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Monday, March 24, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Starburcks Chocolate Tasting KitI rarely go into a Starbucks, but I do drink their coffee at the office sometimes. I think my favorite blend of theirs is the Estima (which they don’t make available for our office, drat). At home I’m more likely to drink Trader Joe’s but I’m not a coffee snob, I’ll buy coffee at 7-11, McDonald’s, happily drink the stuff on an airplane and of course at many of the local coffee houses in Los Angeles.

I’m not a “coffee drink” person. I just like a cup of coffee with some milk in it for the most part, but I’ll drink a capuccino now and then. I think coffee is a flavor that’s good enough to be savored by itself. No need for caramel, hazelnut syrup or other intrusions of flavors. (I do drink Mexican Mochas in November.)

I was still eager to try the new line of Starbucks Chocolates and happily accept the offer from some PR folks for a tasting kit (shown here, which is not available for retail sale).

Starbucks Chocolate TrufflesI am kind of picky about my coffee and chocolate combinations though. I like my chocolate smooth, and I don’t usually want to eat my coffee beans. (I had a seriously dangerous chocolate covered coffee bean problem in college that led to an EKG and some stern words from a doctor about moderation.)

So I greeted the new Starbucks and Hershey’s chocolate venture with a little trepidation, mostly worried that both would bring the worst they had to offer to the products (Starbucks high prices and Hershey’s inflated prices for substandard quality or playing off the cachet of their Artisan Confection lines Dagoba & Scharffen Berger without delivering).

Starbucks ChocolateTheir new product line consists of chocolate bars and tasting squares. There is the standard dark and milk plus two infused with tea flavors (Passion Fruit and Chai) and then a Mocha dark chocolate and a Citron dark chocolate. As expected they also have chocolate covered coffee beans (in milk chocolate) and a line of four different kinds of truffle-style bonbons.

The venture between Starbucks & Hershey’s is a strange one. Starbucks makes the sourcing of their coffee beans part of their marketing effort, with a pledge that they pay above market rates to the growers. It’s not quite fair trade (though they do have the Estima blend that is certified fair trade), it has certainly raised awareness of the issue of growers of our non-essential items like coffee and now chocolate. In this case the package makes note:

Starbucks is committed to purchasing cocoa and coffee that are grown and traded in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner. To learn more about our cocoa-purchasing practices, please visit us at starbucks.com/cocoa

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee BeansIt’s unclear from that webpage if the chocolate in the Starbucks branded chocolate products was obtained within these principals or not. The package (on the other side) says “Manufactured for Artisan Confections Company Berkeley, CA 94710 USA under the authority of Starbucks Coffee Company”. (Emphasis mine) I’m still not sure who made these products. (Clay Gordon tried to get more info on this subject, but was unable, but I agree that the couldn’t be made at the Scharffen Berger space in Emeryville and I’m more inclined to believe they were made by the Dagoba folks.)

The good thing is that the risk with these is low for the consumer. They’re all well priced items, none more than $5.49 and available at local drug stores and discount chains. (I already spotted the full line at RiteAid.)

The ingredients on all the items are good, real vanilla, no PGPR though no indication what the cacao levels are on the products. (Well, also no indication of what the caffeine levels are on the coffee ones!)

Starbucks Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

To start, I tried the Milk Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans. They feature the Caffe Verona beans at the heart, sourced from around the world and prepared in the Italian roast style. Inside the little stand up box the glossy beans are sealed inside a clear cellophane bag. The size is 3.5 ounces and retails for $4.99 to $5.49.

They smell very sweet, the chocolate is milky and soft to the bite (so no flaking off). The combination of the crunchy bean at the heart and the chocolate coating is nice. A bit on the sweet side for me, when it comes to coffee confections, but still very nice. The consistent quality of the beans are a highlight. I ate at least a dozen and didn’t get a chewy or acrid one. (7 out of 10)

Plain Milk & Dark Chocolate from StarbucksAt the heart of all the confections, of course, is chocolate. The tasting squares are nicely wrapped little 5 gram pieces.

