Robert Tilendis Review: Folkmanis The Little Hedgehog

By Robert Tilendis: It’s the Little Hedgehog — and let me tell you, he’s a real charmer.

The construction is up to Folkmanis’ usual standard. The body is covered in longish plush, white tipped in brown. He looks brown until you pet him, and then you get a very rich brown-white, nice and shiny. The belly and face are covered in a much shorter, finer cream-colored plush, equally enticing to the touch. The body is essentially a furry bag, about eight inches from top of the head to the bottom, that fits comfortably over the hand — well, almost comfortably, but then, I’ve got fairly large hands: for a child’s hand, it’s just about perfect, with plenty of room to maneuver. Likewise, my fingers are a little large to fit comfortably into the arms and the areas that move the mouth, but a child will have no trouble. The seams are all tightly sewn, and one can see inside the main body that the makers have left plenty of extra fabric on the seam — there’s little danger of the body unraveling. And one detail that struck me, and only points up the quality of the creation: the snout is shaded brown, which gradually softens to a darker cream around the eyes. The devil’s in the details, as they say.

The beady black eyes, along with the pointed nose, give the puppet, when at rest, an expression somewhere between worried and amazed. He seems most given to expressions of exasperation or surprise — the arms just naturally seem to want to go up to the sides of the head. One can almost hear a cry of “Oh, my goodness!”

He also comes with a tag that has some fascinating information about real hedgehogs — did you know they’ve been known to live up to sixteen years? And if you look carefully inside the bottom of the body, you’ll see a sticker that says “Press magnet to forehead.” No, not your forehead — the hedgehog’s: and there he is, all curled up for a nice nap.

This little cutie is going to take a prominent place among my rescued plushies — maybe next to the donkey in the rabbit suit.

Robert Tilendis Review: Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Chocolate, Dark

Review by Robert Tilendis: For the confirmed chocoholic, Trader Joe’s has come up with a real treat: Pound Plus Chocolates. It really is a pound plus — 17.6 ounces (500 g), to be exact — and it’s quite reasonably priced — one might even say “cheap”, at only $4.99 for a nice hefty bar. It comes in a variety of flavors, from milk chocolate to 72% cacao; I usually pick up the dark chocolate. These chocolates are made for Trader Joe’s in Belgium; the dark chocolate contains chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, and soy lecithin.

The bar itself is large and flat, scored into squares that break apart fairly easily. The color is a nice, rich chocolate brown, and the scent is definitely chocolate. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding — so to speak.

The squares are bite-size, and the texture is quite firm, with some variation depending on ambient temperature. (I did once have a few squares that I was carrying with me melt together, just enough to stick, but the temperature was in the 90s.) Once you’ve started chewing, the texture turns somewhat buttery. The taste is rich, slightly earthy, and also contains hints of butter under a rich chocolate taste.

As I noted above, the bars come in several varieties, including milk chocolate, bittersweet, 72% cacao, dark, and possibly one or two others — Trader Joe’s website is marvelously reticent about this particular line, and most other listings seem to feature the 72% cacao. It’s worth checking out at your local Trader Joe’s, though, to see what else is available.

Robert Tilendis Review: Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co

Review by Robert Tilendis: Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG is a major German chocolatier and candy manufacturer with an international reputation for excellence.

The 74% Intense contains cocoa from Peru and comes in a square bar, about 3-1/2 inches on a side, weighing in at 3.5 oz (100 g), molded into 25 small tablets. The texture, as might be expected, is quite firm, just short of brittle, depending, of course on the temperature. 

The taste has just a hint of sweetness, enough to cut the bitterness of the cacao. The aftertaste is somewhat buttery, with just a bare hint of vanilla.

All in all, it’s good chocolate, although not spectacular in any way. It’s nice to have in your pocket for emergencies, though.