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All Natural

Friday, February 13, 2009

Short & Sweet: Bites & Bites

I have more candy than I will ever be able to review at my pace of 5-7 products a week. Here are a few items I’ve tasted recently and some notes on them (most gratuitous photos). So here are some small bites of a whole week’s worth of candy. Get ready to scroll!

New Packaging & Marshmallow Size for Plush PuffsI visited with Anne Hickey and the Plush Puffs’ crew when I was at the Fancy Food Show. At closing time they gave me a box of their Vanilla Bean Marshmallows. It’s new packaging for them, which I really like. It’s still spare and highlights the product well.

But what I liked best is that they’ve made the marshmallows a bit smaller. Now they’re 1” cubes instead of the larger version I tried several years ago. This means that when toasted the center gets molten before the outside catches on fire. (There are important physical laws that even marshmallows must obey.)

The box has been sitting next to my stove top and some evenings I’ll toast up two or three for dessert on the gas burner. It makes the house smell wonderful.

(Original review.)

Seth Ellis Chocolatier Candied LemonsSeth Ellis Chocolatier Candied Lemons

I visited a few times with Seth Ellis Chocolatier while at the Fancy Food Show. They had a lovely array of samples, but for some reason I eschewed their truffles and became obsessed with their Candied Lemons.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier Candied LemonsIt’ might be because they’re so beautiful.

Perhaps it’s because of this little nugget from their website, “We candy the freshest organic lemon slices slowly, over twenty-five days, using a traditional European method to preserve the intense lemon flavors.”

The box contains one full lemon slice plus and extra quarter. Special bonus, the packaging is made with wind power (well, that and some tree pulp).

The candying doesn’t make the peel as soft as some others, but then again, sometimes that makes them gummy and flavorless. This definitely has a bitter bite and because the pulp is also still there, it’s quite tangy. The dark chocolate is creamy and also has a woodsy bite to it.

(Website.)

image

I must have been obsessed with lemon and lemongrass at the Fancy Food Expo because the other item I knew I had to bring home was L’Estasi Dolce Sweet Ecstasy Lemongrass Ginger Truffles.

Lemongrass is a bit of a strange flavor. I love it in Thai cooking (hot & sour soup especially). It imparts the zesty notes of lemon peel, but it has a soft side to it as well, that I can only compare to bubble gum.

These nicely sized truffles are a real ganache made with lots of real cream.

The center is soft and silky with an immediate soft flavor of lemongrass. Then there’s the warming power of the ginger. The woodsy ginger flavors never come forward, it’s just that little burn in the background. This all combines well with the slight dairy flavor of the cream and the mellow dark chocolate.

Rubicon Bakery CocoaBerriesOne of the Fancy Food Show items I mentioned in my show notes was Rubicon Bakery.

They not only make all natural, wholesome products right here in the United States, their mission is to help people in need by giving job training, jobs placement assistance to work their way out of poverty.

The package pictured here is a mock up used for the distribution of the samples, the real thing is much nicer.

Their Strawberry CocoaBerries may put them on the map even without the amazing backstory.
Rubicon Bakery CocoaBerries

They’re little meringue kisses, a little larger than a Hershey’s Kiss. The center is a crunchy fluffed egg white made flavorful by the addition of gobs of real freeze dried strawberries. To seal in the crispness, they’re dipped in bittersweet Guittard chocolate.

The freaky part about the whole combination is that it’s so tasty & satisfying yet so low in calories. They say that a serving of five is only 90 calories (about 100 calories per ounce, amazing for a chocolate product). So even if you ate a whole box of 15 bites, you’re still under the 300 mark of most king sized candy bars.

SFGate wrote about them last week too, those lucky dogs, it’s a local company for them.

Andes Mocha Mint IndulgenceLest you think that everything is a rave and everything is from the Fancy Food Show, I thought I’d mention the Limited Edition Andes Mocha Mint Indulgence.

These candies have single-handedly caused me to swear off of all Andes products except for the original Creme de Menthe.

While I rail against mockolate, I recognize it has its place and there are a few products that I like and still eat that have it. (Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews & Hershey’s 5 Avenue.)

