Thursday, September 7, 2006
How many hazelnut crispy bars does Ferrero make? How many of them have wacky names? So far I’ve had the Happy Hippos and Kinder Bueno. This one is called Tronky.
The package says, “lo snack leggero e croccante.” Which means something about it being a light snack. Which is odd, because I think it’s supposed to look like a log.
Tronky is a crisp shell filled with a chocolate & hazelnut cream with chopped hazelnuts. It’s pretty darn good. The shell is crunchy though a little bland, but the filling is rich with a slight chocolate flavor and a good crunchy from the fresh hazelnuts. The size is great, it’s easy to eat a whole one, you don’t want to eat half and save it for later, it’ll get stale very quickly. Besides, it’s very messy if you don’t just wolf the whole bar down in three bites. Each bar is less than 100 calories, so it’s a nice treat but not too much of an indulgence. (Of course you can buy them in six pack bags.)
If you’re traveling in Europe and are sitting around in an airport, pick one up and give it a try.
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
I saw George Duran while at the All Candy Expo back in June and figured I should keep an eye on his show to see how he covered it.
I haven’t seen anything on All Candy Expo pop up yet, but the Ham on the Street does have a new episode on candy that you might want to catch.
The episode has all sorts of little tidbits in it, including an explanation of how Wintergreen Lifesavers make a spark and of course Mentos and Soda Pop.
He also takes some fun candies from Aji Ichiban out on the street to see what people think of candied crabs, fruit jellies and durian hard candies.
It’s not a cooking show if he doesn’t make something, so he invents his own candy bar, which is a base of two pretzel sticks topped with fresh hazelnut paste covered in chocolate. He takes it out to have folks help him name it ... you’ll have to watch the episode to find out what wins.
Interesting fact: in the trivia quiz portion of the show he wears the same lollipop tee that I saw him wear at the All Candy Expo.
Thanks to everyone who entered. It was, by far, my most popular giveaway yet with over 200 entries.
Here’s how the process went to pick a winner:
Export all entries from the system to an Excel spreadsheet.
Remove duplicate entries, verify that all remaining entries are unique to the best of my abilities.
Sort the list according to super-secret criteria.
Go to Random.org and get a random number and match it to the row of that number.
And the winner is .... Audrey Feather of Washington State!
She emailed me her address and the $50 worth of Chuao gift certificates will go in the mail right away.
If everyone enjoyed it, I’ll try to do more giveaways soon.
I’ve blogged about regional “vacation” candies before, and here’s yet another example of them: Texas Pralines. I first had Texas Pralines, which are chewy like a soft caramel instead of grainy like a fudge with pecans about three years ago when we got an assortment as a holiday gift. Since my husband was off to San Antonio for a business trip, I told him to keep an eye out for they chewy pralines.
These Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines are by Lamme’s, which has been making candies since 1885! The history of the company is rather interesting, so if you have a sec, go read it on their website. The company uses a lamb as part of their logo to help people remember how to pronounce the name, I’m sure it doesn’t help folks spell it though.
This gift box had six individually wrapped “plops” in it, each weighing about an ounce. They’re darker than the usual caramels you see and have a good woodsy, sweet smell to them. The caramel is chewy and a bit salty but surprisingly not that sweet. The smoky and dark caramelized sugar flavors go well with the fresh pecans. They’re a little messy, as you have to eat them either holding part of in the wrapper or get your fingers sticky. But I wouldn’t want the pieces to be any smaller because that would mean that the pecans couldn’t be whole and crunchy. These are definitely a winner.
The other assortment I was given were these individually wrapped ones from Monterrey Products Company. They were three different versions of a chewy praline, each with different proportions of caramel to pecans.
The first one, the “more caramel to pecan” was pretty and smelled nice, but was very grainy without a good balance of butteryness or crystallization. The pecans were fresh, but of course there were only three of them. I wasn’t wild about it.
The second one was “equal caramel to pecan” - wow, this was gorgeous. The scent was like maple sugar and the nuts were crunchy and infused with the buttery goodness of the caramel. The caramel itself was grainy but in a crystallized way that made it dissolve and support the other caramelized sugar and nut flavors. Fantastic, I wish all three were this variety.
