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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Short & Sweet: Hazelnut Bites

As the temps are climbing here in Southern California, I need to eat up all my chocolate before it melts. So instead rolling these little goodies out one at a time, here’s a few bites in brief:

Fiat Gianduia

I picked up these cute little cubes at Lucca, an Italian deli/grocer in San Francisco a couple of months ago. The graphic design of the little wrappers with bold FIAT logo and variations was just irresistible. They’re made by Pasticceria Majani, founded in 1796 and one of the first confectioners to make actual solid chocolate in Europe. The Fiat line of chocolates were introduced in 1911 and actually named in honor of the Italian car.

Fiat GianduiaThis style of gianduia cube is rather common in Europe, I’ve had a few variations of these before.

They’re all layered. They’re a little shy of one inch on the longest side and about 3/4 of an inch tall and wide (so they’re not quite cubes).

FIAT Classico: two medium layers alternate with two light colored hazelnut paste layers. It’s extremely sweet, very hazelnutty. But really too sweet that it burns my throat. The only way to cut this is with a strong cup of coffee or espresso (which may be the way they’re intended to be eaten). I didn’t finish my second one.

FIAT NOIR: this is the one shown here, it’s a dark chocolate layer with a thick medium gianduia center. Even the dark chocolate layer is a hazelnut infused chocolate, but it’s the center that’s packed with a hazelnut punch. The combo is spot on perfect. A little difference in the texture, a little difference in the sweetness and nuttiness and a perfect bite.

FIAT CAFFE: the caffe looks a lot like the Noir, but has a darker center than the top and bottom layers. It’s sweet though, and has a light coffee flavor and a slight bitter tang. What sets this one apart from the other two is that it has almonds in it as well as hazelnuts. At first I thought it was too sweet, but once the bitterness and a dry finish kicks in, I came to appreciate it more, just as I did with unsweetened coffee as a teenager.

I give the line an 8 out of 10.

Caffarel Hazelnut Buds

If I thought the Fiat cubes were a good deal, I guess I didn’t realize what a value my Caffarel find was.

I got these little Caffarel foil hazelnut flower buds at Chocolate Covered in San Francisco. The little package had five pieces for four dollars ... so eighty cents each (and Jack, who runs the store, also gave me one to eat while I was there).

I love Caffarel’s little bites, no matter what shape they are. These are rather small, they’re obvious built in halves and mushed together to create the three dimensional bud, I kind of like pulling them apart with my teeth.

The milk chocolate shell is sweet and milky. The center is creamy and thick, a little fudgy and has tiny crushed hazelnut bits. It’s super smooth otherwise and slightly cool on the tongue. If you’re a fan of Perugina Baci, consider these a tiny milk chocolate version.

They’re just so adorable. I don’t know where to find them for sure, but if you’re a hazelnut fan scoop a few up.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Cote d'Or Milk ChocolateMy final hazelnut indulgence this week is the Cote d’Or Experiences Milk Creamy Smooth bar.

What clued me in that this was a hazelnut bar (since it’s not obvious) was that it was called a Smooth and intense MILK chocolate confection which is a coded way of saying, “there’s something else in this bar.”

The hazelnut paste is pretty far down on the list of ingredients, after the major chocolate ingredients and whey & milkfat but before the soy lecithin.

Like the dark bars I tried last week, the bar is big and thin, with the logo elephant on each segment.

Cote d'Or Milk Chocolate

It smells a little malty and very milky. It’s a softer bite than the dark bars (as is usually the case with milk chocolate). The bar has a smooth but fudgy consistency. The hazelnut flavors aren’t readily apparent, but there are some nice smoky and toasted notes to the bar.

It’s not too sweet, has a dash of malt and even a little burnt sugar bitterness to it that I find appealing. I can’t see myself buying one of these (I rarely buy milk chocolate unless it’s for a review) but knowing that Cote d’Or does a very mellow milk does intrigue me ... I may find myself experimenting with more of their product line.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Reese Hazelnut Creme
  2. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  3. Short & Sweet: Fancy Food Bites
  4. Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Hazelnuts
  5. Caffarel Figs & Chestnuts (Fico & Castagna)
  6. Villars Swiss Milk Chocolate

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:19 am     All NaturalCandyReviewCaffarelChocolateCoffeeNuts7-Worth It8-Tasty9-YummyBelgiumItalyComments (4)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

M&Ms Premiums

M&Ms Premiums AssortmentWith a smidge of fanfare last month, M&Ms/Mars introduced their new M&Ms Premiums line. The inaugural product launch includes five flavor variations that are a delightful chocolate gem with a colorful outside and a rich scrumptious inside.

