Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Russell Stovers Cream Eggs. I still haven’t been eating their mixed boxes of chocolates, but the fact that they were making good quality product at a rather low price really captured my attention.
Now, I’m still not a boxed chocolates fan. See’s is probably the exception because I like just about everything they make, but I’ve been hesitant to try Russell Stover, especially after the middle of the road experience with the Whitman’s Sampler (RS & Whitman’s are now the same company). But this is All Valentines Week and it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t have at least a little bit. So I picked up the smallest Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates I could find.
I figured the little cup here was a coconut and milk chocolate mix, similar to the Coconut Wreath I had last year for the Christmas season. The coconut is crisp and the milk chocolate is creamy and not-too-sweet. I rather like things that come in little cups like this, they’re more appealing that some plop shaped items and easy to bite off a bit and leave the rest in the cup.
The square chocolate is a firm caramel covered in milk chocolate. It’s nice, it could use more salt, but the texture is just perfect. Smooth, chewy and with a good buttery flavor.
The dark oval is a fudge center. It had a good caramel tone to it, but very little chocolatey taste.
Overall the assortment was fresh and looked very appealing. They were a little too ordinary to capture my tastebuds and compel me to pick up the next one (isn’t it the anticipation in a box of chocolates that’s supposed to be appealing?). If you’re looking for a little something to give as a gift or thank you (like coworkers or classmates, etc.), I don’t think people would be insulted by these. If you catch them on sale (as I did), they’re probably cheaper than a greeting card (and have a little “to & from” label on the bottom). These are definitely preferable to the Elmer’s I had yesterday (so splurge for the Russell Stover if you must buy these little boxes) and the label lists no trans fats.
Russell Stover also has an organic line. I picked up some pecan turtles (not wrapped for any particular holiday) that I’ll get to reviewing soon.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
I’ve always loved Junior Mints. They’re a lotta mint and not much chocolate, but then again their caloric density isn’t particularly high either.
Instead of just mixing it up for the holiday and making the mints heart shaped, they went one further and filled a random number of them (I’m going to go with half of them) with a red fondant. (I’m not sure if this is because they think that half of us are bleeding heart types or what.)
The candies themselves are quite a bit larger than the regular Junior Mint and are relatively pleasing, if kind of rustic looking. They’re not as polished and glossy looking as their non-holiday counterparts, but the heart shape is nicely executed. About half of mine had the red filling. There was no way of telling what filling I was going to get until I bit into it.
If I popped the whole thing in my mouth, I knew if it was a red one because there’s a bitter aftertaste. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a red food dye (or perhaps more than one) that tastes bitter to me (in this case it’s FD&C Red 40). Because it was a big box I amused myself guessing by taste whether or not the filling was red. (With the help of a mirror ... I didn’t dare have my friends or husband engage in this little experiment). About 70% of the time I was able to “taste” that a candy was red ... I didn’t have any cases where I guessed a plain filling was red.
So there you have it, bleeding hearts leave a bad taste in my mouth. (Yes, it was a long way to go for that joke.)
There’s another Valentines version of Junior Mints floating around called Inside Out which have colored coatings. Based on my opinion of the original limited edition version I’m not going to buy those.
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this review. Sera, a longtime reader and sweet photographer, suggested when I mentioned the All Valentines Week that I should get a hold of these boxed chocolates from Elmer’s.
I’d never heard of Elmer’s before. But when I went into the store, I found it even more shocking that I didn’t know who they were, because the stores are just filled to the gills with their heart shaped boxes of chocolates.
Most are on the small side, as this four piece box was, which pleased me that I didn’t need to buy a huge box. The design on the boxes is also rather, um, traditional. Some have pictures of puppies or kittens but most have roses or flowers of some sort.
After bringing the box home I was curious what was inside but I didn’t want to dig right in. So I asked the internets. What I found out was rather interesting. Elmer’s Chocolate only makes five chocolates for their mixed boxes: creamy caramel, chocolate truffle, chocolate fudge, strawberry cream and orange cream.
Milk Chocolate Rectangle is Orange Creme which is a tangy cross between Aspergum and a chocolate covered creamsicle.
Round Milk Chocolate is Soft Caramel - kind of milky tasting, a little salty, a bit creamy and offsets the far too sweet and grainy chocolate very well.
Dark Chocolate Rectangle is Orange Creme - okay, maybe this was strawberry, because it was more pink than orange, but it didn’t taste that way.
Milk Chocolate Square is Chocolate Fudge - sweet, not terribly chocolatey but a pretty smooth and pleasing texture.
Overall, I wasn’t pleased enough with the intensity of the flavors or the quality of the chocolate to want to buy these on sale next week after the holiday is over. But I was pleased enough to now want to try the Heavenly Hash and Gold Brick eggs for Easter as those seem to be the items that made the company famous. I guess when you consider that the box of chocolates is less expensive than a greeting card, it’s probably not a bad way to go as a small token.
On a side note, while exploring the internet in search of info about Elmer’s Candy, I noticed that their website had a copyright notice of 2003, the most recent press release (well only one) posted was from 2002. Their motto on the website is “The Freshest Ideas in Seasonal Candy” ... uh, yeah. Of course they also say that they’re the oldest family run candy business in the US (since 1855).
Other Notes: this box contains 1.5 grams of trans fat.
Monday, February 5, 2007
So here’s what’s up for this week (so far):
Yes, it looks like there will likely be two reviews per day (otherwise I’ll never get done before Valentine’s Day!).
UPDATE: 2/11/07 - Looks like I didn’t make it all the way through the list, but 15 reviews in one week ain’t bad! Maybe I’ll have more this week.
