Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Hello is a new sub-brand from Lindt Chocolate with a wide variety available exclusively at Target in the United States. (You can get some bars & products at the Lindt website and from Amazon.) Lindt calls it “a brand new collection of contemporary and sinfully delicious premium chocolate bars, sticks and boxes, inspired by classic desserts and treats.”
I’m not sure how it differs from some of their other bars before, but the packaging is certainly different. Instead of the stuffy but easily recognized Lindt package which featured a continental flair, these are certainly modern looking with a lot of flirty typography and forced casualness.
I picked out two bars for my first try (they were on sale, 2 bars for $4.00). Today I’ll review the Hello Crunchy Nougat.
The German style of nougat is a hazelnut paste, not the fluffy egg and honey confection. It’s a milk chocolate shell with a nougat filling and some little shards wafer bits (wheat flour is listed on the ingredients).
The bar is large and thick. At 3.5 ounces, it’s quite long but not as wide as their other tablets. For filled bars I enjoy this format, though it’s usually hard to get a bar that hasn’t been broken in transit or on display. (Since my bar was, this is a photo of the soon-to-be-reviewed Coffee Blast, which has the same mold.)
The milk chocolate is creamy and sweet, though a little sticky. The filling inside the little sections is far sweeter but has a warm roasted hazelnut flavor with a bit more of a milky, sticky note. The cookie bits are good, they add a touch of salt or at least a little malty flavor that cuts through all the sugar. I also caught a few shards of hazelnuts, which added a nice chew though not much crunch.
It’s a fatty, fatty bar, in a good way. At 156 calories per ounce it was easy to see that it was more than filled with sugar. Ground hazelnuts plus a lot of milk and some coconut and palm oil bring the saturated fat up to 7 grams per serving. I don’t know if I’d buy it again, as there are other hazelnut bars I like better, but mostly because I’d prefer a very dark shell on this to offset all the sweetness inside. I’ll keep looking through their range to see if there’s something that would suit me better, because it was a good deal for $2.00.
Monday, July 29, 2013
They come in three flavors: strawberry, red raspberry and cherry berry (which is not a real thing).
Their construction is different from the usual Life Savers Gummis. First, they’re smaller, about same diameter as a hard candy Life Saver, but without the hole. They’re thicker and have two layers. The top is the semi-transparent gummi layer and the bottom is called a white “light textured layer” which is a foamy gummi, a bit denser than a marshmallow.
Strawberry is the lightest color, a pale pink which sometimes looked a little orange. The flavor is well rounded, a good combination of tartness and sweetness. Strawberry is pretty easy to do well, as Life Savers have done here. The foamy layer is also a little tart and seems to be less berry, but not quite creamy.
Red Raspberry is the red and was the least successful of the set. It was tasty, but not jammy enough for me and didn’t distinguish itself from the other two. It was sweet and has berry notes, but it was bland overall.
Cherry Berry is dark red. If it’s supposed to be a mixed berry, that was lost on me, because this was a true Life Savers Cherry flavor. It’s zingy and intense, except for the foamy layer which gives it a bit of air without diluting the flavor completely.
I appreciate that Life Savers didn’t go out and make too many berry flavors to fit into this mix, just because they do five flavors in their rolls. Three is a good mix and all three of these were successful, though probably not a good match for my favorite flavor ranking. Now ... if they make a citrus mix, we’ll have something to talk about.
Right now I think they only come in the large resealable package, but will probably be available in the king sized packages as some point. They’re similar to the Wonka Whipped Wingers which I believe had natural colors in them.
Monday, July 22, 2013
I’m taking a few days off. I’m on a cookie vacation. (No, that’s not a vacation from cookies, it’s a vacation with lots of cookies.)
I’ll be back later this week with more candy, but in the mean time, enjoy this photo of a Fran’s Almond Gold Bar which was “buttery caramel, toasted almonds and dark chocolate.” (Full package photo.)
