Showing posts with label events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label events. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Asda Press Event - Halloween Special [By @C2L_Eu]

Every now and then FoodStuffFinds are lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample products at Press launches and a little while ago we were asked to attend the Asda Halloween event for their forthcoming seasonal range.
Asda held their event in central London and to get us all in the mood it included a tour of the famous London Dungeons. Going around the dungeons at 8pm on a dusky, late summers night was the perfect start to get all the guests in the spirit of the occasion and we made full use of the themed photo opportunities. It was a great addition to the evening before the real treats began and a nice touch for Asda to include.

After the tour, we were taken to a nicely located pub to sample the Asda Halloween range, which this year is vast and exciting. As ever we tried to concentrate on the the food, ignoring the costumes but the offers of face painting and special effects were particulary distracting.

One thing that drew our attention from the huge selection on offer was the sharing platter. A mixture of marshmallows and ginger bread with a saucy chocolate dip to go with. A great way to enjoy something a little different with friends and we could imagine this would go down well at a party or even watching a scary movie on a Saturday night. Taste wise is doesn't explode in your mouth but it was a nice take on the traditional sharing platters which tend to be savoury. As ever, the Asda price makes sure that this would be affordable to all and so for this, we would give it the thumbs up.

Next up were the pumpkin kits; which were by far the best products on show. Rather than the ginger bread kits which we've all seen and loved, we got a pumpkin to decorate instead. Now I know it might seem odd that a late-20's (*cough cough*) reviewer might find this the most engaging of all the treats on offer, however it really did unleash everyone's inner child. There's something very honest and simple about decorating your own cookies - it's just FUN! These would be great for all ages and again, we were really impressed. The biscuits themselves are fairly normal gingerbread, which weren't particularly exciting per se, however this didn't matter at all; we weren't looking for gourmet.

We can only imagine the fun (mess and terror) kids could inflict with these little pumpkins!

After a thoroughly enjoyable evening (with this reviewer even ending up with more than a bit of make up on... we did say we'd TRY to focus on the food...), we made our way home on the tube and looked through our generous goodie bag. Containing freaky jelly lollies, face paints, wigs and costume and two little innocent gingerbread vampires. It was only fitting to keep with the spirit of the night, and so we demanded... OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!

By C2L

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Alton Towers: Oblivion Beer and Alton Towers Resort (@AltonTowers) [By @SpectreUK]

Cinabar and I decided to get the families together for a weekend away in one of our favourite places; Alton Towers. I asked my family along, which consists of my Mom and Dad, my sister and her two children. Cinabar asked her family along, which consists of her Mom, brother, sister in law, two children, Dad and new Wife. We booked a date in late September when everyone was available and Cinabar organised the masses.

On arriving late Saturday morning, Cinabar, her Mom and I had breakfast wraps in the bar in the Alton Towers Hotel with a rather early beer for me. The beer was Oblivion beer that represents my favourite rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers. Cinabar is terrified of Oblivion (the ride, not the beer) and I have to literally drag her on it every year. The amber cloudy beer was 5.8% in volume, served in a 500ml bottle, brewed by Alton Peakstone’s Rock Brewery and bottled by Leak Brewery. There was a heavy smell of wheat to the bear with a bite of hops to the nostrils. On tasting there was a strong taste of wheat to the beer with a bitter bite from the hops that ran through into the aftertaste. I could certainly taste the alcoholic strength to the beer. There was some yeast sediment in the bottom of my glass, but nothing to cry about. I thought this beer was very nice indeed and would have it again. There was also a Nemesis Beer on the shelf behind the bar, which I’ll have to try at some other point.

After breakfast, Cinabar’s Mom went off for Spa treatment for the rest of the day. Cinabar and I met her brother and his wife and two kids in the Water Park around lunchtime, they then went off to have fun on the roller coasters and we stayed in the Water Park. About half an hour later we bumped into my sister and her two kids and spent a couple of hours or so with them on the slides and in the rapids. They went off to relax, whilst we ran around on the slides some more with Cinabar’s dad, whilst his new wife watched from the Jacuzzi. The meal in the Secret Garden restaurant on the evening was slow, which saw my Dad complain on the poor service, and I have to admit I wasn’t far behind him as he beat me to chasing the starters that we’d waited an hour for! Afterwards we all ended up in the bar for a while chatting and listening to the end of the singers. Cinabar and I with her Dad and his new Wife were the last ones standing just after midnight.

