Thursday, October 16, 2008
I reviewed Kookaburra Liquorice last year and then was intrigued by their chocolate coated variety. There are quite a few licorice companies out there coming out with chocolate varieties, but a lot of them aren’t real chocolate.
I was concerned that was the case with Kookaburra, mostly because it said Choc Coated and thought maybe “choc” was code for not chocolate. But it’s really just short for chocolate. (Sometimes called choccies as well by Brits, Candians & Aussies.) I looked over the ingredients carefully and it’s the real stuff, even includes real vanilla. However the actual licorice contains artificial colors, which is kind of silly when you consider that only folks who bite stuff in half and peer in there are gonna notice.
The package is a stout peg bag with a tufted bottom that allows it to stand up. I liked that it was compact and narrow instead of one of those wide & flat bags that don’t tuck into my fall bag as well.
These are pretty big nuggets, about the size of one of my lesser toes.
The chocolate coating is shiny and smells vaguely of chocolate but mostly of licorice.
It’s pretty thick, which is good for matching the strong woodsy flavors of the licorice and the hearty wheat-based chew.
At first I really didn’t like these. I actually like a bit of anise mixed with dark chocolate, but it didn’t seem to go with the dairy notes I was picking up on the milk chocolate.
But after a few more pieces, it grew on me and over several days I’ve eaten the whole bag. It’s quite satisfying because it had both a creamy component and the chew plus some strong flavors.
It wasn’t cheap though, at $5.99 for a bag that only holds 6 ounces, there are probably more satisfying treats for me. (Like the Venco Skoolkrijt that I bought on the same trip.) But it has intrigued me enough that I’m going to do some more chocolate & licorice sampling.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Back in May I got a fabulous box of goodies from All Candy Expo that included this package of Darrell Lea Soft Eating Liquorice. I dutifully took photos of it.
And then ate it all. And promptly forgot what it was like so I couldn’t review it.
So today I went out and bought a new bag, just so I could finish up this review. (My office is dangerously close to a Cost Plus World Market now.)
When I opened it up I remember why I didn’t review it.
I cut the bag open and stuck my nose in there to get a good lung-full of the scent and there it was ... it smells like curry. Not in a bad way, by any means, but that’s why I didn’t review the first bag ... I wasn’t sure if that’s the way it was supposed to be.
So here I am with a second bag and I’m gonna have to say, “hey folks, this stuff really smells like and Indian spice shop!” It makes my mouth water, it’s a mix of curry, coriander, anise and black tea.
The pieces are kind of awkward - they’re long fingers. Thick and soft, they’re about three inches long and a matte black.
The flavor is dark and smoky. The molasses is pronounced but has a great mellow licorice mixed with a little hint of those spices I mentioned earlier. The chew is soft without being too sticky like Dots can be. Not too sweet and really munchable but satisfying.
Pretty good overall and certainly distinctive enough that I think I could tell this apart from most of the other Aussie style licorices I’ve had over the years. And I plan on finishing this package pretty soon as well.
Rating: 8 out of 10
There are a lot of different licorice twist flavors out there, but most of them are fruity. So I was pretty excited to find this Soft Eating Ginger Liquorice at Cost Plus World Market (I bought these a couple of days ago and then realized I should review the black stuff, too, and went back.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Australia through candy, it’s that Australians make good licorice and ginger products.
Like the rest of their line, it comes in a kraft paper looking package, mellow and muted and boldly stating that it’s flavored naturally. The ingredients bear that out: Raw sugar, wheat glucose syrup, wheat flour, cane sugar, ginger puree (4%), water, modified food starch, palm oil, natural flavor, mono & di-glycerides, salt, citric acid, malic acid, spinach extract (color), liquorice extract, sodium bicarbonate, beta carotene (color) and sulphur dioxide (preservative).
This one didn’t smell quite as appealing. Like the Buderim Ginger Gummi Bears, I found that this bag smelled a bit like Elmer’s Glue.
But I got over it.
