Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I tried the Theo Chocolate BonBons earlier this year and have had the bars sitting around for a while. I’m feeling quite pressured to eat them all (though they need to be savored) before Los Angeles gets so hot it bursts into flames (oops, we’re already on fire).
Theo makes chocolate from bean to bar (actually roasting their own beans on site) using fair trade and organic ingredients. Don’t let all that squishy-hippy stuff fool you, this is quality stuff without compromise.
Even the wrappers are sassy and fun (designed by KittenChops) instead of making you feel like you did a good deed. Come on! Half the fun is feeling that your chocolate bar is an indulgence ... a wrapper that tells you how many lives you may have saved, how many species will continue to exist because of your support ... all the wonderful skin-clarifying, artery-blasting ingredients that are contained within might be nice (and might get you to buy it) but they aren’t going to get your salivary glands going.
The dark bars contain 65% cocoa solids, so these are dark, but not too intense.
The Theo Chocolate bars are actually called 3400 Phinney Bars, named after the address of the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle. Not only are they not afraid of you knowing where they are, they actually welcome visitors and offer tours with tastings, of course, as well as a factory store. I’m hoping to get up there next fall to really dive into their complete chocolate experience.
The Milk Chocolate bars boast 40% cacao content, so they’re pretty rich.
All the bars a welcome change from the ordinary candy bar. The two I would find myself munching on regularly would be the Nib Brittle and Chai Milk Chocolate. They are expensive though, so only for special occasions. I could see tucking these into a special picnic at Pt. Dume or going to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert, but I just can’t buy them every day ... but knowing that the cocoa is grown responsibly (socially & environmentally) would help me pony up the dough.
You can find the bars online at Theo, Chocosphere and at stores like Whole Foods. The bars are
now Kosher (as of March 2008).
Friday, April 20, 2007
The Snickers Creme Sports Egg is odd. I don’t know who told them they needed more sporty Easter candy and I wonder if anyone’s been fired over this. First, there was a perfectly good Snickers Egg last year. The change this year, by all outward appearances, was putting a sporty theme on the package. But no! Instead they mucked around with the innards.
It’s not that this is bad, but I don’t know where they got the idea that this stuff is “creme”. It might be syrup or maybe caramel, but it’s not cremey at all. It’s a caramelly goo with some ground peanuts in it ... I think.
I rather liked it, but not as much as the original Egg.
After tasting the suprisingly good Livesavers Jellybeans, I wanted to try the Lifesavers Jellybean Pastels. But I just couldn’t bring myself to pay the price. So I waited.
Red Raspberry (medium pink) nice and berry, much more vibrant than all the other flavors
The mystery here was the purple one. Sometimes it was tart and sometimes it was completely sweet. Is that Cotton Candy? Which one was supposed to be Mango Medley, are they also
Many of the colors are devilishly similar. Unless I looked at them in bright natural light, I couldn’t tell the peach and two pinks apart. As a mix, I found them all rather similar and didn’t dislike any of them enough to pick through it, so it wins on that front.
My final purchase I didn’t photograph. I stopped at Rexall by the Beverly Center and found that they had a nice display of 75% off goodies. It included two bags of Island Orange Mounds in the Fun Size. I wasn’t sure if they supposed to be part of the Easter sale. They expired last month but I’m okay with stuff on the cusp. When I got to the register they rang up at $2.00. I said I didn’t want it. The fellow shrugged and tossed in the 75% discount and I took them. They’re a little stiffer than the regular bar format I reviewed last year, but still quite nice. (Kosher)
The whole lot of stuff ... for only $1.24. At full price I wouldn’t love it ... at this price everything gets a 6 out of 10.
Monday, April 9, 2007
I saved this review for after Easter. They package makes them look like an Easter product, but after having those Godiva eggs (even if they were freaktacularlly expensive), there was just no way that they were going to compare well. Now that they’re a distant memory, I feel that I can give the Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses my undivided attention.
I have to say that I loved the blue wave design on the foil. It was tropical and also different enough from the other foils out there that I could guess that this was coconut.
Inside the foil was a molded Kiss with a soft creme filling of coconut.