I had my super bacon sandwich for breakfast on the Sunday, which consisted of roughly ten rashers of bacon, some tomato sauce and two fried eggs. We then took the monorail into the park and played on the big roller coasters and some of the smaller rides for the youngsters. The classic surreal moment before the end of the day, and one I will not forget, was trying to get from one side of the park to the other running next to my sister (who’s three years older than me) to make the Spinball Wizard roller coaster in five minutes before the queue closed at 5pm. We were trying to keep up with Cinabar’s brother’s long distance running daughter who at one moment left us for dust and was a little speck in the distance, and then ran all the way back again to hurry us up! It was mad and we were pretty out of breath, but we made the ride and it was well worth the run.

We all had a much better meal on the evening at the buffet style Flambos restaurant, as the food was all there so we didn’t have to wait. My Dad even braved the Caribbean Goat Curry, though exclaimed it wasn’t as hot as they had made out. We all had an excellent time and are talking about making it an annual event!
By Spectre

Thursday, 12 September 2013 - Helicopter Buzz Flight For 2 [by @NLi10]

We get offered all kinds of unusual products here at Food Stuff Finds headquarters.  A lot of the events that we get invited to are London based which would be a nightmare to get to from the Midlands in time. Sometimes though we get a crazy offer where we get to choose the location, like this one today.

The website ExperienceDays sent us an e-mail inviting us to try one of their snack related events such as Chocolate Making Workshops, High Tea at posh hotels, Wine tasting and other really quite FSF friendly activities to blog about.  Thing is... I've done those before really (with the exception of chocolate making which I think is much more suitable for people who really love their chocolate).  The list they sent us however was regionally based and the food things were just highlighted - so I did what anyone who gets an experience voucher does and looked on the list for the one I actually had thought about doing for myself.

When I woke up this morning I'd never been in a helicopter...

I don't think I'd even been that close to them! When I spotted the "Buzz Flight for 2" on the list I knew we had a winner.  I asked Ms. NLi10 if she'd like to come too (she'd apparently taken a helicopter trip to a glacier in New Zealand many years ago and said it was certainly something to do again).  We sorted out the date with the organisers and in a few weeks I was sitting next to the Pilot at Wolverhampton's Halfpenny Green Airport, being advised that I really shouldn't touch the pedals.

(even though I really, really wanted to touch the pedals...)

I got to sit next to the pilot for a £10 upgrade, but I guess that if no one pays then you have a 1 in 4 chance of it being you anyway!  Everyone gets a headset with a microphone built in so it's just like playing on the Xbox only with better graphics and no loading times.

This is what the area around the site looks like from 1,000 feet up at 120 MPH.

The flight lasted around 5 minutes.  I didn't time it but it seemed both longer and a lot shorter than that.  I had enough opportunities to take a few short film clips and take some pictures.  I'm guessing it would be a lot more breathtaking if you were flying over the coast or somewhere with visibly stark terrain, but I really enjoyed both the sensation and the view.

Then we were back on the ground. Goodbye metallic pink helicopter!

I really enjoyed my morning at the airport and being able to walk around freely and look at all the other things taking off (including a Microlight which is something that I quite like the look of too) was a nice bonus.  The temptation to fill teh review with pictures of people's small planes is strong but resistible.  

Like most of these taster experiences I could have happily had a longer flight, or another flight in a different type of craft, but I guess those are the bigger experience options.  Otherwise it was fantastic and smoothly run and something I'd certainly consider doing again.

A bonus review! I tried to think of something suitable to review alongside this so that it wasn't totally non-snack related (although if you are looking for presents for Snack-Heads then the whole chocolate making day thing went down really well with the ladies at work when they went last year and they even brought some in for me to try). After Cinabar told me that Flyte bars were now hard to find and I decided Aero's were a bit plain I raided snack mountain and found this odd snack my sister brought back from Japan. It had flown back, and now been in a helicopter so I think it's fair game.

