Sunshine, daffodils, leaping bunnies. Yes, it's finally arrived: the long anticipated, boring my classmates to tears with excitement, week-long UK Spring Break! So I braved the Holland-London coach this time, sailing through the falling cherry blossom and gleaming green fields via Brussels North, which in this weather looked like a 1950s advertising poster for the EU. But do not fear, dear reader - I am not absconding from my duty this week, and this time I bring you Raw Choc Brownie!
My first adventure of the week was a weekday date with Ciderpunx, to Compton Verney (a remote National Trust-esque place, whose art collection he'd obligingly agreed to accompany me to). The Vitaburst counter at Oxford train station is the highlight of any such journey. It's one of those terrifyingly neon-coloured healthfood bars, that will ply you with every flavour of smoothie complete with every "superfood" supplement you can think of. And every time I visit, the counter is more crowded with inventive vegan snacks. The place is staffed by an unbelievably enthusiastic Aussi, who I think ranks in my mental list of "local characters" and manages somehow to give the impression of being telepathic. Anyway, it was a double espresso for my companion and a tiny little square of "Raw Choc Brownie" for me. Mainly because I liked the typography, admittedly. And so, we were all set for our Springtime excursion.
Sadly the sunshine, daffodils and leaping bunnies were not forthcoming however. The taxi driver who eventually retrieved us, soaked to the core after a thoroughly British day out in the countryside, actually laughed at us for going there at all on such a day. Appalling weather seems to be a recurring, and increasingly endearing, theme in our adventures together. So. I ended up munching this one on the train back, squashed next to a big-wig from a private school writing an incredibly involved email defending recent changes in their scholarship policy. Ah, to be back in Blighty! So, this wasn't the idyllic reviewing experience I was aiming for, but I'll do my best.
I'm afraid I'd eaten it too quickly to take a photo of the actual brownie, which tells you something first of all. This little treat is made by Pulsin, one of these companies specialising in "nutritious snacks" and, I think, going for the gourmet market. It's made of raw fruit and nuts, mainly, so it's terribly healthy - and cane sugar free. It's sweetened with yet another obscure sugar replacement, brown rice malt, and (is this compulsory nowadays?) features green tea extract for some reason too. Apparently it's "gently prepared at a low temperature in a gluten-free kitchen by Ben, Nick and Simon" - which you can believe if you like. (Though to be gently prepared by Ben, Nick and Simon is something I wouldn't mind trying.)
This bar reminds me of the classic Nakd bars that are also made mostly of raw dates, raisins and nuts. This one doesn't have oats in it though, so it has a much less crumbly "cereal bar" feeling and is more like a stodgy cake. It's soft and moist, with big chunks of Almonds which is nice. It's hard to really get a feeling for it, though, because it's about half the size of one of those Nakd bars (and twice the price of course). So, like the Spring Break, it's over far too quickly! My general impression was good, though: chocolatey, but not sickly or over-sweet.
The only problem with these types of bars, I have to say, is that it's pretty hard to make healthy wholefood bars not taste like healthy wholefood bars. I felt like this brownie was somehow trying to hoodwink me out of noticing its true identity: basically, a fruit cake. Under the veneer of chocolatey indulgence, there are distinctive notes of Christmas pudding here.