Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This stuff, Shaymee’s Aussie Toffee, isn’t actually from Australia, but made right here in California.
They boast about their real, all natural ingredients including organic cane juice and fresh butter as well as their genetic predisposition to great toffee on their website. They also list a long variety of flavor combinations for their bulk toffees: Dark Chocolate Macadamia (shown), Dark Chocolate Espresso, Dark Chocolate Almond, Milk Chocolate Almond and Milk Chocolate Pecan. They also have single serving packages that have three pieces (2 ounces) of the Almond in both Milk & Dark Chocolate.
The wide array of nut combos have one thing in common, a hefty plank of sweet, salty and crisp toffee at their center. A good buttery (and chocolatey) scent combined with a good cleave of the toffee. The pieces were about four bites each for me. The were very buttery tasting with a mellow salty hit that kept everything in balance.
The nuts weren’t overly abundant in any of the varieties, but definitely gave a flavor definition to all of them. My favorite, even though it was milk chocolate, was the Pecan. The Almond was quite good, with a good nutty taste and a slightly crumblier texture than the others. Macadamia reminded me of coconut, it felt a little butterier. Espresso was dark and mysterious and quite tasty to have the bitter bits of coffee in the chocolate to balance out the sweet caramelized sugars. The quality of the chocolate was particularly good - mellow and creamy without even a hint of chalky grain.
I supplied a large assortment of these to the family over Thanksgiving alongside the Charles Chocolates and everyone was duly impressed with both.
I love that the pieces are regular and dipped in chocolate. I much prefer that to the rustic broken planks that always seem to have the chocolate fall off of the last pieces in the box.
The best part about all these toffees is the price. You can pick up a half pound on Amazon for $7.19 ... less than $15 a pound for premium toffee? Sure the packaging isn’t as elegant as some others, but stuff it in a gift basket with some nice coffee or hot chocolate and someone will definitely love you. If I have a criticism it’s that all the toffees look the same when dumped out of the package. Once I mixed them together on a plate for serving to friends I completely lost track of which was which. (Of course as a good hostess I offered to bite everyone’s toffee pieces to discern the nut.)
You can also buy it in plenty of Whole Foods-styled stores all over the West. If you’re in the store and want some toffee, definitely give the single serve package a go.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I’m not sure what’s taken Reese’s so long to come out with a Butterfinger-like candy bar. Maybe when Hershey’s bought 5th Avenue they made some sort of a deal. But here it is, 2006, some 88 years after the introduction of the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup and they’ve done it.
Instead of being a clone of the 5th Avenue, Butterfinger or Clark Bar, this one has both that layered crispy peanut butter crunch in the center, a supposed stripe of peanut butter as well as a liberal sprinkling of crushed peanuts and then milk chocolate.
The effect is a rather creamy and very crunchy bar. The textured center provides that high-frequency crisp and the nuts provide the low frequency crunch. The center has a salty hit to it that also gives it a little zing along with a good dose of molasses, which always pleases me. It also has 5 grams of protein, which is a pretty good density for a bar that’s more candy than nuts.
The crispy center was also lighter than the dense and sometimes inconsistent Butterfinger bar. The biggest drawback here is that Hershey’s has again skimped on the chocolate on the outside and gone for the marginal stuff that has PGPR in it.
If there’s one thing that really turns me off for this bar it’s the promo they’re running with its introduction. You can vote on their website for Crunchy or Creamy? and win a car based on your vote. Crunchy people win a Hummer H3 (blech) and Creamy people are entered to win a Corvette Coupe (meh).
My preference for this type of bar is the 5th Avenue, but those are extremely hard to find. If Hershey’s is planning on making these as widely available as other Reese’s products, this might be a new bar added to my repertoire.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Here are some great candy and sweets-themed raffle prizes for this year’s Menu for Hope (raising funds for the UN World Food Programme):
David Lebovitz is offering up one of his Paris chocolate tours. Must get yourself to Paris in order to claim it.
A Japanese Wagashi Making Kit from Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden. If you’ve never had wagashi, keep an eye out for it during the New Year, it’s both beautiful and tasty - it’s like the mochi ice cream you get at the sushi restaurants but 100 times better.
She Who Eats is offering up an assortment of European and American chocolates. All dark chocolate. All right already! I’m entering!
A mess o’ Swedish sweets (candy and chocolate) from Clivia’s Cuisine. I have no idea what’s in there, but I hope it’s licorice!
