks (definitely not chunks) and some swirls of goldish-yellow colored 'goo'. If you got a good spoonful of the goo (by determinedly digging it out of the vanilla, not that I'd do such a thing of course!), it did taste like the yellow yolk of Cadbury Creme eggs....but there just wasn't enough swirled throughout the ice cream to convey that taste in a normal scoop. Basically, the overall impression I had was of plain vanilla ice cream with some chocolate flecks in it. Imagine a generic brand chocolate chip ice cream. Ok because it's ice cream, but they could've done SOOO much better.
Overall consensus: Bypass this ice cream and spend your calories on the Cadbury Creme Eggs instead!

                             Looks great...tastes like plain vanilla!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Product Review: Kraft Cadbury Milk Chocolate Philadelphia Cream Cheese

           As soon as I saw the new Kraft Philadelphia Cadbury Chocolate Light Cream Cheese at our local Tesco super store, I of course had to buy a pack to review. The UK doesn't have as many 'exotic' products as Japan does, so I tend to pounce on the interesting ones I do find. (FYI: Kraft bought out Cadbury a while back, thus leading to this new chocolate/cream cheese blend).
 Not sure what I was really expecting out of this chocolate cream cheese, but what I got is basically akin to a tub of pre-made frosting. Not bad, but definitely a cheap sort of pleasure. I probably won't buy it again, but I can't say I hated eating it, either! A newspaper review commented that this chocolate cream cheese may compete with Nutella, but I'm sticking with the canned frosting comparison.
  While we're on the topic of Cadbury, I can't remember if I mentioned that we visited Cadbury World in January. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment---most of our time there was spent sandwiched in between groups of hyperactive schoolchildren, but perhaps I should've expected that situation in a place that looked like Willy Wonka's candy factory? The rather psychedelic ride at the end was the one thing worth the wait, however. Crazy cows and weird little chocolate characters at every turn; Keila loved it!
  Seeing as Easter is fast approaching, the next post will be a review of Cadbury Creme Egg ice cream. Here's a hint: my experience with it was a bit like the one at Cadbury World: high expectations that weren't quite met. Until next time.....
                                  Kraft Philadelphia Cadbury chocolate light cream cheese

                                                     Keila had fun with the packaging

                                    Crazy cows at Cadbury World