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December 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

La Higuera Rabitos Royale (Chocolate Truffle Filled Figs)

Rabitos RoyaleFor years I’ve seen references to La Higuera Rabitos Royale. They’re a decadent creation, a whole fig is dried and then stuffed with a brandy infused chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is dipped in another layer of chocolate.

The box is big though weighs very little. It’s an elegant 7 inch square with an appealing photo of the freshly dipped figs against a black background and then a sparely designed front that describes the product.

We select the best mediterranean [sic] figs, we stuff them with our truffle cream, we cover then with a thin layer of chocolate and then ... you get the most delightful experience..

I’ve seen them in cheese shops from time to time, but I’m hesitant to buy fresh chocolate products there as I’ve had a few bad experiences in the past and these are often very expensive (about $10 for a box of 9 figs). So when I saw them at Trader Joe’s for only $7, I figured this was the time to try them.


Inside the sleeve of the box is a tray that holds each individually wrapped bonbon. It’s a lot of packaging, but I understand the impulse to seal each one up, as the alcohol in infused chocolates can easily evaporate on store shelves. The package also warns that the nature of the real fig means that there might be some bloom on the product but that it would still be tasty and edible.

Rabitos Royale

The little matte silver mylar protects the candies well, all were uncracked, though all had a few little moisture bloom speckles. (It looks more like sugary moisture is migrating from the filling instead of the cocoa butter moving out of the chocolate itself.) One of the things I noticed on the ingredients list is that the chocolate coating has a little fractionated vegetable oil in it, so it’s not a true chocolate shell. I didn’t notice that it affected the flavor profile or the texture. They smell sweet and woodsy with a definite brandy note to them. The pieces are firm but give way to a bite very easily. If they’re cold then the shell can crack a little, but at warmer room temperatures (in the 70s) they’re soft and the chocolate coating sticks. I like to bite mine in half.

The ganache center is strongly alcoholic - brandy liquor is the third ingredient in the filling after cream and glucose syrup. The brandy mixes well with the deep leathery and raisin flavors of the fig. The ganache is smooth and melts easily in the mouth. The chocolate shell is a thin veneer, so all it’s really doing is holding it all together, so I mostly forgive the splash of oil in there.

These are quite good and I found one or two to be more than satisfying. But it helps that the packaging is a little daunting, so I didn’t find myself eating the whole box at once like I might if they were just in fluted cups.

I don’t think you have to like figs to enjoy these, but it certainly helps. The seedy part of the figs aren’t a textural element, just the deep berry flavors of the dried fruit, which is pretty soft after being stuffed with liquor & cream. I liked that it wasn’t honey-sweet like some glace fig products can be. The chocolate is good quality and the rest of the ingredients are top notch - the chocolate flavors are well matched with good berry, woodsy and a little smoky note to them.

They’re a nice hostess gift though may present an etiquette problem as she may not want to share them with everyone. I don’t see myself picking these up often, but for an intimate cheese course or small treat after a meal with coffee they’re just the thing to replace a heavy dessert. I don’t begrudge the price, I imagine there’s a lot of labor involved in stuffing actual real figs, but they’re still expensive and hard to rationalize for more than the most special occasion or recipient.

Related Candies

  1. Eat with your Eyes: Compartes Glace Fig
  2. Doulton Liqueur Chocolates (Cointreau & Teacher’s)
  3. Bouquet of Fruits Vinyeard - Wine Filled Chocolates
  4. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  5. Trader Joe’s Figments
  6. Figamajigs

Name: Rabitos Royale
Brand: La Higuera
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silver Lake)
Price: $6.99
Size: 5.01 ounces
Calories per ounce: 100
Categories: Candy, Trader Joe's, Chocolate, Mockolate, 8-Tasty, Spain

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:43 pm     CandyTrader Joe'sAlcoholChocolateMockolate7-Worth ItSpain

Monday, December 13, 2010

Russell Stover Assorted Wrapped Chocolates

Russell Stover Assorted Wrapped ChocolatesFor the past few months I’ve noticed this king sized bag of Russell Stover Assorted Fine Chocolates {individually wrapped} at CVS and RiteAid. It’s a rather simple looking bag and perhaps this photo doesn’t convey the massive size of it. It holds 20 ounces (1.4 pounds), so it’s kind of like picking up a gallon of milk.

