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All Natural

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunspire Coconut Bars

Sunspire Coconut barsAt the same time I bought the Sunspire Peppermint Pattie, I also picked up both of their Coconut Bars.

Sunspire makes premium candy with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. In my experience with their products they tend to use evaporated cane juice instead of refined sugar and often use unsulfured molasses as a sweetener. They also eschew genetically modified sources so most of the products I’ve seen use a rice syrup when needed instead of corn syrup. Besides the malty, earthy flavor that molasses usually adds, I have no problem with sweet & satisfying candy being made from these elements.

Add to that Hershey’s decision to move manufacturing of Mounds, Almond Joy and York Peppermint Patties to Mexico, I thought it’d be cool to find an excellent American-made substitute for folks who want to buy more local. (Though in my case Monterrey, Mexico is a bit closer than Hershey, PA.)

Milk Chocolate & Almond Coconut BarThe Coconut Almond with Premium Milk Chocolate bar looked fabulous. It’s pretty beefy, a wide slab clocking in at 1.75 ounces.

Instead of the two piece style of Almond Joy or Bounty this is a long, one-piece bar, a bit thinner. The rippled milk chocolate enrobing is glossy and appealing.

The almonds in this bar are not whole ones popped on top like Almond Joy, they’re crushed & mixed in with the moist coconut flakes.

Milk Chocolate & Almond Coconut Bar

I didn’t really see the almond bits in there, but the color was a bit more on the cream-colored side than the dark chocolate & no almond version (see below.)

The bar smells pleasantly like coconut and unpleasantly like Hershey’s Milk Chocolate often does - a bit gamey & sour ... rather like baby vomit.

But I pushed on, because I actually like the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate, even though I can’t take the smell of it for very long.

The flavor of the milk chocolate is tangy, it’s like acid reflux but in the convenience of a pre-packaged bar. It’s terrible. I can’t eat it. I tried several times, it’s just too awful for me to stomach. (I even waited a couple of days, just in case I was the one who wasn’t feeling well.)

Then, as some sort of deja vu, I lured Amy into my office to try it. (Remember, not only does Amy have no problem spitting things out, she also has a hate-hate relationship with Sunspire’s Sundrops.)

I understand personal preferences for certain flavors, it’s rare for any candy product to induce a verified gag reflex.

Rating: 1 out of 10

Dark Chocolate Coconut BarBut to get back to the happy hiatus of Sunspire mistrust that was the Peppermint Pattie ... an unrelated bad night’s sleep and I tried the Coconut Premium Dark Chocolate.

It’s a simpler bar, just a firm coconut center, lightly sweetened and some dark chocolate enrobing.

The enrobing on this one looked similar, though there were a few bloomed spots. As the expiration date was March 2010, I felt pretty safe eating it.

The chocolate is slightly bitter, not extremely creamy but has its own decent flavor. The center is firm and chewy, more like an uncoated coconut bar than something soft & moist like a Mounds.

This tastes like no compromise candy. All natural ingredients, not organic but at least not genetically modified or overprocessed. The ingredients are vegan however they were made in a plant that processes wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and soy. Kosher.

The price is a bit steep and to be honest, if I’m going for a candy bar when at Whole Foods or similar stores, there’s very little that could pry me away from the Q.Bel wafer bars. But if I was in the mood for coconut, the dark bar is notable.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Atkinson’s Coconut Long Boys
  2. Regional Flavors: Key Lime, Pina Colada & Huckleberries
  3. Kisses Coconut Creme
  4. 100 Grand Coconut
  5. Mounds Island Orange
  6. Cup-O-Gold
Name: Coconut Almond Bar (Milk Chocolate) & Coconut Bar (Dark Chocolate)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Sunspire (nSpired Natural Food)
Place Purchased: Henry's (Laguna Niguel)
Price: $1.25 (on sale)
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 149
Categories: Chocolate, Coconut, Nuts, United States, Sunspire, Kosher, All-Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:13 am     Comments (6)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Compartes Chocolates

Though I wouldn’t call Los Angeles a candy city, we certainly have our share of sweet spots. I’m more likely to go to San Francisco for candy adventures than the west side, but after promising for several years I finally made it to Compartes Chocolatier to pick up some items for Candy Blog.

Compartes Assortment

This wasn’t actually my first visit to the Brentwood shop, but certainly the first one in this century (I was a D-Girl in the 90s and my office was not far from there). I had to see the place since the new generation, Jonathan Grahm expanded the classic line of stuffed fruits & novelty molded chocolates with truffles & ganaches with inventive flavor combinations.

The shop is compact but has a lovely display area on the wall of the chocolates and the main counter that appears to be divided in to two areas: classic offerings and modern. (My distinctions, not theirs.) They serve gelato so there are a few tables inside and out front. (For those who follow Compartes on Twitter, I did spot Jonathan at his laptop tucked in the corner at one of the tables.)

