Tuesday, November 07, 2006
It seems kind of weird to want to find milk chocolate without milk in it, but I know that there are some folks that are dairy free and are looking for that creamy consistency of a milk chocolate without the milk in it. If you’re a vegan it’s not like you can’t have chocolate, after all, the cacao bean is just another seed. But in this day and age, you’d be amazed at how often dairy products are put into even what should be plain old dark chocolate.
Enter Terra Nostra which offers a non-dairy line made with Rice Milk which is also organic to boot!
Ricemilk Choco - 57% cacao solids. The plain Ricemilk Choco has a pleasant sweet smell with a light chocolate aroma. The look of the bar is also pretty becoming, light and glossy with a good snap. On the tongue it has a good buttery melt, but it’s extremely sweet. There’s also a nutty taste to it, and upon looking at the ingredients I understand why, there are ground hazelnuts in there! It’s kind of like a super-mild guandujia.
The thick sweetness wasn’t quite to my liking, but I had high hopes for the rest of the line.
Ricemilk Choco with Almonds - 57% cacao solids. The almonds make a huge difference in the flavor of this bar for me. The mellow nuts balance out the sweetness. There’s a more noticeable hit of salt in this bar too, even though I know it’s the same chocolate, the sweetness of the almonds gives it a great balance.
The almonds are just slivers and pieces, not full nuts, but I kind of prefer mine that way. They were rather light in color, not a toasty brown, so they added more texture than flavor.
Ricemilk Choco Dark Truffle Center - 56% cacao solids. This bar has a ricemilk chocolate outside and a dark truffle inside. The truffle center is rather solid, though slightly softer than the chocolate itself. The light bar here is sweet and the filling is a little less so, but still very buttery. Most truffles are made with the addition of dairy fats (cream or butter) to chocolate to create that hyperfatty tongue-feel. Instead this truffle uses unknown vegetable fats, which I don’t usually care for, since they have a different melting point than dairy fats and of course cocoa butter (yes, cocoa butter is a vegetable fat, but it’s a very special vegetable fat).
Of the three bars, my first favorite was the Almond one, second is the Truffle. I really didn’t like the plain one at all, it was just too sweet without any interesting texture or other notes to it.
Overall, I have to say that I’m impressed and pleased with this vegan line. I usually approach dietary substitutions with trepidation - I’m the type of person who would rather drink their coffee black than use non-dairy creamer. When it comes to choosing between a mock product or nothing at all, I usually go for nothing and wait until I get get a hold of the real thing. But Terra Nostra has done a good job here of bringing the creaminess to their already great organic dark chocolate that emulates the milk chocolate experience pretty well. I’m guess the fact that rice milk is already pretty sweet is what makes the plain bar a little over the top for me.
All the bars are certified organic an stamped with the Equi-Trade fair trade symbol.
Monday, November 06, 2006
When I went to San Francisco earlier this summer I was eager to try out Recchiuti chocolates. They have a lovely little shop in the Ferry Building where all the most expensive and exclusive fresh foods are sold in the city but it was packed so I just looked and figured I’d buy another day (instead I bought some stuff at Miette Patisserie).
This time I went there at lunchtime on a weekday and found things a lot easier to handle. I had a lovely chat with both the women behind the counter (one was wearing devil horns, I’m thinking because I made my purchase on Halloween).
Recchiuti is the concoction of Michael Recchiuti with the tagline on their website of “Indulgence on the verge of Obsession”. That sounds just like me! He’s been making chocolates since 1997 with special emphasis on flavor combinations and herbal/fruit infusions.
The chocolates are positively lovely. In the store they’re laid out on little plates in beds of crushed cocoa beans. The staff was knowledgeable about all the chocolates and helped to guide me towards the ones I knew I’d like.
They sell in two different ways. You can get a gift box with a set number of chocolate pieces in it or you can buy by the pound ($55 a pound). As it was just for me, I didn’t need the spiffy box and seeing how the candies varied so much in size, I wanted to be free to choose without worrying about whether one flavor was a better value than another. I ended up with a quarter of a pound, which ended up as a large selection (I got quite a few doubles, so only about 2/3 of my booty is shown here - 22 pieces plus one free taste there on the spot with my purchase).
Cardamom Nougat - a rich chocolate ganache infused with cardamom and studded with honeycomb bits (a hard nougat) and cocoa nibs. One of the nibs was just terrible in the two pieces of this flavor that I ate (it was bitter and acrid) but the rest of it was phenomenal and left a fresh feeling in my mouth.
Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn - the anise zings to the front of the flavors here, then the chocolate comes in then that woodsy note of pink peppercorns without any of the burn. The flavors blend nicely and ended up feeling much lighter than I expected.