Fair Trade hamper of coffee from Republica, Cocolo chocolate, Hope honey,fairtrade rice, handcream and a handbag as well! All donated by Mocktale!
Ala Cuisine has donated the “Ultimate Chocolate Tasting Kit” ... I have no idea what’s in there, but it looks like some Michel Cluizel at the very least.
Two dozen hand made chocolates from Linda at Kayak Soup ... not only do they come in a hand painted box, but once you win you can even do a bit of personalization to it!
There are oodles of other fine prizes and you can choose to throw all of your donation tickets ($10 each) towards one item, or break it up.
Here’s what you have to do to donate:
(They’re still in the process of adding prizes so check ChezPim for the latest!)
1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope.
2. Go to the donation site at http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhopeIII and make a donation.
3. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code?for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 for EU02. (Please use the double-digits, not EU1, but EU01.)
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Entry deadline is December 20th at 6PM Pacific time.
Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 for the results of the raffle.
Here’s the last of the Gift Guides for 2006! Have a look at last years, this is just a supplement to that ... there are lots of great ideas out there in addition to giving folks actual candy, so keep an eye out for these candy-themed gifts.
After the holidays you might want to do more than send your notes, you might want to scent them too. Try these Scratch & Sniff cards for $8 a pair.
Candy Games and Amusements
Bring the arcade experience into your home and burn some calories by frustrating yourself with the Candy Grabber for $35 (not including candy).
Jelly Belly 24 piece jigsaw puzzle ($4.95) a great stocking stuffer that will be around long after the candy is gone.
Chocolate-Opoly - $24.95
For some more interactive game fun, try the Candy Volcano for $21.99
Stocking Stuffers & Entertaining
Candy Shot Glasses ($4.95 for 6) - I have no idea if they make a sticky mess or if it’d be totally cool to smash them when you’re done.
M&Ms solo teapot in three different colors. Good for tea, or maybe even hot chocolate! ($23) For some bizarre reason you cannot have this shipped to California, so if you live there, try the M&Ms calculators for $10
Tootsie Roll Scarf ($24) - nothing says appreciation for retro candies like a scarf in the Tootsie Roll colors.
If that’s too casual for you, demonstrate your professionalism with a Sugar Daddy Business Card Holder for $29.00.
If you make the $40 minimum purchase, they’ll throw in a Tootsie Roll Car Air Freshener. There are loads of stocking stuffer ideas there at Tootsie.
Hershey Baseballs - they’re real baseballs, not chocolate. At least they won’t melt on the field.
For the gift that keeps on growing, how about a symbolic piece of the candy world. Try OneShare.com for single shares of stock for Wrigley, Tootsie, Hershey’s and more. You can order just the share or get it frame with a special engraving to personalize it. I’m not sure if it means that you get the annual report for the company or not.
Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams by Michael D’Antonio.
Jewelry & Adornment
If you like the idea of a candy charm bracelet, there’s a whole series of items in the Pugster Fun Jewelry line that are pretty inexpensive.
Tootsie Candy up your iPod for $5.95.
Lemonhead or Atomic Fireball mugs for only $6.95. There are plenty of other fun Lemonhead items there too (tees, shirts, and caps).
Candy University Mugs ($18.00)
Max Brenner’s Hug Mug made just for hot chocolate with a special shape to cup between your hands.
Baby Chuck Taylor hi tops in peppermint stripes. $24.99
The strangest entry in the brand tie in merchandise has to be these cute Cow boots from Goetze’s Caramel Creams (makers of Bull’s Eyes and Cow Tales). At only $19.95 I’m kind of wishing it rained more where I live.
They also have hats and an umbrella ... and if you live in an area where it’s hard to find Goetze’s, you can order right there for more than enough to stuff your stocking.
Jelly Belly Embroidered Tee $22.99 is one of the more inventive garments on their site. They also have some luscious looking hoodies, ringer tees and caps. But the thing you really need to click through and see are the pro-styled bib bicycle shorts.
Inventive Individuals on Caf? Press & Zazzle:
Gummi Bear Mob - yes, this gummi bear has a posse.
I guess the newest thing in candy canes in the past 50 years was the introduction on different flavors. Yeah, there are also different shapes and sizes as well, but the candy cane is pretty much a hard candy.
The Chocolate Filled Handmade Candy Cane seeks to be beyond the plain hard candy stick. This seven inch cane in peppermint has stunning red and opaque white strips and of course the advertised chocolatey filling.
