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May 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mamba Sours

All Candy Expo begins in one week, and here I am still sitting on samples from the last show! Part of the reason that I haven’t told you about Mamba Sours yet was because I didn’t see them in stores. Sometimes I review stuff that isn’t out, but most of the time I like to time my reviews of new items to when they actually hit shelves.

Finally I stumbled across them at a truck stop in Westley, CA and figured if they were there, they were probably in other more accessible stores.

Mamba Sour

Mambas are made by Storck, who also makes some other interesting candies like Toffeefay, Chocolate Riesen and probably most famously, Werther’s Originals. Mambas are simply little fruit chews, rather like Starbursts or HiCHEW.

Their newest addition to the line, introduced last year, is the sour version of the hard to find Mambas. They come in the same flavors: Orange, Lemon,


Strawberry & Raspberry. (But the single pack only includes three random flavors. I was lucky enough to pick out one of each flavor at the convention so I could taste them all.)

They shape of the candies is similar to HiCHEW - a long little rectangle, not a flattened cube like Starburst. Each little mini-pack has 6 chews.

They’re lightly colored, which seems unnecessary since they’re not only wrapped in papers that tell you what flavor they are, then those are in another single-flavor wrapping. (Maybe there’s a superfluous wrapper in this mix?)

They’re firm, perhaps a little hard at first, but soften nicely in the mouth. The flavor is immediately tart for all of them, but also has a strange soft fragrant flavor that’s not usually found in sours. For example, the lemon tastes much like powdered lemonade mix ... which I enjoy, but then there’s this light background like lemon blossom or something, it just adds a dimension to it. And in most cases it feels kind of classy.

I’ve had stronger sours, and really, if I haven’t had Mambas before, I wouldn’t guess that these are really a sour either. They’re tart, and they do get me a little tingly, but there were no faces involved and absolutely nothing to bother my tongue to the point that I’d stop eating all four packages.

The chew is great once it softens, it’s smooth and wonderfully consistent in its flavor all the way to the end. Some chews, like Skittles, can get a bit grainy towards the end, this didn’t at all.

Given the choice between regular Mambas and these, I’d actually pick the sours from now on. (But I have to admit that I haven’t bought Mambas since my last review of them but upon revisiting them, they’re really an underrated candy.) I still prefer the zap of Starburst, but that might just be complacency.

Related Candies

  1. Werther’s Caramel Coffee Hard Candies
  2. Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels
  3. HiCHEW Yuzu & Valencia
  4. HiCHEW Assortment
  5. Storck Mamba Chews
Name: Mamba Sour
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Storck
Place Purchased: All Candy Expo samples
Price: $.69 retai
Size: 2.65 ounces
Calories per ounce: 125
Categories: Chew, Sour, Storck, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:21 am     Comments (9)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Super Sour Worms

Surf Sweets Organic & Vegan Sour WormsI’m kind of ridgid with my definition of gummi. I consider it a jelly-type candy made with gelatin. So just by that definition vegetarians can’t eat gummis because gelatin is an animal product. But gelatin gives gummis an inimitable bounce and chew that no other ingredient has been able to match.

But every once in a while a product comes along that does a pretty good simulation of a gummi, and in this case it’s not only vegan but also mostly organic. Enter Surf Sweets Super Sour Worms. If you’re looking for a candy with no artificial anything that still feels like the candy all the other kids are eating, this just might be it.

The ingredients list is short: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup, citric acid, pectin, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), colors (black carrot juice concentrate, turmeric & annato), natural flavors. So for anyone concerned about corn products, those are also not on the list.

Surf Sweets Organic & Vegan Sour Worms

The sugar sanded worms are pretty firm, they’re still bendable (even posable) but not at all sticky. The sugar sanding is pure sweet, not blasting acid wash here. (So kids who are used to really sour candies might be disappointed here.)

Inside the stiffy jelly candy is pleasantly chewy, plenty tangy and comes in different flavors.

One is a cherry & lemon (alternating yellow & dark red), on the wild cherry side of flavors, rather woodsy and sour enough to keep my salivary glands a-tingling.

The solid amber orange one is orange, or perhaps tangerine. It’s an authentic-tasting citrus mix.

If you leave the package open they will get a bit firmer, which is the way I preferred them. Right out of the bag they were very soft, kind of limp but extremely juicy.

They’re made in a peanut-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free facility, though they’re not certified Kosher, they’re also vegan.

