Absence makes the heart grow fonder (for chocolate!)
Hello! Remember me: the dad of one who over-shares about allergic reactions and claims to blog about the challenges of feeding someone with multiple allergies but mostly just ponders on the beautiful futility of self-guided parenthood? It’s been a while!
I kinda missed 2020. Not to be confused with the phrase “I miss 2020”, that year can ‘do one’! I more mean that 2020 just sort of passed me by. The challenges of lockdown: home schooling, uninterrupted parenting, working from home, staying sane etc… just became all consuming. Of course we’re not out of it yet in the UK but there are at least signs that someone has switched the light on at the end of the tunnel, in the other room, somewhere… I won’t apologise for having blogged so little: firstly it assumes an arrogance that there were devoted followers hanging on my every undelivered word when the truth is my loyal audience consists mostly of friends, old friends and ex-friends from school who are sympathetic/curious enough to see what I’m waffling on about. Secondly, nobody wants to hear me apologise only for me to not take up regular blogging again. Truthfully, I have no idea when I’ll next write a blog post. Although there is SO MUCH to catch you all up on!
At this time of year, what I wanted to talk to you all about is
Jesus. Sorry, Easter. Sorry! Chocolate!
Yes, Chocolate. God love the stuff, there’s a lot of it around at the moment. I mean don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware that chocolate isn’t a new thing. I used to live in York (home of Rowntrees and Terry’s) where there’s even a chocolate museum and I currently live not that far from Slough trading estate where Mars have made chocolate since 1932! So I really shouldn’t be surprised by the presence of chocolate in this day and age. What has taken off recently, though, is the scale of vegan/dairy-free chocolate available. When I started this blog there were a handful of options you could get in major supermarkets and health food shops but a lot of them were pretty unpalatable and the selection slim. These days there’s versions of the stuff everywhere. And some of it’s even good! I’ve taken to stocking up on varieties of this stuff online during lockdown. If I’m not careful my house is in danger of becoming a museum to vegan chocolate soon!
The plan (and it is very much at the contract negotiation stage) is to do another ear-bleedingly awkward/side splittingly funny (you decide) podcast with my very good friend Alan to taste test a load of the chocolate. So at least a lot of it can’t be opened until we can do that! But my wife has placed a ban on purchasing any other chocolate until at least we can get a date in the diary for the podcast recording. In the meantime, and in no way connected to this embargo, I’ve noticed that it’s almost Easter and naturally that means I need to have a selection of Easter eggs in to review and treat my adorable (and much treat deserving) family. I was spoilt for choice this year from familiar favourites like NOMO, to newcomers such as HiP.
Such is my cheek, I’m not even going to try these in advance and rate them for you – conveniently guiding you towards your own satisfied families/selves – I’m simply going to show off to you that I’ve bought them and brag that my 4-year old son and reduced-sugar-diet wife will be inundated with chocolate come Easter Sunday…
[I’ve done it again haven’t I?! I’ve just bought myself a whole load of chocolate under the false pretence of it being an act of generosity to my long-suffering family. Oops. Oh well…]
What showing you this might do, however, is prompt you into realising that there is a big selection of vegan/dairy-free/alternative Easter eggs and encourage you to rush out and join me in my generosity (indulgence!). You can thank me later already successful, and in no way affected by my recommendations, multi-million pound global chocolate manufacturers.
The selection I’ve chosen this year are, in no particular order:
- NOMO Fruit & Crunch Egg & Bar
- Buttermilk Dairy Free Zingy Orange Crisp Choccy Egg & Soldier
- Hotel Chocolat Free From Vegan Egg
- H!P Salted Caramel Oat M!lk Chocolate Easter Egg
- Booja Booja Small Hazelnut Crunch Easter Egg
Two of these are your traditional ‘egg in an oversized cardboard box with a token chocolate bar’ money stealers (NOMO and Buttermilk). Then there are two that are just eggs on their own (Hotel Chocolate and H!P). Finally, and I’ll be honest I hadn’t completely understood this, the Booja Booja is just a small box of their (gorgeous) truffles in a beautiful (but distinctly non-edible) hand-painted Kashmir egg-shaped case. As pretty as they are, if I’d have known that then I definitely wouldn’t have bought two. #OnlineShoppingFail
The NOMO is probably the one I know most about. I’m a big fan of their various chocolate bars and have recently found that I really like the fruit and crunch flavour. So a big egg (the egg is fruit and crunch rather than just being plain with the accompanying bar) with the excuse of Easter is just too sweet a combination to resist. At £6 for 207g of decent chocolate; it doesn’t even seem completely ludicrous. (I mean it is, all Easter eggs are… I just mean relatively). It’s also a “free-from” egg in that it doesn’t have ‘may contains’ for milk, nuts etc… which not all can claim.
The Buttermilk is a brand I’ve come to admire although I’ve not had this chocolate or one of their eggs before. For a brand called “Buttermilk” and a company that makes highly cows milk specific products (fudge, chocolate etc…) they do a surprisingly good range of dairy-free products. Their ‘choccy truffles’ are surprisingly close to Lindt truffles and I can’t wait to try their peanut butter cups. These are also ‘free from’ milk although may contain nuts and soya. Also £6. My wife apparently also sees it as a “big bonus” that the egg is orange crisp flavoured, rather than just the bar and was ‘disappointed’ in the first draft that this was not explicitly mentioned (tough crowd).
Hotel Chocolat was a surprise to me. In the past even their darkest chocolate has tended to use soya as an emulsifier but since lockdown they’ve clearly adapted and now do a ‘Nutmilk’ range which is vegan (but not ‘free-from) and this fully ‘free-from’ egg. Interestingly this is still ‘may contains’ for soya but that’s not usually a problem for us. I’m hopeful that the quality of this egg will be higher than some of the vegan chocolates, given the name. Although I was a bit disappointed by Montezuma’s “like no udder” milk chocolate so a reputable name doesn’t always mean good chocolate. I’ll let you know. I think this was £10 direct online, although they don’t seem to be selling it anymore.
H!P is a new company focusing on oat milk, m!lk chocolate. Setup by a descendant of John Cadbury, the H!P mission seems to be to transfer everyone to plant based chocolate via the power of oat milk. I’m interested to see what it’s like, although I note the smell from the box is certainly not the usual chocolate smell. I’m yet to find out whether that’s the packaging or the chocolate itself. This is the most expensive at £12 and, unlike the others, is still a may contains for milk, soya and nuts.
The Booja Booja option probably doesn’t really make it on to here as an Easter egg, strictly speaking. I love their products from their truffles to their ice cream. They really are the market leaders on ‘free from’ chocolate in my opinion (although you do pay through the nose for it). In this case though you’re really just paying for an ornately decorated package of truffles (I went for the small one, which at least is something). I’ve seen these on line for a couple of years and this is the first time I’ve managed to get them. But I’m kicking myself a bit now for not realising that they aren’t chocolate eggs. Especially at £10 for 3 truffles! These are genuinely ‘free-from’ milk, gluten and soya and they claim to test regularly despite not having those products in manufacture on site.
I’ll let you know how we get on and what each member of the family thinks of them. Let me know if you’ve had any any want to boost/manage my expectations on any. I hope to follow up with a quick review of the eggs, a full length chocolate review podcast and more updates on various excited advancements of the family that hasn’t been anywhere or done anything for the last 12 months!