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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews

Organic Chocolate Sea Salt CashewsWhen on vacation I often pick up candy that fits in the intersection between my candy tastes (pretty broad) and The Man’s (not quite as broad but also includes many red flavors). Often we share things like Swedish Fish, Goetze’s Caramel Creams, dark chocolate with nuts or gianduia.

On our travels we selected some Marich 72% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews at the Sweet Offerings shop. Yes, they were expensive at $6.95 for a 4.5 ounce package but they weren’t for Candy Blog, they were just for eating. But I enjoyed them so much and was positive that I’d be referring to them again that I needed to review them.

Well, I couldn’t find them. Instead I ended up with the pictured Marich Organic Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews which were similarly priced at Whole Foods.

The box seems like a little bit of overpackaging, but they do the job of protecting the candy inside (which is just in a cellophane bag). The box is 9 inches tall and 3 and a half inches at the base ... far larger than a four and a half ounce packet of candy really needs to be. It could easily be two inches shorter and not press on the candy at all. (But maybe they use the same format for a large variety of weights and this is simply efficient.)

Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews from Marich

Even though they’re called a Sea Salt Cashews, the sodium levels are quite responsible. The package says that there are 60 mg in a 40 gram serving (about 1/3 of the package).

First, these cashews are huge ... and then the thick dark chocolate coating is, well, thick. So they’re amazingly large. (I would compare them to my thumb, but I don’t really want to repeat the photos of my digits & candy.)

The chocolate is dark and slightly bitter, the grassy and clean flavors of the cashews come through with the deep woodsy and coffee notes of the chocolate. Just three or four of them were quite satisfying. They hardly seemed like a sweet treat though. I honestly did a double take with the first few 72% ones I ate - they hardly seemed like candy because they’re not sweet. It wasn’t the little bit of salt in there that made them seem like they weren’t sugary ... it was the fact that they weren’t sugary. The salt just brought out the flavors.

Some of the cashews seemed over-toasted, to the point that they were actually a creamy brown color, so they were far crunchier and of course had a darker, breadier flavor. I liked the lighter cashews, personally.

72% Dark Chocolate Sea Salt CashewsI kept the package from the 72% and a couple of the cashews and found that the non-organic ones were made with a darker chocolate, if that’s possible for it to be more savory. (Okay, full confession, that photo includes the packet of cashews from the organic in there, instead of photographing it empty, but believe me, you really can’t tell them apart by looking at them.)

These are incredibly tasty, easy to eat and even though the packages are small and expensive, it’s easy to be satisfied with only a handful. The ingredients and panning is superb - both packages were fresh & shiny.

Inside the flap on the organic version it says Brown is the new Green. Inside the 72% it says Rich, Dark and Gorgeous Has Never Looked Better.

Unfortunately the last ingredient on the list is resinous glaze, so even though the chocolate contains no dairy products, these aren’t vegan. (But they are Kosher.) Another curious note, the 72% dark version contains 20% of your daily RDA of iron! Finally, though I paid the same amount for both versions, Whole Foods is actually cheaper overall - they have the non-organic items for $4.85, which felt kind of like a deal at this point.

Related Candies

  1. Morning Glory Confections: Chai Tea & Cashew Brittle
  2. Seeds of Change: Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew
  3. Marich Easter Select Mix
  4. Short & Sweet: Fancy Food Bites
  5. Romanego Dragees, Cordials & Fondants
Name: Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews (Organic & 72%)
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Marich Confectionery Co.
Place Purchased: Sweet Offerings (Cambria, CA) & Whole Foods (Park La Brea)
Price: $6.95
Size: 4.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, United States, Marich, All Natural, Organic, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am     Comments (3)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix

Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle MixSometimes I buy things that I think are insanely expensive. This little box of Recchiuti dragee are just such a purchase. I saw them mentioned on CHOW and filed it away in my head that I should pick it up when I saw it.

The assortment is called Asphalt Jungle Mix. It features a riot of burnt caramel hazelnuts & almonds, cherries two ways and peanut butter pearls.