Compartes Ginger Medallions & Orange Peels

The classic products are sold by the pound (as fruits & nuts tend to come in various sizes) while the truffles & bonbons are sold by the piece. The classics were $35 a pound and the bonbons were $2 each. I left the shop with $50 worth of chocolate in one rather large & heavy box.

Classic Chocolates

Compartes Glace Fig in Dark ChocolateChocolate Dipped Glace Fig

The fig is glossy is and sticky. It looks like a light fig (green) like a Kalamata. I prefer black figs (Mission) mostly because they have darker flavors ... it’s like the difference between golden raisins & regular raisins. It’s very sweet at first, the figgy flavors are tangy, a little grassy from the seeds with some raspberry & floral-like green tea flavors. The dark chocolate offsets this well, especially by bringing in the creamy melt.

It’s definitely show-stopping beautiful. Best eaten fresh & quickly.

Compartes Candied Orange Peel Dipped in ChcoolateCandied Orange Peel dipped in Dark Chocolate

These tiny little fingers were wonderfully shiny on the peel edge. It was all peel, too, cooked in sugar syrup to a light and translucent tenderness - no trace of acrid & foamy white pith. The dark chocolate looked silken brown. Each piece was a combination of bitterness from the orange oils and dark chocolate, vibrant zest and sweet citrus & cocoa flavors. The texture was chewy & a buttery creaminess. Perfection.

Hazelnut & Orange in Dark Chocolate (not pictured)

These were simple little dark chocolate cups that could have easily been coconut haystacks. I was hoping that the combo of the chocolate & nuts with those awesome orange pieces would work ... sadly the whole thing tasted a bit “cheesy” and I couldn’t figure out why ... something about the hazelnuts lacking their nuttiness. I’ll pass on these in the future.

Compartes Ginger Medallions

Ginger Medallions

The ginger coins are tender and soft, a bit juicy. With citrus notes and a warm woodsy burn, the sweet candied ginger goes well with the bittersweet chocolate that has a slightly dry finish. There’s no trace of sugary grain here, it’s more of a smooth jelly texture. Beautiful to look and and expertly made.

I would buy a pound of these. Ginger is a root vegetable, right?

Compartes Assortment

Modern Chocolate

Mexican Hot - (skull & crossbones)

A strong mix of cayenne & black pepper notes in dark chocolate. The ganache is smooth while the dark chocolate flavors are woodsy with a slight tannin to go with the earthy pepper flavors.

Compartes Classic Dark Chocolate Truffle

Original - (blue stripes)

I try to buy these wherever I go. It’s always good to try the base for everything else. The chocolate enrobing was perfect, the little design on top was cute and easy to remember. The dark chocolate flavors were mild, the ganache was very buttery with a good smooth and quick melt.

Vanilla & Black Pepper - (stripes with dots)

I should have taken a photo of this, I didn’t realize it would be a white cream center until I bit into it far from the camera. The immediate hit was of vanilla and butter, in a cupcake sort of vibe. Then the peppercorns kicked in, giving the vanilla more of a rum & woodsy moderation. Rather sweet, but with a lingering brightness from the pepper & vanilla pods.

Jasmine Tea (pink flowers & blue lines)

The dark chocolate takes a back seat to the strong & musky floral notes of the jasmine. The tea adds a little pop of acidity to it that gives a fresh lingering feeling to this. The ganache is silky smooth and not too sweet.

Blackberry & Sage (blue & purple square mosaic)

The blackberry is a dark and jammy flavor with a light tangy touch, the sage brings it back around with an herbal splash - a bit on the strong side, so much so that I’m not sure I’d know that it was blackberry without a key. Still, a sage truffle is great.

Compates Candied Fennel Chocolate

Candied Fennel

This little ganache center was topped with some lightly candied (glazed) fennel seeds (instead of the brightly colored candy shells that most of us are familiar with). Fennel on its own has a light sweetness and anise flavor. These brought out the dark licorice and molasses notes of the chocolate. Smooth and satiny with a curious fibery crunch from the seeds.

Compartes Lavender Marshmallow

Lavender Marshmallow in Dark Chocolate

Yes, it’s a bit jarring to see that bright lavender center. The marshmallow was moist, fluffy but dense. Sweet but not sticky, it had a good bite. The flavor was woodsy & floral - but a bit odd combined with the chocolate. The whole thing reminded me of bug spray ... though not in a bad way, just that the floral notes weren’t quite as balsam-ish as I’d hoped.

Compartes Coffee & Cacao Nib and Coffee Chocolate

Coffee & Cacao Nib and Coffee

The ganache in this pair is flavored with real coffee, so there’s a slight grain to the otherwise silky center. The flavor was good, rich & bold. I liked the crunchy nibs but I’m not that fond of eating coffee beans when it messes up the texture of well-tempered chocolate.