One of the more familiar candies that’s marketed for Valentine’s Day would be the Ferrero Rocher. They’re pretty candies all year round but during the season for lovers they’re placed in clear plastic heart-shaped domes of varying sizes.
I picked up a 3 pack because I was cheap and didn’t really want another heart-shaped box. It’s what’s inside that counts, right?
Ferrero is an Italian company that makes all sorts of hazelnut confections, some under the Ferrero name and others under the Kinder name. Their best known, perhaps, is Nutella, but they also make the Kinder Eggs, Tronky, Pocket Coffee, Kinder Bueno, Kinder Happy Hippos and Tic Tacs. The Ferrero Rocher wasn’t introduced until 1982 and didn’t make it to the US until 1985 but it has quickly filled a niche in the confectionery market as an upscale chocolate available at drug stores and grocers in more than 100 countries.
But what is a Ferrero Rocher? At its center is a whole hazelnut, surrounded by a chocolate hazelnut paste filling which is inside a light chocolate wafer sphere covered in more chocolate and crushed nuts.
These were nice and fresh and had a wonderful sweet chocolatey aroma mixed with the smell of hazelnuts. They’re a bit big, but can fit in your mouth as one bite, though I usually do it in two (to see if I get the whole hazenut in the first or the second). They’re very nutty which helps to keep them from being too sweet. They’re much better, as far as I’m concerned, than Tronky, Happy Hippos or Kinder Bueno. I think it’s that the hazelnuts are so strongly featured. The packaging is also quite smart and classic. If you see them on sale after Valentine’s, this is an excellent product to pick up.
Their caloric density is rather high (169 calories per ounce) so it’s a good indulgence for a special occasion or in moderation. There are no trans fats in them.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
The companion product to the Ferrero Rocher is the Mon Cheri. For a long time I though these had something to do with cherries, so I avoided them. But it turns out that only the European versions are cherry ... the American ones are simply a milk chocolate shell over a whole hazelnut surrounded by hazelnut paste and crushed hazelnuts.
These little morsels are the same size and shape as Ferrero’s devious little Pocket Coffee (well, the little lines on the top of the chocolate are diagonal on the Pocket Coffee).
During Valentine’s Mon Cheri are sold in all sorts of different heart shaped boxes but still not as prevalent as the Ferrero Rocher. But come on, the name alone means it doesn’t need special packaging! I did see a few assortments at the drug store that included Mon Cheri, Raphaello (an almond paste with crushed almonds in a cookie sphere covered with coconut and white chocolate) and, of course, Rochers.
I’m not quite as keen on these as I am on the Rochers, probably because it’s milk chocolate. If anything, they’re a milk chocolate version of Perugina’s Baci.
However, create a heart shaped box with a mix of these, Pocket Coffee and Rochers ... now we’re talking!
Note: though these are very high in calories and fat (44% of your RDA of saturated fat in every serving!) they also have 9% of your RDA of calcium and 5% of your RDA of iron.
UPDATE 2/15/2011: For those of you who miss the discontinued Ferrero Mon Cheri in the United States.
In Europe there is a candy made by Ferrero called Kusschen that is basically the same thing. They’re available in both milk and dark chocolate versions. See my update on this here with the review of a selection of Ferrero dark chocolate items, including the cherry version of the Mon Cheri.
Take out last month’s holiday searches and this month’s search strings are remarkably similar. Folks are looking for info abou Reese’s, Kissables, Butterfingers and Rockaleta.
I think the biggest surprise after being Farked over the weekend is that KitKat isn’t on the list (and hasn’t even made it into the top 20 before).
Friday, February 2, 2007
I picked up some more of the Cacao Reserve line at the 7-11. I figured it would be interesting to give them a try after my chocolate overload at the Fancy Food Show (and fancy should not always be confused with gourmet or even good).
I’ve already tried two of the Cacao Reserve bars, the Hazelnut in Milk Chocolate and 65% Dark Nibby Bar. And they were pretty good. I know that there are some folks who turn up their nose at Hershey’s attempt at upscale chocolate, but I don’t call this upscale ... it’s simply better quality. If I’m stuck making a chocolate choice at 7-11, I’m going to go for the Cacao Reserve Nibby bar over the waxy Ghirardelli every time.
The little tin is quite fun. It’s the same size as an Altoids tin. Yes, there are eight truffles in that wee little box. You know how they fit them in there? They’re wee truffles!
They look all homespun and enrobed/dipped but don’t be fooled, these are molded truffles. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Appearance accounts for a lot in candy and these are nice looking little chocolates.
Each is an easy single bite or two very small bites. The chocolate coating is a bit sweet and has a light acidic tang to it. It’s not terribly complex in the flavor area, just smooth and a bit on the smoky side with a mild dry finish. The truffle filling is rather bland, not as creamy as I would like but has a light salt hit in it that sets it apart from the shell.
The tin is a nice idea, an easy way to carry the little truffles without smashing them in some sort of wonky plastic tray. The price was a little steep, however. At $2.99 for the little tin that holds 1.8 ounces, that means a full pound purchased this way is $26.58. (Compare that with See’s selling a little 4 ounce Valentine’s heart for $5.25 a box which would mean the chocolate is going for $21 a pound.) Of course I wouldn’t go into 7-11 and buy things for the price, I’m sure these are available for quite a bit less at drug stores or mega-marts.
Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with this effort into high end chocolates. The centers were not smooth and creamy enough for my tastes when it comes to a truffle indulgence. However, this has not put me off from my curiosity about the other bars in the Cacao Reserve line.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.