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December 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nestle Toll House Mint Holiday Gems

The winter holidays seem to be a time of mint. Peppermint candy canes, mint marshmallows and of course all manner of minted chocolate. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see these Nestle Toll House Mint Holiday Gems at KMart last week.

Mint Holiday Gems

They’re pretty much self-explanatory,  but for the record the package says, “Mint Semi Sweet Morsels with Red and Green Nonpariels.”

The only quibble I have is that the nonpariels don’t look particularly red to me. They look kinda pink. Hot pink, or fuschia or something.

Other than that, they’re little chocolate chips with colored nonpariels pressed into them. The semi-sweet chocolate is heavily minted, enough to create that cooling sensation in the mouth. There is a little bit of room for the chocolate flavor and the texture is pretty much that of a chocolate chip (a little more grainy than a chocolate bar). They’re strangely addictive, I chomped down most of them with my morning coffee. (The nonpariels do have a light bitter taste to me because of the red dye #40, your mileage may vary.)

It’s a nice change up from eating chocolate chips but the thing that puzzled me about them is that Nestle went with the Toll House brand for these and not the SnoCaps. As far as similarity to the SnoCaps line, these only differ by the fact they have the mint in them. As far as Toll House morsels go these have the addition of mint, the addition of nonpariels and they’re sold in a box instead of a 12 ounce bag.

They are Kosher but the chocolate contains milkfat and means they’re not vegan.

Related Candies

  1. Jo’s Peppermint Crunch
  2. Craves Chocolate Sticks
  3. 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate
  4. Short & Sweet: Butterfinger Jingles and Mint Miniatures
Name: Nestle Toll House Mint Holiday Gems
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: KMart (Torrance)
Price: $1.19
Size: 3.1 ounces
Calories per ounce: 128
Categories: Chocolate, Mint, United States, Nestle, Christmas, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:09 am     Comments (2)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark White Chocolate Bar

I’m not sure what the precise name of this item is, as there are lotsa different things on the package, different sizes, different fonts. I’m going to go with Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark White Chocolate Bar. The description clears this up, “White chocolate covers a bar of dark chocolate & peppermint bits.”

image

Though the bar looks kind of like some sort of yogurt-covered meal replacement bar, it’s actually high-density candy. It’s pretty hefty at 2.25 ounces. It’s all-natural, with the pink coloring coming from beet juice. The white chocolate is real, with the first ingredients being sugar and cocoa butter. So be prepared, this is a fatty, fatty bar. The recommended dosage for some reason is 2/3 of the bar which clocks in with 36% of your daily RDA of saturated fats (though none of them trans).

But it’s the holidays!

The core of the bar is a solid plank of semi-sweet chocolate with a light peppermint essence in it. Then it’s coated in a generous layer of white chocolate studded with crushed peppermint candies.

If you’re a fan of peppermint bark, this is a good, portable option. High quality ingredients. Nice packaging (the bar is sealed in plastic/foil wrapper inside) and a decent price at $1.49 (this works out to about $10.50 a pound). I wanted more texture difference, more crunch, maybe not quite such a thick chunk.

It’s a good stocking stuffer or just a little treat for yourself when you don’t want to buy a huge tin of peppermint bark.

Related Candies

  1. Jo’s Peppermint Crunch
  2. Andes Mints & Dessert Indulgence
  3. Craves Chocolate Sticks
  4. The Mint Kisses: Chocolate Mint & Candy Cane
  5. Short & Sweet: Butterfinger Jingles and Mint Miniatures
Name: Peppermint Bark White Chocolate Bar
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe's
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
Price: $1.49
Size: 2.25 ounces
Calories per ounce: 149
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Mint, Trader Joe's, United States, Christmas, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:54 am     Comments (8)

Trader Joe’s Designer Chocolates

Trader Joe's Designer ChocolatesThe Trader Joe’s Designer Chocolates come in a lovely red, matte pinstripe box with a little clear cellophane window to view the sassy morsels.

The box heralds that there are “Six Stylish Varieties” and that they’re “Imported from Belgium.” While I like my chocolates to be attractive (and perhaps even stylish), I’m much more interested in them tasting good. The back of the little sleeve goes on to say, “Our hand-decorated chocolates are crafted by a European chocolatier who was among the first to create designs directly on the chocolate’s surface. Our collection contains six distinctive styles with exotic fillings such as Grand Arabica and Cardamom & Orange.”

Trader Joe's Designer ChocolatesLike most of the other chocolates at Trader Joe’s, these are nestled in a plastic tray with no fluted cups for the candies. While the tray does a great job of protecting each piece, it does make it a little harder to just pluck the pieces out and put them on a plate for serving. I guess we’re supposed to bring the whole box to the table or something.

