Tuesday, August 9, 2005
An ever helpful reader suggested a couple of weeks ago that I visit India Sweets & Spices in Los Feliz to find some other international candies.
Boy did I score.
India Sweets & Spices is a non-nonsense grocer and vegetarian restaurant. The store appears to have no air conditioning, so upon entering it has a musky and damp smell of curry (which I find exceptionally comforting). A large store, there are rows and rows of premade curries, curry powders, spices and seeds by the pound, in addition to other Indian products like shoes, clothes, cookware, incense and groceries. There was a row of freezers which sit idle and empty but what was most fascinating was the fridge section which had a large selection of dairy products and CANDY!
Yes, they kept their candy in the fridge and bless them for that.
Most of the candy was Cadbury and Nestle, with some other brands that I’d never heard of (the Dido bar seems to be a KitKat and the Tadelle is just plain good). I’m most excited because I found a Curly Wurly. For those of you old enough to remember, in the States there was a candy bar called Marathon. It was a braided length of caramel covered in chocolate. It came in a red package with a ruler on the back. It was discontinued years ago, but our European friends still have their version and now I get to try one.
More info on each of these purchases later!
Monday, August 8, 2005
Name: Exotic Candy Bars (Red Fire, Black Pearl & Naga)
A kind reader, flickerfly, emailed me a few weeks ago to point me to Vosges, specifically their Red Fire Bar. Their website is sure sassy but the prices are pretty darn, well, pricey. If you have a moment, browse their website. It’s an odd combination of haute, indulgence, health and yoga. I’m not going to be in Chicago or New York for a while, so I figured I’d see what they had at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills (I’d actually never been to the Neiman Marcus there before).
The woman behind the counter was on the phone pretty much the whole time I was there and all I saw of interest were three of the bars that they offered, and even though they were $6.50 each, I picked up all three. The back of each tells me how to eat an exotic candy bar (which is apparently different than eating other bars). You can read that here.
The first is called Naga Bar and is milk chocolate with Sweet Indian curry powder and coconut flakes. Upon opening the mylar package inside the box, the curry is quite pronounced along with a sugary smell and a slight aroma of chocolate. The chocolate itself is very milky and sweet. After sitting on the tongue for a moment, if bursts with the curry. The milk and the muskyness of the curry is a good blend and the choice of milk chocolate over dark is the right impulse. The curry leaves a little burning feeling on the tongue and throat. The coconut added a nice little texture to it, but I never got the flavor of it.
Next was the bar that I was most looking forward to, Red Fire Bar. It’s Mexican ancho and chipotle chili and cinnamon in dark chocolate (55%). The cinnamon is the top note on this bar. I’ve always enjoyed the combination of cinnamon and chocolate and usually use it in my hot chocolate. The next thing I taste is that it’s a very sweet bar, though buttery smooth to melt there’s a slight grain to it, which I must assume are the spices. Then the chili hits. It’s not so much a flavor as a feeling. A burning on the insides of my lips and my throat. There’s a bit of a smoky note to the bar as well. It’s a really nice combination, though not one I could eat a lot of in one sitting because of the fire element. Of the three bars, this is the one I finished first.
Last was a bar I wasn’t quite sure of. Called Black Pearl Bar, it’s Japanese ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds in dark chocolate (55%). There was little scent to this bar, a slight woodsy note which I figured was the ginger and of course the chocolate. Upon melting in the mouth, this bar had none of the grain that the fire bar had, just a few sesame seeds (which I could have done without, thank you). The ginger is nice and earthy with a slight burn to it - or was it the wasabi. The horseradish notes didn’t really stick out, but the combination of wasabi and ginger is spicy without a painful throat burn.
As with many of these gourmet bars, I found the price to be a bit prohibitive. As a treat, I certainly plan on going to one of their shops in Las Vegas, Chicago or New York (whichever city I get to first). The Aztec truffle collection would be the first thing I’d try. Of course this riot of flavors has inspired me to try some different things in my own candy next time I whip up a batch of truffles.
Ratings - Naga - 6 out of 10
Friday, August 5, 2005
Name: White Chocolate Take 5
I own a lot of clothes with chocolate stains on them. However, I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to drive me to convert to white chocolate. In another revamp of a current candy bar with white chocolate, here is the Take 5 White Chocolate (limited edition).
