These candies contain alcohol in more than just a minute quantity. Candies that are simply flavored like an alcoholic drink are not included.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For years I’ve seen references to La Higuera Rabitos Royale. They’re a decadent creation, a whole fig is dried and then stuffed with a brandy infused chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is dipped in another layer of chocolate.
The box is big though weighs very little. It’s an elegant 7 inch square with an appealing photo of the freshly dipped figs against a black background and then a sparely designed front that describes the product.
We select the best mediterranean [sic] figs, we stuff them with our truffle cream, we cover then with a thin layer of chocolate and then ... you get the most delightful experience..
I’ve seen them in cheese shops from time to time, but I’m hesitant to buy fresh chocolate products there as I’ve had a few bad experiences in the past and these are often very expensive (about $10 for a box of 9 figs). So when I saw them at Trader Joe’s for only $7, I figured this was the time to try them.
Inside the sleeve of the box is a tray that holds each individually wrapped bonbon. It’s a lot of packaging, but I understand the impulse to seal each one up, as the alcohol in infused chocolates can easily evaporate on store shelves. The package also warns that the nature of the real fig means that there might be some bloom on the product but that it would still be tasty and edible.
The little matte silver mylar protects the candies well, all were uncracked, though all had a few little moisture bloom speckles. (It looks more like sugary moisture is migrating from the filling instead of the cocoa butter moving out of the chocolate itself.) One of the things I noticed on the ingredients list is that the chocolate coating has a little fractionated vegetable oil in it, so it’s not a true chocolate shell. I didn’t notice that it affected the flavor profile or the texture. They smell sweet and woodsy with a definite brandy note to them. The pieces are firm but give way to a bite very easily. If they’re cold then the shell can crack a little, but at warmer room temperatures (in the 70s) they’re soft and the chocolate coating sticks. I like to bite mine in half.
The ganache center is strongly alcoholic - brandy liquor is the third ingredient in the filling after cream and glucose syrup. The brandy mixes well with the deep leathery and raisin flavors of the fig. The ganache is smooth and melts easily in the mouth. The chocolate shell is a thin veneer, so all it’s really doing is holding it all together, so I mostly forgive the splash of oil in there.
These are quite good and I found one or two to be more than satisfying. But it helps that the packaging is a little daunting, so I didn’t find myself eating the whole box at once like I might if they were just in fluted cups.
I don’t think you have to like figs to enjoy these, but it certainly helps. The seedy part of the figs aren’t a textural element, just the deep berry flavors of the dried fruit, which is pretty soft after being stuffed with liquor & cream. I liked that it wasn’t honey-sweet like some glace fig products can be. The chocolate is good quality and the rest of the ingredients are top notch - the chocolate flavors are well matched with good berry, woodsy and a little smoky note to them.
They’re a nice hostess gift though may present an etiquette problem as she may not want to share them with everyone. I don’t see myself picking these up often, but for an intimate cheese course or small treat after a meal with coffee they’re just the thing to replace a heavy dessert. I don’t begrudge the price, I imagine there’s a lot of labor involved in stuffing actual real figs, but they’re still expensive and hard to rationalize for more than the most special occasion or recipient.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Beverly Hills is a different world from the funky and uneven aesthetics of Silver Lake where I live, even though they are only about twenty minutes apart by car. While Silver Lake has a few chocolatiers and bakeries that carry fine confections, Beverly Hills has been at it far longer and has international muscle behind many of its biggest names.
For quite a few years folks have been telling me to try Teuscher. People rave, far and wide, about their Champagne Truffles. I even went into the Teuscher shop in Rockefeller Plaza in New York a few years ago but the shop was packed with people and the ambiance was a little too fussy, confining and precious for my tastes.
As the years went by the fact that I hadn’t tried their chocolates was becoming a glaring omission in my chocolate experiences. So when I was contacted by a representative of the Beverly Hills outpost of the Swiss-based Teuscher, I thought the time was ripe. I arranged to visit their petite shop and cafe in Beverly Hills located on the corner of Brighton Way and Camden, a scant block off of Rodeo Drive.
