Thursday, September 1, 2005
The first time I ever saw (or even heard of) a Wonka bar was in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I read the book a few years later). In the movie Charlie wolfs down a husky bar that costs nearly nothing. While this bar might look bulky in the photo, it’s the size of a standard playing card. I think it’s a petite version, as I’ve seen others advertised for sale that are larger than 1.3 ounces. But I couldn’t beat the price of 3 for a dollar at the 99 cent Only Store. Even so, it looks like a Wonka bar should - substantial and slick. I bought two and both came out of the package looking so dang edible.
The bar isn’t even all chocolate. There are graham cracker bits in there and it reminds me of a poor man’s version of those Le Petite Ecolier cookies that are a graham cracker cookie with a molded chocolate top (embossed with a little schoolboy) The cookies smell like graham crackers (vanilla & cinnamon) and chocolate. The graham adds a nice crunch to the bar without too much additional sweetness.
Overall the bar is a little sweet, a little waxy. But cheap and satisfying. There’s something really compelling about the ‘nilla Wafer-like graham.
Interesting fact from package: bar was made in Brazil.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
It’s strange, but I got this bar (two different sizes) as a gift from two different people the same week. They’ve got good taste (thanks Ruth & Jay)! I’d first tried Green & Black’s last Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law brought a box of the little medallions to dinner. They were super, and not at all grainy like some other organic chocolates I’d tried.
Green & Black also uses Fair Trade suppliers for their cocoa and also organic. Green & Black was purchased by Cadbury Schweppes earlier this year.
This bar is a little different because it’s flavored. Maya Gold is dark chocolate with orange and spices. Think of that orange spice tea. The chocolate is smooth, rather sweet but doesn’t overpower the chocolate flavors. The main spicy flavor note that I detect is clove, which I don’t normally like, but it works well with orange. There’s a little hint of vanilla and perhaps some nutmeg.
Overall, it’s not my favorite flavor of chocolate, but the consistency of the chocolate itself is very good. Not quite as buttery as the Chocovic last week, but sweeter and I can see myself eating more of this in one sitting.
Other reading - here’s more about G&B’s Fair Trade Maya Gold bar.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Name: Peppermint Cup-O-Gold
This candy cup has left me mystified. Is it really from Adams-Brooks? They don’t mention it on their website ... no one mentions it on their website on any of the internets. Have I stumbled across an inter-dimensional 99 cent store that sells candy unknown to us here?
Why is it called Cup-o-Gold anyway? The center is clearly white. The package is silver ... these things trouble me. But not enough to keep me from eating it.
Like the original Cup-O-Gold, this milk chocolate cup sports toasted coconut and almond bits in the chocolate. The ratio of chocolate to the filling is a little off. Upon my first small bite (not pictured), I didn’t hit filling, just chocolate. The second bite, which was sizeable (like the photo) didn’t hit filling. Finally on the fourth bite which by now meant half the cup was gone, I hit a small hidden cavity of filling. Instead of a light, frothy filling like the Cup-O-Gold, this one was a little tacky, a little stiff. The mint was barely perceptible.
I bought this thinking it’d be like a milk chocolate Junior Mint - a gooey minty cream center. Alas, the coconut competes too much with the scant mint. If there were less chocolate and more filling, perhaps it wouldn’t seem so overpowering. However, the package does say thick rich milk chocolate, so who am I to go expecting things not advertised?
Rating - 4 out of 10.
Name: Out of Africa Macadamia Nut Chocolates
I don’t think I’ve had a better story to accompany a candy for this blog than this one. The short story is a friend, Will, went to Africa and brought me this candy.
The long (and great) story that goes with it is one of the internet, passions and following dreams. Will and I met while writing novels (actually we met while drinking coffee and procrastinating writing novels) and have gone on to have many adventures together like walking the Los Angeles Marathon, writing more novels, hiking to the bridge to nowhere and a half a dozen photo safaris.
