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November 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sunkist Fruit Gems

imageYou may not have caught the news recently that Ben Meyerson Candy Company was purchased by Jelly Belly. They aren’t known for much in the chocolate realm except for Christopher’s Big Cherry and in the sugar world, the Sunkist Fruit Gems.

I came across the Fruit Gems at Rite Aid and thought I should give them a go again. I used to buy them from Trader Joe’s in little tubs, but then I discovered the chocolate covered nuts and never went back. I figure the Gems are a bit like the West Coast version of Chuckles. But really they’re not. Chuckles are all essence and no juicy tang. When you’re branding something with the Sunkist name, I’m expecting a tangy juice.

imageWhat’s really interesting about these is how they differ from other jellies covered with sugar. Instead of having a rough outer coating, these are practically smooth, with the sugar mushed against the jelly center. They don’t sparkle quite as much, but then again there’s no little bits of sugar left in the package or crumbling off when you bite into them like you might get with Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices.

Orange - it is tangy, nice rounded orange flavor. Not terribly vivid, more like pleasant.

Cherry - very cherry, kind of medicinal tasting. There was a long-lasting aftertaste with severe bitter notes. (Oddly enough, the package makes no mention of Cherry on the package, just a list of the other flavors.)

Lemon - mmm, zesty and tart and smooth. I love lemon.

Grapefruit - not that strong and with a slight bitter note that makes it believable.

Lime - yeah, lime.

Raspberry  - floral with only the slightest sour bite. Again, it had a little bitter aftertaste, like the color red.

Jelly Belly will start making these soon, I’m not sure if they’re going to leave them alone or not. Jelly Belly has its own line of fabulous Fruit Pectin Jellies that I was blown away by last year. The Jelly Belly jellies are vegan (they use beet sugar instead of cane sugar), so it’s possible that Sunkist Fruit Gems will also become vegan as well (it’s hard to know whether they are or not right now).

My biggest complaint with these is that like Lifesavers, there is no variation in what you get in the pack. Starbursts and SweeTarts are variable, so you might get a lemon-heavy pack. And with the little see-through package, I might be more likely to pick up a citrus-heavy package. As it is, there are only three flavors I really liked here (orange, lemon and grapefruit), so I’ll probably continue to pass on these. Unless I see them in the tub at Trader Joe’s and it’s all citrus!

Sunkist Fruit GemsUPDATE 9/2/2008: An alert reader let me know that the little “single serve” trays are back on store shelves with the Jelly Belly logo on them, but instead of holding six fruit jellies, they now only have four.

Worst part of this news? The grapefruit one was missing. (What is it about grapefruit disappearing lately? Is it because of the news that grapefruit juice interacts with some prescription drugs?) This is not to say that the Sunkist Fruit Gems don’t come in grapefruit any longer, just not in this particular package.

Sunkist Fruit GemsThe flavors included now are: Orange, Lemon, Lime and Raspberry. The old package was 2.4 ounces, the new one is only 1.35 ounces.

Seeing how Sunkist is known as a citrus company, the fact that they made an assortment the neglects one of the citrus fruits and includes a berry is beyond me. The package is also similar to the old one and actually includes images of grapefruit (though the text clearly says which flavors are in the package).

The change in manufacturing location and ownership, as far as I’ve been able to tell, has made no difference at all for the actual candy. It’s still a nice, soft and flavorful fruit jelly without too much of a granulated sugar coating.

The only real difference here is that you get only 2/3 as much as you used to. I was hoping when Jelly Belly took over that they’d sell the jellies in individual flavors like they do with their famous jelly beans. No such luck yet. (For now whenever I see the Jelly Belly booth at a trade show I pick a half a dozen grapefruit jellies out of their sample bin and move along.)