I’m glad to see that Surf Sweets is continuing their trend of making (mostly) organic, all natural versions of mainstream treats. There are very few compromises here if you’re a parent looking for a treat for the kids that doesn’t have the dreaded glutens, nuts or artificial colors. The packaging is friendly looking and won’t make the kids feel like freaks either.

Related Candies

  1. Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears
  2. Sour Gummi Bears
  3. Pure Fun & Yummy Earth Organic Hard Candies
  4. Organic Surf Sweets
  5. College Farm Organic Naturepops
Name: Super Sour Worms
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Surf Sweets (Santa Cruz Naturals)
Place Purchased: sample from NaturalCandyStore.com
Price: retail $2 a bag
Size: 2.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 92
Categories: Jelly, Sour, Surf Sweets, United States, All Natural, Organic

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:18 am     Comments (7)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chocolate Storage Solutions

Since the temperatures were back in the nineties in Los Angeles and I just returned from a long road trip, I thought I’d discuss chocolate storage for cocoa butter hostile climates.

Chocolate StorageThe ideal temperature for storing chocolate is 60-75 degrees F, away from items with strong odors or direct sunlight. The temperature should be constant, even mild swings can encourage bloom.

Freezing or even refrigerating chocolate can encourage sweating (condensation) and transfer of odors from other foods. I simply don’t use my fridge for my candy. It’s never worked out very well, it’s too cold. Also, if you do end up freezing your chocolate, it’s important to bring it back to room temperature slowly - first in the fridge, then into a cool room. (Too much work & planning! I want my chocolate now!)

If you have a nice cool cupboard (preferably on an inside wall away from appliances that get warm), just keeping your chocolate sequestered should be fine. I have a set of Pyrex containers that won’t transfer odors and seem to give a bit of insulative protection. It also helps to have a climate controlled house. I don’t have central air and Los Angeles can experience some wide swings, temperatures inside my house go from the low sixties to over 100. (I’ve taken clothes out of my dresser that feel like they just came out of the hot dryer.)

These glass containers at the moment reside in my Chocolate Fridge. Technically it’s a wine fridge (meant to hold a dozen bottles). I’ve repurposed it to hold chocolate by amping up the temperature to 65 (instead of 55, which is where you’d probably keep your wine). Because wine fridges don’t dehumidify, the glass is also good for protecting against moisture. It also helps to prevent transfer of flavors and odors. Mint and Coffee items are additionally wrapped in ziploc bags and kept in separate containers from other non-flavored chocolates.

Chocolate Fridge

That’s what things looked like about a month ago. I ended up taking out two of the shelves and just stacking some of the glass containers because I have so much stuff. Yes, be sure to stagger things to encourage circulation, but also remember that a full fridge is more efficient than an empty one because the stuff inside insulates itself.

I bought a little thermometer to keep on the inside as well to monitor the temperature. There wasn’t anything on the settings, just low-med-high, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting, right now I have it set on low and the temps have been 62-65 ... well within the ideal range. (That little white thing at the bottom is a container of baking soda, also to absorb odors.) Some folks also love to use charcoal briquettes to absorb odors and control humidity - just be sure to get ones without lighter fluid in them, which will result in an unpalatable flavor.

While this is elegant and all that, it’s also expensive to buy and of course requires electricity (no good for brown outs in the summer heat). However, if you’re the type of person who is spending $8 a piece on bars, or place orders online for quanties far larger than can be consumed in a week, it may make sense in the long run.

Chocolate StorageNot only that, it doesn’t hold that much (well, not enough for me). So my second line of defense is a series of Insulated Coolers (ice chests) in my closet. This closet happens to be in the north-west corner of the house which is naturally shaded in the late afternoon by my neighbor’s house. Inside the cooler I layer my candies ... full boxes on the bottom (I still have some Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road bars left), then a layer of cold packs. At the moment my cooler isn’t really that good, I’m planning to upgrade to a better insulated ones (called 5 day coolers by Igoo).

I don’t actually freeze the cold packs I use, but sometimes I toss them in the fridge overnight. I don’t want to freeze anything or shock it, I just want to keep the climate consistently under 70 degrees. When I put them back in, I usually wrap them in a paper towel, just in case they cause a bit of condensation. (I’m thinking of making sleeves for them out of old fabric napkins. Cold pack cozies, anyone?)

