Monday, March 17, 2008
Ferrero always does a nice job of packaging their chocolates. They’re best known for their clear plastic boxes, which show off the lovely foil wrappings of their spheres of Rocher, Rondnoir and now the Ferrero Garden.
While most of what you’re paying for in these boxes is the box itself, for drug store or discounter fare, the Ferrero line is dependable and unique enough in its offerings that I’m often drawn to it.
Ferrero sent me a box of one of their special packages for Easter. This one is the Prestige assortment, which includes their trio of favorites weighing 4.8 ounces and shaped like an egg. There are five Rochers, four Rondnoir and four Garden (13 pieces total, I don’t know if that’s a comment on the Last Supper or not ... I’m doubting it).
I’ve reviewed the Rafaello and the Mon Cheri, but not the Garden. Honestly, I thought it was the Rafaello, just thrown inside some silver foil and given a new name. And it pretty much is.
There seems to be a lighter coconut coating, and instead of being completely spherical, these have a little flat bottom. The top has a little dollop & drizzle of a white confection (they call it meringue, but really it’s more like a white chocolate).
Inside is a milky tasting cream and a little sliver of almond. It’s all very sweet but has a nice touch of coconut and the crisp of the wafer cookie sphere balances it all well.
The assortment here has a good balance between the very sweet, mild & nutty and dark intense chocolate. The plastic tray can be popped out and the domed egg container can be reused. (There are no stickers to take off or anything.) The only drawback is that the plastic box doesn’t stay closed very well when tipped up on its side, so it’s more of a display box than a utility one.
They also come in other shapes, like bunnies and a stand-up egg. These should retail for about $5.50. (The non-holiday version of this is $6.99 on the Walgreen’s website for 5.5 ounces.)
What New Orleans may have been lacking was a European-style chocolatier. That changed when Joel Dondis (who already has two restaurants in NOLA) opened Sucre late last year. By the way, I think that’s the perfect proportion - one sweet shop for every two restaurants. Some cities may approach that, but Los Angeles is certainly woefully under-sweeted. (No, I don’t count frozen yogurt.)
Torrone - Double cream milk chocolate ganache paired with a sweet hazelnut wafer crunch
Crispy little hazelnut crunch bits (kind of like corn flakes), sweet and creamy chocolate.
Avery - Caramel and milk chocolate ganache enhanced by salt from the Avery Mines, presented in the shape of a Fleur de Lis
Mine didn’t look quite like a Fleur de Lis, but still, it had some nice burnt sugar notes in a ganache center.
Sucre Dark - Our signature, showcasing our single bean chocolate from the Maracaibo region of Venezuela
Tangy, a bit dry and very dark with some berry and nutty butter notes
Blange - Inspired by Paul Blange’s Bananas Foster, this white chocolate ganache is finished with fresh banana and a hint of rum
A light banana flavor, kind of green with a hint of nutmeg and pudding. Not quite enough bananas or foster for me ... this was the one I was really looking forward to.
The Lavender one ... I couldn’t find a description for this, but basically it felt like a nice dark chocolate ganache with a light violet essence to it. But I could have just been tasting the purple. Later I thought maybe it was jasmine, which is something that I associate with the deep south.
Meunierre - A New Orleans classic made sweeter, a brown butter and toasted almond infused white chocolate ganache (Molded Fleur de Lis)
Nice salty and creamy center with just a little darker undertone
Lemon Confit - A zesty ganache of dark chocolate and lemon
An interesting little cigarette shaped chocolate. The chocolate isn’t the star here, it’s the lemon zest, with a light tang of lemon juice as well. I could have used a bit more chocolate, a bit more creaminess. Really, I didn’t like this one.
Magnolia - Pecan ganache finished with a southern pecan half
Sweet and soft filling, nutty notes of pecan that mixes well with the chocolate shell
Sicillian Pistachio cinnamon & vanilla complement the silky white chocolate ganache
Grassy and floral, the white chocolate seems to stand up well to the cinnamon.
I liked the variations in the flavors, the chocolate was well tempered and each piece was lovely. The ingredients tasted fresh and the chocolate was very high quality. I really liked the variations in the shapes of the pieces. There’s nothing wrong with everything being little squares, but in this case I found that the shapes really provided an additional dimension to each tiny experience.
The shop also sells French-style macarons, panned nuts, muscadines, pate de fruits and the cafe experience in the store promises much more from their dessert case.
The box was well packaged for shipping, which I note because of some of my bad experiences lately.