The inside of the lid provides the key for the chocolates. The varieties include: Cardamom & Orange, English Toffee, Winter Spice, Grand Arabica, Yucatan and Double Hazelnut. While half of them feature a dark chocolate coating, all have a milk chocolate center of some sort. This was not communicated on the exterior of the package, so I was a bit disappointed. However, the pieces are a generous “two bite” size. Not too big so that you can’t have a nice variety to taste and not too small that you don’t get a good burst of the flavors.

Trader Joe's Designer Chocolates

  • Cardamom & Orange (Milk Chocolate) - this was by far the flavor combo that made me purchase this box. The orange is very strong and the cardamom makes a good show as well. It’s sweet and milky but I really enjoyed it. My biggest problem was that the flavor infected the rest of the box. So I took out the remaining piece and let the rest of them sit without it in the box for several days before continuing my tasting. All still had the orange note to it, but I’m going to ignore that in the rest of the review.
  • English Toffee (Milk Chocolate) - I thought this might be actual toffee or caramel of some sort. Instead it’s a milk chocolate center with a toffee-flavored center. They could have told me it was rum flavored and I would have believed that, too.
  • Winter Spice (Milk Chocolate) - this is the milk one that has the little dark “leaves” on it. The spices are gentle, a little dash of cinnamon and maybe some extra vanilla. I’m not sure why they couldn’t just call it cinnamon. It’s sweet and pleasant.
  • Grand Arabica (Dark Chocolate) - this one had a slight grain to the center, it was a little bit like a hazelnut praline but with a strong coffee component (the crunches turn out to be coffee beans). It was tasty.
  • Yucatan (Dark Chocolate) - this one is billed as milk chocolate, hazelnut and cacao nibs. I really wished the center was darker. The nibs gave it a little extra boost of chocolate though the hazelnut flavors were a little lost. The nibs weren’t big, just a little bit of a light grain.
  • Double Hazelnut (Dark Chocolate) - this was the surprising winner of the box. I was dubious when it said double hazelnut, but the center has a lovely caramelized hazelnut crunch along with a milk chocolate hazelnut paste filling. Smooth and melty, wonderfully nutty and complemented by the dark chocolate enrobing.
  • I’ve always preferred enrobed or dipped chocolates to molded ones, so these win on that mark. The flavors aren’t as adventurous as some others that look similar and they’re not really that distinctively different from each other. I’d love to have some darker experiences (or at least know that it wasn’t to be).

    The packaging is by far the most appealing at Trader Joe’s as well. Just slip off the little sleeve and it’s a sassy looking presentation box. As far as value goes, at $6 for 7 ounces ($13.59 per pound), this is nice stuff with real ingredients. If you know you’re never going to be able to afford the stuff at thrice the price (well, more but saying quintuple doesn’t rhyme) such as MarieBelle, Recchiuti or Richart, this is fun “pretend” chocolates to simply enjoy but not necessarily savor. They definitely come in on the winner side of hostess gifts.

    Related Candies

    1. Trader Joe’s Espresso Chocolate
    2. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
    3. Head to Head: Target vs Trader Joe’s
    4. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie
    5. Boule Chocolates and Fruit Pate
    Name: Designer Chocolates
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
    Price: $5.99
    Size: 7.05 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 148
    Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, Nuts, Belgium, Trader Joe's, Christmas

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:53 am     Comments (8)

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Trader Joe’s Peppermint Marshmallows

    Trader Joe's Peppermint MarshmallowsAs disappointed as I was that the Peppermint Peep Stars had artificial sweeteners, I was just as excited to see that Trader Joe’s has Peppermint Marshmallows that are not only all natural, but also Kosher! (Which basically means that they’re using Kosher gelatin, which is non-porcine.)

    However, Nicole at Baking Bites already had a review of them, which didn’t say they were bad, just that she wasn’t thrilled with the flavor. I still really wanted to try them, especially because it was Hanukkah.

    The large marshmallow cubes come in a little tub and weigh a hefty 7 ounces. The packaging was a bit, well, feminine with all its pink and green-ness. But it was refreshingly un-holiday, which might mean that they’d be an all-year product. When they say that they’re all natural, they’re not kidding. The pink swirls are created with red radish juice.

    Trader Joe's Peppermint MarshmallowsThey’re only vaguely pink with some little streaks of darker pink inside some of them. They were very hard to get out of the tub. The first one I mangled (but put back together for the photo) so I just dumped the whole tub out and lightly teased them apart. (Perhaps some waxed paper between them in the future?)