These are not to be confused with the Special Edition offerings M&Ms had last year which featured such combinations as Cherry Almondine, Vanilla Crisp, Orange Creme and a few others I can’t remember. Those sold for $6.00 in a bag that held less than 6 ounces. (That bag was also unremarkable, similar to packaging for the regular M&Ms.)

Instead the new Premiums have radically different packaging, jewel tone boxes and most of all, a new type of colored coating in iridescent and speckled shading.

M&Ms Premiums Packages

The packages are narrow and tall, with curved waists. They look rather modern, but more like they have some sort of grooming product in them or perhaps even feminine hygiene products. (All joking aside, it’s rather cute how the boxes have little feet at the back that keep them standing up.)

The flavor variety is at once classic and adventurous. They use white, milk and dark chocolate in the line, often in combination with a layered effect and the only nut present in their initial offerings is the almond.

Shell Comparison between regular M&Ms and M&Ms PremiumsBut the radical departure here for M&Ms is the loss of the crisp, candy shell. Instead these morsels have no sugar shell. They have a wash of mottled colors and then a confectionery glaze to seal it all in and give it a shine.

As comparison I picked up some regular M&Ms to contrast this. The standard Milk Chocolate M&M has a clearly delineated shell, created by coating the tumbling lentil several times with the sugar syrup which dries in layers and builds up the familiar crunch.

So what is this new covering? It can’t be described as a shell, instead it’s more like a skin. It’s made from colorings, a little dash of oil and confectionery glaze (which contains shellac, a natural product but probably not vegetarian) - so it’s rather like a coat of latex paint. It’s not exactly flavored, but dissolves quickly, but into rather unappealing waxy flakes.

The new Premiums are also bigger than regular M&Ms. If you’ve have the limited edition Mint Crisp or even the Razzberry or Wild Cherry, these are more that size. Fatter and slightly irregular.

Chocolate Almond M&Ms Premiums

Chocolate Almond M&Ms Premiums

This cobalt blue and dark blue speckled egg shaped candies are milk chocolate around an almond.

They’re really not that different from the M&Ms Almond or if the shell thing is a bother, then compare them to the Dove Chocolate Covered Almonds, because other than the coloring, that’s exactly what they are.

It’s milk chocolate and to be honest, I would have preferred dark, but I have to review what’s in front of me.

The almonds are rather puny, some are smaller than peanuts. But they’re fresh and the milk chocolate is sweet and consistent and the right proportion. I can do better for the price. (Trader Joe’s.)

Raspberry Almond M&Ms Premiums

Raspberry Almond M&Ms Premiums

If I was disappointed with the classic milk chocolate covered almond, I should have kept my mouth shut. Because the twist on that is the over-engineered and under-tasty combination of raspberry flavored white chocolate over almonds covered in dark chocolate.

They smell like lipgloss and look like fake fingernails.

The texture is quite smooth and creamy, the white and dark chocolate a velvety. The almonds are fresh and crunchy, but the raspberry flavor just goes and spoils it all. It’s that fragrant raspberry essence - all flash and no real depth. I had a bunch of these mixed together in a bowl and they just polluted all the other ones. (That’s a tip if you were planning on using these for an event ... do not mix the raspberry.)

Mocha M&Ms Premiums

Mocha M&Ms Premiums

This amber and bronze little beads are a milk chocolate base lightly flavored with coffee.

The milk chocolate is moderately smooth, a bit milky and tastes rather like a mocha with a light fudgy grain to it. They’re even slightly bitter.

I’ve always wanted coffee M&Ms. These are pretty good. Pretty pricey and probably much harder to find but a nice change of pace from plain chocolate.

Triple Chocolate M&Ms Premiums

Triple Chocolate M&Ms Premiums

This is where things get exciting for this new line.

The triple chocolate is not triple the size of the others, instead if offers the three different kinds of chocolate: milk, white an dark.

