Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Name: Chocolates made with Icewine
Name: Maple Chocolate Truffles
My husband recently went to Vancouver and picked up these Canadian themed candies. The truffles are maple flavored and the Icewine chocolates are in the shape of maple leaves.
First, as far as I’m concerned a chocolate truffle is defined as the following: a soft chocolate made by combining good quality chocolate with cream and butter. It melts at a lower temperature than chocolate and is therefore extremely fatty and tasty. Chocolate truffles are usually covered in chocolate, so as to contain the melty insides (some places will just roll them in cocoa, but then they’re prone to melting and sticking together).
It’s hot right now in Los Angeles and at eighty degrees inside the house, the innards of these truffles should have been more yielding. As it was, they were more the solid consistency of say, a frango. Basically just another flavored and rather solid chocolate inside a chocolate shell.
That said, I think maple is a great flavor. It’s woodsy and sweet and reminds me of, well, maple. There’s not much else like maple. These were very mapley and extremely sweet. I think if I were inventing these I’d keep the center throat-searingly sweet but coat them in dark chocolate as a little respite. The chocolate was good quality but not excellent. As a gift from Canada, I think they were great, but it’s not something I’ll seek out next time I go up north.
Next up was a long box of chocolates with a tray of little maple leaf-shaped molded chocoaltes with a filling flavored with Icewine. I didn’t know what icewine was so out to the internet I go (and by the way, the website listed on the box is um, bad). Turns out icewine is made from grapes left on the vine through the winter (so maybe it’s really raisin wine?).
The idea of a cream center flavored with this sweet white wine is great. The chocolate shell was nice, a crisp milky chocolate. The center was not too large (sometimes a large center that’s really sweet kind of ruins the ratio of chocolate to filling) and smelled vaguely of fruit. However, there was something a little off. I tasted the fruity wine notes distinctly, but I also tasted plastic. I’m not sure if it was the tray that they were packaged in or what, but they were a little off. I ate them anyway, but didn’t find it a good combo.
Ratings - Chocolates made with Icewine - 5 out of 10
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Name: Nestle Toll House Candy Bars
If you’ve got a jones for sugar and something a little more satisfying than a candy bar, this might be the thing. Inside is a dense, crumbly cookie bar topped with caramel then a few chocolate chips and all enrobed in sweet milk chocolate.
The cookie part of the treat was least impressive. Because it was so thick it lacked that cookie feel and tasted more like a blondie and had no strong flavor of its own besides sweet. The caramel was non-existent, as it’d been absorbed by the cookie part and had no distinct chewy-ness to it. The occassional chocolate chip was a nice addition as it provided some actual flavor. The milk chocolate coating is all sweet and milky, but no real chocolate taste. What makes a Toll House cookie is the balance of the sweet and bland cookie to the complex pop of the dark chips.
There’s none of that here.
However, I still enjoyed the bar and found it rather satisfying. If I had anything to say about it, I think I’d suggest leaving the caramel out and maybe making the cookie just a smidge saltier. I’ll give the brownie bar a try to see if the flavor balance on that one is bit better. I’ve also seen that Hershey started selling cookies a while back (I’ve had the York ones and enjoyed them quite a bit) so I’ll have to check those out.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Friday, July 15, 2005
Name: Butterfinger Crisp
I’ve always been fond of wafer and creme cookies. They’re a pure blast of sugar in a rather bland styrofoamy cookie. I figured this bar was similar to that, only butterfingery.
Essentially there are bland wafers with a butterfinger creme which is a sweet peanut butter flavored concoction. The whole bar is then enrobed in a chocolatey wax and some more crumbled “crunchety” bits.
What I can say, beyond the fact that this bar is a great mix of textures, is that it’s salty. I know that sounds like a weird thing to mention, but there’re 140 mgs of salt in this bar. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the salt is a great complement to the flavors in this bar, but it’s very noticeable.
That aside, the crisp wafers and smooth and strongly peanutty creme is a great combo and if I could just find that as a cookie, I’d be pretty happy. What makes this a candy bar though, is that they dipped the whole thing in some sort of chocolate flavored wax (similar to what they put on Butterfingers). This waxy coating is the reason I don’t enjoy Butterfingers. In fact, if you gave me a Butterfinger, I’d probably scrape the chocolate off and enjoy the great peanut butter crisp center. I couldn’t even find any mention of the chocolately coating in the description of the bar on the Butterfinger site, so they must not think it’s much of a selling point either.