Product: Sunkist Fruit Gems
Previous Review: November 15, 2006
Change: New owners (Jelly Belly) and smaller package
Result: I didn’t care much for raspberry or lime, so with such a small package and only two pieces I do like it’s not worth it. 4 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Revisit: Take 5, Sunkist Fruit Gems & Snickers Almond
  2. Mint Cremes from the Makers of Jelly Belly
  3. Sunkist Fruit Gummies
  4. Jelly Belly Pomegranate
  5. Big Candy Buyouts - Hershey & Jelly Belly
Name: Sunkist Fruit Gems
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ben Meyerson Candy Company (soon to be Jelly Belly)
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $.69
Size: 2.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 88
Categories: Jelly, United States, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:12 am     Comments (16)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

KitKat Mocha

I think I’ve reached my limit on KitKat varieties. The disorder is called KitKat Variation Fatigue. I think part of it may be because so many Limited Editions are not as good as the original. If I had my druthers, they’d bring back the Dark Chocolate KitKat which predates the invention of Candy Blog.

image

A few weeks ago I reviewed the nicely wrapped but less than stellar KitKat Cappuccino from the South Pacific. I may as well repeat that description here as it certainly applies to the American KitKat Mocha:

Upon opening the wrapper it smells not like coffee but more like maple and yogurt. These are not bad smells, kind of tangy ... very sweet and with a woodsy essence. But still, the espresso scent of a cappuccino was missing. It tasted sweet, a little grainy but the crunch of the wafers was nice. The tang was a little odd, but not unpleasant. Overall, I’d say this tasted more like a Spanish flan than cappuccino. This is not a bad thing ... I love flan.

It’s a maple chocolate KitKat. Not coffee. Not espresso. Not cappuccino. Not mocha. In fact, I think the only coffee drink you could call this would be Maple Latte ... hold the espresso.

For no reason, I’m marking this one a notch down from the Malaysian variety. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t come in a cool box. Maybe it’s because this one is certified Kosher and not Halal. Maybe it’s because I find PGPR on the ingredients label. Or maybe it’s because my car now smells like pancakes.

So that’s it. I’m not buying anymore Limited Edition KitKats. (Really! Okay, maybe. But it’d have to be really good.)

Here’s the sum of everything I’ve reviewed to date:

KitKat Coffee (USA) - 9 out of 10 - LTD

KitKat Tsubu Ichigo (Strawberry) (Japan) - 9 out of 10 - LTD

American KitKat & UK KitKat - 8 out of 10 - PERM

Orange KitKat (Canada) - 7 out of 10 - LTD

KitKat Matcha (Japan) - 7 out of 10 - LTD

KitKat Mint (USA) - 7 out of 10 - LTD

KitKat Cappuccino (Malaysia) - 6 out of 10 - LTD

White Chocolate KitKat (USA) - 6 out of 10 - PERM

KitKat Bites - 5 out of 10 - PERM

KitKat Orange & Creme (USA) - 5 out of 10 - LTD

KitKat Milkshake (USA) - 2 out of 10 - LDT

For the record, the only ones that I have bought again were the Coffee KitKat and the regular old American variety. I’ve also tried the Extra Crispy and Extra Creamy but was so underwhelmed I didn’t feel like reviewing them.

Name: KitKat Mocha
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: 7-11 (Hollywood)
Price: $.89
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 147
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, Limited Edition, KitKat

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:17 am     Comments (13)

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Mint Kisses: Chocolate Mint & Candy Cane

Hershey’s has been furiously releasing limited edition Kisses. The interesting thing to note is that sometimes these Kisses become permanent additions to the line, such as the Peanut Butter Kisses earlier this year. Other Kisses have been returning as seasonal or limited edition items, such as the reappearance of the Cherry Cordial Creme Kisses.

imageThe Mint Kisses seem like a natural brand extension. They were first introduced in 2002 and are released before the holidays each year. Simply put, it’s mint infused milk chocolate. The wrappers are a racing style green and silver check pattern, which I’ve always found rather cute.

As a candy they’re very strongly minted. They’re very sweet but with that familiar Hershey’s tang to the chocolate. Slightly grainy but overall smooth, they’re a fun change from the normal Kisses. My only caution is that when I put them in a bowl or bag with other Kisses the mint will infect the others.

An interesting thing to note about all the new Kisses. They’re molded. The traditional Kiss that’s been made for the past 100 years are extruded by machine to create a consistent kiss shape. They used to have a rather dependable little bend at the top, like chocolate chips to, but less so these days. It’s easy to tell them apart by looking at the bottom of it, where the traditional Kiss has a little cinch at the bottom instead being completely flat. Any other Kiss you might come across, however, is molded. Basically, they’re made upside down, with the chocolate deposited into a Kiss shaped tray.

imageThe Limited Edition Candy Cane Kisses are new this year, though really just a new format for another Limited Edition product from last year. Last Christmas saw the introduction of a set of Miniatures called Mint Mix Miniatures which included minted dark chocolate, minted milk chocolate and minted white chocolate bars ... with the white one sporting little red and green nonpareils in it.

