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Caramel

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Great Pumpkin Roundup

There were people who wanted me to do this. There were readers commenting that I should be covering Halloween goodies. So here goes. I went to the drug stores over the weekend and found all the pumpkins, most of them marshmallowy.

imageI did a roundup earlier this year of Easter eggs from Russell Stover and I was pleasantly suprised by the taste and quality of them, so it wasn’t hard to purchase these (though they were only on sale for 50 cents each).

This one really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my favorite candies ever, the See’s Scotchmallow (always best in the dark chocolate single pieces, not the milk chocolate “bar” thing). The pumpkin shape out of the package is actually pretty good. It has some shape and definition, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

It smelled sweet and not a bit like chocolate. The caramel is soft and flowing and the marshmallow firm and bouncy but very moist. The combination of all the textures is nice, but the caramel doesn’t quite have that toasted sugar taste and it’s not quite salty enough to balance out all the other sweetness.

imageI have to say, after staring at the packaging for Russell Stover for the past couple of days, I’ve decided I don’t really like it. It has a sort of faux Peanuts feel to it that I find a little sad. Maybe it’s that the colors are too much like Easter and I feel like Charlie Brown and this might be the equivalent of getting a rock in my Trick or Treat bag.

This was certainly the best looking pumpkin of the whole bunch. It was thick and had a well-defined and easily recognizable shape. The bite was nice, with the soft and fluffy marshmallow center, but it lacked a vanilla punch. It just lacked flavor. The chocolate couldn’t carry it, because it didn’t have much flavor of its own, though it’s not like it was bad, just sweet and without any sort of dairy component to even give it a little kick.

imageI love the purple package. I really do, but it kind of confused me. Hershey’s is positioning purple as their color for dark chocolate (they use it on the Dark Kisses and those dark jewel tones on the Special Dark packaging). But no, this is milk chocolate.

I figured if I was disappointed with the lack of flavor in the Russell Stover marshmallows, Hershey’s would pick up the slack. After all, Hershey’s is known for their distinctive milk chocolate. This one was packaged nicely, a much bigger package than the Russell Stover even though it was slightly lighter. The marshmallow is nice and lofty and has a more firm latexy quality to it. Dryer and with a distinctive fake vanilla flavor, the marshmallow certainly had some personality. The chocolate on here was not really up to the challenge though. Too grainy, too sweet and just not creamy enough for me. I kinda scraped it off with my teeth so I could have more uninterrupted marshmallow. (This pumpkin was made in Canada.)

imageEveryone’s well aware of my love of Reese’s but this has to be the ugly duckling of the pumpkin bunch. It barely even looks like a pumpkin, it was difficult to extract from the wrapper and has a plain old greasy appearance and feel.

Now, all that aside, it’s a Reese’s Egg ... and I love Reese’s Eggs. They’re different from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the ratios are different and though they tried to recapture this difference with the Reese’s Limited Edition Bars earlier this year, I think these unattractive lumps offer something compelling enough to warrant making them seasonally. The center is firm and a little crumbly, a mix of salty, grainy and sweet with a thin and sticky milk chocolate coating that adds a little more sweetness to the mix.

imageI’ve saved the best for last. Last spring I tried my first Snickers novelty item, it was a Snickers Easter Egg. I actually liked it quite a bit and found it different enough from a regular Snickers bar to put it in the same class as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (ratios and all that). For some reason the Snickers Pumpkin might have a slight edge on the Egg. It might have been because I couldn’t easily re-wrap the pumpkin in its foil wrapper, I had to eat it right away. Well, it might not technically have been eaten ... it might have been gobbled.

imageThere aren’t as many whole peanuts in the pumpkin, but there’s a definite nuttiness to it. The nougat seems moister and flavorful and the soft caramel is smooth and has a little toasted salty hit to it that helps out the whole thing. The chocolate is merely adequate, but smooth enough to support the whole (and of course give it the lovely pumpkin shell).

If you’d like more opinions on the other pumpkin shaped goodies, coincidence has it again that Rebecca has posted on the Hershey’s orange pumpkins and Joanna has both orange flavored ones that I couldn’t bring myself to purchase.

