Tuesday, March 31, 2009
My office is now next door to a Cost Plus World Market. Which means that I browse there about once a week ... and try to resist buying more than twice a month. It took three trips before I succumbed to this one kilo (2.2 pound) bag of Sweet Moments Chocolate Eggs (Ovetti) made by Laica. Priced at $9.99 it wasn’t that it would cost me a Hamilton, it was that it was more than two pounds of foil covered chocolate eggs. That’s a lotta candy!
The description on the front says milk chocolate eggs with hazelnuts cream and cereals filling. There’s also a little logo in the top right that says puro cioccolato.
The light blue has an angry chick, the green has a white duck, the tan has a decidedly unhappy sheep and the yellow features emotionless butterflies and flowers.
The eggs are about 1.25 inches long with little lines on the widest part. They smell sweet and a little like roasted nuts and hot chocolate.
The bite is soft and easy. The chocolate shell melts easily, it’s real chocolate and in the European milky style.
The center is creamy with dots of little cereal pieces. They’re like crisped rice, only spherical and according to the ingredients made of a mix of corn, rice, wheat and barley. They’re crispy and provide a nice malty crunch. The creamy paste in the center is sweet and sticky with a hint of hazelnut flavor - not as much as I’d hoped. The ingredients show that the center is sugar, fractionated oils, the cereal bits and then 8% hazelnut paste followed by cocoa & milk plus some other stuff.
Overall, they’re quite easy to eat. They don’t satisfy in the sense that after three I don’t want any more, instead I keep eating them. Though they’re more expensive than some other American made chocolate confections available for Easter, they edge out on the quality front and they certainly taste good. And they’re cute.
Last year Easter came much earlier (March 23, 2008), so I think there were far more after holiday deals to be found because of the compressed selling period between Valentine’s and Easter. One of them I was eager to take advantage of was this set of Caffarel Eggs being sold at Williams-Sonoma (they’re back this year). At regular price, they’re pretty expensive at $24 for 10 ounces (19 eggs). But I ordered them on clearance after Easter for $6.99 a bag. I also got the candy shell version which didn’t return this year.
Each little egg had a collar and label: mandorla (almond), torroncino (nougat), gianduja (hazelnut & chocolate paste).
Sadly my clearance deal netted me two bags of bloomed chocolate. I ate most of the first bag, and though the bloom wasn’t too bad, it did make the outside of the eggs rather oily and difficult to remove the clingy thin foil.
The chocolate is smooth and silky (other than the bloom issue), the center was rich and thick, much like the other Caffarel gianduia products I’ve had. The nougat one had little crunchy bits in it. The almond one had an amaretto flavor to it that I didn’t care for at all ... so about a third of the bag was a flavor I didn’t care for (but luckily others I know do).
The quality of the ingredients is top notch and the hazelnut flavor (or almond, in the case of the mandorla) is rich and decadent. The packaging is exceptional, each one is a little gift (though also makes a lot of little bits of paper for cleanup). I’m not going to give them a rating because of the bloom though.
They’re a wonderful little treat, but very expensive when there are other products around like the Ovetti or even the Moser Roth Truffles my mother sent me from Aldi. However, I do see them sold singly from time to time, usually for a dollar at fine delis ... so it’s definitely worth it to have a little treat now and then.
Monday, March 30, 2009
There are some candies I simply eat. Which means that I don’t review them here. This is what I’ve been doing for the past three years or so, eating Bequet Gourmet Caramels without so much as a mention here on Candy Blog. I usually pick them up at a gourmet shop singly but I’ve been given a few by friends and had some samples from trade shows. When Bequet sent me this sample package a few weeks ago, I took it as the signal that I finally needed to photograph & review them.
Bequet are classically made from all natural, fresh ingredients in Montana. They’ve stuck, for the most part, to the tried and true flavors of caramels and package them simply in clear cellophane wrappers. The pieces are about an inch and a quarter long.
Chewy (caramel tan) - they smell sweet and buttery. The chew is soft, easy to bite (as shown). The pieces can be eaten whole or bitten in half. I found a full one just slightly more than what I wanted at once. The flavor is dark and rich, as they use brown sugar as their base instead of white sugar. There’s no hint of grain to it at all.
Soft (caramel tan) - I can see the appeal of a soft caramel, but Bequet are already soft. This one was a little too soft for my tastes, I like a bit of a chew to mine. The flavor was very good though.
Celtic Sea Salt (caramel brown) - soft with a strong buttery scent. The salt is present in the form of small crystals that give the candy a bit of a crunch. I found the salt overpowering and far too strong. The caramel seemed a bit softer than the others (except the soft one).
