Thursday, July 14, 2005
Name: Dars Bitter Chocolate
This was one of the purchases from Japan I was most worried about ordering through the mail because of the summer heat. Luckily it made the trip in perfect condition.
Morinaga makes excellent consumer chocolate and for a decent price. I’ve had their Hi-CROWN chocolate and liked it very much. This one is about half the price and still comes in a snazzy package great for sharing. (In fact, I shared about a third of this with others.)
Inside the box is a mylar sealed tray with an array of a dozen chocolate nuggets, each a diminuitive bite of chocolate. Because I ordered this directly from Japan, there is no English wrapper on it and I can only glean a few things from the packaging. One is that it’s 45% cocoa solids and the other is that it’s dark chocolate. I have to say, if they’re not putting a lot of sugar in it, and it’s only 45% cocoa everything else must be cocoa butter and that’s a good thing. This is exceptionally creamy and smooth dark chocolate with a wonderful smokey chocolate flavor with a slight cognac note to it. Not too sweet and not at all grainy.
Bonus to Morinaga for putting a freshness date on there too.
Rating - 9 out of 10 ... if only I could find it easily nearby
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Name: Take Five
If I were to create the perfect candy bar, a great snack bar that would give me energy and taste good, it would contain the following: chocolate, pretzels, caramel and nuts. It’d be a great mix of simple carbs, fat and protein so as not to overwhelm the bloodstream with too much sugar. In my world it’d be a super turtle with a pretzel base, chewy caramel then pecans all covered in semi-sweet chocolate.
On a visit to the Chocolate Homeworld, er, sorry, Chocolate World in Hershey on New Year’s Day, this was the sample they gave us at the end of the ride. I quickly bargained with the other people in our party for theirs.
Hershey’s is dang close with the Take 5 bar. It’s got a pretzel center covered with peanut butter then a layer of caramel, a few chopped peanuts and then it’s all enrobed in milk chocolate. (Maybe I got that order wrong, it’s hard to tell.) The proportions are solid and the pretzel has got a great salty kick. If anything, the milk chocolate is a little sweet, but the salt on the pretzels and the slight saltiness of the peanut butter (which tastes like the center of a Reese’s ... maybe sweeter) balances well. If it only came in dark chocolate I might be in heaven.
The packaging is good, there are two little pieces in a tray and sealed in a the plastic packaging so they stay intact and are easy to slide out. I really wish they could figure out how to make this without hydrogenated oils, though it’s pretty far down on the list of ingredients and doesn’t show up on the nutrition part. For now I’ll keep buying it when I need a little boost during the day. It’s especially good with a morning cup of coffee, as I’m having the second piece right now.
As far as I’m concerned this bar could have lots of versions. A pecan/maple version, a pecan/dark chocolate turtle one, maybe white chocolate and walnuts or macadamias (not really for me, but a solid combo - I know that a white version of this same bar exists but I haven’t seen it yet) then another version with mint cookies and almonds.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (just make a dark version or a pecan one!)
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Sometime when I wasn’t looking (I photographed it last summer again) the Hershey’s Take 5 left the list of chocolate candy bars and joined the growing list of Hershey’s Real Mockolate.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Saturday, July 9, 2005
Name: Wilbur Buds
I’ve mentioned my favorite chocolate before, it’s Wilbur. Wilbur is made in a small town in Pennsylvania, Lititz, a scant 27 miles from the more famous Hershey. Wilbur, in fact, predates Hershey and even has a version of the kiss, known as the Wilbur Bud (which was also introduced several years earlier than the Hershey Kiss).
The Wilbur bud comes in milk or semi-sweet chocolate and is pure simplicity. It’s just a large chocolate chip, with a little curl on top and a molded bottom that says Wilbur. What’s great about the Wilbur buds is that they are incredibly smooth and creamy. Where Hershey and Nestle chocolate has a slight grain to it, Wilbur has none, it’s pure chocolate smoothness. The milk chocolate is European style, so those who are fond of Cadbury will appreciate it’s milkyness. The semi-sweet is bold, with a strong cocoa taste, complex and slightly bitter but melts easily on the tongue. Part of this explained by the cocoa butter content. I know a lot of people are into this movement of 70%+ cocoa solids, but besides the smoky flavor of chocolate, what sets it apart from all other candies is cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and liquid at body temp. The more cocoa butter, the more melty the chocolate.
So knowing all that, it should come as no surprise that I would go to such lengths to purchase said chocolate. A few weeks ago I called up the factory order line and got a five pound box. After all, it’s the best deal. And I have a wine fridge to store it in through the hot summer months.
One of the big things about chocolate is that there are two kinds: there are candy chocolates and savoring chocolates. Wilbur, for me, falls into both categories. Because of the high cocoa butter content (only 50% cocoa solids) it’s more snackable but the creamyness makes it wonderfully rich. I love eating these with other foods, too. It’s great in a homemade trail mix for hiking where you mix in some dried fruits (cranberries, apricots or raisins) and nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or cashews) and some pretzels. When I’ve got a stash, I usually keep a small bowl of them around at all times.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (if I could find it easily it’d be pure 10)
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Name: Starburst Chew Pops (Green Apple, Orange & Strawberry)
I’ve got to hand it to Starburst. They’ve always packed their candies with flavor. When Starburst first came on the market, I loved them. They were much more flavorful than other taffy treats available at the time. Easier on the teeth, too.