With the name being Candy Cane I was hoping that the candy bits in there were be actual hard candy like candy canes. But they’re just crunchy nonpareils like the miniatures last year.

I can’t help loving these. I don’t know why I do, but they’re positively addictive. I had a lot of Kisses for some photos I was shooting and I found myself digging through the assortment and eating all of these first. They’re a little grainy but have a good minty feel in the sinuses and the crunchy bits are kind of fun to roll around on your tongue as it melts.

Another production note. After seeing the Orange Creme ones last year that were white with orange stripes on the outside, I figured out how they make these. They create stripes of molten colored white chocolate on the inside of the mold, then deposit the rest of the white chocolate. The strips of colored chocolate spread out and make the stripes.

The only disturbing thing I have to report about this pair of candies is that both ingredients list PGPR (Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate - an emulsifier used to replace some of the cocoa butter in lower quality chocolates). Sigh.

If you need more Kisses, check out SugarHog.net, which is running a series of reviews on all the regular and limited edition Kisses. (Including the coconut ones that I haven’t been able to find ... well, I haven’t looked very hard.)

UPDATE 10/28/2007: The Candy Cane Kisses are back for 2007 ... however, they are no longer made with cocoa butter, instead it’s a mix of tropical oils. I do not plan on buying them again.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses
  2. Candy Corn Kisses
  3. Kisses Coconut Creme
  4. Kisses Chocolate Truffles
  5. Peanut Butter Kisses
  6. Cherry Cordial Creme Kisses
  7. Head to Head: Rolo vs Caramel Kisses
  8. Short & Sweet: Caramello /  Mega M&Ms / Orange Kisses
Name: Chocolate Mint and Candy Cane Kisses (Limited Edition)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: samples from CandyWarehouse.com
Price: $2.59 each retail
Size: 8.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 155
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, United States, Hershey's, Limited Edition, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:26 am     Comments (27)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Salmonella spurs Hershey’s Canada Recall

There’s early word that some Hershey’s chocolate products in Canada are being recalled because of possible Salmonella bacterial contamination.

If you have any Canadian Hershey’s check the date codes found on the back of each package ? the affected date codes range from 6417 to 6455. (If you want a refresher on what the code means, check out this post, which is about the Mars system, which appears to be the same as the Hershey’s Canada date stamp.)

The affected products include:

- HERSHEY CHIPITS Milk Chocolate Chips 270 gram

- HERSHEY’S Creamy Milk Chocolate With Almonds 43 gram

- HERSHEY’S Creamy Milk Chocolate 45 gram

- HERSHEY CHIPITS Semi-Sweet 350 gram, Chocolate Chips 2 kg

- HERSHEY CHIPITS Mini 300 gram, Chocolate Chips 10 kg, 175 gram, 500 gram

- HERSHEY CHIPITS Chocolate Chip Bulk 10 kg

- HERSHEY CHIPITS Semi-Sweet Mint Chocolate Chips 300 gram

- HERSHEY Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 300 gram

- HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate 45 gram

- HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate with Almonds 43 gram

- HERSHEY Assorted 16 count 728 gram

- HERSHEY Assorted 50 count 2.5 kg, Nut Roll 5 kg

- HERSHEY Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 10 kg

- HERSHEY’S Chocolate Shell Topping 177 ml

- OH HENRY! OH HENRY! 62.5 gram, 145 gram and 4 x 62.5 gram

- OH HENRY! Bites 130 gram

- OH HENRY! Peanut Butter 60 gram

- REESE Peanut Butter Cups 51 gram, 68 gram, 4 x 51 gram

- LOWNEY Cherry Blossom 45 gram

- LOWNEY Bridge Mix 52 gram, 340 gram

- GLOSETTE Peanuts 45 gram

- GLOSETTE Almond 42 gram

- GLOSETTE Raisin 50 gram, 145 gram

- EAT-MORE Dark Toffee Peanut Chew 56 gram, 4 x 56 gram

A reminder - these are CANADIAN products. The Oh Henry bar found in the United States is made by Nestle. There are no reports of illness to date, or any reports about how this was discovered. For any further questions, call the Hershey Consumer Relations line, at 1-800-468-1714

Link to story in the Globe and Mail.