The little fingers in this version are a little shorter at about 2 1/2 inches each but a little bigger around. The texture is different as well, though still soft they’re not as pliable and just a bit drier on the outside. But singly they smell less like wood glue and more like ginger tea.
The bite is a smidge less smooth, but boy howdy is it spicy. Right away there’s the woodsy peppery taste of ginger and then a throat warming burn. It’s not very sweet at all, much less than the other ginger chews that I like so much from Chimes and the Ginger People.
The wheat base of the chew makes it a little starchy in a way, but it also makes them rather filling and I think cuts through what might be a very spicy affair. It would be cool if they actually used molasses in these, they’d be like gingerbread (without the extra spices). But for ginger fans, this is a great new way to enjoy it. It’s a good munching food for movies, especially mixed with something salty like popcorn (I tried it with pretzels and it went well).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Darrell Lea has a pretty big range, I saw the Green Apple and Strawberry versions at Cost Plus as well. There is another version that are chocolate covered smaller nibs but their Australian website shows a much larger range of products (most of which sound fabulous). They’re Kosher and have no artificial colors or flavors.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
That time it was LifeSavers Musk, little compressed hoops of sugar with a light musk flavor. It was like eating incense cones (you know, if they were made from sugar and not sawdust).
But I was still intrigued enough to pick up what I thought was a more authentic Australian Musk Lolly. This is from a brand called Black Gold and called simply Musk Flavored Sticks confectionery.
The bag was a bit bigger than I wanted at 200 grams, but then again it was only $3, so it seemed like a fun gamble. I was told that the LifeSavers were a bit firmer than the traditional sticks and this is true.
The little extruded sticks remind me of Conversation Hearts, Altoids or Canada Mints but also a bit like a stripe of dried out frosting. They do have gelatin in them, so they’re not appropriate for vegetarians (well, I don’t think true musk would be appropriate for vegetarians either).
They are strongly scented, kind of a generic “nice smelling shop” vibe. The thing is, I don’t mind it. It’s kind of like rose, orange blossom and Avon’s Skin So Soft. It’s pleasant enough, not bitter or syrupy like some floral flavors can be. But it’s not terribly satisfying. I don’t finish a stick and then think, “I’d like another.” Instead I put the package away and think, “I should write about those at some point.” But I got them back in January and only really put them back in the review queue when I moved offices and had to empty out my desk. (They do make a fine desk freshener.)
If you end up with some out of curiosity and don’t know what to do with the other 180 grams, maybe this reciep for Pink Musk Stick Mushrooms will help. Also check out this essential nostaligic Australian lollies list.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Those industry analysts say that licorice is the next big thing. It’s a trend. It’s fashionable. It’s hip. There will soon be licorice bars, licorice tastings ... licorice afficianado magazines. (Actually, I heard when I was a Miette Confiserie buying a Dutch assortment that they wanted to do a Sake tasting paired with licorice.)
I don’t know about all that, I’m not adverse to seeing more licorice available on the market, but I fully understand that some people simply don’t like it. Much like some folks don’t like coffee, root beer or cinnamon. (Otherwise referred to as irrational people, which does not apply, of course, to folks who don’t like cherry, butter popcorn Jelly Belly or Dr Pepper, who are perfectly rational.)
I got this ample sample of Australia’s own Kookaburra Licorice at the All Candy Expo.
These nuggets are pretty big, at least two bites in my-sized world. It’s a nice soft chew, sometimes I think it’s a little too soft, like they’re some sort of fleshy thumbs or something, so I left the bag open for a while. They didn’t get rock-hard stale, just a little drier.
I liked the flavor, definitely on the dark and smoky side even if it’s a little mild and more about the molasses than licorice. The first ingredient is treacle as well as some molasses, wheat syrup and raw sugar. These all go so well with the woodsy and very sweet qualities of real licorice. It’s very filling even though the caloric density is exceptionally low for candy: 92 calories per ounce. Kind of a “stick to your ribs” kind of candy treat.