Rose Caramel - this is the little foil wrapped one there. The caramel was positively liquid and had a pleasant burnt flavor to it with a slight bitter note and a strong rose geranium scent. The rose and bitterness didn’t please me much.
Fleur de Sel Caramel - a great soft and chewy caramel with grains of salt in it. The caramel has a strong bitter and burnt quality to it the salt, of course, is quite strong. I really liked the texture of the soft caramel, but it was just too salty for me.
Honeycomb Malt - the filling is rather like butter with a bit of a grain to it like crystallized honey. The malt flavor is rather mild but the whole thing feels a little greasy and overly sweet.
Bergamot Tea - mellow and zesty with very strong notes of both tea and bergamot. A real favorite of all of them.
Candied Orange Peel - wonderful moist and chewy pieces of orange peel, candied without being sickly sweet.
Cinnamon Malt - very sweet and with a mild cinnamon flavor. Really too sweet for me, a little grainy and not much in the malt arena to compel me.
Mandarin - the smallest of the truffles. I wasn’t against buying it because I was paying by the pound instead of the piece. Sweet and dry with a nice zesty taste of fresh orange.
Force Noir - a simple dark truffle. They have another line that’s all single origins, but I wanted to try a simple dark truffle. The vanilla notes are very strong, the ganache is light and slightly acidic and super smooth.
Burnt Caramel - oddly, I didn’t get much of a difference between this one and the Force Noir.
Lavender Vanilla - mellow and round chocolate flavors with a strong balsam quality with a very noticeable lavender flavor and a honey finish.
Overall the ganache on most of the truffles is a little greasy for my tastes, it’s more on the butter side than the chocolate side. It keeps them super smooth and provides a good background for the flavor infusions, but the oiliness of them makes me feel fuller faster.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:55 am
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Recently my husband went to Chicago and called me from the Vosge homeworld asking what I’d like to have. I was really hoping for a Cardamom truffle (they call them Ellateria) but it turns out that flavor is part of a seasonal set and not made at the moment.
The new seasonal assortment is sold under the banner of Collection of Zion and features lots of freaky ingredients and flavors. I kind of enjoy such things, so I was curious to see what my mouth thought of these intellectually stimulating combinations of flavors.
Instead he brought home some other delightful chocolate spheres. Here are a few I tried:
Selassie (shown there in the center) - allspice + pumpkin = a mellow spice and soft chocolate ganache center gave it a custardy feel. The cloveness wasn’t really to my liking, but pleasant.
Ital - Blue Mountain coffee + fresh coconut = acidic, dark and bitter but wonderfully complex and nutty.
Zion - Red Stripe Beer + cocoa nibs = bitter and a little on the yeasty side with a dark complex and acidic crunch.
Budapest - Hungarian paprika + chocolate = mellow with a subtle spicy note that brings out some of the woodsy flavors of the chocolate.
Wink of the Rabbit - soft caramel + New Mexican pecan = milk chocolate is a nice change but a little sweet here, the pecan gives it a maple/woodsy flavor. The caramel is thick and a bit custardy.
It was a nice evening with my box of chocolates. They were all gone, lickety split. Never fear, I just got back from San Francisco and have lots of other exciting haut chocolates to talk about.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
One of my goals when I started Candy Blog was to become a candy authority. Not that I would know everything about candy manufacturing, its history or the business end of things, but I thought I could master an area that I was interested in: Candy Consumerism.
To that end, I’ve tried to document how candy is marketed to us, where we find it, how it’s packaged, what it tastes like, trends in flavors and ingredients and of course sought the input of the readers and their opinions on the same topics.
The first inkling I got that this goal might be within the realm of possibility was my invitation late last year to attend the All Candy Expo as a member of the press. I was also featured on two radio programs and then later had another affirmation when I was interviewed for the NY Times Magazine. This week I rounded out my media and had my first TV interview.
I was contacted by CNBC for their program called Morning Call. On the day before Halloween they wanted to do a little piece on Limited Edition candies and requested me based on the New York Times Magazine column from last summer.
The big problem ... I was going to be in San Francisco on Monday because of my novel writing kick off. But this was no problem at all! The producer simply refered me to a linked up studio there.
Of course I was nervous and tried not to think too much about it. I did get a hair cut on Saturday ... mostly because I hadn’t had it cut since June. And then I spent some time practicing not flailing my hands around when I talked.
The segment on candy was going to go on a little before the end of the show which aired from 10AM to 12PM Eastern and hosted by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with another guest, Lisbeth Echeandia (Publisher - Confectioner Magazine).
I got to the studio about 15 minutes early and had a little tea that I got from a cafe in the first floor of the building. I sat in the waiting room then about eight minutes to air the camera tech/engineer came in and got me. We hooked up my mic and stuck that thing in my ear so that I could hear the feed.
