Thursday, August 19, 2010
They recently reformulated all their bars when they got a new cacao source (which does change the flavor profile for high end chocolate), so they sent me an array of bars to try. Today I thought I’d start with their simplest offerings, their single serving bars in Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa and Organic Milk Chocolate 43% Cocoa.
The chocolate in the bars is Rainforest Alliance Certified as well as gluten free, Kosher, organic and ethically trade. The dark chocolate bar is also vegan (though made on equipment that also processes diary, peanuts and tree nuts). The package is made of 30% post-consumer recycled material yet it’s pretty nice to look at. The 70% Dark bar features the Karner Blue Butterfly, which is only about 3/4 of an inch across but a sparkling iridescent blue that draws the eye.
The bars are nicely proportioned. They’re slender - about 5.25” long and only 1.5” wide. Each is divided into three segments that are slightly domed and thick enough to provide a satisfying snap when broken.
The melt is smooth for the most part, though I did get an occasional spot of grit (fibery bits of cacao). It’s thick and lightly acidic with some bitter cherry notes. There’s coffee and anise and maybe some light citrus peel plus a strong note of vanilla. It puddles like pudding on the tongue and though I think there’s a smidge too much cocoa butter in it, the ratios support the flavor profile well. There are a lot of flavors going on and at times the finish is dry while other pieces I’m noticing a much lighter green tea note at the end.
Sometimes very dark chocolate isn’t as munchable as milk or milder stuff. It’s as if it’s too complex; this bar is dark and has a good mix of flavors but doesn’t feel too sophisticated for snacking. It pairs well with salty foods as well as nuts and dried fruits.
The second bar is the Organic Milk Chocolate 43% Cocoa Bar. I have to say that 43% is a pretty dark shade of milk chocolate. Some are as low as 20% cocoa content and there are those that go as high as 68% - but the low 30% range is what I think we’re most accustomed to.
This package features a lion. The package tells me that lions spend up to 21 hours a day sleeping. The rest of that time is spent in search of food, though they don’t eat every day. The package also says that lions are the only felines that live in social groups, maybe meaning that society leads to such high levels of cooperation that 21 hours of sleep are possible ... maybe we could learn something from that.
I stuck the milk on top of the dark here to show you the difference in color.
The main dairy ingredient in this bar is organic milk powder. It smells just like that - like sweet powdered milk.
The snap is much softer than the dark chocolate, though not fudgy like some milk bars like Cadbury can be. The melt is smooth, though not light and slick like Dove. It’s much thicker and velvety. The dairy notes fade and there’s a stronger caramelized sugar flavor along with the stronger bitter cocoa notes. There’s a hint of coffee, toffee and cedar in there.
This wasn’t my style of milk chocolate, it’s just too powdered milk flavored to me. I don’t know quite what that flavor is, but it reminds me of nutrition, which is not what I want in my treat. I’m guessing that this is just the profile that others prefer. The fact that it’s organic will also have appeal for folks who are looking to avoid hormones in their dairy products.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
from Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (link)
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I enjoy following candy companies on Twitter and visiting their Facebook pages; they often point out interesting information about products and manufacturing that I wouldn’t have known about on their websites.
Last week Ritter Sport mentioned an article about the nine different kinds of chocolate. That’s not different bars, that’s nine different kinds of chocolate used for different purposes in their wide variety of bars, including four different milk chocolates.
Last week I also got a package from the Ritter Sport representatives in the United States of some of their new bars and even a few Europe-only varieties. The Ritter Sport Olympia is one of those bars not available in the United States. It was first introduced in the 1980 to coincide with the Olympics. Then it was brought back last year. It’s an interesting description for a bar: Joghurt - Honig - Nuss - Traubenzucker which is Yogurt - Honey - Hazelnuts - Grape Sugar.
The bar looks like most other Ritter Sport bars. 100 grams in a 4x4 array of pieces. Easy to portion and nicely sized bites.
The bar simply smells sweet and a little like cocoa breakfast cereal. There’s no hint of the honey or hazelnuts within.
Biting it, I was immediately struck with the taste of tangy goat cheese. It wasn’t a great initial flavor, it was like it was a little salty and gamey. But I kept at it, you know, because this is my job.
The milk chocolate is completely dominated by the dairy notes of the yogurt cream center. The cream is soft and fudgy, but pretty creamy overall. There’s a tangy note to it, like, well yogurt or buttermilk/sour cream. There are two kinds of crunches studded within - little bits of hazelnut and then little honeycomb crunches. There’s a light hint of honey from time to time that lingers at the end.