Espresso (medium brown) - smooth chew, sweet and milky with a slight hint of coffee, which really just makes it less sweet than the others.
Maple (dark brown) - buttery and sweet with a definite maple flavor. A little softer but extremely smooth. I had to eat this one first, as it was infecting the whole bag with its scent.
Chipotle (caramel tan with flecks) - the smoked pepper flavors emerge slowly. At first it’s just a slight pepper burn, then the smoke emerges ... then the burn gets stronger. I think a more toasted sugar flavor would go better with the charcoal-like chipotle. As a hot pepper confection, it was spicy and flavorful without being painful for me. (I am a wuss when it comes to hot peppers.)
Chocolate (dark brown) - this one has a mellow cocoa scent to it, a little like brownies. The flavor is rather complex for a chocolate caramel, a little coconut, some hot cocoa flavors and the buttery smooth chew. I was surprised with this one, it’s definitely richer than I would have thought and not at all like the empty flavor of a Tootsie Roll.
Salt Chocolate (dark brown) - like the Celtic Sea Salt one, this had the little flecks of salt in it and like the Chocolate, it had some coconut flavors as well. It was too salty for me, but I recognize that my tastes are a bit off in that department.
Pomegranate (caramel tan) - I consider pomegranate to be a bit of a novelty flavor and though I like to eat the actual fruit, I realize that beyond a bit of juice now and then, it’s not really a great flavor when compared to something like wild blackberries. This one smelled a bit like raspberries and butter. The flavor has only the slightest bit of tang, a little like yogurt and strawberries with some caramel sauce.
Licorice (caramel brown) - this soft caramel smelled woodsy and fresh, like figs and molasses. The caramel flavors blended well with the light and sweet anise. I enjoyed the fact that these didn’t get the food coloring treatment that so many companies seem to think that licorice products need. This was definitely a star for me.
As far as caramels go, I prefer a slightly stiffer product, but that may be because that’s what I was raised on (see Grandma’s Caramels), and I like the texture of a tough chew. These are soft, pliable and provide an immediate release of flavors.
On the whole, they’re an excellent quality product. Though they’re fresh and artisan, they have a pretty good shelf life of 2-3 months. At about $18.00 a pound, they’re not cheap but they’re also very satisfying so they may last a while. They also have a flexible ordering system so you can get flavor mixes so you can try them all out and later just order the flavors you like in a custom mix.
Bequet Gourmet Caramels are Kosher, no artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives. There’s no statement on the package or their website about any allergens though it doesn’t appear that they make anything with nuts (but could be made in a shared space).
Friday, March 27, 2009
It used to be that only Black Licorice jelly beans were sold in single flavor bags. Then Jelly Belly came along and let folks pick out just their favorite flavor and the whole world of jelly beans changed. But other than the gourmet beans, it still seemed like pre-packaged single flavors were pretty rare.
This year, as I was looking at the shelves at the drug store and grocery aisle, I was pleased to see so many different jelly bean flavor singles. (Gimbal’s also had color mixes that I might try to pick up on sale after Easter.)
Last year Nestle introduced the Nerds Bumpy Jelly Beans, this year I found a new jelly bean version of one of their classic candies, the Spree Jelly Beans.
What pleased me even more than the new product was that I could just buy the lemon ones. I found these only at Ralph’s (grocery chain) this year, not at any of my other regular Easter candy aisles. They also come in Green Apple (light green) and Cherry (pink).
The first thing I noticed about these beans was that they seemed more opaque. In fact, completely opaque. No vague translucence here. The second thing I noticed was that they’re very smooth and have no “bottom” to them like most beans.
The ingredients say dextrose first. Most jelly beans start with sugar (a disaccharide, dextrose is a monosaccharide which is also known as glucose). Dextrose is what Sprees are made of! (As well as most “chalk” candies.)
On the tongue the flavor is mild and slightly cool. Dextrose is a little lighter sweetness than sucrose. The shell dissolves pretty quickly but it’s definitely different from the usual jelly bean shell. It’s not grainy except at the margin between the jelly center and the shell.
The flavor is a very mild sweet lemon at first, then there’s a little burst of tangy flavor at the edge of the shell and center. However, it wasn’t consistent. Every once in a while I’d run across a bean that had a really good Lemonhead burst to it, but most were much milder. I’d say most failed on the Spree motto of a kick in the mouth, which is too bad, because when they got their kicks in, they were definitely sizzling.
