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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Justin’s Peanut and Almond Candy Bars

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut BarLately as the artisanal, slow and local food movement has taken hold I’ve been seeing more wholesome candy bars coming to the market. It’s an interesting idea, to take the fantastic flavor and texture combinations made famous and delicious by the mass-manufacture candy companies and tweak them with better ingredients.

But what actually makes a candy bar great. After you get past the concept and the basics of the ratios, what sets a good candy bar apart from a great candy bar? Is it the quality of the ingredients? The freshness? Can the ethical repercussions of your purchase effect your enjoyment?

When I found out that Justin Gold of Justin’s Nut Butter was releasing a version of the classic Snickers bar, I figured if anyone was going to top Mars, it might be a guy who knew and loved peanuts. The new line of bars are called, simply, Milk Chocolate Peanut, Dark Chocolate Peanut and Milk Chocolate Almond.

Justin's All Natural Peanut Bars

The press release said “Justin’s All-Natural Candy Bars contain 25% less sugar, 50% more protein and 100% more fiber than the leading conventional candy bar, Snickers.” So I was prompted to take a look at what a Snickers actually had in it and what I’d get out of it nutritionally.

Snickers Ingredients (2012): milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lactose, skim milk, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, butter, milkfat, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor.

Snickers Stats: 2.07 ounces - 57 grams - 280 calories 130 calories from fat

Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Ingredients: organic milk chocolate (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic milk power, organic chocolate liquor, organic soy lecithin, organic vanilla), caramel (brown rice syrup, cane sugar, sweetened condensed milk (whole milk & sugar), whey powder, palm oil, salt, sunflower lecithin, natural vanilla flavor), marshmallow creme (brow rice syrup, sugar, water, egg whites, arabic gum, vanilla), dry roasted peanuts, Justin’s classic peanut butter (dry roasted peanuts, organic palm fruit oil), peanut flour, organic palm fruit oil, sea salt.

Justin’s All Natural Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar Stats: 2 ounces - 57 grams - 270 calories - 130 calories from fat

So the ingredient list may look longer on Justin’s, but that’s just because they have to qualify so many of those items with organic. A Snickers bar isn’t really made with horrible things (no high fructose corn sweetener, no palm oil, real milk products and real milk chocolate). But a big selling point is that Justin’s attempts to use sustainable ingredients. But don’t go in thinking that there are fewer calories in Justin’s, just because there’s more protein and fiber, the calories are pretty darn close and the fat is identical.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar

The bars look great. The wrapper’s not bad either; it doesn’t look like some sort of dog-eared hippie candy bar. So no compromises there. The milk chocolate is quite sweet but the whole bar is about the peanuts and peanut butter. The caramel is chewy and has a nice pull to it, the nougat tastes like roasted peanut butter with a little note of salt. I was missing the crunch of big peanuts though. There were some, but not quite the same thing as a Snickers, which seems to have more distinction between the layers.

Still, a very satisfying experience. Sweet, crunchy, salty and toasty with a light creamy chocolate finish. Is it better than a Snickers? It’s hard to say, I’ve been raised on the ratios of the Snickers (just like I had the same problem with Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups not quite arriving at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup experience).

Justin's All Natural Dark Chocolate Peanut BarDark Chocolate Peanut Bar has a lot to offer. It’s not an innovative bar, after all, there’s been a Snickers Dark on and off for many years.

The package looks remarkably like the Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar, except the small print that says Dark Chocolate and the coloring of the illustration of the bar is a little darker. If I had one piece of advice about this bar it would be to make it easier to tell them apart.

Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar

The dark chocolate that Justin’s uses is quite dark, though has a smooth buttery melt and bitter, slightly astringent finish. Part of the time I actually got a green olive note from it. The peanut and caramel and nougat ratios are otherwise the same but seem a bit brighter by the bitter chocolate counterpoint. Of the two bars, I actually preferred the Milk Chocolate, which is a bit unusual for me. The dark chocolate is just too pronounced.

Justin's All Natural Milk Chocolate Almond BarMilk Chocolate Almond Bar is the analogue to the classic American Mars Bar, now known as Snickers Almond.