Well, damn if he didn’t go off and go on a real life safari and take a gazillion photos with his new bride viewing African wildlife. And damn if he wasn’t sweet, and brought me something I’d probably never have otherwise:
Inside this cute little box that looks like something someone would bring back from an African safari, including the name, “Out of Africa.” Inside is a plump macadamia nut covered in sweet milk chocolate. Simplicity itself. Thank goodness those candy makers realize that this will spend its time in a suitcase and they’ve packaged the candies in a little tray. Sweet!
I had three for breakfast this morning (and two when I took the photos). Only one left!
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, August 26, 2005
Before I had a candy blog I had trouble getting people to bring me gifts from their travels. Maybe I was too embarrassed to actually ask for candy from other countries, but now it’s a given that if any of my friends (hell, friend’s friends) goes anywhere interesting, they are tasked with bringing something back.
At first the name was kind of scary. Krachnuss sounds like “knuckle cracker” to me. And that hazelnut on the package? It’s bigger than a chestnut. However, open up the wrapper and it’s pure delight.
Those are whole hazelnuts in there. It makes for a rather lumpy bar and the hazelnuts are poorly distributed, but man are they good! Not roasted too long, they have an excellent snap and slightly sweet tinge to their nuttiness. The milk chocolate is sweet and smooth and doesn’t try to upstage the delicate hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts, by the way (or filberts as they’re called in the Pacific Northwest) and love how they’re the peanuts of Europe. Even the packages, which give information about possible allergens only mention soy and almonds - there’s no note about any peanuts.
Over the past few weeks the topic of Ice Cubes has come up a few times. At a party, in my interview on Radio Open Source and when Jay gave me this candy bar. For those of you not familiar with Ice Cubes, they’re a little chocolate cubes made with hazelnut paste. However, the pernicious part about them is that the first ingredient is hydrogenated coconut oil. I’m lucky my arteries are still open. My first year in the dorms in college there was a little store on campus that let you use your meal card to buy food - I bought a tub of 100 of these (probably cost me the equivalent of 10 meals). Though I love them, I’ve been trying to resist them ever since then.
Well, along comes a Ragusa bar, and thank goodness the Swiss have made a more wholesome version. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bar is about 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 3/4” high, and pretty dense for its volume. This little bar is filled with a smooth and cool truffley filling and studded with whole hazelnuts. (If this sounds good, you might also want to try Perugina’s Baci.) Man, this is a good breakfast. The nuts give it just enough of a protein balance to keep the sugar charged filling from causing glycemic overload.
The bar is a bit messy to eat. It’s wrapped in a thick aluminum foil and the chocolate coating only covers the top and bottom, so the sides get kind of sticky. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the bar and master popping the last of it out of the wrapper. It’s also been a bit warm here in Southern California the past few days and I wasn’t keeping this in the fridge, so on top of its natural softness, it’s downright limp. I might just go get a spoon.
Ratings - Krachnuss - 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 25, 2005
This is not a new product to me, however, I’ve gotten a couple of notes (one email and one comment) to review this, so here goes. My husband bought a set of three of the unique origins bars one year before vacation and we took them with us to rocky beaches, windswept dunes and rolling oak-dotted hills of the central Californian coast, so any pleasant past associations with the bars must be taken into account.
The bars in question were from the cocoa crop of 2004. The freshness date said they were best before 04/2007.
First was the Guaranda, which is 71% cocoa solids of forastero arriba cocoa from Ecuador. The tasting notes on the back: “Perfumed aroma with fruity, acid notes and floral tones of acacia honey, with milky and exotic wood nuances. Typical personality of the cocoa bean: smooth dark chocolate taste with floral tones of honeyed character.” The ingredients are simple: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter and soya lecithin.
My tasting notes: the scent is woodsy, smoky and a bit like coffee. The surface is smooth and shiny (better than the photo) with a red hint to it. Upon biting into it, it snaps easily and melts quickly on the tongue. The cocoa mass is very smooth, not at all gritty. It’s very dry yet the cocoa butter gives it a slippery, cool feeling on the tongue. I don’t detect much of the honey notes, but the butteryness gives it a sort of empty feeling, like there’s a top and bottom but no middle flavors.