Milk Chocolate. They say it’s, “Sweet, silky indulgence; rich & rewarding” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a much smoother chocolate than I’m accustomed to from Hershey’s or even Scharffen Berger. It has some strong vanilla notes and a good milky texture. (8 out of 10)

Dark Chocolate. They say it’s, “Deep, complex flavors; smooth and satisfying” and I think that was overselling it. It was rather sweet but still smooth. It lacked a depth of flavor, but it pairs well with coffee, has only the slightest acidic tang and has a good buttery melt. (7 out of 10)

They come in both 3 ounce bars or a mixed bag of tasting squares (that include the Mocha Dark Chocolate). Bars are $2.99 and the tasting squares are $4.99-$5.49 for 2.6 ounces (kinda silly, really to pay so much more for so much less).

Flavored Dark Chocolates from StarucksPassion(r) Dark Chocolate features a Tazo herbal blend of hibuscus & natural flavors. It has a very fruity scent and a grainy melt on the tongue. The little grainy bits are tangy and have a strong berry (and hibiscus) flavor to them with a tint of peach and passion fruit. It’s purely a personal thing but I thought this was dreadful ... from the texture to the combination of flavors, the sickly scent and the way it all overwhelms the chocolate. (4 out of 10)

Citron(r) Dark Chocolate is also a Tazo blend of tea leaves and lemon oil. This one smells pleasantly of lemon, but very little of chocolate. The texture is not as grainy as the Passion, but still not smooth. The lemon essence was strong, but had no citrus tang to it, thankfully. Still, no chocolate flavors came though, nor much of the tea base either.  (6 out of 10)

Drink Flavored Chocolates - Chai & Mocha from StarbucksMocha Dark Chocolate should epitomize this fusion of chocolate and Starbucks, right? It smells wonderfully rich, a combination of chocolate and coffee and a dollop of vanilla. It’s apparent looking at the square from the back that it has ground coffee beans in it, not just an infusion of flavor. It’s a bit grainy but crispy when chewed. It’s much like the chocolate covered coffee beans, but has a stronger chocolate flavor to it that isn’t quite overhwhelmed like the others. Still, I’m not one for the bits in there, but I admit that’s a personal preference.  (6 out of 10)

Chai Milk Chocolate includes Tazo tea leaves and natural flavors in milk chocolate. It smells quite rich, mostly of nutmeg, cardamom and clove. Though it looks grainy, it’s really quite smooth even with the little inclusions. It has a wonderful spicy mix of flavors without being too sweet. I’m a big fan of spicy chai but can’t stand how sweet it can be. This is a very nice mix, I almost like it better than the Dagoba bar (which has actual ginger pieces in it). (7 out of 10)

What I found most surprising about this collection of chocolate tasting squares branded by a coffee company was that three out of the six of them were tea infusions and only one was actually a coffee flavor. Their slogan for the line of products is, “when coffee dreams, it dreams of chocolate” but I think it should be, “when coffee dreams, it ends up with tea in its chocolate.” Some sort of self-loathing or something. (Or adverse reaction to cannibalism, of course coffee doesn’t want coffee!)

The curious part is that Starbucks is not selling these at their stores or even on their website. They’re a Starbucks experience without a Starbucks shop. Like the Choxie line at Target, I think they’ve done a nice job of finding the essential nature of what they have to offer, packaging them nicely and charging the appropriate amount that people are willing to pay for a personal indulgence.

I’ll have a roundup of the Truffles in a separate post.