The crunch of the shell, if I chewed them up, wasn’t quite M&Ms style or as thick as the Nerds Jelly Beans, but still closer to that than a traditional jelly bean. The centers were basically flavorless, but a smooth and firm jelly.
On the whole, these were a very nice changeup from a regular jelly bean. They’re not quite as fun as the Nerds version, but the fact that they come in the pretty standup bags in specific flavors sets them apart. But they are a bit more expensive than regular beans. I got these on sale for $2, which I still thought was a bit high for seven ounces of sugar candy.
M&Ms wants you to have a fun Easter basket of goodies. I’ve got two prizes of two big bags of M&Ms Bunny Mix.
To Enter: Send me an email at this address: candybloggiveaway @ gmail.com
Tell me two great things about M&Ms.
Rules: Anyone can enter but winners must have an address in the US (except Alaska & Hawaii) to claim the prize. Only one entry per email address. Entries accepted until Monday, March 30th, 2009 at 11 PM Pacific. Winners must respond within 48 hours of email notification or a new winner will be drawn. Winning packages will be shipped directly from M&Ms publicists.
M&Ms made these prize packages available to a lot of blogs, so click around on the blog roll to see if you can enter more giveaways!
UPDATE 4/2/2009: The entry period is over and I’m pleased to announce that Dan & Ruth won the prize packages. They should be on their way!
For those looking to win some other sweet goodness, try the National Confectioner’s Association giveaway on their Candy Dish Blog ... an immense prize that only folks who put on the All Candy Expo could assemble.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
It’s not often that I’ll stop my fast forward through commercials to watch something. I definitely did when I saw the Reese’s: Perfectly Easter advertisement.
I’m not only a huge critic of candy (because I love it so), I’m also rather fond of breaking down advertising, but I’ll save that for another time.
The important takeaway I got on that advert was that Spring is in the Air and Reese’s Eggs are a chocolate covered peanut butter product.
Candy Blog reader, Peloria, has been wonderfully helpful in helping me track down these two versions by leaving comments on my original review of the perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (2006 version). I got a hold of eggs for 2009 from three stores with two different wrappers. For the most part single Reese’s Eggs are sold with the package that doesn’t say that they’re milk chocolate. But I also found the six pack that says Milk Chocolate above the Reese’s logo.
The classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg ingredients were (2005 source):
The current 2009 ingredients:
For reference, the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ingredients are (in 2009):
There are a few changes there, but nothing that definitively says that these aren’t a real chocolate product any longer. But they’re different enough to change the nutritional profile. There’s more salt (they’ve gone from 140mg to 150mg), and 11 grams of fat now instead of 10.
So I tasted them (after all, at this point I had 9 of them). The chocolate coating looked a bit chalky, not glossy (and some looked a little swirly and uneven in color). They’re soft and the peanut butter overwhelms any chocolate flavor anyway. The peanut butter center is crumbly and nutty, not completely smooth but not crunchy, just a little more rustic than the stuff in a jar. Salty, sweet and satisfying. The chocolate coating feels cool on the tongue and seems to melt pretty well, but it also melts in my fingers pretty quickly too. It’s a good time these come along in the spring because they’d never make it in a Los Angeles summer.
I’m not sure why Hershey’s has removed the Milk Chocolate part from some wrappers, I fear it’s because they’re planning something for next year ... kind of easing us into crappy candy instead of a sharp shift that causes an uproar like the true & mockolate Kissables being on the shelves at the same time. I still consider them a winner. The prices appear to have gone up. I got the six pack for $2 on sale, but buying the individual ones, the best sale I could find was 75 cents each.
Hershey’s has a bunch of other candies for Easter in the Reese’s line, too. There are Fudge Covered Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Reester Bunnies, which are just a molded version of the RPBC in various sizes. They’re more chocolate than peanut butter. Then there are the Foil Eggs, the Reese’s Pieces Eggs (in beautiful pastels),
Then there’s this strange monstrosity which is also called Milk Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg but unlike the 1.2 ounce version, this one is molded. It’s also 6 ounces (so five times as big but twice the price per ounce).
The box is ridiculously oversized for the product - it’s 6.5 inches long. The egg itself is 4.5 inches long, 1.5 inches high and 3 inches wide at the broadest part. That means one inch of space on all sides ... feels like more than just protection, feels like a bit of fakery. (Though it’s easy to see the entirety of the product through the cellophane window.)
The ingredients are pretty much the same as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup - erring on the chocolate as the first ingredient, not peanuts.