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Lucky Country is not as easy to find in stores as Twizzlers or Red Vines, but for folks who like a really rich tasting licorice but don’t want to spring for the European or Australian candies, it’s a good option.
Lucky Country sent me some bags of their black licorice and some of their fruity varieties. I’d tried their black before (the photo of the package shown is from 2008, but the pieces below are the more recent shipment).
The nuggets are big. They’re about 1.5” long and about .6 inches in diameter. It only takes five pieces to make a portion, which comes out to about 130 calories. Even though it’s not fat free, it’s very low in calories overall, only 92 calories per ounce, because it’s a wheat-based chew and the primary sweetener is molasses. The molasses also adds a bit of nutrition. There 6% of your daily RDA of calcium and 8% of your RDA of iron.
I was disappointed to see artificial colors in the ingredients. It’s pretty easy to find all natural licorice out there, so there’s little reason to compromise on this if you don’t like Red 40, Yellow 6 or Blue 1 going into your candy or body.
The pieces are a little sticky but overall quite chewy and soft. The flavor is well rounded with a good licorice and anise flavor along with a smoky and earthy flavor of molasses. They’re not as sweet as Panda licorice, and I enjoy the twisted segments as a shape versus the long, smooth bar of Panda.
It’s good stuff, and since it’s made in the US, it’s pretty affordable stuff. Personally I prefer the format of pastilles (like Good & Plenty) so if they ever go in that direction, I’d be interested to try them.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Last week I profiled the exceptional and hard to find gummis from Sugarfina. They also sent a second Bento box to me with chocolate items. They’re all panned candies but a far more diverse selection from the gummis. Most are made in the US, and like the gummis, Sugarfina doesn’t specify who makes them.
Vanilla Bean Malt Balls: The white chocolate coating is flecked with vanilla bean bits. The pieces smell strongly of vanilla with a hint of toffee and coffee in there. The coating is sweet and milky, but completely overwhelmed by the bourbon-y vanilla. There’s also a fair bit of salt in there, so it wasn’t as sickly sticky feeling as it could have been. There’s a layer below that, perhaps a dark chocolate but mostly it’s there to break up the sweetness. Below that is the crunchy center, which has a mild cereal flavor but not much in the way of malt.
The whole effect is satisfying, but in the sense that I didn’t need to eat more than two in one serving. So even though the package was small and had very few pieces in it, I never felt the need to gobble the whole thing up.
Single Malt Scotch Cordials: are a classic from Koppers. While I love the panned cordials, these raised my expectations a little too high. I’m good with a comforting rum flavored cordial without complaint. But these were labeled as single malt scotch. Though they have a little stronger note of leather or tobacco, they’re not terribly different from the ordinary flavored cordials. I’ll probably stick to the rum or cognac version in the future.
If you’ve never had them, there’s a liquid center, which is a little flavored syrup, then a sugar crusted shell then a layer of dark chocolate. The sugar shell makes it all very sweet.
The Espresso Caramels were very similar to the Trader Joe’s Butterscotch Caramels (which I suspect are made by Marich). They’re wonderfully proportioned with a fair amount of mild semi-sweet chocolate and a nugget of soft, chewy caramel at the center. The coffee notes were not particularly strong, but still created a satisfying candy.
The Marshmallow S’Mores are an extraordinary little construction. At the center is a little marshmallow, then a milk chocolate coating. What sets this apart is the dusting of graham cracker on the outside. The marshmallow is mild and also kind of tiny, so all it does is make the whole thing lighter and easier to chew without giving it the doughy puff of sugar that I usually associate with Smores. The milk chocolate is sweet and very milky which offsets the graham crackers slightly salty and cereal flavors. I didn’t really care for the graham notes, mostly because they seemed a bit on the stale side, for crumbs.
Pastel Malted Milk Eggs are a classic. It’s hard to not like them, even when they’re bad. There were only four of them in the little box, because they were each so big. The malt was good, crunchy and dense. The chocolate was okay, it didn’t add much to it, as is usually the case with pastel eggs because of the crunchy shell. I’d eat a lot of these if I had them.
