Tuesday, January 19, 2010
After oodles of wrangling and rumors that Nestle, Ferrero or Hershey’s would step in and partner or outbid, Kraft made it official (though it’s still tentative): $19 billion in cash and stock.
Kraft owns other confectionery divisions such as Terry’s Chocolate, Toblerone and C?te d’Or but Cadbury brings some pretty huge brands to the table besides Cadbury chocolate (available in dozens of countries) with their gum (Trident) and sugar candy (Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids) groups. A big concern for many is how this may stall Cadbury’s venture into Fair Trade, beyond their Green & Black’s brand and into their regular line of Dairy Milk bars.
Consider this your open thread to vent about it one way or another.
Monday was the big push at the Fancy Food Show, I was there for the full day and tried to see as much as possible. But I have a list of 250 companies and know I won’t see or taste it all.
Yes, I ate that. It’s a little chocolate version of a margarita. A bit of Patron, a bit of lime and a lot of creamy, creamy white chocolate in a dark chocolate cup with a salt rim. From Lillie Belle, part of a little line of cocktail inspired chocolates that also includes Maker’s Mark and my favorite a Gin & Tonic.
I stopped by a beautiful display at Kim’s Chocolates, a Belgian company. The booth was simply a double glass case of elegant and classic Belgian chocolates. I tasted an incredible orange and thyme truffle, smooth and savory with strong herbal and zest notes were just the right balance with the not-too-sweet chocolate. Also tried a cognac and cacao nib truffle that was quite dense and had some oak and deep molasses notes. They’ve taken over the shop on Larchmont in Los Angeles that used to be occupied by Leonidas, so I’ll be sure to stop by there so I can do a complete review.
Chuao Chocolatier: I mentioned the new Panko bar in my product announcement roundup, but there are three others also hitting the market: an Anise & Coffee and a Honeycomb. The fun thing about Chuao is that they also do sugar free bars, so everyone gets to have fun.
I found out how poorly I pronounce the international confection brands like Hachez and Pernigotti but enjoyed tasting all of the new items at the importer’s booth. Hachez is always so insanely smooth, the company conches their chocolate for seventy two hours which means that the particle size of the cacao is extremely small so it’s extra buttery. Penigotti does lovely gianduia, though I still prefer Caffarel, they have other tablet bars that are pretty compelling.
One of the trends mentioned in the Fancy Food Show press release was comfort foods. Chocolatiers like Gorant, which is from Youngstown, Ohio and a favorite of my mother’s seem positioned well for that. They do an excellent peanut butter meltaway and mint meltaway. They’re chocolate is quite sweet, but also buttery. They’re expanding national.
Rain Republic from Ecuador is an all-Ecuador chocolate. All ingredients are source from Ecuador: the sugar, the cacao and the vanilla beans. Plus it’s all made in Ecuador. I haven’t actually tasted it yet, but the packaging is lovely (the box actually opens with a tab on the top and can be easily reclosed) with its bold graphics and colors.
New Tree has evolved away from their initial line of Belgian chocolate in crazy names like Sexy. Now they’ve got interesting mixes of grains, nuts, seeds and flavors mixed in. They have some cute new single serve bars like Belgian Biscuit and Roasted Almonds that have stuff like omega 3 as well as less sugar without artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
I tried their Thyme infused bar last year and loved it ... now I just need to find a store that carries their bars.
Caffarel, the originator of gianduia, is usually at the show via one of their importers, this year they had their own booth. The stuff just takes my breath away ... if the folks who made Legoland ever wanted to do a gianduia theme park, please make it with Caffarel. I got a few samples of their leetle tiny hearts and some fruit gelees and will try to do a roundup after I play with them on my desk like matchbox cars for a few days.
Jelly Belly has Fruit Snacks. They’re not gummies, they’re just fruit chews made with starch and pectin as well as real fruit juice. No artificial colors. They were also showing off their mango and chili jelly beans, I haven’t tried them yet, because I’m a big baby.