Related Candies

  1. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  2. Joseph Schmidt
  3. Choxies in Boxies
  4. Dagoba Single Origin
  5. Scharffen Berger Tasting Squares
  6. Dagoba Chai
Name: Starbucks Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans & Chocolate Tasting Squares
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Starbucks (and Hershey's)
Place Purchased: samples from Hershey's
Price: unknown
Size: $4.99-$5.49 retail
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, Kosher, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:13 am     Comments (13)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts)

If there’s an all-ages emblem of modern Valentines candy, it’s conversation hearts. The first “Motto Lozenges” were invented in 1860 based on Necco’s already popular Necco Wafers. They were shell shaped and then later assortments included both mottos and expressions of love and came in a variety of shapes such as horseshoes, baseballs and of course hearts. Eventually they were made smaller and thicker and had briefer messages evolving into the current Necco Sweethearts.

image

I’ve spent years avoiding a review of them. So I bought a couple of boxes this year (why not, they were on sale for 20 cents each).

I actually like Necco Wafers. I know that sounds odd, because they’re so dry and chalky. (I did not like the Necco Smoothies, though.)

imageIt used to be that the Conversation Hearts were just like the wafers, only thicker and smaller, same flavor rotation. Even though the Necco Wafers have remained unchanged, at some point they mucked around with the Hearts (I don’t know when) and changed up the flavors.

In an effort to be exhaustive (and sorry if I exhaust you), I’ve fully documented a random box of Sweethearts. They weigh one ounce and mine contained 36 hearts (one rather crushed though). There are six colors and they broke down in the following assortment:

  • 8 Pink Hearts

  • 2 Yellow Hearts

  • 7 Purple Hearts

  • 11 Green Hearts

  • 4 White Hearts

  • 4 Orange Hearts

  • Necco Sweethearts Color AssortmentEach year Necco adds new mottos to the little hearts. They always seem to be a little out of step with the modern world, but I think we forgive that lameness and just call them classics. (I didn’t find any that said Fax Me this year!)

  • 1 Home Sick

  • 2 Kiss Me

  • 1 I’m Sure

  • 1 Love Me

  • 1 Let’s Kiss

  • 1 Hug Me

  • 3 Be Good

  • 1 Chill Out

  • 1 Heat Wave

  • 1 Cloud Nine

  • 1 I Hope

  • 1 Love Bird

  • 1 Wild Life

  • 1 One Kiss

  • 1 My Love

  • 2 New Love

  • 3 Love

  • 1 So Fine

  • 1 And

  • 1 Be Kind

  • 1 Sweet Talk

  • 2 Marry Me

  • 1 Do Good

  • 1 Yes Dear

  • 1 Blank (I guess you can fill it in yourself)

  • 1 For You

  • 1 Home Sick

  • There were three others that I couldn’t figure out. This year featured an “eco” theme with the addition of the mottos like “Wild Life” and “Heat Wave”. What’s nice is that there is a wide variety of mottos. In the second box I opened I found others that I didn’t have in this box (IM Me, Real Love, Marry Me and Sun Shine).

    I have to say, I think the quality control isn’t very good on these. There were quite a few that were intelligible, like having a conversation while the garbage disposal is on. Some are a little bumpy and irregular in shape as well. But hey, they were twenty cents and come in a box ready for your own personal message to give as a Valentine, cheaper than a card.

  • White - Wintergreen, like a breathmint

  • Purple - foul bitter grapes (yes, you’d think they’d be sour grapes, but they were bitter)

  • Orange - orange, kinda creamy and sweet

  • Green - lime, mild sweet lime

  • Yellow - banana, not too bad

  • Pink - Cherry but sometimes it’s almost mild enough to be confused with strawberry but with a nasty bitter aftertaste like poison

  • In the Necco Wafers the purple is Clove (I also find that bitter too, but in a more natural way), Pink is Cinnamon and Yellow is Lemon (and there’s a Brown Chocolate one and a Black Licorice one). The changeup in the hearts is understandable, but the Red #40 is probably what I’m tasting ... my husband can’t taste it, so your mileage may vary.

    While I tend to lump Sweethearts in with the other “chalk” candies, they’re not compressed dextrose like many other mints and sour tablet candies are. They’re actually made from a real sugar-based wet dough (that also includes gelatin, my vegetarian friends). This gives it a bit denser feel and also a deeper sweetness than dextrose (a monsaccharide instead of a disaccharide).

