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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Karuna & Princas Sokoladas

This was another one of the Eastern European sweets that a friend of a friend brought back that I’m just getting around to posting about. What I thought was rather interesting about it is that it’s made by a company owned by Kraft. I suspect that the original company has been around for more than a hundred years in Latvia or Lithuania and was bought by the international food corporation more recently and that the production has not changed markedly. But I am kind of at a loss to figure this one out, as the labels haven’t a bit of English on them ... not even any other languages I’m familiar with such as German, Italian or Spanish.

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As far as I can tell, each 100 gram bar is milk chocolate. The Princas is dairy milk, the lighter of the two. It’s very smooth with a slight coconut taste to it. It’s exceptionally sweet with a good milky flavor. The chocolate is neither American style nor Swiss style. It’s less grainy than the American chocolates like Hershey or Mars but still as sweet. Overall it’s just good. Not great, but for mass-market chocolate it’s well packaged, fresh and tasty. It could use some more chocolate complexity but it’s certainly something that I’d pick up while traveling to keep in my purse for a little pick-me-up.

The Karuna was also very sweet, exceptionally smooth and had the same coconut flavor to it. It was a little stickier and with a slight hint of cinnamon-woodsiness to it. 

I’m not quite sure what the difference between the two is except that the Kuruna is darker. Of the two I prefer the Karuna but I’d probably be pretty happy with either one. I’d probably munch on it with some pretzels or some other savory or bland salty treat (or maybe some shortbread).

Name: Karuna & Princas Sokoladas
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Kraft
Place Purchased: gift
Price: unknown
Size: 100 grams (3.53 ounces)
Calories per ounce: 146
Categories: Chocolate, Lithuania

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:20 am     Comments (19)

Monday, January 9, 2006

Figamajigs

I heard about these last October. When you think about it, it’s a natural idea - combine figs and chocolate to create a candy. I’m all for wholesome candy, there’s no reason that healthy ingredients can’t be combined to create something tasty. And don’t worry, they’ve done it here.

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Chocolate Covered Fig Bar: Before you try these you might want to ask yourself if you like figs. The first ingredients in the two bars is figs, then sugar, then chocolate. The fig center isn’t at all like a Fig Newton, there are no identifiable seeds even. Instead it’s a moist, soft and chewy center with a good fresh, figgy taste. There’s also a hint of raspberry to it. If the seeds of a Fig Newton always bothered you, this might be a good way to get the fig taste without the fig texture.

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Chocolate Covered Fig Bar with Almonds: This one was actually my favorite. It’s the same fig bar as above with almonds mixed into the center. The combination of fig and almonds is a natural and the texture added by the nuts gives it a little crunch and nutty taste. Almonds also add their own nutritional benefits, a dash of protein and a little fiber in their own right. I don’t know how much attention you pay to calories, but as a chocolate candy this bar has the lowest calorie/ounce rating that I think I’ve profiled yet. That means you feel like you’re eating a lot (that’s what fiber does for you), so there’s the munching satisfaction, but not actually whole lot of calories. The bars feel substantial, but they are smaller than your typical 1.75 ounce candy bar that we’re accustomed to with Hershey’s, Nestle & Mars.

Figamajigs are billed as healthy candy as they provide both high fiber (4 grams per bar), small amounts of calcium and iron in addition to the antioxidants inherent to both figs and chocolate. The Figamajig website provides more info about these health benefits and the full story of Mel Lefer, the creator of Figamajigs, who invented the bars in a search for a healthy snack that would satisfy.

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Candy Pieces: These are really pretty candies. I saw them on the website and I thought, there’s no way they’re that cute. But they are. They’re large dollops of fig centers from the bar, covered in chocolate and then covered in a candy shell. The shell is crunchy and sweet and the center has a good balance of chocolate and figs (more chocolate in this ratio, it seems). They’re actually quite a bit sweeter than the fig bars, and I don’t know if I could eat a lot of them in one sitting for that reason. But, if I were making a trail mix for snacking in the car, out whalewatching or on a hike, this is the perfect format. In fact, if I were going to make a trail mix, it would be a combination of mini pretzels, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered nuts (I prefer cashews, but I know almonds are better for me) and some plain almonds. It gives you a good mix of sweet, salt and of course the creaminess of the chocolates. It also has a good balance of sugars to proteins so you don’t get a sugar high and crash ... the proteins moderate the processed carbs and give you lasting and satisfying energy. I can’t wait for them to be sold in bulk at Whole Foods or maybe in tubs at Trader Joe’s. If I have one complaint it’s really that the little colored candies have no name. Really, what am I supposed to call them?