Unlike many American licorices, this boasts real licorice extract ... as well as “natural flavors”, palm oil, soybean monglyceride, artificial colors (Red 40 & Blue #1 & Yellow #5) among other things.
I think as super-soft licorice goes I might prefer Panda (especially for the ingredients list), but this is pretty good stuff. As for the naming, a Kookaburra is a bird, a species of Kingfisher. (While it probably doesn’t have much to do with licorice, it’s far more related to Australia than the Panda is to Finnish licorice. And while we’re not on the subject, there’s also a Cocteau Twins song called Kookaburra, which has even less to do with the bird, as all CT songs are wont to do, than Pandas do with Finnish licorice ... have I digressed enough?)
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I don’t usually buy into the stories behind candy, because a story is great but doesn’t amount to much once you put the candy in your mouth. It’s fun to read them on the package insert, you know, while munching away. But the story on Nutpatch Nougats is pretty good.
That’s some serious local food going on there ... I’m guessing the only thing that’s not local is the little edible rice paper wrapping.
I first tried Nutpatch in January at the Fancy Food Show at a booth run by Tassie Naturals that sells lots of other wonderful Tasmanian sweets, like Leatherwood Honey. But I was there for the classic nougat and Larry at Tassie Naturals was actually waiting for me. What I tasted back in January were samples, just slices from the large bar that they sell, wrapped in plain clear cellophane. Hey, I didn’t need any fancy wrappings.
But what I did need was another fix. So I emailed Larry back in March ... nope, it’s not ready yet. I had to distract myself with other things for a while.
So I wait ... and wait ... to hear back from Larry that he was ready to start selling Nutpatch Nougat in the United States. Then, just after Memorial Day I got the good news ... oh, it was not only good that they were ready to start selling but because the package changed, he insisted on sending me new samples. (Okay, insisted is strong, he said he would send them and I said, “Yay!”)
Almond Nougat - this nougat doesn’t have honey notes, no, it tastes just like honey. Like I’ve put honeycomb in my mouth, honeycomb studded with almonds. Sweet, mellow honey and almonds. A soft bite, good crunchy nuts and a smooth melt on the tongue with that crazy, crazy honey.
Hazelnut Nougat - this smells like hazelnut. And it made me realize that hazelnuts smell like freshly cut fruit woods. Oh, and then there’s the honey. It’s sweet and has that beeswax scent. Sweet, but not overwhelming. The whole thing tastes toasty. It’s sweet, but not throat-burningly. It feels like a treat, but it doesn’t have that sugar let-down later, probably because of the high nut content and all that protein.
There are a lot of nuts in these. Some nougats are excited to proclaim 25-40% nut content. Nutpatch Nougat is about 60% nuts by weight. Oh, and the number two ingredient on the list is not sugar ... it’s honey!
My biggest complaint here is that the nougat is packaged in this huge bar. At 5.6 ounces, it’s pretty big ... think two sticks of butter. It’s a little vexing to slice and of course if I wanted to just pop this in my picnic I have to bring a knife of pre-slice it. The Nougat de Montelimar at least can be pulled apart or bitten off easily. (Of course the Nougat de Montelimar is $3.45 an ounce and Nutpatch is $1.75 an ounce ... I think I can be troubled to pre-slice.)
While I was thinking that the bars would be the same as the nougat, the nougat seems different just by being molded into the chocolate bar. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been sealed from any oxidation or because the chocolate is just so thick and fragrant, but this bar is definitely more about the chocolate.
The little fingers of nougat are studded with hazelnuts. The bottom layer has the typical rice paper wafer, but the tops and sides don’t. The chocolate is overpowering ... not that that’s a bad thing. It’s very tasy dark Callebaut. But it does overpower the honey notes for me. But for what it takes away it brings something else that’s wonderful, an intense creaminess and extra woody flavors that boost the nuts. The hazelnuts definitely seemed stronger here.