What I should mention is that the bar I tried was manufactured in Venezuela. I don’t know if this is the norm for all bars sold in the states of if it’s how I was able to purchase a normally 75 cent bar for 33 cents. (And it was fresh.)
In general, if I feel like a nutty crisp bar covered in chocolate, I go for a 5th Avenue.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Lollipops have kind of come back. When I was a kid there weren’t many good lollipops. There were those pretty ones that you’d see at the fair or candy shop - you know, those big paddle-looking ones that were of twisted hard tack. But they had no flavor. Then came the Charms pops, the Tootsie Pops and Blow Pops. There were the occasional novelty pop along the way, but that was pretty much it for some twenty years or so (I’m just saying this from memory ... I’ve done zero research).
Now there seems to be a revisiting of lollies. I noticed this a few years back when I discovered the wonderful Chupa Chups. These are great Spanish lollies that have good flavor, come in a huge assortment and have a PLASTIC stick, which means that it doesn’t fall apart on you if you’re a slobberer.
Name: Jolly Rancher Fruit Chew Center Lollipop
It’s kind of odd that this package doesn’t really give this candy a title. It’s Jolly Rancher, and it’s described in the sense that it’s assigned to be “GRAPE - artificially flavored” and “Fruit Chew Center” but it’s not really called Jolly Rancher Lolly or anything.
This was very artificially grape flavored and that’s okay. The flavor was through and through with a solid tart taste as well. The center was like a grape starburst, if they make those. What was a little weird though was the that lolly wasn’t made of a Jolly Rancher. You know, that tacky melty consistency that Jolly Ranchers have ... that’s not here. It’s not a bad thing, but something I missed.
Name: Way Sour Super Blow Pop
This is a downright huge lolly. It has a strong orange scent and an excruciatingly sour bite. Well, it’s called Way Sour, so I can’t complain. But I will. I think it comes from being an adult, there’s only so much sour I can take. I can eat Lemonheads because there’s a rest period when you’ve eaten through the sour layer. With the Way Sour Blow Pop, I never got there. I tried for about a half an hour and never made even a dent in this thing.
The flavor is great, very orangy, very sour. It’s not a blistering sour, but tart nonetheless.
UPDATE - I gave the Way Sour another try. I thought maybe my mouth was a little tender from eating too much fresh pineapple. Anyway, the second go around was much more doable, it’s still very tart, but has a lot of flavor, it’s not all about the sour. The gum center is a little bland after all that, and slightly rubbery instead of gummy. I’ve upgrade my initial score from a 4 to a 6.
Rating: Jolly Rancher Fruit Pops - 6 out of 10
See also - Starburst Chew Pops
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Name: Licorice Bridge Mix
I can’t believe I’ve been doing this blog for three months and have not posted about licorice. Licorice is one of those candies that I think people either love or hate.
I love it (you knew that, didn’t you). I love Good & Plenty and any kind of licorice pastels. Of course when we start getting into licorice allsorts, things get a little hinky. There always seem to be a bunch of them I don’t like.
This assortment from Confections carries none of those anxieties of allsorts. Inside are some pastels (just smaller versions of good & plenty) some buttons and black jelly bellies. There was also one jelly button with multicolored candy dots.
They’re all good. The pastels were nice, with a good ratio of candy coating to licorice on the inside. The buttons were a little odd. The only thing that I can describe them as is licorice candy corn. You know, whatever that stuff that candy corn is made of, it’s like that only they’re either white or black (they look like game pieces or something). Smooth and very sweet with a good hit of licorice to them. And of course everyone knows that jelly bellies are good, with lots of flavor and no colored tongue to betray that you’ve been snarfing down candy in your office.
They’re a little expensive at $2 for 3 ounces (yes that’s over $10 a pound) but at least I’ll eat everything in this variety pack. I think I’ll stick to my pastels though. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve never tried anise bears and I should probably rectify this.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Monday, June 20, 2005
Name: New Tree Chocolates: Vigor, Forgiveness & Tranquility
I reviewed another of these bars, called Renew a few weeks ago and I wanted to try other flavors. I found these little boxes with tasting bars at the Farmer’s Market and picked up an assortment. The one that had me most intrigued was Tranquility which bills itself as soothing. It’s milk chocolate with Lime Blossom and Lavender in it.
