Thursday, December 1, 2005
Name: Extra Dark with Cranberries and Macadamias
It took me a long time to actually like Hershey’s milk chocolate. I was never fond of their Special Dark, but I ate it quite a bit when I was younger because it was often the only dark chocolate I could get my hands on easily. Sometimes a girl just needs dark chocolate. Call it medication.
I was curious when I saw this at Target a couple of weeks ago. I know that all the major chocolate companies are into this whole “chocolate as a health food thing” (which by the way, I’ve been saying for about twenty years) so it’s only natural that they start packaging stuff with that sort of market in mind.
If I were to create the ideal fruit and nut bar, I would definitely start with dark chocolate and cranberries are a good choice. I think I’d prefer cashews or pecans over macadamias (especially if we’re going healthy - pecans have a load of good stuff in them). Check out the site I link to up there, they talk about the benefit of antioxidants, which can be found in many fruits (especially dried ones), wine, tea and of course chocolate.
The bar itself was nice. A good woodsy flavor, the nuts were barely perceptible for me as a flavor but added good texture. The cranberries were a good tart, chewy snap. The chocolate was crisp, not bitter with a decent creamy melty quality and good flavor. Not the best chocolate I’ve ever had, but if this were as available as a regular Hershey bar, I’d probably pick it up as a less-sweet snack with 60% cocoa solids. The price is just right as well, a good value for less than $2.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, November 28, 2005
Made by the same company that makes Malteasers, I thought this would something like bridge mix. And it is, except it’s all milk chocolate. Inside the package are an assortment of little chocolate coated spheres. The largest ones are Malteasers, which I rather like. There are also some little dense disks of pure milk chocolate and some chocolate covered raisins. After that it gets a little more curious. There are what I have to assume are caramels but they’re so hard, I didn’t dare try to eat them. The package also mentions two other surprise items: coffee and orange. I think I found the coffee one, which was a crumbly center with a light coffee taste to it. I don’t think I got an orange one.
The chocolate is milky but not creamy. Sweet but not chocolatey. The chocolate is good for the malt because it’s such a strong flavor itself, but for the rest of the mix, it’s rather cheap tasting. And the fact that you only get 35 grams (1.2 ounces) is pretty sad, too when you consider that M&Ms come in 1.7 ounce packages.
I will avoid this little packet as much as possible in the future.
Rating - 4 out of 10
Friday, November 25, 2005
Name: Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
If you’ve ever had a box of Nuts & Chews from See’s or gone into the store and selected the Dark Nougat, you’ve pretty much had this bar. It’s a dense, chewy honey nougat with almonds covered in dark chocolate. I was reading the November issue of Los Angeles magazine, where they explain this new candy bar. Apparently the staff at See’s had been making these candy bars for quite some time, for their own enjoyment. I guess the See’s higher-ups decided the rest of us might enjoy them. (They’ve been selling the Scotchmallows in milk chocolate for as long as I can remember and to good success as far as I can tell.) The story should be up on their website next month, I’ll link to it then, as it was a great article.
The Dark Nougat has always been one of my favorite See’s candies and I often picked them up when I was at the mall.
This is a beautiful looking bar. Long and with glossy dark ripples of chocolate enrobement. It smells wonderful, chocolatey with a touch of honey. It’s jam packed with almonds. Crunchy, smooth, chewy and sweet with a good pop of semi-sweet chocolate.
Fabulous. Mmm. I wish I’d bought more. You can buy them singly or in a box of eight of them for $7.50, which brings them into the price range of plain old Nestle, Mars or Hershey bars. I think these might end up in some Christmas stockings this year.
Rating - 10 out of 10
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Name: Roseberry, Lavender and Xocolatl
I know it seems strange that I got this on the same trip as the dismal SunDrops, but it’s true. I tried the Dagoba Chai bar last spring and really enjoyed it. That was a milk chocolate bar and I was very interested in the more botanical and spice flavored bars, but alas, Whole Foods does not seem to carry them. So, the trip to Wild Oats was most fortunate in the end. All the bars contain 59% cocoa mass chocolate. It’s extra smooth and very buttery. The chocolate itself isn’t too sweet and is a nice backdrop for the flavor additions.
