Thursday, February 15, 2007
While I was at the Fancy Food Show last month I saw that Brown & Haley (who make those Almond Rocas) had a large booth. It was devoted to the Rocas, which is natural for the crowd there. But their display case on one side caught my eye because it had a large pile of a Limited Edition Raspberry Mountain. (I hesitate to call them bars, as they fit into my category of “plops” instead.)
I looked around for a sample bin (but did eat a sample of the Candy Cane Roca while on my search), but when I couldn’t find one, I asked and they happily handed over one!
It’s not easy to find Brown Haley’s Mountain line in Los Angeles. In fact, the regular Mountain (see below) was purchased at Dylan’s Candy Bar in NYC (even further from its spawning grounds). But I know that many Northwesters are in love with their indigenous candy, so it’s high time I covered it.
I have to admit that when the Raspberry Mountain came out of the package I had to giggle. It looks rather poop-like. However, it had the much more pleasant smell of raspberries and sugar. My first bite into it was all mockolate. It wasn’t until the second that I reached the raspberry center. It’s very berry, in fact one of the ingredients, after milk powder, is raspberries. There’s a little tang to the filling and it’s a rather smooth fondant type center that has a little gooey flow to it. The peanuts and mockolate weren’t doing much for it, so I confined my bites towards the end to getting as much filling as possible (yes, eating it from the bottom and leaving the peak).
As the Mountain line goes, this bar is a winner. It’s a flavor combo that you don’t often see and is far and away more satisfying than the regular Mountain ... however, the classic Mountain has very little going for it.
Before I finish this up I should say a little bit about the classic bar. Since the Mountain is made with partially hydrogenated fats instead of cocoa butter for the chocolate, it really never achieves a chocolatey texture or taste. It’s greasy and slightly slippery on the tongue as it melts. In the case of the classic bar, the center is simply a plain firm fondant (think of a flavorless York Peppermint Pattie). It is sweet though perhaps a little bland (but I enjoy that texture). The only thing that offsets the whole fakeness of it are the peanuts, which give it all a little crunch and texture.
There are two other versions of this bar, Peanut Butter (which I bought it was completely rancid and unworthy of even photographing) and Cherry (which we all know I’m not going to like). You can buy the Mountains via the Brown & Haley website (and at a really good price). As a regional bar with such a great history, I’d love to see them convert to real chocolate and really show us how good this combination can be.
Note: after this review I created a new category called “mockolate” so you can find all the fake goodies in one place.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Chocolove is the chocolate for lovers ... or the chocolate for chocolate lover, or something like that. Whatever or whomever you’re supposed to love, Chocolove has the tools. Each bar is wrapped like a mash note and a love poem inside the outer paper (this one was an excerpt from Dream Love by Christina Rossetti).
Nothing says deep infatuation than Chocolove’s Strong Dark Belgian 70% dark chocolate.
The bar itself is a wonderful testament to true love: it’s glossy smooth but has bumps. The scent is a heavenly mix of the woodsy and smoky chocolate flavors as well as a hint of rum. There’s no vanilla in this bar, it’s all chocolate and sugar. The melt on the tongue is smooth (the little domed piece fits really well in the roof of the mouth for maximum comfort during meltage).
It’s very buttery and has some nice dark notes to ... a little coffee but mostly just that quintissential chocolate flavor.
It’s an easy last minute gift for someone you care about ... already wrapped. They have a pretty large selection of bars, most are sold at Whole Foods, Cost Plus World Market and Target. Much better than a greeting card. They also have a limited edition Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Chilis that’s sold only at Whole Foods. I tried it at the Fancy Food Expo and though it was very interesting, the cherries weren’t really my friends. (But if you like cherries, it’s a worthy bar to give a try.)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I knew you were a dark-leaning bunch, but I had no idea.
As for me, I think I’m an equal opportunity indulger. I like to think that dark makes me look intelligent and sophisticated, but sometimes I want the sweet, creamy rush of milk chocolate. And then there are those unknown cravings for the vapid indulgence of all sugar and fat in white chocolate. Good thing we have so many choices.