So when I found them at a little gourmet shop in Los Olivos on the last day of my vacation, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Partly because what I really wanted to try was the Peanut Butter Pearls. But this mix, besides having an awesome name, also featured hazelnuts & almonds ... but then there were cherries. I actually like real cherries and dried cherries are a pretty good approximation of the real thing ... so instead of getting the singular Peanut Butter Pearls I got the Asphalt Jungle.

The price online is $12.00 for 6 ounces. The price at this shop was $14.00. Yes ... insane. But I was also on vacation, and I’m also the Candy Blogger. Into the basket they went.

Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix

The assortment is pretty and luckily it was easy to figure out what everything was at a glance.

Peanut Butter PearlPeanut Butter Pearl

A beautiful little sphere, about the size of a pea. They’re a dark milk chocolate and rich peanut butter and a teensy cereal crisp center.

The effect is quite addictive. They’re barely sweet and even have little pops of salt sometimes. This is excellent movie food. I will buy these in the separate box.

Burnt Caramel HazelnutBurnt Caramel Hazelnut

These were inconsistent, but it really didn’t matter because they were also great. Some tasted like dark chocolate covered roasted hazelnuts, but every once in a while I got one that has a bit of a toasted sugar crunch to it.

I preferred the sugared ones. In the end, though it was very high quality I think I prefer the really chocolatey ones from Charles Chocolates (also made in the Bay Area and also similarly expensive).

Burnt Caramel AlmondBurnt Caramel Almond

Like the hazelnuts, these didn’t always seem to have their burnt sugar coating.

They chocolate was salty and dark and the cocoa on top of that wasn’t too powdery. The crunchy combination of all the flavors was nice and more on the savory side than sweet.

CherryCherries Two Ways

This was one time when I was a bit disappointed in the package. While it was pretty snazzy, I liked the spare design and minimalism, I actually wanted more information. The entire back of the box is blank except for a little footer at the bottom that has the Recchiuti logo & location. This would have been the perfect spot to include this little tidbit of info that’s on the website: dried Michigan tart cherries and candied wild Italian cherries drenched in dark chocolate with a light dusting of cocoa powder.

Both versions were tart, chewy and intensely cherry. They were like the best most cherry-ish Raisinets ever. (You know, if Raisinets were made with good chocolate.) Not quite for me, but excellent.

I liked this opportunity to try four different products in one package ... it saved me a lot of money because now I know that I want to eat the Peanut Butter Pearls for the rest of my life - they straddle that perfect line between decadent sweet and tantalizing savory. Perfect for sharing and though completely munchable and addictive, the 6 ounce package and the size of your bank account will keep your waistline in check.

Finally, I don’t know why I have an issue with paying this much for panned chocolates. I’ve been the to Recchiuti shop quite a few times and bought chocolates there that are $55 a pound ... why should I take issue with a variety mix for only $32 a pound? Is it because each one isn’t handcrafted like a truffle is? I don’t know ... but I hope I can get over it because it is good stuff. It might be because I’ve had excellent stuff at half the price (or even smaller fractions of the price) ... but good is good.

Related Candies

  1. Brach’s Indulge Almonds: Coconut & Caramel
  2. Marich Easter Select Mix
  3. Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows
  4. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  5. Charles Chocolates
  6. Recchiuti
Name: Asphalt Jungle Mix
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Recchiuti Confections
Place Purchased: Los Olivos Grocery (Santa Ynez, CA)
Price: $14.00
Size: 6 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts, Cookie, Toffee, United States, All Natural, Chocolatier

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (3)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Starbucks Assorted Gum Drops

Starbucks Assorted Gum DropsI was in Starbucks over the weekend, which is pretty rare for me. In this instance I was waiting for a coffee drink I was picking up for The Man, so I looked around at the gift offerings, snacks and candy. It’s rare for me to double back, wait in line and purchase something after I’ve already ordered but here I was, doing just that.

In the case of these Assorted Gum Drops it was a no-brainer. First, they were only one dollar. I had a buck (and no sales tax). Second, they were all natural and came in four flavors: Tangerine, Pineapple, Raspberry and Watermelon.