The packaging, first of all, is delightful. I put a quarter in the photo so you could see how tiny these bars are. New Tree extols itself as all natural, healthful chocolate what eschews genetically modified organisms (I’m not sure if Monsanto has gotten around to modifying the cocoa plant) and infuses their Belgian made chocolate with sometimes incongruous flavors and extra fiber. Turns out the no GMO part applies to the soya lecithin.
The Tranquility bar was very nice. It’s not terribly smooth, which is often what happens when you put dried stuff in chocolate. For Belgian milk chocolate it’s a bit sweet, but it doesn’t have that milky taste. The lavender notes come through loud and clear and leave a pleasantly fragrant note on the tongue long after the chocolate has dissolved. I wasn’t able to detect the lime blossom, but I’ve never eaten lime blossoms before and they might taste just like lavender for all I know.
I had to try the Vigor bar early in the day, as eating a full ounce of this is the equivalent of one cup of coffee (and I’ve already had a cup of coffee). At 73% cocoa, this bar smells unabashedly like pure chocolate. But upon putting it in my mouth, it melted quickly and I tasted only slight hints of rich coffee flavors. Naked coffee and chocolate are a great combo, as they both are roasted and smoky and contain lots of alkaloids. This is a barely sweetened bar that also boasts that it contains extracts of guarana. I’ve had more mocha tasting bars in the past and to be honest, I don’t want a caffienated chocolate bar, because I’d be tempted to eat it later in the day and then curse it as I couldn’t sleep later in the evening. But if you’re good with caffeine at all hours, maybe this is the bar for you. I don’t recommend pairing it with Red Bull or other energy drinks unless you enjoy heart palpitations.
The last bar, Forgiveness, was in the yellow box and was flavored with lemon and said that it helps metabolism. Again, a very dark bar with 73% cocoa. This bar also smells suspicously like chocolate with a slight lemon essence to it that’s more obvious after eating. It’s not a zesty taste, like a lemon bar or anything, just a hint of it. It’s actually very nice, a big difference from the heavily flavored bars from BruCo (don’t get me wrong, I liked those, too). The “helps metabolism” part got me curious though. There are “natural extracts of cactus” in it. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but there are a lot of cactus out there ... that’s like saying something vague like has “natural nuts” in it. The website says that the cactus is Opuntia ficus-indica. A quick google search reveals that this is a prickly pear, and looks a lot like one I have in my back yard. Further searching reveals that this particular cactus also contains mescaline. I’m sure that my teensy bar that’s less than a third of an ounce does not contain any measurable amounts.
I guess this is where I can get into the topic of candy for snacking and candy for savoring. There are some folks who enjoy wine and drink it for the joy of drinking. Then there are some folks who enjoy wine for all its nuances and savor every sip. I’m somewhere in the middle there when it comes to candy. I love consumer candy, stuff you just eat, that you put in your mouth and you finish and you want more. This New Tree stuff and many of the other gourmet bars are not meant for munching. They’re more complex, like a fine cheese or something. As a reference, I still have a little bit of the Renew bar left and it’s been weeks. This is not candy that calls out to me to be eaten. (Yes, sometimes I hear the candy calling me ... mostly things like maltballs and I can also hear smarties calling from several hundred yards.) Maybe some will accuse me of not being sophisticated enough and I’d be inclined to agree with them. You can dress up my vitamins in gumballs or chewables, but that doesn’t make them candy. Candy is a treat, not a chore.
I feel kind of bad for not liking these bars more, like I’m not sophisticated or stylish. I also feel bad because they’re so hugely expensive. Which I guess goes to prove that good quality candy does not have to be expensive. And expensive candy is not neccesarily great.