The dark outer layer is buttery smooth, only a slight bitter tinge. It’s pretty thin and gives way to the slightly salty and very sweet white coating. Then the center is the milk chocolate. Kind of typical milk, a little more on the dairy side that I recall regular M&Ms tasting.

I liked chewing them up, but they’re fun to let melt through the layers.

Mint Chocolate M&Ms Premiums

Mint Chocolate M&Ms Premiums

As a twist on the ordinary minted chocolate M&Ms that are available around the holidays, the Mint Chocolate Premiums have layers as well.

Here the center is white chocolate (and it’s real white chocolate with actual cocoa butter) and then a thinner dark chocolate coating, all in the crazy mottled green.

They’re fresh tasting, smooth and really enjoyable.

I have to say that after I got over the no-shell shock, I really liked the Mocha and Mint (and the Triple Chocolate were also nice). The pricing is far better than I expected for a product called Premiums. I picked up this set at Target for $3.99 per package. They’re six ounces inside a little reclosable cellophane pouch. They’re far less expensive than the 7 ounce packages of single color M&Ms that are sold on the M&Ms website for $7.99 a package.

These are likely to be popular with brides and other folks planning large parties. I can only hope that M&Ms will provide more efficient packaging for that purpose.

M&Ms are by no means the first to create this sort of product. Koppers Chocolates has been selling jewel-toned chocolate covered almonds (and these are huge almonds) for at least 18 months and little flavored unshelled chocolates called Savouries (I tried the cayenne one here) for years. Koppers has also been making Mocha Lentils & Mint Lentils at least since I was a kid. Madelaine’s Chocolate has also been marketing jewel looking Malted Milk Balls for a couple of years.

Related Candies

  1. Head to Head: M&Ms vs Koppers Milkies
  2. Naked Chocolate Maltballs
  3. York Mints
  4. Fairway NYC
  5. Head-to-Head: Smarties vs. M&Ms
Name: M&Ms Premiums
    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: Target (Hollywood)
Price: $3.99
Size: 6 ounces
Calories per ounce: 162
Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Nuts, Mint, Coffee, United States, Mars, M&Ms, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:58 am     Comments (39)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crown Nuggets Borrachitos

Crown Nuggets - Tequila Nuggets (Dulce de Leche)Dulce de Leche is a popular confection in Central and South America as well as parts of the United States. There are many regional versions (and some families have their own traditional recipes) but it’s all basically the same thing - a milk caramel. Often it’s made into a sauce or “spoon sweet” similar to pudding, but other versions are cooked into a solid much like a caramel or soft fudge/penuche. Other versions use the sauce as a frosting or filling for other baked goods.

Crown Nuggets sent me this version of Mexican dulce de leche (literally candy of milk) made with tequila. The name Borrachito means “little drunk”, and in this case they’re not kidding. These little fingers of dulce de leche (they call them nuggets) are up to 4% alcohol. (So they may not be available in all states.)

As they launch the candy there are two versions available: Tequila & Licor de Cafe. They’re packaged in little plastic tubs with the fingers separated by cardboard dividers, two layers deep, 12 in each layer. At over 9 ounces per package, they’re pretty dense little candies.

Crown Nuggets - Licor de Cafe & Tequila Nuggets (Dulce de Leche)

The Tequila Nuggets are on the right in this photo. You can see that they’re kind of a layered affair. The center is a smooth & creamy light caramel, almost like a pudding, then it’s rolled in sugar to keep them from sticking to each other. The drunken part is pretty evident when I opened the package. It smells like sweet tequila and a little bit like cotton candy.

I’ve had tequila before, but I don’t drink it straight and it’s not my preferred liquor. The idea of it mixed with some sweet and thick dairy was pretty appealing though.

The little fingers are soft, but the sugar coating keeps them from being sticky. I ate them in two bites, they’re about the size of the top two knuckles of my pinky (I can’t say how big your pinkies are). Inside the grainy exterior is a soft and creamy caramelized milk.

The tequila flavors are a little overwhelming at first, but the dairy flavors come out slowly. It’s soft and melts well on the tongue. I find the sugar grains make it a bit too sweet and mess with the custardy texture of the dulce de leche. Tequila is a bit medicinal but definitely add a bit of dimension to this.