As an aside if you can think of flying related snacks then please do pop them in the comments!

This has the added advantage of the fact that I don't have to try and name this.  It has a Doraemon on the packet being summoned by a crazy scientist so it must be fantastic, but what sweet treats lie inside?

It's a giant hollow crisp! Yup - one single crisp. I guess that you would call it's flavour slightly spicy meaty corn-snack flavour.  As I'd presumed it was either mallow or biscuit this was a shock.  Actually tasted pretty good though - and the corn texture was less chewy than a Wotsit so I think it was probably slightly better quality than tuk shop crisps.  A nice surprise find, and one that probably won't make it over here.

Take Off Film
In Flight Movie

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Medieval Squealers (Birmingham Food Fayre) [by @NLi10]

I do like the variety of events and stalls that we get in Birmingham.  As part of one of the food festivals I spotted a new-to-me stall selling things like squirrel pie and rabbit but also something called a Medieval Squealer. 

This is essentially a sausage roll, but with just sausage meat and pastry.  This really doesn't do it justice though, as this isn't grainy pork dust but actual meat.  I tried a variety of different squealers (named amusingly after Henry the 8th's wives) the last of which was Jane Seymour which was a smoked pork based affair.

They were all very filling, much more so than the equivalent Greggs offerings, and if the stall was there past the Bank Holiday Monday then I'd certainly go back for a third visit.

While I'd feel bad eating a squirrel based snack, I'm happy to eat this interesting variation on the humble pig.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Krispy Kreme Christmas Selection (by @NLi10)

Here in Birmingham we had one of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut manufacturing places in the UK - I think it was maybe 3rd or 4th - in the brand new Bullring.  Times have moved on and now you can even pick these up in Tescos! To mark the refit of the shop (which I don't go in often enough to notice) they brought the FoodStuffFinds team some of the new season's selections to try!

Here we see the hot light on showing you can get freshly baked doughnuts. 

Usually there are lots of children's faces pushed up against this window but I went on a quiet Monday afternoon so the glass is nose-print free.  It's like a mini Cadbury World for doughnuts.

 Here we see the standard assorted dozen.  I'd love this slightly more if the two original glazed doughnuts were replaced with more exciting things, but only because I have a tendency to buy multiple dozens so have plenty of the vanilla ones.  In fact - I only buy Krispy Kremes once a year but buy 6 dozen to share for my Birthday at work.  My record is 6 KK in one day - the rest are all given away.

This time I ate only two:

Christmas tree - white creme centre and sugar ball topping.

This is essentially a vanilla creme chocolate topped KK, but with hard sugar balls on top.  These balls are just hard enough to be really annoying! I found that they were far too hard for the soft, fresh doughnut and I'd rather have the plain non-seasonal variety.  I love the crumble topped ones too, maybe change it to that.  They do look pretty, but not as cool as...

Snowman - white icing top with strawberry jam filling and a sugarcraft carrot nose

Part of me thinks that this would have been cool with a carrot centre, but that part of me is probably best ignored.  I loved this - the white icing top replacing the powder coating that is usually on the jam KKs.  This has the strawberry jam I think, but the raspberry is my favourite.  I'd have two of these instead of the Christmas tree.  And then I'd have some of the Raspberry filled one for pudding.  And then maybe one of those summer fruits icing ones. And then...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Christmas at Cadbury World [by @NLi10 and his elves]

It's not often you get invited to Cadbury World.  It's only up the road from me (I can get a direct bus there which takes about 25 mins) which is why it's probably quite shocking that the last time I went was about 22 years ago - on the day it officially opened.  We had to stoop under the big ribbon to get in, we got one spicy choc drink, and a single cube of chocolate upon entering the factory!!  How times of changed - there is now a ride, free chocolate in pretty much all sections, several themed areas and at the moment a pantomime and a Christmas Grotto!  I've focused here on the 'boring bits' and left the more exciting attraction sections to the two teenagers that I borrowed & dragged along with me on the promise of Chocolaty goodness.  Naturally like most teenagers these will be added later as I get them (grumble grumble homework grumble).