UPDATE 11/16/2006: The contamination seems to have originated in some Soy Lecithin (an emulsifier). There are still no reports that anyone was sickened and the duration of the contaminant in the production line was thankfully short. The Smith Falls, ONT plant remains closed with 300-500 workers laid off as cleanup continues.

The recall doesn’t seem to have put a damper on sales or public opinion of Hershey’s. It does seem a stark contrast to the Cadbury incident earlier this year in the UK.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:40 am     Hershey'sChocolateCanadaNewsComments (4)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”

Yesterday I told you about the Night of a Thousand Chocolates. Today it’s all about the “World Geatest Box of Chocolates” and the Artisan Picks of 2006 from CocoBella.

image

The box is interesting. It has a heavy focus on nuts with half of the offerings featuring nuts in them (hazelnuts as the top favorite).  Here’s the lowdown:

DSC05028r - Marquise de Sevigne Praline Noisette - France (Hazelnut paste enrobed in Chocolate) - mellow with a sweet and smooth paste center with a healthy dose of hazelnut but really not a sugary sweetness (or so it seemed).  It balanced really well with the thin coat of rich chocolate. The nicely toasted nut on top gives this candy my pick as the candy I would most like to wear as a hat.

DSC05038rMarquise de Sivigne Orange Amer - Belgium (Orange ganache in Dark Chocolate) - This one was fascinating. It tasted like orange juice - more like a whole orange than a caramel or ganache. It was kind of like the custardy filling of a lemon meringue pie (only orange) because of the tart bite to it. The mellow dark chocolate with its bitter bite pulled it all together.

DSC05025rKnipschildt Chocolatier Hannah - US (Liquid Caramel with Pink Hawaiian Sea Salt) - this one doesn’t look like much. I’d never had a Knipschlidt chocolate before, so I thought this would be interesting. It truly was. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of salted caramels and this one was interesting. The center was a soft, custardy caramel with a good rounded sugar flavor, maybe with a hint of molasses. The salt was not too much and did actually have a little mineral hint to it.

DSC05036rMichel Cluizel Vesuve - France (Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache) - A simple single origin dark chocolate truffle. It was soft and had a good mix of bitterness, acidity, dry finish with smoke and woodsy notes. I realized that my less than stellar experience with the Cluizel nibby bar last year should not dissuade me from trying more of their truffles.

DSC05019rCorne Port Royal Rocher Noir - Belgium (Hazelnut Praline in Dark Chocolate)  - another hazelnut chocolate, this one was more like a hazelnut halvah. It had an interesting crystallized texture. The nutty flavors combined really well with the shards of sugar, though I would have preferred a little more toasty caramel flavor to it. The chocolate was nice and mild and set off the sweetness really well. It was a good chocolate, but I don’t know if it’s among the best hazelnut chocolates I’ve ever had. (And I’m the girl who likes Perugina Baci.)

DSC05022rCharles Chocolates Almond Cluster - US (Lightly Salted Roasted Almonds in Milk Chocolate) - it’s not the most elegant looking piece of chocolate, in fact, there’s very little chocolate here at all. Everyone keeps going on about how nicely Chuck Siegel roasts his nuts, and though I agree, the milk chocolate just isn’t doing anything for me here. Too sweet. (Have no fear, I’ll say nice things about Chuck’s nuts in a few days when I get to that review!)

DSC05003rCary’s Toffee - US (English Toffee topped with Almonds) - I was surprised to see toffee there. I was also pleased. This generous bar has a wonderful caramelized scent with an immediate hit of butter. The toffee itself had a wonderful gentle cleave, breaking into shards when bitten. The dark chocolate really helped to bring out the darker smoke notes of the sugars. The extra nuts on top could stay or go as far as I was concerned, in fact, they kept falling off.

DSC04999rMaglio Tartuffini - Italy (Caramelize Dark Chocolate Almonds) - chocolate covered almonds rolled in cocoa. Simple. The nuts were more like the buttery

Carmona

Marcona ones I’ve had at tapas bars, and the different flavor of them and density of oils really set off the slightly salty zing of the cocoa outside.

DSC05009rChristopher Elbow Strawberry Balsamic - US (Strawberry Puree with Caramel and Balsamic Vinegar) - a lovely looking candy with an inventive design that really screams balsamic vinegar. But here goes ... I’m not fond of vinegar and chocolate. I’ve tried a few in the past year and maybe there’s one out there that will make me happy, but this one isn’t it. The center was a little too tart for me and the white chocolate a little too sweet. I think I would have preferred everyone compromising a bit in the middle. Perhaps a milk chocolate and a caramel with more butter to balance the acids.