Crown Nuggets - Licor de Cafe Nuggets (Dulce de Leche)The Licor de Cafe Nuggets was a bit more of interest to me because of my love of coffee and the fact that it goes so well with milk.

These had a bit of a coffee note to them and a little bit of a rum taste.

I was hoping both of these would be more caramelized or milky tasting. It was darker, but not quite smoky or burnt enough for me. I like a good flan or creme brulee and I was hoping this would be a confectionery equivalent. The alcohol, while definitely evident, may have overshadowed that.

I think mainstream America is ready for some good dulce de leche. These appear to have overcome some of the issues of how to portion it and make it look appealing. It’s probably a good idea to capitalize on the tequila angle too, so I don’t begrudge the inclusion. But the flavor/texture mix just isn’t for me. I’m not going to give up on finding my ideal dulce de leche.

The nutrition panel is calculate for a single piece (11 grams & 40 calories) so it says there’s no fat in here, but since the second ingredient is whole milk, I’m guessing if you ate a full ounce (three pieces) your body would find some usable dairy fats in there.

I don’t care much for eating them as a confection on their own, but in combination with some bittersweet chocolate or even as part of a dessert cheese plate with dried fruits & nuts, they might be an interesting addition.

For more on dulce de leche: Malena travels Mexico & samples cajeta, Rosa at ZOMG Candy already reviewed Borrachitos and if you’re ever interested in making your own, it’s a simple as submerging a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot and simmering it on the stove (or following a more traditional open pot method by Alton Brown or David Lebovitz).

Related Candies

  1. J Morgan Caramels
  2. UHA Puccho Custard
  3. Das French Salted Caramels
  4. Jolly Rancher Fruitas Enchiladas
  5. Anthon Berg Filled Chocolates
  6. Jim Beam Fudge
  7. Cajeta Elegancita
Name: Tequila & Licor de Cafe Nuggets (Dulce de Leche)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Crown Nuggets
Place Purchased: samples from Crown Companies
Price: $8.50
Size: 9.33 ounces
Calories per ounce: 103
Categories: Caramel, Coffee, Mexico

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:55 am     Comments (4)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Candy Bites: The Sweet, Crunchy & Creamy

Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate & Peanut ButterMilk & Peanut Butter from Ghirardelli

This was a sample from All Candy Expo that I kind of ate before finishing the photo shoot. (I got the box obviously, but never did the unwrapped version.) I also shared most of it, even though I could have easily eaten it all by myself.

It’s a handsome light milk chocolate bar that lives up to the illustration on the package. It’s thick, each little section in the bar has a creamy peanut butter meltaway center (with crushed nut chunks).

I was dubious. But this won me over. Extremely creamy, so much so that it was like the milk chocolate and peanut butter were one. It didn’t feel greasy at all, even though it was thick and rich.

I have a bunch of other Ghirardelli filled bars (from the last ACE) that I still haven’t tried, this might push me to start opening them (I promise full photography on those though).

Rating: 8 out of 10

Red Bean White RabbitRed Bean White Rabbit from Shanghai Guanshengyuan Food, Ltd

I hadn’t had any White Rabbit in a while, so when I saw that it was on sale at Cost Plus World Market, I figured when it’s $1.50 a bag is the time to give it another go. Instead I spotted this Red Bean (Azuki) version and scooped that up instead.

The wrapper has little dark red stripes on it. Inside it still has the same delicate rice paper wrapper that melts in the mouth to form a slick, gelatinous good. The milk taffy inside is a slight & natural looking pink. The red bean flavor is light and woodsy and pleasant. It seems to mellow out the sometimes sweet taffy and mixes really well with the milk flavors.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Honey MintsHoney Mints from Honey Acres. 

I picked these up at the Fancy Food Show. They look like just about any other peppermint pattie. The interesting proposition here is that the center is creamed honey with a touch of mint instead of a sugar-based fondant.

The other interesting bit about this is that the dark chocolate shell is completely unsweetened. The sweetness of the center completely balances out the could-be-bitter coating. I tried a few times to just nibble off the chocolate bits, but these are pretty small (about the size of the York Peppermint Pattie minis) and I wasn’t getting a bit enough chunk to really tell. (And as I’ve found, 100% chocolate doesn’t have to be unpalatable.) The center is smooth and a little cool on the tongue, with that beeswax taste & texture added to the mix.