The price wasn’t bad, both places were selling them for $9.99. But I didn’t really want them, so I didn’t buy them. Then I saw them on sale at Rite Aid for $7.88 and thought this was as good an opportunity as any ... especially when the price was down to a little more than $6 a pound for American made candy that uses real chocolate.

Inside unassuming bag are individually wrapped pieces of some of Russell Stover’s most popular “handcrafted in small batches” pieces of candy: Pecan Delight, Caramel, Mint Patty and Coconut. The wrappers are pretty subdued as well, just a plain white plastic with a picture of the candy and the name. They’re also a bit color coded, so it’s easy to pick them out.

Russell Stover Pecan Delight

The Pecan Delights really are delights. Sure they’re sweet and not terribly complex, but I get the impression that this package is all about comfort candies that satisfy a wide variety of people.

The milk chocolate coating is sweet but very smooth and has a good sticky milky quality. There caramel inside is stiff and chewy without being too hard or a danger to dental work. The pecans aren’t quite as dense as I would like, but they were fresh and crunchy.

I’ve tried the organic version of these before and thought they were good but not great. These were actually better as far as I was concerned than the DeMets Pecan Turtles, which I find sweet and lacking a strong toasted sugar flavor from the caramel.

Russell Stover Caramel

The Caramel is a small patty, with an appealing artisan look. The milk chocolate forms pleasing ripples on top and smells milky. The piece is about an inch and a half around.

The caramel is firm and has a good chew to it without being too tough or stiff. The flavor is salty and has adequate burnt sugar notes to it. It’s a nice size, about two bites for me, but I could eat it all at once if I wanted to. The caramel reminded me of Milk Duds, but of course with a much better, real chocolate coating.

Russell Stover Coconut

The Coconut piece is simple. If you’re a Mounds fan, this will be very familiar. A moist little log of sweet coconut covered in dark chocolate. It’s not as sweet or creamy as the Easter fare, which is fine with me. The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. The dark chocolate had just the lightest haze of bloom on it, but I find that’s not uncommon with coconut products because of the moisture/fat content. The flavor of the dark chocolate is good, it’s not as chalky and rough as Mounds though not completely decadent, it holds its own.

The pieces are small but easy to pop or savor slowly as two bites.
Russell Stover Mint Patty

My Mint Patty I photographed has a slight bloom on it. I opened three for the photos and found them all in a similar state. Then I started eating them for review and found the rest to be pristine - dark and glossy and nicely molded.

The chocolate takes the center stage here because of the proportions. There’s a lot of chocolate and it has a strong woodsy and smoky flavor. The mint center is smooth and a little runny but also a bit salty. The mint flavor is subtle and has an almost toothpaste combination of both peppermint and spearmint.

I have to say that doing Candy Blog has really made me look at brands like Russell Stover again. I don’t think that I was wrong about them back in the eighties, I just think they’re a bit better than they used to be, at least they taste fresher. It’s pure luck that this assortment has all of my favorite combinations. Half the pieces are dark, there are some good quality nuts in there and for the sale price, I thought these were a good value.

The packaging isn’t really sexy or nifty, but it gets the job done. They’re a step above the Hershey’s, Mars or DeMets, so expect to pay for that. This is an assortment I plan on sharing at the office - a little something for everyone.

Related Candies

  1. Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints
  2. Mounds
  3. Milky Way Simply Caramel
  4. Robitaille’s Presidential Inaugural Mints & Turtles
  5. Junior Mints Deluxe
  6. See’s Scotchmallow

Name: Assorted Chocolates Individually Wrapped
Brand: Russell Stover
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $7.88 (on sale)
Size: 20.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 135
Categories: Candy, Russell Stover, Caramel, Chocolate, Coconut, Mints, Nuts, 7-Worth It, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:13 pm     CandyReviewRussell StoverCaramelChocolateCoconutMintsNuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesRite Aid

Friday, December 10, 2010

Zingerman’s Zzang! Wowza Raspberry Bar

Zingerman's Zzang! Wowza BarZingerman’s makes a line of artisan candy bars called Zzang! Candy Bars. I’ve reviewed the Cashew Cow and What the Fudge? bars before. (I’ve also tried the original but never reviewed it) and found them pretty good but not earth shatteringly superior enough to warrant the high price.

