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Monday, August 28, 2006

Chuao Giveaway!

I’ve got to spread my sweet wealth around. I’ve got $50 worth of gift cards for Chuao Chocolatier and I’d like to share them with my sweet readers.

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All you have to do is leave a comment here with a working email address (don’t worry, no one else sees it but me) and I’ll do a random drawing from the entries (one per person please) on Tuesday, September 5th.

The winner will recieve two $25 gift cards for Chuao Chocolatier (my review here) that I can send anywhere in the world but their products can only be shipped in the US. You can visit one of their shops in person or use the gift cards to order online. $50 should get you a nice assortment. I highly recommend the Cambur (banana and caramel in milk chocolate).

I’ll accept entries until Monday, September 4th at 11:59 PM Pacific Time.

When leaving a comment, be sure to unclick the “notify me of follow-up comments” or else you’ll get an email every time someone enters ... which will clog up your email box and that’s no fun ... unless you want up-to-the-minute notification of your current odds of winning. 

UPDATE: I know that it looks like your recent comments (entries) are not showing up on the site. For some reason I never thought that I’d ever get more than 100 comments on any post, so the site doesn’t display them all. No worries! I get both an email and I have a record of all comments posted in the system - so rest assured you’re entered! I’m overwhelmed by all the kind (and funny) things everyone is saying and I’m so glad I can spread the chocolate wealth.

UPDATED UPDATE: The drawing is now closed, I’ll announce a winner late in the day.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     Fun StuffNews

Garfield’s Chocobites

imageWhen I was the All Candy Expo there were lots of candies there that I’d never seen before, and many that I’ll probably never see again. One that seemed to be everywhere in the little freebie bowls were Garfield’s Chocobites by Arcor.

Yeah, they’re knock-offs of Peanut M&Ms. They’ve been sitting in my pile o’ candy I really don’t wanna eat.

I got a little piece of email last week that I had to share. Kendra wanted to make sure that everyone know about the bad candy known as Garfield’s Chocobites.

Here are some of her words:

For awhile now they’ve been offering “Garfield’s Chocobites” in my company’s vending machine, and I’ve wisely avoided them. However today I found the vending machine to have slim pickings, so I decided to give the chocobites a try, how bad could they be?

How bad you ask? Bad. I bought the “Peanut Chocolate Candies” variety, and the first one I pulled out, was covered in a fairly large splatter of lard. You heard me, lard. At first I thought it might be some candy coating glaze, but it was most certainly some sort of fatty lardy, crisco-like substance.

Technically that white greasy substance isn’t lard, it’s probably cocoa butter (though the ingredients also list something called polyricinoleic acid, which is a red flag that whatever is in the package will disappoint you). And usually I say hurray for cocoa butter, but when cocoa butter leaves the chocolate, it’s not a pleasant thing. If the cocoa butter has left the candy, it means that the candy has been stored improperly, in a warm environment long enough for the cocoa butter to melt and vacate the candy ... ew. And what’s left inside the candy shell if the cocoa butter is gone? Sugar and cocoa, dried milk and some other additives. What’s worse is that a vending machine would have this issue - it should be some sort of climate controlled machine! It’s plugged in, can’t they keep the temperature below 80?

Now, I’d say that Kendra should just forgo that vending machine ... but she’s not the only one. Even Candy Addict Victoria has found the similarly dismal results with her experience:

I bit a red one in half, which is what I do to almost everything when I eat, just to make sure there’s nothing unwanted hiding inside. It looked okay, again, much like a peanut M&M, so I chewed up the entire thing, which was a mistake.

A quick websearch did find one person who liked them, giving them 4.5 gummi bears out of 5.

Some anonymous person commenting at Junk Food Blog posits that:

You have to take into account that the Chocobites are made using real milk (the traditional way to make milk chocolate). [snip] So its not that they taste “terrible” one here is just not used to it…

Um, yeah, anonymous should check out the ingredients list and notice the presence of PGPR. It’s not that we’re uneducated dweebs, they’re made with inferior ingredients.

Anyway, my take on them (and mine are fresh) is that the peanuts are substandard. The candy shells are pretty but not tasty looking. They’re a little more textured than M&Ms (which isn’t a bad thing, just different) and the colors are vibrant, but a little uneven. The red and orange ones were a little mottled which made it look like someone had dribbled another color of dye in there. The shell is very crisp and thicker than M&Ms which is kind of fun. It makes them very crunchy. But after that it’s downhill. The peanuts are simply substandard. At least half of them were awful, chewy and bitter or tasted burnt. The chocolate is sweet and uninteresting with no creamy balance to the peanuts or crunchy shell.

I’m really sorry that some vending companies are putting in bad quality products to up their profits. At 1.74 ounces, it’s the exact same size as a bag of Peanut M&Ms, so you’re not the one getting a better value here. I’m all for generics, I buy them all the time, but this is one case where you’re gonna get burned.

Name: Garfield's Chocobites
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Arcor
Place Purchased: All Candy Expo sample
Price: retail $.75
Size: 1.74 ounces
Calories per ounce: 138
Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:33 am     Comments (6)

Coffee Crisp now in the USA!

If there were ever a case study for how the internet and fan passion can change marketing policy of a corporation, it has to be Coffee Crisp.

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Made by Nestle, the Coffee Crisp is a wafer bar with a coffee flavored cream and chocolate-like coating. They’ve been very popular in Canada for years, but for some reason they were never introduced in the United States. For at least five years a web petition/email/phone campaign was circulating to get them in the States and those efforts have finally come to fruition.