    They felt very strange and fleshy in the hand. A little bouncy, a little latexy and not terribly light for a marshmallow. The outer texture was a little grainy, I’m guessing where the moisture of the marshmallow mixed with the sugar and dusting of corn starch. They smell like peppermint, but on the medicinal side somehow. Like toothpaste. And maybe mentholated rubbing alcohol.

    The first time I bit into one I was puzzled and repulsed. I made my husband and a neighbor try it. They were both, well, not thrilled (and I had to give them something nice to eat after that). I waited a couple of days and dug around into the bottom of the tub to see if that was just a bad couple of squares.

    It’s like eating toothpaste. They’re kind of fluffy, but not light. The texture is grainy, like a sugar paste. I can only imagine this is a bad batch because Nicole’s looked more like marshmallows and less like wads of chewed bread dough.

    I went back and looked at Nicole’s photo and realized that this must be a bad batch. My best indication for this is that the tub weighed over 10 ounces (the marked weight is 7). So I went back to the store on Hyperion in Silverlake. All of the others on the shelf looked the same and were the same lot number, so I passed (and obviously picked up a bunch of other goodies you’ve been reading about this week). I also told the manager on duty that there was something wrong with them. I figured another store would have a different batch. So today I went off on my lunch break to the location on Third and La Brea. Sadly I didn’t memorize the lot number and ended up buying the same lot (1101071730 exp 01/26/2008) and finding the same grainy consistency (and this package weighed 9.8 ounces according to my postage scale).

    I shouldn’t have to work this hard. (I haven’t decided if I’m going to take these back. At $4, I want something that’s at least the intended quality, even if I don’t like it.)

    As far as buying artisan marshmallows, I’d say stick with either one of the actual artisan companies (Plush Puffs, Little Flower Candy Company & Boule are some good Los Angeles-based ones) or go for the French ones from Arnaud Soubeyran or the Williams Sonoma house brand (I tried them last year but never got around to reviewing them, they’re very dense and latexy but really satisfying). Or just get some Jet Puffed. It’s sad, because these are the first Kosher marshmallows I’ve found.

    Related Candies

    1. GudFud Stuffed Marshmallows
    2. Frankford Marshmallow Hearts
    3. Artisan Marshmallows: Plush Puffs
    4. See’s Scotchmallow
    Name: Peppermint Marshmallows
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake & 3rd and La Brea)
    Price: $3.99
    Size: 7 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 60
    Categories: Mint, Marshmallow, United States, Trader Joe's, All Natural, Kosher, Christmas

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:43 am     Comments (18)

    Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels

    imageLast year Trader Joe’s had a standout product called Fleur de Sel Caramels (they’re back for 2007 as well). Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels seem to be capitalizing on the trend of the salted caramel and throwing in dark chocolate for kicks.

    It’s obviously a seasonal item as well, with little string/line drawings of pine trees and the green theme. The package says, “buttery smooth caramels drenched in Belgian chocolate then sprinkled with crunchy rock salt from the Dead Sea.” Wow, Belgium ... the Dead Sea ... and they’re made in Ireland. I feel so worldly.

    image

    This is one of those instances where the product looks pretty much like the photo on the package, so no disappointment there. Although out of the box they had a little dusting of microfine salt dust. (A little paintbrush took care of that for the photoshoot.) They smell nice, like chocolate and a little hint of butter.

    The box has a plastic tray with a dozen little chocolate covered caramels. They fit snugly, so there were no problems with dented or broken pieces, though there were a few salt chunks rattling around.

    Biting into them they have a light flowing caramel filling. It’s not glossy smooth like advertised though. There’s a very slight grain to it, but it’s completely consistent. (I wonder if this is because the boxes are displayed above the frozen food and the package specifically says “do not refrigerate”.)

    There’s something a little off about the buttery-ness of them though. It’s too buttery. In fact, it’s butter flavored. Looking at the ingredients I found that way down at the end was something called “natural butter toffee flavoring”. It’s not that there isn’t butter in there. There’s lots of butter fat and milk and sweetened condensed milk. But for some reason they felt the need to give it that extra little push. It’s still all natural, but unnecessary. The crunchy bits of salt were a nice touch, not too much and a good texture complement.

    Personally, I prefer the thicker, chewier texture of caramel that also has more complex burnt sugar flavors. (Remember the recent poll?) I think I’d like those other Fleur de Sel Caramels covered in chocolate. They were gorgeous.

    Related Candies

    1. Dove Caramels & Chocolate Covered Almonds
    2. Das French Salted Caramels
    3. Sanders Caramels & Titans
    4. Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels
    Name: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
    Price: $4.99
    Size: 6.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 139
    Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Trader Joe's, All Natural, Christmas

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:57 am     Comments (26)

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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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