As chocolate covered nougats go, this is pretty much at the top of my list, but if I had to pick ... if you put a plate in front of me that had these bars or a selection of the Holiday Nougat from Valerie Confections, I might go with Valerie’s, I just like the balance of the nougat and chocolate and of course the citrus boost. Of course the Holiday Nougat isn’t available right now ... so Nutpatch would satisfy an off-season jones. (No one is actually selling the Nutpatch Chocolate Bars yet, so it’s all hypothetical.)
More reading on Nutpatch Nougats: Other Nougat is Not a Patch on This. Where to buy? Right now you can order online at Natural Food Finds. I imagine since this is a very small operation, the nougat will be in short supply, so order it when they have it if you’re interested.
UPDATE 06/15/2007: Through some strange snafu, I quoted a price from the Natural Food Finds that wasn’t quite final. I said it’s $9.89 when in reality it’s now selling for $14.95 ... still a much better deal than most other fine European-style nougats (certainly still beating the Soubeyran). The good news is that Natural Food Find WILL give Candy Blog readers a $1.50 off until July 11, 2007. Just enter the coupon code CBJUN11 if you order to get the special reduced price deal. My apologies for any confusion to anyone.
No word yet on anyone selling the chocolate covered nougat bars.
Monday, June 04, 2007
Australia has not been left out of the KitKat craze, but they’re a little harder to get a hold of. One of my co-workers happens to be married to an Aussie, so on his last trip to visit family I gave him some bucks and asked for anything that caught his fancy (knowing me of course). Some I just ate, but these I thought I’d at least share a little about.
KitKat Temptations: Coconut Eclair: The big dome over the narrow little pair of wafers is filled with a sweet and mildly coconutty cream. The cream is kind of a cross between the inside of a York Peppermint Pattie and a truffle. Not quite smooth, not quite buttery, but not as crumbly as the fondant of a York.
The cookies don’t even take a back seat here, they’re on a trailer being towed behind. One of those shocks that would greet you as you were looking to change lanes and saw that the Coconut Eclair had passed you and you were trying to get out from behind some mollasses Slo-Poke and didn’t realize that they had that wafer cookie trailer bouncing along behind, without lights or any of those red dangly flags. Then you slow down and smack your own forhead and say, DUH! It’s a KitKat!
KitKat Temptations: Hazelnut Praline: This one smelled kind of like maple, but perhaps pecan, if we’re talking about nuts. I know Australia is a half a world away, but I also know they grow hazelnuts, so I can’t quite figure out the lame taste on this one. It’s all very sweet. The nutty cream center is rather like Nutella, but lacks that nutty punch. Instead it’s flavored like nuts, but doesn’t taste like them ... ya know? There are a few little crushed nuts in there (as there should be, the picture on the wrapper illustrates them) but they just didn’t strike me as hazelnuts. They could have been almonds.
Yeah, I’m just not getting the KitKat vibe here. KitKats are all about the wafers, grainy cream and chocolate. Anything added is great, but don’t muck with the basics.
You may have tempted me once, but you’ll not snare me again.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
There are many wonderful people who write into Candy Blog (either via email or comments) to keep me abreast of what’s going on out there in the sweet real world. As I’m mostly a hermit, these tips are invaluable and here are my follow-ups on the most recent tips:
Assorted Fruit Headline
I rushed off to the 99 Cent Only Store to find it’s true! I haven’t opened the bag yet, but I thought I’d share my delight with everyone else. I have no idea when Ferrara Pan decided to make this mixed bag or even if it’s because of that review. Yes, you can buy them separately in little boxes, but this is a much better deal.
Also, the bag is plastic, which means that the Fruit Heads are protected from the enemy of sugar candies ... humidity. (Many of you know the disappointment of a box of Lemonheads where the poor spheres are welded to the box and each other.) I should really follow up on my request for Grapefruitheads.