Then if I don’t have any other candies that must be kept cold I fill in with other candy, just for insulation value. If I don’t have any candy sitting around sometimes I use throw pillows or bubble wrap. A full cooler will stay cool better than one with a large gap of air in the top. When returning from San Francisco, because I took more candy up there than I brought back, I ended up stuffing two wool sweaters on the top of the cooler as insulation from the glaring sun from my hatchback window. I also placed a windshield reflector over the cooler to give an added measure of protection against heat.

Another solution is water bottles. I have quite a collection of sport bottles that I just fill with tap water. The large mass of room temperature water provides yet another layer of insulation. I could also put them in the fridge for a while should the temps rise (this is a great solution if you don’t have access to those cold packs - but again, if it’s humid they will sweat, so put them in a clean cotton sock or something).

I also have an old styrofoam cooler box that I got a gift of cheese in once. For the most part, I just put stuff in there as a storage space for things I pick up on sale (my Hershey’s Eggs in this case), but as it’s been getting warmer I’ve tossed a few cool packs on top.

For shorter trips around town, remember that your car is a portable solar oven. Leaving stuff in the trunk or back seat is asking for moltency. Again, a cooler is a wise choice, and those insulate lunch bags can be rather helpful as well. If you have no choices, put lots of layers around the chocolate and water bottles or any large volume of liquid is your friend.

Candy CarrierI have a couple of other smaller options as well. Inside my purse I carry this little anodized aluminum sunglass case. It doesn’t have much insulation value, just a little fuzzy lining, but the fact that it’s durable metal helps to minimize direct transfer of heat to a precious candy bar that might pick up at a deli such as this valuable BonBonBar from Joan’s on Third.

Finally, for carrying to parties or a special picnic, why not consider this wide mouth Soup Thermos:

Valomilk & my improvised traveling container

As I found out, it doesn’t do much to protect candies from changes in air pressure.

Here are some other resouces about how to store your chocolate goodies:

  • Clay Gordon on Serious Eats
  • EGullet forum discussion
  • Fine Living Online
  • Do you have any solutions, or words of warning?

    Related Candies

    1. Friday’s San Francisco Candy Adventure
    2. Thursday Candy Trippin’
    3. The Adventures of Melted Chocolate!
    4. This Week in Candy - Too Hot

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:26 am     Behind the ScenesCandyFeatured NewsShoppingComments (6)

    MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar (no sugar added)

    MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar (No added Sugar)This is the oddest bar I think I’ve ever tried and that’s not a bad thing.

    It’s called MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar 70% single origin Colombian cacao - unsweetened. That’s the extent of the description given. What I found interesting reading the back of the package is that this bar is made in Colombia. And it’s made by Eneh Compania Nacional de Chocolates, and only distributed by MarieBelle (in their bar format, of course). It’s certified Kosher.

    Now, besides its origin, it has other tricks up its sleeve. Unlike the 99% & 100% cacao stuff that I’ve been eating for the past two days, this is more like Michel Cluizel’s Cacao Forte 99% truffle. While there’s no added sugar here, there is a lot of milk ... probably more milk than some chocolate bars have chocolate.

    MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar (No added Sugar)The bar may be 70% cacao, but the second ingredient is milk. The whole list of ingredients goes like this: Cocoa mass, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, PGPR-90 polyglicerol polyricinoleate (emulsifier) and natural vanilla.

    From what I understand from reading the label, what MarieBelle (or Eneh) has done is take some intense, unsweetened chocolate and diluted it with some milk & emulsifiers. Much like coffee becomes much more drinkable to the majority of folks with a bit of milk to temper the bitterness but still allow the flavors to come through, that’s how this bar operates. Milk adds a bit of sweetness with its natural sugars (lactose) as well as simple bulk with its fats & protein. (This bar has about 20% more protein per ounce than straight chocolate but also has 16 grams of carb per ounce though none of them straight sugars.)

    Yes, it has PGPR in it too, which I was a little concerned about, as I associate it with cheap chocolate ... it’s a simple filler in most cases, it maintains the texture & mouthfeel of chocolate but of course is far cheaper than actually have chocolate content. In this case, I’m guessing with such high milk content the extra emulsifiers are handy to keep the bar properly integrated.

    But all that technical stuff aside, it’s a nice looking bar. It reminds me of a rye crisp, with the little divets in it or maybe a game board that should have little pegs.

    MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar (No added Sugar)

    The thick plank of chocolate has a nice stiff snap to it. I was concerned with all the extra milk & emulsifiers it’d be fudgy or soft, but it has a texture consistent with a 70% dark bar.

