Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The licorice plant was not native to the area, it was likely brought in and planted sometime after the Crusades, sometime around the year 1000 or perhaps as late as 1090 when the Benedictine monks that came to the town to found their monastery. Licorice root was steeped and used like a syrup to sweeten drinks (or flavor spirits) and the roots were chewed as a treat. Sometime around 500 years ago the locals created a licorice confection known as Pontefract Cakes, which are really more of a little medallion of molasses-based licorice. The disks look rather like a coin or a blob of sealing wax. They don’t grow licorice in the area any longer, but there are still two factories that make the age old sweet: Haribo and Monkhill Confections (originally known as Wilkinson’s).
In fact, true Pontefract cakes were made by hand until the 60s. Rolls of licorice dough were pieced into little blobs and then hand stamped. These Haribo Pontefract Cakes preserve that hand-stamped look.
I was expecting these to be stiff and hard, like the continental European licorice. Instead they’re quite soft and pliable. They have a matte finish and feel like coins made out of silicone. I found that even though I didn’t seal up the bag well, they still didn’t get stale or tacky.
The early cakes had different embossed images in them, it’s said that they were of the Pontefract Castle, but this Haribo one is just a vague rectangle in the center (that might be a castle with a flag) and the Haribo Original name.
They smell sweet and a little herbal. Since these weren’t American-style licorice pieces (that usually contain wheat), I was expecting something a little smoother but perhaps a bit stronger. Instead I found quite a different flavor profile. First, it’s barely sweet. The sweetness is woodsy and rather delicate. The chew of the cake is soft and not quite gummy but more hearty than a gumdrop. There’s a little hint of salt to it (actually quite a bit 200 mg of sodium per serving) and the charcoal notes of molasses. The nice part about the flavor is that it’s a true licorice, not amped up anise. It’s mild and soothing.
They were a little weak to satisfy my licorice desires. I like a really hearty licorice with a lot of molasses with caramel, toasted sugar and charcoal notes, it seems to moderate the very sweet nature of true licorice. But these are easy to eat and though they stick to my teeth a little bit, the smoothness keeps me coming back for me.
These contain real licorice, so those with heath concerns with licorice extract should avoid it. It’s also made with gelatin, so it’s not for vegetarians or those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Friday, March 19, 2010
The name isn’t so enticing but at least it’s accurate: Real Eggshell filled with Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has a great selection of Easter candy this year. They were a bit expensive at $3.99, so for some folks this might replace the chocolate rabbit if they’re on a budget.
It’s a real eggshell that’s been emptied and filled with a gianduia. The shell is then resealed with a little sticker dot over the hole, painted up and sold. The chocolate resolidifies and when the shell is peeled off, it’s like hard boiled egg made of chocolate.
I thought it might be cute to serve them as a dessert like a soft boiled egg. I didn’t try it myself, but I’m guessing instead of sticking them in the fridge before opening you could pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds or a pan of hot water for a minute to make them soupy. Then it’d be like a rich hazelnut pudding that you’d eat with a spoon.
Even though it’s what I’d consider a novelty product, the ingredients are gourmet: sugar, hazelnuts, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk powder, soy lecithin and vanillin. I didn’t refrigerate either of mine before opening them, so I think as long as it’s not too warm (over 75 degrees) they remain solid enough to peel.
I opened mine two different ways. For the green one above I peeled off the sticker at the bottom. This showed that the painting is added after the filling is added, as the sticker is also painted and the margin under it is still a white chicken egg shell. For the second egg, the yellow one, I just smacked it against the edge of a table and pulled off bits.
Both eggs I had contained a void inside - so thought this one looks like it’s a hollow egg, the vacant space isn’t really that large. It’s kind of like the real air pocket in chicken eggs.
The truffle inside is soft, smooth and creamy. The hazelnut flavors are the best part - grassy, roasted and nutty. The dairy and cocoa butter keep it ultra smooth and the cocoa touch mellows it all out. It’s on the sweet side, not as sweet as Nutella or a Milka bar, but sweeter than the dark chocolate versions of gianduia I’ve had from Caffarel.
The confection is a novelty that lives up to the promise. It’s beautiful, unique and charming though a bit problematic to consume. I thought the best way to eat it was to expose enough truffle filling and then bite it off. Then I misjudged and got a little eggshell ... eating eggshell makes me think I’m eating my own teeth (I know, weird phobia). Finally I ended up taking off all the shell and muddling through with melty fingers.