Peanut Butter Caramels are not new to me. I tried them a few years back after hearing the concept and being intrigued. It’s a caramel center with a peanut butter coating then it’s rolled in powdered sugar. The whole effect is sweet, not peanutty enough and not chewy either. But I still find myself eating them all. I don’t know if they need chocolate or not, but I like the idea of a peanut butter confection that doesn’t have chocolate.
Rainbow Raisins were completely new to me. It makes sense, if a Peanut M&M is just a candy coated Goober, why can’t there be a candy coated Raisinet?
The colors are satisfying and lovely. The shells are crunchy and perhaps even a little floral tasting. The raisins were especially moist and chewy though sometimes I wasn’t sure there was any chocolate in there at all. They’re quite sweet, but the tangy bite of the raisins cuts that a little bit.
On the whole, the chocolates are quite fun and it’s easy to see how the hard to find combinations would make a special gift. They’re also expensive and though the bento boxes are a silly amount of packaging, the regular boxes are actually pretty efficient as they’re stuffed to the brim. The result of the packaging is that the candies don’t roll around a lot and get scuffed up.
I’m giving the whole roundup an 8 out of 10 rating.
Friday, July 12, 2013
I went through my list of candies that I haven’t reviewed and wanted to do a little roundup with at least some basic impressions. Today I have a little theme of Figs, since I had four products with fig as an element still sitting in the review queue.
I have a black fig tree in my back yard, this photo shows what was the best harvest of my 15 years in this home way back in 2006. This year I got one delicious fig off the tree, then returned two days later in hopes that the others were ripe only to find that the critters got them all. So I must turn to candy for my fig fix. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I buy fresh figs from time to time and dried ones as well.)
The packaging is mostly utilitarian but did an excellent job of protecting the chocolates inside. They’re not as decadent as some others I’ve had that might be soaked in liquor or filled with ganache. Instead this is the simple pleasure of dark chocolate and a sugary and crunchy whole, dried fig.
They were tasty, I enjoy the leathery and smoky notes of dried figs and chocolate. The chocolate was a little on the sweet side, I like a rather bitter chocolate with my very-sweet dried fruits. The figs were also a bit tough, but I suppose all that chewing just made them last longer.
For some reason I never documented the wrapper on this one, which is too bad. It’s the Dick Taylor Fig bar. It’s made in Arcata, CA, a place I used to live. It’s another bean-to-bar artisan chocolate company.
In this case the bar was beautifully molded and had all the things I liked about the fig/dark chocolate combo. There were lots of fruit and tannic notes, a bit of wood, tobacco and smoke. It was expensive though (I picked up the bar in NYC at The Meadow), I think about $9.00.
I finally found Liddabit in NYC when I was there last year, then a few months later there were places in Los Angeles selling them and a friend gave me this box of Liddabit Sweets Fig Ricotta Caramels.
The pieces are wrapped in wax paper. I wanted to love them, but there was something that wasn’t quite caramelly enough and not quite cheesy enough and lacking in the oomph and power of figs It could be the balsamic vinegar was too much tangy for a sweet. I love Liddabit’s bars, but I find that I’m very picky about caramels, especially when they have so many elements going on.
Little did I realize the extraordinary packaging within. First, the three ounce package has three one ounce bars. Each is individually wrapped in foil, then has a sleeve with a black and white fashion photos (each is different). They’re all tucked into the envelope style paperboard box. (All using recycled packaging.)
Dove and Seeds of Change (both run by Mars) tried this style of packaging a few years ago, but reverted back to the single bar. Personally, I prefer the inner wrapped portions, because I don’t eat a 3 ounce bar in one sitting and don’t have enough friends who can share one ounce portions at the same time. It’s easy to pull one out and toss it in a lunch bar or purse as well.
The chocolate itself is good, it’s quite dark and Seattle Chocolates definitely did well in their sourcing for this assortment of bars. In the line of bars there are a few quirky hipster sort of versions like Agave Quinoa Sesame but others are classic like Veracruz Orange.