Compartes - Fleur de Sel Caramels (milk & dark)

Fleur de Sel Caramels

I’ve made it pretty well known that I favor “wet” caramels, that’s the chewy stuff that has a good stringy pull and long, smooth chew. These were the “short” caramel style and have a strong butter flavor. I wasn’t fond of the texture, which was a cross between fudge & caramel and the lack of toasted sugar notes.

Compartes - Exotics

Shichimi - (the spice dusted one) this is made of seven spices: red chili pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, seaweed, and ginger. The spices here angle towards the toasted sesame and chili peppers. I didn’t get much citrus out of it. The whole thing kind of left my lips burning, but the chocolate & fatty ganache balanced it well. The only issue here was that the spices kind of got out of their cup and I caught a few of these flavors in the other chocolates I ate.

Smoked Salt - (square with black crystals on top) delicate and light chocolate ganache with an earthy & metallic aftertaste to the salt. I’m beginning to think that I don’t care for smoked salts. Often they remind me of a campground in the morning, that lingering scent of a fire gone out mixed with damp sleeping bags from the morning dew & coffee made in an aluminum pot.

Cashew Fruit - (gold sphere) - this wasn’t a ganache but a bit of gooey cream center, kind of like a runny creme brulee. The flavor was a bit like green bananas. Smooth, a touch of grassy brightness and sweet milk.

Compartes Candied Orange Peel Dipped in ChcoolateI loved the classic items. I’d go back and buy the orange peels (some of the best I’ve ever had), figs (though I’d like to have some candied figs too) and ginger medallions in a heartbeat. I thought the price was really competitive and fair ($30 when sold in full pound boxes) for a line that is so labor intensive and requires top quality ingredients.

The truffles & bonbons were good and I enjoyed some of the flavor combos and of course the plain one. The price was a bit higher than I’m willing to do for such small items unless they’re particularly unique. The great option though is that it’s a fun shop to visit, they’re very knowledgeable about their products (they’re made right there, after all). They also have a line of African-themed bonbons called Chocolate for a Cause that are made with African-sourced flavors (mango, coconut, cardamom, plantain, grains of paradise, red rooibus tea). They’re a fundraiser for Relief International and their projects in Darfur and include a bead bracelet. After getting emails about these for year and pretty much going there to pick up a box ... they were sold out.

If I’m in the area, I will definitely visit again. The bonbons change constantly as new produce comes into season & Jonathan experiments with new combinations so I give them a 7 out of 10. I’ll probably continue to taste the bonbons but will go home with the fruits/ginger so they get a 9 out of 10.

Compartes Brentwood Boutique Chocolate Lounge
912 South Barrington Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90049

310-826-3380

Related Candies

  1. Pete’s Gourmet Confections: Marshmallows
  2. Valerie Confections: Pour Homme and Pour Elle
  3. L’Artisan du Chocolat
  4. Valerie Lemon Hazelnut Nougat
  5. Chuao Chocolatier
  6. K Chocolatier
  7. Jacques Torres
  8. Boule Chocolates and Fruit Pate
Name: Candied Fruits & Chocolate Bonbons
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Compartes Chocolates
Place Purchased: Compartes (Brentwood)
Price: $50.00
Size: approximately 22 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate,Caramel, Coffee, Ginger, Marshmallow, Nuts, United States, Chocolatier, All Natural, Los Angeles

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:30 am     Comments (8)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hammond’s All Natural Lollipops

Hammond's All Natural LollipopsThey say we eat with our eyes first. If there’s one candy that capitalizes on our attraction to bright and shiny things, it has to be lollipops.

I love lollipops in the sense that I love looking at them, I like buying them and I enjoying having them. But I’d have to guess that I only eat about half of the lollipops I ever have.

Part of it is that lollipops are simply hard candy. And I’m pretty sure that most people don’t actually like hard candy ... in the sense that they’d be willing to pay three times as much for it simply because it includes an inedible holder with it. But this is part of the amazing enigma of lollipops.

Hammond's All Natural Lollipops

If I were a sculptor, I would probably wish to make things of spun, twisted & boiled sugar.

If I were to have my wedding all over again today, I’d probably just carry a bunch of lollipops instead of a bouquet of flowers. (Or maybe some of those wondrous flowers made from sugar.)

At the moment though I just take photos of lollipops when I get a hold of them.

Today, however, I’m also eating them.

I have a set of Hammond’s Candies All Natural Lollipops.

They’re made without artificial flavors or colors and are hand crafted. They come in a variety of flavors, I have six that I’m going to profile

These are the middle-sized pops - they’re one ounce each and about two to two and a half inches across. (Honestly, I think some of these were more than generously oversized.)

Hammond's All Natural Lollipops

The pops feature thick wooden sticks and are wrapped simply in little cellophane bags with a sticker on the back that lists the flavor, ingredients & nutritional info. The front is all about the look of these hand-crafted medallions.