I give these a 9 out of 10! (Yummy)
Pop’ables Chocolate Crisps
Sandy wrote to me earlier this week to tell me that there was a malted milk ball at the Dollar Tree. Well, I don’t have a Dollar Tree nearby, but as I was already at the 99 Cent Only Store searching for the Fruit Headline, I caught a huge display of these in the peg bag section: Limited Edition Pop’ables Chocolate Crisps.
I’m not sure why they call them “chocolate crisps” because they’re malted milk balls and they’re a pretty well known segment of the American candy pantheon. These were ridiculously good and again upset me to an insane degree because they’re limited edition. The chocolate is sweet and smooth with a slight coconutty note to it. The crisp center is light and malty with only a hint of sweetness. The packaging is completely uninspired, but I suppose it doesn’t matter as it is not only a limited edition item, but Mars has hinted that they’re discontinuing the Pop’ables line anyway. These were made in Australia. Super-addictive ... I ate the whole bag at work yesterday.
I give these a 9 out of 10! (Yummy)
Lindt Baking 70% Cocoa Bitter-Sweet Chocolate
While I was poking around in the candy aisle at the 99 Cent Only Store, I also found this little gem: Lindt Baking 70% Cocoa Bitter-Sweet Chocolate.
I’ve become a recent convert to Lindt via their impulsive truffles and couldn’t resist giving this “baking” bar a try to see if it rivaled their regular Lindt Excellence 70% bar that I see for three times the price at Cost Plus. At 3.5 ounces for 99 cents, it’s a fabulous deal for high-quality chocolate. They also had a semi-sweet bar that didn’t list the cocoa content (but sugar was the first ingredient on the list instead of chocolate).
I was worried that the bar would be past its prime, but it’s glossy and dark and with a good snap. Perfectly fresh. Lindt still isn’t my favorite chocolate, but at this price, it’s hard to buy a Hershey bar. This bar was made in France.
I give this a 7 out of 10! (Worth It)
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
No, you’re not seeing double - I did post a review of something very similar this morning. Like the Golden Bonbon I picked up, these are smaller torrone-style nougats that are individually wrapped for freshness and easy snacking. If you think they look suspiciously similar and are confused because they have the same initials, it’s not by coincidence. Golden Bonbon used to run the Golden Boronia facility but sold it recently.
Trust me, Golden Boronia made a good deal. These are tasty candies that rival the Golden Bonbon ones. The biggest difference is the flavor set. Both have the standard Almond and Coffee (though I didn’t taste the Golden Bonbon version of that) but then they diverge. Golden Boronia are made in Australia - another country known for their nuts.
Almond - sweet smelling without a trace of amaretto notes. The almonds are fresh and the nougat is soft and smooth. Not as much of a honey hit as I like, but very pleasant.
Apricot - sweet and complex apricot aroma that highlights the honey flavors. Almond and apricot are wonderful companions and the light sweetness of the nougat combined for a very satisfying treat. Well, it was satisfying while I ate it. Now I want another one.
Green Tea - this was the one that stopped me dead in my tracks at the All Candy Expo. I love green tea and the delicate flavor seems a logical match for nougat. The nougat smells like sweet green tea and tasted like a sweetened matcha. The nougat is even a soft earthy green color. It’s a little grainier than the others, but the refreshing and lasting green tea flavor is really nice. There’s a slightly darker note of flavors in there, as match often has, but none of the bitterness that I sometimes find in matcha candies.
Cappuccino - it smells like sweet, sweet coffee. The color is a little darker, like it’s been toasted. The coffee flavor is more like espresso than a milky coffee. It tastes a lot sweeter than the others do, for some reason. The flavor is nice, not too strong but missing the honey notes that I love so much in my nougats.
All of the flavors (plus Peppermint) come in a crunchy version. The crunchy version tastes more like the crisped outside of a toasted marshmallow. They’re nice (the peppermint is very strong) but I prefer the soft ones.
Their website says they’ll ship anywhere and I tried making an order for a 1 kg mix (about $21 USD) but the shipping was going to be an additional $52 ... I made a request for where I can find them locally cuz I don’t like to pay more in shipping than for the actual product.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.