Teuscher is a Swiss chocolatiers but they have fourteen North American locations in addition to their shops in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. All chocolates are made in their Zurich facility and express shipped regularly (usually once or twice a week) to the shops. Their array of chocolates is rather standardized, regardless of the location. They make a variety of truffles, nut-based confections like marzipan and gianduja. They also have classics like candied fruits (dipped in chocolate), nut clusters and novelty molded chocolates (usually seasonal selections).
I was introduced to Avivia Covitz, the owner of the Beverly Hills shop. She charmed me with her tales of pairings of chocolates, eating two at a time to increase the vast variety that already existed in single pieces to create even more unique confectionery experiences. (Kind of like me and my mash ups ... though I’m sure she’s classier and doesn’t actually smash them together.) She guided me through the offerings and I chose about 15 pieces (from the dozens available) as an introduction to the fine chocolates.
Since their Champagne Truffle is so well known, I picked up three - two in milk chocolate and one in dark chocolate. They look more like rum balls that truffles to me, especially the milk chocolate ones which are very light brown with a white confectioner’s sugar dusting. They’re not round, more narrow and tall. It’s a sweet flavor right away as well, but my concerns about it being too sweet were quickly dispelled. The flavor isn’t quite champagne but more of a deep yeasty and white wine grape note. There’s no fizz or bubble, but a crisp and dry finish.
The dark, in my opinion, was even richer and a little more yeasty. They’re dusted in cocoa, so far less sweet right when it’s placed on the tongue. The texture is smooth, with a little pop of flavor at the center where the champagne cream center is.
I also tried their newer truffle, the Vodka Truffle. This one was wrapped in silver foil and after being unsheathed the molded sphere looked rather like a Lindt Lindor truffle though the center was vastly different. The dark chocolate had berry notes and a little astringency. The truffle center was quite gooey (Aviva cautioned me that it was to be popped in the mouth whole, no biting in half) and had a strong alcoholic bite along with a smooth dark chocolate liquor flavor.
I’m a huge European nougat fan, so seeing this piece was encouraging. Also seeing the wide use of nuts such as pistachios, walnuts (even though I can’t eat them), hazelnuts, almonds and of course hazelnuts made me happy.
The Montelimar nougat is dipped in chocolate on all sides except for the top. (which is a little dry). It’s a little grainy but still soft and chewy. The nuts (pistachios and almonds) are fresh and the honey notes are definitely a plus. The nougat still has a wafer on it, which kind of confusing because it doesn’t seem to be necessary and creates a kind of cereal flavor to the chew.
One of the big things I noticed in the Teuscher line is the liberal use of honey, which I think is far under-utilized in chocolates.
The Honey Caramel covered in dark chocolate was delightful. I love honey, I love chocolate and I love caramel. That doesn’t always mean a good combination will result, but in this case it does. The caramel has a dark flavor, a malty note and the beeswaxy and floral vibe of honey. There are also little bits of almond in there, which bring the whole thing together with a bit of texture.
There’s a large array of marzipan at Teuscher, which I found fascinating. The little logs like this are simply adorable and promised to have a large proportion of chocolate to the almond paste filling. (I believe it also came in pistachio.)
Sweet with a powerful almond extract flavor. The dark chocolate is creamy and offsets the sweetness well. The texture of the marzipan is dry but holds together without being sticky.
I also tried a Zebra Gianduja which is a striped combination of milk, white and dark hazelnut paste neatly dipped in dark chocolate similar to the Montelimar. The hazelnut notes were lost in the sweetness and the texture was just a little dry. Still, the nut notes were very fresh.
I was fond of the idea of these. They’re simply called Crunchy Chocolates and they come in milk and dark chocolate. They’re a homey dab of chocolate studded with little crunchy bits of honey and nuts. It’s like comfort candy. They’re basically everything I’ve always wanted a Toblerone to be. The chocolate is smooth and creamy with its own flavors. The honey bits give an added flavor punch and almost a salty note. The almonds give crunch and their own buttery note. I liked their thin shape, which made it easy to bite but thick enough to have lots of inclusions.
I always like to try the candy kitchen classics when I go to a new chocolate shop. I feel like I can learn a lot about the attention to detail when a chocolatier does something as simple as candying some orange peel or ginger. There are lots of ways to do it well, so it really just gives me a sense of where their sensibilities are.
