Friday, April 13, 2007
After my pleasant first experience with CocoaVia last year I was happy to find that CocoaVia was at the ExpoWest trade show back in January. It meant that I could try more of their products without shoveling out oodles of dough. They were sampling their milk chocolate covered raisins, which I thought tasted like milk chocolate raisins. They also had a large assortment of their bars out there. It was hard to talk to the folks at the booth for all the attendees grabbing the free samples by the handful, but I stood my ground in the crush and had a nice conversation with the CocoaVia people.
I like the idea of portion control. I had a little problem with those big tubs at Trader Joe’s sometimes, because I will just keep eating from it. I learned a long time ago to take a handful and put it in a little dish, close up the tub and put it away and then enjoy my treat.
I think CocoaVia’s idea for a portion controlled sweet is two-fold - small individually wrapped packages sold only five at a time. And charge $20 a pound.
Chocolate Snack Bar - the package on this one is a bit deceptive. It just shows some chunks of chocolate but it’s really a bar of crispy/chewy grains with a chocolate base. It feels much more filling than the 80 calories might ordinarily seem.
The crisped rice and grain crunch is mellow and malty while the chocolate gives it a creamy and tasty component. Yeah, it could be bigger, but it’s a supplement bar, not dessert. (The ingredients on this bar list Almonds and Peanuts.)
80 calories and 25% of our daily RDA of Calcium, 15% of your Vitamin E and 10% of your B6, B12, Folic Acid and Vitamin C.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Crispy Chocolate Bar - seemed to be more accurate on the picture front, little chunks of chocolate with itty-bitty crispies mixed in. The bar is dark and has a very green and smoky taste to it. And a bitter aftertaste. This was a seriously strong bar with a dry finish. Not really an indulgence, I felt like I was working to find the pleasant flavors instead of just enjoying it.
I waited a couple of days and tried again and I’m gonna have to pass on this one, it’s just too bitter. It’s like eating a spoonful of cocoa.
90 calories and 10% of your RDA of Folic Acid, Vitamin C & B12, 15% of your Vitamin E & B6 and 30% of your Calcium.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Milk Chocolate Bar - was very nice. Super creamy and smooth with great chocolate notes and some caramelized milk flavors. This bar was softer than the other ones (you can see it even melted a little bit under my hot studio light when I was taking the picture).
It reminds me a lot of the Dove milk chocolate, which shouldn’t be surprising since they’re both made by Mars. However, there is an odd bitter (and only slight) aftertaste for me. It’s a little metallic and it could just be the fortifications, but it makes it less like candy for me.
110 calories and 20% of your RDA of Calcium, 15% of your Vitamin E & B6, 10% of your Vitamin C, Folic Acid & B12.
Rating: 5 out of 10
These are all okay, but I still have to say that their best innovation so far is the Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds. I even found them locally at Shim’s Produce (it’s kind of like the 99 Cent store of grocers). They had stacks of boxes for only 99 Cents. I thought there must be something wrong with them and only bought one, but it was just fine (expiration date of July).
That brings me back to the huge drawback of the CocoaVia line. The price. At about $5 a box of five, it’s pretty harsh for the pocket book and not terribly satisfying to the sweet tooth. If anything I’d feel obligated to finish something I don’t like because I paid so much for it.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I’ve been a big admirer of Chuao since I found it last year. They use all El Rey chocolate and combine classic and contemporary ingredients for tantalizing and fresh flavor combinations. While you can only get their best items at their shops or online (such as their bon bons) they did introduce their quaint little ChocoPod (review here), which are great little nibbles of chocolate perfect for an accompaniment for your coffee-house fare.
This year they’re expanding their ChocoPod line with their new collection of filled ChocoPod.
Chuao gave me a sampler box (sorry, not available to the public) so I could try all the flavors.
Picante - spicy Cabernet caramel. This one had a lovely tangy and fruity flavor that gave my throat quite a burn. (Dark Chocolate)
Passion - passion fruit and caramel. I’m not usually a big fan of passion fruit (or guava or papaya for that matter), but this was fab. It was sweet and grapey and mellow. It makes we want to give passion fruits another try. (Dark Chocolate)
Modena - strawberry & balsamic caramel. I’ve had this one as a bonbon, it has a great fruity flavor with a very noticeable dark tang to it from the balsamic. What it’s missing, for me, is the caramelized/burnt sugar notes that would bring out the deeper flavors. (Dark Chocolate)
Candela - spicy macadmia praline. Ugh, I did not like this one at all. The texture was great, the praline was a little crunchy from the caramelized sugar, but macadamia are just not a good flavor to me. Since this was a macadamia paste, there wasn’t even the macadamia texture as a reprieve. Again, totally a personal thing. (Dark Chocolate)
Banana - banana brown sugar caramel. This is the flat version of the Cambur bonbon I love so much. Sweet and salty with a wonderful fresh banana flavor. A little on the sweet side, but this one had more in the chocolate department than the bonbon does. (Milk Chocolate)
Dulce de Leche - milk caramel. Wonderfully milky, rather sticky on the tongue but with a good complex cooked milk and sugar taste. (Milk Chocolate)
Since I was a big fan of the Cambur (the bonbon version of the Banana), I’m enthusiastic about the idea of being able to pick these up at a coffee house. (Might I suggest Chuao’s sales staff contact my favorite coffee house, Sabor y Cultura in Hollywood and see about getting them into that cafe?) I know they’re a bit more expensive than some treats, but the size and proportion are just right for me.