You'd never guess the wonderment inside from this brutalist exterior.  Personally I quite like it.  I think Dahl was probably inspired by the crazy juxtaposition of the functional exteriors that the factories had for all the wonderment and gadgetry inside.  Chocolate that is practically build by robots is pretty cool to me.

Handmade stuff is good too.

You can even write the name of your blog in chocolate! At least that's what I think they intended.  At the bottom is one of the many molten pots of chocolate that you get on the wander around the entertainments.  I do wish we still got the Aztec gold one though.  Ah well.

You also get an assortment of chocolate bars depending on what is being manufactured that day.  If you are lucky and not with teenagers you may get to keep them too...  Or you could just buy extras.

The sign says World's Largest Cadbury Shop and it really isn't kidding.  This is half of the Dairy Milk section.  I'm local and know the score so bought MisShapes (half the price per g of Dairy Milk and essentially all the bits off the production line that go wrong.  We got solid chocolate Cadbury Heroes which is the lottery win of MisShapes bags. Mmmm)

And yes - there is the Christmas theme throughout at the moment.  First up there is a pantomime! (oh no there isn't - oh yes there is etc...)

I'd presumed that it would be factory staff doing their best to entertain, but I think it must have been a small professional troupe of actors.  Yes - you'll know all the gags and lines, but it's more for the kids. We got sat at the front which made it even funnier as Ms. NLi10 and the two borrowed teenage minions did their best to pretend to not be with me as I joined in the chants, boos and cheers.  If you don't think your kids would sit through a 2 hour panto then this 30 min one is well worth it and should keep their attention.

But they will be far more excited by the Grotto...

Avoiding spoilers here, partially to preserve the magic of Christmas and partially as 16 year old boys really don't want to sit on Santa's knee (probably due to a naughty/nice imbalance...), I shall gloss over most of the details.  Suffice to say it's surprisingly authentic considering it's essentially in a big tent, and the queue was department store sized at all times due to it's magical attraction.  The present given out at the end had children of all ages with massive smiles - probably the most luxurious thing I've seen given out at one of these since the old Lewis's Grottos with their promise of the latest Disney Ladybird books when I was 7 (or so).  We just snuck in and took a few pictures.

Is Cadbury World worth a visit? If you are reading this blog then probably for the shop alone! Now I know that you can just walk into it and buy things without going into the attraction I may be stocking up.  Shame they don't do all the international varieties that CyberCandy etc. do - I feel they are missing a trick.  I did pick up some new things to review next week though. The attraction itself is an odd one.  There are things for all ages, but the bits between those may bore children too old and too young.  If you are cunning and select those bits you want the most then there will be less sulks - I guess save the chocolate for those bits!  The Christmas magic is really in effect at the moment, but it was sold out until late the day we got there so book online unless you want a car full of tears and a rush to find a replacement Santa.

Teenage review links when available.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Butterbeer & Chocolate Frogs (Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter) [By @NLi10]

Yesterday a group of us went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour near Leavesdon. For normal Harry Potter fans there are lots of things to go for, for foodies there are two - Butterbeer & the sweets in the giftshop.

About 2/3rds of the way round there is an outside bit which is the 'back-lot' of the film studio and contains things that you wouldn't expect to see inside and are fairly rain proof. There is also a refreshments stand that sells Butterbeer! If you haven't heard of this then the tour porbably isn't for you - you need to appreciate a bit of the story to get the most out of it. The main characters look forwards to Butterbeer from Hogsmeade when they go on their school trip there. It's never said to be alcoholic in the books, and it certainly isn't here. We bought one to share amongst 4 (it was only £2.95 but I'd seen a few half drunk ones floating around and didn't want to risk it).

Here is me on the actual Knight bus with my Butterbeer! You can't tell this is a giant purple triple-decker bus from this pic, but it is.