All of the pumpkins I listed were 50 cents each on sale. If you’re looking for stuff to throw into the Trick or Treat bags, stick with the tried and true candies, they’re less expensive (when on sale most fun sized bars can be 10 cents each). If you’re looking for a little treat for yourself, it’s not a bad gamble. Overall I’m giving them all a 4 out of 10. They’re benign ... they’re not the epitome of their genre, but they’re not embarrassments either.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:31 am     CandyReviewHalloweenHershey'sMarsRussell StoverCaramelChocolateMarshmallowNougatNutsPeanuts4-BenignCanadaUnited StatesComments (13)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Head to Head: Milky Way & Mars (Canada & UK)

I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do this array of bars, but here it is.  Readers write in and ask what sorts of American candy they should take with them as hostess gifts or ship to friends overseas as quintessential American bars. The Milky Way is right up there, as one of the earliest bars that Mars developed (1923).

It’s a bar that I should love, after all, it’s supposed to be a malted milkshake in a bar.

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There are several iterations of this bar both here and abroad. I got a hold of the American versions of both the milk chocolate and dark versions and the UK Mars (milk chocolate) and Canadian Mars Dark (dark chocolate).

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The bar is called Milky Way in the United States but everywhere else on the planet it’s known as the Mars. (There was once an American Mars bar, but that’s since been renamed Snickers Almond ... there is a bar called Milky Way in the rest of the world too, but that’s like the American 3 Musketeers bar.)

I haven’t had a Milky Way bar in about 10 years. I’ve always thought they were too sweet, but after breaking one open the smell of malt was really compelling, making me doubt the wisdon of my embargo. The nougat here is the highlight, a medium color of fluffy, slightly grainy nougat covered with a stripe of caramel and covered in milk chocolate.

The flavors go nicely together and the caramel has a slight salty note to it that balances out the very sweet and only passably smooth chocolate. The malt is earthy and brings flavor to the bar.

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The UK bar known as Mars has a similar cocoa colored and grainy, fluffed nougat covered with a stripe of glossy caramel and then milk chocolate. The caramel here was noticeably smoother, but the maltiness was much more subdued and replaced with a milky flavor.

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The American bar is on the left and the British on the right. There was a difference in size, the British slightly larger at 62.5 grams over America’s 58.1 grams. The UK bar as slightly longer and a little taller.

Recently the standard bars started to appear in darker coats. Back in 1936, based on the success of the Milky Way bar, Mars introduced the Forever Yours bar. It remained in the Mars product line until 1979 when it was discontinued. Customers complained and the Milky Way Dark bar was introduced in 1989 and then the name changed to Milky Way Midnight in 2000.

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Milky Way Midnight - beautiful dark bar with little folds of chocolate on the top. The dark chocolate has a little reddish tone to it. Inside is a fluffy white (with a yellow tone) nougat and a stripe of caramel. Smells slightly smoky and very sweet. The caramel dominates in this bar and its sweet stickiness isn’t completely offset by the smooth but otherwise flavorless dark chocolate.

image

Mars Dark - a stunning dark bar with glossy dark brown chocolate. Inside is a fluffy white nougat (with a slight yellow tone) and a stripe of caramel. The nougat on this one seemed slightly grainier but still sweet and only slightly less overwhelmed by the caramel. The chocolate, though pretty still doesn’t add much of a flavor counterbalance for the whole bar just a smooth texture.

The wrapper on the Mars Dark bar is a bit of a blunder, if you ask me, as it seems to indicate milk chocolate by its lighter, creamy color over the black package of the Mars bar.

image

So, you’re wondering what the difference is? The American one is on the left and the Canadian on the right. The Canadian bar is larger, by .1 grams. The ingredients list is virtually identical as well. The only difference on the labeling is that the Canadian one lists the true trans fat content at .1 grams (American food does not have to be labeled if it’s less than .5 grams).

The important thing to note is that the milk chocolate and dark chocolate versions differ in more than their coats. The nougat is markedly different. The dark bars are missing the malt component, and instead have the vanilla nougat (that’s found in the American Snickers Almond bar). The difference between the American and foreign bars isn’t that marked and I think that fans should be happy with either when they’re traveling. I give all bars a 6 out of 10.

Overall, I wish that the Milky Way Midnight or Mars Dark really was just a dark chocolate version of the Milky Way/Mars bar - I think the combo of dark chocolate and malted goodness would be great. But Mars must not believe that (I’m not sure if the Forever Yours had the malted nougat or not ... honestly I think it’s wrong to muck with too many ingredient variations and try to stick the same name on it). I might pick one of these out of a bowl of miniatures, but I’ll stick to the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar as my favorite nougat candy bar for now.