I’m not sure if I would order these up special, but I definitely have them on my list of places to stop at when I’m in New Orleans or check out if I see in another shop. It’s pricey stuff though, so it’s probably reserved for very special ocassions or people with large amounts of disposable income.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Gimbal’s is one of those candy companies where you’ve probably had their products, you just don’t realize it because they’re often sold in bulk. They have fun little sour jelly stars, sour sanded bears and licorice scottie dogs.
They also have an extensive line of Gourmet Jelly Beans.
They’re similar to Jelly Belly, they’re a similar smaller size, have different color codings for the flavors and in this instance, come in an assortment of dozens of flavors in one bag (41 in this case). I’ve seen these 7 ounce bags for sale at Walgreen’s, usually for about $2. I know that CandyDirect.com sells single flavors of these (and you may find them in bulk bins that aren’t identified by brand). At only $3.40 a pound online, that’s about a third off to half off the price of Jelly Belly.
I don’t have tasting notes for absolutely every flavor, but here are a few of the highlights of what I picked out of the mix over the past week:
Tiramisu - like a caramel coffee creamer.
Too many reds! There’s cherry, cinnamon, raspberry, fruit punch, red delicious. I had similar problems with the orange/yellow things. But this is an issue with many candies that have too many flavors in one bag.
I’d probably prefer to buy a more narrow mix of these, like just fruits or maybe carnival flavors (toasted marshmallow, bubble gum, red delicious, root beer… maybe someone needs to invent a funnel cake flavor).
The beans are nicely formed and all had an even amount of distinctive flavor.
Gimbal’s is not only Kosher, but also a facility free of most of the major allergens. They are tree nut/peanut, gelatin, gluten, dairy and egg free. So if you like Jelly Belly but have to avoid gluten and peanuts, this would be an excellent option. As a bonus, Gimbal’s are less expensive than Jelly Belly. Just harder to find.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Just to make things clear, the package says, “Tangy Fruit Flavors” ... just in case people thought they were some other assortment of flavors associated with Smarties. They never actually say which fruits they are, though.
Actually, I think Smarties are an ideal Easter candy, with their pastel colors and light flavors. I like Smarties. I like their lack of flavor, the way they dissolve so quickly and smoothly. I like their tiny tablet size, their light colors and complete indistinguishableness from one another.
These jelly beans were about the same price as others are these days, retail of $1.99.
The shell is a dry and a little crumbly and cool on the tongue (as dextrose usually is). The shells have a tangy and flavorful layer. The flavors aren’t very strong or complex. Grape is the most vivid, in that grape soda way. Green apple is pretty mild. Blue tastes like ball point pen ink smells (I think it’s raspberry). Cherry is very tart and then very sweet but less bitter than most pink/red cherry candies. Lemon was probably the sweetest of the bunch.
What was missing was the white Smarties, you know, that one that we all think is pineapple and is by far the best. (What? You don’t think so, too?)
The colors are bright and opaque, rather like highlighter pens. The funny part is that Smarties actually makes their lack of color in their compressed dextrose tablets a selling point. From their website:
In the case of these little jelly beans, I think they’re using just as much dye as everyone else. Most of all I noticed the similarities between the Smarties Jelly Bean and the SweeTarts Jelly Beans.
So I gathered up an assortment of both and put them side by side. The SweeTarts Jelly Beans are on the left and the Smarties Jelly Beans are on the right. They are extremely close in colors, although the Smarties are missing the orange one completely.
The beans were essentially identical with the Smarties being slightly more flavorful, mostly in the tangy layer. The colors very little but the purple and the green are the easiest to tell apart by looking at them and the blue in the SweeTarts version is punch flavor, not raspberry.
I really don’t have a preference of one over the other. If you have a choice, I say go with whichever is cheaper or whichever brand you feel you prefer to support.
They’re both made in Canada and come in 14 ounce bags, though their ingredients label differs slightly ... so it’s entirely possible that this factory churns both out under contract with Nestle or CeDe Candy.
While all of the Smarties compressed dextrose products are gluten, nut and milk free, the Smarties Jelly Beans are made in Canada and are made in a facility that processes all the hit-list allergens: peanuts, nuts, milk products, soy products, wheat, eggs and sesame seeds.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
No, I was not in some sort of sugar-shock. Just a little site difficulties today with some nasty spammers clogging up the works. My apologies to anyone who was trying to visit earlier today and had trouble reaching the site.
I’ve disabled a few things while I wait for it to abate, so I’ll turn comments back on soon and the search will be back shortly after that.
All I can say is that I really, really want some chocolate now. (The photo is of some organic gummi worms ... it’s intended to reflect how I felt about my recent spam infestation and in no way reflects my affection for the actual candy.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.