Cross Section of Strawberry LollipopStrawberry - magenta/red background with orange & cream stripes. (cross section above of broken pop)

The ropes of candy are built in layers, at the center is a slightly aerated hard candy center. The outer layers are smooth and for the most part “clear” boiled sugar candy. The slight aeration of the core means that it’s very easy to crunch & chew it up and has no noticeable voids. It also means the the candy has a slightly lighter feel to it than I think I would have guessed just looking at it.

The flavor is light and bright - a touch of tartness but mostly a floral berry flavor like cotton candy.

Pomegranate - satiny cream background with pink/red stripes.

This had a very light floral flavor at first, all sweetness on the outside. The core, though, has a bit of a yogurty tang to it and a mellow cherry flavor with a stronger pop of sourness towards the end. It’s not a very intense flavor - just a light and rather nondescript berry note. It’s more like a fruit punch and is an overall positive.

Hammond's Cherry LollipopCherry - alternating large stripes of bright pink and medium red with a small strip of cream between.

This was a big test for me, because for the most part I don’t like cherry flavored candies because I don’t like the aftertaste of the most commonly used red food coloring, Red 40.

The outside was sweet and has a little toasted sugar flavor to it. The interior has a nice, zesty sour pop to it along with the cherry flavor. It’s not the dark, black cherry flavor - more like a cherry pie note. I’d call it positive and definitely has no weird poisonous aftertaste. Call it a win for cherry haters.

Peppermint - deep red with a series of amber stripes inside cream bands.

The coloring on this one wasn’t what I would have picked out of the bunch as the mint flavored one.

The mint flavor is clean and crisp - fresh and cooling with a long-lasting aftertaste. The texture of the candy is a little odd at first. The outside is smooth and with few voids, but can be kind of sharp if you break or crunch it.

Hammond's Pear Lollipop
Pear - satiny light green with cream stripes (with inset green stripes)

Most of the pops at this point I was eating by breaking them first, eating the pieces and then whatever was left on the stick. For the Pear, which was just slightly smaller than the others, I ate it whole.

The outer layer was mild & sweet and had a light orchard fruit scent. In this case the center is the same ... kind of like an apple kissed toasted marshmallow. For the most part I love fresh pears but have never cared for pear flavored candies ... but this isn’t very “pear-flavored” so I give it a thumbs up.

Lemon - yellow bands with cream mini stripes

The outside is zesty but just a kiss of sweetness to it. The center is only slightly tangy. The whole thing reminds me of the flavor combination of a lemon bar. It’s not going to burn holes in my tongue, so I’ll definitely eat the whole thing.

The size of these pops was just a smidge too large for placing in the mouth whole. The texture and smoothness of the outside & inside meant that they were both interesting and pleasant from start to finish. In most cases the outside & inside also offered different flavor variations, which was a good feature to offer when selling at a premium price. They also come in a huge variety of sizes, from this one ounce version to a 4 ounce (saucer) to a full pound (dinner plate).

When not in “review mode” I found that these were definitely an all day sucker for me. The price is a bit steep - at about $2.50 to $3.00 per pop (depending on where you buy them). I’ve seen these at department stores around Christmas (in cinnamon!), at Cost Plus World Market (they also have Root Beer, but I don’t think it’s all natural) plus upscale candy shops and of course on the internet at CandyWarehouse.com, NaturalCandyStore.com and direct from Hammond’s.

Hard candy has its place, it’s durable and can be packed with flavor or just sweet comfort. Mostly it’s an amazing concoction because it can be beautiful.

To finish this off, have a look at how they make some of their hand-crafted creations:

Related Candies

  1. Melville Candy Company Tea Spoons
  2. Hammond’s Pantry Candies
  3. Disneyland Candy Novelties
  4. Peeps Lollipop Rings
  5. Miette Patisserie
Name: All Natural Handmade Twist Lollipops
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hammond's Candies
Place Purchased: samples from CandyWarehouse.com
Price: retail $2.50-$3.00 each
Size: 1 ounce
Calories per ounce: 120
Categories: Hard Candy, Mint, United States, Hammond's Candies, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:53 pm     Comments (8)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Madelaine’s Foiled Milk Chocolate

Madelaine Milk Chocolate PopsOne of the great balancing acts of candy is making it appealing as well as affordable.

As a kid I experienced many disappointments with candy that fell on both sides - candy that cost too much, but mostly candy that was no good (no matter what the price). I think the biggest candy category that has this issue is foil covered chocolates.

Think about how many times you’ve gotten a chocolate coin and thought it was far better just to keep it than to eat it ... because of all those times when you peeled back the beautifully stamped & shiny metal to find a piece of sweet & greasy mockolate.