The hard candy shell has a chocolatey filling twisted through it. It’s not a lot of chocolate, I had three of these canes and the one pictured above is the most chocolatey of the three. The mint candy is nice with a strong peppermint flavor. The inside features a pink and slightly foamy center which gives the whole thing a good crunch.
The chocolatelyness is not that intense, it certainly mellows out the intensity of the peppermint and gives a little fudgy burst every once in a while. As a chocolate person, I was a bit disappointed. As a hard candy fan, it was far superior to those “chocolate” starlight mints (I usually spit those out). The chocolate here is made from cocoa and coconut & palm kernel oils ... so not really chocolate at all, just a chocolate syrup.
They’re a bit on the expensive side but they are drop-dead gorgeous and a great upscale stocking item. I’ve seen the Elegant Sweets line around a bit more lately. I saw some of their Christmas tree shaped lollies (in cherry & green apple) at a store called Cuvee on Robertson in Los Angeles yesterday and ran across these canes at Harry and David while I was in San Francisco the weekend before.
Besides their holiday line, they have some freakishly stunning candies all year round. You can expect them to turn up here again in the future.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Sometimes just giving someone a box of candy doesn’t feel special enough. You know, when you give someone a sweater, they wear it over and over again. The cool solution for the consumable nature of this type of gift is to spread it out over a long period of time. Lots of candy companies now offer Candy of the Month clubs, so that loved one gets reminded once a month that you know their passion.
Here’s a roundup of a few options:
Ethel M - Chocolate Club ($99-$299) - 3, 6 & 12 month subscriptions for regular deliveries of chocolates.
Jelly Belly - Bean of the Month Club ($68.99-$249) - Choose 3, 6 or 12 months of Jelly Belly candies delivered 2.2 lbs at a time. Includes dispenser and shipping charges.
Licorice International - Candy of the Month Club ($178) - three different packages for candy lovers, black and red licorice lovers and black licorice purists.
Lake Champlain - ($115-$395) Chocolate of the Month - choose 3, 6 or 9 months of fine, all natural, Kosher chocolate selections.
Dale and Thomas - ($86-$455) Popcorn of the Month - choose from a large variety of clubs that range from 3 months to 12, could be a variety of savory and sweet popcorns as well as other sweet treats.
SeventyPercent - Chocolate Connoisseur’s Club (varies) - based in the UK but ships worldwide. Focuses on high end chocolate bars from all over the world, plus discussions in their forums about the monthly selections.
Recchiuti - Club Recchiuti ($125-$425) - 3, 6, 9 & 12 month memberships with a wide range of products delivered throughout the year.
Flippin’ Fudge - Fudge of the Month Club ($348) - a different flavor of premium fudge every month.
Candy Warehouse - Candy of the Month Club ($99-$139) - various versions, one featuring nostalgic favorites, one for gummi fans and another for chocoholics.
Have you ever been gifted a candy of the month club? Any tips or recommendations?
Saturday, December 9, 2006
I was poking around a couple of weeks ago at my Holiday Gift Guide from 2005 and was (if I may say so) pleased that it’s still a pretty good guide. So instead of just doing the same thing over again, I thought I’d kind of do a summary of where I’ve been this year but also use it as an opportunity to help you Go Regional!
There are a couple of ways to look at this. You can give folks something from their own area, which is a great gift because it means that they can go back there, or you can give them something from your area, as a way of personalizing the item. Or you can give them something from a place they’re planning on visiting, kind of like a proactive welcome wagon.