The Mocha Mint Indulgence is a freak product. I don’t even know what it is. The pieces are ugly (sorry, no photo of the interior, this is supposed to be a tantalizing post). Putty brown mockolate over a layer of mint green confection like the center of the regular Andes.

It smells like minted cardboard. The texture is like grainy wax. The flavor is like musty Christmas candles found in a drawer at an estate sale.

Ococoa Nut Butter CupsTo close is something to restore our confidence in nuts: Ococoa Nut Butter Cups made right here in Los Angeles by Diana Malouf. I picked them up from her in person before Christmas but never go around to posting the review.

More than just gourmet peanut butter cups, these are tall cups filled with exotic nut butters & fruits. The flavor array is: Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.

The box is elegant and substantial.

Ococoa Nut Butter Cups

The cups are about an inch high with a cute ruffle of chocolate around the collar and an inch in diameter at the top.

Ococoa Guava & Peanut Butter CupThey were a bugger to photograph the interior, luckily their website has the fantastic and accurate cross sections that you can peruse. This one is Guava jam & macadamia nut butter. Probably the best experience I’ve had with macadamias & guava, which aren’t really my fave, but done very well here.

I was attracted most to the Sesame Fig, which I gobbled up after taking a photo. The sesame paste is combined with chocolate to create a sesame Nutella of sorts, though quite firm. Inside the center was a reservoir of fig jam. The toasted & grassy flavors of the sesame went well with the fresh & slightly tangy notes of the fig. Sunflower Honey was next on my hit list. Sunflower seeds have such a distinctive taste. This center was like a creamed honey with sunflower flavors.

Cashew Apricot was really decadent, as the apricot’s pine-notes were offset by the deep toasted butter flavors of the cashews. The hazelnut was also stellar, the freshness of the nut butter was so different from many other guianduias I have regularly. (I shared some others and didn’t take complete notes on the rest.)

Unlike many nut creations that rely on salt to bring the nut flavors forward, Ococoa lets the sweetness of the nuts come through. The only problem I had with these, if it could be called that, was the construction. The chocolate cap on the top was very thick, so biting the pieces in half wasn’t very easy. While I don’t think it’s imperative that all chocolates be dissected, it meant that there was always a larger reservoir of chocolate at the end when sometimes I really wanted to end on a nut note.

They’ll set you back $22 for a 9 piece box.

Candy Addict also had an excellent write up on these back in December.

Related Candies

  1. Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
  2. Andes Fall Harvest Mix
  3. Candy Dump 2008 part 2
  4. Caffarel Figs & Chestnuts (Fico & Castagna)
  5. CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”
  6. Jacques Torres
  7. Chocolate Sunflower Seed Drops

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:38 am     All NaturalCandyChocolatierFancy Food ShowReviewChocolateGingerLimited EditionMarshmallowMockolateNutsPeanuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesComments (6)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Q.Bel Wafer Rolls

Q-Bel Dark ChocolateI was more than pleased with the Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars that I reviewed last week.

The other half of Q.Bel Foods’ all natural candy line are their Wafer Rolls.

Unlike the bars, which are made in The Netherlands and not Kosher, the Wafer Rolls are Kosher and made in the United States.

They come in three companion varieties: Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls, Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls.

Q-Bel Wafer Rolls

The packaging is a bit overly-protective and perhaps deceptive. 

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate WafersThere are two rolls in each package, which weigh .9 ounces total.

They come in a plastic wrap around a plastic tray. The tray does a good job of keeping the rolls in good shape. But I think if you’re going to position yourself as an all natural product, less packaging is a good idea. (Especially when your tagline is Be True - Be Honest - Be Good.)

I would suggest doing a sealed top on the tray with all the label on that and ditching the over-wrap. (Kind of like most yogurt got rid of the plastic lids and just went with a foil seal.)

The rolls are lovely to look at. A slender stick about .5 inches in diameter and 4.75 inches long, the enrobing is nicely rippled and usually has a matte shine to it. The sides were sometimes scuffed a bit from being tossed around in my bag inside the package.

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate Wafer RollsI was, as you can imagine, most attracted to the Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls.

The dark chocolate is quite dark looking though like the bar counterpart, did contain milk in the ingredients. Not that it would make any difference towards the non-dairy status of the bar. The wafer roll under the chocolate was crisp and flaky, with a light malty note, a bit of salt, it reminded me of a fresh waffle ice cream cone.