It features an almond butter nougat, caramel with almonds all covered in milk chocolate. The bar, like the others, is two ounces.

All of the bars are gluten free but contain eggs, soy, dairy and either peanuts or almonds plus may have traces of other nuts.

Justin's Milk Chocolate Almond Bar

My experience with the Snickers Almond didn’t prepare me for this bar, but it’s quite different. It tastes like almonds. The roasted flavors of almonds, not amaretto, are throughout the bar. The nougat is lightly salted and chewy as is the caramel. The nougat has fantastic toasted flavors of almonds and the caramel holds the whole almonds and almond pieces. So there’s a great deal of crunch here along with the smoother chewy textures. The milk chocolate is silky smooth, sweet and has a strong powdered dairy note to it that ties the whole thing in a bow. Of the three, this one tastes like it beats the original in texture and flavor.

Justin's Peanut & Almond Bars

The only production note I had for all of the bars was that they had voids in them. Not huge, but enough in each one that I had to wonder about what might cause them during production and how they could avoid it. The other small issue I saw was that the bottom chocolate coating was thin. On the almond bar it was thin enough that I could see the nougat through it. This can let the nougat dry out and of course messes with the flavor ratios.

On the whole, these are great bars. They don’t taste like there’s a single compromise in there. Though the press release boasted about the improved nutrition, I’d say an extra gram of protein is not why you’d choose these bars. The bars are priced at about twice what you’d pay for Snickers. But for that you get ethically sourced, organic chocolate and other organic ingredients. Some of the other hand made bars are five times the price, so when compared to that, I was pleased. The preference between them without that would come down to personal taste. I think the Snickers are more consistent, but the Justin’s bars are new and I’ve only eaten four (two of the Milk Chocolate Peanut) plus the samples I had at the ExpoWest trade show so all were extremely fresh.

Update 9/17/2012: Either I misread something earlier this year or something change, but the Justin’s Candy Bars do not use fair-trade certified chocolate. The Peanut Butter Cups in both Dark and Milk do, but the Candy Bars do not at this time. I have edited the above review to reflect that information. I apologize if that was confusing to anyone in the interim (but please, always read the packages and/or websites of the candy companies, as they are more likely to have up-to-date information).

Related Candies

  1. Bees & Beans Honey Bar
  2. Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar
  3. Snickers Slice n’ Share (1 Pound)
  4. Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar
  5. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  6. Snickers Dark
  7. More Satisfying Snickers Almond?
  8. Snickers Xtreme


Name: Milk Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 135
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Dark Chocolate Peanut Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 130
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, Peanuts, 8-Tasty, United States


Name: Milk Chocolate Almond Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Justin’s Nut Butter
Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
Price: $1.99 retail
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 140
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Justin's Nut Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Nougat, Nuts, Organic, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:54 am     All NaturalCandyReviewJustin's Nut ButterCaramelChocolateEthically SourcedNougatNutsOrganicPeanuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (3)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Russell Stover Big Bite Pecan Delight Egg

Russell Stover Big Bite Pecan Delight EggI found the Russell Stover Big Bite Pecan Delight Egg at Walgreen’s along with the other super-sized Easter classic, the Coconut Cream in the shape of a Big Bunny.

Pecans and Caramel covered in Milk Chocolate

Ah, a pecan turtle. What a fabulous candy. The roasted, maple flavors of pecans with their oily crunch go so well with the burnt sugar, sweet chewiness of caramel with it all encapsulated in creamy milk chocolate.

I’ve reviewed a few different versions of these in the past. The first one I tried was the Organic Pecan Delight, which were sold individually wrapped and bagged. They were good, but lacked a lot of pecans. The second one I tried was the traditional Easter favorite, the Pecan Delight Egg ... well, that one was even more parsimonious with the pecans. Then most recently I tried the non-organic version of the Pecan Delight and was similarly underwhelmed.

So, would scaling up make a difference?

Russell Stover Giant Pecan Delight

They weren’t kidding about it being a big bite. It’s two ounces, so of course it’s big, but that’s the same size as a Snickers bar. It’s packed with 290 calories as well. What it’s not packed with is pecans. Those little lumps on the outside ... those are the pecan pieces. That’s it. No hidden nuts inside the caramel center.

