Friday, February 9, 2007
Dove Jewels are a mid-range Dove confection packaged for Valentines. Inside this little red reflective cube were individually mylar wrapped chocolates. There were six varieties (two of them just solid chocolate). The packaging is attractive and the description of the candies is compelling. I’m not a huge fan of Dove chocolate, but these looked like an interesting option compared to the heart-shaped boxes I already reviewed this week.
Raspberry Truffle (magenta wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate. The truffle center was soft, a bit salty. On top of that (or maybe on the bottom) was a bit of raspberry jam. It didn’t have much zazz, so I didn’t catch more much more that indicated this was raspberry than a few authentic seeds.
Caramel Espresso (gold wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate, this had two components, a flowing caramel on the top of the center and a firm truffle-like espresso chocolate on the bottom.
Chocolate Mousse Truffle (purple wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in milk chocolate. It’s the one pictured above bitten in half. It’s sweet and mellow, not terribly chocolatey. The center has a bit of a salty taste to it that keeps the sticky sweet milk chocolate under control. A little hint of coconut flavor in the center.
Cashew Almond Crunch (green wrapper) - a round jewel piece in milk chocolate. It has a rather firm center with lots of bits of cashews & almonds and some sort of crunchy, perhaps hard nougat, stuff. This was the winner in the package (well, it’d score even higher if it was in dark chocolate), however, by the second one I had a sore throat.
While the packaging was elegant for drug store fare from Mars and of course different from the cheesy and dated heart boxes, I still wasn’t blown away by the Dove chocolate itself. I find it a bit too sweet and waxy without much chocolate bang. I did appreciate that the flavor combinations were a bit more adventurous than the usual mint, coffee, blah.
As an after Valentine’s purchase, getting these for $2 or so is probably a great deal (better than an Elmer’s box) as far as quality goes but at pre-Holiday prices, for less than $10 you can get some really good See’s candies (in whatever assortment you think will please your honey) made with Guittard chocolate and fresh, mostly natural ingredients (I think some of their fruity items use artificial colors).
I know some folks are very fond of Dove but it just doesn’t have that zing for me at this price, this was the biggest ticket item I bought for my grand Valentine’s Week (granted, all those other high-end boxed chocolates were gifts) so it did have some high standards to meet.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
There are quite a few small confectioners based in LA and one that I’ve visited (and reviewed) before is Boule. They have great ice cream (I love the banana) and sorbets as well as caramels, nougats and of course chocolates. Of all the things I’ve had there, the one that blew me away was the Pate de Fruit in Calamansi flavor.
Imagine my delight when one of my fellow bloggers, Joz, handed off this awesome hatbox from Boule courtesy of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The box contained quite a few treats, including some cookies, a package of chocolate covered almonds rolled in cocoa, a box of the Pate de Fruit (which I opened and devoured the Calamansi before offering the other pieces around to my husband and neighors) and a wee little purse/box with some caramels. There were also two small boxes (6 pieces each) of Truffles.
The chocolates themselves look more like coat buttons than confections, with stripes and splashes of color and in some cases edible irridescent dustings.
While I find that attractive in a pair of earrings or beads, I don’t really find it that enticing as chocolate. No matter, they were still tasty.
As much as I admire the flavor combinations in theory, they just didn’t thrill me in practice. Some were kind of muddy and most of all they didn’t have a big chocolate boost to them - the chocolate shells were more of a delivery device for the novelty of the colors and exotic names.
I’ll continue to vist Boule for a special treat, but I’m probably going to stick to the pate and perhaps a little dish of ice cream every now and then. I have to, the retail value on this little hat box? $85.00. If you’re looking to dazzle someone for Valentine’s Day, the hatboxes are certainly splashy looking, but make sure that everything in the assortment would be appealing, otherwise it’s a waste of money. Ordering a la carte may be the way to go to assure that whatever you pick out there is exactly what you want. (If you live in the Los Angeles area they do offer local delivery with more ordering options, and I’m sure if you call them they can help you pick out a real custom fit.)
As a whole gift, this one gets a 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Last year I was pleasantly surprised by Russell Stovers Cream Eggs. I still haven’t been eating their mixed boxes of chocolates, but the fact that they were making good quality product at a rather low price really captured my attention.
Now, I’m still not a boxed chocolates fan. See’s is probably the exception because I like just about everything they make, but I’ve been hesitant to try Russell Stover, especially after the middle of the road experience with the Whitman’s Sampler (RS & Whitman’s are now the same company). But this is All Valentines Week and it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t have at least a little bit. So I picked up the smallest Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates I could find.