I get the sense that these are supposed to be like those deluxe slicing candy eggs that have always puzzled me. Candy, in my opinion, doesn’t need any serving implements. It’s meant to be eaten with the fingers and needs no preparation or tools. Either I bite into this one and eat it all by myself, of I slice it up. Which I did.
Looking at the slices there, I think you can tell that this is not the same center as the 1.2 ounce egg ... it looks and feels a bit oilier (which is not a bad thing, just a different thing).
The interesting experience with these slices is that the amount of chocolate shell varies so much depending on where the slice comes from. The ends, of course, are mostly chocolate. But even in a center slice, the chocolate shell is especially thick, much thicker than any cup I’ve ever had from Reese’s, as thick as a regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The chocolate flavor was completely lost on this product, it tasted like peanut butter fudge, though it was pretty smooth and sweet with a slight milky flavor to it. The peanut butter center was stellar. It was relatively solid, had the crumbly texture and didn’t taste as sweet as the regular eggs. I liked the clear distinction between the chocolate shell here and the peanut butter filling, instead of the unclear margins in the smaller egg. But sometimes the chocolate had a coconut flavor to it that I can’t quite explain nor say that I cared much for.
However, the silly over-packaging and price tag would certainly keep me from buying these ever again. But if you’re looking for something for a peanut butter obsessed person’s Easter basket instead of a pile of the small eggs or the standby bunny, it might be fun. Portion control was a lot easier than I thought, I sliced up rather logically into five pieces, though I can’t be sure that they were actually the same weight. The package says that it serves four (which means each serving is more than a single regular egg).
I feel like downgrading the 1.2 ounce Reese’s Eggs to a 9 out of 10, but maybe that’s an emotional response, a response out of fear, not one based on my actual tasting (though there was some throat burning from the sweetness I don’t remember from the past). As for the giganto one, it’s not something I appreciate, though I guess it’s okay. I give it a 7 out of 10.
UPDATE 3/30/2009: Thanks to Peloria’s continued documentation, I kept looking for these other non-milk chocolate labeled eggs. I finally found them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my house. The packages were 2 for a dollar.
Sure enough the ingredients indicated that they’re really not chocolate (I know, the photo looks like all the other photos, but trust me, this is what the reverse says):
Peanuts, sugar, dextrose, vegetable oil (cocoa butter, palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil), chocolate, nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, lactose, salt, whey, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, soy lecithin, cornstarch, glycerin, TGHQ & PGPR, vanillin.
They look a little flatter than the milk chocolate eggs (labeled or not). As for the taste, well, this one seemed really salty to me, but maybe that’s what happens when I have peanut butter eggs for breakfast. (Hey, eggs are a breakfast food!)
The mockolate coating wasn’t bad, it wasn’t any worse looking than the current eggs. It has a similar melt and cool feeling on the tongue, it’s sweet but I didn’t taste any milky component to it.
I still don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why they’ve have both on the market at the same time, why they’d make two versions and ruin something that was perfectly good and perfect. As for the ruining part, well, they’re not that bad but I’m not fond of eating palm oil when I could be eating cocoa butter.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This tray of Limited Edition Easter Mallows is huge. Even though it only weighs 5.29 ounces, the large tray made it look like there was a lot of candy in here.
The clear tray holds the 10 chocolate covered marshmallow domes. They’re cradled well, and though a few of mine were cracked (could have been me treating the package roughly), none of them were leaking.
The candy construction is simple. A round cookie (biscuit) base with a dollop of Jaffa orange jam, then a heap of marshmallow, all covered in Cadbury milk chocolate.
They’re about 1.75 inches in diameter and about .75 inches high. The bite is soft and the chocolate shell is crisp and adheres pretty well to the marshmallow.
They smell like dairy milk chocolate before biting, but after biting through to the jam center, it’s definitely orange. The flavor of the jam is rather like marmalade, with a strong zest component along with some sweet syrup and tangy juice to it. The cookie base is soft and crumbly, like a graham cracker. The marshmallow, though soft and passable didn’t do much for me one way or the other. The milk chocolate coating is very sweet and has a dried milk flavor to it.
On the whole, these are very appealing. I really liked the flavorful punch of the center much better than the filled marshmallows I’ve had from Asia.
They were expensive though, at $2.99 for the tray (but I felt like I’ve been leaving my UK reader friends out lately). I’m not quite sure what makes them an Easter candy (maybe if they were egg shaped) or if there’s a non-Easter version that these are based on. The Cadbury site was no help. (But I did find out that these are sold at Aldi in the UK.)
Each Easter Mallow has 65 calories.