Russell Stover Giant Pecan Delight

I can sit around being disappointed that there aren’t more pecans in this. (I can also call it false advertising.) But the reality is that it’s still a good piece of candy if you adjust expectations. The milk chocolate is passable - it’s sweet and milky and though a bit fudgy and grainy, it still has a pleasant melt and mouthfeel. The caramel center is salty and though sweet, not overly cloying or syrupy. The caramel is smooth, without the slightest bit of grain. It’s pretty gooey, but not chewy. The small bits of pecans gave it a roasted nutty flavor, but not much texture overall.

Would this have been better with more pecans? Absolutely. Would it have cost a dollar? No, not possible. It was a bad year for pecans, the price went way up. The solution to this is for Russell Stover to not offer this candy at this price point, or to adjust our expectations by not saying that it’s the Pecan Delight.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s A Very Merry Mingle
  2. Russell Stover Assorted Wrapped Chocolates
  3. DeMet’s Turtles: Pecan & Cashew
  4. Fannie May Pixie
  5. Sweet Earth Chocolates
  6. Russell Stover Eggs (2009 edition)
  7. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight


Name: Big Bite Pecan Delight Egg
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Russell Stover
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $1.00 (on sale)
Size: 2 ounces
Calories per ounce: 145
Categories: Candy, Easter, Russell Stover, Caramel, Chocolate, Nuts, 6-Tempting, United States, Walgreen's

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:28 pm     CandyReviewEasterRussell StoverCaramelChocolateNuts6-TemptingUnited StatesWalgreen'sComments (3)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sugar Daddy

Sugar Daddy was introduced in 1925 but originally called “Papa Sucker”, it took on the name Sugar Daddy in 1932. The pop is a simple, but large caramel slab on a stick.

Sugar Daddy

Like many candies over 50 years old, this one has a long history of changing hands. It was created by the James O. Welch Company, which also made fudge and later invented Pom Poms, Sugar Babies and Junior Mints. Later in 1963 Welch was sold to Nabisco. Nabisco continued making the line of Sugar Daddies, Sugar Mamas and Sugar Babies. Nabisco sold their candy lines to Warner-Lambert (known mostly for drugs) in 1988 and then Tootsie acquired them in 1992. The package design changed little over the years. Here’s a wrapper from the 50s and a later one from the 70s when it was made by Nabisco. The only functional difference is that the top end is sealed now, instead of folded.

Sugar Daddy

The caramel pop is very simple. Perhaps my memory is hazy or idealizes the candy of my youth, I remember Sugar Daddy as a very dark, glossy and smooth caramel bar on a stick. While the pair that I bought were in good condition (no sign that they’d melted & reformed or were sticky and crystallized around the edges), they just weren’t as awesome as I recall.

The ingredients look functionally the same as ever: Corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, dry whole milk, whey, natural and artificial flavors, salt, soya lecithin.

Sugar Daddy

The slab is sturdy and thick. It’s pliable but not exactly chewy. I found it possible to bite some off, but not without a lot of bending and wiggling to cause some sort of equivalent of metal fatigue.

The dissolve is smooth and the flavor is creamy with a distinct caramelized sugar flavor with a pleasant buttery note. I prefer the Sugar Babies, I feel like the centers have a little bit more pronounced burnt sugar flavor that’s balanced with the sugary shell. The Sugar Daddy is just difficult to eat without making a mess, though I think the slightly smaller pop would be better for those who aren’t tempted to chew on it, because it fits better in the mouth.

I’m glad this around for a newer generation. I credit Tootsie taking over this line with the very popular invention of the Tootsie Caramel Apple Pop.

Related Candies

  1. Slo Poke Caramel
  2. Walkers Nonsuch Roasted Hazelnut Toffee
  3. Necco Slap Stix Caramel
  4. Nips: Caramel & Dulce de Leche
  5. Caramel Apple Sugar Babies
  6. Sugar Babies
  7. Sugar Mama
  8. Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies


Name: Sugar Daddy
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Tootsie
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $.50 (on sale)
Size: 1.7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 118
Categories: Candy, Tootsie, Caramel, Hard Candy & Lollipops, 7-Worth It, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:32 pm     CandyReviewTootsieCaramel7-Worth ItUnited StatesRite AidComments (2)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

Bee's Beans Honey BarBees & Beans is a Portland, Oregon artisan candy bar maker. Faith Dionne says, “These are candy bars that you can feel great about eating.” I found the bar at BiRite Market in San Francisco’s Mission District, one of the best places I know to find artisan candy.