Roseberry - Dark Chocolate, Raspberries & Rosehips. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. This was not one of the bars I was most interested in, but the concept of rosehips was rather intriguing. I used to try to eat rose hips when I was a kid because I’d heard they were good for you. Though they didn’t really taste very good. This bar has a wonderful fruity and flowery aroma. The raspberries provide a dash of zesty flavor. However, I found the raspberry seeds incredibly annoying. They’re big and when chewing or dissolving such a smooth bar, a big seed was a rather unpleasant finding.
Lavender - Dark Chocolate, Lavender & Blueberries. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. I’ve heard of a few lavender infused chocolates and even tried the New Tree Tranquility bar (which was milk chocolate) and still believed that there would be a better lavender chocolate bar out there. Well, this might be it. I was a little leary of the blueberries in the mix as I thought maybe they’d give the chocolate too much of a fruit punch flavor. Of the three I tried, this was by far my favorite. Where the Roseberry has gritty things in it, this bar is smooth through and through, with little chewy bits of blueberries. The lavender gives the bar a soft essence, a lingering top note that doesn’t overpower the smokey and woodsy flavors of the chocolate itself. Not sticky sweet or cloying, it’s just an incredibly pleasant bar with a good, slightly dry finish.
Xocalatl - dark chocolate, chilies & nibs. 74% cocoa mass chocolate. The darkest of the three bars, this one was much more chocolatey. Not quite as buttery, it still melted quickly and had a very nice flowery note at first, like orange blossoms. That quickly gives way to a peppery heat that sizzles on the tongue as the buttery chocolate melts away and brings out some very woodsy, earthy tones. The finish is slightly dry with some lingering plum notes and of course the warm burn in the throat. The most interesting part of this bar is that it contains no cinnamon. Most of the other “spicy” chocolate bars I’ve tried have cinnamon (and sometimes cloves) in them. What’s cool about this one is that it’s all New World spices (okay, maybe that’s not true ... seems there’s some nutmeg in there).
I am completely in love with Dagoba now and I want to try everything of theirs. However, at $2.79 for a 2 ounce bar, it’s freaking pricey stuff and I don’t plan on buying much of it anytime soon. I’m curious about their single origin line and there are still about 20 bars that I haven’t tried yet. Maybe I’ll splurge via mailorder on one of their tasting kits except for the fact that it’s more expensive on their website than in stores. Sigh. I need a corporate sponsor.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Name: Ghirardelli Squares - Milk Chocolate with Carmelized Almonds
I couldn’t resist picking up this bag of sweet treats. I was originally plowing through the clearance table at the drug store because they had Hershey’s cookies for 50 cents a package (and it was one of the few times I’d seen the York ones) and I was hoping for some Halloween finds but then I thought, $2 bucks for Ghirardelli? I’ll take it!
I suspect that this flavor is being discontinued because it has no page of its own on the site (well, there’s a link, but the page has a 404 error on it). Anyway, these are cute little 1.75” squares of milk chocolate with little crunchy almond bits in it.
The milk chocolate is smooth and creamy, not too milky tasting but a bit sticky. The almonds are nicely roasted and have a good carmelized bite to them. Mellow and a little bit zippy, there are really nice little sweets to have around.
Rating - 8 out of 10
What a gorgeous site Pergale has, seriously. The photos are fabulous and they document gobs and gobs of candy. It’s really a delight to browse around, it’s well organized and has great brief descriptions of all their products. The UK, Candian and American manufacturers could learn from this Lithuanian company - a lot of the candy sites I’ve seen are oriented towards capturing consumer information and not giving much in return in the way of information. I like a candy site that’s a full catalogue of the company.
These tiny bars were part of a larger cache of candy from Eastern Europe (I already reviewed the full sized Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss and Capuccino bars). I’ll sprinkle more in as the weeks go on. The bars are 30 grams, which is less than an ounce and about the size of a thumb, well maybe your thumb, my thumbs are pretty small.
