Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Name: Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
You’re saying, what the heck is a cacao nib and why cover it in chocolate? (Well, never ask why cover anything in chocolate ... we cover things in chocolate because that’s what sets us apart from animals.)
Cacao (that’s pronounced cuh-COW) nibs are what chocolate are made from. They’re the edible part of the cocoa bean after it’s been harvested, dried, fermented, roasted and hulled (winnowed). Yes, after all those steps (usually invovling at least two continents) you get these unassuming little crumbly brown bits. These are raw chocolate. In order to make a chocolate bar you take a bunch of them and mash them into a paste and then add some more cocoa butter and some sugar and maybe a little lecithin to keep everything smooth and you’ve got a chocolate bar. (The extra cocoa butter is made from taking nibs and expeller pressing them to get out the cocoa butter which leaves behind the cocoa solids which are used to make powdered cocoa.)
You can eat the nibs just as they are. They’re kind of like really roasty tasting nuts. Not quite chocolately, but they have a wonderful butteriness that you don’t find in many nuts. But they’re a little chalkier than a regular nut as well and can be freakishly bitter at times. Apparently using nibs in recipes is all the rage now, especially since Martha Stewart featured them in a recipe recently. By coating the nibs in chocolate they’re a lot more scrumptious.
But enough about the history lesson. This is pure chocolate enjoyment. Seriously. Whew!
The chocolate coating is 62% semi-sweet Scharffen Berger chocolate over the cacao nibs, which are unsweetened. They look kind of like little glossy cocoa krispies. But they taste absolutely divine. There’s an alcoholic aroma to them, an intense bitter start and then this incredible mix of woodsy flavors, acidic elements, astringency and this lingering smoky feeling on the tongue. The vanilla of the chocolate coating also lingers nicely. The nibs, being a rather raw product, are unpredictable. Sometimes they’re crunchy and smooth, sometimes you get one that’s a little fibery or chewy.
What’s also odd is that some of them taste different. I guess they may have been from different trees or harvested a different week or something. Some mouthfuls will be fruity, with intense plum or apricot notes and sometimes it’s oaky or maybe have a touch of maple or even sassafrass to it. What it does is make me want more ... I keep eating them. Which is bad. These are expensive little puppies. (As is all Scharffen Berger.) Of all the Scharffen Berger products I’ve tried (and they’re very well regarded though I’m not particularly fond of them) this is the one that sends me over the moon.
Rating - 10 out of 10
Monday, December 05, 2005
Name: Reese’s Snack Barz
You know this is a cool candy for kidz because there’s that hip Z at the end.
This bar is not really a snack bar in the sense that a power bar or some sort of trail mix bar would be. It’s a candy bar. (I think most bar shaped things that are sweet are considered candy bars whether you stuff some vitamins in there or not.)
This bar is a peanut butter marshmallow crisped rice treat with a base of chocolate. The peanut butter mixed in with the marshmallow cement is smooth and nutty with a good hit of salt. The crisped rice is, well, crispy and it all pulls apart easily without crumbling into bits (as is a problem with some crunchy granola bars). The chocolate base for the whole thing is a really nice sweet complement.
Hershey has a full range of these bars in different flavors including S’mores and Chocolate Cream. They’re apparently fortified with calcium and seven essential vitamins (only 15% of the RDA for them though) and have no saturated fats but 3 grams of protein. There are worse decisions you can make for snack foods and certainly better ones in the candy family, but this is a nice in-between food. It’s certainly satisfying and is a rather large feeling bar. I can see this being a good candy to travel with, a nice little snack on the plane with a watery cup of coffee to wash it down.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Friday, December 02, 2005
My blogging buddy, Lisa, sent this to me. She didn’t pick it up in Japan, she got it in New York, which makes the trip it’s taken extra special.
They look like little incense cones, little hard cones covered in a salty, sour powder. I wasn’t quite sure what they were, as the package is in Japanese, but what I could glean from the package was that these were sour. (I’m not quite sure what the female schmoo thing is on the front, but she sure is cute.)
They smell like cola, which is an odd smell in and of itself, really. The gummy isn’t really gummy either, it’s a hard little piece that’s not quite hard enough to be considered hard candy. Pop one in your mouth and you pucker. There’s no way to not describe these as incredibly sour. The flavor of the sour is a bit lemony but a little salty too. Then that subsides and you get the cola flavor and a little hard gummy bit. Then you want another one. They took a little getting used to, but with a lot of the extreme candies, they’re rather addictive.
They remind me a lot of the So Wonderful Lemon Drops I tried months ago. I think I might pick up the grape ones sometime, but for now, cola is a great choice for a sour treat. I have to say that eating to many will eventually burn the tongue. And give you a tummy ache. But I’ve found that to be true with most foods.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Name: Extra Dark with Cranberries and Macadamias
It took me a long time to actually like Hershey’s milk chocolate. I was never fond of their Special Dark, but I ate it quite a bit when I was younger because it was often the only dark chocolate I could get my hands on easily. Sometimes a girl just needs dark chocolate. Call it medication.
I was curious when I saw this at Target a couple of weeks ago. I know that all the major chocolate companies are into this whole “chocolate as a health food thing” (which by the way, I’ve been saying for about twenty years) so it’s only natural that they start packaging stuff with that sort of market in mind.
