Sunday, February 14, 2010
Anyone who has visited this blog regularly knows my fondness for Caffarel, the Italian chocolate maker that invented gianduia. What’s even more remarkable about them is that they don’t just make little nuggets of the stuff, they fashion it into beautiful morsels in clever shapes & wrappers to look at before you gobble them up.
While at the Fancy Food Show I was happy to see the Caffarel booth. Caffarel is devilishly hard to find in the United States, but if they’re planning to distribute directly, maybe things will improve - wider distribution and perhaps the prices will be a little better.
These were simple little milk chocolate hearts, barely larger in diameter than a penny, the chocolate is silky smooth, sweet and milky with a cool melt on the tongue. As far as I’m concerned, the script Caffarel on any candy says I Love You.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you get chocolate or candy from your sweetie?
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I got these in a bulk bin at the mall candy shop because I thought they were pretty. I love the grape and banana-yellow ones - they taste nothing like nature. I haven’t actually eaten many of them, I have them in some unused spice bottles on my shelf. I suspect they’ll keep for 20 or 30 years that way.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I reckon there are some very excited people out there to find the new Q.Bel 70% Double Dark Wafer Bars. Not because they’re all natural, preservative free and free of hydrogenated oils. Nope, it’s because they’re vegan. No dairy, no honey, no glazes and no colorings.
The package doesn’t herald the vegan-ness (but the Q.bel website does). The package feels, to me, collegiate. I don’t know if it’s the colors that remind me of a library or a winter scarf (no, none of these were colors for the colleges I attended)
The bars are the same format as the Mint Wafer Bars and the Dark Wafer Bars. There are three layers of crispy flavorless wafers (like ice cream cones) with a chocolate creme between then. Then the whole thing is covered in 70% dark chocolate.
These are not a sweet treat, they are dark and a little bitter and all delicious. The chocolate punch is substantial. The bar smells like chocolate and except for the lightly malty crisp wafers, that’s really the only flavor. It has a dry and bitter bite to it, a good silky smooth texture, but probably a little too much on the smoky and bitter side for me to eat as a plain bar. But in this format with airy wafers and grainy sugary chocolate cream centers I found the perfect balance.
Q.bel gave me an insane amount of “samples”, full display boxes, again. And like the last time I put them on my bookshelf in my office and found that even the folks in my office who don’t normally go for dark chocolate liked them, and of course those who do love dark were enthralled by the textures and deep flavor. Now that I’ve found a source in stores (Whole Foods stocks them for $1.39 a bar) I will definitely buy them, now that my inventory is gone.
The only thing I’d like would be for the bars to be slightly bigger, maybe 1.3 ounces. However, the calories per ounce are pretty high, so keeping each finger below 100 calories is probably a good idea. (The package is 180 calories.)
Another example of something that I bought but never really ate. I loved the look of them, they’re about the size of playing cards and rather thin.
The assortment was two different dark chocolate single origin bars and one milk chocolate one.
What I loved about these was that I bought them right where they were made, at the Michael Mischer shop in Oakland, CA. So they were absolutely perfect, they hadn’t been shipped or knocked around by a stock boy. I didn’t eat them because I forgot I had them, not because they didn’t look good. I enjoyed everything I got there. I need to go back, buy some again and then actually write about it.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The packaging is another iteration of their West African iconography in gold and red on a black background. The bars is 3.5 ounces (not available in a single serve size at this time) and is wrapped well inside the paper overwrap with a textured medium grade foil.
Divine bills itself as Heavenly Chocolate with a heart. They use mostly fair trade ingredients (in this case it was the sugar, vanilla and the cacao), are all natural and use non-GMO soy lecithin. Their dark bars do not use any dairy products and are considered vegan though are produced on shared equipment with milk, wheat and tree nuts.
The construction of the bar is simple. Dark chocolate with a layer of freeze dried raspberries sprinkled on the bottom.
Flipped over, the bar is quite beautiful, like all the Divine bars I’ve had. Nice gloss and snap, a rather red hue to it; I wasn’t sure if it was from the raspberry inclusions or just the natural state of the chocolate. It’s a moderately thick bar, thicker than a Lindt Excellence bar, but not as thick as something like Ritter Sport. The sections are 4 by 6 and pretty easy to snap apart.
It absolutely smells like raspberries with some woodsy and seed notes. The dark chocolate is strong, dark and slightly bitter. I was expecting a fruity chocolate, instead it had strong coffee and charcoal notes. The texture is silky with a dry finish and of course the raspberry bits created some texture. The raspberries are freeze dried bits, with lots of seeds. Chewing the seeds gives off grassy and sesame flavors while the pulp part is quite tangy and has great natural raspberry flavors.
Overall I liked the bold combination of flavors - this was not a timid bar. It was not a bar that I could munch on forever though. I had two pieces, then needed to rest for a while until I was interested in having some more. It wasn’t something I was craving at any point though. If they could do the same bar without the seeds, I think I’d prefer it.