The shell of the Kisses were rather greasy. This wasn’t as noticeable when I chilled the Kisses (thanks for the suggestion!), but the chocolate outside still felt a little weird on the tongue, no matter the temperature. A little cool, a little less crumbly that the regular Kiss chocolate and of course it tasted like coconut before you got to the center.
The filling was interesting. The creme part was actually more like creme and less like fondant than the Cherry Cordial Creme I tried before. This actually seemed a bit buttery. There were also crisp little flecks of coconut in there.
It’s not at all like an Almond Joy center.
I enjoyed them, but I don’t think I’m a fan. The greasiness is just offputting. It makes the little flags translucent and of course makes my fingers oily if I linger too long while unwrapping. I enjoyed the nutty taste, but I know some other people didn’t like them. I found the lighter flavor of coconut like munching on some chocolate and suntan lotion. Like a summer at the pool. (Okay, maybe that’s not an appealing image, but it’s been so gloomy and overcast here in Los Angeles lately, maybe I’m just looking for something ‘sunny’.)
Note: These are limited edition, but it’s unclear if they are an Easter item. Some stores will put all the Limited Edition stuff on sale with the Easter goodies (that’s how I got my KitKat Mini Dark Mint), so keep a look out ... when in doubt just ask!
UPDATE April 12, 2009: Coconut Kisses returned again for srping 2009. Since some folks have noted it in the comments, I did taste this years version and agree, they’re not greasy. Perhaps Hershey’s rectified the ingredient/production issue that was making them that way.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I’ve been asked a few times what I think of Godiva. To be honest, I don’t think much about it. When I was a kid and the same company who owned Pepperidge Farm (Campbell Soup) also owned Godiva (well, that’s still true today). There was a Pepperidge Farm thrift store not far from our home that we’d shop at once a month. Much of the time they’d have Godiva at ridiculously low prices. Besides chocolates at holidays, this was my only interaction with fine chocolates.
Of course I was in love with the elegant packaging. But I also appreciated the nice flavor and beauty of the chocolates as well. As I got a little older and became less impressed by those things, I realized, I didn’t like the chocolates themselves much. It’s not that they were bad, by any means, they just weren’t within my set of preferred flavors (you know, peanut butter and citrus) and I found the chocolate a little waxy.
So I don’t eat them, I don’t pay much attention to them.
But hey, it’s Easter and it’s about time I had something from Godiva represented here. So I popped into their shop over the weekend to see what was there for Easter. Lo and behold, it seemed they had a product that sounded right up my alley: an assortment of foil-wrapped Easter Eggs.
The assortment included Solid Dark Chocolate, Solid Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Coconut and Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter. Seeing that there were 16 eggs in the box and there were four flavors, I naturally assumed that there would be four of each flavor. Unfortunately there were only three of each of the filled eggs and five each of the solid eggs. Grrrr. I don’t want Godiva’s chocolate ... I want Godiva’s chocolates.
The eggs themselves are sizeable. At about .42 ounces each they’re twice the size of the regular foil-wrapped eggs we’re used to in Easter baskets.
The milk chocolate is nice. Creamy with a good caramelly milk flavor, though a little sticky and cloying as it melts on the tongue. The dark chocolate has a sweet but compelling scent, a little on the smoky side. It’s super creamy on the tongue with a slight dry finish. It doesn’t have the berry or fruity notes, just sticks to the woodsy/smoky side of things.
But let’s get to the fun ones! The pink foil holds a Dark Chocolate with Coconut egg. I could smell the nutty coconut as I unwrapped it. The center is a light and creamy fondant with little flecks of coconut. It smelled like coconut but also a little floral, like lilacs. Amazingly good.
The light blue foil holds a Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter egg. This one smelled immediately of dark toasted almonds. It was very soft to bite, I’m guessing from all the oils in the almond butter. Very thick and rich, the almond butter was fabulous, very much like a peanut butter, but with that unmistakeable almond taste. The milk chocolate set off the texture and flavor very well.
I really liked these but at almost a DOLLAR PER EGG they were horrendously expensive. Over $35.00 per pound. That price is fine for high quality boxed chocolates, but not for a product that was mostly solid chocolate. Keep your eye out for their post-Easter sale though if you’ve just gotta have them. (This particular box of foil eggs is already sold out on the site, but they have this more expensive version with only six eggs. (Jeeze, where’s a thrift store when you need it!)