The chocolatey cream inside was also a dark and firm cream that melted pretty readily with the help of some palm kernel and coconut oils. It tasted a lot like a good cup of hot chocolate with some wafer cookies.

The portion size of two sticks means that the whole thing has only 120 calories. Even though a lot of them are from fat, the price tag alone should keep most folks who weren’t sent a whole box as samples from wolfing them down.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Q-Bel Wafer Rolls

The Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls looked a little different than their wafer bar counterpart, this time wrapped in blue instead of orange & red.

They smelled a bit more like milk and cereal with a little chocolate cake note to it.

The chocolate seemed a bit silkier and creamier than the dark version, but also much sweeter. The toasted-flavored wafer kept it from being too cloying.

Rating: 8 out of 10

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls smelled like fresh roasted peanut butter. (And I get to smell that often at the LA Farmers Market.)

The silky milk chocolate sets off the wafers, which seem even more flaky in this version than the others.

The peanut butter center on this tastes different than the wafer bar. The bar is sweet and sticky, a little oily. This is salty and pasty - just the right balance. The peanut butter is very strong with a slight bitterness to it, as it tastes very darkly roasted. (This version has 130 calories.)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Besides the packaging & price for the size (retail $1.39) I think these are a resounding success. They’re not unique, they remind me of Pirouline, except more decadent. Other products on the market that are similar are the Nestle Stixx, which I do like quite a bit but avoid because of all the hydrogenated oils in them. It might be nice to be able to get them in a large tray for entertaining. They’d be the perfect garnish for ice cream, sorbet or just an after-meal coffee.

Other reviews: Candy Addict just reviewed the whole line & Chocolate Blog also liked them.

Related Candies

  1. Nestle Crunch Cappuccino Stixx
  2. Butterfinger Stixx
  3. KitKat Bitter & White
  4. Nestle Crunch Dark Stixx
  5. Milky Way Crispy Rolls
  6. Paskesz Klik
  7. Chocolate Pocky
Name: Wafer Rolls: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate & Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Q.Bel
Place Purchased: samples from Q.Bel
Price: retail $1.39
Size: .9 ounces
Calories per ounce: 133, 133 & 144
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Peanut, United States, Q.bel, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (2)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars

Q-Bel Crispy Wafer BarsOne of the issues these days with candy bars isn’t the empty calories, it’s the ingredients. There’s a difference between bad for you (sound cue: giggle) and bad for you (sound cue: medical equipment).

I don’t usually feel bad about calories, fat or sugar. But I do feel weird about eating partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors.

Enter Q.bel with their line of all-natural candy bars. No artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn sweetener and no preservatives.

Q-Bel Milk Chocolate Crispy Wafer BarsThe happy thing to report is that candy bars never needed any of the above to be good ... they just needed them to be cheap. So quality will cost you $1.39-$1.69 (but if you’re buying your candy at Whole Foods, that’s hardly a surprise).

Their inaugural line has six products. I’m going to review three of them today, their Crispy Wafer Bar which come in Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

Q-Bel Dark Chocolate Crispy Wafer Bars

The Dark Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bar (purple wrapper) is a stack of three crisp, flavorless wafers filled with a chocolate cream, sprinkled with crisped rice and then covered in dark chocolate.

They come in a two pack of fingers. Each is about three inches long and three quarters of an inch wide.

If the photo and description sounds vaguely familiar to you, it might be because this is very similar to the Hershey’s Bar None. (Except there’s no peanuts in this version.)

The crunch is light and crisp, airy and a little like an ice cream cone. The chocolate is slightly bitter, creamy and sweet with a dry finish. The cream center is sweet and a little grainy but rather buttery.

The whole experience is extremely satisfying. It’s not really a chocolate bar, it’s definitely a candy. I am in love with this bar.

Rating: 10 out of 10 (as long as I can find it in stores)

Q-Bel Milk Chocolate Crispy Wafer Bars

The Milk Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bars are just like the dark version except with 10 more calories.

They’re a lighter taste and seem to have more crunchies to them, but that just could be variations in the manufacture.

The scent is milky sweet with a slight cereal smell. There’s less of a chocolate punch here and more of a creamy, dairy milk chocolate event going on.