B.T. McElrath introduced the Salty Dog bar last year. I’ve picked it up a couple of times at Whole Foods but I actually just keep eating it without reviewing it. This year the dark chocolate bar with sea salt and almond toffee chips got a companion, the Prairie Dog Bar, which is made with milk chocolate. I also tasted some of their new bonbons, which are always nicely packaged and designed. Pave Coconut isn’t too sweet and has a nice blend of the tropical notes and smooth creaminess. Lemon (pictured above) was also more on the tangy and zesty side and beautifully molded in a flower shape with a swirl of yellow white chocolate in the milk chocolate shell.
Hammond’s Candies sent me a tweet and bid me to come by to try their Honey Koko, one of their oldest products that they recently restarted production on. It was invented by the founder of the company eighty years ago. It’s just a coconut fondant covered in milk chocolate and more coconut. Much smoother and creamier than an Almond Joy but oh so sweet. They only sell them at the factory store and a few other candy shops in the area because they’re not a prepackaged item.
They also have some other fun flavors for their handmade and hand twisted creations like nutmeg candy canes, champagne candy canes, cabernet candy canes. It’s insane! Their booth always makes me so happy. I love the look of candy, it’s just amazing how versatile it is and Hammond’s really appreciates the impact that a one pound lollipop can make visually.
Hint Mint always has such fun packaging and flavor combinations, though I’m a kind of mint purist and stick with the original plain mint. I did pick up some samples of their Pomegranate Acai and Chocolate Mints.
In non candy tasting notes:
Yanni Grilling Cheese was awesome, you can get all the punch of gooey melted cheese without deep frying or bread.
I’m excited to try Purple Prairie Barley. It’s a heritage barley variety that’s supposed to have a nice toasted and smoky flavor. (I happen to love barley in all forms.)
I’ll have some more photos & roundups and of course will be trying to send out a few tweets during the day. Perhaps I can get back to full reviews later this week. (I’ve been tasting too many things to give one thing the focus it deserves.)
Name: Valentine Dots
Name: Sour Patch Jelly Hearts
Name: Valentine’s Skittles
Name: Red Vines Valentine Chews
Name: Hawaiian Fruits Life Savers
Name: Panko Bar
Name: Skittles Fizzl’d Fruits
Name: Dark Chocolate Quinoa: Midnight Crunch
Name: Shrek Ogreheads
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday was the first day of the annual Winter Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It’s my fourth time attending. This year I have a list of 250 companies exhibiting with confectionery products. I hope to make it through the list ... though my first day was cut a little short as I had to drive all the way from Los Angeles at six in the morning.
I haven’t noticed any specific trends, which is great to be honest. Yeah, there’s a lot of sea salt, chili and exotic fruits in candy now, but sometimes it’s not so much about trends but just new availability of ingredients. When I’m at Fancy Food, I usually concentrate on candy, but that doesn’t mean that other foods and drinks catch my fancy.
Here are a few things I noticed:
I love hot chocolate, though of course I don’t write about it much here because it’s not actually candy. Still, when I’m at trade shows I love to try the stuff. One of my favorites is the Mexican-style which varies quite a bit. This version from Kekua is stone ground cocoa, a touch of sugar. The tablets are easy to crush up and dissolve in milk (or water) either hot or cold. It’s available with or without almonds. I tasted the almond-less version.
What I liked about it was how it had a hearty toasted flavor, kind of like malt-o-meal or the barley tea I drink from Japan. They also make them in little nuggets so you have the option of either making hot chocolate with them or just eating them. Since the sugar isn’t combined with the cacao completely, it’s grainy and more like a dry cookie dough. (Kekua website.)
Lake Champlain has introduced a new Five Star Bar: Five Star Granola Bar. It’s in the same shape as the rest of the line and features a ganache/cream center filled with crunchy oats, almonds and cranberries covered in dark chocolate. The variation in crunch is fun as is the cereal heartiness of the granola. Of course the chocolate is nice too!