YumSugar also gave these a try. She didn’t like the Banana as much as I did, but gave the set a thumbs up. I haven’t seen these in stores yet, but you can order online right now. Banana and Dulce de Leche aren’t available yet. (So if you have to order, just get them in the BonBon version!)
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
There’s been some news on the FDA Chocolate Standards change since my last post.
First, Guittard Chocolate Company has issued a press release. Below is a quote from Gary Guittard, the fourth generation chocolatemaker:
But what I thought was especially interesting was this point that the release also brought up:
Go read the whole thing.
There are a few things to remember. The new standards will expand the definition of chocolate, which will still include the current standards. This means that the chocolate that we know and love may continue to exist by those manufacturers that have customers who value their quality product. However, because of the new latitude, the cocoa butter which we know and revere for its unique mouthfeel may be replaced in part or total by other vegetable fats in products on the market that you already purchase.
I know, an oil is an oil right? You use them interchangeably all the time! Making a salad dressing? Olive oil is the same as partially hydrogenated coconut oil, isn’t it? Of course not! If you wouldn’t do it to your salad, why on earth would you do it to your chocolate?
The permission to substitute is a degradation of the already liberal standards for chocolate. It provides no benefit to the consumer. I’ve said this before, it’s perfectly legal for a confectioner to make a coconut oil based mockolate product and sell it right now. Why do they want to call it chocolate? For you? No, it’s for them to be able to sell you a cheaper product under the same name as a well-respected and high quality product. Sure, you’ll know it just by reading the ingredients, but when I buy something called orange juice, I expect the juice of oranges. When I buy chocolate, I expect the whole bean elements to be present.
In the mean time, I’ve also been doing my darndest to get a hold of the actual FDA document that we’re supposed to be commenting on. I know it seems silly, but don’t you think that the FDA has an obligation to post the document for public review within the window for public comment? Keep an eye on this page, perhaps it will be posted soon.
I’ve also contacted the Chocolate Manufacturers Association for their comment on this and I’ll have more to report on that. (I got a response, I just need to go through it completely.)
Jim Bumgardner of KrazyDad put together this completely awesome mosaic of the candy review photos from Candy Blog.
It runs on Flash and shows itty bitty thumbnails of over 1,000 photos I’ve taken over the past two years. Roll over one of them, and a larger one will pop up for closer view (and drool). Then click on the photo and it’ll take you to the Flickr.com page with the photo (and hopefully there will be a link to the review back here if I’ve done my captioning correctly). You can view the photos in a boring static mode here.
The mosaic will be updated periodically with new candy photos, so you’ll always be able to browse the archives in a way more befitting this eye candy.
Note: you’ll have to disable any pop-up blockers on the CoverPop site. Don’t worry, there’s no ads there. Not only that, he’s got a discount coupon code at Old Time Candy if you hafta hafta order something when you’re done. Check out Jim’s other Coverpops while you’re there, too.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
So last night on the way home from work I stopped at Walgreen’s and CVS to see what was still around. Both had 50% off sales. Now, this may sound like a good deal, but this is off of the “regular” price, which they don’t usually sell stuff for anyway. (At least I don’t buy stuff at regular price.)
Here’s what I got:
1 large package of Peeps Yellow Bunnies (I might do more mashups)
2 Snickers Creme Eggs (I didn’t try these before and didn’t realize they’re different from the Snickers Eggs I tried last year)
2 Bags of (7 ounces) SweeTart Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies
1 Bag of 8.5 ounces) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Eggs (still PGPR free!)
There isn’t much in online sale land. Godiva hasn’t put their stuff on sale yet, there are a few things at Lake Champlain and See’s never seems to have sales. Pop a note here if you see a great deal though.
Deeper discounts come as more time elapses, but then the selection decreases. The trick, I’ve found, is to shop at a store where people don’t usually stock up on candy. I’m not going to tell you where that is until I’ve plundered their selection yet! (I love you, sweet readers, but not that much!) I’m actually looking for stuff like the Lindt bunnies and Easter truffle assortments I saw a few weeks ago, but no luck yet.
I’m going to do a little deeper digging later this week (I have a bunch of deadlines right now and can’t quite devote as much time to candy acquisitions as I’d like). What have you found so far?
Das Foods is a curious little company that carries the two essential products for human life: Salt and Caramels. (I keeeed ... everyone knows that chocolate is also essential.) Aside from the heaps of Hawaiian sea salts in a rainbow of colors you’ll find that the Fleur de Sal Caramels are priced about the same (well, a smidge more expensive, but then again they’re individually wrapped ... try that with salt!).