I was very pleased with it (and at first though this would be like Bar None, but it didn’t have the same punch).

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Q-Bel Peanut Butter Wafer Bars

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Bars are a little different in that they don’t have the crisped rice. Instead of a chocolate cream filling they have a peanut butter filling between the wafers.

As I’m writing this I’ve been following the RSS feed from the FDA with all the recall warnings about peanut butter & peanut products. I’ve been assured by Q.bel directly and their website that they did not source their peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America. (And it’s easy to believe them since these bars were manufactured in The Netherlands.

As with most nutty candies, this pair of bars clocked in with the highest calorie count: 190. (Don’t get the impression that these are dainty when it comes to calories, they’re dense in sugar and fat, clocking in on the upper range of the calories per ounce that I track.)

The bars are lovely to look at with their rippled coats of chocolate. They smell like fresh roasted peanuts.

The bite on these is very different. The peanut butter cream filling tastes unsalted and unsugared - so it’s a startling pop of real peanut flavor. But it’s very oily and soft, so when I bite into the bar, sometimes I’ve broken it because it’ll slide around (you can see the kind of crack it makes along the wafer line in the photo).

The peanut butter, while not crumbly or thick really sticks to my ribs. I found just one stick here to be very filling. The milk chocolate holds its own in this battle as well, giving a sweet and milky component to bring it all together.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

I’m so pleased that someone is making a quality product and I hope Q.bel becomes a standard in the confectionery industry. That you can make something with real ingredients and still make people want to overeat it. The packaging is compelling and appropriate. It protects the product inside, doesn’t take up too much space and gave me all the information I wanted to know. The images on the front are tantalizing and the bars actually look like that.

The portions may seem a little small, only 1.1 ounces, but they appear large because of the light wafers inside (maybe a little smaller than a KitKat bar). However, this also lowers the calorie count per portion, all are under 200 calories (which means those 100 calorie folks can just eat one). The price point is a little steep too, but if I were faced with an array of these and something like Nestle’s Crunch Crisp bar (which is a one-bar version of this filled with partially hydrogenated fats and covered with mockolate), I’d pick these at twice/thrice the price.

The other half of their product line is a series of Wafer Rolls in the same flavor array. (I’ll have a review of those soon.)

Q.bel did some liberal mailing of samples, so expect more reviews to pop up on the other food-oriented blogs. They did send me a silly-huge number of “samples” which were a box of each (20 bars) flavor. I’ve been very popular with my co-workers this week.

UPDATE: They should be available at most Whole Foods nationwide and online at Natural Candy Store.

Related Candies

  1. Q.Bel Mint Wafer Bars
  2. Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars
  3. ReeseSticks (Revisit)
  4. Ritter Schokowurfel
  5. Ferrero Raffaello & Rondnoir
  6. Happy Hippos
  7. Head-to-Head KitKat vs KitKat!
  8. Butterfinger Crisp
Name: Wafer Bars: Dark Chocolate Crispy Rice, Milk Chocolate Crispy Rice & Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Q.bel
Place Purchased: samples from Q.bel
Price: retail $1.69
Size: 1.1 ounces
Calories per ounce: 154, 163 & 172
Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Peanut, Netherlands, Q.bel, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:31 pm     Comments (6)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trader Joe’s Gummy Tummies

Trader Joe's Gummy TummiesThe idea of a liquid burst inside a gummi candy is nothing new, but seems to have made a bit of a comeback lately. (Starburst GummiBursts & LifeSavers Fruit Splosions.)

Trader Joe’s has a twist on this in their new Trader Joe’s Gummy Tummies Penguins. The flavor array in the package is pretty small: Strawberry, Lime and Cherry. They’re made with natural flavors, have no preservatives and no artificial colors. (They also state that it’s pork gelatin in them ... so they’re safe to eat for non-vegetarian Hindus.)

They’re much larger candy pieces than other versions and are made in such a way that you can actually see the goo inside their tummies.

       Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies

Oh, I’m sorry, did that scare you?

Scared me.

These things are freaky looking, and what’s worse, they smell. For a couple of days I thought there was an old apple core hiding somewhere in my office (I even crawled under my desk looking for it), turns out that’s what the combination of cherry, strawberry & lime Gummy Tummies smells like.