They also said there will be two new Breakfast Egg versions for Easter - they’re a larger Five Star Bar in either the Granola version or a Peanut Butter Crisp.
The folks at How Do You Take Your Coffee who make Javaz, the expertly roasted coffee beans covered in chocolate and beautiful shell also have some over-caffeinated products. I reviewed their GoGo Beans before and saw that they’ll have GoGo Drops soon. They’re the size and format of M&Ms, except the coffee flavored chocolate in a candy shell is then hyper-caffeinated. Not something I should be eating, but definitely a find for students and folks who need an extra kickstart.
Just about anything with whole nuts attracts me. I stopped at Valor which is a Spanish chocolate company that I’ve never reviewed before. They make an incredible hot chocolate, for those who have had Churros y Chocolate, you’ll what kind I mean. They also have chocolate bars and I mentioned in a previous Candy Tease that they introduced single portion bars. Well now I’ve tasted them - whole Spanish almonds in silky chocolate ... quite satisfying.
The other whole nut stop was Lindt where they were showing off their new Grandeur bars which come in milk or dark chocolate and feature whole Hazelnuts. I’m a sucker for hazelnuts as well, and Lindt’s chocolate pairs excellently with it. I’ve already seen these in stores (Target) and plan to pick up a full bar (or both bars) for review in the future.
Things are beautiful. Food is beautiful. Pralus, whom I’ve already fallen for, had an amazing display of their beautifully packaged products at their booth. There’s so much attention to detail at the Fancy Food Show. There were several other companies that I got a similar vibe from (that I’ll be covering later) that understand that we feast first with our eyes, then with our mouth and then with our minds. It’s a whole experience and I think gives more to appreciate.
One of the other non-candy things I do is discover cheese. I love cheese, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become lactose-sensitive. So I have to eat less and less. The cool thing is that goat and sheep milk cheeses are easier for us lactose-averse folks to digest. So at the show I made full use of the tastings to find new products. One of the new lines I found is from Marcelli Formaggi of Abruzzi, Italy. They use sheep’s milk to make an incredible array of ricottas. There was a cave aged ricotta that was like a blue on the outside and a firm creamy ricotta on the inside. Amazing. I fear I’m going to be putting in a few web orders soon if I can’t find them in stores. (Marcelli website.)
(All photos above by Emanuel Treeson)
A few years ago Jelly Belly was taking suggestions for their new bean flavors. I was actively advocating honey. I know, it’s not dazzling like Juicy Pear or knock-your-socks-off like Buttered Popcorn, but let’s face it, honey is one of humans’ first candies.
Honey actually made it to the final cut of the flavor voting, but the trendier Acai Berry won (with honey as a close second). The good news is that honey made a good enough showing that Jelly Belly went ahead and made it anyway! Which is good, because I’d much rather have a spoonful of honey than of acai berry.
The beans are dark amber and ever so slightly translucent.
They’re soft and mild - really like a less sweet globule of honey. The texture is smooth overall, though with that slight grain of the thin jelly bean shell. There’s a little bit of a fresh aftertaste, kind of like jasmine tea.
It’s too bad that they’re not all natural (there are some artificial colors in there) but they use real honey in them, and that definitely is apparent.
Honestly, I didn’t think much of them when I had them the first time, but the true honey flavor comes through and I found myself wanting more later. I can’t say eating a huge bag of them would be a goal, but they were a nice little mid-day refresher. My confidence level that these are going to appear in stores is pretty low. I don’t expect to see them at the grocery store, but perhaps in the stores that carry the single flavors in bulk ... so the Jelly Belly website is probably going to be the best bet. (A custom mix I’d make for myself would probably be to mix the honey and Citrus Mix for a special sort of cough drop if only they’d make a mentholated jelly bean.)
Jelly Belly are gluten-free, dairy-free and gelatin free plus Kosher.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.