How often do you see pineapple or watermelon gum drops? I don’t see them often enough, that’s for sure.

Of course I hopped back in the car and put them in the center console and promptly forgot about them until Monday at lunch. I feared they would be a melted blob ... happily even though the car interior was well over a hundred, they looked exactly like the moment I purchased them. Firm and distinctly separated.

Starbucks Assorted Gum Drops

They’re little gum drops. They range from the size of a green pea all the way up to a garbanzo bean. Since they’re a bit artisan (which is code for inconsistent) they varied quite a bit. For some reason all of the pineapple ones were about half the size of the watermelon.

The texture is firm, but not as hard and clingy as something like Dots. They’re also not quite as sticky as jelly candies like Spearmint Leaves.

I chose my bag poorly and most of them were watermelon instead of pineapple and tangerine which I fully expected to love.

Pineapple - were nearly clear. They had a firm bite, they weren’t quite a jelly or pate de fruit. Sweet and fragrant, they’re not tangy and not quite jammy either. It tasted more like a really subtle coating on a candied apple. I was sad to see that I only got four in my package.

Watermelon - these light pink pieces didn’t smell like much, but biting into them they were definitely watermelon. And not that fake watermelon flavor that Jolly Ranchers come in. They had a tangy bite as well, and maybe even a little hint of bitterness towards the end (something that seeds can do sometimes). They were refreshing.

Raspberry - was a dark red. They were quite deep and sweet with a little woody essence of the seeds. It tasted like boiled berries, not quite as fresh and clear as some fruit pate I’ve had.

Tangerine - these were nicely done. Not quite as tangy as I’d hoped but a good blend of juicy sweet and zesty.

Since Starbucks has a reputation for being absurdly expensive, I was pleased overall that these broke that stereotype. It’s a nice portion for one person or to share. The flavors probably go best with an iced tea instead of coffee. Unfortunately the label says that they’re made in a facility with wheat, eggs, soy, nuts and dairy ... so it’s not the perfect substitute for those who can’t touch the rest of the stuff in the pastry case.

I’d love to see a spice version which would go great with coffee or most teas.

Related Candies

  1. Gourmet Gumdrops
  2. Napoleon BonBon
  3. Mike and Ike Italian Ice
  4. Harry & David Fall Leaves Fruit Gels
  5. Kasugai Pineapple Gummy
  6. Judson-Atkinson Sours
  7. Organic Surf Sweets
Name: Assorted Gum Drops
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Starbucks
Place Purchased: Starbucks (Laguna Woods)
Price: $1.00
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 93
Categories: Jelly, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:32 am     Comments (8)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chuao Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoIn the last of my vacation candy theme week, I’ve got something that I didn’t actually get on my vacation last week. But it’s something that you might.

The Man went to LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, CA yesterday, and I asked him to check in the gift shop while he was there to see if they had anything LEGO-ish to complete my week.

He called me from the store and said, “Guess what chocolate LEGOLAND has?”

He just about dropped the phone when I excitedly said, “Chuao!” (It’s not like I actually knew that, but I know his love of Chuao and their proximity to LEGOLAND.)

So he picked up a nice package of the “not quite LEGO branded” blocks. (There’s no actual name on the package of the product, it never uses the name LEGO and it’s not on Chuao’s website, so I’m guessing it’s something that’s only available at the theme park.)

There were three varieties to chose from: all milk, all white or a half & half mix. Each sleeve holds 16 blocks.

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

Each little block is sized to approximate real LEGO.

A true LEGO 8 block (two rows of four pegs) is 9.6 mm by 32 mm by 16 mm and are basically hollow.

The Chuao version takes some liberties and is 15 mm by 35 mm by 19 mm - which as far as I’m concerned means more chocolate!

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoI noticed that the sides are not straight verticals, the block is slightly trapezoidal. This is likely an engineering issue - chocolate is rarely injection molded as plastic LEGO blocks are. In order to get most chocolates out of a stiff mold, a little angle can make all the difference.