And here is the best cropped close-up of the drink I have - it's essentially a 'float'. This is a fizzy drink with vanilla ice-cream on the top. I'm not really sure what the base drink is, it's almost like non-gingery ginger beer, or a less sweet lucozade. It is VERY sweet, and after all 4 people had a small taste I was the only one willing to finish it. In the interests of Science and like Spectre many times before me I finished the beer-like-beverage. I enjoyed it, but I certainly couldn't drink this by the pint! As a welcome drink while wandering around it was perfect, like the Aztec chocolate drink you got when Cadbury's World first opened round the corner from us.

Oh but what of the fabled giftshop! Much has been written about the small section by the door with £150 Snape coats & Dumbledore's Robes for £500 but frankly the rest of the shop is just like a normal London tourist attraction. T-shirts were around £25 but of a very nice quality, and I got a £22 Silk Tie (Slytherin, naturally). One of our 7 Wizards picked up a £7.99 chocolate frog from the shop which is a huge 150g monstrosity and is as close to film authentic as you can realistically expect to get.

It even has a 3D wizard at the bottom of the box - it's Slytherin again! That japester gets everywhere!

I can easily recommend a trip to Harry Potter World for anyone that loved all the books (or films), I avoided all spoilers beforehand and haven't put any here, but suffice to say there is a LOT to look at and as time progresses they are only going to expand this. It's like a little American tourist experience in the Hertfordshire countryside and is half a day well spent.
By Nli10

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Warburtons Gluten Free & Wheat Free Breads [by @LoisParker]

I’m pleased to announce we have a guest post today. Lois Parker from ‘Bring Back The Bliss - Gluten Free Cooking’ has been off to London to the Warburtons launch of their new speciality breads.

Warburtons have launched their new range of gluten and wheat free foods. They are making white and brown sliced loaves, crumpets, fruited teacakes and sub-rolls. All of these are made in a dedicated gluten-free factory, so we don’t have to worry about cross-contamination.

The breads are lactose-free as well as gluten and wheat free but don’t advertise this on the packaging. They do have an allergy advice box on the back to make a safety assessment easy. The range does contain xanthan gum to help hold the bread together, so anyone with sensitivity to this product will steer clear of these breads.

The bread compares well with its closest rivals, Genius and Marks & Spencer’s, and having the might of such a large bread bakery company behind it should manage to avoid some of the issues of availability and shelf life that these others have had.

I tried the bread fresh; it is soft and slightly powdery as expected. It toasted well, and made excellent French toast. To make this I used and egg and some milk, soaked the bread briefly and then fried. The bread soaked up the liquid well, went crisp when cooked, and the interior was soft and moist with no hint of the bizarre texture changes you can get with other gf bread – granulation has been a problem with some other breads.

Overall I was very impressed with this range. It will make serving coeliacs and others with a wheat or gluten intolerance or allergy much easier. It should mean that cafes and restaurants will no longer be able to say they have nothing to serve – provided they remember to use clean hands, clean surfaces and, if toasting, have a dedicated toaster or toaster bags.

The launch was held in collaboration with the Coeliac Society and Phil Vickery. Phil has produced a range of recipes using these products to show how a simple slice of bread can turn into many different foods.

By Lois Parker

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Denhay / Spoilt Pig Bacon (avail at Waitrose/Morrisons) Farmhouse Breakfast Week

Denhay bacon got in touch with us to remind us that this week is Farmhouse Breakfast Week, where we should all remember the benefits of having a good breakfast. They also very kindly sent through a sample of their Denhay and Spoilt Pig bacon, and suggested I make myself a decent breakfast.
Well, wanting to make this a special occasion, I whipped up some quick soda bread, had some fried bacon and added a selection of cheeses, olives and an egg resulting in the breakfast (okay brunch) of gods.