These are a fantastic idea. Miniature ice cream cones with a marshmallow candy topping.
Yeah, great idea but really not that good. They’re about three inches high and come individually wrapped in clear cellophane. I don’t know if it’s the packaging or the fact that a lot of egg white things smell kind of like wet dog to me, but they were icky.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Ritter Sport makes a bar for everyone. I don’t know how many different varieties they’ve actually make and I know I haven’t tried more than half of them. They have an awesome website that does everything I want a candy maker’s website to do: inform, entice and engage.
This new bar isn’t even listed on the website yet: Ritter Sport Neapolitan Wafers. The burnt orange wrapper stands out in the rainbow of bars, different enough from the saffron yellow Cornflakes bar (my favorite). I know, my photo makes it look orange-red, but it’s just one of those colors that computer monitors just don’t like to display without a lot of tinkering.
The package describes it as milk chocolate with chocolate cream filled wafers and praline. In Ritter-speak, praline is a hazelnut cream.
The bar is beautiful. All Ritter Sport bars are beautiful. A bulky square, four by four, with thick sections. In this case it’s thick enough to hold the layers inside so it’s more bitable. (Other solid varieties are a little harder to bite, there’s more gnawing involved or I suppose I just snap off the pieces.)
The bar is not quite what I expected. I thought the praline would be between the wafer layers.
Instead there are wafer layers, a kind of bland and crispy wafer like a rice cake, but between them is a thin bit of mild and sweet chocolate cream. So far so good. Then on top of that is a rather generous hazelnut paste. It’s sweet and nutty and a little rib-sticking thick. The crunch of the wafers gets a little lost, as there’s just not enough to offset the thick praline. I’m not saying it’s bad, I had no trouble finishing the bar, but I kind of wanted the ratios to be a little bit different.
As usual the Ritter Sport milk chocolate was excellent. Milky with little caramel and smoke notes, it’s a bit on the sweet side. Overall it was a little on the sweet side for me (a dark chocolate version, please!) and I’m wondering if the mini version might be a little better on the ratios of crunch to sticky thickness. The crunch sensation isn’t quite the same as a KitKat, if you were wondering. It’s simply not grainy enough and too nuanced. They also use hydrogenated palm kernel oil and palm kernel oil in the fillings, so it’s not all pure nutty, milky & cocoa ingredients in there.
I will eat See’s Scotchmallow in any shape or size. Witness See’s Valentine’s version.
The construction of the See’s Scotchmallow Heart is actually upside down from the piece (but consistent with the Egg): marshmallow then caramel then covered in chocolate. It’s tougher to eat in layers than the piece. I usually nibble the sides off of the piece, then pull the chocolate lid off, pull the marshmallow off of the caramel and eat it separately. Messy? Sure. Tasty? Definitely. In this version though it’s less about the dark chocolate and more about the chewy textures of marshmallow and caramel. I also think the marshmallow is less fluffy from being smashed down by the caramel.
I thought it was a pretty good deal at $1.40 for a one ounce heart but I still prefer the pieces.
UPDATE 9:20 AM: About 45 minutes after I posted this I got an email offering me $30 to post a version of some provided text with a link to See’s. (The text was generic, about how a Ses’s gift would be great for Valentine’s day.) Please note that I have never taken money for any of my posts and I actually bought all of the See’s candies I’ve posted about on Candy Blog (well, someone might have given me some of it as a gift and there are the free samples in the store). Please note that this is the second time that I have been offered this sum of money in exchange for posting a generic item about See’s with an SEO building link.
The first time was in November, before the new FTC full-disclosure rules for bloggers. The email came from a gmail address but after some prodding I found out that the woman who refused to actually name the company she worked for but some digging revealed that she worked for a company that does search engine optimization with social media. Today’s email was formatted similarly, came from a different person, but also via a generic gmail address. (I saw a half a dozen of these posts on other blogs, an example of one is posted here with identifying info blanked out.)
So if you see some rather generic looking posts about See’s in the next few days (the deadline to post for this premium of a whopping $30 is Friday, February 12, 2010) you might want to ask the blogger. The offer specifically admonishes do not disclose this is a paid post. Again, this is now against the FTC rules governing paid posts by bloggers which says that bloggers must disclose.
But also note that these emails did not come directly from See’s nor did any of them say that they were employed to do this by See’s.
The sad thing is that See’s does not need to do this to buoy their reputation. A better option would be to offer samples to bloggers and allow them to voice their own opinions and disclose how they came about the candy. Right now I just don’t know what to do. I love their candy, but I detest this road they’re going down.
UPDATE 2/11/2010: After posting this I wrote to the one contact I had at See’s and explained the situation, naming names as I knew them. Last night I heard from one of the principals of the agency where the offer originated. He disavowed any knowledge of the campaign and apologized. He was very sincere and fully recognized that this rogue activity was not within any guidelines or boundaries of acceptability (or probably even effectiveness). At this time I consider the matter closed. I still have a bad taste in my mouth about See’s PR practices, but it hasn’t influenced my feelings about the products.
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