When the time comes for me to choose between a Luna Bar and a Figamajig, I’m totally going for the Figamajig. (Sorry, I’m not going to pick a Figamajig over a KitKat though.)

Name: Figamajigs
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Figamajigs
Place Purchased: samples from manufacturer (available online)
Price: $1.49
Size: 1.41 ounces
Calories per ounce: 92-106
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Nuts

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:30 am    

Friday, January 6, 2006

Take 5 Peanut Butter

This candy bar irritated me from the moment I picked it up. First was the rich mustard color of the wrapper. A compelling “look at me!” color, but not one that makes me think of peanuts in a fond way. (In fact, it makes me think of a peanut butter and mustard sandwich, which probably has some fans out there, but I can’t count myself as one of them.) The second thing that rubbed me that wrong way when I read the package was the description, “pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter & peanut butter candy.” What the heck is “peanut butter candy” and how is that different than the whole thing being considered a “peanut butter candy?”

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What I thought the peanut butter candy part meant was something like the inside of a Butterfinger bar (or a 5th Avenue if we’re sticking to Hershey’s products). And that actually sounds kind of interesting, have a layer of peanut crisp in there somewhere. What I didn’t realize is that this bar has no chocolate (poor reading comprehension on my part) ... and that’s what the peanut butter candy replaces. It’s basically a peanut butter-white chocolate. Like the insides of Reese’s Pieces! Of course this means partially hydrogenated oils. Bah! I don’t want partially hydrogenated oils in my candy!

Anyway, you get two bars in each package (which has a nice cardboard tray to keep them from getting crushed). The outside is a little odd looking as you can see the grains of peanut butter, but I got over that. It smells peanutty and is smooth, crunchy and has a nice hit of salt in it. I got no sense of the caramel at all. There was no chewiness to this bar at all, in the caramel sense. I suspect that the fats from the various peanut incarnations invaded the caramel and de-chewified it. If you’re a big peanut fan and are not satisfied with the bazillion other Reese’s branded bars, you can pick this up and argue with me about the glory that is a Peanut Butter Take 5.

Instead of mucking around with adding more peanuts to the Take 5 line, they need to start making my version with extra dark chocolate and pecans!

Interesting things: Take 5 bars are called Max 5 in Canada. The peanut butter version of the bar contains 2 more grams of saturated fat over the regular chocolate one, but twice the fiber. This is not a limited edition bar. Other Take 5 versions: Take 5 Chocolate (9/10) & White Chocolate Take 5 (6/10).

Name: Peanut Butter Take 5
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey's
Place Purchased: Sav-On
Price: $.33 (on sale)
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 147
Categories: Peanuts, Caramels, United States, Hersheys, Cookie

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:38 pm     Comments (6)

Paskesz Klik

There are two things that are great about tasting international candies (well, more than two, but two that I’m going to point out here). The first one is finding new and exciting candy with combinations or ingredients I’ve never had before. The second one is finding the same thing that we have available here in the States. And you wonder why I find the latter a great thing? It’s because it’s a confirmation of the universality of candy. Whether it’s the same megaglobalcorp making it elsewhere or a spontaneous expression of convergent evolution, it’s all a reminder to me that candy is the Great Uniter. 

imageI’m still plowing through the huge box of goodies from Israel, so expect weekly groupings of goodies for at least through February.

These fun little popables are kind of like those Pirouline cookie sticks. They’re a little wafer cookie tube covered with chocolate. There are little holes in either end (most of the time) that makes them look like chocolate macaroni that you could string up and wear (and eat!). This is one of those rare instances where the candy shown on the package looked exactly like what was inside. They were glossy milk chocolate that smelled like sweet, milky chocolate. They’re also very light since they’re crunchy, hollow cookies. That amount of air in there is actually, I think, a good thing as it makes you feel like you’re eating more and also allows the flavors and aroma to mix. The chocolate is very sweet but really smooth and a little sticky with a hint of the European style of milk chocolate. The crispy cookie center is airy and with a hint ofcaramelized sugar to give it a little contrast to the vanilla sweetness of the chocolate.