Madelaine's Milk Chocolate PopsBack when I started Candy Blog I discovered Madelaine Chocolate Novelties via their cute & tasty poker chips & mint meltaway playing cards.

Their entire line of chocolate confections is extensive, built on a strong foundation of stunningly pretty items as well as some interesting innovations like celebratory color palettes of malted milk balls and realistic looking chocolate coins.

All of their products are Kosher (made in Rockaway Beach, NY) and some are all natural: including the little milk chocolate pops pictured here.

In the case of these cartoon animal pops, they’re quite simple. They’re .375 ounces each, plain milk chocolate on a stick.

The flavor is mild and sweet. The chocolate is quite firm and has a good snap. This means an easy and crisp bite. It’s not a lot of candy, so it’s a decent looking treat for a kid but not so much that it’d spoil anyone’s dinner.

Madelaine Milk Chocolate ButterfliesBut my favorites when it comes to Madelaine’s is to look at all their foil wrapped molded chocolates. Especially for anyone who’s planning a party ... it is wedding season, right?

They have a huge selection, not just for Easter (and their rabbits & egg array is huge): hearts, daisies, coins, balls, stars, medals, bells, poker chips, crayons, fish, bees, beetles, cars, cigars, leaves & lips.

These Solid Milk Chocolate Butterflies are huge. Each is a half ounce and measures 1.5 inches across, 1 inch wide and a half an inch high. They come in a variety of colors (they package them in these little 35 piece tubs as well as smaller sleeves).

image

The molding is lovely, the detail on the little butterfly is quite nice, with a little depth to it (because it’s such a massive piece). They’re unlikely to chip or break because of the brick-like ratios.

The chocolate for these is not in the all natural line (because they use vanillin instead of vanilla). The melt is smooth & creamy, soft & silky on the tongue. There’s a bit of a malty overtone and some light European dairy flavors unlike the American style. It’s a little darker tasting and not quite as sweet as the all natural version.

I find the chocolate extremely pleasant, very munchable and of course beautiful to just have sitting in front of me before I eat it. The foil is nice and thick as well, easy to peel off (and fold too, if you’re one of those origami at the wedding reception people).

As a party favor or something to keep in an elegant candy dish, these are an excellent option. I’ve seen these sold at upscale delis, both as single pieces for about 75 cents each or in the little tubs for about $20-25. They’re a bit more expensive, but then again it’s the kind of chocolate that adults actually want to eat, so for that I consider them a very good value.

Related Candies

  1. Molasses Pops
  2. Hershey’s Bliss
  3. Plain and Fancy Laces
  4. Caffarel Figs & Chestnuts (Fico & Castagna)
  5. Rabbit Change
Name: All Natural Milk Chocolate Pops & Solid Milk Chocolate Butterflies
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Madelaine Chocolate Novelties
Place Purchased: samples from All Candy Expo & CandyWarehouse.com
Price: varies
Size: 1.5 ounces & 17.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:58 am     Comments (4)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeds of Change: Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew

Seeds of Change 61% Dark with Mango and CashewsLong before Hershey’s got into the organic chocolate act by buying Dagoba in 2006, Mars bought a small organic & heritage seed company called Seeds of Change in 1999. Since then, Seeds of Change also became an organic food company (sauces, grains & frozen meals) and launched a line of organic chocolate bars.

Seeds of Change is dedicated to preserving food diversity and promoting organic growing techniques and food worldwide, and cacao is definitely one of those plants that needs that sort of nurturing. In addition to using organic ingredients they also donate 1% of their net sales to advance the cause of sustainable organic agriculture worldwide. I tried their bar called Isle of Skye last year, which I thought was an excellent and noteworthy crisped grain in milk chocolate bar.

Seeds of Change 61% Dark with Mango and CashewsThis year, while browsing ExpoWest, a natural & organic products trade show in Anaheim, I found out that Seeds of Change has shifted their product line. They changed the names of their bars, dropped a few of them and added some more classic versions (a plain dark chocolate bar, for instance) and also redesigned all their packages. (I did love their previous wrapper images.)

I was excited to see the new package, which is a wallet style paperboard package with three individually wrapped bars inside. Perfect for portion control, great for keeping all pieces fresh and excellent for sharing. The three bars in a reclosable package may look familiar ... Dove introduced it last year.

The Seeds of Change version has little plastic wrapped bars instead of foil.

I picked their 61% Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew as the intro to this new look & product line.

Seeds of Change 61% Dark with Mango and Cashews

The little bars are nicely molded, shiny and with a crisp snap. They’re scored into four pieces - the whole bar weighs only an ounce.

I like the thickness of it, as it allows a nice bite and a slow melt of the bar.

The dark chocolate is smooth and silky, it has a quick melt and a lot of cocoa butter feel on the tongue. Unfortunately it’s not a vegan bar, there’s milkfat in there.