The little boxes are deceptively small. But pick one up and it’s a dense, quarter-pounder with caramels. Each caramel is wrapped tightly in wax paper (folded, not twisted, space is at a premium here). As an artisan product they’re hand cut and vary in shape and size but most are about an inch long and a half an inch square. The flavors lean on the classic side with a few surprises.
These are very soft caramels, smooth, buttery and creamy with a big zap of salt crystals. (I had to re-form the unwrapped one in the picture because it kind of pulled and elongated when I unwrapped it.)
Classic - a smooth and creamy caramel with the lightest touch of honey and lavender.
Chai Latte - a lovely and mild combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom with just a hint of cloves. The creamy buttery flavors blend well with the light spices.
Orange & Honey - these smelled juicy and zesty. The orange was a great addition to a traditional caramel, but the salt here was just too much. I’m not sure if the proportion is different of I just got a batch that had a little too much tipped into it. I didn’t finish these.
Ginger & Pistachio - oh, this was a lovely combo. The green nuttiness of the pistachios went so well with the buttery background of the caramels, and far into the chew the rooty-spicy flavor of the ginger came out (but no burn). Not as salty as the other, just the right hit to make the other flavors noticeable. These were the first to be consumed.
Though Das Foods carries a wide variety of salts, all of these caramels featured Fleur de Sel (Hand Harvested French Sea Salt).
They make two other varieties I didn’t try: Chocolate Walnut and Lemon & Honey. The website says that they source their ingredients locally (except that sea salt) to their Highwood, IL kitchen. My only complaint was how devilishly hard it was to get the waxed wrapper off some of them. It was easier if they were chilled slightly, but then that made them firmer in the mouth. Somewhere in the cool of the morning there was a compromise of a low room temperature that meant I could take the wrapper off but still chew the caramel. (I have to say that as wrappers go, if I end up eating waxed paper it’s not nearly as bad as eating cellophane or, the worst, foil.)
I don’t think these are available in stores, but Das has a webstore.
Monday, April 9, 2007
I thought I’d put together a list of the conversations I’ve seen out there about the FDA’s proposed shift in the definition of chocolate to include products without cocoa butter. Thanks to everyone for the linky love on the issue!
David at DavidLebovitz.com
Nic at BakingBites
Coasting Granny at Grannie’s Tasties
jsu at Topix.net
Kate at AccidentalHedonist.com
Meg at NotMartha.org
MFred33 at Center of the Universe
Noirbettie at Through the Looking Glass
Can I just say Wow! It makes me feel like we’re mobilizing ... that we might actually be heard on the issue. (Those were in no particular order and I may have some blog names wrong.)
On the other side of the fence we have some interesting commentary (and I totally understand some of their points):
Hopefully I’ll be updating this list or posting a new one as the word spreads. Remember, April 25th is the deadline for comments. (Anyone who’s posted about it is eligible for a raffle ticket for my Keep it Real Raffle, too!)
I saved this review for after Easter. They package makes them look like an Easter product, but after having those Godiva eggs (even if they were freaktacularlly expensive), there was just no way that they were going to compare well. Now that they’re a distant memory, I feel that I can give the Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses my undivided attention.
I have to say that I loved the blue wave design on the foil. It was tropical and also different enough from the other foils out there that I could guess that this was coconut.
Inside the foil was a molded Kiss with a soft creme filling of coconut.
The shell of the Kisses were rather greasy. This wasn’t as noticeable when I chilled the Kisses (thanks for the suggestion!), but the chocolate outside still felt a little weird on the tongue, no matter the temperature. A little cool, a little less crumbly that the regular Kiss chocolate and of course it tasted like coconut before you got to the center.
The filling was interesting. The creme part was actually more like creme and less like fondant than the Cherry Cordial Creme I tried before. This actually seemed a bit buttery. There were also crisp little flecks of coconut in there.
It’s not at all like an Almond Joy center.
I enjoyed them, but I don’t think I’m a fan. The greasiness is just offputting. It makes the little flags translucent and of course makes my fingers oily if I linger too long while unwrapping. I enjoyed the nutty taste, but I know some other people didn’t like them. I found the lighter flavor of coconut like munching on some chocolate and suntan lotion. Like a summer at the pool. (Okay, maybe that’s not an appealing image, but it’s been so gloomy and overcast here in Los Angeles lately, maybe I’m just looking for something ‘sunny’.)
Note: These are limited edition, but it’s unclear if they are an Easter item. Some stores will put all the Limited Edition stuff on sale with the Easter goodies (that’s how I got my KitKat Mini Dark Mint), so keep a look out ... when in doubt just ask!
UPDATE April 12, 2009: Coconut Kisses returned again for srping 2009. Since some folks have noted it in the comments, I did taste this years version and agree, they’re not greasy. Perhaps Hershey’s rectified the ingredient/production issue that was making them that way.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.