Teuscher’s sensibilities in the candied fruit rind arena are right in line with mine. The Candied Orange Peel is dipped in dark chocolate. Moist and almost jelly-like, there’s no hint of sugary grain. It’s rather sweet but all of the zesty notes of the orange are preserved and just a light hint of the bitter orange oil. It goes well with the dark chocolate couveture.
The Chocolate Dipped Candied Ginger was a similar glace style. Tiny little ropes of roots, simmered in sugar until tender, then dipped in chocolate. These had a little extra flair with the white chocolate racing strip around the bottom. It was just a little accent that didn’t detract at all from the dark chocolate and the earthy notes of the ginger, just a little tip of milk flavors into it.
Belle Epoque was the only other truffle I picked up, again it was an alcohol inspired and infused one. This is a dark chocolate ganache with Gran Marnier. I loved the look of it and have found that I prefer enrobed or dipped truffles to molded ones.
There is a strong whiff of alcohol and orange zest. Little notes of tobacco and oak along with chocolate pudding. It’s definitely one of my favorites and would probably win out on my list of things to eat from there on a regular basis because it was just less sweet than the Champagne. (And given the choice, I’d probably opt for an aperitif of Gran Marnier over a flute of champagne.)
After completing my selection of the complementary fine chocolates, I also decided to also buy a few other items to get a sense of the rest of the Teuscher line of offerings. One of the charming items that vary from season to season are the molded chocolates. When I was in the shop before Thanksgiving, they had turkeys.
I was drawn to the Chocolate Bees. (I have no idea if they have a formal name, as there’s nothing on the package.) They came in a double layer mounded on a four inch by six inch gold foil tray. That was wrapped in clear cellophane and decorated with a narrow, yellow gossamer ribbon.
The milk and dark chocolate bees have a wingspan of two inches. But they’re not just milk and dark chocolate novelties. They’re dotted with honey crystals and almond bits. The texture wasn’t quite as dense and flavorful as the Crunchy chocolate pieces mentioned above. Instead these were a bit more like a Toblerone piece. Not quite as vibrant or intensely textured. Still very pretty and fun.
I also picked out a few straight Gianduja (they pronounce it John-Do-Ya) hearts. They’re beefy, over two inches wide and almost an inch high. One was milk chocolate (blue) and the other dark (orange).
The flavor was more milky and sweet chocolate in the milk chocolate than hazelnuts. This was my feeling about all the gianduja items from Teuscher. I’m assuming this is just the Swiss style, though I also noticed it with the Belgian brand Leonidas as well. Since I prefer more hazelnut and darker chocolate flavors, even then dark version here didn’t quite satisfy me and I didn’t end up finishing them. (Part of it is that I was so enamored of the Pralus Creme de Noisette that it’s going to become one of my standards.)
Orange Marzipan covered in Dark Chocolate
The final item I picked up, also foil-wrapped like the above hazelnut hearts, was an orange marzipan piece. This was more like a decadent candy bar. The marzipan was moist, a little sticky but with a great citrus zest note instead of amaretto. The almond texture and flavor still came through, but without the bitter almond flavoring that so often pervades European marzipan. This is definitely one of the highlight pieces for me. I liked that it wasn’t fussy and if I were wandering around Beverly Hills and wanted something to go with my coffee (they do have a highly regarded coffee bar), this is a good impulse item for me.
My hesitations with the products are really minor. I’m not that keen on the packaging or the design of the shop. The confections are well labeled in the chocolates case, which is great for people like me who must avoid a particular item like walnuts, but the rest of the items were not. The foil wrapped items were just color coded and once you left the shop, well, you’d better have a good memory. The little trays of molded items are see through, so you can, well, see them but no ingredients or even product names. My feelings are that the look and feel of the place is dated, but if you’ve been shopping there for a dozen years, you might feel like they’re dependable and consistent ... so I can’t really fault them for that.
The milk chocolate and hazelnut items were on the sweet side for my preferences, but the dark truffles, especially the Belle Epoque are right up my alley. I will definitely plan on trying more of the flavored marzipans and the caramels since I was so fond of the Honey Caramel.
