Monday, June 4, 2007
Australia has not been left out of the KitKat craze, but they’re a little harder to get a hold of. One of my co-workers happens to be married to an Aussie, so on his last trip to visit family I gave him some bucks and asked for anything that caught his fancy (knowing me of course). Some I just ate, but these I thought I’d at least share a little about.
KitKat Temptations: Coconut Eclair: The big dome over the narrow little pair of wafers is filled with a sweet and mildly coconutty cream. The cream is kind of a cross between the inside of a York Peppermint Pattie and a truffle. Not quite smooth, not quite buttery, but not as crumbly as the fondant of a York.
The cookies don’t even take a back seat here, they’re on a trailer being towed behind. One of those shocks that would greet you as you were looking to change lanes and saw that the Coconut Eclair had passed you and you were trying to get out from behind some mollasses Slo-Poke and didn’t realize that they had that wafer cookie trailer bouncing along behind, without lights or any of those red dangly flags. Then you slow down and smack your own forhead and say, DUH! It’s a KitKat!
KitKat Temptations: Hazelnut Praline: This one smelled kind of like maple, but perhaps pecan, if we’re talking about nuts. I know Australia is a half a world away, but I also know they grow hazelnuts, so I can’t quite figure out the lame taste on this one. It’s all very sweet. The nutty cream center is rather like Nutella, but lacks that nutty punch. Instead it’s flavored like nuts, but doesn’t taste like them ... ya know? There are a few little crushed nuts in there (as there should be, the picture on the wrapper illustrates them) but they just didn’t strike me as hazelnuts. They could have been almonds.
Yeah, I’m just not getting the KitKat vibe here. KitKats are all about the wafers, grainy cream and chocolate. Anything added is great, but don’t muck with the basics.
You may have tempted me once, but you’ll not snare me again.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I tried the Nestle Dark Stixx last year and thought they were pretty good. They’re a little crispy cookie wafer in the form of a tube filled with some cream and covered in chcoolate.
The Butterfinger Stixx were introduced at the same time, but it took a little while for me to find them super-cheap. They were stupidly expensive at $2.29 for a box of 6 when they came out. But at the 99 Cent Only Store this little package of two was a respectable 33 cents and still fresh (expiration July 2007).
What’s great about these is the one thing that you can’t get in a Butterfinger ... real chocolate. Not that the chocolate is great, but you know, if it’s not tasty at least it’s not fake.
The package describes this rather oddly with a little four point diagram:
What I suspect after reading that is that this is more like a Butterfinger Crisp bar (which may be running one of the lamest commercials of the year, sorry, as far as I’m concerned that girl has to be high if she’s enjoying a Butterfinger Crisp and thinks that’s really laugh-out-loud funny).
The little stick has that familiar peanut butter and buttered popcorn scent. The sweet chocolate and bland crunch of the wafer are a nice combo, not too sweet. The creamy center is nothing like a Butterfinger, it’s soft and reminds me of that peanut butter filling that comes inside those cheesy orange peanut butter crackers. The peanut butter flavor is pretty mellow and rather lost. It’s sweet and a little salty, not very creamy and not really notable beyond that.
The little sticks are tasty but not very satisfying. I completely missed the “sprinkle of candy bits”. On the plus side, this didn’t stick to my teeth like the industrial-strength-cement-like Butterfinger filling can. I think if I’m looking for a stick shaped peanut butter candy I’ll stick to Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars. (No chocolate, but still tasty.)
Friday, May 25, 2007
I’ve been looking at Crunky for a few years now. It’s not the name that threw me, it just didn’t seem that appealing. Why buy a Japanese or Korean cheap chocolate bar when we have plenty of them here in the States. But I knew I had to give it a try eventually.
Lotte is a huge company, based in both South Korea and Japan, so there are lots of places where you may see these bars in Asia.
Crunky Chocolate - Salted Caramel - the description on JBox said that this was a salted caramel bar. I was expecting, as the picture seems to have, some chocolate and some caramel. Instead it’s some sort of a white chocolate bar with a salty and caramelized flavor. It also has the malted crunchies.
The wrapper isn’t in English so I’m at a loss to read the rest of the description, but as far as I’m concerned, this is not chocolate. It doesn’t taste like chocolate, it doesn’t look like chocolate. It might be shaped like chocolate, but it’s not. Perhaps it’s off-white chocolate.