    Having these reminded me that I prefer Necco Wafers. I like the tablet shape and how they clink together and are easy to crunch or dissolve. There are too many flavors that I don’t eat in this mix as well ... so I’ll stick with Necco Wafers. But I still might pick these up every year ... especially on sale after Valentines. They also come in: Spanish , Sour and Chocolate (one version is just the chalky chocolate and they also have foil wrapped actual chocolate hearts on the website, but I’ve never seen them in person).

    I was wishing I had a cute story about an experience with Necco Sweethearts ... but I bet some reader has a great one about these or some other conversation hearts.

    Sweethearts - 2010 FlavorsUPDATE January 13, 2010

    It appears that Necco has changed the standard flavors (and some of the packaging) for their time-tested Necco Sweethearts. Prompted by some readers who commented here, I picked up a new bag. They are fruit flavors, no longer the classic fruits & spices. (Strawberry, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Orange and Blue Raspberry.)

    Full review with pictures over here: Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts) 2010

    Related Candies

    1. Necco Conversation Hearts (Sweethearts) 2010
    2. All Natural Necco Wafers
    3. Chocotelegram and Chocolate Dispatch
    4. Ausome Jewelry Kit
    5. SweeTart Hearts
    6. Junior Mints - Heart Shaped
    Name: Sweethearts Conversation Hearts
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Necco
    Place Purchased: RiteAid (Vermonica)
    Price: $.20
    Size: 1 ounce
    Calories per ounce: 110
    Categories: Chalk, United States, Necco, Valentines

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:33 am     Comments (150)

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    BonBonBars: Malt Ganache & Scotch

    BonBon Bar BoxI’ve been following Nina Wanat’s blog Sweet Napa for a couple of years now. Mostly because she was writing about making gourmet candy bars but the post that really got me was her details of making a Malted Caramel Bar. If I wasn’t already married, I’d be engaged to the recipe for that bar!

    I was further excited when I saw that she’d moved to Los Angeles ... just within my reach. Oh, so close.

    And finally, at the beginning of December she launched her company, called BonBonBar and webstore with her first gourmet candy bar creations. These are not knock-offs of consumer bars, these are unique combination bars with fresh ingredients. So fresh that it’s recommended that you eat your bars within two weeks of them leaving the kitchen.

    BonBon Bar Box (first layer)I vacillated on whether or not to try them. (I know, it sounds weird.)  The bars are not cheap, at $5 each the price makes me feel like I’m promised a transcendent experience. But she had only two items ... the Malted Ganache & Shortbread Bar (slightly different than the initial malt bar that caught my attention) and a Caramel Nut Bar which sounded fabulous all except for the walnuts. (Drat!) So I thought if I was going to go through the trouble of ordering, I should get an assortment ... I didn’t want to judge this nacent company on a single product.

    Luckily I read that she was going to add a Valentines item (and I even voted on her blog) ... a Single Malt Scotch Bar.

    I put my order in as soon as I saw it in her webstore. She even had a cool Valentine’s sampler package that included all of her bars: 3 Scotch, one Milk Malt and one Dark Malt plus the Caramel Nut Bar. I made a request to swap out the walnut-laden Caramel Nut Bar with another Dark Malt and they were made to order over the weekend.

    Since we’re both in Los Angeles, it took only a day for the package to get here! (And of course the cool weather meant that they were in perfect conditions ... I admit that I get very nervous about chocolate deliveries, even in February.)

    BonBonBar Valentines BoxWhen I opened the box I though, this is it? The box is so teensy! But hefty, as I found when I picked it up. Inside were two layers, the top layer had the three Scotch Bars and the bottom layer had the three Malt Bars. (It’s like she planned out all these sizes fitting into things or something ... genius!)

    The bars are each packaged in their own cellulose sleeve with a simple label. Through the clear plastic it’s evident that they’re perfectly formed, that the enrobing is well tempered. The only thing missing was the smell.