I figured the little cup here was a coconut and milk chocolate mix, similar to the Coconut Wreath I had last year for the Christmas season. The coconut is crisp and the milk chocolate is creamy and not-too-sweet. I rather like things that come in little cups like this, they’re more appealing that some plop shaped items and easy to bite off a bit and leave the rest in the cup.
The square chocolate is a firm caramel covered in milk chocolate. It’s nice, it could use more salt, but the texture is just perfect. Smooth, chewy and with a good buttery flavor.
The dark oval is a fudge center. It had a good caramel tone to it, but very little chocolatey taste.
Overall the assortment was fresh and looked very appealing. They were a little too ordinary to capture my tastebuds and compel me to pick up the next one (isn’t it the anticipation in a box of chocolates that’s supposed to be appealing?). If you’re looking for a little something to give as a gift or thank you (like coworkers or classmates, etc.), I don’t think people would be insulted by these. If you catch them on sale (as I did), they’re probably cheaper than a greeting card (and have a little “to & from” label on the bottom). These are definitely preferable to the Elmer’s I had yesterday (so splurge for the Russell Stover if you must buy these little boxes) and the label lists no trans fats.
Russell Stover also has an organic line. I picked up some pecan turtles (not wrapped for any particular holiday) that I’ll get to reviewing soon.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Following up on the Munch Bar post a few weeks ago, this is the competing product: Planters Peanut Bar Original.
As pointed out in the comments on the Munch Bar review, the Planters bar isn’t as toffee-like. In fact, there are no dairy products at all in this bar.
It’s a heavily peanut bar, as you can see. The peanuts are jam packed together with the hard candy part just there to keep it all in one cohesive unit. The peanuts are toasty tasting and fresh with a nice salty hit from the candy.
It’s pretty satisfying even though it’s only 1.6 ounces. It also keeps well in harsh conditions, like warm summers or maybe in the car. It does just fine if it gets broken.
Of the two that I’ve had now (Planters Peanut Bar and Munch Bar), I think I prefer the Munch because of the more toffee-like candy cement. But I wouldn’t turn this one down. Both are a little hard to find. Drug stores seem to have a good selection, but I didn’t see this or the Munch bar at my usual 7-11s.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
100 Grand was one of my favorite bars when I was a kid. Back then they were called $100,000 Bars and there was some sort of jingle that went with it that I’ve forgotten (and I know a lot of jingles). The bars when first introduced were one piece, a long log of caramel, crispies and chocolate. Later when the name changed they made it into two pieces, which I fully supported in theory, but didn’t try at the time because of the Nestle boycott (which I followed from 1983 until 1989 or so).
The 100 Grand was a bar I missed (and I have to admit that I had a few fun sized ones during that boycott period because they were around in office candy dishes or brought home as Halloween booty by someone). There’s nothing else like it on the market.
Of course it hasn’t been immune to the Limited Edition craze and has undergone at least two versions, the Dark (yummy) and the Peanut (shrug). What’s especially confusing is that this 100 Grand with Coconut is not a limited edition version of the bar. It appears to be an actual addition to the line. CandyAddict’s commenters spotted them a full year ago, yet there’s no mention of them on Nestle’s website (well, there’s very little mention of the 100 Grand bar on Nestle’s site, period).
I saw this on SugarSavvy.net a few weeks ago. Joanna got a hold of two new items from Nestle, the 100 Grand with Coconut and the Crunch Bar with Coconut. I have to say that I was skeptical about this version, but I had to pick it up when I saw it.
The bar looks the same as always. The difference is inside. Instead of putting the coconut shreds in the milk chocolate coating with the crisped rice, they put it into the caramel center. What this does, however, is ruin the texture of the chewy, stringy caramel. It’s now more solid and a bit grainier. (See the 100 Grand Dark photo for a better view of what the caramel is supposed to look like.) Joanna pegs it when she calls it a version of Brach’s Neapolitan.
The final curiosity of this bar is that it’s bilingual. It’s in both English and Spanish. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be marketed in Hispanic neighborhoods or if it’s for export and they’ve decided to carry it in the States as well.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I have to admit that I’ve never been terribly fond of Twix bars. I know that they fill an important niche in the confectionery pantheon: a cookie, some caramel and a chocolate enrobing. I did quite like them when they were first introduced in 1979 in the United States but found that other crunchy caramelly chocolate candies (like the 100,000 Dollar Bar) fit my desires a little better.
I even gave the Classic and Peanut Butter Twix another try recently.
I decided that the cookie is too sweet for me. I like the combination of textures and I rather like how “sandy” the cookie is, but it either needs a hit of salt in the cookie (like a shortbread) or in the caramel. The Peanut Butter Twix is a little closer to what I like, but even with the mellow peanut butter, it still ends up being too middle-of-the-road. I rather enjoyed the Dark Chocolate and think that was a great bar but really thought the White Chocolate was a move in the wrong direction.