$3.99 for 1.75 ounces actually isn’t that bad for true European gianduia, but still it seemed expensive because of the effort involved in getting the shell off. My favorite style of egg decoration is the laborious Ukranian style. That would be inappropriate for these because the shell is destroyed to get to the candy (Ukranian Egg Decoration or Pysanka application would also destroy the filling, which is added first). The point is that I didn’t care much for this airbrushed 80s reminiscent dayglo abstract.
Though the package says that the 1.75 ounces are a single portion, I found it too much to eat in one sitting. It’s 290 calories.
Monday, March 15, 2010
How about a little spot of sweet espresso and some dark chocolate to get your going?
I picked up these little Espresso Filled Dark Chocolate nuggets at Cost Plus World Market. I think they’re made by Mieszko, a Polish candy company. I was hoping they’d be like the Ferrero Pocket Coffee that are so hard to get here in the United States.
The packaging was nicely done. The stand up pouch has a zipper lock for re-sealing. Each individual piece is wrapped in a paper-backed foil and then a thin cellophane over that to seal it up tight. Often I worry that filled chocolates will be cracked or oozy, but every one was perfect.
The little domed rectangular nuggets are about one inch long, 3/4 of an inch wide and about the same high. The dark chocolate isn’t particularly dark, the package says that it’s at least 40%. It smells rich and dark, but that’s about as good as it got on that front.
The chocolate shell was nicely tempered and thick enough to be a strong container for the liquid center. The chocolate is smooth but far too sweet and lacking in bold chocolate punch. The espresso goo inside is a smooth and syrupy texture. It smells nicely of coffee but is sticky sweet. I liked the sweet roasted barley notes to it, but it wasn’t what I’d call espresso at all, I’d call it a Postum syrup.
It’s too bad, the price was decent and the fact that they’re pretty easy to find if you have a Cost Plus World Market nearby would make them a great item for coffee lovers. But these aren’t for coffee lovers, they’re for people who heap spoonfuls of sugar into their espresso and call themselves coffee lovers. In reality they’re for sugar lovers who like coffee flavor ... nothing wrong with that and here’s a candy to go with that. (I know, I said at the top of the review this might be the caffeinated pop to get you going after the time change, I was wrong.)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Friday, September 18, 2009
And they’re also licorice. Actually, the completely unattractive sticker on the front of the bag informs me in English (the rest of the package is in German) that it’s Licorice Foam Candy.
They’re shaped like panda faces and I have to say that they’re fraktacularlary cute. So cute I just wanted to eat them up. And the name? Tappsy! How could you not like something called Tappsy? (It reminded me of Stampy.)
What was also fun was the fact that they’re a European candy, so they don’t use any artificial colorings and seem to have all natural flavorings. (I don’t know if ammonium chloride is consider natural or not ... I mean, it’s a mineral.)
The light & flexible disk are shaped like cartoon panda faces. They’re about 1.5 inches across at the ears. They come in two varieties - licorice faced and foam faced. (Panda’s don’t actually look like that, they have white faces with black eyes and ears.) The white faced ones had little noses made of a berry flavored jelly. (Real pandas also have berry flavored noses, but couldn’t find any verification of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and of course make mention of it in conversation until someone starts sending around emails and Snopes investigates.)
The little faces have a kind of cock-eyed smile that reminded me of Wybie from Coraline.
The licorice parts are quite mellow - a light anise flavor and not overtly sweet and a good caramel & molasses undertone. The texture is more like a chewy licorice than the foamy stuff - not the wheat based chew of the US/Australia and not quite a jelly or gummi. The foam white part is rather like a marshmallow - but smashed, just a bit more dense and not at all sticky.
I loved the licorice parts and ate the licorice-faced ones first (sadly they didn’t make up half the bag). Licorice-eared ones were just a little bland, so towards the end, I just ate their ears and tossed the face ... it’s the candy equivalent of shark finning.
I would definitely buy them again, though I would like to find them in bulk bins so I can pull out a better proportion of licorice. (They also come in a fruity version.) I looked on the Katje’s website and think there may be some other products that are more balanced to my liking like the Domino Delicious (which appears to be the first same-sex-marriage-marketed candy I’ve seen - well, besides the Rainbow Mentos).
Finally, here’s a commercial for Tappsy starring Heidi Klum:
I don’t know what’s going on in that commercial except that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of my Saturday mornings in my breezy white-clad bed, rolling around with my candy.
Finally, just a note about the calories: each piece has only 28 calories. And a whole ounce clocks in at 97 calories. So this is definitely a candy you can use a a little low-calorie treat that looks like a high calorie one.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Lindt is an iconic name in the world of chocolate. Its founder Rodolphe Lindt invented the chocolate conching machine in 1879 and set the standard for “eating chocolate”. Today Lindt & Sprungli chocolate is a behemoth company which makes both solid chocolate bars, their consumer truffle line of Lindor products & their iconic chocolate rabbits but also owns the American chocolate company, Ghirardelli.