The flavors are pretty simple. It’s rich coffee & woodsy flavored chocolate, a little bit of dark charcoal and then some grassy notes of the cashew pieces. The little dried mango bits are a little fibery but pack a powerful punch of tangy chew - kind of orangy-citrus with a hint of peach and green tea.

The little inclusions are rather small. The cashew pieces weren’t big enough to be crunchy, which is too bad, because I think the buttery crunch of cashews would really bolster this bar.

As it is, the shining star here is the chocolate followed by the mango notes. Aa good, fun taste combination.

The complete list of products in their line is now: Milk Chocolate (43%), Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains (formerly Isle of Skye), 61% Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Cherries & Vanilla, Dark Chocolate with Coconut. It’s an interesting array because besides the plain chocolate, the flavors are different from the usual offerings when standing in the chocolate bar aisle. I’ve seen Seeds of Change at drug stores (Long’s Drugs in California). Oddly enough, Seeds of Change also just sent me some of the other new bars, so I’ll have reviews of those soon, too.

In recognition of Earth Day, Seeds of Change is running a contest (deadline July 21, 2009) - submit you video, photo or essay to tell the world what you’re doing to make a difference.

The Grand Prize winner will receive 365 days of Seeds of Change(r) Organic Chocolate, plus a variety of our other Seeds of Change Organic products. The runner-up will receive a sampling of Seeds of Change Organic Chocolate and our other Seeds of Change Organic products.

I buy their sauces and think they’re very tasty and usually well priced for organic products.

Related Candies

  1. Chocolate Dipped Altoids - Creme de Menthe
  2. Organic Zootons
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Zotter Candy Bars
  5. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  6. Green & Black’s Ginger Chocolate
  7. Dagoba Hazelnut
Name: 61% Dark Chocolate with Mango & Cashew
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Seeds of Change (Mars)
Place Purchased: sample from ExpoWest
Price: retail $3.50 a bar
Size: 2.99 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States, Mars, Kosher, Organic, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:01 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gourmet Gumdrops

Gourmet Gumdrops (Whole Foods)This tall tub of Gourmet Gumdrops at Whole Foods simply looked too good. (Here’s a photo of an in store display.)

Part of it might have been because they’re huge. Over an inch in diameter and an inch high, these are mega gumdrops.

And the flavors listed were just as compelling: pomegranate, acai, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, key lime and tangerine.

The price, well, that had me vacillating. The 18 ounce tub was $5.99 ... a great price for an all natural chocolate product, but a bit much for an all sugar candy.

Oh, but the flavors ... grapefruit gumdrops! So I bought them.

The ingredients are pretty simple: Corn syrup, sugar, corn starch (modified - non GMO), natural flavors, malic acid, sodium citrate, citric acid, colored with vegetable extracts (red cabbage, paprika, turmeric), freeze dried acai powder.

Whole Foods Gourmet Gum Drops

I had trouble counting when I took the photo and didn’t notice the difference between the acai and pomegranate drops, so only one is represented here.

The texture of the drops is great. They’re very heavy for their size, quite dense. They have a soft give, but not quite the same bouncy texture of a gummi. The outside is a small grain sugar (not the larger grain that I think most of us are accustomed to with gum drops). Inside, the bite is smooth, the texture of the drop is even ... not super sweet but definitely more intense than most mass marketed brands.

They’re not as firm as something like Dots - more like Chuckles, so even though they do stick a bit in the teeth, it’s not a solid mass, they’re soft and a little drink of water washes away the bits. (Or you know, follow your dentists recommendation and brush after eating.)

Key Lime (colorless) - I have a word for this! It’s fresh. Biting into it is like rubbing the rind of a fresh lime. The flavor is both tart and sweet, not at all bitter. It’s not quite a key lime texture (which is a little dusty and dry) but the flavor is practically perfect.

Meyer Lemon (yellow) - very zesty, almost to the point of melting me with its caustic oils but still a really vibrant piece of flavor. I loved these, but they burned my tongue if I ate too many. And I kept eating too many.

Tangerine (orange) - though this one is the most stereotypical of the lot - it’s part Tang juice drink and part orange zest, it was still one that I pulled out to eat first.

Whole Foods Gourmet Gum Drops (and a regular one)Grapefruit (pink - shown with red regular gumdrop) - peppery and zesty, abrasive oils with a bitter component. Tangy and complex and maybe even a little salty.

Pomegranate (magenta/purple - not shown above) - raspberry and balsamic vinegar. Sweet, sticky with a low bitter afternote. A little high sour bite.

Acai (darkest purple) - cloying, dark and soapy. A little bit violet with a hint of concord grape. There’s no tang or tartness to it. My experience with acai is rather limited.

Each gumdrop weighs about 13 grams (.46 ounces) and has about 47 calories.