Trader Joe's Gummy Tummies

The shapes are nicely defined, though I wouldn’t call them nicely designed. I didn’t really get the whole “penguin” thing. I asked around and everyone pretty much agrees they look like Grimace from McDonald’s or one of the lesser ghost characters from Casper.

They’re very soft and have a bulbous belly that’s even softer to the touch. They remind me of blisters ... the cherry one (on its side up there) is even worse, because the gummis rather uncolored (like my skin) but has a dark red filling (like a blood blister). I’ll spare you the graphic photo of that and let you just imagine it instead.

Lime is easy to tell from the others, as it’s transparent yellow. The flavor is rather mellow, just a light touch of lemon/lime zest and then a mix of tangy & sweet. The filling is smooth and sticky and just a repeat of the above flavors in a form that needs no chewing.

Strawberry is the pink bellied one. (Though I had to hold them up to the light to tell them apart from the cherry.) The flavor is floral and tangy. The goo doesn’t do much for it and that’s probably a positive.

Cherry has the darkest belly and smells like wild cherry LifeSavers. The liquid center is a lot more flavorful, like a dense syrup of cough suppressant or Cepacol.

This whole tasting has made me realize that I don’t like goo filled gummis.

For those of you who have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you may enjoy this little video.

Related Candies

  1. Haribo Saure Dinosaurier
  2. Big Bite Gummy Bear
  3. Lemonhead Fruit Snacks
  4. Organic Zootons
  5. Albanese Gummi Butterflies
  6. Upscale Hollow Chocolate: Michel Cluizel & Hotel Chocolat
  7. Organic Surf Sweets
Name: Gummy Tummies
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe's
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
Price: $2.49
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 94
Categories: Gummi, France, Trader Joe's, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:03 am     Comments (35)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Valerie Confections: Pour Homme and Pour Elle

Valerie ConfectionsI check in with Valerie Confections from time to time, they’re about a mile from my house. The crazy little secret is that I go there for their teacakes. Especially in the summer, when I want something with a touch of chocolate but can’t bear a whole piece, the bottoms are dipped in chocolate. The cakes are moist, dense & lightly infused with flavors.

At the Fancy Food Show, however, Stan & Valerie were excited to show me their new Valentine’s collections. There are three:

The set called Pour Homme is for the gentleman. It has 11 pieces and comes in the dark brown box. Visually it’s dominated by large flat dark milk chocolate hearts that have fleur de sel and little almond toffee bits in them. It’s filled in with dark chocolate hearts with flowing caramel centers.

The set called Pour Elle is geared towards the gals and comes in the classic ivory box. This features large flat white chocolate hearts with rose petals and the small bittersweet chocolate hearts filled with rose petal and passionfruit ganache.

Both have 11 pieces and retail for $30.

For folks who want to share or prefer a different assortment there are boxes of various sizes (9, 18 & 36 pieces) that hold the bittersweet ganache hearts, gianduja rocher, and bittersweet chocolate with almond toffee bits.

Valerie Confections Valentine's Collection

I’ll just run down a few of the items I tasted:

Bittersweet Chocolate with Almond Toffee Bits (the smallest dark chocolate hearts shown above) - a simple pleasure. A mix of smooth bittersweet chocolate that has a glossy and smooth melt with little toffee chips and almonds. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t getting enough toffee ... but then again, if I wanted chocolate and toffee, I could just order the chocolate covered toffee, so this piece is more about chocolate.

Valerie Confections - Fleur de Sel CaramelBittersweet Chocolate Hearts filled with Liquid Caramel - a little taller and wider than the other filled hearts, this one has a wonderfully thick and gooey caramel. Lightly salted, it has all the flavor of a toffee but the smooth texture of a custard. Lightly salted, the dark chocolate lends the perfect container and dark woodsy sweetness.

Bittersweet Chocolate Hearts filled with Rose Petal Passionfruit Ganache - a little petal graces the top of these pieces, but just sniffing it I could tell from the fragrance that it was the rose. The center is a white butter ganache with the tangy and tropical bite of passionfruit. The slightly soapy rose took some of the passionfruit earnestness away. There is a bit of a lingering aftertaste, kind of like jasmine. I suggest eating these last. Your dessert’s dessert.