    Honestly, I was happy to see that the bars were enrobed. Some of Nina’s earlier exploits on her blog showed molded bars, which are necessary with certain ingredients, but I prefer an enrobed bar, there’s something about the way the chocolate sits on the center, the way that it falls into place, like a blanket instead of walls.

    Malt BarMalt Candy Bar comes in both milk and dark chocolate and features a malt ganache on a crunchy butter shortbread all covered in chocolate. (1.6 ounces)

    Biting into the narrow bar, the ganache is soft and yields quickly until I got to the dense and buttery shortbread. Crispy, crumbly. The mix of flavors the immediate hit of dark malt, the cookie and the distinct saltiness ... it was all quite dreamy.

    This is what I always wished a Twix would be, super smooth milk chocolate, strong cookie flavor ... well in this case instead of caramel it’s a ganache.

    I tried both the dark and the milk chocolate varieties, and to be honest, I prefer the milk. I think milk chocolate and malt are just natural companions. Also, because the ganache and shortbread are a bit on the salty-sweet side, the milk chocolate’s sweetness really balances it all out.

    Scotch Ganache & Caramel BarSingle Malt Scotch Candy Bar features a scotch ganache and chewy caramel dipped in dark chocolate with a little sprinkle of salt. (1.5 ounces)

    In this bar the caramel is on top and the ganache is the base.

    Upon first bite, the caramel is the perfect consistency of stringy and smooth but not too sweet. The first flavor is of a dark single malt scotch ... it’s kind of like tobacco and leather with that ultra-buttery base of deep chocolate truffle ganache. The chocolate shell is sprinkled with a little flaked salt, so it gave little additional hits of salt to the otherwise incredibly consistent experience.

    The dark chocolate shell is creamy and not too dry or chalky for the rest of the bar.

    Scotch Bar

    Just to check my own opinion (and the fact that I still had three bars and that ticking clock of freshness) I took two bars over to the neighbor’s last night (it was just Robin, Amy’s out of town and will probably be quite mad to miss this as she’s the one I usually give the terrible candy to). Robin said, “This is one of the best things you have ever given me to try.” (The other thing that she really liked was the Nutpatch Nougat, so you know she has great taste.)

    For the record, Nina did offer me free samples, but I really wanted the whole experience of knowing that I just ate a $5 candy bar so that I could report it authentically here. This is one of the reasons I didn’t have an early review like Serious Eats and Candy Addict (who both loved it too!). I did try a bite of the Malt Bar at the Fancy Food Show last month, as Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates had just met up with Nina and I guess Chuck remembered my prediliction for malt and shared. So it’s not like I was going into this order completely on trust & faith in my fellow bloggers.

    Basically, they’re not candy bars at fine boxed chocolate prices. They’re fine chocolates in bar format ... which is why they’re named BonBonBar. Though $5 a bar sounds like a lot, the price per pound is about $51, which is on par with most other fine chocolatier. (And honestly, if these were in little bon bon sizes and I was in some haut chocolatier, I wouldn’t flinch at that price.) Right now you have to order online if you want some (her list of stores is rather short at the moment).

    Many of her ingredients are organic and all are all natural (no high fructose corn sweetener either).

    It’s not an everyday treat, but if I was given this set for Valentine’s Day, I’d know someone loved me.

    Related Candies

    1. Nutpatch Nougats
    2. Chuao ChocoPod Collection
    3. Charles Chocolates Bars
    4. Valerie Toffees & Nougats
    5. See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar
    Name: Single Malt Scotch & Malt Bar
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: BonBonBar
    Place Purchased: online store
    Price: $30 for six bars
    Size: 1.5 & 1.6 ounces
    Calories per ounce: unknown
    Categories: Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie, Malt, United States, All Natural, Organic (some ingredients), Los Angeles, Chocolatier

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:42 am     Comments (11)

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Vanilla Creme Kisses

    Hershey's Vanilla Creme KissesI have Kiss ennui. And I’ll start by saying that the idea of Kisses filled with Vanilla Creme is probably not the solution, probably just more of the problem.