I saw the newest addition to the line, the Zzang! Wowza Candy Bar. The description is Creamy raspberry-chocolate ganache, raspberry preserves and fresh raspberry nougat in a crisp dark chocolate shell. Well, that sounds completely original. It’s not an upscale Snickers, it’s something completely different, something fruity, which is sorely lacking in candy bars.

The box is small but protects the bar pretty well. Inside the box the long bar is tucked inside a silvery mylar wrapper. My bar had a little crack all along one side (the side I didn’t photograph) near the top that let the raspberry preserves leak out a little bit. I was worried that this would affect the texture or flavors.

Zingerman's Zzang! Wowza Bar

I really went into this with an open mind, because I couldn’t even figure out what the bar was supposed to be like. It blew me away.

The shell is pretty thick on the top and bottom, but thin on the sides, so it cracks a lot. The bar had a strong woody raspberry scent, a little hint of chocolate but mostly that seedy smell of raspberry jam. I had trouble biting the bar, because the nougat center was very soft, so I ended up eating it sideways.

I’ll take this in layers. The bottom layer doesn’t look that big and it really isn’t. It’s a silky smooth and rich raspberry ganache. The chocolate is decadent and fatty with good roasted coffee and toasted sugar flavors. The raspberry notes are purely floral. The next layer is the unique part here. It’s more like a flowing raspberry marshmallow. There is not hint of sugary grain and it’s quite fluffy, but also incredibly sticky. It’s not quite chewy or tacky either. The raspberry flavor is subtle, it’s just a hint of the raspberry essence. Then the top is a little bit of raspberry jam. This part wasn’t so great for me texture wise - it was a tangy raspberry jam (seedless) but had a strong sugary grain to it.

Eaten together, as a single bite, the creamy ganache gives a lot of deep flavors to offset the mostly sweet nougat. The tangy and grainy preserves give a sour pop to it all and the dark chocolate shell keeps it all together, bringing the cocoa flavors back again. But I also tried eating the layers separately. The ganache is on par with truffles I’ve had from some of the best chocolatiers. The nougat was just fascinating because it was so smooth and fluffy and like marshmallow but with flavor. It was a very sticky affair though. The only real issue with it as a whole was the graininess of the preserves and I really think that was because of the little crack in the bar that allowed it to do that. Even with that, the texture difference wasn’t distracting.

The ratios were pretty perfect. I might want more preserves, if they’re not grainy.

The bar has some drawbacks. One of the issues that I had with the previous bars that I tried was the inaccurate labeling. This bar is more of the same. The front of the box says that it’s 3 ounces. The nutrition label says that it’s 82 grams, which is 2.89 ounces. I know that’s less than a 4% difference, but if they know it’s only 2.89, then why does it say it’s bigger on the front. Why not round down to 2.75? Because 3 sounds better.

The second labeling problem is, in my opinion, more substantial. Here’s what the package says:

Ingredients: sugar, chocolate, raspberry preserves, corn syrup, egg whites, cream, pectin, lemon juice, sea salt, granulated salt

Nutrition Facts: Serving size: 1 bar 82g
Calories: 300
Total Fat: 9g
Sat. Fat: 6g
Trans Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 50mg
Total Carb: 55g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 44g
Protein: 2g
Calcium: 0mg
Iron: 0mg

There is simply no way this bar has only 100 calories per ounce (300 for the whole bar). I wrote to Zingerman’s and corresponded with Charlie Frank, the candy maker. He agreed that something may be off with their calculations (because that’s really how big the bars are - between 2.89 and 3 ounces) and they’re going to re-check them. So I’m going to guess that this comes in at about 130 calories per ounce (there’s not a lot of ganache there and nougat is not very caloricly dense, but there’s also a chocolate coating). So that’d make the bar about 375 calories ... at least.

The labeling aside, I liked the bar and I would definitely buy it again, even at $5 each. I want to see more of these bars using this style of nougat too, something like a Malted Truffle S’More would be nice. How about this: Malted Milk Ganache on a thin Graham Cracker with Toasted Sugar Nougat covered in Milk Chocolate.