Does anyone have any insider info on who supplies Godiva with their chocolate?
Friday, March 23, 2007
While I was at See’s a couple of weeks ago on the prowl for the Scotchmallow Eggs, I decided to try some of their other Easter offerings. Like many boxed chocolate companies, they had the regular boxed chocolates in their spring finery. See’s has always been a bit classic looking, a little retro, perhaps even a little stuffy. But most people who’ve had their products know that most of the effort goes into the chocolates themselves. Most of the designs for the holiday packaging, in fact, haven’t change in years. I know I’ve actually bought some of the boxes ten years ago. I find that comforting, as I have trouble buying the same bra as scant six months ... because you know, a good underwire can go out of fashion.
The tray inside isn’t really that sassy, it’s just a formed piece of thin white plastic, but it does the trick of keeping all the eggs in their place. Note that the Bordeaux, that’s covered in jimmies, was actually wrapped in clear plastic (the only one). I’m guessing that’s to keep the jimmies from going everywhere.
Each Egg weighs about 2 ounces. I ate them by slicing them up, usually into three of four slices. I suppose you could just consider them a big candy bar and eat it all yourself.
Peanut Butter Egg - I’ve never had this before! It’s awesome. It’s not quite like a Reese’s Egg. (Though it is about the same size, but taller.) The center is a very smooth and dense peanut butter, lightly sweet and just a little crumbly. It’s not better or worse than Reese’s (except of course the chocolate is superior), just different. They sell the Peanut Butter Egg separately, and with good reason.
As far as I know, this Egg does not come in a single piece in the mixed boxes. So consider this a seasonal item. (I’ll have to check if they sell regular pieces just at the store, you know, like ordering off the menu.)
Bordeaux Egg - I’ve never been quite sure what the Bordeaux See’s piece was until I looked it up on their website. It comes in a round piece in most boxes of chocolates in either milk or dark chocolate, and has some little jimmies on it. This piece was milk chocolate. The jimmies are actually pretty good, instead of being minute waxy rods made to look like chocolate, they might actually be chocolate. The Bordeaux filling is called a brown sugar buttercream. It’s light and creamy, with a cooling feel on the tongue like powdered sugar but a mild caramel taste comes into play.
The Bordeaux is available in mixed boxes and a pre-wrapped “bar” like the Scotchmallow.
Cocoanut Egg - I love the cocoanut egg. The dark chocolate on the outside, in my opinion, is different from the Scotchmallow. It tastes milder, maybe a little more buttery. The center is a smooth cream with coconut flakes. It’s not super-dense like a Mounds bar; it’s more delicate and has a nuttier flavor and less texture.
This comes in the mixed box, but I think only in milk chocolate. I did pick up a few of the dark chocolate cocoanut pieces while at the store. I think I prefer the ratio of chocolate to coconut cream center in the singles.
Chocolate Walnut Egg ... oops, I didn’t eat this one. You’ll have to ask my husband how it was. It must have been pretty good, he ate it. They make a version of this without walnuts, but it’s sold separately. Batteries not included.
Overall, I thought these were great quality and a tasty assortment. But I probably wouldn’t buy them again (well, for starters 25% of it was off limits), but I think it makes a great gift and all the flavors are winners. Very fresh and generous.
For the $8.40 I spent here, I think I’d be happier with the Nuts & Chews (dark), but that’s just me. Considering that the Peanut Butter isn’t available otherwise, I might opt for one of those in a single large egg.
See’s is running a contest through the beginning of June, giving away a box of candy a month for a year. Enter once, they announce winners every month.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Kokosowe is a dark chocolate covered coconut center. The center is not at all like a Mounds bar, but more like a coconutty York Peppermint Pattie ... it’s a stiff and slightly crumbly fondant that melts in your mouth and then later the chewy toasted coconut becomes chewy.
I’m a fan of coconut and I enjoyed the more toasted flavors, a refreshing change from the usual sticky chew of a Mounds bar.