My feelings of betrayal aside ... it’s nice, and I actually grew rather fond of the not-so-sweet taste. The slightly burnt flavor was also nice as were the crunchies with their malty hit. But the texture of the chocolate itself wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t creamy, it didn’t melt in my mouth. It got soft, it was rather smooth, but it felt more fudgy than chocolatey.
Crunky Chocolate - my feelings for the first bar I tried were set aside for this experience. It looks rather traditional, like a Krackle or Nestle Crunch bar, but the chocolate is definitely lighter. It’s certainly well packaged. The easy to open
box reveals a large flat bar (well, mine got a little bent in transit from Japan) wrapped in a light matte foil.
The chocolate is a little waxy, but very smooth. The flavor is more milky and perhaps a little burnt tasting as several people have mentioned to me. The quality is no better than Hershey’s or Nestle’s standard consumer fare, but perhaps a bit different. I liked the format of the bar, I’ve always found Crunch bars a little too flat, I want the crispies to be really surrounded (I rather prefer the Easter egg versions).
Neither of these set my world on fire. Every country has to have a crispy chocolate bar. I like the name, it has a good onomatopoeiaic sense to it. If I were in Japan or South Korea I would probably pick these up as a “safe” choice, but I don’t know if I’d mail order them again. (But they could probably sucker me with some limited edition variety ... because I’m a sucker like that.)
Friday, May 18, 2007
Back in January at the Fancy Food Show I picked up a few candies I like to put in the category of “comfort foods.” Asher’s is one of those companies, like See’s that I associate with traditional sweeties.
Asher’s is in Souderton, PA and though they’re pretty big, I don’t see their candies very often on the West Coast. Then one day I was at Loehmann’s and saw a stack of big boxes of Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels and I decided I should finally review these items. Because I’d want to know whether or not something is good before I go buying it at Loehmann’s.
The Chocolate Smothered Pretzel, as far as I’m concerned, is the epitome of Pennsylvania Candy Cuisine. After all, they make lots of chocolate in Pennsylvania and they certainly are known for their pretzels. As a kid I would make my own chocolate frosting (equal parts butter, powdered sugar and cocoa) and then dip pretzel rods into it. Later as I began making my own candies I dipped pretzels when I ended up with leftover melted chocolate.
Asher’s milk chocolate is smooth and creamy. Very sweet, but the pretzel is salty and crunchy, so it goes well together. I prefer the tiny pretzels to the big ones, because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth at once instead of risking chocolate loss to flaking. (They make a variety of sizes.)
Milk Chocolate Smothered Graham Cracker - a chocolate covered graham cracker is kind of wholesome, right? This reminded me of a Twix bar without the caramel. The chocolate was creamy and the graham was crisp and fresh. It’s not my favorite of the three, but I’m sure folks who enjoy graham crackers will also like this.
I think a little bit saltier cracker would help, but then again maybe it’s the bland and slightly malty sweet cracker that’s the highlight here. Now, I see that Asher’s makes their own chocolate covered marshmallows and I’m wondering why a S’More isn’t an option on their site.
The Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookie was fun. When I was in college I worked in a bakery/chocolate shop and one of my duties was to make chocolate dipped cookies. Back then Oreo made a HUGE version of their cookie, the size of my palm. They were a bear to dip, but the proportion of chocolate to cookie usually turned out well because the proportion of chocolate to cookie was just right.
The Asher sandwich cookie is covered in real milk chocolate (as are all of the above). Again, it’s sweet but the dark and slightly salty note of the cookie set it off nicely. One cookie is plenty, it’s very filling. (If you want a really good version of these, check out the Best Regards version as well, which is more expensive but come in other flavors.)
If you see these at the discount stores, they’re certainly worth picking up at less than $10.00 a pound, I’m not sure they’re worth more than that seeing how there’s a lot of filler in there and they’re not that labor intensive. The pretzels are certainly better than the bagged versions available in the candy aisle from Hershey’s and Nestle. I have to admit that the Chocolate Smothered Potato Chips also sound good and have to be better than those mockolate chips I had earlier this year.
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).
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The brand Gandour heralds they have the ingredients for happiness. Those ingredients include shea butter. Okee dokee.