The prices are on the high side at over $70 a pound (an 8 ounce box of 16 Champagne Truffles is $37.50) and the website doesn’t allow you to build a custom box. However, in the store you’re free to get exactly what you want. I think the Champagne Truffles are worth the diversion if you’re in Beverly Hills (or any other neighborhood that has a shop) but I don’t think I’d special order them on the internet unless I was certain they were going to be spectacular and just what I wanted.
My trick when visiting Beverly Hills is to park in the valet parking garage on Dayton Way just off Rodeo Drive. It’s free for the first two hours during the day. Teuscher looks like a great spot to hang out sipping coffee at the sidewalk tables and sampling a little box of chocolates while people-watching.
teuscher chocolates Beverly Hills
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I picked them up at the Fancy Food Show in the final hour, which is usually a chaotic grab as the vendors tear down their booths and opportunists & vultures grab at anything and everything that isn’t hot-glued down. Some companies also abandon their booths and leave piles and piles of merchandise for whomever wants it. I wanted these. I took three boxes: two of the Cointreau and one of the Teacher’s Scotch Whisky.
I rarely see these kinds of chocolate except around the holidays at stores like Trader Joe’s (which has a “brandy bean” each year) and Cost Plus World Market.
The box isn’t upscale or fancy, it reminds me of the kind of box you might get a pair of gloves in or a new tie. Inside is a plastic tray that holds the little beans. Four beans wide and six beans long, they’re an impressive sight.
The ingredients aren’t fancy, in fact, some are downright cheap. It goes like this: glucose-fructose syrup, cocoa liquor, sugar, lactose, Cointreau, cocoa butter (contains milk), rectified spirit, milky, soy lecithin & polyglycerol polyricinoleat [PGPR], flavouring.
I started with the Cointreau Liqueur Chocolates because I think that orange and chocolate are a great combination. Cointreau is made by Remy Cointreau in France. The spirit is made from sugar beets and flavored with a proprietary blend of sweet & bitter orange peels.
The little beans are cute, maybe a bit banana shaped.
The insides are quite syrupy. I liked biting off an end and then sipping the liquor, but eating the thing whole was fun, too.
The chocolate isn’t quite dark, not quite milk. It’s sweet and a little grainy. Though Cointreau has a substantial orange flavor by itself, it was a bit lost in the sweetness and chocolate flavors. Still, there was a little orange essence that lingered after it was all gone.
The second variety (not photographed) is Teacher’s Scotch Whisky. My experience with whisky is a bit more limited than my experience with aperitifs. Whisky is a dark and mysterious liquid, usually very strong with charcoal, tobacco, oak and peat and has a companion flavor called throat searing.
This particular variety, Teacher’s Highland Cream Scotch Whisky, is completely new to me.
The chocolate is rather unappealing, bland and sweet. The liquor center is sweet but definitely alcoholic. There’s a mild burn and some woodsy dark flavors do accompany it, a highlight in the flavor department here, because the chocolate itself wasn’t doing much.
I liked this combination, but the novelty wore off after about three of them, so then the package sat around for a few weeks before I polished them off for this review. I prefer them to the wine ones that I reviewed yesterday, but didn’t really care for the packaging or the ingredients, though they’re a much better value.
A cautionary note to anyone who buys any kind of alcohol infused chocolate - eat it quickly after opening. Alcohol evaporates, even through the chocolate shell and any plastic wrap. They’re best consumed fresh. As the weeks went by, these weren’t nearly as potent as when I opened them.
I haven’t seen this particular brand for sale (though I suspect that the same manufacturer may produce house brands. I believe these retail for about $3 to $4 a box. So they’re not that expensive and kind of a kick in the mouth. They come in other varieties as well: Irish Whiskey & Cream and Grappa. They do have some alcohol in them, so consuming the whole box may give you a buzz (they’re probably 3-5% alcohol).
Monday, February 16, 2009
I actually ordered this set of four boxes of Wine Filled Chocolates made by Bouquet of Fruits Vineyard from Wine Woot! I’ve seen them for sale before, way back around Christmas 2007.