The last one was “more pecans to caramel” and was shaped more spherically than the others. For some reason this one stuck to the cellophane wrapper and I had to pull the candy apart and off the cello in order to eat it. The pecans were large and whole and sweet, but as a candy this one failed. Some nuts were nicely coated in the soft caramel, but others were untouched. I loved the nuts, but the balance was off as a sweet treat. It might be nice pulled apart and thrown in with some salty popcorn though.
I think I prefered the Lammes but the Monterrey had an impressive ingredients list: Pecans, Sugar, Evaporated Milk and Corn Syrup. Lammes had a few more ingredients, including hydrogenated oils (which meant .5 grams of trans fat per plop). But they were both a treat I’m not likely to have again, but I’m happy to recommend them.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:23 am
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
I’ve avoided Cocoavia since it was introduced last year. There’s something disconcerting about selling candy as health food in my mind. I don’t disagree that things like chocolate can have beneficial elements in them, but the fat and calories and lack of other positive characteristics makes it seem like we’re kidding ourselves when we believe that chocolate is good for us.
But all things in moderation, eh?
I’ve only seen the bars at the store, so I wasn’t particularly interested in what appeared to be a Dove bar with a lot of health benefits. But then I found a product I hadn’t seen before, Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds. Inside this large but light box are five one ounce packets of dark chocolate covered almonds. I usually buy Trader Joe’s mix of dark & milk chocolate covered almonds, but these were in individual packets, which is a nice feature and a quick glance at the box showed that they were even fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.
Each packet has an ounce, which is about 13 chocolate covered almonds. The package is appealing, with luxurious dark colors and some sassy photos of the candy within. The chocolate is glossy and dark though it doesn’t really smell very compelling. It melts readily on the tongue and though the package says semisweet, it’s not sticky, sickly sweet at all and buttery smooth. It has a nice smoky and complex flavor without much acidity. There’s a little floral note to it that gave it a little lightness. The almonds are superb, crunchy and fresh and a decent size.
I was really surprised at how good these were. Though I still don’t subscribe to the whole “eat these for a healthy heart” thing, I will definitely finish the box. The packages provide a good degree of portion control and each bag is only 140 calories. It also offers 3 grams of fiber and protein, 20% of your calcium, 4% of your iron and 10% of your Vitamin E, Folic Acid, B6, Vitamin C and B12. The almonds contain essential fatty acids and of course the chocolate has cocoa flavanols that recent studies are showing can have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risks. Even though there are all these things on the box and the marketing that are saying how healthy these are, I’d prefer to think that they’re at least not a detriment to your health when eaten in responsible quantities.
So, if you’re on a restricted diet and are looking for a little treat that won’t throw you off whack, I’m a huge believer in the nut and chocolate combo as a satisfying sweet. (Not nearly as bad for you as, say, a dish of ice cream.) The benefit over any old chocolate covered nuts is this proprietary Cocoapro (tm) process that’s supposed to pack more flavanols in there that can lower bad cholesterol levels. The price is, well, pricey (about $16 a pound) but try to find them on sale.
Monday, September 4, 2006
They’ve introduced a new line of baking products with higher cocoa content than their usual products: Nestle Chocolatier. They have chocolate chips in 53% and 62% cocoa solids, baking pieces (chunks in 53% only) and baking bars. Their new website offers some pretty decadent dessert recipes to make full use of the purported smooth chocolate experience the higher quality product is supposed to offer. (There’s even a Molten Chocolate Cake which I suppose you’re free to use any other brand to make.)
The bars and pieces will retail at a slightly higher rate than most of us are used to (I like to buy my chips on sale for, oh, about $1.29 a bag) but they have a viral marketing plan in place where you can get coupons good for free merchandise by getting people to click on their link. Basically, you join up and then put the link on your blog or maybe in a food chat forum.
You (can’t click here) and help me earn some coupons to give the full line a try (and sign up if you want to join the bandwagon to earn your own free item coupons - you get a coupon for every 25 unique clicks). If you don’t want to get into that whole viral marketing thing, I completely respect that, but I wanted everyone to know up front what I was up to.
UPDATE: They shut off new signups yesterday. Apparently they didn’t understand how quickly this stuff spreads and they’re retooling.
