Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I went off to another trade show on Sunday. Luckily it was practically in my own back yard (well about 40 miles away, so my only expense was gas and parking).
It’s called ExpoWest and focuses on Natural Products. This covers a huge range, from nutritional supplements to beauty products to foods & drinks and of course some sweets. While the candy content at this show as rather small, I couldn’t resist going and checking out the products from the chocolatiers and confectioners.
What’s also fun is stumbling across product lines I had no clue about ... and then letting you know about them.
I got to check in with some of the companies I’ve already covered here and see their new products:
New to me are:
St. Claire - mints and sour pastilles (they gave me a tin of their mints for “tummy upset” which I’ll boat test next weekend)
I spent the whole day there and barely covered the whole show floor. As I got to the far corner Scharffen Berger was already closing down, so I didn’t get to chat with them much about their new products, but I did pick up the Milk Chocolate Nibby Bar. I also popped in and sampled some Green & Blacks (I just felt like a little dose of their white chocolate bar at that moment). I completely missed the Theo Chocolate booth, but I have a full set of their bars, so I’m good to go on them anyway.
I also missed the Divine Chocolate booth, which I didn’t realized until I was driving back. I’ve already sampled their bars, but I really wanted to talk to them about their kids bar in the UK, called the Dubble.
Since I was walking the floor anyway, I picked up just about every snack bar that was available ... I have about 20 pounds of them. This morning I ate something called an Attune Bar (Lemon Creme) which features 5 times the probiotics of yogurt. They also have a line of chocolate bars with similar virtues that I’ll review. The only one I missed was Lara Bar - they were all packed up when I got to their corner. Too bad, I think their new Jocolat line might actually qualify for a Candy Blog review (I haven’t seen them in stores yet, but did try some at the Fancy Food Show in January). I also picked up some samples of different fruit snacks (fruit rolls and leathers). I might do a round up review of them just as a sort of “would kids eat this, and should they?” kind of thing.
Caffarel makes more than the traditional milk chocolate Giandiuia morsels. At the Fancy Food Show I found out they make a Dark (Gianduiotto Fondente), a Cinnamon (Cannella) and even a mini Chili (al peperocino) one. I was excited to find out more about Caffarel at the show from one of the vendors that imports them for the American market, hopefully they’ll be getting wider exposure. At the moment they’re still found in Italian markets in large cities and shops that carry international chocolates.
For those of you who haven’t been around Candy Blog long, Caffarel makes the excellent Gianduia 1865, little hat-shaped hazelnut chocolate morsels.
Gianduiotto Fondente - this dark version made with Arriba cocoa is just as “stick to the roof of your mouth” rich as the traditional milk and hazelnut version. This one seemed to taste more of the deeper hazelnut flavors than the milk, with dark smoky notes and of course that slick and thick melt on the tongue.
Cannella wasn’t just cinnamon dusted, it was spiced with the stuff with no hint of ground-spice-grain. It covered up a lot of the hazelnut flavors, but the texture was still thick and fudgy. Not too sweet, this was also the dark version of the giandiuia.
Giandiuia al Pepeprocino (chili) - had lots of peppery notes, not just the burn ... though there was definitely some burn. I was catching some more acidity in the chocolate on this one and some of the notes of fresh green peppers. If I had it to do all over again, I’d taste them in the opposite order ... this really gets to me! (I should have learned my lesson when I picked these up as samples at the Fancy Food Show ... I tasted it there and had the exact same reaction.) They’re smart to make this one a smaller morsel than the others (they call it a Gianduiottini).
Of course I can’t find any online sources for these. But I did see that Candy Warehouse has those little mushrooms for sale and Williams-Sonoma has little hazelnut praline eggs for Easter.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I’m a mochi fan. When I’m down in Little Tokyo here in Los Angeles I like to pop into Fugetsu-Do and buy some wagashi with red bean paste (they do a lemon one with white bean that’s pretty good too). It’s not a mainstream taste for the American market though.
I was pretty excited to hear about the KitKat Azuki, though I had my doubts about how well it’d go with chocolate.
As KitKats out of the package go, this has to be the most unappealing. It has a base of white chocolate but the little sticks are a light pink with some dusty mauve tones, just kind of mousey looking. It smells milky with a little touch of an earthy quality to it.
The first bite is crisp and sweet and it isn’t until later as it’s all mashed up in the mouth that the red bean notes come out. It’s not a loud and obvious flavor, just a light earthy quality, a little like beets or kidney beans. It’s not as unnerving as the Pumpkin ones from last year, but not something I’m terribly interested in again. This experience does not diminish my desire for mochi.