I was a little grumbly because it took so long for them to arrive. I ordered them at the end of January, and though they said that they’d arrive by Valentines, I assumed they’d be shipped out within five days or so (like other items I’d ordered from Woot!). Instead they arrived on Thursday last week. My hope is that they were being made to order, so they’d be extra fresh.
The set is four boxes of 9 pieces each, 4.5 ounces. The flavor array is Champagne (Pink), Chardonnay (Brown), Cabernet (Magenta) & Port (Black). Each little sphere or chocolate is advertised to be filled with wine. All for $29.99 plus $5 delivery.
The boxes are rather large for the amount of chocolate inside, however, since these are liquid filled, a bit of cushion is a good thing. Each chocolate is in a fluted cup, inside a slot in a plastic tray. The sides of the box have a bit of space around them and the whole thing is topped off with one of those cushioned waxed paper pieces. It’s all sealed in shrinkwrap, then a ribbon.
The ingredients are admirable. Chocolate, wine and vanilla. This really didn’t make sense to me, because the wine in the center always seemed very sweet & syrupy ... but I guess that’s the magic of wine filled chocolate.
The chocolate look rustic & hand rolled.
The chocolate shell is very sweet and melts readily, not quite oily but quite soft… but then there’s another shell underneath, a perfectly formed sphere that seems to have a seam. Aha!
That shell doesn’t taste quite the same as the outer shell, maybe a little darker.
Inside though is a syrup of white wine. I wouldn’t call it champagne, as I would assume that it’s not true champagne (from France) and it has no bubbles. It’s a sweet mixture, a lot like a dessert wine. Not quite to my liking, but I ate a few of them.
Chardonnay is a rather varied white wine that can be bold or delicate and it can be pretty confusing because it’s such a common wine but can take on so many different profiles.
Let me just say before I go too much further that I am an excellent wine taster, but I don’t consider myself a wine aficionado. I can enjoy it and drink it several times a week but if I never had it again, I don’t think I’d miss it much. (On the whole I prefer spirits with botanicals or aromatic elements like Gin, Ouzo or Pastis, though again, I don’t really drink that often but when I do, that’s where I go.) So if you want to add to the info here that I’ve mentioned about each of these wines, feel free.
The Chardonnay filled Chocolates were the only white chocolate over the bunch, which was over the functional milk chocolate shell. The ingredients on these were wrong, it made no mention of the white chocolate, which caused me to doubt the accuracy of all of them. (I also started to suspect that perhaps the sugar from the chocolate shell leaches in, to form this syrup.)
These smelled quite milky and a little yeasty (in a good way). The wine center was tangy and fresh tasting like grapes - not quite snappy though.
Cabernet Sauvignon, as a red wine, has a lot tannins in it. So it can be quite striking and sometimes bitter, tart or dry (or all three) and takes on some wonderful oak & tobacco flavors. However, a lot of the bitterness of the tannins can be mellowed by fats when pairing with meals. So pairing it with a good dark chocolate actually makes a lot of sense.
As I went along in this process, I learned that the big charge here is either biting into the sphere and getting a burst of light, wine flavor or letting the whole thing melt until it’s an oozy puddle.
After a few of these I was starting to feel a bit full though (so I did this review over three sessions). I was comforted to see that each piece is about 107 calories - about 110 calories per ounce, which is much lower than most other boxed chocolates.
I was letting the chocolate melt for my tastings of the Cab, there was a definite “butter” taste for the Cabernet. The wine center was fruity but lacking a sort of dry bite that red wine offers when paired with chocolate. Of the three so far, this was definitely winning out.
Port is a sweet, fortified red wine. While at first that sounds dreadful, it’s quite mellow and rich (usually fortified with brandy, not just any old distilled spirit like the long gone Ripple was). It’s sweeter than most wine’s but not quite as rich and complex (or alcohol laden) as something like brandy. It’s usually sipped from a snifter as a dessert wine.
Since Port contains more alcohol (about 19-20%), these actually carried more of the wine scent when I opened the box. (The others just smelled like chocolate.)