Large Rose Petal White Chocolate Hearts (shown in a small version in the picture above) - this one was a little bland for me, and I did eat it first in my tasting session because I know that white can be a bit delicate and finicky. The white chocolate was smooth and not overly sweet, with a slight malty taste of cocoa. But the floral infusion didn’t quite hit me, but did leave a fresh aftertaste.

Valerie Confections - Toffee & Gianduia HeartGianduja Rocher - a sweet milky explosion of salt, buttery toffee chips and creamy sweet chocolate. It’s not a pasty, sticky gianduia. It’s a solid form that gives a soft and silky melt to the chocolate and a punch of roasted hazelnut flavor. It is sweet though, luckily the toffee chips and the salt cut through that.

Darkened Milk Chocolate Hearts with Almond Toffee Bits and Fleur de Sel - I want this in bar form year round. The “darkened milk chocolate” tastes like a cross between bittersweet and a European dairy milk chocolate. The dairy notes are complemented well by the toffee chips and the whole thing is set off by powerful zaps of salt in liberal reservoirs throughout.

Valerie Confections - Dark Chocolate GanacheBittersweet Ganache in Bittersweet Shells Finished with 23 Karat Gold (the picture here is of a round version of the same truffle - the uneaten one is above). Delicate mix of flavors, as this is all about the chocolate. The ganache is soft and smooth. There’s an immediate acidic bite that gives way pretty quick to some dark charcoal and alcoholic notes like fine cognac and tobacco. The gold version has a bit more chocolate to it, because of the geometry ... the gold flakes do nothing for me, except distinguish it from the toffee chip dark heart.

The attention to detail in the items, with their perfectly placed decorations and well tempered chocolate is exquisite. No bubbles or voids, everything glossy and gorgeous. On the personal side of things, I go all weak in their knees for their nougat and am a little disappointed they don’t have it again this year for Valentine’s (as that’s what my Man gave me last year). But I like it when they try new things and enjoyed the darkened milk with toffee chips most of all. (So I guess I’d have to opt for the Pour Homme ... luckily the box doesn’t say anything about it being geared for fellas.)

Valerie Confections - Petit FoursI like supporting a local business and that everything is made fresh ... not last year and has been sitting in a warehouse. If you go to the store you can get the petits fours and the tea cakes by the piece.

Valerie Confections
3360 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA

(213) 739-8149

Related Candies

  1. BonBonBars: Malt Ganache & Scotch
  2. Mori Ex Cacao Gift Set
  3. L’Artisan du Chocolat
  4. Valerie Lemon Hazelnut Nougat
  5. CocoaVino
  6. Valerie Toffees & Nougats
Name: Pour Homme & Pour Elle Valentine's Collections
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Valerie Confections
Place Purchased: samples from Valerie Confections
Price: $30
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Toffee, White Chocolate, Nuts, Valerie Confections, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:45 am     Comments (6)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dr. Doolittle’s Pastilles (Lemon, Grapefruit & Wild Berry)

Dr. Doolittle's PastillesOne of the earlier reviews I did when I started Candy Blog was of Dr. Doolilttle’s Grapefruit & Blackcurrant Pastilles. I liked them quite a bit, even though they were expensive and hard to find.

After a few years, though, Trader Joe’s stopped carrying them and the comments for that post filled up with folks trying to figure out how to order them or even import them by the case.

Flash forward to last Friday, I was returning from a failed sock-shopping trip when I stopped in at Cost Plus World Market. Dr. Doolittle’s Pastilles have returned!

image

They have completely new and distinctive tins (that I might have mistaken for soap if they were on the wrong shelf) and even come in new flavors.

I picked up all three, even though they’re now $2.99 for a tin that holds only 2 ounces (instead of the Trader Joe’s ones that were $1.99 and held 2.5 ounces).

The other difference is also the actual candy pieces. They no longer have the little silhouette of Dr. Doolittle molded into them. Not that I don’t like the smooth surface, it was just a little plainer than I expected.

image

Soft Fruit Drops Lemon (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Citron) - these sparkling little gummis boast that they have soothing qualities. They are a gummi with gelatin, but have glycerine in addition to vitamin C.