I have to admit that I liked this one. I saw other people chatting about it on the internet and I thought it sounded horrible. The Fruit Parfait KitKat seems to be a mix of banana, melon, orange, blueberry and strawberry flavors if the photo is accurate.
I can’t say I have a lot experience with fruit parfaits ... are they like a fruit tiramisu? (On a vaguely related note, in my youthful ignorance I thought that tiramisu was a Japanese dessert before I’d actually had it.)
It’s another one of those white chocolate KitKats.
The bars really aren’t that attractive with their rippled colors of white chocolate. They smell like a cross between bananas and yogurt. The taste is rather similar. The white coating isn’t too sickly sweet and has some nice berry flavors with an overall banana background. I even got some melon and blueberry flavors in there sometimes. The wafers are crisp and feature a cream filling that’s a little pink and has more of the berry flavors to it.
I liked it. I ate it. I hope I don’t run across any others, it’s one of those candies that doesn’t make me feel good about myself for liking it. (Is it the polka dots on the package? The smell? The word Parfait? Should I run a poll?)
Friday, March 9, 2007
I was thinking to myself as Easter approaches and candy season comes to a close ... it’s sad that there’s no way to get that “Peep Flavor Experience” without all that fluffy marshmallow. You know, because Peeps are all about flavor. So imagine my surprise when I was at the drug store and I saw Peeps Lollipop Rings.
They come in two flavors, actually. The first, in the traditional yellow is simply Marshmallow flavor. The second, in the bismuth pink is the new-millennium-classic flavor, Strawberry Cream.
Being an eternal optimist (no, really!), I thought maybe this gorgeous little smooth Peep pop on a ring was going to taste like toasted marshmallows. Like the Jelly Belly jelly bean. It smells sweet and maybe a little milky. Oh, but the taste ... it was immediately tart. I pulled it out of my mouth and looked at the package. Had I mixed it up with the strawberry one?
The tart taste was not sour, more like yogurt. Just a tangy bite, kind of milky. It’s a smooth taste, the pop is good quality with no voids at all. It’s easy to crunch too, if you can manage to get your teeth around a good corner.
The ingredients fully explain the taste here: sugar, corn syrup, water, lactic acid, citric acid, sodium citrate, artificial flavors, corn starch, acacia gum, titanium dioxide, artificial colors. (Made in China) If you took out the corn starch and put in some gelatin you’d have a Gummi Peep (mmm, Gummi Peeps).
The flavor is rather yogurt-like. A creamy flavor, not very intense and sweetly fragrant of fake berries. It reminded me of Frankenberry Cereal.
The pops are super cute and very well made. They had a consistent appearance and the ring platforms were of good quality (not some sort of easy to shatter plastic that rips up your mouth). They even fit on my ring finger.
Note: though these candies are branded with the official Peep (tm) logo, they are not made by Just Born, instead they are manufactured by Flix Candy under a licensing agreement. (Just like you don’t expect that Just Born sewed those little Peep plushies, right?) They also make a Peeps Pop Slider which is kind of like those lipstick candies. (Reviewed by Jeanna at Wisconsin Candy Dish.)
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Here’s the ultimate in surrounding yourself with what you love. Gummi art. And not just any old jelly beans pasted to a canvas, these are dimensional (and sometimes functional) pieces made with gummi bears.
Created by YaYa Chou (click on Sculpture on the right to see the whole gallery of creations). There’s are a couple of three dimensional animals, a bear rug and the chandelier as well as a candelabra.
I’d love to have the chandelier, supposedly you can still eat the bears ... I’m sure they’re great once the bulb has warmed them a little.
Found via Tastespotting.
Oh, goodness, what do we have here? See’s makes a lot of seasonal treats and I think I’ve discovered my new favorite: The Scotchmallow Egg. I’ve reviewed the Scotchmallow Bar before, which is milk chocolate, but this one is more like the piece you get in the store (or a box of See’s). It’s dark chocolate (Guittard, thankyouverymuch) with marshmallow and caramel in the center.
The box has six eggs in them, which are about twice the size of a regular piece of Scotchmallow - about 2.25” long and 1.5” across at the widest. The box lists two eggs as a serving size, which works out to 200 calories ... so that’d make each egg one of those fashionable “100 calorie snacks.”
Diehard Scotchmallow fans know what’s wrong with this picture. The candy center is upside down. In the Scotchmallow Bar and the pieces the caramel is on the bottom and the marshmallow is on the top. The proportions area also a little different, with the marshmallow being 2/3 and the caramel 1/3. It looks to be halfsies here (or maybe more caramel).