Related Candies

  1. Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar
  2. Head to Head: M&Ms vs Koppers Milkies
  3. 3 Musketeers Mini Mix
  4. Snickers Dark
  5. What does that Mars code mean?
  6. Head-to-Head KitKat vs KitKat!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:23 am     CandyReviewMarsCaramelChocolateMaltNougat6-TemptingCanadaUnited KingdomUnited StatesHead to HeadComments (27)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pigall & Brejk

A friend recently came back from Sweden, and you know that means I got some fun new European candy bars. The first one has the best name ever for a candy bar ... Pigall.

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Frankly, a bar named Pigall is kind of scary. This bar actually had part of the label in English, so let me fill you in on the ingredients: sugar, hydrogenated vegatable oil, cocoa butter, rice crisps, dried partly skim milk, cocoa mass, milk, sugar, milk fat, buttermilk, hazelnuts, fat-reduced cocoa, emulsifier, salt, flavorings. The 40 gram (1.4 ounce) bar had 250 calories ... that’s 177 calories per ounce. (The label says it’s actually two servings) It might win an award for the highest caloric density product I’ve ever tried. Pigall is right!

The bar is long and kind of soft. The chocolate on the outside is very light in color and of course it smelled very sweet. On the inside there’s a “nut truffle” filling that I can only describe as a chocolate buttercream. It was seriously buttery though from what I could read on the ingredients, it’s some sort of whipped vegetable oil filling.

Mixed in with the buttercream filling are rice crispies.

I found the bar interesting, but too much like eating the frosting off of a piece of cake. The prospect of that much trans fat kept me from eating more than half the bar.

I didn’t know quite what to make of the second bar, Brejk. It’s hefty, clocking in at 56 grams.

image

It also came in two pieces, which I always like. Good for sharing, a little neater and you can save some for later. This one came on a little tray and I thought for a moment that they were Finnish 100 Grand bars.

The bar is built like this - a light chocolate cookie is covered with a stripe of dark caramel then the whole thing is covered in a light milk chocolate studded wtih crisped rice.

The chocolate is sweet and has that European milky taste and a kind of tang to it. The textures are interesting too, think of it as a cross between a Twix bar and a 100 Grand and you’d pretty much have this bar. The cookie center is crumbly and bland but maybe had a little hit of salt to it. The caramel is dark and chewy, but not too sweet. The milk chocolate covering it is sweet and creamy though there aren’t as many rice crispies as you’d get in a 100 Grand.

I thought it was a great bar and I wonder why we don’t have something like it here in the States. The only place that I reliably see Marabou products is at Ikea, so if you see this one there and you like

Trix

Twix or 100 Grand bars, pick it up for a try.

Name: Pigall & Brejk
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Marabou (Kraft)
Place Purchased: gift (thanks Russ)
Price: unknown
Size: 1.41 ounces & 1.98 ounces
Calories per ounce: 141 & 177
Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie, Finland, Kraft, Marabou

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:18 am     Comments (19)

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Texas Chewy Pralines

I’ve blogged about regional “vacation” candies before, and here’s yet another example of them: Texas Pralines. I first had Texas Pralines, which are chewy like a soft caramel instead of grainy like a fudge with pecans about three years ago when we got an assortment as a holiday gift. Since my husband was off to San Antonio for a business trip, I told him to keep an eye out for they chewy pralines.

imageI’m no snob, I don’t mind if my candy comes from the airport. (These days, who knows if a chewy praline is considered a liquid anyway?)

These Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines are by Lamme’s, which has been making candies since 1885! The history of the company is rather interesting, so if you have a sec, go read it on their website. The company uses a lamb as part of their logo to help people remember how to pronounce the name, I’m sure it doesn’t help folks spell it though.

image

This gift box had six individually wrapped “plops” in it, each weighing about an ounce. They’re darker than the usual caramels you see and have a good woodsy, sweet smell to them. The caramel is chewy and a bit salty but surprisingly not that sweet. The smoky and dark caramelized sugar flavors go well with the fresh pecans. They’re a little messy, as you have to eat them either holding part of in the wrapper or get your fingers sticky. But I wouldn’t want the pieces to be any smaller because that would mean that the pecans couldn’t be whole and crunchy. These are definitely a winner.

image

The other assortment I was given were these individually wrapped ones from Monterrey Products Company. They were three different versions of a chewy praline, each with different proportions of caramel to pecans.