    It smells a bit dusty, a little caramelized but actually slightly sweet as well.

    On the tongue it has a very slow and viscous melt. It reminds me of peanut butter. It actually tastes a bit like dark roasted peanuts. It also has those toasted burnt sugar notes, like the crust of a creme brullee.

    It’s quite sticky in the mouth, but that makes it feel substantial and long-lasting if savored. The other way to go is to chew it up, but I have to say that makes a big mess in the mouth. Once it melts, it’s clingy. Chocolate with sugar in it wants to fall apart, kind of like fudge. Instead, this is almost like a caramel, it wants to stay together.

    I have to say that even though this bar is jarringly different than many chocolate bars, the way they’ve solved the problem of leaving out sugar without being chalky or blazingly bitter is quite pleasing. (Kudos for not going to the sugar alcohols that mess with the texture and of course have those unwanted side effects.) If you’re a fan of peanut butter flavors and textures, this bar won’t feel too unfamiliar.

    I don’t know if I’d buy it again for myself, but if you’re on a low carb or no sugar diet (but have no problem with the immense amount of fat) this could be the indulgence you’re looking for. I don’t think this bar is that easy to find. I got mine at Chocolate Covered in San Francisco, you can also order online directly from MarieBelle.

    Related Candies

    1. Four 99%-100% Chocolate
    2. Hershey’s Favorites - Sugar Free
    3. Choxie 3 Ounce Chocolate Bars
    4. Milka Alpenmilch
    5. MarieBelle Chocolates
    Name: Mayan Chocolate Bar
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: MarieBelle (made by Eneh Compania Nacional de Chocolates)
    Place Purchased: Chocolate Covered (SF)
    Price: $7.50
    Size: 3.52 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 158
    Categories: Chocolate, Colombia, MarieBelle, Single Origin, Kosher, Sugar Free

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:53 am     Comments (3)

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Four 99%-100% Chocolate

    99-100% Chocolate BarsBefore I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.

    Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.

    Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.

    Dagoba Prima MateriaDagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.

    In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.

    At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.

    Dagoba Prima Materia

    The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.

    The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.

    There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.

    It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)

    2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
    Rating: 5 out of 10

    Ghirardelli 100% CacaoAfter Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).

    The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.

    Ghirardelli 100% Cacao

    To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.

    As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.

    The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.

    Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)

    4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
    Rating: 4 out of 10

    Meiji 99% CacaoMeiji Chocolate Kolika Caca 99% Ita has a very short, but less “pure” list of ingredients: cacao, cocoa powder, soy lecithin & artificial flavor. (I’m guessing that’s vanillin.)

    Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)

    It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.

    Meiji 99% Cacao

    The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.

    On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.

    I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)

    But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.

    1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
    Rating: 3 out of 10

    Chocolat Bonnat 100%My passion for this bar can hardly be contained. The happiest part of this whole experience is that I know that once I’m done writing this, I don’t have to eat this bar any longer.

    I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.

    The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.

    Chocolat Bonnat 100%

    The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)

    When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.

    Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.

    So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.

    I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)

    3.53 ounces - unknown calories
    Rating: 1 out of 10

    The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)

    All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.

    Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.

    Related Candies

    1. Michel Cluizel 99%
    2. Guittard Quetzalcoatl
    3. Dagoba Single Origin
    4. E. Guittard Single Origin Tasting Kit
    5. Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:24 am     All NaturalCandyReviewDagobaGhirardelliMeijiChocolateKosherOrganicSugar Free1-Inedible3-Unappealing4-Benign5-Pleasant

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Michel Cluizel 99%

    Michel Cluizel Noir InfiniFor about six months I’ve been looking for the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% bar. It’s not that it’s new, it just happened that the usual stores where I find Cluizel products were sold out of the bar.

    I like the responsible size of it, it’s only 30 grams (1.05 ounces) instead of the usual 100 gram size for Cluizel’s large tablets.

    Even though I declared this sugar free week, it wasn’t until I was prepping this post that I found out that there is sugar in this bar. The ingredients are: cacao (99%), cane sugar, spices, cocoa butter & Bourbon vanilla. Honestly, with a list like that, I can’t imagine it’s more than a pinch per pound. The wrapper also explains the bar further: This chocolate with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for connoisseurs’ palate.

    Michel Cluizel Noir Infini

    It is a lovely little bar, with a rich and deep scent of chocolate.