Enter Mars’ newest Limited Edition offering: Triple Chocolate. Yes, it’s all chocolate all the time with this bar. A chocolate cookie with a stripe of chocolate caramel covered in milk chocolate.
For such a chocolatey bar it didn’t smell much like chocolate. It smelled sweet and kind of like vanilla caramels. The bar as a whole has the familiar mix of textures with the crumbly/crunchy cookie bar, the soft and chewy caramel and then the smooth and sweet milk chocolate.
If it’s got triple the chocolate, it’s just not there for me. I wasn’t getting much in the chocolate realm at all (maybe I’m still on my dark chocolate high from the Fancy Food Show) ... just sweet. So sweet my throat hurt.
I wish they’d wrapped it in dark chocolate.
Note: Mars is now using PGPR in their chocolate as well (Hershey’s was the first company I noticed that changed their chocolate formulation). PGPR is an emulsifier like Soy Lecithin that’s usually derived from Castor Beans. The emulsifier keeps the chocolate smooth and flowing for the manufacture process and also replaces some of the cocoa butter.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
For the most part I thought they were toys. That they were some sort of technically edible wafer with a toy or prize inside. (Shows how much I was paying attention.)
I’m certain I’m not alone in my confusion about what they are, so I’ll try to demystify them.
The wafers are made up of two disks of slightly foamed corn starch (kind of like communion wafers or that stuff that they put on the tops of Torrones). They’re dome shaped to hold a little reservoir of powdered candy. You can shake them and they make a light rattling noise. The powder is a slightly foaming white dextrose candy kind of like a Pixy Stix.
The brand on these is Astra and they’re made in Belgium. I get the impression that there are a couple of other brands out there, including Gerrit’s Satellite Wafers, which are also made in Belgium ... so maybe there’s just one factory out there in the Belgian countryside cranking away on these traditional European novelty sweets.
The wafer itself is rather delicate and can crack if it’s fresh (and just get soggy and bendy if it’s not). This would explain why there was some candy powder in my bag of 35 pieces. Only two, as far as I could tell, had let loose their contents. The wafer is ever so slightly sweet but basically unflavored. If there’s an acceptable style to eating these, I missed that indoctrination as a child and can only say that I take a bite out of the Saucer, eat the little wafer and then dump the contents onto my tongue.
The powder is uncolored and tastes a bit like green apple (again, there could be different flavors ... or not). Sometimes I tossed the other half of the wafer, sometimes I ate it. The powder inside has a slight fizz to it, not quite as strong as Zotz. In fact, sometimes it wasn’t fizzy at all, sometimes it was absurdly fizzy.
Now that I’ve had these I’m sorry I didn’t seek them out as a child. They’re basically disk shaped Pixy Stix only you can eat the container they come in. I’m guessing the wafer also somehow offsets the huge sugar rush you would ordinarily get from straight dextrose.
You can read more about Astra Sweets who made these here, but it appears that Astra Sweets took over Belgica TOP, the originator of the Flying Saucer some years ago.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I tried the Honey Roasted Peanut Roca for the first time at the All Candy Expo in Chicago last summer. It took quite a while before I saw it in the “wild” and I was really surprised that my first sighting was at the 99 Cent Only stores.
I don’t have a photo of the innards, but I can tell you that it looks just like any other Roca. The foil wrapper on this one is coppery-orange but the little turd-looking candy is just like you’d expect.
The aroma was definitely peanutty with a strong initial crunch in the toffee. The toffee softens quite quickly to a firm chew and then becomes very buttery and a tad grainy as the sugar gives up its structure. I didn’t get much of the Honey Roasted Peanut vibe but the toffee was certainly competent (and I’ve eaten a lot of toffee this week.)
The faux chocolate coating on the candy was less than satisfying though. Rather greasy and soft, it was held in place by the peanut bits stuck to it. I appreciate that they’re experimenting, but this particular one was distracting for me. It didn’t add any “chocolate” flavor to the mix.
On a side note I did try the Candy Cane Roca while at the Fancy Food Show. The combination of toffee and minted chocolate was kind of odd, but overall nice. I don’t think I’d buy it, but I’d pop a few in my mouth if they were sitting in a candy dish.
I found the packaging for Honey Roasted Peanut Roca a little odd on this one as well. Perhaps it was that it was sold at the 99 Cent Store, but the incongruous 3 PIECES on the lower left kind of cheapened the whole thing. It also didn’t look like it belonged because of the font and it didn’t have the gold shadow the rest of it had. I know, I’m being super picky here. But I actually looked at the label rather critically when I first picked it up because I thought it was some sort of knock-off.
I think I’m going to stick with Almond Roca.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.