The chocolate filling is rather firm, a little salty and pretty creamy. It’s not very chocolatey, more on the fudgy side. The crisp wafers are fun, though a little dry. The whole thing reminded me of the Happy Hippo, though there’s no hazelnut in this creme paste filling.
6 out of 10 (Halal)
This one is sporting a sassy jungle green wraper and woodsy font. Inside is a stack of wafers and creme then some caramel and crunchies with a mockolate coating.
It’s a big old jumble not jungle inside the package. The lumpy crispies and mockolate don’t quite get a good grip on the caramel and wafer center. It just doesn’t work for me. There’s too much mockolate and not enough caramel.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
M&M knock-offs made with mockolate. These were kind of a hybrid in size between Smarties and M&Ms. They’re bigger than M&Ms but thicker than Smarties. The colors were vivid. Though the package showed red, blue, yellow, green and orange, I only had orange, red and green in my bag (which held 17 morsels). The mockolate was less milky than the other products and passably good. It actually tasted better than Garfield’s Chocobites. Kind of smoky and rounded, though not quite the smooth mouthfeel of cocoa butter chocolate. For a treat for little kids, I guess these would be just fine, but I could probably only bring myself to decorate a cake with them.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
This is one that I had no clue about judging from the name. But the description and image on the wrapper seemed pretty agreeable. A biscuit bar with caramel and a chocolate flavored coating. So it’s like a Twix! The bar was just a little flatter and a little shorter than a Twix, but it’s kind of fun that they sell these smaller portions. It looked pretty good, with the same rippled appearance on the coating.
The inside was a lot different from a Twix. Instead of being a very dry shortbread, this one was a little salty and reminded me of a dense Ritz Cracker plank. The caramel was not chewy or gooey here, just a sweeter texture between the cookie and mockolate (and not always there either). The whole thing had a rather strong “butter flavor” to it.
5 out of 10 (Halal)
Friday, April 13, 2007
After my pleasant first experience with CocoaVia last year I was happy to find that CocoaVia was at the ExpoWest trade show back in January. It meant that I could try more of their products without shoveling out oodles of dough. They were sampling their milk chocolate covered raisins, which I thought tasted like milk chocolate raisins. They also had a large assortment of their bars out there. It was hard to talk to the folks at the booth for all the attendees grabbing the free samples by the handful, but I stood my ground in the crush and had a nice conversation with the CocoaVia people.
I like the idea of portion control. I had a little problem with those big tubs at Trader Joe’s sometimes, because I will just keep eating from it. I learned a long time ago to take a handful and put it in a little dish, close up the tub and put it away and then enjoy my treat.
I think CocoaVia’s idea for a portion controlled sweet is two-fold - small individually wrapped packages sold only five at a time. And charge $20 a pound.
Chocolate Snack Bar - the package on this one is a bit deceptive. It just shows some chunks of chocolate but it’s really a bar of crispy/chewy grains with a chocolate base. It feels much more filling than the 80 calories might ordinarily seem.
The crisped rice and grain crunch is mellow and malty while the chocolate gives it a creamy and tasty component. Yeah, it could be bigger, but it’s a supplement bar, not dessert. (The ingredients on this bar list Almonds and Peanuts.)
80 calories and 25% of our daily RDA of Calcium, 15% of your Vitamin E and 10% of your B6, B12, Folic Acid and Vitamin C.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Crispy Chocolate Bar - seemed to be more accurate on the picture front, little chunks of chocolate with itty-bitty crispies mixed in. The bar is dark and has a very green and smoky taste to it. And a bitter aftertaste. This was a seriously strong bar with a dry finish. Not really an indulgence, I felt like I was working to find the pleasant flavors instead of just enjoying it.
I waited a couple of days and tried again and I’m gonna have to pass on this one, it’s just too bitter. It’s like eating a spoonful of cocoa.
90 calories and 10% of your RDA of Folic Acid, Vitamin C & B12, 15% of your Vitamin E & B6 and 30% of your Calcium.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Milk Chocolate Bar - was very nice. Super creamy and smooth with great chocolate notes and some caramelized milk flavors. This bar was softer than the other ones (you can see it even melted a little bit under my hot studio light when I was taking the picture).