It’s easy to just keep eating these. It’s such a simple idea, it makes me wonder why we don’t have something like this in the States. There’s a huge variety in theKlik line, including chocolate corn flakes, which reminds me of the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes.

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This sounds like an unlikely bar: Extrafine Milk Chocolate with Cookies and Crunchy Wheat Germ. Let’s face it, most of us grow up thinking things like wheat germ are yucky. But think of it like Grape Nuts. In fact, why isn’t there a chocolate bar with Grape Nuts? These cookie and wheat germ aren’t as big as Grape Nuts but they’re very tasty and add more than texture to the bar. The wheat germ has a wonderful malty quality that gives the bar a nutty punch and moderates some of the sweetness. The chocolate here is also the same very sweet but exceptionally smooth milk chocolate.

It’s also a really pretty bar. When I opened it up I was pleased to see that it’s molded in the shape of a bunch of bubbles. It makes it easy to break off pieces, but they’re not little squares, instead they’re nice little domes which means more room for crunch.

Even though I don’t read/speak Hebrew, I was easily able to pick out the Klik items from the box from Michal. I credit this to the vibrant design and packaging. I know I’m not going to run across these again, but I know I’ll recognize them if it does happen.

Note: Israeli Kliks are nothing like the American Kliks which are a candy dispenser similar to Pez but they dispense Smarties ... the American Smarties, not the UK ones ... sigh, it’s tough being global.

Name: Klik & Klik XL with Cookies & Wheat Germ
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Paskesz
Place Purchased: candy exchange with Michal (thanks!)
Price: unknown
Size: 2.64 ounces and 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 141 & 144
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Cookie, Paskesz, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:27 am     Comments (6)

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Bawls “Mints”

I saw these mentioned on the Junk Food Blog a while back and then noticed them at the 7-11 and thought, what the hey, I’ll give them a try! I’m generally not into eating things with extra caffeine, especially not sweets as I have sleep problems, but I figured I could sample them before noon.

imageI don’t know how I could be more annoyed with these.

I love the tins, I think the color and design is great. The text on the tin is a little odd “Finally some mints with BAWLS. Spiked with the same high-caffeine guarana that fuels our BAWLS soft drink, these fizzy sweet mints are the first candies that help you stay up all night. Feel the power of BAWLS mints. Because regular candy is for babies.” First, this is far from the first caffeinated candy. Penguin Mints jump to mind. And if that’s too recent, how about any number of coffee candies. Including those Italian ones with real espresso in them that truckers use called Pocket Coffee. Oh, and the old standby, chocolate covered espresso beans.

Okay, so let’s just step away from the assertion that they’re the first “stay-awake candies”. How about the fact that they keep calling them mints. Now, I understand how sometimes names get co-opted. Like white chocolate isn’t really chocolate, but because it shares some of chocolate’s qualities and ingredients, we call it that. I don’t think that just because your candy is pellet shaped that it can be called a mint. These are not mint flavored. They’re some sort of punch flavored. And that’s fine, but when I’m expecting mint and I get razzleberry, I’m annoyed. 

So, let’s take this candy as if no one showed me the package or told me what it is:

It’s a strangely speckled aqua-blue tablet, about the size of a baby aspirin and the color of a toilet bowl freshener. They don’t smell like much, but once on the tongue there’s a very pleasant tingly sensation, especially if you keep it on the tip of the tongue where the sour zap enhances it. Crunching it or splitting it makes it foam a little more. The flavor is rather bland, something sour and perhaps berry. There’s no indication of what flavor it is (I’ve never had BAWLS soda) but a little search on the web calls it a cross between lemon/lime and cream soda. It’s kind of fun, but gives me the burps. (One of the reasons I avoid sodas.)

