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
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Name: Roseberry, Lavender and Xocolatl
I know it seems strange that I got this on the same trip as the dismal SunDrops, but it’s true. I tried the Dagoba Chai bar last spring and really enjoyed it. That was a milk chocolate bar and I was very interested in the more botanical and spice flavored bars, but alas, Whole Foods does not seem to carry them. So, the trip to Wild Oats was most fortunate in the end. All the bars contain 59% cocoa mass chocolate. It’s extra smooth and very buttery. The chocolate itself isn’t too sweet and is a nice backdrop for the flavor additions.
Roseberry - Dark Chocolate, Raspberries & Rosehips. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. This was not one of the bars I was most interested in, but the concept of rosehips was rather intriguing. I used to try to eat rose hips when I was a kid because I’d heard they were good for you. Though they didn’t really taste very good. This bar has a wonderful fruity and flowery aroma. The raspberries provide a dash of zesty flavor. However, I found the raspberry seeds incredibly annoying. They’re big and when chewing or dissolving such a smooth bar, a big seed was a rather unpleasant finding.
Lavender - Dark Chocolate, Lavender & Blueberries. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. I’ve heard of a few lavender infused chocolates and even tried the New Tree Tranquility bar (which was milk chocolate) and still believed that there would be a better lavender chocolate bar out there. Well, this might be it. I was a little leary of the blueberries in the mix as I thought maybe they’d give the chocolate too much of a fruit punch flavor. Of the three I tried, this was by far my favorite. Where the Roseberry has gritty things in it, this bar is smooth through and through, with little chewy bits of blueberries. The lavender gives the bar a soft essence, a lingering top note that doesn’t overpower the smokey and woodsy flavors of the chocolate itself. Not sticky sweet or cloying, it’s just an incredibly pleasant bar with a good, slightly dry finish.
Xocalatl - dark chocolate, chilies & nibs. 74% cocoa mass chocolate. The darkest of the three bars, this one was much more chocolatey. Not quite as buttery, it still melted quickly and had a very nice flowery note at first, like orange blossoms. That quickly gives way to a peppery heat that sizzles on the tongue as the buttery chocolate melts away and brings out some very woodsy, earthy tones. The finish is slightly dry with some lingering plum notes and of course the warm burn in the throat. The most interesting part of this bar is that it contains no cinnamon. Most of the other “spicy” chocolate bars I’ve tried have cinnamon (and sometimes cloves) in them. What’s cool about this one is that it’s all New World spices (okay, maybe that’s not true ... seems there’s some nutmeg in there).
I am completely in love with Dagoba now and I want to try everything of theirs. However, at $2.79 for a 2 ounce bar, it’s freaking pricey stuff and I don’t plan on buying much of it anytime soon. I’m curious about their single origin line and there are still about 20 bars that I haven’t tried yet. Maybe I’ll splurge via mailorder on one of their tasting kits except for the fact that it’s more expensive on their website than in stores. Sigh. I need a corporate sponsor.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Name: Ghirardelli Squares - Milk Chocolate with Carmelized Almonds
I couldn’t resist picking up this bag of sweet treats. I was originally plowing through the clearance table at the drug store because they had Hershey’s cookies for 50 cents a package (and it was one of the few times I’d seen the York ones) and I was hoping for some Halloween finds but then I thought, $2 bucks for Ghirardelli? I’ll take it!
I suspect that this flavor is being discontinued because it has no page of its own on the site (well, there’s a link, but the page has a 404 error on it). Anyway, these are cute little 1.75” squares of milk chocolate with little crunchy almond bits in it.
The milk chocolate is smooth and creamy, not too milky tasting but a bit sticky. The almonds are nicely roasted and have a good carmelized bite to them. Mellow and a little bit zippy, there are really nice little sweets to have around.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, November 21, 2005
Here’s a perfectly good idea gone awry. There’s no reason there can’t be good, tasty, “natural” chocolate candies (I think that’s been proven more recently with things like Equal Exchange, Green & Black, Newman’s Own, etc.). This is an example of a weak candy line. Here’s why: First, the colors are dull and unappealing. They’re not colors that I want to eat (except for the yellow, they look like old-lady lipstick colors). They’re not strong or clean, they’re muddy looking and uneven. A grainy looking outside does not bode well for the inside.
The ingredients are basically sugar (natural with unsulfured molasses, blah, blah) then milk powder, then the chocolate ... that’s a long way down the list. And it shows in the final product. The addition of molasses is a little odd. It gives the whole thing a rather toasty burnt flavor, which I enjoy with my oatmeal but not in my chocolate. In fact, I can taste everything in these drops except for the chocolate. The powdered milk, overly sweet sugar and slightly grainy chocolate just combine for a depressing treat. The crunchy shell is too tough and again adds sweet without flavor and further distances me from any chocolately goodness. If it’s possible, the peanut ones tasted more like burnt sugar and milk powder.
With the same number of calories and fat as M&Ms, why am I eating these? I gave them to Amy to try and after much cajoling (because the package, colors and list of ingredients scared her off - and she was the one that wanted to go to Wild Oats on Saturday!) she did put one in her mouth. She chewed a couple of times and then spit it out in my trash can.
If you are a parent trying to find a wholesome treat for the kids, this isn’t it. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments, now that’s spoiling them. Just let them have some M&Ms in moderation (the Almond ones are actually not bad for you since the bulk of the candy is actually a very healthy nut). Or just let them have plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dark chocolate really isn’t that bad as a food. Raisinettes? Really, anything but this. Don’t tease the poor kids by telling them this is candy.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Friday, November 11, 2005
Name: Coconut Slice
I’ve seen this a few times while in the 99 Cent Only store. My neighbor, Robin, won $99 worth of gift certificates to the store, so on our recent shopping trip I was a lot more adventurous with my choices (cuz it was really free).