They have a multitude of lines of chocolate bars, each with different profiles. The Excellence line is often found at drug stores, grocery chains & even at airport shops. It’s a nice size & excellently designed package. The paperboard sleeve holds a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar - it’s thin but nicely scored into easy to break & eat portions. (Other lines include Classic Recipe, Les Grandes, Creation, Petits Desserts - at least 50 bars.)
Before I started writing Candy Blog I was a pretty died hard Lindt fan. Their darker bars were one of the first on the market that I was exposed to that gave the cacao content. I was pretty happy at 70%.
My experience with Lindt milk chocolate is rather limited, so before vacation I picked up this bar: Lindt Excellence Toffee Crunch.
It is rather thin and I have to preface this review with the fact that I prefer my bars that have inclusions to be a little thicker.
It smells sweet & buttery.
The chocolate has a nice snap, even in the heat we were experiencing in Southern California. Inside each piece it was easy to spot the little toffee bits.
The chocolate is smooth and milky and though the texture isn’t quite as fine as I would have wanted, I’m not sure it would matter because of all the toffee bits.
The toffee was firm & gave a good little bite of salty burnt sugar and butter.
The effect was great, it was filling & satisfying without being too cloyingly sweet. Still, for my personal preference I might want bigger toffee pieces and a darker milk chocolate. But I can see that this would have lasting appeal for some folks and if I ate it with something to offset the sweetness it’d probably be gone by now. Also, I was a bit irritated that there were artificial flavors in there for a product at this price point - good toffee is not that hard to create and it doesn’t need artificial caramel flavor.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The name Toblerone comes from the founders name, Theodor Tobler and the word torrone, which is the name of the almond & honey nougat. There have been a few other sizes & shapes of the bar over the years as well as dark chocolate, white chocolate and layered versions.
This year was the first time I saw the new Toblerone Fruit & Nut in stores. The box is a curious design, half yellow, which is easy to dismiss as the regular variety and the other side is purple with a gradient in of the two colors in the center.
Even though it’s called fruit and nut, the only substantial difference here is the addition of raisins. (I wonder why they’re not currants, which I think would be more exotic and evocative of European mountains than plain old dried grapes.)
The bar smells sweet and milky with perhaps a little hint of malt or honey from the nougat. Breaking the pieces apart it’s easy to see the small raisins in there.
The chocolate is sweet and though it’s milky it’s more on the honey side of the flavors than Swiss dried milk flavors. The texture is smooth, but not quite silky. The little hard nougat bits provide a little difference in texture, but are often sticky & tacky - not quite crunchy or chewy. The actual almonds are hard to find (even on the ingredients list they’re below honey, which means there isn’t much).
I like the size & shape of the bar. It’s easy to portion & then store the rest for later in the box. (Though I did end up replacing the foil wrapping it came in with some more heavy duty kitchen foil because it was destroyed by simply opening it for the photo.)
It’s a pretty bar and certainly a bit of a change from the 100 year old traditional one ... was it worth waiting a hundred and one years for? No. I think if I’m going to go for an inexpensive European bar with raisins in it, I’m going to go for the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss (though I don’t think you can even get them in the States any longer). But if you’re a Chunky fan and looking for something that’s better quality and more pointy, this might be for you.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese cola candies for a while, and I think I completely forgot about the German cola candies. (I did review the Haribo Fizzy Cola a few years back.)
The great thing about Haribo is that they make an incredible variety with a huge variation of flavors and shapes. The bad thing about Haribo is that the quality varies depending on which factory they’re made in. These were made in Spain.
The bottles are nicely formed, they’re plump and have the shape of a soda bottle. The candy is created using two different colors - a dark amber and a clear, the bottom of the bottle is the darker color and gives the impression of a glass bottle filled with cola. So simple, but so convincing.
These are rather firm but still have a pleasant cola scent when I stick my nose in the bag and inhale. It’s a little lemony citrus and a bit of spice.
The firm bite doesn’t burst forth with much flavor. It’s at first citrusy ... a little tangy. Later I get the cola notes, which is a little woodsy and mellow spice. But it’s very bland. It’s like lemon soda with a splash of cola instead of a cola splashed with lemon.
I want something a little more intense, something that gives me a lot of cola flavor. Maybe I’m spoiled or impatient ... these are still fun though, a great summer vacation candy to munch on while on long drives.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.