I found two different packages of these. The first, as shown above was a big tub. Then yesterday I realized that I didn’t have all flavors for review (I shared my big tub and friends picked out the citrus flavors) so I went back and bought some more. This time they were in the short tubs sold by weight with a generic deli label on them. At least I was able to just pick up a half a pound and compare the different packages to get ones that had fewer of the purples.

These are really great gumdrops. They have the smooth, soothing texture the gives flavor from start to finish. The texture is similar to Turkish Delight, but has a more full bodied flavor that includes more than the fragrance & zest. The colors and shape are appealing and of course the all natural thing is great - I like to taste my fruit flavors, not artificial colors. The price is steep, but then again the Pate de Fruit that I like to pick up every once in a while is more expensive, so these are a nice middle ground.

They appear to be vegan though not peanut/nut free and there’s no statement about gluten.

Related Candies

  1. Russell Stover Pectin Jelly Beans
  2. Jelly Belly Sunkist Citrus Mix
  3. Harry & David Fall Leaves Fruit Gels
  4. Dots Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water
  5. Jelly Belly - All Natural
  6. Black Ace Licorice
  7. Organic Surf Sweets
Name: Gourmet Gumdrops
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Whole Foods
Place Purchased: Whole Foods (Glendale)
Price: $5.99
Size: 18 ounces
Calories per ounce: 102
Categories: Jelly, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:55 am    

Monday, April 13, 2009

Scharffen Berger Dark Milk (68%)

Scharffen Berger Dark MilkWhen I first tried Scharffen Berger, years before I started Candy Blog, I didn’t like it much. Granted, all I’d tried was their Semisweet, but I found it rather bitter and acrid, a strong sourness that just didn’t have those qualities that I love about chocolate. 

But over the years the Scharffen Berger product line has grown and I have found some superb products among their line that I really enjoy, such as their Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs.

For years I’ve spent time trying to love what other people love. But most of it is just not for me. Until the Nibby bars came along.

First it was the Nibby Dark Chocolate with Roasted Cacao Nibs (62%). I never reviewed it. The 62% base was rather sweet and melted a bit thin but the nibs are crunchy and have a great nutty and buttery crunch. I still prefer the panned nibs, which are much less sweet by proportion (they also use the 62%) and of course so spectacularly shiny and cute.

Scharffen Berger Dark MilkThen in 2007 I met the Milk Nibby Bar. This was a chocolate bar that was also food. Malty, mellow, caramel notes, a smooth and sticky chocolate background with the crunchy nibs. It was the perfect lunch.

I didn’t think anything ever needed to replace it, top it, or even compete with it.

Then at the Fancy Food Show in January I was walking by the Scharffen Berger booth. I’ve had mixed experiences there and usually just glance over things and move along to other booths. Instead I got a warm welcome and was urged to try their new Dark Milk 68% Cacao.

Oddly enough, it’s not a bar I would have been interested in if I were buying. I already liked the Milk Nibby. What I didn’t know was that the Dark Milk actually has nibs in it too! (Why that’s not really mentioned on the package is beyond me.)

Scharffen Berger Milk Nibby and Dark Milk

Shown above is the Milk Nibby (41%) on the left and the Dark Milk (68%) on the right.

I wanted to compare it to the Milk Nibby and the Dark Milk. One of the things that the wrapper tells me is that the Dark Milk has more fat - 19 grams per serving over the 15 grams per serving from the Milk Nibby (that means 10 more calories per ounce). Sounds like a good start!

As you can see from the photo above, there’s very little difference in the appearance of the bars. The Milk Nibby is only slightly lighter, but if you just handed me one without the other to compare, I doubt I could tell on sight alone.

It doesn’t smell like a milk chocolate bar. It smells woodsy, dark and slightly tangy, a little bit of coffee and a little bit of toffee.

On the tongue though, the milk notes come out pretty quickly. The Scharffen Berger tangy is there, but the milk moderates it. There are some strong bitter elements, they’re dark roasted bitter flavors, like coffee and a sharp cheddar cheese. But there are other nice notes in there too, a sweet toffee, strong vanilla and oak. The malt is not as pronounced as the Milk Nibby bar, but it still makes an appearance.

This is not a morning bar, I think it’s an evening bar. Even though the bitterness lingered, I liked the complex notes and of course the texture. I found myself reaching for pieces of it until it was gone. Every once in a while I do get some bad crunching nibs, ones that seem more like shells than beans (but I find that with most nib products).

I’m still going to stick with the Milk Nibby bar (and just decided to , but this is an excellent high cacao bar for people who probably don’t like high cacao content. But if I can’t find the Milk Nibby, this one will be a more than adequate substitute. I had no trouble finishing the bar.