They are firm, like a Haribo (versus a Trolli or Black Forest bear). But the flavor is much more intense than a gummi bear. The lemon is a marmalade or boiled taste - tangy, sweet and a little zesty but more on the jammy side of things than freshly squeezed. They dissolve slowly for the patient among us. But I like to speed it along by kind of chewing them, by folding and pressing them against the roof of my mouth and teeth.

Soft Fruit Drops Pink Grapefruit (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Pamplemousse Rose) - this is the one that I was most interested in, of course, since Pamplemousse is always a huge favorite.

The pastilles are orange, not pink (the ingredients simply say “natural coloring”).

They have a very intense zesty flavor, much moreso than the lemon. Tangy and with that slight bitter flavor of the grapefruit peel. These were definitely the first to disappear. The oily zest essence persists for quite a while after it’s dissolved, too. Not something that goes well with coffee, but I didn’t mind it with afternoon tea.

Soft Fruit Drops Wild Berry (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Baies Sauvages) - this flavor smelled wonderful. A bit like roses, cotton candy and crushed raspberries.

They’re immediately tangy, sweet and jammy. The flavors of the berries are definitely on the blackberry side of things. A bit like a wine gum, there’s a slightly fermented quality to the dark berry tones and maybe a little blackcurrant note.

All the flavors are winners, again, my only complaint here is price. But they are soothing, full of flavor and even have a little dose of vitamin C. The new tins are really pretty and distinctive, though the tops are curved it means I can’t stack them. But I do plan on reusing them as they’re a great shape, easy to open and stay closed in a bag.

Name: Lemon, Pink Grapefruit & Wild Berry Pastilles
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Dr. Doolittle's
Place Purchased: Cost Plus World Market (3rd & Fairfax)
Price: $2.99 each
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 95
Categories: Gummi, Switzerland, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:29 am     Comments (8)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Niederegger Ginger Marzipan

Ginger Marzipan from NiedereggerAt the Fancy Food Show I stopped at the Niederegger importer’s booth. I love their flavored marzipans, though I only ever see them around Christmas at Cost Plus World Market.

The newest version is Bittersweet Chocolate filled with Ginger Marzipan (called Marzipan Ingwer on the package).

Though it wasn’t open and out on the counter for tasting, the fellows at the booth really thought this was a special bar and opened one up for me to try. After I confirmed that it was in fact, pretty darn tasty, they gave me the rest to take home. I had a hard time, even with all my other samples, not continuing to eat it before I got home to photograph it.

It’s a bittersweet chocolate shell filled with a rustic almond marzipan with chunks of candied ginger.

Ginger Marzipan from Niederegger

The bar was fresh and glossy, it has a woodsy and spicy scent. A little touch of bitter almond at the start along with the creamy and slightly bitter dark chocolate. This slowly gives way to the mellow almond paste flavors with less of the “amaretto” taste and into a warm ginger burn. It finishes again with the chocolate. 

I ate the whole bar.

I am definitely a fan of Niederegger, though I can’t stress this enough: it has to be fresh. They make a wide variety of products, including traditional loaves of plain marzipan, but they’ve found a new convert through their consistent flavor versions.

The chocolate contains milk products, so this is not a vegan product but it is all-natural.

Related Candies

  1. De la Rosa Mazapan
  2. All Candy Expo - Wednesday Noon Update
  3. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  4. Soubeyran Array
  5. Charles Chocolates
  6. Halvah and Turkish Delight
  7. Niederegger Capuccino Marzipan
Name: Marzipan Ingwer (Ginger)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Niederegger
Place Purchased: sample from Fancy Food Show
Price: unknown
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Ginger, Niederegger, Germany, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:15 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Coffee Rio

Coffee RioIt’s fun to wake up on a long holiday weekend, the air brisk and chilly, and have a cup of hot coffee.

It’s also fun to carry around a little candy in your pocket that emulates that feeling.

I’ve been eating Coffee Rio since I can remember developing a taste for coffee sometime around the age of ten or so.

I think the first time I had one, I thought they were coffee flavored Tootsie Rolls and was a little startled to find a hard caramel (much like Pearson’s Coffee Nips).

Coffee Rio are made by Adams & Brooks, which is based right here in my home city, Los Angeles, California. While they may be hard to find elsewhere in the country, I see them just about everywhere around here.