DSC05015rChristopher Elbow Aztec Spice - US (5 Spice Blend with Ancho and Pasillo Chilis) - this one was lovely, one that I’ve actually had several of now. The spice is mellow and robust at the same time. I could make out the caramelized flavors of the roasted chilis and the cinnamon and allspice gave it a good woodsy boost.

DSC05006rChristopher Elbow Rosemary Caramel - US (Caramel infused with Rosemary) -  The caramel in here is the slow flowing kind with a slight grain to it and a strong infusion of rosemary. However, the white chocolate added no vanilla balance but a pure sweetness that just drowned out the balsam qualities. This chocolate with its eighties style gemtone brushstrokes of color gets my pick as the one that I would least like to wear as a hat.

DSC04993rValentino Framboize - Belgium (Whole Raspberry with Raspberry Buttercream) - I was really looking forward to this one. I have to say that it didn’t look very appealing to me, but the thought of a whole raspberry made me look past its bulging belly like a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Aside from that, it was nice and floral with a really good raspberry flavor, but again too sweet for my tastes. I wanted more chocolate and less of the buttercream, I guess.

DSC04997rMarquise de Sevigne Creme Brulee - France (Caramelized Butter Ganache) - More like a praline than the custard I was expecting (like the Kee’s one I tried in NYC). Caramelized, a little grainy but rather light. Tastes a bit like coconut but not in a bad way. It kind of grew on my after I got past my expectations. It was more like the sugar crust of a creme brulee than the custard itself.

DSC04982rAmadei Supremo - Italy (Milk Chocolate Espresso Ganache) - simple and divine. I’d leave it at that, but the way I’ve laid out this page I kind of have to go on about each one the same amount. It’s not the prettiest one of the bunch, being from a rather common stock mold, but the milk and mellow ganache go well.

DSC04988rMaglio Stuffed Fig - Italy (Almond and Lemon with Fig) - when Michael Freeman was presenting the box and he got to this one I was just itching to bolt across the room to wolf one down. Billed as a dried fig stuffed with candied lemon and almonds, I was pretty much sold. Upon trying it was I in love with the figs and chocolate (as I’d already been downing the Trader Joe’s ones in my motel room earlier in the day) but didn’t get the lemon and almond notes I was promised. Don’t worry, I didn’t demand my money back. The dark chocolate was absolutely wonderful. I am surprised that I actually shared this with the neighbors (it’s pretty big and easy to cut into pieces) but I felt bad because someone pointed out that Amy spits out a lot of stuff I give her.

DSC04979rMichel Cluizel Champignon Caramel - France (Caramel Mushroom with Almond Praline Cap) - Were you wondering if I was saving the best for last? There actually aren’t in any particular order (I think the order I took the photos in). I didn’t know what it was, I think my mind was still on the fig thing when it was mentioned in the presentation. It looks like a mushroom. The stem is a wonderful firm caramel covered in mellow white chocolate. The cap is a little half-sphere cup of almond praline (like the florentine cookies) filled with a truffle ganache and then coated in chocolate. Genius. Cute and absoutely an incredible combination.

There was another walnut item in the box which I didn’t try.

On the whole, the box isn’t my favorite. However, after sampling the wares at CocoaBella, I know that Michael Freeman has good taste. I find boxed chocolates frustrating on the whole, because there’s usually such an assortment, as in this one, once you hit on a favorite you’ve eaten it and have to move on. The good thing is that it’s a great cross section of a lot of different chocolatiers that I probably never would have recognized before that are now on my “seek out” list.

So, my tip is, if you have the money, dive in and take a chance. If you don’t and you still want to explore, try the CocoaBella “Build a Box” feature on their website (or go into the store). The pre-selected boxes don’t actually tell you what’s in there but do have some good indicators (Dark Chocolate, Exotics, Milk Chocolate, Truffles and Wine Pairings). I think if I had to pick a box out for myself, I’d try either the exotics or the truffles.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:05 pm     Bay AreaCandyChocolatierReviewCharles ChocolatesMichel CluizelCaramelChocolateNutsWhite Chocolate8-TastyBelgiumFranceItalyUnited StatesComments (8)

Friday, November 10, 2006

CocoaBella - The Night of the Chocolate Hangover

It finally happened. I ate too much chocolate.

