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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Happy Hippos

Look, they’re little candy bars shaped like hippopotami! How can you not want one?

The first thing I thought of, of course, is the children’s board game, Hungry Hungry Hippos! Except in this case, you eat the hippos instead of the hippos eating marbles.

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Why are they Happy Hippos?The candy is basically a formed wafer shell filled with a hazelnut cream (think Nutella) and partially covered in a white coating. It comes in two varieties - Biscuit (unwrapped) which is all vanilla and milk and Cacao (wrapped and smashed) which is half hazenut/milk filling and half chocolate paste. Wouldn’t you be happy if you were filled with hazelnut paste?

The Biscuit one reminded me a lot of the Kinder Bueno I tried last year, but not quite as chocolatey. The appeal is certainly the little look of the hippo as you bite off his head.

The Cacao has a much richer flavor set with the addition of the chocolate cream. It’s a little sticky and not quite as tasty (at least in recollection) to the Kinder Bueno. The crunch of the wafer shell is pretty awesome though. If you like KitKat’s little wafers and wish there were more in there, this might be a bar to seek out (or its cousins - Kinder Bueno, Duplo or Tronky).

Here’s a place to get them online. Here are some other Hippo links too: a photo gallery of Happy Hippos and another review (scroll down a little on the page) from Pete Glover.

Name: Happy Hippo
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ferrero
Place Purchased: gift (thanks Joz!) and Mel & Rose
Price: $.79
Size: unknown (about .5 ounces)
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Cookie, Ferrero

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:55 am    

Monday, June 5, 2006

Charleston Pralines

I had to look up what a praline is, because I’ve seen so many different versions over the years. And it’s really not helped me to figure out what exactly is and isn’t a praline. In Europe a praline is usually a nut and sugar paste, often used as a filling.

But for the purposes of this post, in the American South the praline is a highly nutted fudge - composed of sugar and butter and sometimes cream that’s caramelized to a dry, crumbly, melt-in-your mouth consistency. Some pralines, such as those from Texas are a bit softer like a caramel.

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These pralines, in plain and chocolate are from the Charleston Candy Kitchen (they also have a store in Savannah), a gift from my vacationing neighbors. They’re sizable plops filled with plump and sweet pecans. The candy mixture melts in the mouth with a slight cooling feeling. At first there’s a slight grain of the sugar and a moment later it’s all collapsed into a thick and sweet syrup on the tongue with a strong pecan/maple flavor.

The chocolate ones had the addition of cocoa to them, but it wasn’t quite as satisfying as a good chocolate fudge because it lacked that creamy component. They were tasty, but the plain ones were more satisfying in their pure expression of pecan-ness. I ate them all ... it was probably well over a half a pound and it took me about 30 hours, but I wolfed all four pieces down. I’m glad they didn’t come with a nutrition label.

Pralines are kind of like fudge. I don’t often buy them but if I do have them, it’s a regional thing. Kind of like salt water taffy ... it’s the kind of candy you bring home from a trip. Maybe next week I’ll blog about the chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii.

Does anyone else know of regional candies that folks bring back as gifts? What was the best one you got?

Name: Pecan Pralines
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Charleston Candy Kitchen
Place Purchased: Charleston Candy Kitchen
Price: unknown
Size: 10 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:44 am     Comments (18)

Friday, June 2, 2006

Dagoba Single Origin

All the upscale chocolate bar makers are doing single origin bars lately. I was pretty excited about the Dagoba bars, because they’re organic and they’re ethically traded (some is Fair Trade Certified). I’ve enjoyed Dagoba chocolate in the past and my only complaint really has been that they’re skimpy on the inclusions when they feature nuts or fruit.

I’ve not seen this array of tasting squares in stores, so I ordered it online.

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The assortment contains four each of the Pacuare and Los Rios, and only two of the Milagros. The little tasting squares are 9 grams each and have the same design on them - a set of crossing lines and then a little V with some leaves, which I’m guessing signifies varietal.

Pacuare - Costa Rican Trinitario (68%) - lovely medium chocolate brown tones with a good snap and instant melt on the tongue. Strong smoky & toasted notes and tart bite. There are some interesting charcoal elements with a little bit of a pepper burn right before the finish. The acidity is only noticeable at the start and it finishes quite sweet.