Also, injection molding means that the item is molded in three dimensions, in the case of chocolate blocks, the bottom is not molded, just leveled flat by gravity when the chocolate is molten.

Each block weighed 10 grams (.35 ounces) ... see, being solid has its advantages.

As I mentioned before, the packaging was so spare and minimalist it didn’t even say what kind of chocolate this is so I’m going to guess. (Hopefully I’ll get a response from Chuao soon and can revise this.)

Legoland Chocolate from Chuao

The Milk Chocolate blocks were practically flawless. The molding was excellent with no voids. The color is a deep, milky brown ... so dark that I wasn’t sure if this was milk chocolate at first.

I suspect that this is El Rey’s beautiful dark milk called Caoba which Chuao is known to favor (though they may have a custom blend done for them).

The chocolate has a beautiful snap. Mine smelled rather milky, but that might be because it was intermingled with the white.

The flavors are dark but the melt is clean and only slightly sweet. There’s a wonderful smokiness to it with a slight background bitterness. It’s quite smooth and has a thinner melt that keeps it from feeling sticky or milky-cloying. It’s good munched up for an immediate bolt of flavor or a lingering melt on the tongue.

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoChuao’s White Chocolate is dreamy.

The color is a crisp ivory. The molding is precise and the snap is good.

It smells like milky cocoa and pound cake.

The texture is pure, solid silk. It’s sweet but has a consistent melt that is neither greasy nor watery. The sugar is ultrafine so the vanilla flavor as well as some of the cocoa-ness comes through. It’s cool on the tongue so it feels like a great, refreshing summer version of chocolate.

I suspect that this is El Rey ICOA, which is a premium un-deodorized white chocolate.

The final thing to tell you about these adorable, well made and great-tasting chocolates is the price. It was $14.95 for the sleeve. Yes, that’s nearly $1 for each block. At this point I’m just going to buy El Rey or Chuao bars (which are more widely available at grocery and gourmet stores anyway). As it is, these are not kid treats ... they’re a grown-up way to revisit a childhood favorite. Since the only place to get them is LEGOLAND, if you’ve paid $65 just to get in the gate, may as well go for broke (and satisfied).

LEGOLAND - California
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 918-LEGO
(List of Legoland Stores)

Related Candies

  1. Astor Chocolate Lobsters
  2. Disney Pixie Perfect Gummies
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  4. R.M. Palmer Quax - The Yummy Ducky
  5. Askinosie White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)
  6. Disneyland for Candy Bloggers
  7. Candy Blox
Name: Chocolate Blocks from LEGOLAND
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Chuao Chocolatier
Place Purchased: LEGOLAND (Carlsbad, CA)
Price: $14.95
Size: ~5.6 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, United States, Chuao, Fair Trade, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:50 am     Comments (8)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sweet Earth Chocolates

Sweet Earth ChocolatesLast year I made a trip up interstate 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Yes, it’s actually longer than taking I5, but I thought it would be interesting to stop at a few candy shops along the way. One that I was interested in was Sweet Earth Chocolate at about the halfway point of San Luis Obispo.

At that time they were operating out of a space in Splash Cafe in SLO. A few months ago they moved into their own candy kitchen and cafe space just down the street. (More about that here.) I was eager to see the expanded offerings from this unique confectioner that uses organic and fair trade chocolate.

Their new storefront is charming and inviting ... and large! You can get coffee drinks, sit and enjoy your purchases but I was there for the chocolate to take on my vacation.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesTheir candy cases had a nice mix of both comfort candies (chocolate dipped pretzels, house-made jellies, chocolate covered cookies, turtles and marshmallows) and truffles. What sets them apart from many chocolatiers is their line of vegan items. (Here’s the in store menu.)

The store is more than just chocolate though, there’s also information about how fair trade directly affects the communities that participate and some other fun and unique gifts.

Bakers will also enjoy access to fair trade baking chips & cocoa. For those in a hurry who don’t want to select their own box, there are also packages of pre-packed candy cups, chocolate covered goodies and of course their line of chocolate bars.