If I were to create the ideal fruit and nut bar, I would definitely start with dark chocolate and cranberries are a good choice. I think I’d prefer cashews or pecans over macadamias (especially if we’re going healthy - pecans have a load of good stuff in them). Check out the site I link to up there, they talk about the benefit of antioxidants, which can be found in many fruits (especially dried ones), wine, tea and of course chocolate.
The bar itself was nice. A good woodsy flavor, the nuts were barely perceptible for me as a flavor but added good texture. The cranberries were a good tart, chewy snap. The chocolate was crisp, not bitter with a decent creamy melty quality and good flavor. Not the best chocolate I’ve ever had, but if this were as available as a regular Hershey bar, I’d probably pick it up as a less-sweet snack with 60% cocoa solids. The price is just right as well, a good value for less than $2.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Name: Lemon Lakritsi
One of the best things to come out of doing the candy blog is meeting other folks all over the world and having folks give me candy! Who knew that getting candy from strangers was as easy as spending hundreds of hours documenting your obsession on theinternets ! Last week I got a package from Anne all the way from Sweden. She included some spiced truffle Dala horses, which I promptly ate without photographing, but she also sent some other cool things. The first of which is this lemon licorice:
It’s a tube of soft molasses style licorice with a lemon fondant center. Mmmm.
It’s hard to describe how well the flavors go together. They’re both rather woodsy, aromatic flavors. The bite of the molasses (treacle) in the licorice and the intense sweetness and lingering coolness of the licorice goes well with the zesty, mellow essence of the lemon.
I didn’t understand the little face on the package until I opened it and cut the licorice piece in half ... that’s what it looks like. A glossy black licorice piece with the lighter reddish licorice inside and then the lemon cream. Like an emoticon!
I believe they use real licorice with this stuff, so be sure not to overindulge. This licorice comes from Finland (not Sweden, where Anne and her amazing all-food blog are) from a company called Fazer ... which many folks may know from their ubiquitous Fazermint.
Rating - 8 out of 10
UPDATE: 2/5/2007 - Fazer has announced that it will phase out the use of the caricatured face of a black person on their licorice wrappings.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Name: KitKat Orange & Cream
I think Hershey introduced these first for Halloween in miniatures. I shyed away from them then because I didn’t really want to buy 14 ounces of something I might detest. (Well, I suppose I could have given them to the kiddies.) I’m glad I restrained myself and waited for the full sized bar.
First, the bar looks weird. It’s a creepy orange, like a bad jell-o mold or maybe I’m associating it with hospitals (I can’t figure why). It smells like a cross between orange sherbet and aspergum. Very sweet and oddly artificially orange.
The taste isn’t bad. The white chocolate is infused with orange flavor which diffuses what is often a “too sweet” taste for white chocolate. The crisp of the cookie part is nice and balances well, good texture and crunch and it adds a bit of vanilla hit to the whole escapade. I’m pleased to see that Hershey is using real cocoa butter for their white chocolate instead of trans fats but it’s just not my style of a bar. I can see other folks liking it - it has a good texture and smoothness.
I have higher hopes for the mint bar (I hope to get to that next week) and if you’re really into orange and chocolate, go the extra mile to get a hold of the Candian/Euro Orange KitKat. You can see all the KitKats I’ve reviewed so far here.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Monday, November 28, 2005
Made by the same company that makes Malteasers, I thought this would something like bridge mix. And it is, except it’s all milk chocolate. Inside the package are an assortment of little chocolate coated spheres. The largest ones are Malteasers, which I rather like. There are also some little dense disks of pure milk chocolate and some chocolate covered raisins. After that it gets a little more curious. There are what I have to assume are caramels but they’re so hard, I didn’t dare try to eat them. The package also mentions two other surprise items: coffee and orange. I think I found the coffee one, which was a crumbly center with a light coffee taste to it. I don’t think I got an orange one.
The chocolate is milky but not creamy. Sweet but not chocolatey. The chocolate is good for the malt because it’s such a strong flavor itself, but for the rest of the mix, it’s rather cheap tasting. And the fact that you only get 35 grams (1.2 ounces) is pretty sad, too when you consider that M&Ms come in 1.7 ounce packages.
I will avoid this little packet as much as possible in the future.
Rating - 4 out of 10
Friday, November 25, 2005
Name: Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
If you’ve ever had a box of Nuts & Chews from See’s or gone into the store and selected the Dark Nougat, you’ve pretty much had this bar. It’s a dense, chewy honey nougat with almonds covered in dark chocolate. I was reading the November issue of Los Angeles magazine, where they explain this new candy bar. Apparently the staff at See’s had been making these candy bars for quite some time, for their own enjoyment. I guess the See’s higher-ups decided the rest of us might enjoy them. (They’ve been selling the Scotchmallows in milk chocolate for as long as I can remember and to good success as far as I can tell.) The story should be up on their website next month, I’ll link to it then, as it was a great article.
The Dark Nougat has always been one of my favorite See’s candies and I often picked them up when I was at the mall.
This is a beautiful looking bar. Long and with glossy dark ripples of chocolate enrobement. It smells wonderful, chocolatey with a touch of honey. It’s jam packed with almonds. Crunchy, smooth, chewy and sweet with a good pop of semi-sweet chocolate.
Fabulous. Mmm. I wish I’d bought more. You can buy them singly or in a box of eight of them for $7.50, which brings them into the price range of plain old Nestle, Mars or Hershey bars. I think these might end up in some Christmas stockings this year.
Rating - 10 out of 10
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