Los Rios - Ecuador Arriba (68%) - dark and lustrous. Immediate coffee notes with a good buttery melt. Rather Sweet and not too acidic but a strongly dry finish. The oddest flavor note I found in this bar (consistently across several of the squares) was an olive note. I thought I was nuts at first but with four bars to try, I noticed it on two of them.

Milagros - Peruvian Amazonia (68%) - wonderfully buttery with some notes of cinnamon and raisin. A nice dry finish with a little tart, acidic bite. The smoothest of the bunch. (This variety is certified Fair Trade.)

Overall the buttery quality and smoothness of the chocolate shines on these. Not at all chalky, they are a bit on the sweet side. I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing these bumped up to 70% cacao and just reduce the sugar not the cocoa butter.

The texture and taste on these feels much more accessible than some of the Scharffen Berger, Chocovic or E. Guittard. I haven’t done a head to head mixing brands yet, but maybe someday.

The tasting squares option is expensive, but you can get the larger bar assortment if you’re not looking to share. 

Note: Dagoba did recall some of their chocolate recently due to lead content and the Los Rios 68% part of the single origins line was part of the recall. It appears that the lead contamination happened somewhere in the supply chain (the cacao), not in the manufacturing. Los Rios is not available yet (as far as I’ve seen) but the other affected lines like Eclipse are just getting back on shelves now.

Name: Single Origins Chocolate
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Dagoba
Place Purchased: Chocosphere
Price: $10.95 plus shipping
Size: 3.2 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Fair Trade, Organic, Single Origin, United States, Dagoba, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:59 am     Comments (5)

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Head to Head: Mentos Sours & SweeTarts Shockers

When I came up with the idea to do this head to head comparison, it was because of the most obvious similarities between SweeTarts Shockers and Mentos Sours. They’re both rolls, they’re both sour and they’re both chewy pastilles. But they have completely different flavor mixes (the only flavor in common is green apple), different shapes and rather different takes on what a sour chew should be.

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Mentos has always been known for intense chewy mints, so it seems only natural that they’d develop Mentos Sours. The package is a little odd because it says “The Chewy Mint” above the Mentos logo ... but these are not mint flavored. I guess “mint” has become a kind of candy, not a flavor.

Mentos Sours come in three flavors: Watermelon, Green Apple and Lemon. The colors are beautiful, and if they weren’t candy you’d want to string them into a chunky beaded bracelet. The finish on them is matte and not quite a continuous color. They don’t smell like much.

They’re soft and chewy, the shell is a tad bit waxy only lightly sweet. Upon biting into them the flavor erupts.

Green Apple: typical fresh sour flavor. Not too tart.

Watermelon: at first it’s sweet, like a cotton candy flavor with some floral overtones, then it kicks into sour gear. This is a really nice flavor, not too chemical tasting.

Lemon: immediately it has a good zesty essence to it and then the sour follows quickly behind to combine into the protype of lemony goodness.

Basically, they’re nice without being radically toxic feeling on the tongue. There’s a strange waxy thing that develops at the end of the chew though. I’m not sure if it’s the remnants of the “glazing agents” on the shell, but it’s an odd, undissolveable substance on my teeth that tastes only vaguely like the chew.

Mentos Sour are made in Brazil. (Note: the packaging I have may not be the way you see it in the stores - the website shows them in little reclosable boxes.)

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Green Apple: intense and chemically flavored, it dissolves away into a sweet grit pretty quickly.

Orange: oh, this is the best! There’s an immediate blast of blisteringly sour tangerine on the tongue. Not as long lasting in the chew department as the Mentos.

Grape: it’s like a Purple Pixy Stix made chewy. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. (TMI Alert - for some reason the grape ones make me burp.)

Cherry: the sour outside tastes like a very cherry candy, much like the SweeTarts, but with a stronger flavor instead of just more sour.

Blue Raspberry: an immediate sour hit is followed by some fragrant notes that remind me of cotton candy and violets.

All of the Shockers are intensely sour on the tongue from the moment you place them in your mouth but then mellow out to have a pleasant cooling sensation towards the end, but the chew doesn’t last long before they descend into sugary grit.