The confusing thing about doing these satellite things is that you don’t actually see who you’re talking to. So I had to go off of what I was hearing in the little earpiece. I looked at the camera as best I could, even though the content I was getting was through my right ear.
They had some little eyes on the top of the camera to remind the guests to look there. I was terrible at remembering that. There’s lots of stuff you have to remember when you’re on TV: no cussing, no ripping your shirt off, no flapping your hands, look into the camera, speak intelligently, don’t mispronounce the host’s name, answer the question, try not to talk when other people are talking, don’t chew gum, look like you’re paying attention when you’re not talking and above all be relaxed!
Of course now that I’ve done it I understand all those things far better than before.
They gave me a DVD of it when I left the studio, so I’ll try to get that up on the web sometime early next week. (You know, in case you’re interested in seeing whether or not I followed all that advice.)
UPDATE: You can watch a clip of the segment here!
Friday, November 03, 2006
But this candy had the double whammy of being cute looking but also having a completely vague name that I was too curious to pass up the 98 cent gamble. I found these at a Chinese grocer in Chinatown in New York City earlier this spring and just let them sit there looking vaguely sock-like for months. The girl on the package said “I like it!” but that still couldn’t quite compel me to open them up and eat them.
Eventually Halloween came around and they looked kind of Halloweeny so I opened up the pack to give them a try.
First, here’s what I expected. Based on the ingredients (sugar, glucose syrup, flavorings and pectin) I thought it was going to be an orange flavored gummi.
They were definitely soft, as advertised, but I’d actually call them firm. I’m not sure how well something called Firm Candy would sell, but then again, I question how well Soft Candy sells.
They were firm but had an easy bite to them. Kind of like a gumdrop, but a little tougher without feeling stale. The flavor was, well, not there at all. They were pleasant and not too sweet. It tasted like a mild millet jelly candy, which in turn tastes simply like an unflavored, uncoated jelly bean. They are truly the definition of a benign candy.
Besides being pleasantly cute enough for me to want to string them into a bracelet, they’re not much as a candy. Nothing to spit out into the gutter but just no oomph or compelling texture to keep me eating.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Botticelli is an upscale chocolate brand in Canada that makes nice bars at reasonable prices. I’ve never seen them in stores, but last year my husband brought me one that he got a London Drugs, so they’re pretty easy to find.
Sam, whom I met at All Candy Expo earlier this summer sent me some excellent bars to try in their Signature line. I want to post about all of them, but I have to finish tasting them all. I had to post about this one first because he sent me TWO bars and both are gone now. The listing of quality ingredients on the label alone made my mouth water.
The Cashew Butter Truffle is a milk chocolate bar with a filling of cashew butter. It’s not quite truffle-like in my estimation, more on the nut butter end of things, but that suits me just fine. The smooth and nutty butter has a good salty hit (though it says there’s no added salt) and a true-to-life flavor of cashews that just sends me over the moon.
My only disappointment about the bar was there were some “unfilled” squares on one end of the bar that were just chocolate. I like chocolate and all, but I really wanted more of that cashwey goodness.
Cashews are so rare in consumer branded chocolates it’s so refreshing to not only find a bar, but find it to be good. If you’re a nut fan, this might be the bar for you. If you’ve seen them in stores in Canada, do let me know where they’ve turned up.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Here?s a list of what brought folks to Candy Blog through search engines during the month of October:
1. halloween candy
The big changes this past month were of course brought about by the first holiday of Candy Season but Max Brenner still remains a strong contender on the list as they opened a new cafe in New York City a couple of months ago.
The big surprise for me was the number of search hits for the phrase Candy Convention. If you google that, my site comes up as the first one, with my profile coverage of the All Candy Expo this past summer. The Food Network started airing their special on the convention last weekend, so there’s been a huge spike in traffic regarding that.
The exceptionally fun part was last night watching the search strings as it was quite obvious that folks were searching to find out the number of calories and kosher status of many popular Halloween goodies!
The results are in on the latest poll and I have to say, Candy Blog readers are generous.
Other industry polls have said that kids prefer chocolate candies in their treat bags and most folks who were opening their doors to the munchkins were handing out at least some chocolate.
(I’m guessing the toothbrushes and raisins folks are joking and I’m certainly wondering what “way better stuff” actually is. I saw some forums talking about giving out matchbox cars or pez dispensers.)
I was very happy to see ten folks going green! I would have gone green except I ate all my organic and fair trade samples already ... all the other candy I gave out were also leftover samples and stuff from photography projects. Remember, regifting is green, too.
Some folks were a little surprised that there were so many people not giving out candy this year, but I’ll chalk that up to not being in the right neighborhood, not being home that night or living in a country that does not have Trick-or-Treating.
So, weigh in here if you want to elaborate on any of your votes!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.