Here’s my best guess on how this happened. (And this is just a guess, the extent of my research amounts to seeing California’s Gold tour the factory.) The Scotchmallow is a stacked candy - they make sheets of caramel and sheets of marshmallow and then cut out the little rounds and stack them up and enrobe them (for both the bar and the piece). That wouldn’t work for the egg because of the domed top. So they pour the caramel into molds (just a guess here, folks). Then the marshmallow is poured on top, they’re flipped over and out of the mold and enrobed. Some settling occurs.
That’s the thing, the marshmallow on these is not quite as fluffy. But who cares? It tastes great. The spectacular thing about the See’s marshmallow is that it has honey in it ... you know, something that gives it flavor. It’s also a moist marshmallow, not a dry one (Peeps would be somewhere in between, when they’re fresh). The dark chocolate is rich and not too sweet. The honey touch in the marshmallow is the first flavor and then the caramel kicks in with its dark burnt sugar flavors and buttery notes.
I have to mention that some of my eggs had caramel that was a little more grainy than I’m accustomed to. I’m not sure what caused that, but even though the texture was a little different, the taste was exactly the same. I think I still prefer the traditional chocolate box piece, partly because it’s not as messy, but also because I like to nibble the chocolate off the sides and top and then eat the marshmallow ... then the caramel. But I have to love the fact that I can just pop in a store and grab one of these boxes (and my free sample) without much fuss.
The box costs $4.80 and contains a half a dozen eggs ... that works out to about $14.25 a pound ... a regular pre-packed pound of See’s is $14.50. See, it’s a deal! And no pieces you don’t like! For those of you into just marshmallow they also do a Marshmallow Egg (but in milk chocolate).
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
After the luscious experience of the Snickers Dark, I was pretty determined to find the fabled Snickers Almond Dark.
I couldn’t find it in the regular bar, but did stumbled across this bag of minis called the Snickers Dark Mix which has miniature versions of Snickers, Snickers Dark and Snickers Almond Dark. Frankly, by putting the milk version in there they should have called it a Dark & Milk Mix.
The proportion in the bag, unfortunately, leaned towards the Snickers end of things, but there were enough of Snickers Almond for me to get a good sense of the candy. One of the things I enjoy about the minis, which are much smaller than the snack size, is that you could take them out of their little wrappers and drop them into a fluted candy cup and pretend they’re from a box of chocolates.
The Snickers Almond Dark mini certainly makes a convincing appearance as a fine chocolate. It has a good chocolatey scent mixed with less peanut than the Snickers. Each little mini that I ate had at least one whole almond in it, which gave it a good convincing almond crunch. The peanuts were not as obvious in this version as they are in the large bar but that may be that the dark chocolate goes so well with this iteration.
Like the Snickers Dark, I would definitely opt for this one over the regular milk chocolate version. While Nestle has been introducing dark versions of their regular bars (Crunch, 100 Grand & Raisinets), their chocolate has a waxy feeling on the tongue and no real chocolate taste. The KitKat Bitter shows that Nestle knows what dark chocolate is supposed to be, they just can’t be bothered with actually delivering it in their bars. Mars, on the other hand, did a good job of putting something that tastes like chocolate on their chocolate bar. Are we going to get a 3 Musketeers with dark chocolate soon? Pretty please!
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Japan is known for cars, Japan is known for electronics. Japan is known for cute. Japan is also home to some of the best KitKats in the world (okay, and some of the worst, but this is the price of innovation and an example of the bell curve).
What else can I say except that the KitKat Bitter is what a KitKat should be all day, every day.
Upon opening one of the two packets that have two-finger sticks, it’s obvious this candy is real. The chocolate is dark and glossy and smells like ... chocolate! The package says, in English, “High Grade Cacaomass”, which I’m guessing is their way of saying that’s it’s authentically dark chocolate.
The American dark chocolate KitKats were not nearly as good as these (not that it matters, as they’re long gone). The Canadian dark KitKats are close in flavor but lacking in the high-quality chocolate texture.
The wafers are crisp and have that light touch of sweet filling. Yes, the chocolate here is rich and dark and actually slightly bitter as the label advertises. It’s a little dry as well. But it’s just so real tasting, it just spoils me for any other KitKats.
The White KitKat says that it has Nasu Highland Milk. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m sure it’s a selling point.
It smells very milky and has a light milky look to it. Though it’s sweet, it’s not throat-burningly so. The crispy wafers are good and offset the sweetness of the milky coating. As white chocolate KitKats go, I prefer this one to the Matcha from last year that seemed excessively sweet and a bit greasy feeling.
I can’t see myself eating this regularly, but I finished the bar, which is a good recommendation for anything containing white chocolate for me (I have a tendency to like them at first but lose interest after a serving). The wafers seemed to be more of a highlight than in the Bitter bar, perhaps a little crispier or maybe I’m better able to discern the flavor of them without the overwhelming chocolate.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.