It’s a great little mint. Artisan Sweets is the only place I’ve seen them for sale. But if you do come upon them, especially if you can buy only one or two, it’s an interesting combination of the musky honey tones with the mellow mint and the pop of creamy dark chocolate.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Jungle ChocolateJungle Chocolate from Yachana Gourmet

I don’t know if this is considered candy. It’s called Jungle Chocolate and I’d probably put it in the trail mix or snack category. It’s just cacao nibs, lightly glazed with sugar cane juice and then mixed with some other jungle-grown edibles. The four varieties I tried were:

  • Jungle Chocolate with Pineapple - the tangy and sweet pineapple pretty much overpowered the tender and crunchy cacao nibs. But pineapple is good fresh, canned or dried and I ate all of this.
  • Jungle Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts - as nuts go, macadamias are pretty low on my list, but there’s something about how they go with the tropical butter within the cacao nib that worked here. I still might prefer pecans, but I doubt they grow in the Amazon.
  • Jungle Chocolate with Brazil Nuts and Essence of Coffee - right below macadamias are Brazil nuts. I don’t know if I’m sensitive to them or if everyone gets a sort of buzzing feeling on their tongue & gums after eating them. But the crunch of the Brazils is the perfect complement to the cacao nibs. The coffee wasn’t too strong and gave the whole thing a refreshing feeling like a well-brewed cup of coffee.
  • Jungle Chocolate with Raisins and Coconut - this felt like the most traditional trail mix out of the bunch. I love coconut and chocolate, and this coconut was buttery and crunchy at the same time. The raisins, while small, packed a lot of flavor in there.
  • While the mixes themselves didn’t wow me, I think I’d like to just try a plain old box of lightly sweetened nibs. (Or maybe lightly caramelized.)

    The selling point here is that they don’t melt. I’ve put these through the paces. They’ve sat in the car, they’ve been in my house in the 100 degree heat. It doesn’t melt, instead, like a stew, it just makes all the flavors even better. This is chocolate that goes places that chocolate can’t go. It has all that stuff that you crave, even if it doesn’t quite have the texture.

    It’s all fair trade, vegan and all natural. It’s a little expensive, but then again, knowing that the money goes right to a sustainable project in Ecuador may make it taste even sweeter. I wouldn’t call this a replacement for chocolate, but perhaps a replacement for other snack mixes. Retail is about $3.00 to 3.50 for a 2 ounce bag (that’s well packaged - protects the product, but not overpackaged).

    Rating: 7 out of 10

    New York Cheesecake KissesLimited Edition New York Cheesecake Kisses from Hershey’s

    I finally found these at Target, hiding on the backside of a display in the Valentine’s area (well, it was the Valentine’s area, but was then the Easter area). The package looks a heckuva lot like the Vanilla Creme Kisses that I might have seen them already and just passed them by.

    Cheesecake as a “flavor” seems a little odd, but then again, so does Buttered Popcorn, Apple Pie and Chili & Chocolate, so never judge a flavor by its name.

    New York Cheesecake Kisses

    They’re, I dunno, like the Vanilla Creme, a little more tangy. I think they’re more like yogurt. Or yellow birthday cake.

    It doesn’t matter much to me, this Kiss has brought back that limited edition weariness that I experience from time to time. I haven’t been fond of any of the more subtle filled Kisses. While I like subtle and respectful balances in my haut chocolate, I kind of like my mass manufactured stuff loud & proud. I’ve had them sitting in my desk for months and I think that pretty much sums up how I felt about them. I could take them or leave them, but mostly I left them.

    Rating: 5 out of 10

    Related Candies

    1. Ghirardelli Intense Dark
    2. Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses
    3. KitKat Tsubu Ichigo and Hershey’s Strawberries ‘n’ Creme
    4. Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs
    5. York Pinkermint Patties
    6. White Rabbit

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:01 am     All NaturalCandyReviewGhirardelliHershey'sCaffeinatedChocolateCoffeeEthically SourcedLimited EditionNibsNutsPeanuts5-Pleasant6-Tempting7-Worth It8-TastyUnited StatesTargetComments (9)

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Short & Sweet All Candy Expo Bites

    Here are a few items I sampled, I’m probably not going to do a full review of them but I wanted to show them to you:

    Firecracker ChocoPodChuao Firecracker ChocoPod

    The newest addition to the ChocoPod line. I got this one in a simple little cellophane bag, so I didn’t think it was fair to give it the full tilt boogie review without final packaging.