    There have been a lot of variations on the Hershey’s Kiss. Some of them good (I loved the original Candy Cane Kisses when they were made with cocoa butter) and some of them dreadful (Candy Corn Kisses). But through all of this, like the many variations of Pocky & KitKats, I’ve realized that the original was fine and I’d much rather have that. Except now when I look at the little foil wrapped friend I have a mix of associations. (If this were a movie this is where there’d be a montage of happy moments and then scary or unpleasant bits where I ate a Candy Corn Kiss or the horror of opening a drawer and finding a stinky bag of Candy Corn Kisses.)

    I couldn’t bring myself to buy the big bag, so I was happy to see this pack of 5 mega Kisses.

    Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses

    The construction is as you’d assume. A milk chocolate shell and a “artificially vanilla-flavored creme” center.

    Because they are packaged differently than the foil wrapped brethren, these are exceptionally shiny and pristine, which is an appealing aspect. They smell sweet and a little cheesy.

    imageThey’re a little smaller than the foil wrapped kind as well, but also come unwrapped ... so no little flags or bits of foil to roll into tiny spheres.

    It was sweet and less chocolaty. The “creme” center was really creamy, more like smooth fudge.

    It just didn’t excite me. I had them sitting around for a while and couldn’t be bothered to eat them. (I found the Bee Mine more compelling, at least with its overt badness.)

    I think Hershey’s should just do what they do well and stop mucking around. Yeah, I know it’s hard after making Kisses for 100 years, they want to mix it up. But really, you don’t last 100 years when you go too far off the rails. (However, I know there’s a Cheesecake version out there that I’m still curious about.) These do not say that they’re a limited edition item, but they also have little tulips on the package (a spring thing?) and aren’t listed on the Hershey’s Kiss page.

    Related Candies

    1. Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses
    2. Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses
    3. Candy Corn Kisses
    4. Kisses Coconut Creme
    5. Kisses Chocolate Truffles
    6. The Mint Kisses: Chocolate Mint & Candy Cane
    7. Peanut Butter Kisses
    8. Cherry Cordial Creme Kisses
    9. Head to Head: Rolo vs Caramel Kisses
    10. Short & Sweet: Caramello /  Mega M&Ms / Orange Kisses
    Name: Vanilla Creme Kisses
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Hershey's
    Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
    Price: $.69
    Size: 1.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 146
    Categories: Chocolate, United States, Hershey's, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:42 am     Comments (10)

    Tuesday, January 8, 2008

    Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch

    Snickers Nut 'n Butter CrunchYou know what makes a candy satisfying? Sweet fat and protein. It’s a delicate balance, but I find that peanuts are usually up for the job. Mars pretty much knows that and designed the Snickers bar to take full advantage.

    When I first heard about the Limited Edition Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch I was wondering if it was going to be a Butterfinger knockoff, as the Butter Crunch portion of the name might indicate. Then I wondered if it was a remix of the Snickers Cruncher. But it turns out it’s something altogether different.

    Instead of nougat, peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate in the regular Snickers, this new Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch is peanuts and some sort of peanut butter mass (something they call “peanut butter taste” on the wrapper) in milk chocolate. I’d characterize this stuff as a chewy peanut butter fudge or maybe a chewy peanut butter nougat. I think it falls into the nougat camp since there are egg whites in there.

    The bar is a little smaller at 1.71 ounces, but still rivals the fat content of the regular Snickers which is 2.07 ounces.

    Snickers Nut 'n Butter Crunch

    It’s odd, because the texture of the bar makes me think that there’s some caramel in there, it is definitely chewy. But look at that cross section ... it’s jammed full of that “peanut butter taste.”

    I like it, I really really like it. I actually like that it’s smaller than a regular Snickers bar, which is always just one bite too much for me. I like the solidness, I like that it’s less sweet and I actually like that it has 5 grams of protein. I’ll be curious to see if this becomes a regular item like the Snickers Dark did.

    It took me a while to get a hold of the bar, so if this sounds familiar you may have seen reviews at the AV Club or over at Candy Addict.