As all round chews, the Mentos Sours are middle of the road - they’re exceptionally pleasant and can be shared with adults who might ordinarily be afraid of something called “sour”. The SweeTarts Shockers, on the other hand, are a blast but you can’t keep eating them if you’d like to preserve the tasting functions of your tongue.

The packages hold slight different masses - SweeTarts Shockers clock in at 1.65 ounces (which the label says is three servings) and Mentos Sours are 1.32 ounces (which the label says is 14 servings ... one Mentos is a serving). Both contain hydrogenated oils, but not enough to warrant any fat content on the nutrition label.

Personally, I love the Shockers, if only for the intense orange ones. But the Mentos Sours have a much longer, consistent chew, especially the full flavor of the lemon ones, and I would probably pick them up in a pinch.

Name: Mentos Sours & SweeTarts Shockers
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mentos (Perfetti Van Melle) & Wonka (Nestle)
Place Purchased: samples (Perfetti Van Melle & CandyWarehouse.com)
Price: ~$.85 MSRP
Size: 1.32 oz & 1.65 oz
Calories per ounce: 106 & 109
Categories: Chew, Brazil, United States, Nestle, Perfetti Van Melle, Head to Head

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:30 am    

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Edelweiss Chocolates

Edelweiss Candy Kitchen in Beverly Hills is an old fashioned candy store. From the classic awning outside to the displays inside, it was like I’d stepped back to 1953 (they’ve been there since 1942) and perhaps Julie Andrews would step out from the counter in her Sound of Music outfit and sing a little song about a the wonders of chocolate.

There’s even a sign on the back wall that purports that the famous I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel get jobs on the factory line at a candy company was conceived of here when Lucille Ball saw the conveyor in the back. In truth the episode ended up being filmed at See’s (in Culver City, I think).

The store shelves are filled with plenty of novelty chocolate items and glass jars filled with everyone’s favorite candies available by the scoop. They had gummies, licorice, misty mints, Swedish fish, foil covered chocolates, panned nuts ... just about anything you might want. But I went for the things that I can’t find everywhere. They make their own custom chocolates on site and are rather well known for their candied and chocolate dipped fruits. At $28 a pound, they’re certainly not cheap, but also not the most expensive candies I’ve come across. Especially in Beverly Hills.

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Here’s what I picked up:

Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Slice - this one was not nearly as good as the Jacques Torres I had in NYC. The orange was firm, but the peel was a little too tough in spots, especially on the edge that wasn’t dipped in chocolate. However, it wasn’t too sticky or too sweet, so the flavors were wonderfully deep and complex.

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Chocolate Covered Fig - the amber-colored fig was plump and sweet with a strong tart bite to it that mixed well with the chocolate. That fresh herby taste of the fig goes so well with chocolate, I was sorry I didn’t get more of these. After eating dried figs all week, it was nice to have something plump and juicy ... and of course covered in chocolate.

I wish all the chocolates were a bit glossier - they’re a little dull looking but I’m not sure if that affected the taste or texture much.

I don’t remember what the little chocolates in cups were called (and there’s no reference to them on their website), but it was described as ground almonds and honey in either dark or milk chocolate. I got one of each. The milk chocolate one was pleasant, not too sweet and not too milky. I couldn’t really taste the honey, but the almond flavors mixed with the chocolate and the slightly chewy, crunchy bite of the nuts was nice. I liked the dark chocolate one a bit better, as the flavors of the chocolate were more complex and I could detect the honey tones.

I’m not suggesting that anyone order up some over the phone, but if you’re in Beverly Hills and looking for something authentic, this might be a nice stop amidst the Cartier and Tiffany and Prada overload. If you want some tasty chocolate that’s not too expensive then I always suggest See’s. But since there isn’t one in this area of Beverly Hills, Edelweiss might be nice.

Edelweiss Candy Kitchen
444 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

Name: Edelweiss Fruit/Nut Assortment
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Edelweiss Candy Kitchen
Place Purchased: Edelweiss Candy Kitchen
Price: $28.00 a pound (I spent $8.10)
Size: 4.63 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States, Los Angeles

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:13 pm     Comments (10)

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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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