The Honey Bar is Honey caramel, salted filbert and honey nougat, hand dipped in dark chocolate with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

Many of the ingredients are organic and, as much as possible, they are sourced locally in Oregon.

Sugar, honey, 70% chocolate (cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, vanilla bean), organic cream, filberts, organic butter, egg whites, salt, vanilla extract, dried barley malt extract.

Based on the ingredients list, I believe this chocolate is sourced from Scharffen Berger. The Bees & Beans site says that they use both Theo Chocolate, which is fair trade, and Scharffen Berger, which is not, and is owned by Hershey’s. (Theo does not use soy lecithin.)

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

The construction of the bar is interesting, the caramel is on the bottom, the nougat on the top, then a coating of very dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt. It looks just like a candy bar.

Bees & Beans Honey Bar

The nougat is almost marshmallowy. It’s soft and fluffy and has a bit of a pull when bitten, a silky sort of chew without any hint of sugary grain. The caramel is soft, not too chewy as to make the bar fall apart when bitten. There’s a sprinkling of salt on top, but also a fair amount of salt, as far as my tongue can detect, in both the caramel and the nougat. The filberts are only lightly toasted but have an excellent crunch, almost like a macadamia nut instead of like a hazelnut.

There is no perfect analogue to this in the mass-manufactured candy bar offerings in the United States. (Perhaps the European Nestle Nuts would be similar.) The textures are great and the ingredients are top notch. The prevalence of the honey flavors also sets this apart from so many other candies that might use honey but not enough to make it part of the texture and flavor profile to this degree. The short shelf life is an issue for folks like me who like to stock up (they sell the bars online in quad packs), but I was lucky to pick mine up a month ago and still eat it within its 2 month window of freshness. If I had to chose between this bar and the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew bar (which is all nougat and no caramel), it’d be hard. Bees & Beans makes several other bars that all sound fantastic, including a seasonal Malt Bar that I’ll have to order soon.

Related Candies

  1. Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar
  2. Rococo Bee Bars
  3. Loukoumi Artisan Confections
  4. Look! and Big Hunk
  5. Nutpatch Nougats
  6. Soubeyran Array
  7. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar


Name: Honey Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Bees & Beans
Place Purchased: BiRite Market (San Francisco)
Price: $4.99
Size: 2.0 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:45 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewCaramelChocolateNougatNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (1)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Double Dutch Sweets: The Ramona Bar

Double Dutch Sweets - The Ramona BarThere are chocolate candy bars and fine chocolates and then there’s something in between ... it’s the artisan candy bar.

Double Dutch Sweets in Oakland, California makes an artisan confection called The Ramona Bar. Think of it as a Snickers made by hand.

The bar is set apart from other mass-manufactured fare at first glance. It’s wrapped by hand in foil with a lively printed sleeve that gives the simple description: layers of buttery caramel and honey nougat with roasted peanuts dipped in dark chocolate and finished with sea salt.

Double Dutch Sweets - The Ramona Bar

The tall and beefy bar is quite a portion for an artisan product. It’s 1.8 ounces packed into barely 3.5 inches.

The ingredients are mostly organic and all natural. The construction of the bar will seem familiar. A nougat base studded with peanuts, topped with a generous layer of caramel, then coated in Venezuelan origin dark chocolate with a sprinkling of maldon sea salt.

Double Dutch Sweets - The Ramona Bar

A Snickers bar is 2.07 ounces, so just a little larger and features a milk chocolate coating. There are so many other differences though, it’s hard to even compare the bars. The Ramona Bar has a similar bite, it’s thick and has a mix of textures. There are far fewer peanuts in the Ramona than a Snickers, and the nougat tastes more like a plain nougat while a Snickers has a peanut flavor to its nougat.