Related Candies

  1. Madelaine Duets
  2. Eat with your Eyes: Orange Nougat BonBonBars
  3. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  4. BonBonBars: Malt Ganache & Scotch
  5. 3 Musketeers Cherry & Raspberry
  6. Mountain - Regular & Raspberry

Name: Zzang Wowza
Brand: Zingerman’s Candy
Place Purchased: Farm Fresh to You at Ferry Terminal (San Francisco)
Price: $4.95
Size: 2.89 ounces (but package says 3 ounces)
Calories per ounce: 130
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Nougat, 9-Yummy, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:13 pm     All NaturalCandyChocolateNougat9-YummyUnited States

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints

Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin MintsNecco has been doing a lot in the past three years. One of the more exciting ventures have been re-inventing the classic brands and recipes with all natural, high quality ingredients. It started with the All Natural Necco Wafers and then the Clark Bar in Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate.

Now Necco has reinvigorated the Haviland Brand. The chocolate company has a long history but for most of my childhood and early adulthood the company was owned by Borden (more history here) and most of the candy I saw from them was a kind of off-brand of chocolate comfort candies like Thin Mints, Bridge Mix, Non Nonpareils and fruit creams. Necco purchased the company in 1994 and aside from moving the factory, things pretty much stayed the same. But even with its sort of mousy look and mediocre positioning on store shelves, the price couldn’t be beat. The boxes of Haviland Thin Mints are often on sale for only $1.00. Yet I never bought them.

This year they really caught my eye though (I had the heads up from Necco folks a few months ago to look for them). Not only are the new Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints all natural, they’re also using 63% cacao. (And they’re Kosher but no statement on gluten on the package.) Sorry, they contain both milk and egg whites so they’re not vegan.

Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints

The narrow little box holds a brown plastic tray with the patties stored on their sides like vinyl albums. The tray is a bit flimsy and filmy but I admit that it does the job. It’s not really nice enough to serve from, like say an After Eight Mint Box, but they’re easy enough to take out and place on a plate. All 21 of my little chocolate disks were intact. The box has a little tab on the end that helps to close it up after serving.

Haviland Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints

The patties are 1.33 to 1.5 inches around and very thin. The minty center is somewhere between the crumbly York Peppermint Pattie and the gooey Junior Mint. The center has a little stringy pull when broken in half, but will stay put and not ooze like a Junior Mint.

The dark chocolate is creamy and sweet but still has a good bitter and roasted note to it. The mint center is strong and pleasant, not too much but enough to linger long after the candy is gone.

The regular price for the 5 ounce box seems to be about a dollar fifty but they’ve been on sale a lot with the Christmas merchandise. They’re a really good deal for a quality product. If you love York Peppermint Patties but have been avoiding them because they’re made in Mexico now, this might be the American company to support.

They also come in Raspberry and Orange which I’ve purchased but haven’t photographed yet.

Related Candies

  1. Q.Bel Mint Wafer Bars
  2. King Leo Dark Chocolate Crunchy Patties
  3. Sunspire Peppermint Pattie
  4. Ritter Sport Peppermint
  5. Junior Mints Peppermint Crunch
  6. York Pinkermint Patties

Name: Dark Chocolate Covered Thin Mints (63% Cacao)
Brand: Necco
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $1.00
Size: 5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 108
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Necco, Chocolate, Kosher, Mints, 8-Tasty, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:40 pm     Candy

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eat with your Eyes: Candy Blox

Candy Blox

I reviewed Candy Blox a few years ago (here).

I did a candy buffet for the Night of Writing Dangerously write-a-thon/fundraiser for National Novel Writing Month back in November. I thought that the Candy Blox would be a perfect little treat for folks looking for something to play with and eat.

What surprised me was that they’ve changed a little since the last time I tried them. They’re much brighter and quite a bit more dense. There are fewer colors (yellow, blue, green & red) but that makes them look much more like Legos. They’re still stackable and realistic.

I’m a big believer in gifts of insanely large quantities of mundane products. So if there’s a Lego fan in your life, why not 11 pounds (that’s the box it came in, I ordered it from Jack’s Wholesale Candy & Toy in downtown Los Angeles)?

Candy Blox

Oh, the other thing I found out? When researching the vegan status of all the candies I offered at the buffet, I had to write to Tootsie, who makes these, and they said that the Calcium Stearate comes from an all vegetable source. So these are actually vegan!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:11 pm     CandyHighlightFun Stuff

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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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