The first one, the “more caramel to pecan” was pretty and smelled nice, but was very grainy without a good balance of butteryness or crystallization. The pecans were fresh, but of course there were only three of them. I wasn’t wild about it.

The second one was “equal caramel to pecan” - wow, this was gorgeous. The scent was like maple sugar and the nuts were crunchy and infused with the buttery goodness of the caramel. The caramel itself was grainy but in a crystallized way that made it dissolve and support the other caramelized sugar and nut flavors. Fantastic, I wish all three were this variety.

The last one was “more pecans to caramel” and was shaped more spherically than the others. For some reason this one stuck to the cellophane wrapper and I had to pull the candy apart and off the cello in order to eat it. The pecans were large and whole and sweet, but as a candy this one failed. Some nuts were nicely coated in the soft caramel, but others were untouched. I loved the nuts, but the balance was off as a sweet treat. It might be nice pulled apart and thrown in with some salty popcorn though.

I think I prefered the Lammes but the Monterrey had an impressive ingredients list: Pecans, Sugar, Evaporated Milk and Corn Syrup. Lammes had a few more ingredients, including hydrogenated oils (which meant .5 grams of trans fat per plop). But they were both a treat I’m not likely to have again, but I’m happy to recommend them.

Name: Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines & Pecan Pralines
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Lammes & Monterrey Products Company
Place Purchased: News & Gift Shop (San Antonio Airport)
Price: $10.99 & $1.35 each
Size: 6 ounces & .75 ounces each
Calories per ounce: 140 & unknown
Categories: Nuts, Caramel, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:23 am    

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Choxies in Boxies

I picked up a couple of little Choxie items at Target over the weekend while I was getting my new bike tuned up.

image

The first one was an impulse buy, the lines were very long and I was scouring all the checkout areas for limited edition items when my husband pointed out this bar. It doesn’t have a very sexy name: Choxie Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar, but the package was certainly cute and all the elements were compelling.

It’s like a combination of a peanut butter meltaway and a chocolate covered pretzel.

The bar is thick and has an ultrasmooth peanut butter filling. Mixed into that are pretzel bits and peanuts. The whole thing is cloaked in milk chocolate.

The pretzels and nuts are unevely mixed and the first two squares I ate didn’t have anything in them but peanut butter. The peanut butter filling is nice and as far as I can tell from reading the ingredients label it’s so freakin’ smooth and sweet because it’s blended with white chocolate.

The real distraction here are the pretzels. They’re stale. They’re not crispy, they don’t add a satisfying crunch. Color me disappointed.

image

I don’t have much to say about these Choxie Caramel Pecan Nesters. They’re basically milk chocolate turtles: pecans, caramel and chocolate. They came in a little box and there were only two of them, each individually wrapped.

I took the photo and I gobbled both of them up!

High praise, I’m usually the model of restraint. It’s not that they were so divinely delicious, but they smelled awesome, that sweet pecan smell and chocolate, I wish I could bottle it. Though the caramel wasn’t anything more than sweet and the chocolate was just ordinary, the pecans were fresh and tasty.

Even on clearance (are they discontinuing them?) they were $1.40 for this wee box that had only two in them (one ounce). If you’re looking to torture yourself with a very small portion, this might be the way to go. At the regular price of $2 a box, pass this up and go straight to See’s.

Name: Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar & Caramel Pecan Nesters
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Choxie
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $2.00 & $1.40
Size: 2.5 ounces & 1 ounce
Calories per ounce: 168 & 154
Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts, Cookie, Nuts, Caramel, United States, Choxie

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:08 am     Comments (10)

Friday, August 4, 2006

More Satisfying Snickers Almond?

image image
This is breaking news. Or at least it was breaking news to me: the Snickers Almond bar now contains peanuts ... I’m not talking about “processed in a facility and equipment along with peanuts” kind of thing. I’m talking about a main ingredient. (Click on the photos for more readable versions.)

I don’t know if I would have noticed, except that the Sav-on had both the old version of the bar (sans peanuts) and the new one side by side and I was curious why the packaging was suddenly different and what made the new one “more satisfying.”