The gelatin is made from pork, so these are definitely not Halal, Kosher or vegetarian.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Hard candy has a bad reputation as being cheap and a candy of last resort. Oh sure, a little starlight mint after a garlicky meal is usually gratefully accepted when offered. But really good hard candy is out there.
As a kid I often got them around holidays, just a small handful included in my stocking candy. As I grew up I learned to find them on my own ... and was pretty shocked at the sticker price, especially compared to the more affordable Zotz.
I don’t know when or where I got this tin. I think it was sometime in the late eighties, I’m pretty sure I bought it in Philadelphia or New York and I was probably mortified to pay something like three dollars for a little tin of lemon drops.
They’re made in Belgium and the packaging features the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. I have no idea when the candies originated or their history. The tin simply says: Le Bon Bonbon Napoleon Sour Lemon. The more recent bag that I acquired through a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse says Made by Napoleon-Breskens-Holland.
So even though I can’t tell you much about their background, I can review what I’ve got:
Though I most often see the Lemon, they also come in Cherry, Tangerine, Lime and Pineapple.
The candies are devilishly simple. Hard candy outside, and then a strip of super sour powder in the center. The powder center is often mistaken for a liquid, it’s rather cool on the tongue and so fine that it melts away instantly. It’s only before putting then in the mouth that I could really tell. (Yes, as a kid I sometimes broke them apart to create a big pile of super sour powder.)
These are insanely expensive. The ones in the top photo I bought at Miette in San Francisco last year for 25 cents each. They’re spherical and a little less yellow, but still the same flavor profile as the disk shaped lemon. The bags that Candy Warehouse sells are $7.10 a pound, and come in 7 pound bags. (Yes, at one time I had 14 pounds of Napoleon Bonbons - one of just lemon and one of the mix. I’ve eaten about three pounds so far.)
I’ve really vacillated between giving these a nine or a ten. The price is a formidable obstacle to perfection, but then again, I know I bought that tin when I was in college and had staggeringly little money so they must be worth it. So there you are, another 10 out of 10.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Russell Stover offers a lot of Easter goodies, I’m most fond of their eggs, which are usually fresh and the perfect size at about an ounce for less than the price of a candy bar these days.
But I was mighty tempted by these Marshmallow Rabbits. They’re two ounces, and since they’re marshmallow they’re pretty big. The packages are 6 inches tall in vibrant metallic colors with a rather realistic rabbit illustration on the front.
They come in two varieties, the regular vanilla marshmallow covered in milk chocolate and a chocolate marshmallow covered in milk chocolate.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the package. Some marshmallow shapes can be curiously amorphous. These looked, for the most part, like the outline of the image on the package. They’re about 4.5 inches tall and about 2.5 inches at their widest part.
I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a rabbit face with extra huge cheeks/jowls, or the whole body with a big meaty legs. (Part of me also thought they looked like a Buddha with rabbit ears.)
The chocolate is wonderfully rippled and I was pleased with how well I’d picked my rabbits out, as they were practically flawless (though I ended up dropping the chocolate one and denting his ear as I was taking the photo).
Russell Stover Marshmallow Rabbit
The chocolate shell has a nice snap to it and an overall chocolate malt scent. The marshmallow center is soft and moist with a strong vanilla flavor. It’s not quite as fluffy as some I’ve had, but it’s also very satisfying and has a bit of salt to it (60 mg in the whole 2 ounce portion).
Though the package says that a whole rabbit is a single serving, I found just the ears was plenty satisfying. The problem with a very large marshmallow items is that it’s hard to save some more for later without it making a mess. Still, I found them pretty easy to slip back into their packages and pinch shut for later. (I wouldn’t save it for more than a day or two, or else they get hard and tacky.)
Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Rabbit
The chocolate on this one looked slightly lighter than its vanilla counterpart, though that could have been all in my head (well, it’s all in my tummy now).
This one has a light cocoa scent that reminded me of cookie dough.
The chocolate has a similarly crisp snap but still doesn’t flake or crumble off of the marshmallow excessively.
The marshmallow is soft, though not as mushy as the vanilla. It has a very springy and latexy quality to it. The flavor is mild, like a cup of hot cocoa, definitely less sweet than the vanilla but also much saltier (210 mg per 2 ounce portion).
The chocolate on both was really flavorful and helped to make these some of the better chocolate marshmallows I’ve bought at the drug store. The novelty shape and price makes them a really good deal. But the large portion size and awkward shape makes them difficult to share (as I think traditional chocolate rabbits are). There are no artificial colors in them.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.