I don’t know how caffeinated these little buggers are, but to be safe I only ate about five a day during the time that I was evaluating these. As a candy they’re rather disappointing. I want more flavor out of them, like Pop Rocks. But then again, I’d rather have the fizzy and no caffeine. Way too expensive for candy, but as a caffeine supplement to keep on hand when I have a coffee withdrawal headache, they probably rival that pack of Black Black that I keep at the office. But maybe if they were gonna call them mints they might have wanted to make them, well, mint flavored.

Further reading: Wikipedia on Guarana, Guarana.com on Guarana,  for sale at ThinkGeek, review of BAWLS mints by Eugene at pbworkzpc.com (he gives it a 4/5) and death by caffeine - how many BAWLS mints will it take to kill you?

For those of you wondering, Wikipedia pegs the caffeine content at 5 mg per tablet.

Name: Bawls Mints
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Bawls
Place Purchased: 7-11 (Hollywood)
Price: $1.99
Size: .68 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: Mints, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (9)

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Salted Licorices: Djungelvral and Dubbel Zout

I got two wonderful gifts of salted licorice recently. One from Anne of Anne’s Food and the second for Christmas from our friend Christian.

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These little monkey shaped licorice pieces are coated in salt. I was a little bit of a scaredy cat (but overall adventurous lately, so don’t be too hard on me) so I dusted off as much salt as possible. The first thing I noticed upon putting it on my tongue was that the salt was not as “salty” as I was used to. It was like a watered down salt. Very salty by volume, but just slightly less salty by intensity for the amount. And more metallic tasting. I looked at the package and it doesn’t say sodium chloride, it says ammonium chloride. It’s amazing that the pallette can detect the difference between the two mineral salts, but there you have it.

After the salt part melts away the inside is a firm, chewy piece of licorice that is by contrast very creamy tasting. It’s an odd combination, the sweetness of the licorice is also not a sugar sweet like we’re often used to, but the root sweetness of licorice itself (a lot of licorice we eat like in black vines is not actually real licorice root).

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These other buttons are actually “double salt” and are from Holland. They’re the size of pennies, only thicker. What’s devilish about them is that they don’t look salty. They don’t look any different from a regular licorice button except for the firm warning letters emblazoned on them…. DZ. They’re firm and rather solid feeling. But put it on your tongue? Shazaam! It’s a powerful jolt. I’m serious, I’ve given it to a few people now and all of them have an immediate and clearly visible reaction.

I was curious what kind of salt this one had as it came in an otherwise unmarked package. Here are the ingredients that I found on one of the internets:

Ingredients: sugar, modified starch, gelling agent (protein), glucose syrup, ammonium chloride, liquorice extract, wheat flour, color (carbon medicinalis vegetalis), flavoring (aniseed oil), glazing agents (vegetable oil, beeswax).

I have to admit that I’ve only eaten three of these. The first one was on Christmas Eve when I got them, and I’d been eating cheese and crackers (and maybe had a glass of wine) and it didn’t seem too overpowering. The licorice taste was readily apparent. I popped another one when photographing a couple of days ago and found it really strong and if I dissolved the salt on the back of my tongue it didn’t seem so bad. Yesterday I made the mistake of chewing it up before the salt dissolved and I was shocked (repulsed) to find that the whole mess suddenly tasted like basement: the basement of a home that has a lot of cats and rarely cleans out the catbox. There was a definite rooty, earthy flavor there and an overwhelming cast of ammonia (this was before I’d researched ammonium salts). I actually went to the bathroom, spit out the rest of the candy and rinsed out my mouth. I’m game for most things, but when it tastes like known poisons, I’m not gonna take that bullet for a blog.

As someone who didn’t grow up on this stuff, I may have missed the boat on appreciating it. I probably shouldn’t have started with double-salted, maybe half-salted. I’m actually rather fond of mixes of savory and sweet, and of course I love licorice so this should be right up my alley. I’ll keep trying. Well, I’ll keep trying with the monkeys, I can’t bring myself to try the Dubbel Zouts again.

Here’s more from Wikipedia on Salmiakki (salted licorice) and Ammonium Chloride. It says that ammonium chloride is a good expectorant and I’m gonna have to agree with that after all the coughing when I was done. Here’s what Bad Candy had to say about Dubbel Zouts.