I had always figured that my first chocolate overdose would happen with a giant Toblerone or a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. This was the happiest surprise of all, it was with some of the best chocolates on the planet.

CocoaBella - The Night of the Chocolate Hangover

On November 1st I attended CocoaBella‘s unveiling of the “World’s Greatest Box of Chocolates.” This box is the culmination of Michael Freeman’s tastings of hundreds (probably thousands) of chocolates from some of the best chocolatiers. Instead of just shoving a box in the mail with some literature, Freeman and his PR team held a reception to introduce not only the chocolates but also the aesthetic and even three of the chocolatiers.

CocoaBellaCocoaBella Chocolates bills itself as a purveyor of the best small batch artisan chocolates from all over the world. They carry Amadei, Christopher Elbow, Michel Cluizel and Charles Chocolates, among others. What’s different about them instead of going into all of those shops to find your favorites is that you can create your own box with chocolates from any or all of the chocolatiers. One stop shopping, if you will.

The evening began with the normal press recieving line where we were given our name badges as we entered the little shop in San Francisco. I was offered wine and given an overview of the evening. We would start with browsing and we were free to try ANYTHING in the shop. The chocolates for the box unveiling were located along one wall, but anything behind the counter was also available. There would be a presentation by Michael Freeman and three of the chocolatiers were actually present, Christopher Elbow of Kansas, Chuck Siegel (Charles Chocolates) of Emeryville and Jacques Dahan of Michel Cluizel Chocolates (Paris).

It was clear since the shop still didn’t have that many people in it and there were many name badges laid out on the table that there would be some mingling until everyone arrived. I browsed. I took photos. I didn’t touch anything. It smelled good and looked fantastic. There were other bloggers there, so I began to relax. It was no mistake that I was there.

imageAt the back counter there were two men working to create and plate chocolates. I recognized both of them. On the left was Chuck Siegel and on the right was Christopher Elbow. Since other folks were talking to them, I sidled up and listened in. They were creating three fresh creations for us to try, nothing that either of them were ever going to include in their chocolate lines, just one-offs. I chatted with both of them and some other writers and then started trying some of the chocolates. I started with the nutty items, I had to pace myself. I got four chocolates under my belt when the presentation began.

Michael Freeman explained the chocolate shop, where he carries at least 300 different items. It sounds like exhausting work traveling Europe and the States to find some of the little chocolatiers and he insists that you can set down any of the chocolates he carries in front of him and he can identify it on sight.

Jacques Dahan did a little tasting of three of the Michel Cluizel single origin chocolates. I felt a little smug, as I’d already tried these as a tasting kit a few months back, but was comforted to see that my tasting notes of the time still held up. Dahan reiterated some of the literature in the tasting kit, that Cluizel fosters relationships with the plantations, just as I imagine great sommeliers do with wineries. There’s a great deal of pride involved in this upscale chocolate. What I found particularly refreshing though, was the openness and the nods that each of the chocolatiers were able to give to each other.

There were Siegel and Elbow, two men who might be regarded as rivals, happily collaborating on a set of chocolates for the evening.

imageOh, and what were those chocolates? The little one is a simple dark ganache with a dollop of fresh mango and ginger chutney. Fresh and earthy, the bitterness and complexity of the chocolate was set off nicely by the rooty balsam flavors of the chutney. Then there’s the fresh fig, split open filled with a white chocolate ganache then dipped in dark chocolate. Wonderfully fresh, and the mild sweetness of the fig itself was set off well by the truffle cream, which happily was not sickly sweet. The dark chocolate wasn’t as powerful as I’d hoped, but maybe I didn’t pick one out that had been dipped enough.

The last one was a little mousy looking and they were pretty quiet about what it was. Just a peanut praline with a surprise. The next day Siegel explained a bit more about how praline is made, basically they take raw nuts and throw them in a copper kettle with sugar and heat it all together. As the nuts roast the sugar caramelizes. Then it’s ground together to make a paste that has little flecks of the sugar in it. This little square had an extra bonus though, at first I thought it was just something like the center of a Butterfinger bar, but then it popped. Then there was a lot of popping in there. Unflavored Pop Rocks. It was an interesting combination (and was a great help for my novel).