I think over the past few months as I’ve been trying more of these bars, my favorite fancy flavored bar has been the Dagoba Milk Chocolate Chai. I ate that, it tasted good and I wanted more. That’s what I want in my candy ... one that gets me addicted.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
I’ve seen these bars before, usually in import stores, and as I recall I picked up one or something similar in London when I was there. It’s basically a milk chocolate Nestle bar that’s been whipped into a froth and then quickly molded into a bar. It creates a bit of a lighter feeling treat than a dense chocolate bar.
What’s amazing about this is when you look at the bar unwrapped, it looks like a king sized bar, but it weighs about the same as a regular bar. It’s overwhelmingly sweet and chocolately smelling. Upon biting into it, it yields easily, more like marshmallow or fudge than chocolate. In fact, that’s what it resembles most to me, fudge. It’s definitely very chocolatey, a little sticky feeling in the mouth, but because of all the air, it melts fast, bursting on the tongue.
Note that because of the bubbles, I suspect that it’s a little more prone to softening in the summer warmth than other bars, so you might want to store this one in the fridge. In fact, I’ve heard that some folks prefer it that way.
On the whole, it was a pleasant bar. The chocolate is very milky, as European chocolate usually is and if you like that, you won’t be disappointed. I find European milk chocolate tastes a little like powdered milk to me which is not an entirely pleasant reminder.
My rating: 6 out of 10.
See also - taquitos.net review.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Dovetailing with my earlier post about revisiting classics with new interpretations, Hershey’s recently launched “Candy to Go!” It’s just smaller packaging of their previously introduced Bites, but what I found interesting is that I thought most candy was packaged for going ...
These are perfect little bites of candy bars. I picked up three at the store on the lot today. Kit Kat Bites, Reese’s Peanut Butter Bites and York Bites. Each is about the size of a small marble, more or less. The York bites are exactly what you’d expect, dark chocolate covering a mint cream center. The Reese’s bites are covering a peanut butter cup filling (not that waxy Reese’s pieces stuff) and the Kit Kat bites are like little Kit Kat cubes.
Here’s my thing: I like appropriate ratios. In the case of the Reese’s bites and the York bites, the ratio of chocolate to filling is appropriate. Though the chocolate in these little poppers is slightly different - because it’s in a spherical shape, I think they toss a little resinous glaze on it. This makes for a slight waxy coating, which in one respect is good, because you can actually hold them in your hand for a moment without getting melty all over you, but it also means that you’re eating this resin and that you need to kind of get past that when you put it in your mouth.
In the Kit Kat bites, it feels like too much chocolate (Kit) and not enough crisp wafers (Kat).
The other odd thing about these are the portion size: 2.75 oz and that’s a full serving. Most candy bars are about 1.5 oz and have about 200 calories. The Reese’s bites have 410 calories! If you can control yourself and not eat them all at once, you’ll make it to fifty without a coronary. Me? I ate the whole York Bites and then moved on to the Reese’s and of course had to open the Kit Kat for a taste. Sadly, all that’s left now are some of the Kit Kats.
Name: York Bites
Good chocolate, nice mint, pretty much a tiny spherical peppermint patty. The only problem I had with these was the variation in quality. Some were soft and fresh, but others were rather hard. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re spoiled, maybe the chocolate didn’t seal in the filling completely and they dried out.
Name: Reese’s Peanut Butter Bites
Okay, of the three, these smelled absolutely divine when I opened the package. A wonderful roasted peanut scent with the sweet overtone of chocolate. Really, these smelled awesome. They taste good, and I think I’d buy them again, especially as something to eat when at the movies, but I still prefer the miniatures for the ratio of chocolate to peanut butter.
Name: Kit Kat Bites
My least favorite of the three, but I’ve always been fond of Kit Kats and buy them often. But my favorite thing about Kit Kats is deconstructing them while I eat, which means prying off each layer with my teeth. That’s not really feasible with this iteration, so I’d just have to eat them and where’s the fun in that?
I’m not always fond of miniatures or giganto bars, but I think that Hershey’s really did a nice job of inventing these as candy that stands alone without the other versions. As always, freshness helps, if these were old and had bloomed or something, I’d find them absolutely unappealing. But I find these to be the perfect movie food or good to tuck in your bag to share with others.
UPDATE: It looks like these didn’t go over very well and have been discontinued. The remaining inventory can still be found at discount stores like 99 Cent Only. (But be sure to look at the expiration date before you take a chance.)
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