Dubingiai - Dipped rum-flavoured confection of cocoa and milk paste containing waffle crisps. This tiny little bar was glossy with a beautiful dark sheen even after traveling across the world in a suitcase and then in my candy bag for weeks until I took a photo. Once I snapped it in half the rum scent wafted out and made my mouth water. The filling looks like a fluffy truffle, but it also has a bit of crisp mixed in. It’s an odd sort of combo, the flavors are nice, but the texture of the center is a little odd. The chocolate outside is smooth but the crisp gives the center a little grain. It’s got a nice rum flavor to it and the chocolate is pretty decent. It goes great with my morning coffee.
Veliuona - Dipped confection of cocoa and milk paste containing waffle crisps. This bar seemed quite similar to the Dubingiai but didn’t have the rum flavor to it. It was actually a little weird and tasted a bit burnt. The chocolately taste was more evident and the little cookie bits in the fluffy, buttery center were nice, but I couldn’t get past the feeling that maybe a cigarette butt ended up in the mix that day.
Ratings: Dubingiai - 8 out of 10 (I really like rum and chocolate as a combo)
Monday, November 21, 2005
Here’s a perfectly good idea gone awry. There’s no reason there can’t be good, tasty, “natural” chocolate candies (I think that’s been proven more recently with things like Equal Exchange, Green & Black, Newman’s Own, etc.). This is an example of a weak candy line. Here’s why: First, the colors are dull and unappealing. They’re not colors that I want to eat (except for the yellow, they look like old-lady lipstick colors). They’re not strong or clean, they’re muddy looking and uneven. A grainy looking outside does not bode well for the inside.
The ingredients are basically sugar (natural with unsulfured molasses, blah, blah) then milk powder, then the chocolate ... that’s a long way down the list. And it shows in the final product. The addition of molasses is a little odd. It gives the whole thing a rather toasty burnt flavor, which I enjoy with my oatmeal but not in my chocolate. In fact, I can taste everything in these drops except for the chocolate. The powdered milk, overly sweet sugar and slightly grainy chocolate just combine for a depressing treat. The crunchy shell is too tough and again adds sweet without flavor and further distances me from any chocolately goodness. If it’s possible, the peanut ones tasted more like burnt sugar and milk powder.
With the same number of calories and fat as M&Ms, why am I eating these? I gave them to Amy to try and after much cajoling (because the package, colors and list of ingredients scared her off - and she was the one that wanted to go to Wild Oats on Saturday!) she did put one in her mouth. She chewed a couple of times and then spit it out in my trash can.
If you are a parent trying to find a wholesome treat for the kids, this isn’t it. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments, now that’s spoiling them. Just let them have some M&Ms in moderation (the Almond ones are actually not bad for you since the bulk of the candy is actually a very healthy nut). Or just let them have plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dark chocolate really isn’t that bad as a food. Raisinettes? Really, anything but this. Don’t tease the poor kids by telling them this is candy.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Friday, November 18, 2005
Name: York Chocolate Mint Truffle Pattie
I have no idea how long these limited editions last. But I’m still seeing the Whopper’s bars in the 7-11 (I picked up three on this trip and I’m considering checking out CostCo to buy a whole box of them). York did a limited edition Pink Pattie this year too, but that wasn’t really a taste change, as they only made the center of the patties pink instead of white.
This is a different product.
First, I have to say that the Pattie that I got at the 7-11 was exceptionally fresh. The chocolate on the outside was smooth and glossy, the smell was minty with a hint of chocolately promise to it. The center of a York is usually a bit more crumbly, like fudge than it is like a truffle cream. The chocolate truffle pattie is no different. More mint than chocolate, it was much more mild than the traditional mint pattie center. Not quite chocolately, but a nice mellow taste to it. Almost like a brown sugar instead of a sweet white confectioners feel to it.
If you can get past to the promise of a truffle inside, it’s actually a really nice bar. The calorie count per ounce is pretty low for a chocolate candy, so if you’re on a diet and looking for a little treat, this might be very satisfying.
As for the difference from the regular pattie, well, it’s not substantial. If they stick around for a while, I’ll continue buying them. They’re a little creamier, a little mellower than a regular York.
Rating: 8 out of 10
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