Name: Djungelvral & Dubbel Zout
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Malaco & Klene
Place Purchased: gift
Price: unknown
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Licorice, Sweden, Netherlands

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:09 pm     Comments (45)

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

100 Grand with Peanuts

It looks like Nestle is finally going to go whole hog into the Limited Edition stuff like Hershey’s and Mars have been doing. I saw a few mentions on Junk Food Blog about new Nestle Limited Edition candies. I immediately ran out to my local 7-11 that seems to carry these things and was lucky enough to find it on my first try.

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The 100 Grand with Peanuts is exactly what you’d think. A 100 Grand bar, which is caramel covered in milk chocolate and crisped rice. In this case the peanuts are mixed in with the caramel, not with the milk chocolate.

First of all, during the five year period of time when I faithfully adhered to the Nestle boycott, the one bar that I missed was the $100,000 Bar (as it was called at the time). There is no other bar like it; caramel, chocolate and crisps seems like an obvious combination, but Nestle seems to have “unique” as a selling point. (Yes, Steve Almond goes on about some bar called a Caravelle in Candy Freak which was similar but better, but I don’t think I ever had one.)

This new version is interesting. Even though there aren’t a lot of peanuts, because they’re whole and mixed in with the caramel, it really bursts with caramel flavor, but not a lot of actual caramel chew. The salty-ness of the caramel goes nicely with the peanuts but I’m not getting enough sticky caramel to give me the nice contrast with the crispy rice. But, I’m comparing it to the regular 100 Grand. I think a better thing to compare it to is the Snickers Cruncher bar, which it seems I liked much better. Snickers just knows the peanut/chocolate combo much better.

I’ll keep picking up the regular 100 Grand in the future. Unless they bring back the Caravelle, then you can expect a new review.

Name: 100 Grand with Peanuts
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: 7-11 (Hollywood)
Price: $.85
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 133
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Nestle, Caramel, Peanuts, Limited Edition

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:01 am     Comments (8)

Monday, January 2, 2006

Lake Champlain Select Origins

I’ve reviewed a few single orgin chocolates before (and I really liked the Chocovic). I find the idea of it being like fine wine and elusive and all that intriguing, but it’s also kind of frustrating because you might find something really fantastic that can never be replicated. That’s why chocolate blends like we’re used to are so widely used. A Hershey bar always tastes like a Hershey bar. Godiva always tastes like Godiva.

Lake Champlain is also the maker of the highly esteemed and highly expensive Five Star Bars. And of course my friends Will & Susan are well aware of my affection for good chocolates and gave this to me for Christmas.

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The packaging is very pretty, four different single origin/cocoa percentages in pretty little wrappers and six of each little square. They’re in a clear plastic box that lets you see the delectable stacks of squares. Not only did I review these in alphabetical order, but it also happens to be the order of increasing cocoa solids.

African Blend (54% cocoa solids) - This one was by far the sweetest, it has a good mild woodsy aroma with a slight smoky note. It’s not at all complex, but very pleasant.

Grenada (60% cocoa solids) - This one has a remarkable lavender hint to it, with a lot of other balsalm notes and definite herbal qualities. The finish is rather bitter and dry but it’s also pretty sweet and buttery and smooth.

Sao Thome (70% cocoa solids) - This one has more immediate bitter notes and though very smooth it was also rather dry. The buttery melt has a slightly tart bite towards the end, complex blend of woodsy notes and vanilla. By far my favorite, the most chocolatey in my feeling.

Tanzania (75% cocoa solids) - This one was exceptionally smooth and buttery, which surprised me given its high cocoa solids. It was also bitter and had a very dry finish. There was a bit of a sour bite on the front of the mouth and a slight cherry note to the whole flavor (a blend of both the sour cherry and the more robust wild cherry flavor).

I tasted all of these without looking at the website and was pleased to see that I was tasting the same things that they’re selling these squares on. These types of tasting squares are a great way to get a good cross section of all the flavors that chocolate can hold within it.

Name: Small World Chocolates: Select Origin
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Lake Champlain
Place Purchased: gift (but available from Whole Foods & online)
Price: unknown
Size: 6.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 141
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Lake Champlain, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:26 am     Comments (4)

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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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