Kasztanki is a large chestnut looking piece like the others. This one is a semisweet chocolate covering a center of cocoa cream and crushed wafers. It’s crunchy and has a light rum and perhaps coffee flavor to it. The crunch is really interesting because the bits are so small and the flavor is rather light. It reminded me a bit of some other Eastern European candies I’ve had before, except this is good quality.
Malaga was the one name that I kind of understood, though I’m not sure what the candy is. As far as I can tell it’s a flowing raisin caramel center in semi-sweet chocolate. Or perhaps the center is more like a cordial or marmalade. It’s a rather unusual combination but the flavor reminds me a little bit of the Rum Nougats that See’s makes (but not the texture, of course). There are little bits of raisins and the dark chocolate provides a good complement to the sweet but flavorful center.
Tiki Taki was definitely the most interesting of the bunch with an uncommon combination of flavors. The top layer is a nice mild peanut butter praline, and the bottom layer is a smooth but crumbly fondant of coconut like the Kokosowe. It seems to work pretty well, the roasted nut flavors of the peanut butter go really well with the coconut, which plays it pretty mild here.
Wawel may be popping up more in ethnic and upscale grocers. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see it at places like Cost Plus World Market. Part of what I find interesting is that these chocolates taste different than others. The flavor combinations on both the Tiki Taki and Malaga are unlike others that I’ve had. As long as the price points are consistent with other upscale consumer chocolates, I can see them making inroads here in the states. View their online catalogue. I could only find one online retailer (Canadian) that had Wawel products, but it at least gives the sense that as an imported chocolate brand they’re quite reasonably priced.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Leonidas is a classic Belgian chocolatier with a Greek name. They make a huge variety of chocolates (their website says 100) and sell at 1,400 shops around the world (many in airports). Their website also has photos and descriptions of all of their chocolates. I wish I’d known that when I got this huge box, I had no clue what was inside here.
No matter, it’s all good!
The Pralines Leonidas assortment has a narrow focus on all things hazelnut with a good balance of dark, milk and white chocolate. There were pralin?s, pastes, truffles, croquants, gianduja and even a marzipan or two. It wasn’t all noisettes, there was also a cherry paste and what I believe is a chocolate covered cherry (that red foil one which is the only thing in the box right now). Some had a nice tickle of rum or coffee tipped into them. There were different textures for the hazelnuts - from a thick paste to a near solid chocolate assembly.
Leonidas runs on the sweet side, but the nut flavors are awesome. The chocolate is smooth and mellow, don’t expect anything strong or vibrant here, just some old fashioned hazelnut goodness. Oh, and the box is pretty cool. It’s a long faux leather box with two lids, the outermost lid locks the box tight with a magnetic strip but when you open it you can still gaze at the chocolate inside through the plastic window on the inner lid.
I haven’t visited a Leonidas store in person (which is odd because there’s one within walking distance of my office), but I imagine they can fix you right up for Valentine’s Day. Personally, now that I’ve tried a wide variety of their product line, I’m going to stick with the dark chocolate items and perhaps try more of the fruit jellies (I actually liked the cherry paste quite a bit and think they’ll do a good job on the others).
This was another birthday gift last month and of the cache of sweet treats, I can say that this one was not a home run. I think it has less to do with the quality and presentation of the product than the simple fact that the flavor combo just isn’t to my liking.
The box of 12 bonbons looks like little pom-poms in brown fluted cups. They’re called Coconut Snowballs which is pretty much what I would call them if asked. The package itself offers no explanation of what it is. The little card on the ribbon simply says, “An astonishing blend of provacative flavors created to arouse and stimulate the palate fo the most demanding client in the world ... you!”
Each little sphere starts with a white chocolate truffle cream, encased in a white chocolate shell and coated with coconut flakes.
They were creamy on the inside and had a good nutty bite and chew of coconut. They weren’t sickeningly sweet but the centers weren’t as smooth as I’d like, kind of grainy. Overall they were nice, but lacked an oomph that I don’t think these ingredients can provide.
I’m still curious about Christopher Norman’s other offerings and will pick them up the next chance I get (after I’ve finished all my other chocolates in my stash, of course). But the remainder of these will probably be given away.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.