    Related Candies

    1. Twix PB
    2. Elvis Reese’s Peanut Butter and Banana Cup
    3. Eat-More
    4. Munch Bar
    5. Snickers Xtreme
    Name: Snickers Limited Edition Nut 'n Butter Crunch
      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: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
    Price: $.65
    Size: 1.71 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 146
    Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts, Nougat, United States, Mars, Limited Edition, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:23 am     Comments (11)

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Chocolate Truffles

    Trader Joe's Fair Trade TrufflesTrader Joe’s always has an interesting assortment of candies and sweet goodies around the holidays. But without brand names (and previous years) to guide you, how do you know what’s good ... or even what’s inside the box? I’ll devote the rest of the week to the Trader Joe’s hostess gifts.

    First up is Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Chocolate Truffles because nothing says thank you for having me in your home than not oppressing people six thousand miles away. It frees you up to drink in celebration instead of out of guilt!

    This box is certified by Equi-Trade as commerce equitable! The box looks kind of like a take out container, with pretty amber and brown African designs. Inside are two layers. There are 14 truffles in five flavors (Spicy Hot Chocolate gets shorted with only two of those, three of each of the others).

    Trader Joe's Fair Trade Truffles

    Double Dark - these were quite nice looking. The 70% dark chocolate coating is a little on the acidic and “high note” side, but is buttery smooth and on its own has a slightly dry finish. The ganache center is melty-smooth. It’s firm when bitten in half, but melts quickly. It has similar flavors as the shell, giving the whole truffle a consistent flavor, with the only difference in the textures.

    Trader Joe's Fair Trade TrufflesField Raspberry - this one was easy to pick out from the rest, the dark chocolate shell had little raspberry bumps on the top. I was kind of surprised at the pink color of the filling. It’s a light ganache, not quite white chocolate. Sweet, tangy and very much an authentic raspberry flavor. It overpowered the dark chocolate, but there were other, more chocolatey experiences in the box.

    Cappuccino - has a milk chocolate shell with a little cap of white chocolate. It’s sweet and has a nice creamy milk chocolate ganache center. It’s more firm than the raspberry one. The coffee notes are a little, well, coffee-ish instead of true rounded coffee. But then again cappuccino is often as much about hot milk as it is about espresso. This has nice milky flavors in it as well.

    Spicy Hot Chocolate - it’s a very pretty truffle. A glossy dark chocolate shell and a spiced dark chocolate center. However, the spices gave this more of a woodsy flavor reminiscent of cupboards and cardboard than warm chili. It was smooth, but I was glad when I got rid of these two and they stopped infecting the others with that kind-of-sour spicy note.

    Creamy Milk - the milk chocolate shell has a strong dairy component reminiscent of fine Swiss chocolate. It’s a creamy smooth shell with an achingly silky ganache center. There’s not a hint of grain in here, though it is a bit sweet it never becomes sticky or cloying.

    As a gift, the packaging is okay, it does communicate the fair trade aspects, which I’m guessing is one of its biggest selling points. It’s nice and compact, but not as easy to just open it up and dig in because it’s double-deckered (and the plain truffles are on the bottom, not all mixed up). The cream “label sleeve” in the center of the box slides off and then it actually looks much better (that’s where all the nutrition facts are). As far as price goes, $7 for six ounces of fair trade chocolate with all-natural ingredients is pretty freak-tacularly good. They’re not the best truffles I’ve had, but for the price (less than $20 a pound) they’re certainly an incredible value and should get you kudos when given as a gift or served to guests.

    These were made in Canada. (I suspect that they’re made by Terra Nostra, seeing how there aren’t that many Equi-Trade chocolate companies in Canada.)