It reminds me a lot of the Dove milk chocolate, which shouldn’t be surprising since they’re both made by Mars. However, there is an odd bitter (and only slight) aftertaste for me. It’s a little metallic and it could just be the fortifications, but it makes it less like candy for me.
110 calories and 20% of your RDA of Calcium, 15% of your Vitamin E & B6, 10% of your Vitamin C, Folic Acid & B12.
Rating: 5 out of 10
These are all okay, but I still have to say that their best innovation so far is the Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds. I even found them locally at Shim’s Produce (it’s kind of like the 99 Cent store of grocers). They had stacks of boxes for only 99 Cents. I thought there must be something wrong with them and only bought one, but it was just fine (expiration date of July).
That brings me back to the huge drawback of the CocoaVia line. The price. At about $5 a box of five, it’s pretty harsh for the pocket book and not terribly satisfying to the sweet tooth. If anything I’d feel obligated to finish something I don’t like because I paid so much for it.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Charles Chocolates not only makes one of the few marzipans I like, they also have their own line of chocolate bars. They come in sweet looking retro boxes with little line drawings on them. The boxes protect the thick bars very well and allow them to be rewrapped in their foil if you don’t finish them all at once (and at 3.4 ounces, you probably won’t unless you’re sharing).
(for those of you reading via feed, I’m using a flash slideshow for the photos today)
Mocha Java Pieces in 65% Bittersweet Chocolate (blue label) - this is a powerful bar. I’ve been keeping my chocolate bars in a little igloo cooler in my studio (because it protects it from temperature changes, and the dog can’t get to it) and every time I open it up I could smell the coffee in this bar. The 65% cacao dark chocolate is rich but still wonderfully buttery. The bar has plenty of whole espresso beans in it too which dotted the bottom of the bar (and explain why it’s a little titled in the picture). As a personal choice, I don’t like to eat coffee beans, but in this case they worked well in the bar and are paired with the right kind of chocolate.
Caramelized Crisped Rice in 41% Milk Chocolate (red label on caramel) - this bar smells like caramel but tastes like Sugar Pops and chocolate. The milk chocolate is smooth and super creamy and the crisped rice has a deep caramelized flavor with some malty tones to it. The only thing that I had a problem with was the integration of the crisped rice ... it wasn’t in the bottom of the bar, just the top. Sometimes I wanted more crisped rice with my chocolate. But then sometimes I liked finding a spot where it was naked of chocolate and could see it glistening in its coat of caramelized sugar and flick my tongue on it to get just those flavors and textures ... then I’d come across the chocolate, which would melt around it all over again.
Caramelized Crisped Rice in 65% Bittersweet Chocolate (red label on brown) - this bar is quite the opposite of its dairy infused sibling. Instead of being chatty and available, this one was rather standoffish and even elusive. The chocolate is creamy but with a strong astringency that seemed to give it some more vegetable flavors than fruit. This in turn made the crisped rice more reminiscent of pilaf than breakfast. Still, the textures were so wonderful, the chocolate melted easily and the caramelized sugar shatters on crunching, revealing that wonderful malted rice taste.
Crystallized Ginger Pieces in 65% Bittersweet Chocolate (yellow label) - again, a really creamy 65% dark chocolate, it just descends into a delicious fatty chocolate syrup in the mouth. The ginger’s earthy/rooty flavors come forward immediately. They bring a bit of a citrus tang and make the chocolate itself seem a little acidic, but the grainy sugar of the crystallized ginger also dissolves and mitigates that just in time.
Hazelnut and Candied Orange Peel in 65% Bittersweet Chocolate (green label) - this was the first bar I tried and the first bar I finished. Fab-u-lous. The chocolate is creamy and quick to melt. It’s not too sweet and sets off the candied orange rind ... the flavor of the orange zest permeates parts of the bar and then the crushed hazelnuts give a crunch and nutty texture to the whole thing. It’s not a common combination of flavors, which is one of the reasons you might want to seek this bar out.
Charles Chocolates just opened their new retail store in the same building as their kitchen/factory. They offer free samples (see the schedule). For those who can’t find them in store they also have a webstore. Retail vendors are also listed on the site (basically high-end chocolate shops & Whole Foods). See DessertFirst’s visit to Charles Chocolates. Here’s my previous review of some other products in his line.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.