Double Dutch Sweets - The Ramona Bar

The caramel was really the star here; for me it was the ideal texture - chewy, stringy, smooth and with a dark toasted flavor and notes of salt. The addition of the salt on top of the chocolate though was sometimes just a little too much. The nougat was not as good for me. It was less of a French style nougat or Italian torrone, which has a mostly smooth texture, kind of like a dense marshmallow. This was more like the fluffed stuff of Snickers or Milky Way fame. It was like a fluffy fondant. It did have a less-grainy texture that was almost cool on the tongue as it dissolved. The textures worked well together, just as they do in a Snickers, but I was missing a flavor component from the nougat and the strength of lots of peanuts. (Or Almonds, if they wanted to go that way.)

The bars cost $6.00, which is about a little more than $53 a pound. (A Snickers bar, at $1 a bar would be about $16 a pound.) Is it six times better? Well, I feel better because the ingredients are great and someone really cared about the bar and it’s made with Venezuelan chocolate, so I wouldn’t be worrying about child slavery. But it’s not my perfect candy bar. For $6, I want my perfect candy bar. For $1, I can accept less than perfect. But it might be your perfect candy bar, and you might not know until you try. (I’m still happy to try all other bars that Double Dutch Sweets comes up with.)

The bars are gluten free.

Related Candies

  1. Zotter Scotch Whisky
  2. Zingerman’s Zzang! Wowza Raspberry Bar
  3. Q.Bel Double Dark Chocolate Wafer Bar
  4. Zingerman’s Zzang! Candy Bars
  5. Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar
  6. BonBonBars: Malt Ganache & Scotch
  7. See’s Scotchmallow


Name: Ramona Bar
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Double Dutch Sweets
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: $6.00
Size: 1.8 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Bay Area, Candy, Caramel, Chocolate, Nougat, Organic, Peanuts, 7-Worth It, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:02 pm     All NaturalBay AreaCandyReviewCaramelChocolateNougatOrganicPeanuts7-Worth ItUnited StatesComments (5)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Morinaga Sweet Potato Caramels

Sweet Potato Morinaga CaramelsMorinaga caramels from Japan are classics; they’ve been around for about a hundred years. They’re cute little cubes made with real milk in the traditional style. They come in seasonal and limited edition flavors. Some return like Black Sugar, Adzuki and Matcha. The new one I found this year is Morinaga Satsumaimo Caramels, which are sweet potato flavored. I know, it sounds weird, but bear with me.

They come boxed just like the other varieties. It’s sealed in cellophane to keep the caramels fresh, so once the box is open, it’s best to eat them within a few weeks. The little sleeve holds a tray with a dozen foil wrapped cubes.

Sweet Potato Morinaga Caramels

It smells milky and a little earthy, like pumpkin or adzuki. The flavor is rather like squash or yam. The milky notes are caramelized and toasty with only a faint hint of bitterness. The sweet potato flavor is rooty and earthy without tasting like beets. It’s a wholesome and satisfying flavor that isn’t overtly sweet.

The chew is smooth, with a slight grain to it, not as distinct as fudge and certainly creamy and chewier than a Kraft caramel. It didn’t matter how long I chewed it, it maintained its texture instead of disintegrating into grainy bits. It was a slow and smooth dissolve.

I easily ate the whole package shortly after taking the photos, holding off on the last two in order to finish up the review. And then last weekend I popped down to Little Tokyo and found another box ... and promptly ate those within a day. (I also bought a Coffee Caramel version, which I started eating without photographing. All I can say on that is that I recommend them.) They’re expensive for just a plain old box of caramels, but they’re certainly distinctive and an easily afforded treat to share.