Next was Ocumare, which is 71% cocoa solids of criollo cocoa from Venuzuela. The tasting notes on the back: “Smooth perfumed aroma with tones of exotic wood, nuts and dried fruit as well as spicy nuances. Refined and lasting taste, balanced and round at the same time. Also, aspects of cedar, tobacco and dried plums are particularly noteworthy.” The ingredients are the same as the first: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter and soya lecithin.
My tasting notes: the smell is woodsy with more of a fruit note to it, perhaps apple. The color is a dark and consistent brown with a good snap to the bite. It immediately starts to melt on the tongue. It has a rounder flavor just as the package suggests with more middle notes of sweet apple or apricot (I’m not catching the plum here). It’s a much fuller flavor from top to bottom with absolutely no grain to it. Towards the end there’s less of a dry finish but a nice lingering woodsy note.
For high end 70%+ bars, I think these are the best I’ve tried to date. Though the single origin means that you may never get these bars again, they’re wonderfully balanced with an excellent smoothness. I do think overall that I prefer a blended chocolate to get the full-bodied taste with a multitude of notes (like a chorus instead of a soloist) but if you hadn’t told me that they were single origins, I could still state unequivocally that these are good bars. Where I find so many upscale bars lacking in the cocoa butter/smoothness factor, these bars excel at the melting and without any graininess at all.
I wouldn’t say that they’re worth more than $3.50 per bar though, like you might be charged some places. So if you can get them at a Trader Joe’s or other similar economical location (maybe Cost Plus carries them), they are the best $2 you can spend on a high-cocoa content bar.
Interesting facts from the package: Chocovic is based in Barcelona, Spain and has been in business since 1872.
Rating - 9 out of 10.
Monday, August 22, 2005
I actually had three bars but ate one before I could take its picture (milk chocolate in a saffron yellow wrapper), so pretend there’s a third one in there.
I was excited that Trader Joe’s was carrying these because I was hoping that it meant that they’d be a little less expensive (which they are). Still, I’m not sure I’m on board with this high end chocolate bar movement. Perhaps I’m just looking for a different thing in my chocolate than some other folks.
I think cocoa is great, it’s obviously one of those things that makes chocolate unique, that blend of earthy roasted flavors with those fruity notes that many people compare to wine or coffee. But what makes chocolate so great, for me, is cocoa butter. It’s one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. It makes it smooth and creamy and portable. Sharffen Berger chocolate bars lack that smooth and lustrous feeling on the tongue.
Scharffen Berger, I think, can be described as sour. There’s a pervasive acidic note in all their chocolates that I’ve tried and I don’t find it pleasant. It does provide a good base (except for the fact that acids are not bases as in alkaline) for the other flavors. In the pure dark chocolate I tasted some fruit notes: grape, apricot and some apple. I also tasted some oaky/woodsy notes and something which reminded me of lichens or wood ear mushrooms.
I know Sharffen Berger has its aficionados, but I don’t count myself among them. The product was definitely consistent and for a high-end chocolate, Trader Joe’s has certainly made it more accessible. I can definitely see this as good cooking chocolate - I wouldn’t hesitate to add some of their cocoa to my chili (yes, I put cocoa in my chili), but for eating it just leaves me, well, unaffected.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Does this candy bar look familiar to anyone? I picked this up because it looked like a KitKat bar on the package and found that it looked just like it inside too. However, instead of four little bars, there were three. Unfortunately this is no match for KitKat - the first ingredient is sugar, and after opening the package and that sweet smell, it was obvious. The second ingredient is not milk chocolate or even cocoa butter but hydrogenated oil. That means this isn’t real chocolate on the outside? Nope, it’s not. It even gives you a hint to that in the description - “wafer fingers in milk compound chocolate.” Think “cheese food.”
However, the wafers were wonderfully crisp and the chocolate compound ratio to the wafers was nice. There was also a nice hint of hazelnut to it. If I found myself in Turkey and really wanted a candy bar, I might actually seek this one out, if only for its familiarity.
So, as far as DiDo goes, I’ll keep buying her albums, but she can keep her candy bar.
Interesting note - Dido is the Queen (and founder) of Carthage.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (but if they were made with real chocolate it’d be an 8)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.