So I purchased both and went off to the Candy Blog labs to do some analyses. First, the bars say they weigh the same, but when placed on the trusty postal scale the More Satisfying with Peanuts version came in at exactly 2.0 ounces and the Less Satisfying with just Almonds clocked in at 1.9 ounces. What’s even more puzzling about this is that the label says that they weigh 1.76 ounces ... at least Mars is generous.

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The original version shown above was easier to slice and seemed more “solid”. There weren’t copious amounts of almonds, but a fair amount. The bar was rather bland, as I mentioned in my review before. But there is something missing here, a toastiness, some sort of flavor.

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So the big thing I noticed right away was how difficult it was to slice this bar easily. It was kind of mucky ... not melted or anything, just not as structural. I think there may be more caramel now. Instead of just going back to a better tasting nougat, the Mars folks created the hybrid Snickers/Mars Frankenbar. It’s a Mars bar that tastes like a Snickers. Really, why buy this? It doesn’t taste like almonds ... if anything, it’s just a Snickers bar that’s a little smaller.

As a touchstone I went out and bought/consumed a standard Snickers bar. It really tasted no different except the Snickers Almond was a little crunchier because almonds are bigger than peanuts.

This got me to thinking about the ingredients, so here’s a run down of the top contents of the Less Satisfying Snickers Almond, More Satisfying Snickers Almond and the Satisfying Snickers (Peanut):

LS Snickers Almond…...MS Snickers Almond…..Plain Old Snickers
Milk Chocolate….........Milk Chocolate…......Milk Chocolate
Almonds….................Corn Syrup…................Peanuts
Corn Syrup…...............Almonds…...............Corn Syrup
Sugar….....................Sugar….....................Sugar
Skim Milk…................Peanuts….................Milk Fat
Hydr’ted Palm Kernel Oil….Milkfat…................Skim Milk

But let’s go back to that statement on the new Snickers Almond bar ... what exactly makes satisfaction?

Less Satisfying Snickers Almond: 230 Calories & 1.76 ounces (that’s 131 calories per ounce)
More Satisfying Snickers Almond: 240 Calories & 1.76 ounces (that’s 136 calories per ounce)
Snickers: 280 calories & 2.07 ounces (that’s 135 calories per ounce)

Could satisfaction be another word for caloric density?

While I find the More Satisfying Snickers Almond a little more tasty than before, its resemblance to the classic Snickers Peanut makes it superfluous. There are so few almond choices out there, why take this one away? I’m giving the Now More Satisfying Snickers Almond bar the same rating I gave the original.

(I’m also a little miffed that I consumed about 750 calories for this one review! I just hope none of them contained mouse droppings.)

Note: I looked at the Snickers website and they still list the old ingredients for the Snickers Almond bar.

UPDATE 9/2/2008: Well, the old new Snickers Almond is back. Here’s a brief revisit with the bar:

Snickers Almond

I like the bar (though I prefer the dark chocolate version) and I’m glad they brought it back.

Product: Mars Snickers Almond
Previous Review: 12/28/2005
Change: reverting to old recipe (eliminating peanut ingredients from previous version)
Result: A great bar with a long history and I’m glad that it’s back to a more classic formulation so it bumps up a notch. 6 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Revisit: Take 5, Sunkist Fruit Gems & Snickers Almond
  2. Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar
  3. Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch
  4. Snickers Almond Dark
  5. Snickers Dark
  6. Snickers Xtreme
Name: Now More Satisfying Snickers Almond
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Savon (Hollywood)
Price: $.65
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: 136
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Nougat, Caramel, Peanuts, United States, Mars

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:29 am     Comments (30)

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Miette Patisserie

Part of the reason for the stop in San Francisco on my recent vacation was to experience the Ferry Terminal Marketplace. It’s home to a bunch of artisan food companies, restaurants and other people associated with the food crafts. Plus, on Saturdays there’s a farmers market.

There are a couple of sweets locations in the Ferry Terminal including a Scharffen Berger store and Recchiuti Confections but for this trip (I’ll be going back again in September) I thought I’d look at Miette Patisserie.

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The store is drop dead cute and reminds me of a forties/fifties-era cookbook. They had a huge selection of cakes and hand-held pastries. But I was interested in candies, of course. There was a large display of handmade lollipops which looked gorgeous and came in sassy flavors like cotton candy, grape and pink lemonade. None of the flavors were marked and the colors weren’t enough for me to discern the code so I passed them by for now.