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Potato Chips
  2. HiCHEW World Fruit: Dragonfruit, CamuCamu, Durian & White Peach
  3. Meiji Pokka Coffee Caramel
  4. Peeps Mash Ups - Savory
  5. Maud Borup Potato Chips
  6. KitKat Pumpkin
  7. Impressions from the Floor
  8. Green and Black Caramels


Name: Satsumaimo Caramel
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Morinaga
Place Purchased: Mitsuwa Marketplace (Torrance)
Price: $1.89
Size: 2.04 ounces
Calories per ounce: 133
Categories: Candy, Morinaga, Caramel, 8-Tasty, Japan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:42 pm     CandyReviewMorinagaCaramel8-TastyJapanComments (2)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trader Joe’s Les Chocolats Belgique (Belgian Bars): Caramel, Chocolate Buttercream & Speculoos

Trader Joe's Belgian BarsFor the past few weeks running up to Valentine’s Day I’ve noticed quite a few ads for Cartier, especially in my New Yorker magazines. They feature three rings and extoll the virtues of this trinity: love, friendship and fidelity. Trader Joe’s has done something different with their new trinity, but I think they embody the same attributes.

There are three new petite bars at Trader Joe’s, sold under the banner of Les Chocolats de Belgique. They’re only a dollar each, so I figured why not try all of them. There’s the standard Milk Chocolate {filled with} Caramel, Dark Chocolate {filled with} Chocolate Buttercream and the most intriguing of the set, Dark Chocolate {filled with} Speculoos Cookie Spread. I’m going to go with Chocolate Buttercream representing love, Caramel represents fidelity and Speculoos represents friendship.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie BarI have to be honest, I had no idea what Speculoos was until about a year ago, and now it seems to be as trendy as bacon. In reality I actually knew Speculoos quite well. In the United States and Canada they’re known as Dutch Windmill Cookies. They’re just molded, rather thin, butter cookies that are not quite a shortbread, have more molasses or brown sugar in them and a touch of spices (usually cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger). The variety my grandmother always kept in a tin on her counter usually had sliced almonds in them and were less spicy than the German/Dutch varieties I’ve tried since. The cookies are common in Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, especially before Christmas and the Epiphany.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Bar

Lately the confectionery trend has been to add crushed cookies to chocolate bars and now Trader Joe’s has a version that employs a spread made with Speculoos (think of it as a cookie version of Nutella).

All of the bars are the same format: a nicely molded long and thick filled chocolate bar. This one clocks in at 1.58 ounces (the others are 1.5 ounces) and a whopping 165 calories per ounce or 260 calories for the full bar.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Bar

The filling looks much lighter than the package, more like a light peanut butter than a chocolate spread. The filling is made from crushed cookies (so not gluten free) and some palm and coconut oils. It’s quite creamy with only a light grainy note to it of the cookies. The flavor is a lot like ground up shortbread with a light ginger and cinnamon spice note.

It’s comforting and pleasant, the texture is definitely fatty without feeling greasy. The chocolate is silky smooth with some light woodsy bitter notes that make the sweeter filling stand out. It’s a great change of pace for the price, but the calories make this one bar that I’m less likely to pick up.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Filled with Chocolate ButtercreamThe Dark Chocolate {filled with} Chocolate Buttercream bar is a little more traditional, but I must note that I was assuming that buttercream was going to be more ganache-like.

The buttercream center is actually made with something called “butter concentrate” and “milk concentrate.” If you’re dairy-adverse, steer clear of this bar. Even though it has lots of fat in it, it’s less calorie laden than the Speculoos bar, coming in at 230 calories for the 1.5 ounces or 153 calories per ounce.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Filled with Chocolate Buttercream

The dark chocolate is much more front and center on this bar. It’s silky smooth and melts well. The center is quite soft and reminds me a bit of the middle of a Lindt Lindor Truffle, but less watery tasting. The chocolate buttercream is not quite as intense as the shell but has an excellent full texture. There were a few sugar grains in it, but I didn’t mind (I find the graininess of some buttercream frostings to be a selling point).

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Filled with CaramelThe puzzling bar in the mix, and judging by how elections in this country go, the most popular is the Milk Chocolate {filled with} Caramel. (I don’t know why I have to keep putting those brackets in there, they were on the wrappers, so now they’re here.)

If you were to pick out one of the three based on calorie count, well, you’d probably opt for the Caramel bar because it’s only (only!) 220 calories and one more gram of sugar than the Speculoos bar. But many folks will like this because it features Belgian milk chocolate. So the concept is sound, but perhaps a little ordinary.