    On the tongue the thin bar melts pretty quickly. Overall it feels a bit like a clay slurry ... not quite chalky enough to call it, well, chalky or dry. The vanilla notes are pretty strong, as is a bit of a green wood and black tea note. By the end I was getting mulch, vanilla grass, pecans, burnt hazelnuts ... all wrapped up in smoke and charcoal.

    Though it was bitter, there was very little puckeringly acrid acidity that I get with other high cacao bars (I’ll have a rundown of some of those tomorrow).

    But not really a lot of fun. I was grateful that it was a small bar.

    Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte

    The other chocolate on my list of pursuits lately has been the Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte bonbon.

    It’s amazing what a difference it makes when the intensity of the cacao is reduced by just a bit. While this truffle has no added sugar, it is a ganche and contains butter and/or heavy cream. So while the chocolate is 99%, the truffle itself is not.

    The ganache is soft and melts quickly. The lighter berry & fruit notes come out much better, the bitterness is nearly gone and the finish, though dry is not acrid or acidic. But it feels thin in flavor, and I’ve tried quite a few Cluizel chocolates, so I know I can do better.

    After eating the straight chocolate, the bonbon is a relief and seems almost sweet by comparison. But if you have this in a box and have been eating Champignon Caramel or Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache it will be jarring.

    These pieces feel like exercises, like some single origin bars that give us the sense that it’s great that so many chocolate makers blend beans to give us a consistent and appealing flavor profile. I appreciate them, I grant that they have the right to exist, but I don’t care to eat them again.

    As for the aspect that they’re free of added sugar (effectively), they’re not a low calorie food. Chocolate has oodles of fat in it and the bar comes in at 151 calories per ounce and less than a gram of carbs. (I don’t know what the bonbon is, but I’ll guess it’s even higher in fat.) However, if you’re looking for a chocolate punch that won’t raise your blood sugar level (and dark chocolate has been shown to lower insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, blah blah) this is an interesting “theraputic” option that’s probably cheaper than many other medical alternatives. It’s also just an interesting excercise all chocophiles should experience. The Noir Infini tasting square can be found in Cluizel assortments, so that’s probably the best way to experience this ... as part of an entire trip, not as the destination.

    Related Candies

    1. The Alien Forehead Chocolate Collection
    2. Mori Ex Cacao Gift Set
    3. Recchiuti
    4. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
    5. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
    Name: Noir Infini & Cacao Forte
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Michel Cluizel
    Place Purchased: Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits (LA) + Chocolate Covered (SF)
    Price: $3.25 & $4
    Size: 1.05 ounces & unknown
    Calories per ounce: 151 & unknown
    Categories: Chocolate, France, Michel Cluizel, Sugar Free, All Natural

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:07 am     Comments (6)

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008


    SparXWhile it’s pretty easy to find sugar free mints (even ones sweetened with sorbitol or some other natural sugar alcohol), it’s pretty hard to find little candies in other flavors.

    Enter XLear with their SparX candies, all sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol with the same sweetening power as sucrose but one third fewer calories. It’s made from birch bark, corn cobs and occurs naturally in plenty of other places and is even metabolized by the body in everyday fruits & vegetables.

    They come in three different flavor varieties:

  • Fruit (Apple, Banana, Grape, Peach)
  • Citrus (Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tangerine)
  • Berry (Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry)
  • Each little flip top plastic tube holds 30 grams (about 1.06 ounces).

    Fruit SparX

    The little pastel bits are naturally colored and about the size and shape of the old Tart n’ Tinys.

    They have a light little shell on them, it’s a bit soft on the tongue at first and a little slippery. The little pellet inside has a cooling effect, a little tart boost and a sweet finish. The flavors are very light, not really that noticeable - not as powerful as SweeTarts.

    Citrus has a distinct flavors, a little more tart than the others. Berry is all about the floral flavors of strawberry & raspberry, I couldn’t tell them apart that well, they weren’t at all tangy, but felt very fresh. The Fruit blend had the banana, which I thought was fun (especially for someone who likes Runts), grape was like concord grape (with a slight chewable vitamin aftertaste) and apple was similarly similar to apple juice. Peach was, well, peachy enough (not my favorite, but not too powerful so I didn’t pick them out of the mix).

    I thought they could have been a bit more flavorful, but that’s because I wanted some super-duper cavity fighting replacement for SweeTarts, but that’s not what these are. They’re not really candy for popping mindlessly, I don’t think. Just a little freshening, mouth cooling treat.