UPDATED UPDATE (10/17/2006) - The M80 campaign was pulled completely. I’ll have more later but I would rate this as a “debacle” as viral marketing goes.
One of my splurges last month with my ill-gotten-gain (payoff from a production company) was to buy some goodies from Mel & Rose’s and this was the big ticket item of the day (I would have bought more but the heat lately is death to chocolate). I’ve only tried Michel Cluizel once before and I wasn’t that impressed. But people keep telling me how good it is and I always enjoy the variety of a tasting kit.
Michel Cluizel is a French chocolatier who is not at all new to this, his company has been making gourmet chocolate since 1948. It’s one of the few chocolates you’ll find that has no soya lecithin in it. It’s just cocoa beans, sugar and vanilla. His single origin tasting kit showcases his chocolates that are created using beans from only one plantation. Most of the chocolate that we eat is a blend of beans from all over the tropics, or perhaps one region.
It came with a nice little brochure that talked about each of the plantations that the cocoa beans came from, but I thought it would be fun to taste the chocolates first and then see how I did. So my initial tasting notes are followed with the ones from the leaflet.
Los Ancones (green) x4 - What I tasted was ultra smooth. Slightly bitter at first with some very dark smoky notes but as the buttery chocolate gives way, more acidity comes through and gives way to raisin and cherry notes.
The brochure said:
Maralumi (fuscia) x4 - quite a bit more acidic than the first, this one was kind of tart and brought to mind olives and apricots (dang, I shouldn’t have read that brochure!). I was also getting some woodsy notes of cedar and balsam. The acidity gave the whole thing a dry finish with a slight bitter note that lingered far after the cocoa butter was gone.
The brochure says:
Tamarina (blue) x2 - quite tangy with some powerfully deep smoky notes and a lowgrade bitterness that was offset by some mellow sweetness. The chocolate is slick and smooth with a dry finish.
The brochure says:
Concepcion (orange) x2 - a great start with instant chocolatey roundness, the smoke and woodsy notes come out right away, and perhaps some coffee, followed by some tangy notes that might have some mango essence in it. Then a crisp, dry finish.
The brochure says:
Mangaro Noir (yellow) x4 - instant notes of raisin and fig, sweet and mellow with a pleasant tang. There are also some balsam notes, maybe juniper or sage. It reminded me of the desert, that crisp feeling.
The brochure says:
It’s obvious I’m getting the general vibe of each chocolate, but not the specificity that the brochure reveals about each one. I think part of it might be the small pieces. I liked the slightly larger E. Guittard tablets that I tried earlier this year, which makes it easier to discern the more obscure notes. I was really pleased with the smooth buttery consistency of each of the tablets, they’re all in the 64% - 70% cocoa solids range, so they’re intense without being too dense.
If you’re looking for some extensive reviews and commentary on the range of single origin from Michel Cluizel and how it compares to the rest of the world of chocolate, check out SeventyPercent.com. I was really pleased with the kit, it’s fun to share or just spread out over a week as I did. I’m always disappointed when they don’t do comparable numbers of squares for each variety, but it’s a small kit and really only appropriate for two people at most.
Saturday, September 2, 2006
There was a satirical article yesterday on Brainsnap about banning Mentos and Diet Coke on airplanes because they can be combined to create a limited albeit powerful improvised explosive device.
Of course this ties in beautifully with the TSA’s overall “war on moisture” and it wouldn’t surprise me that even though that story is a joke, that something could come to pass that would mean that you can’t bring Mentos onto a plane.
But let’s face it, there are a lot of things that can be combined to “explosive” effect when you seal them in a bottle. Vinegar and baking soda comes to mind and that’s not that hard to get together on a plane with salad dressing and Arm & Hammer. Of course Diet Coke isn’t the only carbonated drink that can cause problems and it’s not just Mentos either. There are a lot of mints that can cause this same effect, just try it with other breathmints. But these videos on YouTube do show that you can do something powerful, though uncontrollable, using process of “nucleation.” See, just that word is gonna freak out the TSA.
It’s kind of sad too, since I’ve had so much trouble finding Chicklets, I’ve been using Mentos to relieve my ear pressure problems on takeoff and landing.
I always figured it would be the food police keeping me from my sweets, who knew that the TSA may be the biggest threat to candy at high altitudes?
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.