Instead I was attracted to their Parisian Macaroons (which are not the coconut ones we’re most accustomed to in the States). These macaroons are a hazelnut or almond and egg white based cookie with a filling of some sort. Like a super decadent sandwich cookie. They were $1.50 each ... a little on the pricey side so I didn’t taste one of each flavor (I think there were six varieties).

I picked out:

Hazelnut: a vanilla cookie with a rich nutella-style filling. Sweet and rich but still light and flaky.

Rose Geranium: a delicately floral flavored cookie with a buttery light cream filling in the sandwich. My favorite.

Vanilla: a little sweeter because there was no strong flavor to balance it, but quite nice after a long walk and pleasant lunch.

By the register they also had three large jars of handmade caramels wrapped in wax paper. They were two for $1 so I had two of each.

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Vanilla & Lemon - the wrappers were identical and I’m sorry to say that they all tasted the same. The caramels were nicely soft and sweet and of course had a wonderful slightly burnt sugar taste.

Fleur de Sel - a little darker tasting and with a nice warming sensation of instant salt. Instead of a regular caramel with a little series of grains of salt on the surface as I’ve had at other places, here the salt is completely integrated. The salt really brings out the caramelized notes, but it’s also a bit strong and made my throat sting.

UPDATE: A kind reader, Dan, has informed me that these are made by the Little Flower Candy Company, which makes sense based on the flavor array.

I’m sure their cakes are great and there’s the added bonus that they use organic ingredients whenever possible. Not that something like that makes a pastry more wholesome or anything! The macaroons can be ordered on their website, but not the caramels or lollies. The items are pricey, as is usually the case with labor intensive items. Overall I think I prefer the caramels and macaroons from Boule but since San Francisco doesn’t have a Boule, I can see myself stopping in here on my next trip for a little something to eat. I’m especially interested in trying their Lavender Shortbread (I know, I’ve totally diverged from candy all of a sudden ... I was on vacation!).

Name: Caramels & Macaroons
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Miette Patisserie
Place Purchased: Miette Patisserie (Ferry Terminal, San Francisco)
Price: $.50 for Caramels, $1.50 for Macaroons
Size: varies
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Nuts, Cookie, Caramel, United States, Bay Area

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:32 am     Comments (5)

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Chuao Chocolatier

I first heard about Chuao Chocolatier a couple of months ago but haven’t been able to visit them until this weekend. The main location is in Encinitas and they have other shops in San Diego. But they also have one at the Irvine Spectrum, so on a blazingly hot Sunday afternoon my husband and I stopped by to see what it was all about. Let me just say this, if this is the direction that upscale chocolate is going, I can fully support it.

imageThe shop is spare and simple with lots of dark wood touches and reflects more of a wine connoisseur aesthetic than candy. I greeted the women behind the counter (I’ve never done this before) ... I introduced myself and gave full disclosure that I’m a candy writer and boy did I get the full treatment! But seeing how well Melissa, the manager, did her tour of the company through samples of most of their product lines, I get the sense she does it for anyone who’s interested. She was knowlegable, enthusiastic and completely engaging.

First, a little about Chuao. It’s one of those stories about people who follow their passions. Michael Antonoris (once a biomedical engineer and MBA before he “stopped chasing his ego and started chasing his culinary passion,” and went to Paris for two years to study Pastry and Chocolaterie at the ?cole Lenotre). Born in Venezuela, he brought not only his culinary aesthetic to candymaking, but also the native cacao from the region. His chocolate source is El Rey Chocolate. You can read lots more on their website about the history of the company and other press clippings.

imageThe first sample we tried was their flavor of the month for July, which is a beer (San Diego produced Stout) infused chocolate - with a strong wheat/yeasty flavor to the chocolate ganache, it was intriguing and brought out the best of the beer and the chocolate.

She also let us try last month’s (after all, it was only July 2nd) intriguing little egg which was filled with chocolate, olive oil and sun-dried tomato filling. I really liked the olive essence in there, but I’m not a huge fan of sun-dried tomatoes, but they seem to work in there. I could see those going really well with a wine and cheese assortment.

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Other wonderful morsels she gave us to try included:

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel - lovely dark chocolate surrounding soft and intense orange zest. Not too syrupy sweet and not the least bit bitter.

Chocolate Covered Ginger - this is no ordinary candied ginger, the pieces are plump and juicy and have no fibery bits. Sweet and with a gentle burn that lasts long after the chocolate is gone.