What I noticed most about this bar was the peanut butter taste to it. Let’s face it, white chocolate is not a flavor. Chocolate is a flavor, but white chocolate is like deodorized chocolate ... and deflavored while we’re at it. All the fat and sugar and none of the tasty/healthy cocoa solids.
The good news is that Hershey is using real white chocolate - you’re wondering what that means? Well, in order for chocolate to be chocolate it needs to contain cocoa solids (basically cocoa) and cocoa butter (that fat that is solid at room temp and melts at body temp). White chocolate really has no definition, but purists prefer white chocolate that’s actually made with cocoa butter because it’s such a neat fat. Hershey is using real cocoa butter for their white chocolate and it shows in this bar (if they’d only use real vanilla, we might really have a winner).
The bar has an overwhelming sweet peanut smell and taste. I’m guessing that the milk chocolate Take 5 has more of a balance between flavors, but because there is no chocolate flavor here, only texture, the peanut butter and peanuts dominate (that’s not a bad thing, if you like peanuts). The pretzels really stood out as a flavor (they’re a bit lost in the regular Take 5) and the crisp and salt was a great contrast to the sweet, sticky caramel and white chocolate.
I was surprised at how good this bar was. It’s still not my thing but if you’re a nut lover and want something satisfying like chocolate without the actual cocoa, then this might be for you. Again, if Hershey’s really wants to win me over (okay, it’s not like I’m boycotting them or anything after the Twosomes Whoppers) they should make a dark chocolate pecan version of this.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, August 4, 2005
I was going to save this review until the holidays were upon us and you were begging me for gift suggestions. But BoingBoing posted about it earlier this week, so I figured it was topical. I got this cutesy little sample from Chris at the Candy Warehouse. He gave me my pick of the variations on the theme, there are pooping pigs, pooping cows, pooping bulls and the fun new one is the wind up penguin that leaves little gifts all over the table. Of course, those who’ve known me for more than 30 years know that I have a special fondness for sheep (cuz they’re stupid).
The toy is basically a candy delivery device. You fill up her body cavity through her head (which is hinged) with jelly beans, then when you need a treat you push down on her backside and her tail flips up to expose a hole that delivers two or three. The jelly beans are actually pretty good - cola and I think dulce de leche or something like that because we all like two-tone poop for authenticity.
Would I buy this? Not for myself. But I’d probably be tickled if someone else bought it for me. And gave me an additional bag of poop. Pretty much anything jelly belly sized will work in there. I figure chocolate covered raisins, goobers, M&Ms, maybe even Altoids. I can also think of a few people I might buy this for.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
CANDY MAKERS, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?
Ahhh, my pursuit of the ideal malted chocolate candy may have come to an end. Hershey has introduced a series of limited edition candy bars under the heading of TwoSomes - basically Hershey’s extra creamy milk chocolate (read: dairy milk judging by the 6 grams of cholesterol in this bar that must come from milkfat) combined with another flavor from another popular Hershey product.
The line at the moment consists of Twosomes Heath Bar which is bits of toffee in milk chocolate (which sound suspiciously like the pre-existing Symphony bar), Twosomes Reese’s Pieces and this phenomenal Twosomes Whoppers.
What makes this a good bar? First, the chocolate is not the same as you’re used to. Those people who have problems with Hershey’s slightly yogurt taste to their milk chocolate will not find that here. This is their “extra creamy” milk chocolate which is the perfect tabula rasa for the strong flavor of the rice crispies that are imbued with malty goodness. The rice crispies give us some crunch (which was missing in that Maltimus Maximus bar I reviewed at the start of Candy Blog) and a little air which is needed for a good malt taste.
This bar is far superior to Hershey’s Whoppers, which are coated with a chocolate-like wax product (or at least it seems that way). There’s a great chocolate/malt aroma upon opening the package, the chocolate melts easily on the tongue where the sweetness and malt play well together.
Please, please Hershey’s give this bar a new name and add it to your repertoire. While you’re at it, create a Nuggets version of it. I’ll buy this by the pound. I had quite a bit of trouble finding this bar, having first seen it on The Impulsive Buy and then searching liquor stores, drug stores, grocers and convenience stores all over Los Angeles to find it (only some 7-11s seem to stock it).
Rating - 10 out of 10 (I will weep if this is not added to their regular production)
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
I was a little unsure of this bar. I picked it up after seeing it mentioned on stellabites. The bar is basically shavings of milk chocolate curled together into a log and dipped in chocolate. The log is big, like a large, long Tootsie Roll. It’s kind of like the Aero bar, in that they’re introducing air into the chocolate.