Trader Joe's Caramel Belgian Bar

The sugar is quite apparent. The milk chocolate is smooth and milky but so incredibly sweet that it’s hard to get any actual chocolate flavor from it because it seared my throat so badly. The caramel filling is wonderfully smooth as well and has a strong toffee flavor to it, it’s also salty and, well, sweet. It’s a tough bar for me to love. It’s certainly better than a Caramello, but it makes me realize that I don’t really like these sorts of bars much ... even when done well.

I’m more likely to buy these Belgian bars again than ever be interested in Cartier jewelry, but neither are quite to my style. The quality of ingredients is good and the price is excellent, but they’re just not for me. I’m hoping if they’re popular we’ll get some other variations.



Name: Dark Chocolate Filled with Speculoos Cookie Spread
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Laguna Woods)
Price: $1.00
Size: 1.58 ounces
Calories per ounce: 165
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Trader Joe's, Chocolate, Cookie, 7-Worth It, Belgium


Name: Dark Chocolate Filled with Chocolate Buttercream
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Laguna Woods)
Price: $1.00
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Trader Joe's, Chocolate, 7-Worth It, Belgium


Name: Milk Chocolate Filled with Caramel
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Laguna Woods)
Price: $1.00
Size: 1.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 147
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Trader Joe's, Caramel, Chocolate, 7-Worth It, Belgium

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:00 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewTrader Joe'sCaramelChocolateCookie7-Worth ItBelgiumComments (7)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trader Joe’s A Very Merry Mingle

Trader Joe's Merry MingleTrader Joe’s a very Merry Mingle is new for 2011 at Trader Joe’s for the winter Holidays.

I was pleased to see that Trader Joe’s managed to give this candy a name, as so many of their other holiday treats end up with nothing more than a functional description of ingredients or assembly.

The Merry Mingle is described as Cranberries, pecans and caramel don their dark chocolate apparel, creating a heaping helping of holiday candy. The box is large, holding 11 ounces, so it’s a good portion, and should be for the price.

Trader Joe's Merry Mingle

The packaging is interesting, the box is sturdy and the graphics are clear and attractive. The inside is a little less posh: a plastic tray insert with four sections filled with four to five pieces each. While I may not have found the inside very nice to serve from, it did protect the pieces well, as they were all in very good condition when removed from the box. The chocolate was glossy and the pecans and cranberries were intact.

Trader Joe's Merry Mingle

The pieces varied rather widely in size. Some were as small as one and a half inches while others were a full two and a half inches in diameter. The construction is interesting. The nuts and cranberries are held together with a little bit of caramel then they’re partially dipped in dark chocolate. There are a few zags and dribbles of chocolate on top of the pieces as well.

The base is mostly caramel, and it does a good job of keeping everything together. The caramel flavors (salt, burnt sugar) are lost in the toasty maple flavors of the pecans and the tart cranberries. The textures are great though, the caramel is smooth and chewy without being sticky or flowing. The chocolate, as the bottom, hits the tongue first, so it makes a bold impression on me as being deep and dark. There are coffee notes and probably some others but they’re lost in the flavor riot of the turtle.

Everything tasted fresh, each element was distinct (though the caramel a little lost). It also felt lighter then a traditional fully enrobed turtle (which actually do clock in at about 20 more calories per ounce). I get the impression from readers that they don’t look so good in the photos, but I thought they were great. If you’re a fan of Trader Joe’s trail mix but would like it dressed up for company, this might do the trick.

It’s Kosher but with so many ingredients, there are a lot of potential allergens: soy, milk, pecans plus traces of wheat, eggs, peanuts and other tree nuts.

Related Candies

  1. DeMet’s Turtles: Pecan & Cashew
  2. Fannie May Pixie
  3. Robitaille’s Presidential Inaugural Mints & Turtles
  4. Nestle Cranberry Raisinets
  5. Christopher Elbow: No. 6 - Dark Rocks
  6. Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups
  7. Hotel Chocolat Crostini Fruit & Nut Slab


Name: A Very Merry Mingle
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silver Lake)
Price: $7.99
Size: 11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 127
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Trader Joe's, Caramel, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:59 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasTrader Joe'sCaramelChocolateKosherNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (8)

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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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