I didn’t think there were enough bits of fig and pistachio in there, or maybe they weren’t distributed well. There’s a bit of salt, I think from the pistachios, that again wasn’t distributed well. On the whole it was good, but I only ate one of the three bars. It’s all Kosher and all natural.
On the whole, I want to give this line another try but they’re not a bean to bar company. So I find myself drawn to other bars that are truly unique and am probably missing out on products like the JCoCo line which is more of what I’d call a curated product - where the chocolatier sources finished chocolate and formulates inclusions and flavor combinations themselves.
Though I don’t think I found a new favorite in this series of explorations, all were good. (I think if I were to go buy a fig and chocolate item right now, it would be the Compartes chocolate covered figs.)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Based in Southern California, Sugarfina brings a chic aesthetic to all their candy with their minimalist packaging in robin’s egg blue and square formats. The candy is sold in “bulk” that is, it’s repackaged by them and sold in an array of different weights. They have created a superb curated list of candies. Some you’ll recognize, but their biggest selling point is an array of exquisite European candies that I’ve never seen sold anywhere else.
Candy is sold in little boxes of different weights or in mixed boxes (they call Bentos) that make excellent gifts. Their team truly understand that candy should appeal first to the eye and then to the rest of the senses.
I still get plenty of offers for free candy samples, but lately it has to be something pretty special to get me to bite. But when you see this list of candies, you’ll see what got me interested. Today I’m presenting the assortment of gummis (and one jelly candy). All of the gummis are from Germany and most feature natural colors.
Bitty Berries is a mix of three different gummis. There’s a large raspberry looking gummi that has a rather raspberry flavor. Then there are three smaller berries, kind of like petite blueberries that are different colors and flavors. The light amber ones are like a white grape juice flavor, lightly tangy but with a black currant note to them. The pink version is and the purple is like a jammy raspberry. Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cranberry and Bilberry.
They’re just exquisitely beautiful. Even when I wasn’t interested in eating them, they were just too cute to look at.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Champagne Bears come in two colors: a soft peachy pink and a lightly yellow clear. The clear is like a clean apple juice flavor with a light peppery note. The peachy one is, well, much the same. I couldn’t really tell them apart except that sometimes the pink one seemed to be a little more raspberry flavored. They’re firm and intense. They’re well formed and held their shape well, even though they were jammed into their little cube.
I liked them, but didn’t think that they were anything better than the new juicy Haribo. But I do like the colors and think that for a special occasion, they’d be a nice favor.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Sugar Peach Sweethearts - I was pretty scared of these. They smelled strongly of peach, not in a bad way but in a strong way. They were so strong that I had to take them out of the bento box and sequester them by themselves so as not to contaminate the chocolate pieces they were co-mingling with. So I was afraid that they’d be overwhelmingly chemical tasting.
Quite the opposite is true. They’re little miracle pieces, on the tongue they actual feel for a moment like a real peach. The texture of the sugar sanding is velvety like the fuzz of the peach. The flavor is at once tangy and fruity and honey-sweet and floral and woodsy, like actual peaches. There’s no weird artificial coloring in there to give it a metallic aftertaste. They’re a bit more tart that I’d probably like if I were to eat them by the handful, but as a little refresher on a hot day when I have a dry mouth, these are unbeatable.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Queen of Hearts were billed on the website as three different flavors: pineapple, grapefruit and black currant. They’re also three different sizes of hearts. So it’s a lovely looking combination, although the largest heard gets folded over a bit inside the little cube.
Pink was indistinct, but reminded me enough of pineapple to make me think that’s what it was. Slightly floral with a tart bite and a crisp flavor to it. It was more like canned pineapple though not as syrupy.
Clear tastes like peach. I’m not sure what flavor it was supposed to be, I was hoping it was the promised grapefruit, but it was tangy and a little peppery. (I did notice that the peach mentioned earlier were very strong, I was wondering if the flavor migrated from the more delicate grapefruit.)