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The candy is pretty simple. A hardened caramel flavored with real coffee. Though it contains quite a bit of milk products, it tastes more like black coffee with a bit of sugar than coffee & cream (which is what Pearson’s Nips are like - but they’re also Kosher and Coffee Rio isn’t).

The little rods are wrapped in a simple twisted mylar. I got this jumbo bag at Trader Joe’s for $2.69 for the bag, which I thought was a pretty good deal. They boast on the package that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. (But there is some lightly hydrogenated soybean oil rather low on the list of ingredients.)

The texture is very smooth. They dissolve nicely and soften a bit as well (yes, you can chew them at some point, but also risk cementing your teeth together). The flavor is rich and like a mellow mocha java. At the start sometimes there’s a hint or charcoal and bitterness, but that fades away as the other woodsy coffee flavors come in.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Coffee Rio Kona Island BlendI have been to the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island) and toured some of the Kona Coast’s coffee roasters. The stuff was fabulous, but you know drinking a cup of coffee from beans that were just roasted is bound to be better than the stuff you get at home.

One of the things I noticed about Kona coffee was its extreme dark acidic punch, even when not given the Italian roast treatment.

As Kona coffee is extremely expensive, most is sold as a blend. In the case of the Kona Blend Coffee Rio it’s only 10% Kona coffee.

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These seems to capture that molasses & tangy bite really well. It’s not as sweet but no more bitter than the original Coffee Rio.

I also noticed that these were a bit softer, so much so that I was able to chew them after warming them. I love that! Even better, I got the bag at the 99 Cent Only store for a buck.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Coffee Rio Chewy Coffee CaramelsWith my tendency to chew things, even if they’re not supposed to be chewed I was pretty excited to see that there is now a Coffee Rio Chew Coffee Caramel.

There’s pillowy cloud on the front of the package that reinforces that these are soft.

The ingredients, oddly enough, are identical to the other Coffee Rio, so it must be all in the process to create this softer version.

The package outside looks similar, but once I dumped out the pieces I realized that these are a bit different.

image

First, they’re bigger. They’re the same length, but have a greater girth than their hard brethren.

Second, they’re wrapped in foiled paper. I’m guessing this is to keep them well sealed from moisture.

They have a wonderful sweet & woodsy scent, less milky than the others.

The chew is very soft, softer than a Tootsie Roll, more like a chewy fudge. It’s a little bit grainy and I realized that this is a “short caramel” instead of being a “wet caramel.” Short caramel is slightly grainy, crystals have been allowed to form. It keeps its shape really well and provides an easy “bite”. A wet caramel is stringy and smooth and lacks the crystallization and can be very sticky and possibly runny.

I’d hoped this was a slightly softer Kona Blend.

The chew is soft and pleasant, but the light grain to it interrupted the creamy notes from the milk products. The coffee flavor was slightly acidic and tangy and lacking the coffee punch of the other hard varieties. I give it a pass.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Now I realize that I’d really like Tootsie to make Coffee Sugar Babies with chewy centers like the Kona Blend Coffee Rio.

I don’t know if these have caffeine in them or how much, but I suspect so, since they used to offer a decaf version. I can’t imagine it’s very much though. I sent an email to Adams-Brooks asking about it and I’ll update if I find out.

Related Candies

  1. Nips: Caramel & Dulce de Leche
  2. Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios
  3. Werther’s Caramel Coffee Hard Candies
  4. Pocket Coffee
  5. Coffee Beat
  6. Bali’s Best Coffee & United Coffee Candy
Name: Coffee Rio (Original, Kona Blend & Chewy Coffee Caramel)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Adams & Brooks, Inc.
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's & 99 Cent Only
Price: $2.69 & $1.00
Size: 12 ounces, 6 ounces & 5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 110
Categories: Coffee, Caramel, United States, Adams-Brooks, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:47 am     Comments (12)

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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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Which seasonal candy selection do you prefer?

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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Patric Chocolate

• Amano Chocolates

• Candy Rant: Stimulants are not Energy

• Candy Encyclopedia: The Difference Between Gummi and Jelly

• Candy Rant: If your Licorice isn’t black, it isn’t Licorice

 

 

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