It’s vastly different from anything I’ve had in the United States but it reminds me of some of the dairy heavy Kinder products (though they’re rarely yogurty). It was hearty and satisfying and not too sweet. I liked the idea that it was like a Greek yogurt candy bar, but then I remembered, I like the idea of the Greek yogurt lifestyle more than the actuality. I can see why this isn’t sold in the US, but it might be fun for them to release it as a Limited Edition during Olympics years.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I think one of the best comfort confections out there has to be a fresh Pecan Turtle, especially if it’s made with dark chocolate. But when I saw this box of Demet’s Hazelnut Turtles at the 99 Cent Store on Friday I was willing to entertain the notion that hazelnuts would be equally delicious.
I have to say, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen hazelnut turtles before. I’m even more surprised to see them from DeMets, especially since their website makes no mention of their existence at all. The other weird thing about the package is that it doesn’t say “made with Nestle chocolate” on the front. Not that this is a bad thing, I don’t really care much for the chocolate on DeMet’s turtles, so the lack of it brought the possibility that it was better.
The box is huge but clearly says that there are 6 pieces and they weigh 3.5 ounces. Since I purchased them at the 99 Cent Only Store they were only a buck, which I think is a great deal for a real hazelnut and real chocolate confection. The box was shrink-wrapped, so they were definitely fresh though I couldn’t find a freshness date on them. Each little turtle is about 1.5” inches around but sits in a larger slot in the box. They’re just plain over-packaged.
They smell sweet and a little like caramel and fresh oatmeal. Biting into them it was clear that these were mostly caramels and not that studded with nuts at all. The caramel had a nice chew, a good stringy pull and light salty note. The hazelnuts are chopped pretty small but still have a good crunch and grassy/roasted flavor. The chocolate is fair; it’s very sweet and has a strong dairy flavor but not much cocoa really.
I would have loved a good quality, hazelnut rich chew here, but I shouldn’t have expected so much for a buck. Still, it’s better than many candy bars and hazelnuts are pretty hard to find in mainstream confections.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I found this small bag of Crazy Candy Co Candy Laces at Aldi. They have a few sugar-based candies from this Crazy Candy Co on the shelves, like gummi bears and sour neon worms. Though Aldi sells Haribo, this Crazy Candy Co is one of their house brands.
The Candy Laces are like fruity licorice; they’re made from wheat and come in four flavors: Strawberry, Apple Peach, Raspberry, Peach. The package says they use no artificial flavors or colors. The package is cute and inviting and would certainly appeal to juveniles. The price is pretty good at 79 cents for three ounces - it’s not a lot of candy or a lot of money for a little treat.
The laces are about 18-20 inches long each. Though it’s natural coloring, they’re bold and bright.
The laces are soft and flexible, but still strong enough to take a little tugging and pulling. They have a light beeswax coating on them to keep them from sticking and drying out, but it’s not oily or sticky. I found it easy to twist and braid the laces together. Let’s face it, one of the reasons I bought them was because I thought they’d be fun to play with and photograph.
The laces are lightly translucent and well made. Not bumps, tacky or chalky spots.
The peach and apple flavors are authentic. It’s like a lightly sweet glass of juice. The texture of the chew is a little sticky but since the cords are so thin to begin with, it’s not like big gobs can get stuck in my teeth.
The color is bright and the laces sometimes look like a heap of curry ramen to me.
The peach flavor is a little tart and has a little pine note to it, like peach skins. It’s not overwhelming or artificial, though still not quite authentic.
I was hoping for something really intense and jammy. Instead it’s just a little tart, vaguely floral and mildly berry-flavored.
One thing that I noticed about the Raspberry laces is that they’re slightly smaller in diameter from the other flavors. Still the same texture though.
Strawberry is a common flavor for red licorice, so I went into this with a lot of experience with red laces. My first impression: nicely done.
The flavor is tart and good mix of floral, berry and tangy notes. The chew is firm, like an al dente pasta and it’s not as leathery or doughy as some other American and Australian versions.
I found that they kept fresh even without sealing the bag up inside a zippered plastic bag like I do with many of my opened candies. After about a week they got a little firmer, but never tacky or dry.
The package is nicely designed and the candy itself is well made. I don’t care personally for the flavor mix much, but I know that children would probably be drawn to the bright colors and mainstream flavors. (They might be disappointed that the apple isn’t more like the Jolly Rancher Green Apple.) These would be great for decorating as well.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Kex was introduced in 1921 as Five O’clock but was renamed Kex around 1941. Kex, in Swedish, means simply biscuit (or cookie to Americans). The Kex line from Cloetta is pretty extensive with all sorts of chocolate covered cookies and biscuits. But the chocolate covered waffle crisps are by far the most popular. Even the regular Kex comes in a few variations, currently it’s available in milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a summer raspberry version.