The dark one was definitely black currant. It was strong and had notes of wine and deep boiled cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Cuba Libre is simply amazing. It’s a cola gummi, so far so good, with a little softer bubble of rum within. It’s stunning. The cola flavor is spicy and tart, a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and perhaps a little warm kick of ginger but nothing overt and then the acidic bite of lemon. The rum is sweet and a little on the caramel side. I’ve never seen these anywhere else, and I can’t believe they aren’t being imported and sold in the US by the cargo container as it is. If there’s a reason to order from Sugarfina, it’s the Cuba Libre gummi.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Minty Polar Bears are downright weird and I’ll go ahead and warn you that they’re not mint. They’re like a bubble gum flavored mentholated chewy cough drop. The first note on the tongue is a little tartness then a huge whiff of what I can only describe as acetone (which I sometimes get confused with banana flavoring). Then there’s a menthol hit, a little more of a sort of mild lime flavor and the bitterness of that zest. It all ends with a slight queasy feeling.
I’ve had eucalyptus gummis before and liked them quite a bit, so I was hoping for something like that. I find them curious enough that I continue to sample them from time to time. But I never feel like I want to eat another one, just that I should.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Heavenly Sours are little stars, comets and crescent moons in fruity flavors. They’re sour sanded and come in lovely naturally tinted colors. They’re not actually gummis, they’re jellies. They’re made in the US, not in Germany like most of the other gummis from Sugarfina. They’re tart and have nicely distinguished flavors. Orange is a zesty and tart orange. Lemon is wonderfully sour. Blue is raspberry and a little overdone. Red is cherry and is, well, cherry.
Rating: 7 out of 10
As a thank you gift or something for someone who has everything, this is a great option. It’s not cheap, so it’s not something I’m likely to treat myself to very often. They also have lots of themed boxes and kits, so it’s easy to pick for Coffee Lovers, Licorice Aficionados, or Caramel Fiends. The large bento boxes with 8 x 4 ounce boxes of treats are $50. By the pound, the candy is $17.50.
They do a good job of labeling for allergies as well, even if they won’t tell me who make those Cuba Libre gummis.They’re currently only available via the web, but there’s talk of a store in the future here on the west side of Los Angeles.
Monday, July 08, 2013
The trend towards mixing savory and sweet has been going on in the confectionery world for quite a while. Combining salty, crunchy pretzels and sweet milk chocolate is not a strange notion. There’s no reason that any number of herbs and spices can’t be combined with chocolate to great effect. It’s great to see different cultural takes on, like curry or smoked chili or lavender.
The Lindt Wasabi bar is certainly not the first chocolate bar to include the Japanese horseradish. But the others I’ve had were from Japan (the KitKat) or from small chocolatiers.
The bar was just introduced, but when I saw it at Target, it already had a Clearance label on it (marked down from $2.49 to $2.11) while the expiration isn’t until the end of November. I believe Lindt already has a successful bar with their Chili and I also liked the Touch of Sea Salt Dark bar.
This bar is not particularly dark, it’s only 47% cocoa solids. And the ingredients aren’t anything special either, the wasabi is artificial.
Though I don’t like a lot of spicy foods, such as those made with chili peppers, I am fond of horseradish and wasabi. (I also enjoy curry and ginger.)
The bar smells sweet and earthy, with notes of horseradish right away. But there’s also a sort of metallic note to that as well, like a bag of pennies. The bar has a wonderfully smooth melt, though it’s quite sweet. It’s smoky and the chocolate is rich but immediately overpowered by the prickly wasabi flavor. It’s not terribly spicy, but has a little mustard seed kick to it and warms my throat.
As far as an enjoyable confection, this is not. It’s a novelty to me, and 3.5 ounces was far too much. I’m fine with the occasional fine chocolate that uses it as an accent for some sort of combination but for the most part I want my chocolate to either challenge me to search my taste archives for flowers, tea, exotic fruits and fine cognacs or to comfort me with the gentle flavor of plain old chocolate.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.