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffles

I picked up quite a bit of stuff. First, I selected a few items from the “comfort candies” section for me to munch on while on vacation. This included their chocolate dipped pretzels, toffee & chocolate dipped pretzels and some turtles. Since those weren’t for review I also got a box of nine truffles.

The truffles are well priced at 1.50 each though I found them a tad on the small size but mercifully free of the “too hot for the box” styles that chocolatiers have been using lately with artificial colors & cocoa butter ink transfers.

The Espresso truffle was one of those rare modern truffles that actually looks like a truffle. The small sphere smelled woodsy and sweet. The bittersweet chocolate shell gave way to a smooth center with a good pop of espresso flavor. A little acidic but a crisp finish with a little fruity twang. There were a few fibery bits of the coffee beans though at the end.

Sweet Earth Ginger CreamGinger Cream

This dark chocolate triangular piece holds a sweet if slightly grainy cream with a light touch of ginger.

I liked the texture and the woodsy flavor of the ginger. It didn’t have a warming burn, but a pleasant note of the root mixed with a not-too-sweet fondant-like cream. The dark chocolate shell was thick enough that there was no leakage and also provided a bittersweet background to the earthy flavors.

It was a good sized piece as well.

Sweet Earth Cardamom & GingerGinger & Cardamom Truffle

This was definitely one I was looking forward to. I love the combination of cardamom and chocolate.

The center of this truffle also had a bit of a graininess to it, I think, because of the crystallized ginger.

The cardamom was quite overwhelmed by the chocolate & ginger flavors at first, but emerged later and gave me a fresh & lingering aftertaste.

Malt Milk ChocolateMalted Milk Chocolate Truffle

I admit that I was confused by this one. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was when I got home. I don’t think it did well on the trip either, something about the central coast being very humid this time of year made the outside tacky.

So when I took it out to photograph it, I was puzzled. So I bit into it and yes, the flavor did remind me a bit of a Milky Way, but I still didn’t put it together until days later when I was trying to write this up and looked at the Sweet Earth Chocolates website.

Anyway, it was sweet and milky and yes, it did have a little malty hit to it. But the outside was like the sticky, stale inside of a seafoam candy so the whole thing was a bit chewy. Not unpleasant, but not “truffle-like.” I’ll give it another go though, as I’m always game for some malt.

Sweet Earth HazelnutMilk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle

Sweet & slightly grassy tasting center with little bits of hazelnuts. Milky and entirely addictive.

This would make an excellent chocolate cup too, I would love a bigger bite ... or more of them. And maybe some in dark chocolate. Yes, a true winner. (I’m wondering if you can make a dark chocolate gianduia that’s vegan.)

Sweet Earth Vegan Truffle & Classic Truffle

Finally, I got two of the classic dark chocolate truffles. They come in a full cream version and a vegan version.

The Vegan Dark Chocolate truffle is cute, a small hand rolled sphere with a flurry of zigzags of chocolate for decoration. The aroma is dark and woodsy chocolate. The bite is soft and the center is smooth. It’s barely sweet and has a strong woodsy & tangy flavor that comes through ... then a note of coconut and a rather bitter & dry finish.

The dairy Dark Chocolate truffle has a similar look, with its decoration mostly parallel stripes. The center seemed just a bit softer but also a bit smoother. The tangy bite wasn’t there at all. The chocolate flavors seemed more pronounced, though the chocolate shell still participated with quite a bitter chocolate bite & dry finish.

Sweet Earth ChocolatesOn the whole, I find the Sweet Earth Chocolates 65% dark chocolate a bit on the astringent side. The dairy cream centers worked well with this and some of the flavors combined well to tip it more towards woodsy or berry/raisin.

What’s so refreshing about the shop & the chocolates is that they’re so approachable and fresh-tasting. I didn’t feel assaulted by political messages about fair trade and organics - for the most part the shop is about the wholesome enjoyment of freshly made chocolates ... that happen to be organic and fair trade.