This was the most successful for me. The port was much more intense. There were dark brandy notes, woodsy flavors, a hit of alcohol of course and then the subtle notes of the mediocre chocolate shell.
The boxes are color coded, though there’s no actual key. The only place that the variety is indicated is on the little tag on the ribbon. Once you take the ribbon off it’s a guessing game. (The champagne & port were pretty easy to guess by color, but I kept getting the Chardonnay & Cabernet confused, especially since the Cabernet label never actually says Cab on it. )
Overall, the package was still a decent value. It’s over a pound of chocolates (18 ounces) delivered for $35. However, it’s Woot! so you never know when they’ll offer it again. (This is the second time I’ve seen it on there, which is why I ordered it. Thinking this review might be of value to someone in the future.)
It’s certainly a unique product, I’ve seen plenty of liquor filled chocolates and some ganaches flavored with wine, but I’ve never had another wine filled chocolate. I don’t think I’d want a whole box of them, but it might be fun as something to serve with a dessert cheese plate.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Dulce de Leche is a popular confection in Central and South America as well as parts of the United States. There are many regional versions (and some families have their own traditional recipes) but it’s all basically the same thing - a milk caramel. Often it’s made into a sauce or “spoon sweet” similar to pudding, but other versions are cooked into a solid much like a caramel or soft fudge/penuche. Other versions use the sauce as a frosting or filling for other baked goods.
Crown Nuggets sent me this version of Mexican dulce de leche (literally candy of milk) made with tequila. The name Borrachito means “little drunk”, and in this case they’re not kidding. These little fingers of dulce de leche (they call them nuggets) are up to 4% alcohol. (So they may not be available in all states.)
As they launch the candy there are two versions available: Tequila & Licor de Cafe. They’re packaged in little plastic tubs with the fingers separated by cardboard dividers, two layers deep, 12 in each layer. At over 9 ounces per package, they’re pretty dense little candies.
The Tequila Nuggets are on the right in this photo. You can see that they’re kind of a layered affair. The center is a smooth & creamy light caramel, almost like a pudding, then it’s rolled in sugar to keep them from sticking to each other. The drunken part is pretty evident when I opened the package. It smells like sweet tequila and a little bit like cotton candy.
I’ve had tequila before, but I don’t drink it straight and it’s not my preferred liquor. The idea of it mixed with some sweet and thick dairy was pretty appealing though.
The little fingers are soft, but the sugar coating keeps them from being sticky. I ate them in two bites, they’re about the size of the top two knuckles of my pinky (I can’t say how big your pinkies are). Inside the grainy exterior is a soft and creamy caramelized milk.
The tequila flavors are a little overwhelming at first, but the dairy flavors come out slowly. It’s soft and melts well on the tongue. I find the sugar grains make it a bit too sweet and mess with the custardy texture of the dulce de leche. Tequila is a bit medicinal but definitely add a bit of dimension to this.
These had a bit of a coffee note to them and a little bit of a rum taste.
I was hoping both of these would be more caramelized or milky tasting. It was darker, but not quite smoky or burnt enough for me. I like a good flan or creme brulee and I was hoping this would be a confectionery equivalent. The alcohol, while definitely evident, may have overshadowed that.
I think mainstream America is ready for some good dulce de leche. These appear to have overcome some of the issues of how to portion it and make it look appealing. It’s probably a good idea to capitalize on the tequila angle too, so I don’t begrudge the inclusion. But the flavor/texture mix just isn’t for me. I’m not going to give up on finding my ideal dulce de leche.
The nutrition panel is calculate for a single piece (11 grams & 40 calories) so it says there’s no fat in here, but since the second ingredient is whole milk, I’m guessing if you ate a full ounce (three pieces) your body would find some usable dairy fats in there.
I don’t care much for eating them as a confection on their own, but in combination with some bittersweet chocolate or even as part of a dessert cheese plate with dried fruits & nuts, they might be an interesting addition.
For more on dulce de leche: Malena travels Mexico & samples cajeta, Rosa at ZOMG Candy already reviewed Borrachitos and if you’re ever interested in making your own, it’s a simple as submerging a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot and simmering it on the stove (or following a more traditional open pot method by Alton Brown or David Lebovitz).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.