Related Candies

  1. Isle of Skye Seeds of Change Milk with Crispies
  2. Askinosie Chocolate
  3. Lindt Chocolate Bunnies (Dark & Milk)
  4. Milka Alpenmilch
  5. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  6. Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs
  7. Villars Swiss Milk Chocolate
Name: 68% Dark Milk
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Scharffen Berger (Hershey's)
Place Purchased: sample from Scharffen Berger
Price: retail $3.99
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 147
Categories: Chocolate, Nibs, United States, Scharffen Berger, Hershey's, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:32 am     Comments (1)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bequet Gourmet Caramels

There are some candies I simply eat. Which means that I don’t review them here. This is what I’ve been doing for the past three years or so, eating Bequet Gourmet Caramels without so much as a mention here on Candy Blog. I usually pick them up at a gourmet shop singly but I’ve been given a few by friends and had some samples from trade shows. When Bequet sent me this sample package a few weeks ago, I took it as the signal that I finally needed to photograph & review them.

Bequet Caramels

Bequet are classically made from all natural, fresh ingredients in Montana. They’ve stuck, for the most part, to the tried and true flavors of caramels and package them simply in clear cellophane wrappers. The pieces are about an inch and a quarter long.

Bequet Classic CaramelChewy (caramel tan) - they smell sweet and buttery. The chew is soft, easy to bite (as shown). The pieces can be eaten whole or bitten in half. I found a full one just slightly more than what I wanted at once. The flavor is dark and rich, as they use brown sugar as their base instead of white sugar. There’s no hint of grain to it at all.

Soft (caramel tan) - I can see the appeal of a soft caramel, but Bequet are already soft. This one was a little too soft for my tastes, I like a bit of a chew to mine. The flavor was very good though.

Celtic Sea Salt  (caramel brown) - soft with a strong buttery scent. The salt is present in the form of small crystals that give the candy a bit of a crunch. I found the salt overpowering and far too strong. The caramel seemed a bit softer than the others (except the soft one).

Espresso  (medium brown) - smooth chew, sweet and milky with a slight hint of coffee, which really just makes it less sweet than the others.

Maple  (dark brown) - buttery and sweet with a definite maple flavor. A little softer but extremely smooth. I had to eat this one first, as it was infecting the whole bag with its scent.

Chipotle (caramel tan with flecks) - the smoked pepper flavors emerge slowly. At first it’s just a slight pepper burn, then the smoke emerges ... then the burn gets stronger. I think a more toasted sugar flavor would go better with the charcoal-like chipotle. As a hot pepper confection, it was spicy and flavorful without being painful for me. (I am a wuss when it comes to hot peppers.)

Chocolate  (dark brown) - this one has a mellow cocoa scent to it, a little like brownies. The flavor is rather complex for a chocolate caramel, a little coconut, some hot cocoa flavors and the buttery smooth chew. I was surprised with this one, it’s definitely richer than I would have thought and not at all like the empty flavor of a Tootsie Roll.

Salt Chocolate  (dark brown) - like the Celtic Sea Salt one, this had the little flecks of salt in it and like the Chocolate, it had some coconut flavors as well. It was too salty for me, but I recognize that my tastes are a bit off in that department.

Pomegranate (caramel tan) - I consider pomegranate to be a bit of a novelty flavor and though I like to eat the actual fruit, I realize that beyond a bit of juice now and then, it’s not really a great flavor when compared to something like wild blackberries. This one smelled a bit like raspberries and butter. The flavor has only the slightest bit of tang, a little like yogurt and strawberries with some caramel sauce.

Licorice (caramel brown) - this soft caramel smelled woodsy and fresh, like figs and molasses. The caramel flavors blended well with the light and sweet anise. I enjoyed the fact that these didn’t get the food coloring treatment that so many companies seem to think that licorice products need. This was definitely a star for me.

As far as caramels go, I prefer a slightly stiffer product, but that may be because that’s what I was raised on (see Grandma’s Caramels), and I like the texture of a tough chew. These are soft, pliable and provide an immediate release of flavors.

On the whole, they’re an excellent quality product. Though they’re fresh and artisan, they have a pretty good shelf life of 2-3 months. At about $18.00 a pound, they’re not cheap but they’re also very satisfying so they may last a while. They also have a flexible ordering system so you can get flavor mixes so you can try them all out and later just order the flavors you like in a custom mix.

Bequet Gourmet Caramels are Kosher, no artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives. There’s no statement on the package or their website about any allergens though it doesn’t appear that they make anything with nuts (but could be made in a shared space).

Related Candies

  1. J Morgan Caramels
  2. Cowgirl Chocolates Buckin’ Hot Habanero Caramels
  3. Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels
  4. Das French Salted Caramels
  5. Caramel Previews: Mitchell Sweets & Caramoos
  6. Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels
  7. Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels
Name: Bequet Gourmet Caramels
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Bequet Confections
Place Purchased: samples from Bequet
Price: $17.95 per pound
Size: varies
Calories per ounce: 120
Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, United States, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:29 am     Comments (9)

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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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