I reviewed their mainstream offerings of foil wrapped candy cups last year.

If you’re in San Luis Obispo or passing through during business hours, give it a try:

Sweet Earth Chocolates
1445 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (call to confirm)
Twitter: @slochocolate

Related Candies

  1. Divine Fair Trade Chocolate
  2. Askinosie Chocolate
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Zotter Candy Bars
  5. Sjaak’s Vegan Chocolate Assortment
  6. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  7. CocoaVino
Name: Fair Trade Organic Truffles
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Sweet Earth Chocolates
Place Purchased: Sweet Earth Chocolates (San Luis Obispo)
Price: $1.50 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, Ginger, United States, Organic, Chocolatier, Fair Trade, All Natural, Shopping

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:15 pm     Comments (1)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Starbucks Caramel Macchiato (Discontinued)

Starbucks Caramel Macchiato TrufflesStarbucks Chocolate is a study in short attention spans.

It was launched barely more than a year ago with little promotion to support it, no website (just a page on the Starbucks site) and a baffling retail plan where it was sold everywhere except Starbucks.

The line included coffee & tea infused chocolate bars, tasting squares and truffles. The packaging echoed Starbucks strong image, was all natural and made no direct mention of Hershey’s as the manufacturer. For Christmas special flavors were created that echoed the seasonal coffee drinks. However, the new brand was a tad on the expensive side and entered the mass-manufactured upscale chocolate market just terms like staycation entered the vernacular.

So last week as Hershey’s announced huge second quarter profits, it also formally announced that they were discontinuing the Starbucks Chocolate line.

CNN Money summed it up pretty well:

But that new line was badly timed because the economy started slowing soon after. Consumers slashed spending last year and early this year, turning away from most extravagances, including pricey chocolate. “The timing of the launch of the Starbucks proposition, frankly, we just missed the window,” said Hershey Chief Executive David West during a Thursday conference call. “Our partner obviously had some other business challenges and the consumer at that price point wasn’t sustainable.”

Added to that happy news about their profits (which were the result of cutting manufacturing costs by closing factories in the US, moving to a Mexican facility, raising prices and using cheaper ingredients), Hershey’s also formalized the discontinuation of Cacao Reserve, Hershey’s own branded high end chocolate line. (Hershey’s also closed Joseph Schmidt, a chocolatier line based out of San Francisco earlier this year and moved all production for Scharffen Berger to Illinois.)

Starbuck's MacchiatoWith this news, I grabbed the last Starbucks product in their line that I hadn’t reviewed yet (and as illustrations for this little death knell post).

The Caramel Macchiato Truffles come in a nicely packaged pair at the ghastly price of $1.39 at the drug store. Honestly, if this sort of truffle pair was available at an actual Starbucks to accompany my plain coffee, I might have gone for it more regularly. With the “startling news” that coffee drinks contain huge amounts of calories which cause cancer, a simple cup of coffee with cream and two truffles would actually be a smaller indulgence than an actual Caramel Macchiato.

I’ve never had a Macchiato (I’ve never actually had anything fancier than a latte or mocha in all my years), so I can’t comment on how well it mimics the frothy creation described thusly by Starbucks:

A signature Starbucks(r) beverage. A creamy mix of vanilla and freshly steamed milk marked with intense Starbucks(r) espresso, topped with velvety foam and our own proprietary buttery caramel sauce.

The milk chocolate shell is nicely molded. It holds a fudgy, smooth cream that tastes a bit like a mocha cheesecake. Sweet, a little tangy with a light coffee taste and maybe, just maybe a hint of toffee (caramel).

It was pretty sweet but with coffee it works ... though the actual coffee overpowers the not-much-coffee-taste.

In the end, I don’t think it was bad timing that sunk this line. I think it was bad merchandising - it should have been available at actual Starbucks. And a year is far too little to decide the success of a new line of chocolate. My view is that Hershey’s is uninterested in building brand loyalty through quality.

The only thing that makes sense about this is the statement on the side of the box:

Starbucks is committed to purchasing cocoa and coffee that are grown and traded in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner.