After the presentations it was back to the chocolate floor. I took photos, of course, and now that I had a better understanding of what Freeman was up to, I started really examining the offerings behind the counter. I also started tasting. I started tasting things that weren’t in that box. I knew that I was going to try more of Charles Chocolates the next day (yes, there’s still more to tell from my San Francisco trip!) so I looked at the other chocolatiers.

CocoaBellaAt first Elbow’s were missing the mark for me, they were very sweet (but they’re so darned pretty). Some that I tried that were fantabulous, most notably was the Orange Honey Blossom, which was a half-sphere button with a drippy honey cream center with a true honey taste and texture. I regret not trying one of the Bananas Foster. The Cluizel was fantastic and so incredibly specific. It finally dawned on me the unique position Cluizel is in, because they make their chocolate, from bean all the way to the final truffle creation. There are so few actual chocolate factories on the planet, and the fact that this one creates more than just the bars and couverture for the rest of the industry sets them apart. (And I need to pay more attention to them now.)

Fact is, I was seriously overloaded with chocolate. I wouldn’t call it a chocolate high, more like a chocolate sedation. I wanted it all, but part of my brain wasn’t working well enough to figure out where to put it. I couldn’t possibly fit any more in my tummy. I had a half a glass of wine during the presentations and after that a bottle of sparkling water. A glance over by the door though, and I saw that the name badges were replaced with gift bags ... with a box of chocolate to take home. I sighed in relief. As much as I didn’t want to leave, because the Golden Ticket would be voided the moment I stepped outside the door, I had to go. The wine had worn off at least a half an hour earlier and it was time to go back to the motel.

I lost count with how much I ate. It was probably a third of a pound of chocolate in two hours. Good thing I didn’t have any lunch or dinner.

Here’s the full review of what’s in the box (but here’s a visual preview).

I'd consider this night a 10 out of 10.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:05 am    

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Chocolate Dipped Altoids

Altoids have been around for well over two hundred years. They’re simple little nuggets of sugar, mint flavor and a little acacia gum to hold it all together. I’m not sure if they count as candy, as they’re intended for breath freshening, not wholesale gobbling. (But just because that’s what they’re intended for doesn’t make it so.)

Altoids were made by Callard & Bowser for many years. Then there were a series of buyouts, Callard & Bowser was bought by Suchard. That company was owned by Beatrice. The whole shebang of Callard & Bowser-Suchard was then sold to Kraft which sold it in 2004 to the Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Company. As a Wrigley brand they make more sense than belonging to a company that makes Velveeta, however, I’m still cross with Wrigley for discontinuing Reed’s.

What was once just a humble piece of peppermint chalk is now a veritable empire of its own. There are the mints, a line of gum, sour hard candies and even some freako weird breath strips.

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So that brings us to the newest brand extension. The Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints. Called “Curiously Chocolate” on the tin, I have to admit I find it curious myself. I got a hold of two of the new flavors - Peppermint and Cinnamon.

Out of the package they’re not remarkable looking at all. They look kind of like buttons or maybe slightly smaller Junior Mints. They smell only vaguely chocolatey but that’s probably because the peppermint or cinnamon scent is so strong.

On the tongue the chocolate melts rather readily and is much thicker than I would have expected. It’s dark and with a slight grain to it (but hey, Altoids are pretty grainy too) but a rich taste permeated with the mint or cinnamon in question.

I really didn’t think these were going to be any good at all, but I enjoyed the little creamy hit of chocolate. I preferred it when I immediately cleaved the mint so that I got mint and chocolate at the same time, but letting the chocolate melt off and then getting to the mint has nice too.

My biggest concern is the durability of these. What I like about Altoids in general is that I can leave a tin in the car or at the bottom of a bag and not worry how long its been there. I know for a fact that I’ve eaten five year old Altoids. But I wouldn’t want to eat old chocolate.

These are preview packages of the new Altoids, they’ll be available in January 2007 on CandyWarehouse.com, though there is word that they’re popping up in places.

Note from the package: Altoids are made with gelatin, therefore not suitable for vegetarians.

Other strange notes: I went to the Altoids “Shoppe” on their website and they’re out of stock on about half of the products. Come on! You’re the factory, make some more! (And here’s a link to a recent story in the Chicago Sun Times I read.)