Starburst now offers lollypops. In the tradition of Charm’s Blow Pops and Tootsie Pops, there are fruit flavored hard candy with a same-flavored Starburst fruit chew center.
I picked these up at the grocery store at the check out counter (thanks Russ!) for ten cents a pop. The orange is by far my favorite. It’s really orangy, and the flavor goes all the way through with the continuation in the chew. Dirt cheap, I know I’d buy these again. In fact, they’re perfect for Halloween (I like to give away a mix of chocolate and non-chocolate/nut treats for the kids).
I wasn’t as keen on the green apple flavor as it had a very unpleasant chemical taste to it. But then again, green apple usually does. The strawberry is good too, but also a little bit on the artificial side. They’re rather tart, which is something I enjoy in a fruit hard candy.
I hope they come out with more flavors. I bet I’d love lemon.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Name: Malted Milk Balls
As I’ve stated before, I love malt. I will eat spoonfuls of Ovaltine malted milk powder straight from the jar. Good malt balls are not easy to find. First, they have to be covered with real chocolate. Those egg-shaped ones available around Easter are usually some fake chocolate compound and too sweet. The best bet is usually in the bulk candy aisle at the grocer if they carry Harmony Foods bulk chocolate covered malted milk balls.
Earlier this week I placed a bulk order from Wilbur and one of the items was their Malted Milk Balls. These are not simply malted milk balls covered with a thin layer of chocolate, they’re super thick with high-quality milk chocolate. The malt inside is crisp, large and very malty with a touch of salt.
They are by far the best malted milk balls I’ve had in my life. My big question is if anyone knows if naked malt balls exist, you know, just the malt balls without the chocolate coating.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Name: Wha Guru Chew
Reading over the ingredients list, I’m wondering what this has to do with the Yogi Bhajan. But I suppose even the most enlightened among us wants a sweet now and then. While there’s nothing bad about these caramel nut bars, they contain no trans fat and use brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice instead of corn syrup, I’m struggling with the health food aspects of this. Aw hell, let’s just call it candy and be done with it.
These are fab. I can’t tell you how fab these are. The caramel is flavorful and soft, the nuts are fresh and crunchy and the smell is pure buttery sweetness. The only problem I have with them is that they’re very soft, so you taking them out of the package is nearly impossible and even getting the package open without scissors ended up too much of a challenge for me.
Cashew Vanilla - the right sweet notes of vanilla blended with buttery cashews. There are also sunflower seeds in here, which add an extra crunch and earthy taste to the bar to balance the sweetness of the caramel. A little touch of salt balances it all out.
Almond Ginger - it doesn’t smell quite as inviting as the cashew vanilla bar (I don’t think ginger smells that good inherently, as it has a rooty/earthy smell). But biting into this bar wipes away any hesitation that this bar will be as good as the former. The ginger pops out as a spicy base for the sugary caramel and the mild almonds. A slight trace of lemon zest links all the flavors together well.
Peanut Cashew - this one diverges from the recipe of the above two which are sweetened primarily with brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. This is sweetened with clover honey (and barley malt syrup). This honey base makes for a less viscous caramel but really amps up the flavor. The first tone you get upon biting into it is a strong orange essence. In addition to the peanuts and cashews are sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Of the three this was my least favorite, though still worthy of trying.
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Name: Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops
These were a huge surprise. I was in Trader Joe’s over the weekend, enjoying the fabulous views of candy in the frozen foods aisle and these little fellows just screamed “buy me!” and I did. They’re just so adorably cute, with their sunny colors and perfect sunflower seed shapes.
First, I’m a little curious about the actual production of these guys. I mean, it seems like a lot of engineering went into these. The sunflower seeds have a consistent, thin coating of sweet milk chocolate on them and then over that is the thinnest sheath of candy shells. They’re all glossy and still have the little point at one end like a bare seed does.
Because the shell is so thin, they crunch immediately and release that familiar sunflower seed taste along with the sweet balance of the light chocolate. The snackability of these is amazing - I could just shovel them into my mouth all day. Whoops, I think I have!
If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, these, available from Candy Warehouse may be similar. I’m not keen to find out on my own, as the last thing I need is FOUR POUNDS. But I’ll keep my eye out for the little packages.
As candy goes, they are a bit more wholesome than some other choices. A single serving (about an ounce) boasts 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and 4% of your daily value of calcium and iron. No trans fats at all.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Name: Pocky (Chocolate)
I love Pocky. Can I just start with that? What a perfect candy. It’s got the savory crunch of a biscuit and the smooth velvety flavor of chocolate.
Opening one of the foil packs I was met with the overwhelming scent of dark chocolate. The sticks were nicely coated (not too much) with chocolate, and leave a little uncoated spot at the bottom where you can hold it without getting chocolately fingers - something they don’t do with chocolate covered pretzels.
The coating is a thin sheath, but because of the richness of the chocolate, it’s the right proportion. The biscuit or pretzel part is bland - it’s not salty nor sweet, but the perfect bit of crunch and crispness for the chocolate.
The portion size is huge. Half the package (250 calories, 90 from fat but only 20 mg of trans fats). I wasn’t able to eat that big of a portion - that’s 22 sticks. I think they’re a great thing to tuck in a lunch bag or to go off on a picnic (provided your pack doesn’t get too hot and they melt and stick together). Easy to snack on, easy to share.
Rating: 9 out of 10
See earlier review of Green Tea Pocky.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.