    Related Candies

    1. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
    2. Endangered Species: Eco-Rounds
    3. Theo Confections
    4. CocoaVino
    Name: Fair Trade Chocolate Truffles
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
    Price: $6.99
    Size: 6 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 157
    Categories: Chocolate, Canada, Trader Joe's, Christmas, Fair Trade

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:32 am     Comments (9)

    Trader Joe’s English Soft Peppermints

    Trader Joe's English Soft PeppermintsSometimes I want a little more information on the package. I saw these at Trader Joe’s last Friday and I was intrigued. Trader Joe’s English Soft Peppermints. I liked everything I saw. Peppermint, good! English, yes, they know good candy. Soft, why yes, I like soft things. Even the blue tin was compelling. But what were they?

    The back of the package didn’t tell me much more except that they were actually a product of The Netherlands (and not English as the name may have led me to believe). The ingredients were pretty simple: Sugar, Cream of Tartar and Natural Peppermint Oil.

    What what manner of soft mint were they?

    Open the package and it’s clear. They’re pillow mints. Lovely, king sized pillow mints (not those domestic throw pillow mints you get at the drug store!).

    They smell of sweet peppermint and at first as light and cool on the tongue. Then the blistering peppermint kicks in. It’s like the word “English” is code for"Altoid” or something.

    I enjoy pillow mints and their Butter Mint brethren, but the intensity of these doesn’t make for popping them one after the other very pleasant. Perhaps that’s a good thing, I could learn a little self control through negative feedback behavior modification. With fresh breath as a side effect whether I’ve learned anything or not.

    As a breath mint, these are fine and dandy. As a candy, they’re not quite munchable.

    Related Candies

    1. York Mints
    2. Russell Stover Organic Pecan Delight
    3. Chocolate Dipped Altoids
    4. Necco Mint Julep
    5. Choward’s Violet
    Name: English Soft Peppermints
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silverlake)
    Price: $1.99
    Size: 5.3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 71
    Categories: Mint, netherlands, Trader Joe's, Christmas

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:14 am     Comments (28)

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    Hershey’s with Crisp Corn Bits

    Hershey's with Crisp Corn BitsI keep seeing this bar, but only in its jumbo form shown here. It clocks in at 4.5 ounces, no mere chocolate bar, this is a plank. Like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter that’s also found in this size, I was hoping I’d run across a King Size or perhaps single serve size at some point. It’s like it barely exists. It’s never shown up on the Hershey’s official Hershey’s Milk Chocolate page.

    But it’s clear it exists, not only because I have photos, but also independent corroboration from Nicole at Baking Bites with her review. For a while I saw the bar at the Dollar Tree so I though there must be something wrong with it, maybe it was old, maybe it was an import. But when I saw it at Ralph’s and flipped over the package to see that it expired in September 2008, it was made in the United States and it was on sale for a dollar, I figured it was time to give it a try.

    Hershey's with Crisp Corn Bits

    It’s a lovely looking bar. It looks like a Hershey bar, a light caramely brown with 16 segments each with the Hershey’s name on them. It smells like, well, a Hershey bar. A little sweet, a little tangy. That Hershey’s tang isn’t quite as noticeable when you eat it though. What’s noticeable is a mellow malty note from the actual corn flake bits in there. They’re pretty dense and solidly crunchy. The malty corn flake flavors develop more as the chocolate dissolves away. I could use more corn flakes.

    It’s in no way as good as the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes bar, but I ate the whole thing ... all 4.5 ounces of it (I got it on Sunday) so it has to be pretty good.

    It’s a nice combo. It’s a terrible name for a candy bar though. I think they should have just called it an extension of the Krackel line and called it Corn Krackel. Or maybe Mr. Cornbar.

    Thanks to Patti for being the first to alert me to this possible domestic contender for Ritter Sport Knusperflake’s place in my heart.

    Related Candies

    1. Peeps Monster Mash Ups
    2. Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn
    3. Paskesz Klik
    4. Ritter Sport Assortment
    Name: Hershey's with Crisp Corn Bits
      RATING:
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 3 UNAPPEALING
    • 2 APPALLING
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Hershey's
    Place Purchased: Ralph's (Glendale)
    Price: $1.00
    Size: 4.5 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 141
    Categories: Chocolate, Cookie, United States, Hershey's, Kosher

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:24 am     Comments (10)

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