Name: Altoids Chocolate Dipped Mints (Cinnamon & Peppermint)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Callard & Bowser (Wrigley)
Place Purchased: samples from CandyWarehouse.com
Price: unknown
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: 152
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, United States, Wrigley

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:44 am     Comments (27)

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Jolly Rancher Fruitas Enchiladas

imageI knew that Hershey’s was really pushing into the Hispanic foods arena more than any other large candy company. But more than just calling things Dulce de Leche, they’ve now created some Americanized versions of some popular candies in Mexico. There are a few assortments of Jolly Ranchers, but I picked up the Paletas sabor a Frutas Enchiladas. They’re hot and spicy fruit flavored lollipops.

They come in three flavors, Tamarindo (tamarind), Limon (lime) and Mango. Each pop is flat hard candy square, a little over a half an ounce each. They’re branded under the name La Dulceria Thalia. (I reviewed the Cajeta Elegancita earlier this year.)

Tamarind and chili flavors dominate all three of the pops. Tamarind, if you’re not already familiar with it, comes from the Tamarind tree, which looks kind of like the Locust tree and bears large pods that look like beans. The fruit pulp is popular not only in Caribean and Mexican cuisine, but also Southeast Asia and Indian (since that’s where the trees originated). The flavor of tamarind may be familiar to folks who like Worcestershire sauce and is most notable for it’s tangy, woodsy flavor.

imageThe pop is actually quite pretty. I think I used to have coat buttons that looked like this, deep raspberry red with flecks in them. It’s glossy looking and smells like a cross between fresh sour cherries and cedar shavings you put in hamster cage.

The flavor is pleasant, though not really candy like. It’s more savory. There are deep notes of berries and of course the slow burn of the chilis. A little coffee and tea and maybe sun dried tomatoes. The more you eat it, the less appealing it looks, as the chili is not that finely ground and makes it look like your rolled your pop in red sawdust after a while.

imageThis one really surprised me when I put it in my mouth. Seriously. Authentically. Lime. It was zesty and tangy and even fragrant. After a while the chili kicks in for a little burn, but the woodsy notes take a back seat here.

The texture after a while ends up being kind of like a tongue pumice. Great if you have a calloused tongue or maybe it’s just itchy and you want tasty way to scratch it.

The deep olive green color is a little disconcerting, but of the three flavors, I liked this one the best. The mix of lime and chili is a natural fit.

imageI love mangos. I’ve been known to go to the grocery store and buy them a half a dozen at a time and eat two or three a day. They’re a great fruit because they’re usually not too sweet, have a mix of textures in them and the flavor notes are a cross between concord grapes, rosemary, honeydew, bananas, loquats and apricots.

However, I’ve never been terribly fond of mango flavored things. (The same goes for apricot and peach flavored things, there’s just something that they can’t quite get in the flavor that just makes it feel fake and unpleasant.) However, I was encouraged by the lime and was looking forward to giving this one a go.

The taste was immediately tangy and got that balsamy quality that most mango flavors seem to miss. It had that fresh scent of pine and apricot and some serious burn behind it (or maybe my mouth was still tingly from the previous two) and it seemed a bit salty. Mango always goes nicely with some spice (we make a Mango Salsa at home with chopped onions and cumin). But this was just lacking a level, I think.

Overall, I was pleased with the flavor combos, but bothered by the texture of the chili powder. I know it’s traditional and I’m sure I would have complained if the candies were too uniform.

After trying things like Rockaleta and Gudu Pops, the uniformity of these was a treat. In fact, I have to say that the appearance of most Mexican candies is what turns me off. These were rustic looking but still appetizing. The La Dulceria Thalia outer wrapper was kind of a turn off for me (it reminds me of romance novels) but once you pop the pops out of there, there’s not mention of Thalia again.

Interesting note: these candies were made in Canada. Go figure.

Name: La Dulceria Thalia: Frutas Enchiladas
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Jolly Rancher (Hershey's)
Place Purchased: CVS (Silverlake)
Price: $1.39
Size: 5.2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 104
Categories: Hard Candy, Canada, Hershey's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:00 am     Comments (14)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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Which seasonal candy selection do you prefer?

Choose one or more:

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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Patric Chocolate

• Amano Chocolates

• Candy Rant: Stimulants are not Energy

• Candy Encyclopedia: The Difference Between Gummi and Jelly

• Candy Rant: If your Licorice isn’t black, it isn’t Licorice

 

 

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