    Each little candy has about .6 calories each, meaning the whole package has about 68 calories total.

    Xylitol, like other sugar alcohols, can cause intestinal distress and I did notice a bit of gassiness after eating these (probably the equivalent of a whole tube over two days). I’m told that if you slowly ramp up, your body acclimates. Brian reviewed them a couple of years ago and didn’t get along at all well with the xylitol and neither did many of the commenters, so start slow with these before you go eating a whole package.

    The ingredients are natural enough, though I’m not sure what the source of the natural colors are (so I can’t say if it’s vegan or not, but there’s also beeswax in there, so it may not meet all vegan standards). They also contain some other mineral items like calcium glycerophosphate (which is a source of calcium and phosphorous) and magnesium sterate.

    Xlear products can be ordered directly from their website and found in many vitamin, health foods and stores like Whole Foods. The price isn’t bad for one of these fringe products, they usually retail for $1.50 or so per tube. It’d be cool if they offered these in bulk, so you could refill the tubes.

    Note: do not allow dogs to consume products with xylitol (well, really don’t let your dogs eat any people food) as it can be toxic.

    Related Candies

    1. SparX
    2. Canada Wintergreen
    3. Runts
    4. VerMints
    5. Soda Can Fizzy Candy
    Name: SparX: Citrus, Fruit & Berry
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: XLear
    Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
    Price: $1.50 retail
    Size: 1.06 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 64
    Categories: Chalk, United States, All Natural, Sugar Free

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:27 am     Comments (1)


    XyliChewChewing gum is a logical product to make sugar free, and for many years there have been products that use Xylitol as an alternative (and better) gum sweetener.

    I got a few samples at ExpoWest of their different flavors, but ended up opting for a full package of the Cinnamon XyliChew for this review.

    The package is a nice paperboard box with a blisterpack that holds 12 pieces inside. Two pieces are normal serving size (though sometimes I go for three pieces).

    XyliChew boasts 70% of its content is xylitol, which is supposed to have many health benefits. Studies link lower incidences of dental caries (cavities) to consistent use of xylitol (either in gum or mouthwash) and others have said that it keeps teeth & bones strong as we age. But the amount needed for those more substantial positive effects are probably greater than would be consumed normally. A pair of pieces gives the chewer only 1.6 grams per serving. (Studies were using dosages of 20-40 grams per day.) You can read more of the features at their website.

    But that aside, this is gum and most often we’re chewing it for other reasons, such as to freshen the breath, a boost of flavor, keep us from munching and just plain old enjoyment of chewing.

    These are cool on the tongue immediately, which is one of the big appeals of xylitol as a confectionery sweetener. The cinnamon flavor is much more like the powdered spice or chewing on an actual stick of the bark than those “cinnamon flavors”, so it’s a bit deeper. It’s not at all spicy though, there’s no burning feeling to it. The chew lacks much grain to it like sugared gums have (well, there’s a little from the shell, but that dissipates quickly). The flavor remains for quite a while, I tracked it as still having a satisfactory amount of cinnamon flavor after 30 minutes, though the sweetness had abated.

    It didn’t stick to my teeth, which is also a nice feature (yes, I have fillings - those old fashioned amalgam & those new fangled white composite ones).

    As a sugar free product, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. Some folks may not like that cooling sensation and of course you have to get used to xylitol. I still prefer my good old Peppermint Chiclets, but I could get used to this, too.

    XyliChew is all natural, even the gum base is from the sapodilla tree. It uses beeswax though, so may not be appropriate for all vegans.

    Many stores like Whole Foods, Nature Mart and health food shops carry XyliChew, you can also order online through Nature Mart or Amazon. They retail for about $2 a package. It also comes in other flavors like: spearmint, peppermint, tropical fruit, licorice and chocolate.

    UPDATE: Also, be aware that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so be very careful to keep xylitol sweetened products away from pets.

    Related Candies

    1. Gimbal’s Lavaballs
    2. Atomic Fireballs
    3. Tiny Size Chiclets
    4. Gold Mine Gum
    5. Razzles
    6. No Time & Black Black
    Name: XyliChew
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Tundra Trading, Inc.
    Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
    Price: $2.00 retail
    Size: .47 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 49 (if you chewed 25 pieces)
    Categories: Gum, Cinnamon, Finland, Sugar Free, All Natural

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:00 am     Comments (1)

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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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