The reach of this bar must be pretty wide, there are 18 translations of the ingredients on the back of the package. (Probably more of a testament to Ikea than Cloetta.)
The bar is a nice size, 13 grams (.46 ounces). They’re flat and thin, about 2 1/3” long and 1 1/4” wide. So it’s like a snack size version in the bag. The ingredients say that it’s a chocolate flavored coating, but as far as mockolate goes, it has real cocoa butter just an additional bit of vegetable oils (palm and/or shea nut oil).
They smell milky, again, the ingredients say that milk is the second ingredient in the chocolate flavored coating. The wafers are light, airy, very dry and crispy. They filling between them is hardly noticeable. There’s a light malt note to the bar and a strong dairy component. The cocoa is barely discernible as a flavor but the texture of the coating is creamy and smooth. Since the cookie is front and center and the coating is really just there to contain it all, it’s more like a cookie than a candy.
They’re mildly addictive. I held back five for review and shared the rest with coworkers and found that I ate my five without realizing it. However, I didn’t find them wholly satisfying. The chocolate wasn’t chocolatey enough, which I guess is why I kept eating. (Clever!) The Tunnock’s (yesterday) was a bit more filling but still not quite what I wanted either. (Yes, it’s the Q.bel bars that I crave at this point.) But I see why these are so popular in Sweden and at Ikea.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tunnock’s is a Scottish biscuit company located in Uddingston (outside Glasgow), Scotland. They make a wide variety of baked goods but those in North America are probably most familiar with their teacakes (a digestive biscuit with a marshmallow on top, covered in chocolate) and their Tunnock’s Caramel Bar. I got this bar from my friend Ernesssa, who went to Scotland a few months ago. I liked it a lot so when I saw a package of four at Cost Plus World Market, I thought I’d buy it again so that I could do a complete review and see if the Scottish & American versions were different. (Turns out both are made in Scotland, though Tunnock’s has a factory in Canada.)
The only difference, as far as I could tell, between the American & Scottish was the packaging. The Scottish ones, shown here, are in a simple thick foil wrapper. The package I bought in Cost Plus has a big more substantial wrapper. It was a light mylar sleeve and then the four bars were sealed inside another larger mylar sleeve. The Scottish version was easier to unwrap and reseal, though I don’t think it was nearly as airtight as the American one. I was concerned that my Scottish-purchased one was a little stale.
The bars are large and rather ordinary looking. Each is about four inches long and 1 inch square. The chocolate coating is quite thin and light, the waffle pattern of the wafers can be seen.
It’s five layers of wafers sandwiching four layers of caramel then a thin coating of milk chocolate.
Beefy and substantial looking, it’s an odd mix. The wafers are light and airy, so the bar is much lighter than it looks. But the caramel between the layers is like a glue that keeps it all intact as long as possible, no flakes escape here.
It’s sweet and only slightly milk and cocoa-ish. The chocolate coating is creamy but doesn’t contribute much flavor. The wafers are basically airy and have a lightly malted flavor, but not much else. The caramel filling is kind of like a penuche or clotted cream fudge. It’s not gooey or chewy, but does create a little bit of a softer texture. The wafers aren’t exactly stale, but they’re not dry/crispy like some other wafer bars. At first I thought that was a bad thing, but I found I liked it quite a bit, it was just a little bit more textured than a wafer ice cream cone.
It reminds me of cereal bar - you know, one of those bar cookies that you make at home, more than a candy bar. For something that’s only one ounce, it’s satisfying. So for folks watching their calories, at only 130 per bar, they’re a good option - only 5 grams of fat, which isn’t bad for a chocolate combination bar.
I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to get these again, but I understand why they’re one of the top ten bars in Scotland. They’re different from KitKat, which has more chocolate and less crisp, and the lightly toasted caramel notes add a different dimension from other more caramel-focused bars like Mars (Milky Way). I love the packages and motifs for their whole product design. I don’t think I could resist buying all of Tunnock’s products at this point, just to see how each is done.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Sometimes I have stuff that I just do a short review on. In this instance, I just want to tell you about some things that I bought and might have eaten. But I’m not going to review them. You might enjoy the photos and of course feel free to add your review in the comments.
What is it? Haribo Cola Wheels
Why I Bought Them: They were pretty and I love cola as a flavor.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them. I know they’ll turn up, but they were just in a paper bag, so they can’t possibly be fresh now. (But I’ll probably eat them anyway.)