    It’s similar to the classic Spicy Maya ChocoPods, just a little cacao pod shaped disk of 60% dark chocolate, weighing in, I guess, at a little over a third of an ounce, it’s about two bites.

    The inclusions make it a little bumpy in spots. The chocolate smells more like chili, but a little sweet and smoky. There are a lot of pop rocks in there, they’re completely unflavored, just lightly sweet little sugar bits ... that just so happen to pop. Some of the little bits, however, are salt crunches.

    Some bites are pretty poppy, some bites are really hot, others are salty. It’s a noisy bit of chocolate (and even got a few sneezes out of me).

    It’s a fun little diversion. I appreciate that it’s a small piece, not a huge bar, but I don’t think I’d want more.

    Rating: 7 out of 10

    Chocolate PezPEZ Chocolate Candy

    First, you’ll probably note that I don’t mention PEZ much on Candy Blog. I don’t like it. The candy just isn’t very good and the idea of collecting the little dispensers never thrilled me. But I fully applaud those who get into it.

    PEZ has brought out a few other flavors of their candy tablets. Last year it was Cola and they have a Sugar Free version as well. This year they’re highlighting the Chocolate version.

    As you can tell from the photo, they’re very light in color, which should give you an indication of the depth of the flavor. It tastes like I’ve inhaled some Cocoa Pebbles. Not actually eat then, just, you know, been near the Cocoa Pebbles dust. They’re sweet but have just a slight cocoa note.

    Rating: 3 out of 10

    Raspberry & Cream BarOrganic Confections Raspberry & Cream Bar

    It’s an organic twist on classic tastes.

    So just looking at it, with only the name to go off of, I thought, “this is a white chocolate bar with dried raspberry bits in it.” Which sounded pretty good in my head, kind of like the Hershey’s Limited Edition one a couple of years back ... but organic!

    Hmm, somewhere I led myself astray. It’s not white chocolate, it’s a non-colored confection made of organic sugar, organic whole milk powder and organic fractionated palm kernel oil. And it’s crunchy. Those presumed raspberry bits are actually crushed raspberry flavored hard candy.

    It took me a while to get used to the texture, but it wasn’t creamy enough for me.

    Rating: 5 out of 10

    Capuccino Biscotti BitesAlbanese Confectionery Cappuccino Biscotti

    These little milk chocolate covered nuggets smell sweet and like a light coffee drink. They’re about the size of a garbanzo bean, though some are twinned (not that it keeps me from eating them). The nugget inside isn’t quite as hard and crunchy as a biscotti, but they’re plenty crunchy. They’re almost like graham cracker nuggets.

    The combo is quite nice, easy to eat and keep munching.

    Rating: 8 out of 10

    Albanese Dark Chocolate Covered CranberriesAlbanese Confectionery Dark Chocolate Cranberries

    It’s not an illusion in the photo, these are very dark, like clumps of tar. The chocolate covered dried cranberries are not as flavorful as I’d hoped. Honestly, I’ve tried a few products over the years and none of them have really satisfied me. The cranberries, while soft and chewy, they’re just not tangy or flavorful. The chocolate is sweet, but not dark and flavorful enough ... though the texture combo of the creamy melt and moist chew is good.

    They’re probably jam packed with antioxidants, but I’ll probably stick with chocolate covered raisins, if only because they’re cheaper and provide pretty much the same experience.

    Rating: 6 out of 10

    Related Candies

    1. Albanese Gummi Butterflies
    2. Short & Sweet: Fancy Food Bites
    3. Cookie Dough Bites
    4. Java Twix
    5. Best Regards: Craves
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Crackheads

    One of the more timely items I got from the All Candy Expo folks is this box of Crackheads candy. It’s been around for at least a year, but I haven’t seen it in stores.

    Crackheads

    I first saw them on ThinkGeek and reviewed on CandyAddict. I wasn’t terribly interested in them, after all, they’re just chocolate covered coffee beans, not exactly an innovative new product. The unique selling proposition in this case is that they’re in “single serve” boxes and come as a mix of both white chocolate and dark chocolate coatings.