Coco Nib Snack - fine little nibs a little smaller than peppercorns and caramelized/tossed with a little salt and chili. Fascinating little morsels, not too sweet but also doesn’t have any of that bitter/acrid flavor that some plain nibs have. No fibery bits either. I’m not sure if I’d eat them straight, but I’d love them tossed on a salad or maybe some ice cream.

Even though it was insanely hot, we still tried a little bit of their hot chocolate. They have two varieties, the traditional Abuela and Spicy Maya. They weren’t as thick and milky as many that I had on my last NY trip, but the flavors were really great. I enjoyed the Maya best, as the spice wasn’t too overwhelming, but supported the floral and wine notes of the chocolate.

But the time eventually came to pick out some things to take home.

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I picked out a box of 9 pieces:

Melao - salt butter caramel - this one was quite reminiscent of the Sahgun salt caramel I had earlier this year. Quite soft, almost juicy, with a slight grain to the caramezlied sugar and a round sweet flavor dosed with salt to bring out the flavors.

Candela - spicy macadamia praline - very strange - it’s grainy, but not in an unpleasant way. Salty, crispy and with a soft spicy finish, the center is more like eating a cookie dough than a chocolate. For the record, I love cookie dough.

Cardamom - cardamom infused ganache - fresh and lightly infused with that cardamom note that I love about Indian food. Buttery smooth and rich. I would have liked more cardamom, like the Vosges one I tried in NYC.

Modena - strawberry caramel with balsamic vinegar from Modena - this was just plain strawberry as far as I could tell. Nicely fruity and aromatic, smooth and refreshing with a good balance of notes for the dark chocolate, but I wasn’t really getting the balsamic notes.

Chevre - goat cheese, pear Williams and crushed black buttercream - fascinating and probably addictive. At first the dark chocolate ganache is tangy, like a goat cheese. Then the black pepper infusion coming to the surface. The pear played a minor note, but the black pepper pieces were incredible, as they were softened by the chocolate and more like small, spicy raisins.

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Zen - green tea infused ginger ganache - wonderful plump pieces of crystalized ginger in a dark chocolate ganache with only a hint of tea. Not too sweet - a good subtle balance.

Gran Cacao - bittersweet ganache with 73% cocoa - a lovely and rich ganache with a good buttery start and some good floral and berry notes.

Cambur - soft banana and brown sugar caramel - imagine a fried banana, drenched in caramelized sugar and then drizzled with chocolate. Mmmm. Intensely banana, but thoroughly authentic tasting. Rich and sweet. By far my favorite of them all.

Picante - California raisin fondue and Napa Valley cabernet caramel, spiced with pasilla chili and cayenne pepper - tart and with fruity/jammy qualities but with an immediate burn in my throat from some fresh tasting chilis. There are some wine notes, but mostly a grape and chili flavor mixed with the dark chocolate but the caramelized sugar is completely lost. I wouldn’t have minded a little hit of molasses or brown sugar in there.

On the whole, I’d say that the line of uncommon flavor combinations is much like Vosges and of similar quality. Where Vosges seems to angle itself towards women, Chuao seems incredibly masculine. The flavors are bold and uncommon and assertive. Flavors are borrowed from outside the candy realm with excellent results. But when they’re inside the sweets oveure, they’re really at their best. The spiced flavors are wonderful but I really enjoyed the caramelized items like the Cambur.

I’m definitely planning on stopping there again, it’s exceptionally convenient when I’m down in Orange County visiting with my husband’s family and it looks like they will continue to develop new flavor combinations that will keep my tongue occupied. They also offer classes, which I would love to take (but only at the Carlsbad location), so maybe someday I’ll become a master chocolatier, too. If you’re a wine or beer lover, they also have tips and product lines for serving them together.

Name: Custom Chocolate Assortment
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Chuao Chocolatier
Place Purchased: Chuao (Irvine Spectrum, CA)
Price: $15 - 9 pieces
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:23 am     Comments (14)

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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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COUNTDOWN

Halloween Candy Season Ends

-28 days

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Choose one or more:

  •   Halloween
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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Theo Chocolate Nutcracker Brittle

• Orgran Molasses Licorice

• Rogue Chocolatier

• Godiva Chef Inspirations

• Hachez Braune Blatter (Chocolate Leaves)

 

 

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