When it comes to fine chocolates such as truffles, there’s nothing like dark. But then as a block for plain old eating, milk fits the bill. I usually leave boxed chocolates covered in milk for last.
This, I think, is the last of the candy I picked up on sale after Christmas. This was from Target during their 75% off phase. While I wouldn’t pay $8.00 for it, I was happy to pay $2, if only because I thought the jar was pretty cool. (Real glass jar, but the lid is clear plastic with a stainless steel rim.)
Peanut Butter Caramels candy, I figured, would be rather like the molasses peanut butter kisses that I like (and so many others loathe) that are sold around Halloween in orange and black waxed wrappers.
What’s especially pleasing about these is that instead of being wrapped in an opaque colored wrapper, these are in clear cellophane. You can see just what they are, a big O of caramel filled with a little spot of peanut butter.
It smells like peanut butter and tastes like it too, with a good salty, woodsy, nutty, creamy flavor ... and after you chew for a while the peanut butter dissipates and the soft chewy caramel with its buttery and caramelized sugar tones kick in.
I liked them. I like the simplicity of them, I liked the packaging. The ingredients were all natural. I loved the price. I might pay $4 for these, but I truly doubt I’d take the plunge at $8.
ALLERGEN STATEMENT [from the package]: this product may contain or have proteins derived from milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and/or soybeans. (emphasis mine) ... wow, talk about covering your bases! (And maybe they need to keep their factory a bit cleaner!)
Monday, February 12, 2007
I don’t actually have much to say about these Marshmallow Hearts except that I was surprised and pleased, especially after the tragically untasty experience of the SpongeBob SquarePants Yogurt Covered Raisins last week (also made by Frankford).
I didn’t realize that these were made by the same company, which is probably a good thing. And now Frankford has redeemed itself in my book and is no longer a “bad candymaker” and only an “uneven candymaker” ... one more in either direction and my opinion will be cemented.
I’m not a huge consumer of plain marshmallows, but I have to say that these are adorable and just the right size (about 2/3 the size of a regular marshmallow). A few of these floating at the top of a cup of hot cocoa seems like it’d be a nice way for a parent to give some unconditional love or a sweetheart to give you a little unexpected treat.
They’re vanilla flavored, not strawberry (as I feared before I read the package). They are pink on the outside, so there is some food coloring in there, and yes, it does have a slight bitter aftertaste for me. If you’re not one who’s prone to that, then hey, no problem for you. I didn’t notice it at all when combined with hot cocoa, just when eating them by themselves. I preferred them a little stale, so they were chewy on the outside but still soft inside.
Note: Made in Israel ... however the package doesn’t rate them as Kosher.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
There are quite a few candy craft kits out there. I often see candy jewelry kits at the 99 Cent Only store, but haven’t picked one up before because the packaging made me doubt that it was manufactured in this century. This little heart box/locket on the other hand looked bright, clean and inviting.
The “Be My Love” Edible Jewelry Kit has four compartments with three different colors/flavors of candy beads and a single white charm. The kit also features a cord to hang the whole kit from your neck (or doorknob) and an extra three feet of cord in a little bundle inside the box. The ingredients/nutrition label on the back of the package can be torn off to reveal a gift tag.
Though there’s a whole yard of cord in there, the beads only add up to about 12” of coverage. However, a careful crafter can use knots (like the way pearls are strung) to space the candy beads out and still make it feel full.
As a candy, they’re not bad, in fact they’re very cute. The beads have a glossy panned coat of colored glaze that really makes them sassier looking than their simple pastel pressed dextrose kind on those elastic strands.