    The boxes look similar to Lemonheads or Boston Baked Beans. Easily portable and resealable.

    Crackheads Close-UpThey’re really nicely panned coffee beans. Though they’re not all consistent in size, the panning is excellent with shiny coats and well-tempered chocolate. The white chocolate is real white chocolate made with cocoa butter. The mellow malty milky flavors go really well with the coffee bean. This was the first time I’d had a white chocolate coated one, and it’s a natural match - the fatty sweetness with the dairy flavors are pretty much a dense version of a latte.

    The dark verison are not nearly as sweet, but still provides a nice counterpoint to the dark and lightly bitter beans. The beans are crunchy without being fiberous or too burnt tasting. My box had a bit more white chocolate to it, but I was okay with that.

    imageThe “creator” of Crackheads, John Osmanski, was on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch last night on CNBC. The segment was One Minute to Millions where they featured a panel of three experts: Kevin Nealon (who was there promoting his book and probably provided the consumer point of view), Pam Macharola of Blair Candy and Brian Pipa of Candy Addict!

    The product was introduced with a little pretaped segment. It made no mention of the fact that chocolate covered espresso beans have been around for at least 30 years. They’re pretty widely available, at least in specialty stores or at coffee locations like Starbucks (and of course the new Hershey’s Starbucks chocolates). While the back of the box has a breakdown of caffeine content of other beverages (cocoa, cola, tea, coffee & espresso), it doesn’t exactly spell out the caffeine content of the actual product. However, the Crackheads website pegs it at about 120 mgs (about half of a cup of coffee).

    imageOsmanski introduced the product as a solution to those low caffeine moments, especially for students and academics.

    The new tagline “because everyone’s addicted to something” works well with the name. The product packaging has been redesigned since my sample (you can see the new one here). But the general consensus from the panel was that the name would never have the wide appeal that would guarantee it placement on the shelves of stores like Walmart (which might be necessary to make millions off a single $2 product). Instead it would probably stay in places like Think Geek and coffee houses (where it’s currently found).

    imageWhile I think it’s a good quality product, the packaging feels a bit downscale, not rising to the $2 per package price tag - which translates to over $24 per pound (the Starbucks version is about $12 a pound). The name, which tries to co-opt drug culture fails ... there may be other names that might fit the addiction tag better (but I’m not going to come up with it here, Osmanski has a blog if you want to give him feedback directly). Perhaps coming up with two lines, one under this name and another more mainstream version would be a success story worthy of follow up on Donny Deutsch.

    (I suspect that Osmanium doesn’t actually manufacturer these, just repacks them, as they package says that they are made in a facility that processes peanuts & tree nuts. The website also says that they’re Kosher. My prime candidate as the maker of these is Koppers Chocolates.)

    Related Candies

    1. Starbucks Chocolate
    2. Snickers Charged
    3. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
    4. Java Twix
    5. Green & Black’s Espresso Chocolate
    6. Pocket Coffee
    Name: Crackheads
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Osmanium
    Place Purchased: samples from All Candy Expo
    Price: $2.00 retail
    Size: 1.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 146
    Categories: Chocolate, White Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:52 am     Comments (10)

    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Choxie 3 Ounce Chocolate Bars

    After Valentine’s Day I picked up some discounted items from Target. I haven’t re-visited much of the Choxie line since my initial tastes on their launch, so I figured it was time to see what else they had.

    Choxie Chocolate BarsI got an assortment of four bars for 75% off, so each bar was $1.25 ... quite a deal for 3 ounces of “premium” chocolate.

    The box they came in was a goofy flat affair, I think just this stack with a red ribbon is a fine gift (and I threw out that box pretty much as soon as I got home). The assortment contains two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars.

    The one that interested me the most was the Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt. True to its name, it was a nice dark milk chocolate with big almond pieces (they tasted buttery like Marcona almonds) and there were some pretty intense large pieces of sea salt in there (the picture on the box makes them look like little pieces of popcorn).

    The milk chocolate is a very dark and smooth version, it goes really well with the crisp crunch of the almonds. The sea salt was quite apparent, but the mixing of it was a little off. Sometimes I’d arrive at whole reservoirs of the stuff, it’s a little offputting to get more than a few grains at once. But still, an addictive bar. Though I shared it, I ate most of it in a day and a half.

