June 22, 2012

Review: Weiss Chocolates

Luxe Corporation launched its flagship online store for gourmet cheese, wine and chocolates. They were nice enough to send across some from there chocolate portfolio.

Firstly, i thank them for such a great customer experience with them. The chocolates arrived on time and was well-delivered(the guy brought it in a cooler box and hence it did not melt at all). They also sent across a letter detailing about the chocolates etc.

The following is the set i got. On enquiry, they told me that Weiss chocolates is a gourmet chocolate brand from France, and this range of chocolates is not readily available even in stores/malls in Europe; my curiousness and expectations only increased more :)

An then started the 'tedious' job of enjoying the chocolates :) I did not want to gulp down everything in one day, and wanted the experience to last for sometime before the next chocolate had to be enjoyed.

The Bars
Acarigua ,Kacinkoa and Nougacao looked like the three musketeers and i was impressed with their simple minimalistic packaging. It was just a simple paper which had just the right verbiage on the cover and the golden foil to preserve the chocolate. I did not quite like the golden foil, it was a tad too thin and cheap and was not of great quality. Nevertheless, like a book, never judge a chocolate by its cover.

I started with the Chocolat Nougacao - this is like a milk chocolate, albeit with 64% cacoa. The cover claims this to be a 'chocolat noir' - but seriously Weiss?? Is this enough Dark? The nougatins are just not there and the taste is very much a let down. I had to simply distribute it to many around.

Acarigua(70% cacoa) and Kacinkoa(85% cacoa) were reasonably better when compared to the Nougacao - but still Kacinkoa was no way near Godiva(85% cacoa). But still, these chocolates can be tried once. Compared to the napolitans(which i will review below), these were slightly better. Acarigua is slightly mild and would be a good introductory chocolate for those who want to get into the Dark Chocolate arena, and Kacinkoa takes you to the next level. Acarigua had a slightly whitish tinge(similar to blooming, but not exactly), which scores some negatives on the appearance arena. Kacinkoa was nice and dark and the crunchiness was an instant hit - the color was perfect, the only wish was that if Weiss had some good designs on the top or just left it simple and plain :)

The Winner
And then came Orangettes.

I was really excited to try this out. The packaging was perfect and the sticks looked even more appealing. Having tried Lindt's orange flavoured chocolate recently(which is packaged like a bar), i was even more curious to try out the other varieties. And i must say that Orangettes lived upto the expectation. In fact, i would go ahead and say that this was the only chocolate in the entire set from Luxe that i loved.

About the Orangette chocolate: These are small sticks of 7-8 inches length, with a crusty appearance. I expected these to be crunchy, but the outer layer is soft and is the core. It dissolves in your mouth in some time(not immediately like the Lindt's), but the orange flavour remains in your mouth is much more longer lasting than that of Lindt. If you love flavoured chocolates, then this is for you. I would have loved this chocolate if it was a tad more crunchy, i mean, you just break it like a Kitkat and eat it - the present texture is much more softer than i had expected. Nevertheless, go for this :)

I simply loved the packaging for the Napolitans, it looked really 'gourmet' and my expectations soured. I  love the simple and minimalistic packaging of Weiss. But only if the napolitans had lived upto the mark!

The Lait Entier(32%) which is like a milk chocolate was a disaster - there is no smell of taste of milk and it tastes like flour ground with some flavouring agent. Simply put - AVOID.

The darker varieties - Grand Noir(57%) and Erene(72%) - were a tad better, but again, the texture was a let down. Also, i simply could not feel the cacoa in it.

Generally, i prefer dark chocolates with milk - because it washes down the cacoa very well and the after taste lingers in your mouth for sometime(for eg, Godiva's 85% cacoa was a winner), but with this set, i did not feel the same.

Thanks Luxe Corporation, Yzury and Weiss. Hope you have a great business in India - but seriously, please improve your Milk Chocolate portfolio.

June 21, 2012

Removing rubber from a Pre-fabricated Table Tennis Bat

You do not get Chinese Penhold style table tennis blades easily in India. In fact, it would be safe to generalize the previous line and say that you do not get Chinese penhold blades in India. I have been searching for years now and there are no distributors who stock them. I contacted the Yasaka distributors and they disappointed me, and then i directly contacted the Yasaka manufacturers in Japan and they disappointed me even more, with a bland 'NO' reply.

My hunt for Chinese penhold blades took an interesting turn when i stumbled on one in Decathlon; i least of all expected there. Nevertheless, the deal was good and i got an Artengo 880-0 for around 800 INR. The rubber looked interesting too; though it spun and was good during the first few days, i could see the spin and the speed deteriorating after a few days; with couple of hours each day. I decided to take this blade and apply my preferred rubbers on it instead. Rubbers are easily obtainable in India, but again they are slightly expensive; but still atleast you get it, unlike the choice with blades!

After having researched a bit on modus-operandi to be used in removing the rubber from a pre-fabricated bat, i decided that i will get it a try, after all, it was only a question of 800Rupees!

This is how it looks like(notice the small handle which is typical of a Chinese penhold grip) :

Then, was the step to remove the topsheet. A rubber is a combination of the topsheet and the sponge. Topsheet is what gives you the tackiness etc, and the combination of the topsheet and the sponge gives the much needed spin and the speed(not to mention the control). I started slowly peeling off the topsheet; a few suggested that i dip the bat in boiling hot water, but i was not sure whether it would destroy the actual blade or not; instead i slowly started from the ends and began peeling. The glue was strong and the topsheet stuck to the sponge at many places, but i kept on going and after sometime(say 15mins?) the topsheet came off separately as seen below.

Note the impression of the pimples on the sponge; the pimples are the depressions that you see on the topsheet. The kind of pimple also mandates the kind of play - for you would seen that some pimples are also visible outside - i.e, the smooth side would be glued to the sponge instead. More on pimples etc in a later post.

Then, i tried to remove the sponge; this was the toughest part. The sponge was just not budging and i had to slowly remove it in bits and pieces. It was like chiselling this tight sponge with one's nails; and it did hurt a lot!

Still , after around 20minutes, there were remnants of the rubber all along the blade which was just not coming out. I used a fine sandpaper and started rubbing on it; the rubber came off slowly as a dirt. At times, the sandpaper got REALLY hot. I tried to remove as much as possible using the sandpaper.

And then, i applied drops of nail-polish remover on small regions of the bat and started sandpapering more.This was a good move, nail-polish remover did help a lot and after around 30mins, i got a blade with one side clean. The same step was repeated for the other side.

So for around 22Rs[4Rs(sandpaper) and 18Rs(nailpolish remover)] and with 2hours of effort, i got a clean nice Chinese Penhold grip blade.

Try to do only one side on one day, the process really hurts your nails; i got a boil in one of my fingers by the time i was finished with one side.

I have applied Tibhar Aurus Soft(red) on my forehand and Tibhar Aurus(black) on my backhand now; and i do see a drastic improvement in my performance..so much so that i managed to stay till the 3rd round in a State Ranking tournament.