What is it? Bourbon Bit Assortment (Banana)
Why I Bought Them: It’s Japanese. A friend at work gave me a bag of them. In the bag are three varieties, I think Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Creme and Banana Creme. But the wrappers are in Japanese, so I’m only guessing.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I haven’t been able to find them in stores and ended up sharing most of them with co-workers. Still, they’re nice little wafer layers with creme covered in decent chocolate.
What is it? Mehlenbacher’s Taffy Assortment
Why I Bought Them: Back in the spring I went to Paso Robles for the weekend. We stopped at the farmers market in the square and I saw a stand for this taffy. It was so cute and I’d actually read about them online before my trip. So I picked up this big assortment. The pieces are huge, like cigars. The flavors also sounded great, especially Root Beer.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I lost them for a while. I have this horrible habit of tucking candy away in boxes or coolers to keep it fresh, but then forgetting that I had it or where I put it. And now it’s too late to eat them for review.
What is it? Marshmallow Bunny
Why I Bought Them: it was cute and I wanted to take its picture.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It’s just another pink Easter marshmallow bunny made in China. There’s not much else to say any longer about those.
What is it? Hammond’s Peanut Butter Sticks
Why I Bought Them: I got this as a sample at the Fancy Food Show back in January. I’ve been looking for them in stores and online but haven’t seen them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: It was dang tasty, but again, it’s hard for me to review stuff that isn’t easily acquired. But I’ll keep my eyes out, if I see them again, I’ll buy them and review them for real.
What is it? Raleigh Bar from Xocolatl
Why I Bought Them: This was a sample from the Fancy Food Show. The bar is “a layer of honey pecan chocolate nougat, topped with our signature salted caramel.” I thought it was nice, but didn’t really get a great feel for it (it’s kind of tiny, like a large bonbon).
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I have this thing about bacon. I know there’s no bacon in this, though there’s a version that has bacon in it. I don’t like bacon. I don’t like pork, I don’t even like meat. I really don’t like it to even be adjacent to my chocolate. It’s my own baggage and it’s not fair, but that’s why I haven’t reviewed a lot of Vosges lately and some other candies that I’m sure are great ... simply their proximity to bacon.
What is it? Boyer Peanut Butter Pretzel - it’s a pretzel dipped in peanut butter and then coated in milk chocolate.
Why I Bought Them: I picked these up as a sample. I photographed them.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I can’t find them for sale anywhere. Or at least that was the problem. I ate them but didn’t make notes well enough for review. Then I saw them for sale while I was in Ohio.
What is it? Madame Chocolat crispy rice squares dipped in chocolate
Why I Bought Them: I went to Beverly Hills late last year to visit Teuscher. Since I’d already paid for parking I took a stroll around for other chocolate opportunities. I went into a little shop called Madame Chocolat and picked up a few items. It was expensive stuff (their fine boxed chocolates) but I also got this crazy little item - it’s not like a marshmallow rice crispy treat. It’s more like sugar sweetened cereal, held together with that crispy syrup coating. Then the bottoms are dipped in very, very good dark chocolate.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I dunno.
What is it? Ethel’s Chocolate Beer Chocolates & Caramels
Why I Bought Them: Last year I also went to Las Vegas to the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Show. Instead of seeing Bill Clinton give his keynote address I went to the Ethel’s Chocolates factory and botanical gardens. I bought a few things there (two different assortments plus some hot chocolate) but never got around to reviewing it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I thought they were good, and the botanical gardens are charming. But I just couldn’t figure out what else to say about it.
What is it? Xocai Power Squares
Why I Bought Them: I picked up two little squares as a sample last year at the Los Angeles Chocolate Salon (held in Pasadena). I’ve been curious about the chocolate brand for a while now, but they’re like Avon, you have to buy them from someone who sells the stuff and they only seem to sell huge quantities. I just wanted to try it.
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: I don’t like to review stuff that’s not available for retail. (This is the same reason I don’t cover the Dove Chocolate Discoveries stuff.) I’ve also been turned off by the extreme marketing I’ve seen - especially a lot of email I got early on and comments I considered spam on this site. I took that one bite, but I can’t say that it impressed me enough to eat the rest of it or open the second one. But I couldn’t muster much of a review otherwise.
What is it? North Island Caramels - Strawberry, Guarana & Roast Corn
Why I Bought Them: How could I not buy them? Look at those fabulous packages! I actually ordered them online from AsianFoodGrocer.com
Why I’m Not Going to Review Them: Aside from the packaging, I didn’t have much to say about them. They’re milky chews, not quite caramels. The flavors were good, I especially liked the guarana, which tasted like a cross between cola and bubble gum. But I took a lot of pictures of them, so it seems like a waste to not share them.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.