To learn more about our cocoa-purchasing practices, please visit us at www.starbucks.com/cocoa

Watching Cadbury & Mars move more and more towards ethically traded and sustainably grown & harvested cacao, I’m not seeing much for Hershey’s except from their Daboga arm. I can see where this Starbucks line is just a liability for profits. Hershey’s has shown itself to be more concerned with profits (and high profits, not just tidy ones) than the quality of its products and place within the economies it locates itself.

Related Candies

  1. Hershey’s announces closing of Joseph Schmidt & Scharffen Berger Bay Area Facilities
  2. Starbucks Chocolate: Eggnog Latte Truffles
  3. Rising Cost of Candy - A Brief Study of Hershey Prices
  4. Starbucks Truffles
  5. Starbucks Chocolate
Name: Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Truffles
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $1.29
Size: .84 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, All Natural, Kosher, Discontinued

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:43 am     Comments (5)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars

Zingerman's Zzang! BarsI’ve known about Zingerman’s classic candy bars for quite a few years, but finally found a local source for them a few days ago. I really wanted to see them in person, because while the Zingerman’s website is so fun & quirky with their little illustrations, I’d like more than a picture of a box when sinking $7 for a candy bar (yes, that’s what they are on their website).

I got the What the Fudge? and Ca$hew Cow Zzang! Candy Bars. The box heralds that they’re “taking candy bars back 100 years!” which I’m guessing they think that’s a good thing.

The boxes are smaller than I expected, 4.5” long and 1.25” high/wide. But the label says that the WTF? is 3 ounces. I looked at them out of the package and I thought there was no way it was 3 ounces, that’s more than a Snickers bar! (But sure enough, I used the postal scale at the office and they both came in at about 3 ounces even after I took out my photo-bites.)

So the fact that they’re sizeable almost makes up for the sticker shock - at least at the Larchmont Larder they were $3.95 each.

Zingerman's Zzang! What the Fudge?

The What the Fudge? Zzang! Candy Bar looks deceptively plain out of the wrapper. The box says: Milk chocolate fudge, Muscovado caramel, and malted milk cream dipped in dark chocolate.

Biting into it, I didn’t seem that complex. In fact, I didn’t think it tasted like much more than sweet, sweet fudge covered in chocolate.

The top layer of malted milk cream was smooth, but a bit frosting-like. The milky flavors came across distinctly when I pulled the parts of the bar apart, but I didn’t really get much malt. The milk chocolate fudge is sweet and doesn’t have much chocolate punch but has a melty smooth texture with a slight grain. The “caramel” isn’t quite a gooey caramel, it’s more of a grainy buttery layer with some distinct molasses notes of the Muscovado sugar.

Most importantly, because of these extremely sugary innards, the chocolate coating is a very dark, rather bitter bittersweet chocolate.

The package says the serving size is the full 3 ounce bar, which is far too much for me in one sitting. (The box also had the cryptic tally of 260 calories for the full bar, which is pretty much impossible for any candy that contains fat ... and chocolate was the first ingredient ... I’d go for something along the lines of 130 calories per ounce for this bar, bringing the total to 390.)

Zingerman's Zzang! Cashew Cow

The Cashew Cow Zzang! Candy Bar, as you can tell, was a little bloomed when I got it home. Happily the texture of the dark chocolate coating did not seem to suffer too much from the slight. The bar consists of Milk chocolate, cashew butter gianduja, cashew brittle & roasted cashews dipped in dark chocolate.

Though this bar is only reputed to be 2.5 ounces, it’s actually larger than the WFT? bar. (Also, when I weighed it after my bite, it still came in at 2.8 ounces, so their manufacturing process is a bit generous.)

It smells dark and toasty.

Instead of the layered order of the WFT?, the Cashew Cow is a muddled combination affair on the inside. The general look of it is a fluffed gianduja with some inclusions of nuts & crisped rice.

The center does have lots of textures going on: shards of brittle, cashews and crisped rice - all with varying degrees of crunch. The nutty background flavor is cashew with some buttery bits and the malty crisp of the puffed rice. And then the salt, there’s a lot of saltiness.

Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I found it a bit chaotic. It definitely wasn’t as sticky sweet as the WTF? bar, but this one seemed a bit too hefty for me as well.

The good thing was that both bars were distinct and unique ... I didn’t feel like saying “this is like a Milky Way” or “that’s like a Butter Brittle Hazelbar.” At $7 a bar, I’d be miffed ... at $4, I felt like it was a fun ride. I still prefer the BonBonBars as far as upscale candy bars go ... but again, these are nothing like those so it’s never going to be a one for one comparison and it might just all be about personal taste.

Here’s Victoria from Candy Addict’s review of these two bars, CPB Gallery reviewed & photographed the Original bar and Chocolate Ratings reviewed the Original and Cashew Cow.

Related Candies

  1. Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars
  2. Short & Sweet: Hazelnut Bites
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. BonBonBars: Malt Ganache & Scotch
  5. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
  6. Lake Champlain Five Star Bar
Name: Zzang! What the Fudge? & Cashew Cow Candy Bars
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Zingerman's
Place Purchased: Larchmont Larder (Larchmont)
Price: $3.95
Size: 3 ounces & 2.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: package is simply wrong
Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Nuts, Cookie, Toffee, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:48 am     Comments (6)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Morning Glory Confections: Chai Tea & Cashew Brittle

Morning Glory Chai Tea & Cashew BrittleWhile picking up a birthday cake for The Man a few weeks ago at Lark, a neighborhood bakery, I also sampled some locally made artisan nut brittles.

Morning Glory Confections makes a short list of nut brittles in quirky flavor combinations: Chai Tea & Cashew, Cocoa Nib, Coffee Bean & Pecan, Fleur de Sel & Peanut, Indian Curry & Pistachio and New Mexico Chili & Pumpkin Seed.

I’ve tasted all of them, but chose to buy a little package of the Chai Tea & Cashew. It wasn’t cheap, the 2 ounce package that contained four slender planks cost $4.95. But the artisan name was supported by the tantalizing ingredients:

Cashews, sugar, corn syrup, butter, chai spice (it included a list), Darjeeling tea leaves, baking soda, Madagascar vanilla extract, Kosher salt.

Morning Glory Chai Tea & Cashew Brittle

The glossy and narrow bars are lumpy with the cashews within and speckled with the tea & spices.

It smells a bit buttery and like warm tea and spices ... a bit like carrot cake, actually. The cashews are toasted to a crunchy light brown and have a darker flavor to them than I would have expected. The salt comes forward first then a little kick of creamy butter and the crisp flakiness of a toffee.

The baking soda keeps the salt note a bit on the mineral side of things, but also keeps the candy from tasting too sickly sweet. The key with Morning Glory brittles, all that I’ve tasted, is that it’s not about the nuts. While the nuts are nice, it’s about the flavors imparted to the brittle.

While I really enjoyed my four pieces, the price is just staggering (oh sure, it’s not so bad when you buy a larger quantity at $32 per pound.) I appreciated that the inner wrap was actually a zip lock to protect my precious bits from evil, evil moisture.

(I would also take this opportunity to recommend Lark’s cakes. They have an impressive carrot cake that is both beautiful and fulfills my husband’s and my particular issues: he doesn’t like raisins and I can’t eat walnuts. So it’s all about the moist carroty cake with warm spices and a light, not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. We’ve picked up this cake three times in the regular size and one of the itty two-serving size since they opened.)

Related Candies

  1. Ginger Chews: Hot Coffee
  2. Seeds of Change: Dark Chocolate with Mango and Cashew
  3. See’s Pumpkin Spice & Root Beer Lollypops
  4. Sanders Caramels & Titans
  5. Wha Guru Chew
  6. Dagoba Chai
Name: Chai Tea and Cashew Brittle
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Morning Glory Confections
Place Purchased: Lark Cake Shop (Silverlake)
Price: $4.95
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Nuts, Toffee, United States, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:15 am     Comments (1)

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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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