At first Nestle responded by allowing American stores order the Coffee Crisp to carry in their stores, but they made no real effort to advertise or give any special deals (as is very common with other candies). Instead Coffee Crisp were often seen in stores near the Canadian border, large urban markets and on internet stores that catered to the obsessed.

If you want to know where to find your own, check out the fan site called CoffeeCrisp.org - they have a special page called Coffee Crisp Sightings. I still haven’t seen them anywhere (including the places where I used to see them before their official introduction).

You can also find info on their official website: Nestle-coffeecrisp.com

The packaging for the bar was changed a little in the past year (as was much of Nestle’s product line) but the candy bars you’ll find here are still made in Canada. I’d hoped that they’d change the recipe a little bit to get rid of the hydrogenated oils ... the bar carries 1.5 grams of trans fats. Some purists probably celebrate them sticking to tradition.

Previous coverage about the petition here and I reviewed the Coffee Crisp last year (a bar I found at a gourmet market ... I wasn’t really that fond of it).

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:02 am     NestleMockolateCanadaFun StuffNewsComments (12)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hometown Favorites Customer List Hacked

Hometown Favorites is an internet based candy store with an excellent selection of hard to find candies. They’re one of the few candy stores on the internet that lets you order individual bars instead of full boxes.

However, their customer database has been stolen and now customers are getting phishing emails.

If you don’t know what a phish is, well, it’s an email that pretends to be from a reputable source like ebay or amazon or a bank that prompts you to visit “their” site and asks you to confirm your account details. It might look like the right site, but it’s really some nefarious folks looking to steal your login information, money or even your identity. Don’t fall for it.

If you have gotten one of these Hometown Favorites emails, it would look something like this according to The Internet Patrol:

?To update the credit card infomation details for your order, please select this link:?

When you click the link, it takes you to a very convincing looking page, which is a direct rip-off of the Hometown Favorites.com site, complete with the last four numbers of your credit card number and the expiration date prepopulated on the page. Then it asks you to put in your SSN (social security number) and date of birth.

If you do get such an emaill, you should probably contact your credit card company and cancel that card.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:16 am     NewsComments (1)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs

Equal Exchange has been at the forefront of the fair trade chocolate and coffee movement in the United States for twenty years. But I think they understand that it’s great to give people a living wage and all, but the important thing is to sell something of value to the customer to keep everything in motion.

At their launch, the Equal Exchange chocolate products were rather mundane. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice, but the selection wasn’t very exciting. They’ve remedied that with the introduction of three new bars: Mint Chocolate, Espresso Bean Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs.

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The Organic Chocolate with Espresso Bean is made with a 55% cocoa solid chocolate (the lightest chocolate of the three new bars) with good reason. Coffee is a powerful flavor and needs a good balance in order for both flavors to shine though.

In general I’m not fond of coffee bars that have coffee grounds (or bits, whatever) in them. The chocolate itself is infused with the coffee flavors, which are dark and pungent, a little smoky and acidic. The beans are crunchy and crisp, which is better than some fibery ones that some companies put in their bars. But still, it’s just not my thing. The chocolate was wonderfully buttery but very sweet so that it can stand up to the espresso beans. Of the three bars, this is the one that I still have some left of. (7 out of 10)

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Organic Mint Chocolate. This dark chocolate bar made with 67% cocoa solids was quite a surprise. I fully expected it to be dark, mint flavored chocolate. Instead, it’s a mint crunch bar. It’s not quite like a mint bark that has little pieces or starlight mints in it. Instead it has little sugary grains of mint in it. The grains aren’t large, like big sugar crystals. The chocolate itself is not as sweet as the espresso bar, and has a strong acidic quality to it with a complex chocolate profile. Then as you chew or allow the chocolate to dissolve on your tongue you come across these little crystals of mint. It made the bar much more fun than I expected.

The acidity of the bar still got in the way of the mint, it just wasn’t the ideal match for me. (8 out of 10)

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Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs. Now this is the bar for me! 68% cocoa solids make this a pretty dark bar. The acidity here doesn’t bother me a bit, because it goes right along with the blissfully crunchy and rich cocoa nibs. Every nib was great, no fibery ones, no bad ones. The crunch of the nibs isn’t quite like a nut, they’re not quite as fatty tasting, but crisp and of course flavorful, creating a new texture without interrupting the pure chocolate density of the bar.

If you’re a nib fan, you should really seek out this bar. I’ve tried the Endangered Species bar and the Scharffen Berger and this bar really wowed me. At about $3.50 per bar retail for a 3.5 ounce bar they’re a good value for high-end chocolate. Add in the social responsibility and you’re silly not to at least give this bar a try. (9 out of 10)

I’ve been spotting Equal Exchange at Whole Foods, so keep your eyes open. If you have a favorite store that you shop at that doesn’t carry them, ask. (They don’t know what you want unless you tell them!) You can order on the Equal Exchange website, but only in full boxes of 12 for the bars.

Equal Exchange bars are not only organic but Fair Trade certified ingredients are used whenever possible, including the sugar. I think the only part that isn’t fair trade is the organic vanilla bean.

William at Chocolate Obsession has a large review. Siel at GreenLAGirl had a tasting party, so you can see lots more opinions on the bars there. If you’re interested in anything that has to do with incorporating fair trade, social responsibility and environmentalism into your everyday life, she’s your girl.

Name: Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Cocoa Nibs
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange (thanks!)
Price: retail $3.50 each
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 154
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, Mint, Cocoa Nibs, Switzerland, Equal Exchange, Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:57 am     Comments (3)

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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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