Both packs of bacon cooked very quickly, but we found that trying to keep some warm resulted in it becoming quite crispy a lot quicker than other bacon, this is possibly because traditional dry curing techniques are used.
In flavour though the bacon had a lovely traditional meaty taste which was stronger than regular bacon. The meat enhanced the tastes of the other ingredients on the plate, and was the star of the show perfect with the fresh soda bread.
So what did you all have for breakfast this morning? Hope you had a good start to the day too. :-)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Nintendo 3DS Launch - Amsterdam [by @NLi10]

The life of an amateur snack-food critic is a strange one. Recently as part of a competition I got invited by Nintendo to witness the official launch of the 3DS console - the new generation of handheld gaming with a 3D top screen - which is why I found myself awake at 4am and boarding a coach to the airport.
For the event I had to fly out to Amsterdam, and got to thinking about how portable gaming is kind of the snack food of the entertainment industry. The best portable games are those that you can pick up and play in short busts - like Professor Layton which is essentially a digital puzzle book. This means that as long as I have a decent amount of battery left I can just flip the machine shut and carry on where I left off. With this in mind and a backpack full of snack foods (but no bottles of drinks due to flying) I went to Heathrow.

I settled on a fruit, granola and yogurt snack pot from ITSU (mainly due to the cosy booth seating) for late breakfast and was actually quite pleased with it. It was a touch overpriced, but the tea was great (some kind of green tea) and it certainly filled me up.
After the (delayed) flight and a long wait for buses (due to the delayed flights) we made it to the presentation in time for the exciting parts about the games and the social connectivity. We missed the footage of Sky 3D and Shaun the Sheep 3D. They announced the March 25th release date and the price is between £200 and £230 depending on retailer.

After the presentation we were unleashed to go and play the games. There must have been close to 100 units available so there were rarely queues to play, and there were around 30 games to try and a whole host of videos to watch. The 3D is quite impressive and pops out of the screen nicely - it's like Nintendo found a way to inject the fun directly into your eyeballs. Your eyes take a second or so to get used to it the very first time, but once your brain figures it out the transition is easy. It's not like magic eye pictures where you have to explain it to new users, and there are no glasses or set positions required so you can look over people's shoulders and still see the effect. The system is almost as powerful as the Wii and the games look good, load fast and are a lot more similar to the HD consoles in gameplay style than a lot of the Wii games.
The games vary from traditional ones (Street Fighter, Metal Gear) to casual ones (Nintendogs & Cats, Animal Crossing) new ones (Steel Diver) and remakes (Zelda, Kid Icarus). The machine itself is pleasing to hold and similar in size to the existing DS range. The colours are both great with the mermaid blue/green being just slightly nicer than the stealth black. The two cameras on the outside means you can take & share 3D pictures of your friends and videos have been promised as a future update.

The machine also has built in WiFi and will communicate with other 3DS in the region and online so that it swaps your scores and achievements with people you pass by and even lets your characters from games (such as your pet dog) appear in other peoples games. This should lead to the main impact of the device being an increase in the kind of social gaming we only currently see on FaceBook. I love to see highscores of my friends on the site, but this takes it so much further with each game seemingly having its own way to interact with other players remotely. Street Fighter even allows you to watch other people’s fights who are playing their systems near you!

At launch there should be an online shop, and a 3D web browser will follow.

I had a great time, and despite the flight issues we had enough time to play and watch all we wanted. Overall I think my favourite game was Samurai Warriors as it felt most like a full console game and had great graphics and lots of potential, but still had the bite-size approach that gaming on the go needs. The people who the demo units were attached to were pleasant to chat with and genuinely enjoyed the games themselves. The food at the show was good, and in plentiful supply. It was a tiring day, but once all the excitement was over I began the long trek home.

In the 2 1/2 hour wait at Heathrow between my plane landing and my coach arriving I got to sit and relax in Costa, gravitating towards the vitamin filled Innocent smoothie range. Naturally I chose the most green and slimy looking one and it tasted great. With a toasted sandwich and my normal DS I relaxed again on the comfortable sofas while I snack and gamed away into the small hours of the morning.

[by @NLi10]

Friday, 15 October 2010

Hotel Chocolat – An Evening at their Christmas Launch

Spectre and I were very kindly invited to Hotel Chocolat’s flagship store in London to preview the launch of their Christmas range. When we arrived it took a few minutes to become accustomed to the festive Christmas music playing in the background. We had been told that there would be canapés available during the evening, but it was only when I spotted the menu, did I realize that canapés Hotel Chocolat style were something very different to regular canapés. These wonderful appetisers were filled with curious combinations of ingredients that even with our adventurous Foodstuff Finds attitudes we were a little surprised by.