At first I found the bar chalky. The extra air seemed to make it taste more like dairy and less like chocolate. But as I got into the bar I found it very compelling and at it all in one sitting. This is Cadbury milk chocolate, so expect it to be very sweet (the package says it’s 22% cocoa solids and 22% milk solids ... I’m guessing the rest is sugar and cocoa butter) and milky.
My only issue with Cadbury and other European-style milk chocolates is that they taste distinctly of powdered milk to me, not a pleasant taste in my view. Because of the extra air in this bar, that milk protein/lactose flavor wasn’t as apparent. The trick with this bar might be to let it melt in your mouth instead of chewing it up.
I’m curious to try their white chocolate bar, too.
Interesting fact from the package: this bar was made in South Africa.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Monday, August 1, 2005
This is my first “taste off” for CandyBlog. I’ve chosen Haribo Gummi Bears to go head-to-head with Trolli Gummi Bears. They’re both the “original” gummi bears that most Americans remember hitting big on the candy scene in the early eighties. I spent quite a bit of my allowance on these. My in-school supplier was a German girl I hung around with, Tina, who must have had them imported by the case by family members. She always seemed to be able to sell me a little 2 ounce packet of them when I needed a fix. Later I found a place in Georgetown (yes, all the way down in DC - I grew up in Pennsylvania) or at the White Flint Mall where I could get them by the pound. Eventually, by the mid-eighties everyone carried them and of course there were more brands available. But the two that I had first contact with were Haribo and Trolli. There are plenty of other brands, like Heide, Black Forest, Brachs and of course a Disney cartoon franchise.
Personally, before this taste test, I would say that Haribo was my favorite. Let’s see how they do…
Name: Trolli Gummi Bears
Trolli Gummi Bears come in five flavors. From left to right they are (as far as I can tell): Cherry, Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime. The shape of the bears is a rather stylelized bear shape, with a large head, narrow legs and little bumps for eyes and a nose.
Trolli are soft, soft bears. Squishy and aromatic, they yield their flavor instantly on the tongue. Inside the package they look a little greasy, but they don’t feel that way once you pop them in the mouth, they’re far softer than Haribos with a better burst of flavor when you put it in your mouth. The cherry is very strong, and overwhelms all the other flavors in the package, all of them smell like cherry.
Name: Haribo Gummi Bears
Haribo Gummi Bears are kind of freaky looking in these photos, they look a little evil. Trust me, in person they’re just cute as can be. Their heads are smaller than their body (as it should be) and they have softer curves and cute little dimpled ears. Their bellies have a little texturing that I think is supposed to be fur.
They’re far firmer than the Trolli Bears. What’s cool about them is that you can have them in your hand or pocket (yes, I sometimes stick candy in my jacket pockets not in any sort of wrapper so I can snack discretely when walking or in a meeting) without them sticking to anything. The Trolli bears have that oily coating that just makes lint stick to them. The flavors from left to right are: Berry (strawberry or raspberry, I can’t tell), Orange, Lemon, Pineapple and Lime.
Flavor for Flavor:
Red - this is the only color where the flavor is different in the brands:
Orange - the color and the flavor
Yellow - lemon, one of the most enduring flavors in the world
Clear - the puzzling flavor of the gummi bear world, I’m going with Pineapple here
(The funnest part of the clear ones is that they remind me of invisibility. You know, like Wonder Woman’s invisible plane on the Superfriends. See, you can cast the whole cartoon with gummi bears! The Red Bear is Superman, the Orange Bear is Aquaman, Yellow is Batman and Green is Robin. It’s a perfect match!)
Green - everyone’s least favorite flavor, Lime
Since I’m not a fan of cherry, the Haribo Bears are a more logical choice for me because I’ll eat all the flavors in there (and their Pineapple is so phenomenal).
In the end, this test only confirmed what I already knew, Haribo is the bear for me. The slightly waxy outer coating and firmer bite might be a negative for some folks, but I find it to enhance their durability. The flavors are all intense and distinct. Trolli’s softer chew is compelling but the overwhelming intrusion of the cherry flavor on its companions is a real turnoff for me.
UPDATE: I should have known that Haribo would win ... Google Fight told me so.
UPDATED UPDATE: Haribo’s green bear is Strawberry ... kind of strange, but if you close your eyes and don’t look at the color it’s a little more obvious. (Thanks to the readers who pointed that out.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.