This candy is basically a coconut slab, kind of like a fruit rollup ... call it coconut leather. The different colored strips might actually be flavored. I detected a little bit of raspberry in the red stripe, but really couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow one and the white one.
The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. If you like coconut and don’t want to bother with all that other stuff like nuts and chocolate, this is the stuff for you. Two grams of fiber in each bar but it does contain about 5 grams of saturated fat (that’s the coconut oil).
Tom’s isn’t really known for their candies, more for their nuts and snacks. They seem like rather a niche company (based in Georgia) and I don’t often see their products here on the West Coast except for the nuts, and those are usually at convenience stores on the highway.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Name: Bassett’s Jelly Babies
I reviewed a knock-off version of Jelly Babies a few months ago, because that’s all I was able to find here in the States and I was lead to believe that Bassett’s are illegal for import because they contain non-FDA approved food dyes. Of course when I saw them at Sainsbury’s a few weeks ago, no carcinogens were gonna keep me from trying the real thing!
What these Jelly Babies offer that the others don’t is personality. Each of the little babies has a name and a different persona. The pink (according to the package) is Baby Bonny who is sitting with a diaper on. Black is Bigheart, who has a little heart shape on his chest. The orange is called Bumper and has some sort of innertube or fanny pack around his middle to keep him from hurting himself. I think I’d like to see a helmet too. Brilliant is the raspberry one with a big B on his middle. Bubbles is yellow and has a little bead necklace on. Boofuls is the light green lime one who is crying.
While the Bassett’s is not as grainy as the Norfolk Manner I tried before and the Bassett’s do have a bit more flavor, I still find them a little perfumey, a little bland. The best one to me, suprisingly enough, was the raspberry one (I’m not overly fond of fake raspberry candy). I don’t think I could eat very many of them in a sitting, which is what makes sweets “candy” in my book. It has to be positively difficult for me to NOT keep shoveling them into my mouth if they’re sitting around. For pure addictive jelly-type candy I will always prefer Swedish Fish, Gummi Bears, spearmint leaves/orange slices, gumdrops or plain old Jelly Beans.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
These little 45 gram bars are a wonderful example of how a niche product can break out big in the wide candy world. Made in the UK from fair trade cocoa beans, these bars come not only in the familiar milk and dark varieties, but also an orange flavored bar and they’ve also introduced a smaller bar for kids called Dubble.
The dark chocolate bar is smoky and rich and has a good, complex flavor to it. Very woodsy with a slight dry finish. The chocolate is smooth but a little waxy at first as it warms up on the tongue, but there’s no hint of grain at all. At 70% cocoa solids, this is a very chocolatey bar but doesn’t have that crumbly feel that some have. The snap was good and personally, I prefer a chunky bar to a flat one.
The milk chocolate bar is very European, with a strong dried milk component to it. It’s very sweet but has a good chocolate taste and is smooth and rich on the tongue. AT 27% cocoa solids, this is a very milky bar (using both dried milk and dried cream).
Again, you’re probably asking, why pay a bit more for the same quality? Well, in this case more money is going directly to the farmers who produce the cocoa beans. Farmers (by this I mean the folks who actually tend the plants, harvest the beans and prepare them for shipping) not only get a decent wage, they are guaranteed income through long-term contracts and the company supports education for children in the area. Economic stability provides political stability which in turn helps to turn the African economy to a more sustainable one not based on government aid where communities build themselves through their agriculture and small industry.
One note about how Divine and Equal Exchange differ - Divine is NOT organic. If you’re looking for a bottom-to-top socially responsible chocolate, go with Equal Exchange because its cocoa farming is organic and is working with cooperatives in multiple locations as well as using organic, unprocessed sugar. If you’re looking for a move in the right direction (or don’t have access to EE), then go Divine and support the widest possible marketing efforts (hey, buy some from both and help farmers in Peru, Dominican Republic and Ghana!).
Rating - 7 out of 10
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Name: Ritter Sport Bars
I did a review of the teensy variety pack of Ritter Sport a few weeks ago, and it just so happens that Robin’s been helping me get more international sweets by having her writers traveling abroad pick up some candy for me to review. I have another half a dozen bars from this care package, so you can look forward to some other sweets picked up in Eastern Europe.
When I was taking the photos the first time around (above is my second stab at documenting these), the Rum Trauben Nuts (Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts) smelled so incredibly good I all but two squares before realizing I had to take another picture.
Unlike other “rum flavored” chocolates, this is really rummy. If my German skills are good enough, I can tell you that this candy bar contains 2% Jamaika-Rum. The milk chocolate isn’t too sweet and the raisins are plump and tart. Combined with the ample crunch of the hazelnuts, I’m in love with this bar. I’m afraid that it’s not imported to the states, as I’ve never seen it before or maybe it is but I doubt it actually has that much rum in it when exported.
The Cappuccino is rather similar to the Jogurt bar. The filling is creamy and has a slight tinge of mocha to it, but also has a slight sour bite to it. Maybe think of it as a cappuccino cheesecake flavor. It’s pleasant, but doesn’t make me yearn for it like the Rum Trauben Nuss.
I like the Ritter Bars, they remind me a lot of Hershey’s. Every one of them has been dependably sweet and smooth, but not as complex as I’d want from a more high-end bar. But then again, this is candy and that’s what I want. Here’s their motto from their website, “Ritter Sport. Square. Handy. Good.”
Rating - Rum Trauben Nuss - 9 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.