First up we were treated to Onion and Roasted Cacao Soup. Best to pause for a second and take that in, it took me a minute to come to terms with the concept. Obviously Spectre and I gave it a go, even though the cream and basil leaf decorating the product made it look more like a dessert. The contents were very savoury, a little sweet from the onion, but it was only a hint of bitterness from the cocoa and no rich chocolate tones. Spectre was less convinced by the soup, but I think he picked up on more of a chocolate edge than me.
Next up was Cacao Tortellini with Wild Salmon, which I felt worked rather well. The taste of the cocoa complemented the salmon, and made for a moreish bite. There was Chicken Glazed with Spiced Cacao which worked remarkably well too and reminded me of the Chocolate Mole sauce I have tried in Mexican restaurants.

I absolutely loved the Stilton served with 65% Chocolate. The flavours seemed like an unlikely match, but the strength of the chocolate pulled off the flavours and made a very clever tasting treat. Spectre agreed, we hadn’t expected it to work so well but the strong tastes balanced it out. Dessert was to follow, and despite Spectre happily trying their strange combinations in our tasting adventure, at this point he spotted something so unappealing he politely declined and wouldn’t even try it. Now regular readers will know about Spectre’s dislike for cherries, but I can assure you this was a cherry free zone. The next thing on the menu contained Spectre’s other Kryptonite, otherwise known as cooked bananas. Yes the humble caramelised banana served on a biscuit base was totally unappealing to Spectre. He was happy to mix cocoa with salmon and chocolate with cheese, but at this point he could continue no more, cooked banana is, after all, just crazy. I gave it a try of course, and found the banana was lovely, sweet and served on a chocolate ganache on a rich biscuit.

The waitress seemed to keep catching Spectre’s eye trying to get him to try the banana and eventually he conceded. His worst fears were confirmed, it was indeed barbecued banana – he stood there twisty faced, desperately trying to stay polite and composed in a crowded room full of reporters and PR staff, but don’t worry he refreshed his palette with substantial amounts of orange juice. Luckily though there were also some scoops of ridiculously creamy vanilla and cacao ice cream, to leave the taste buds ready for the Christmas chocolates.

This year’s selection of goodies were beautifully laid out, to tempt us and for us to try. There were some gorgeous chocolate designs in detailed Christmas shapes ranging from reindeers through to turkey dinners.

The giant Christmas Crackers are back this year, and I although I didn’t witness it, I was assured they now have a bang, before releasing their chocolate contents.
The wreathes from last year were also back, and even available in a milk chocolate with biscuit and white chocolate pieces. Both Spectre and I thought this combination was absolutely lovely. The wreaths are also now available in a smaller size perfect for one. We had a taste of the Dark and Fruity Yule log, which was a rich silky dark chocolate praline packed with almonds and cranberries.
The Classic Christmas H Box selection still looks like the ultimate seasonal treat, with its mix of fillings, from the safe caramels through to its more adventurous cinnamon treats. I have to say the event has me all excited about the upcoming season, and I think the definitive way to count down the last month has to be with one of the luxurious Advent Calendars.
Both founders of Hotel Chocolat were present for the event, and we were lucky enough to have a chat with Peter Harris. He told us about his visions from the early days for the brand and the struggle in the first few years. He also told us about his strong views on Hotel Chocolat’s 'Engaged Ethics' Cocoa Programme, and how farmers are paid within a week of selling their crops. We found him to be a truly inspirational person, a pleasure to talk to, and he has a brand to be proud of.

Just before we left we were treated to a rather luxurious cup of the new Gingerbread Liquid Chocolat, which was a warming spicy sweet drink, giving us energy for our train journey home. A big thank you to Hotel Chocolat for your wonderful hospitality, and we wish you every success in the upcoming Christmas season. All the items we saw were cleverly designed appealing treats, so we have no doubt it will be a good season for you.