Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: Divine Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Sea Salt

Ever since I tasted Divine Chocolate’s dark chocolate with raspberry and fell in love with it, I’ve wanted to sample their toffee and sea salt milk chocolate – after all, sea salt and toffee/caramel is one of my very favourite combinations!

Divine Chocolate, however, isn’t a brand that would be widely available in Finland and the bars are a little pricey – but hey, once in a while you can treat yourself. As a bonus, these are fair trade chocolates!

The wrapping is the gorgeous Divine Chocolate style, and the bar is divided into lovely little squares with adorable patterns (see the image above).

The scent is sweet and chocolatey... and the flavour! The milk chocolate is smooth and silky. The toffee gives the chocolate a nice, crunchy texture and some added sweetness. The saltiness wasn’t immediately apparent, but another bite included a salt granule or two, and that took the experience to a whole new level. It was just the right amount to give the chocolate some emphasis and edge and to counterbalance the sweetness provided by the toffee.

I can't quite decide how this compares to the similar (milk chocolate, caramel and sea salt) product from Fazer... I think I might have to list them both as my favourite. ;)

Monday, 19 September 2016

September - Autumn month

September. Syyskuu. Syys or syksy means autumn. Quite simply, September is known as “autumn month” in Finland.

Autumn is my favourite season. Yes, I do love summer, mostly because it is warm (or rather, it’s not so horribly cold all the time!); because of the light and the life and the summer holidays and the general sense of freedom. In fact, I like all seasons, they all have their own allure and mysteries, but there’s just something magical about autumn. I love the soft, fading light, the gathering darkness. The vibrant colours of the falling leaves, the scent of apples (and baking apple pies!), the crisp, clear, quiet days... and even - or especially - those dark, dreary, rainy days. Perfect for curling up with a good book! ;)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Bargain books

As I may have mentioned, I can't resist a book sale. Another one of my weaknesses are the library sales. Yesterday, we went to a second-hand store, and they had shelves after shelves of used books there! We came back home with six. One for my daughter, one for my DH (all right, fine, that one was actually also for our daughter, although my DH picked it so he could read it to her ;)) and four for me! All four are by one of my favourite authors, Kaari Utrio, who writes excellent historical fiction. One of the books I chose is non-fiction, however; the history of Finnish women.

I was not going to buy all of them, but the price was just 1 € per book! How could I have resisted?

Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: Hakkapeliitat I-III by Artturi Leinonen

“Hakkapeliitat” by Artturi Leinonen is a trilogy about a group of Finnish light cavalrymen (hakkapeliitat) in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

There’s action, adventure, bloody battles and even a bit of romance. The language is lush and expressive – the author occasionally waxes rather lyrical, though, especially when describing Finnish nature and landscapes. For a more detailed description of the plot, I refer to my DH's review.

I’ll admit that it’s been a while since a book made me laugh out loud, but this one managed it a couple of times! There is plenty of humour, most of which stems from the dialogue, the characters’ idosyncracies and their... hm, heroic deeds. The Finns are giants with incomparable strength and courage: they carry the cannons! They tear enemy cavalry men from their saddles with their bare hands! And one of the characters always sings the same song (if with slightly different lyrics), it’s like the Sharpe movies! :D

There is, however, a darker side as well. The horrors and the insanity of war, both on the fields of battle and on the home front; the king’s doubts about whether he has the right to command men to a certain death, to shed blood and destroy kingdoms... One could, of course, see these as a sort of mandatory morale, but they are contemplative rather than preachy and give gravity to the otherwise light-hearted adventure. There were a few times when I had tears in my eyes.

Set in roughly the same time as “The Three Musketeers”, some comparison is inevitable – both novels (or series of novels) are rather light-hearted, swashbucklerish adventures (swashbuckling being a more obvious element in the “Musketeers”), but while the “Musketeers” has a fairly well defined story arc and iconic antagonists, these are less clear in “Hakkapeliitat”. Still, I must say that I initially started reading this book for historical detail and period feel, but soon enough I was immersed in the story and actually grew rather fond of some of the characters.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Review: Leader Raw Choco Bars

My experiences with raw chocolate are limited to raw chocolate bars sent to me by a dear friend (thank you, they were delicious!) and my own experiments in chocolate making. The other day, however, my Dashing Hero surprised me by bringing home these four bars from Leader!

So far, I’ve known Leader for their protein bars. Even though I am a chocoholic, I also try to maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle, so I was very eager to sample these chocolates. The lists of ingredients is short, the chocolate is dark (70 %), gluten free and vegan. The cocoa beans are organic and unroasted, a method that preserves all those ingredients that are good for you and that make chocolate a super food.

All bars are thin (80 grams), very prettily patterned but impossible to break into neat, even pieces (so I just chopped them into bigger pieces – problem solved!). The chocolate is very rich and, though sweet, not at all sugary.

A short look at each of the bars individually:

Lemon & Ginger
I’m familiar with this combination from other chocolates, and I quite like it! There’s the spicy, almost hot ginger and the cool, tart lemon, and it’s an intriguing combination. Plus ginger is supposed to be good for you... and since I had to give up drinking my daily cup of ginger tea when it started to make me nauseous, I might just indulge a bit on this chocolate...

Lemon & Chili
The chili is a warm rather than a hot note and the lemon is a mellow coolness; with neither flavour particularly strong, they don’t overpower each other, nor do they steal the show from the chocolate itself.

Red Berries & Vanilla
The vanilla isn’t very noticeable, but it gives the chocolate a lovely, mellow sweetness. The berries (cranberries, raspberries and strawberries) are the best part! They’re tangy, feisty, refreshing morsels in the sweet chocolate. However, I’d love it if there were more of them – and bigger pieces!

Almond & Sea Salt
Ah, one of my favourite combinations! The almond bits are tiny, but they give this a nice, crunchy texture. The saltiness brings out the best in the rich, dark chocolate. If I had to pick a favourite among these bars, this would be it!

I’ve often heard it said that before you can truly enjoy raw chocolate, you have to get used to the taste. I wouldn't say that – I enjoyed the very first bite of these! The texture is perhaps a little grainy compared to “normal” chocolate and the taste isn’t quite so sweet. However, I don’t think those are bad things; it’s just a bit of variety. As much as I love chocolate (and eat it without feeling particularly guilty), I happen to be health conscious as well. These chocolates are not only delicious but also good for you - something I will buy again.

One last look... the prettily patterned front of one bar (Lemon & Chili) and the back of Red Berries & Vanilla bar: