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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Big Island Chocolates

imageThere are three things people bring back from Hawaii: photos, coffee and chocolate covered macadamia nuts(CCMN). These are from Big Island Candies, which is a local chocolatier that does more than the typical Hilo Hattie’s style box (and sells both CCMN and Kona coffee).

Yes, everything Big Island Candies does seems to have macadamia nuts in them, but they’ve got some inventive combos with potato chips (Hawaiian style!) and crisped rice. This box featured a mix of milk & dark chocolate covered macadamia nut cups.

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The macadamias are crisp and large, with an even crunch and light coconut taste to them. The milk chocolate was very sweet, a little too sweet for my taste, but still good smooth quality stuff. The dark chocolate set off the macadamias better, with a dark smoky flavor and smooth texture. All that said, there’s nothing wrong with me, but I’ve never been a huge fan of macadamias. They’re okay as an added element to a cookie, but as the feature in a chocolate they’re just not what I want to use my daily allotment of calories on (and boy howdy are macadamias calorie intensive!).

If you’re looking for something a little more interesting to bring back from your next island trip, make an effort to find Big Island Candies. Their flagship store is in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii (with factory tours and free samples!), they also have more than candies, they’re known for their cookies as well.

Name: Milk & Dark Chocolate Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Big Island Candies
Place Purchased: gift
Price: retail $3.75
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 166
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:04 am     Comments (9)

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Munch Bar

Every once in a while I get a hankering for peanut brittle. But aside from buying a tin of it or making it myself, it’s not that easy to find.

Enter the Munch bar. Billed on the label as “Only 6 Simple Ingredients” it’s just a buttery hard candy studded with peanuts. In fact, there’s more peanuts in here than most brittle I’ve had. The ingredients are: peanuts, sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and soy lecithin.

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The bars aren’t that easy to find, which is a shame, because they’re a nice alternative to a chocolate bar. Kind of like a Payday. Mars actually markets it using its wholesomeness as a selling point. I like it because it’s sturdy. You can expose it to higher temperatures without it losing its shape and taste.

The candy part of the bar is sweet and crunchy, not quite toffee and more solid than the usually slightly foamy peanut brittle candy. It’s buttery and has a light salty hit. The peanut flavor is, of course, the attraction. I love peanuts. There are 6 grams of protein in this bar, and at less than 1.5 ounces, that’s a lot of protein which makes it quite filling and satisfying.

They’re an excellent summer bar and worth the work at finding them. There’s another version of this made by Planters, I’ll try to have a review of that soon.

Name: Munch Bar
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Long's Drug
Price: $.69
Size: 1.42 ounces
Calories per ounce: 155
Categories: Peanuts, Hard Candy, United States, Mars

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:10 am     Comments (16)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels

imageHere’s another trend among cooks that’s filtered into the candy world: artisan salt. The most common place to find this in confections is in caramels. Sometimes it’s grains of sea salt sprinkled on top, sometimes it’s just a saltier caramel. It’s not like caramels didn’t always have salt in them. When I make my own caramels I usually use both salted butter and a pinch of salt because I think it brings out the caramelized flavors better.

But of course the gourmets weren’t satisfied with plain old table salt or the more upscale Kosher flake salt, now they insist on curiously-colored and super-expensive sea salt crystals from Hawaii, France or New Zealand. They like to remind us of the grand history of salt and how our word for salary comes from the same root and why that means we should pay oodles of money for dried sea water. Frankly, it all looks like the stuff that we used to throw on the sidewalk when it got icy.

All that said, I welcome the new attention to salt as a way to bring out natural flavors. And I welcome Trader Joe’s foray into the salted caramel market because it’s actually affordable. The Shaker-style box that they come in is cute. Inside the box are two plastic bags with 7 ounces of caramels each. Not really as pretty on the inside as I might have hoped for $6.99 a box (maybe a little wood shavings or excelsior?).

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The caramels are beautiful. Luminous and even looking, they’re smell like butter and burnt sugar. They’re individually wrapped in neatly folded clear cellophane. They’re sizeable morsels as well, each is two bites in my estimation. They’re firm to the touch but easy to bite apart.

While some salted caramels have grains of salt sprinkled on top, these are completely incorporated (like the Charles Chocolates and unlike the Fran’s) The salt is very apparent on the tongue but the smooth chew and the buttery mouthfeel come through loud and clear.

I liked them. I’m not sure I really want to eat all 14 ounces of them (that’s what’s good about the two packets in there instead of a large single one), so I might come up with some interesting things to do with them, like making a hard sauce for bread pudding.

Name: Fleur de Sel Caramels
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Jacques
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's
Price: $6.99
Size: 14 ounces
Calories per ounce: 120
Categories: Caramel, United States, Trader Joe's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:03 am     Comments (16)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

SweetRiot: flavor 70 cinn

imageSweetRiot released a new flavor for the holidays to go with their current array of chocolate covered cacao nibs.

Flavor 70 Cinn is 70% cacao with a hint of cinnamon over cacao nibs. The last time I tried SweetRiot I gravitated towards the darkest as well.

The light hit of cinnamon was more evident in the scent than in the taste. There’s a little spicy kick on the tongue at the start, but basically it’s a rich roasty chocolate taste with a solid acidic hit and a mellow bitterness. The nibs themselves were crunchy and not the slightest bit fibery (which is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to nibs).

I covered SweetRiot and nibs pretty well in this review back in the spring, so check that out.

Each SweetRiot tin comes with a little geography “fortune” and mine went like this:

Cacao Country Sierra Leone reveres a tree, the “Old Cotton”, for standing through terrible storms & furious battles. These days cats get stuck in them all the time.

SweetRiot also has a “riot club” where you can select from two different delivery plans so you can get your cacao nib fix regularly (and at a better price). They also have their sets that bring the price down when you buy a mix of three. Ordering a whole box of 12 of course brings the tins down to $4 a piece. Still, not to sound like a broken record, it’d be nice to buy a quarter pound or half pound on the website and be able to refill my little tin myself.

The little tins change throughout the year, with new artwork featured periodically. If you’re interested in having your art considered, check out this page.

Name: flavor 70 cinn
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Sweetriot
Place Purchased: samples from Sweetriot
Price: $47.99 for a set of 12
Size: 1 ounce each
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: Chocolate, Nibs, United States, Limited Edition, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:50 am     Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Botan Rice Candy

I have my favorite candies, and I’ve been pretty faithful to them over the years. But there’s always this longing to experience new candies and how different cultures, countries and regions express their love of sweets. That’s part of the reason for Candy Blog, to help everyone overcome that fear of the new and different and embrace the new and different.

This is a story about my first “exotic” candy.

Sometime when I was a kid in grade school I was given Botan Rice Candy. I know I’d been exposed to foreign candy already (Torrones, Toblerone & other European chocolates), but this one was exotic because of the pictures on the box and that it had no associations with a holiday at all. It’s possible I had it at school as an observance of Lunar New Year, or just a show & tell from another child whose parents bought a box for them to bring into class. It came in a simple little box that’s pretty much unchanged today. At one end of the box was a little compartment that contained a little toy, like you would also get in Cracker Jacks back in the day. In the other 3/4 of the box were little cellophane wrapped jelly candies.

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Things have changed a little since then. There is no longer a little toy in the box, but now a “Free Children’s Sticker” instead. But I guess this leaves more room for candy.

The candies are little cubes of jelly with a mild orange/lemon flavor wrapped twice. Though it seems like it’s not that different from those sugar encrusted jelly orange slices, these are less flashy. And this is what’s important about the Botan Rice Candy - the inner wrapper is edible. It looks like a slightly clouded cellophane, but it’s really made from rice and will dissolve in your mouth. (I was also fascinated with this ‘edible’ packaging in the classic Torrone as well, which have a starch wafer to keep them from sticking.)

What could be better for a kid looking to expand her horizons? A candy you could show to your friends and freak them out when you eat the plastic wrap plus a little toy!

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Sometimes I like to pick the inner wrapper off as completely as I can. For no real reason of course. It’s not like it’s tasty. It’s kind of gooey, starts sticky and then becomes slippery on the tongue. Later when I had sake for the first time, it reminded me of yeasty rice candy wrappers. (Not really in a good way either, I don’t care for sake at all.)

As a candy, Botan Rice Candy is okay. It’s sweet and mild, though a little sticky sometimes. It has some of the barley sugar or millet jelly taste that I like, but the real appeal has to be the edible wrapper. There’s not much in the box either, at 3/4 of an ounce, there are only six pieces in there. With import costs, it’s usually about a dollar a box, even down in Chinatown where everything is cheap.

I went poking around the ‘net to see what else is out there and found another brand that also features the rice wrapper but looks like it could be of higher quality.

My box came with a sticker of a giraffe. Here’s a nice article that shows some other stickers. Other Reviews: Candy Addict & Junk Food Blog.

So, what was your first experience with Botan Rice Candy?

UPDATE: Several folks have mentioned White Rabbit in the comments since it also has an edible inner wrapper, here’s my review on that.

Name: Botan Rice Candy
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: JFC International Inc
Place Purchased: Imperial Dragon (Chinatown)
Price: $.99
Size: .75 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Jelly, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:42 am     Comments (40)

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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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