(you can make fun of my map and the way I divided up and named the regions ... I have no idea what I was thinking)
West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho & Nevada)
Recchiuti (San Francisco) - fine chocolates from Michael Recchiuti located in the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco. Lots of herbal combination infusions, uncommon ingredients and savory inclusions. Known also for their sauces. (order online) Expensive
Charles Chocolates (Emeryville) - no company-run store, so you can only order online or find them at other chocolate shops. Many items such as the triple coated nuts and the high-end bars would make excellent stocking stuffers. (order online) Expensive
Cocoa Bon (Los Gatos) - a perfect supplier of stocking stuffers, their cute little chocolate tins are filled with more than chocolate wafers, they also have spiced caramels, toffees and chocolate covered coffee beans. Check out their cocktail-inspired jelly beans, too. (order online) Moderate
Chuao Chocolatier (Encinitas) - Venezuelan inspired chocolatier with tasty truffle combos and some truly strange ones as well. Tasty chocolate bars (I liked the nib one) in other stores. (order online) Expensive
Big Island Candies - why should Hawaiians have all the fun at the beach? Macadamia and Coffee items are to be expected, but don’t forget the traditional truffles and dipped shortbreads. (order online) Moderate
Chocolate Shops to Explore in Person
CocoaBella (San Francisco) - great chocolate shop, especially if you want to combine chocolates from a variety of chocolatiers: Amadei, Christopher Elbow, Charles Chocolates, Knipschildt Chocolatier, Marquise de Sevigne, Michel Cluizel & Pralineur Van Coillie. You can build a custom, mixed maker box or order one of their World’s Best Chocolates boxes. (order online) Expensive
Sahagun (Portland)- no shipping here, just fresh and tasty candies straight from the kitchen to your mouth. Expensive
Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits (Los Angeles) - feature a wide selection of consumer chocolates and candies from around the world that are great as stocking stuffers, but also an excellent variety of couture and high end bars and boxes from MarieBelle, Michel Cluizel, Vosges, Valerie Confections as well as, you know, wine & spirits. (Their website) Inexpensive-Expensive
Mountain & Prairie Region (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota & North Dakota)
Hammond’s Candy (Denver, CO) - beautiful hard candies made by hand. (order online) Inexpensive
Midwest & Ohio River Valley (Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky & West Virigina)
Northeast (Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine)
Southern Eastern Seaboard (Tennesee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina & Georgia)
Flippin’ Fudge (Canton, GA) - tasty gourmet fudge in cute individually wrapped pieces and fun flavors (I liked the peanut butter). (order online) Moderate
Gulf Coast & Texas (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma & Texas)
Laura’s Candies (New Orleans) - open again after Hurricane Katrina, known for their wide selection of traditional and chewy pecan pralines, modest prices and heritage in the French Quarter. (order online) Moderate
Norman Love - stunningly presented chocolates in inventive and comfort food styles. (order online) Expensive
Susie’s South Forty Confections (Midland, TX) - chewy pralines, extraordinarily dense almond toffee and other gift items. (order online) Moderate
Nothing there to your liking? I’ll have more ideas for candy lovin’ gift givin’ over the next few days!
UPDATE (12/10/06): Looks like I’ve been Farked. Welcome new visitors. Just to clarify if you’re not a regular Candy Blog reader, my recommendations above are for places I have actually TRIED and LIKED. Yes, there are gaps and I appreciate everyone’s suggestions for the new year ... it all sounds very tasty!
Friday, December 8, 2006
This review is an attempt at disambiguation: there are two limited edition Hershey’s chocolate bars on the market right now, one with chocolate cookie bits and one with brownie bits.
I’d seen the Limited Edition Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Chocolate earlier this summer but didn’t pick them up because I was only seeing them in the large 4 ounce bar. Finally I found this single serving bar at the Dollar Tree. Lest I think I’m getting a freakishly old bar, I checked the date, which says that it’s going until 7D (April 2007).
The bar is composed of creamy Hershey’s milk chocolate with lots of little chocolate cookie bits in it. It is not unlike the Cookies ‘n’ Mint bar that I like so much, except that it’s missing the mint component.
The bar smells sweet and pleasant and on has a great crunch that gives a little additional dark cocoa hit to the bar.
The Limited Edition Brownies ‘n’ Chocolate bar is composed of creamy Hershey’s milk chocolate with lots of little chocolate brownie bits in it. The brownie bits are crumbly and more rustic feeling than the cookie bits. They add a sugary grain to the bar, and the whole bar seems slighly softer than the cookie bits one.
The expiration date is identical to the Cookies one, 7D.
As much as I hate to admit it, there is a slight difference between these two bars. The chocolate itself is the same though the Cookies one has more vanilla notes and the Brownies one has more fudgy chocolate taste. The Brownies one was crumbly and grainy tasting, like there were big sugar bits in it the way brownie batter does. The Cookies one tasted dry and crunchy, like Oreo tops.
Is one better than the other? Not really. They’re both kind of fun. They’re both way too sweet and made my throat hurt. They both contain my new pet peeve, PGPR.
The big thing I wanted to figure out was why they brought out these bars at the same time. The only thing that points to an answer is that the Cookies bar is made in Mexico. But I highly doubt that the Mexican factory making bars for the American market didn’t know that the Pennsylvania plant was gearing up for Brownie bars. Or maybe they knew that I’d buy both bars and sit down and do a side to side.
The only indication of superiority between the two is that I finished the Brownies one first.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.