Pink is strawberry
Most bags of candy necklaces give you more candy than this little package does. However, the fact that the kid might be occupied with a craft before munching on the candy is rather attractive as treats go. The candy is also much better than some of the super cheap candy necklaces I’ve bought at the dollar stores, so I guess you get what you pay for. The little box is also nice and practical for keeping things like small barrettes or things like paper clips and thumbtacks later. (Of if you have a child who likes Polly Pocket, this could be a shoe keeper!)
Friday, February 9, 2007
Dove Jewels are a mid-range Dove confection packaged for Valentines. Inside this little red reflective cube were individually mylar wrapped chocolates. There were six varieties (two of them just solid chocolate). The packaging is attractive and the description of the candies is compelling. I’m not a huge fan of Dove chocolate, but these looked like an interesting option compared to the heart-shaped boxes I already reviewed this week.
Raspberry Truffle (magenta wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate. The truffle center was soft, a bit salty. On top of that (or maybe on the bottom) was a bit of raspberry jam. It didn’t have much zazz, so I didn’t catch more much more that indicated this was raspberry than a few authentic seeds.
Caramel Espresso (gold wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate, this had two components, a flowing caramel on the top of the center and a firm truffle-like espresso chocolate on the bottom.
Chocolate Mousse Truffle (purple wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in milk chocolate. It’s the one pictured above bitten in half. It’s sweet and mellow, not terribly chocolatey. The center has a bit of a salty taste to it that keeps the sticky sweet milk chocolate under control. A little hint of coconut flavor in the center.
Cashew Almond Crunch (green wrapper) - a round jewel piece in milk chocolate. It has a rather firm center with lots of bits of cashews & almonds and some sort of crunchy, perhaps hard nougat, stuff. This was the winner in the package (well, it’d score even higher if it was in dark chocolate), however, by the second one I had a sore throat.
While the packaging was elegant for drug store fare from Mars and of course different from the cheesy and dated heart boxes, I still wasn’t blown away by the Dove chocolate itself. I find it a bit too sweet and waxy without much chocolate bang. I did appreciate that the flavor combinations were a bit more adventurous than the usual mint, coffee, blah.
As an after Valentine’s purchase, getting these for $2 or so is probably a great deal (better than an Elmer’s box) as far as quality goes but at pre-Holiday prices, for less than $10 you can get some really good See’s candies (in whatever assortment you think will please your honey) made with Guittard chocolate and fresh, mostly natural ingredients (I think some of their fruity items use artificial colors).
I know some folks are very fond of Dove but it just doesn’t have that zing for me at this price, this was the biggest ticket item I bought for my grand Valentine’s Week (granted, all those other high-end boxed chocolates were gifts) so it did have some high standards to meet.
SweeTarts are made in special shapes for just about all the holidays. You can get them for Halloween, Christmas and Easter (maybe they even do all green packages for St. Patrick’s Day) and of course they have a version for Valentines Day: SweeTarts Hearts.
The packaging and candy is pretty much a rip off of the Necco Conversation Hearts. It’s a little box that’s ready to be addressed to your Valentine with little heart shaped candies inside with sayings on them.
The mottos aren’t earthshatteringly cool, just classic little lovey-doveyness. “Hug Me” “Love Ya” “Yes” “I’m Yours” and “Kiss Me”. Unlike the other conversation hearts out there, these are not printed, the lettering is engraved (or pressed) right into the compressed dextrose tablets. The candies meet the highest quality standards too, they’re always heart shaped and perfectly formed with readable lettering (I know I’ve gotten some pretty mangled hearts before from Necco).
Besides the shape, these are just plain old SweeTarts. They are an abbreviated flavor set: Orange, Cherry and Grape. As I don’t care for the Cherry, about one third of this box was “for sharing.” Now, I’m not sure if this is the way it’s supposed to be, the package shows green and blue hearts in the design (but no yellow).
I paid $.79 cents for this box, which is a bit high. I didn’t see any larger packages of them where you could get a ten pack and have your kid give them out as Valentines or anything. But if I saw these in the 75% off bin after Valentines I might pick them up. But I miss my yellow SweeTarts.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.