    The second bar was the Milk Chocolate Cashew Almond Cherry Bar which I thought sounded terrible at first, especially when I saw that it also had salt in it.

    However, it won me over. The cashews & almonds aren’t as plentiful in this bar and the salt is only a slight glimmer now and then. The cherries are soft and chewy with a bright tangy note that infuses those bites.

    Choxie - 62% Ghana

    I was grateful to try my first Choxie single origin bar with the 62% Ghana Cocoa. I recently had another Ghana bar from Tcho, which I found to be a little too gritty for my tastes. This bar is smooth. The flavors are spot on “chocolatey” with some vanilla notes and a little cedar & tobacco. It’s a tasty bar, though not quite buttery enough for me if it’s going to be on the low end of the cacao percentage. But it’s also pretty sweet, so a nice started bar for those who don’t like the intensity of some of the higher cacao.

    The box for the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar showed the bar, like the one above, surrounded by coffee beans. I didn’t know if that meant whole coffee beans or fine grounds when I bought the assortment (I could only see the fronts of the boxes). The ingredients say “ground coffee” but I was still afraid that I was going to get coffee grounds in my chocolate.

    The package smelled like the coffee aisle at the A&P where we used to grind our own 8 O’Clock coffee when I was a teen. Mostly coffee but also slight wafts of tea, cocoa and sweet sugary General Foods International Coffee flavors.

    The grounds are palpable as the chocolate melts. The coffee flavor is mellow, not burnt or caramelized tasting, just a medium roasted vibe. And of course all those coffee beans integrated in. The chocolate has a good melt to it, is pretty smooth otherwise and stands up rather well to the otherwise overwhelming coffee. (Nicole at Baking Bites has a nice review of this bar, too.)

    At the reduced price (expiration isn’t anywhere to be found on the packages, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out the box), these were a great deal. I’m not sure if I would pay $4-5 for one of these in the future (well, maybe the almond & sea salt bar), but keep an eye out for their assortments (perhaps after Mother’s day?). The ingredients are all-natural and the dark chocolates have no added butterfat. They are not, however, Kosher.

    Other recent reviews: The Girl Tastes has a lot of more recent Choxie introductions, Rosa tried the Key Lime Truffle Bar, Candy Snob tried the Espresso Truffle Bar, Secret Hideout thinks Choxie is better than Godiva (and I don’t disagree) and OffBeatEating tried the Coconut Truffle Bar.

    Related Candies

    1. Starbucks Chocolate
    2. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
    3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
    4. Choxies in Boxies
    5. Choxie Champagne Truffles
    6. Cha-Cha-Cha Choxie
    Name: Milk & Dark Chocolate Bars
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Choxie (Target)
    Place Purchased: Target (Harbor City)
    Price: $5.00 for set of 4 (post Valentine's clearance)
    Size: 3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 153
    Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coffee, United States, Choxie, All Natural

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:39 am     Comments (4)

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Crispy Cat

    Crispy Cat Organic BarsIt’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.

    Crispy Cat Toasted AlmondCrispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.

    They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.

    Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:

    Growing up ... I loved candy. Over the years .... I learned to love my body. This candy bar is the result of trying to satisfy both cravings. I now live happily ever after. I hope you will too. P.S. Try ‘em cold.

    Crispy Cat Toasted Almond

    The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.

    It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.

    Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).

    Crispy Cat Mint CoconutI admit, I thought Mint Coconut is a weird combo. I love mint, I love coconut but I don’t put them together. (Well, partly because it probably never occured to me.)

    This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.

    Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.

    I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.

    Crispy Cat Roasted PeanutThe Roasted Peanut bar was much softer (and a little flatter) than the Toasted Almond.

    The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).

    The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.

    It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.

    I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.

    Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.

    The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.

    I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).

    I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.

    Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.

    Related Candies

    1. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
    2. Organic Surf Sweets
    3. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight
    4. 100 Grand Coconut
    5. Pure Fun Candy Floss
    6. Coffee Beat
    Name: Crispy Cat Bars: Toasted Almond, Mint Coconut & Roasted Peanut
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Crispy Cat
    Place Purchased: samples from ExpoWest
    Price: $2.50 retail
    Size: 1.75 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 126
    Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, Nuts, Peanuts, Mint, Coconut, Canada, All Natural, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:06 am     Comments (5)

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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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