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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Askinosie White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)

Askinosie White ChocolateI was converted to the “white side” by Green & Black’s White Chocolate several years ago and now I understand that the mix of milk, cocoa butter and vanilla can be a wonderful thing.

I was more than intrigued when Askinosie, a bean to bar, fair trade chocolate maker right here in the United States came out with their white chocolate, mostly because it’s made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk.

But the fascinating aspects don’t end there. It’s single origin, contains no soy lecithin or even any vanilla.

Askinosie White Chocolate with Pistachios

The Askinosie Soconusco White Chocolate Bar isn’t white. It’s the color of butterscotch pudding.

It smells a bit gamier than other white confections - kind of like erasers and marscapone.

I was expecting a texture of pure bliss, after all, this is un-deodorized cocoa butter, so it would have the texture of chocolate, the earthier hint of the cocoa solids that were once there and then the wonderful base of goat’s milk to boost it up and moderate the necessary sugar.

Instead it’s a bit grainy but it’s a sugary grain. It still has a wonderful mouthfeel and is rather cool on the tongue. But it wasn’t quite a buttery solid goat’s milk that I was hoping for.

While I say that intellectually, I ate about a third of the bar pondering these few paragraphs.

image

The other two bars are far more interesting:

White Chocolate Nibble Bar - I thoroughly enjoyed my first Askinosie Nibble bars which were based on the Jose del San Tambo beans. All of the white bars are Soconusco beans of the Trinitario variety from Mexico. (Not my favorite in the dark version either.)

Like the dark nibble bar, the cacao nibs aren’t mixed in with the chocolate. Instead they’re just tossed on the bottom as the bar is molded. Personally, I prefer integrated elements. This whole “topping” thing means that the nibs aren’t completely surrounded.

That said, the nibs are fun. They obviously carry a huge amount of chocolate flavor punch in them. In this case they have a bit of a smokey and woodsy flavor to them and it really balances out the sweetness of the white chocolate. The texture variation is also remarkable. The nibs are crunchy, the white chocolate cool and the graininess I complained about earlier is unnoticeable.

White Chocolate Pistachio Bar

This was the star, the perfect combination of the above texture and flavor profile.

The addition of some lightly toasted & sparingly salted pistachios provided some crunch but mostly a grassy brightness. It balanced out the twang of the goat’s milk without making it sweeter, instead it just made it more flavorful.

Askinosie has also just launched a dark milk chocolate which is 52% cacao of the same Soconusco single origin, fleur de sel and goat’s milk.

Many people who suffer from lactose intolerance can digest goat’s milk without difficulty, so this new line of goat’s milk products from Askinosie, as well as the fact that they don’t use soy may be just the ticket for those with food sensitivities.

My hesitation with them, besides the fact that I haven’t seen them in stores, is that they’re very expensive at $10.50 a bar. (The regular dark chocolate bars are $8.00 to $8.50.)

Related Candies

  1. Choceur Coffee & Cream
  2. Mitchell’s Candies
  3. Askinosie Chocolate
  4. Ritter Sport White Chocolate with Hazelnuts
  5. Romanego Dragees, Cordials & Fondants
  6. KitKat Bitter & White
Name: Socunosco White Chocolate (Plain, Nibble & Pistachio)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Askinosie Chocolate
Place Purchased: Askinosie website
Price: $10.50
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 165
Categories: White Chocolate, Cacao Nibs, Nuts, United States, All Natural, Single Origin, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:44 am     Comments (7)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Mint Round Up

I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate MintsLike the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.

Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.

They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.

image

Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)

The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.

They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.

Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).

Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints get a rating of: 7 out of 10 because they’re so expensive.

These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.

Divine After Dinner MintsThe previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.

I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.

Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.

Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.

image

The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.

I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.

Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.

Creme de Menthe Altoids

Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!

Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.

But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.

Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.

King Leo Soft Peppermint BallsQuite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.

Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.

I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.

image

I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:

For over one hundred years, King Leo has made delicious peppermint stick candy using only the purest ingredients and old-fashioned care. Now we’ve taken that same quality and care and created new King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy. The same great King Leo taste folks have come to expect, now in a truly soft new candy [emphasis mine] Thanks to a special process we’ve perfected, these bite-sized treats are soft from the moment you open the box. [emphasis mine] No wonder everyone loves King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy so much.

So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.

These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.

King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate: Eggnog Latte Truffles

Starbucks Chocolate Eggnog Latte TrufflesThe Hershey’s & Starbucks marriage has moved quietly out of the honeymoon stage. I see the products around quite a bit, though I haven’t been tempted to buy any again since I tried their launch line of items.

Then I saw their new holiday truffles. They have three new variesties that I spotted at both Rite Aid and Target.

The new truffles are: Peppermint Mocha Truffles, Gingerbread Latte Truffles and Eggnog Latte Flavored Truffles.

I stared and stared at the two packages for Gingerbread and Eggnog and I couldn’t figure out the difference. Gingerbread was going to be a little more on the cinnamon side and eggnog was going to be more on the nutmeg side. Both are milk chocolate.

Even though they were on sale, I opted for just the Eggnog ones. I think nutmeg is a hugely underrated spice and I love the combination of milk chocolate and nutmeg. (Frances bought all of them though.)

Starbucks Chocolate Eggnog Latte Truffles

First let me say that I’ve never had a Starbucks coffee drink before. I’ve had straight lattes and cappuccinos and tried their Chantico hot chocolate before, but I’ve never had any of their flavored drinks. Like my aversion to sodas, I just don’t care much for sweet drinks. So I can’t compare the experience of this truffle to one of their actual hot Eggnog Lattes.

The narrow domed pieces are very attractive. Nicely molded and aromatic. I got an immediate whiff of chocolate and nutmeg with a little hint of rum flavoring.

The chocolate shell is shiny and nicely tempered. The chocolate is sweet but has a slight pop of coffee flavors. The sugar, cream and palm oil ganache center is creamy with a few little bits of spice in it. There’s a very slight hint of coffee from time to time, but for the most part this is a chocolate piece about the egg nog flavors, not espresso.

Overall, as I’ve found with egg nog in the past, this is pretty sweet stuff. The piece is nice, but as I’ve noticed with the other truffle boxes, I kind of want a variety. I did see a gift box at Target that had a mix of Mocha, Peppermint Mocha and Gingerbread Latte Truffles, but at $10 for less than 6 ounces it was a worse deal ounce for ounce than the stand up boxes. So I think I’m just going to keep my eye on it and hope it’s still there after Christmas. Or go to a real chocolatier and get something that’ll really roll my eyes back in my head.

As drug store chocolates go, they are all natural and Starbucks makes a point of saying that their coffee and chocolate are sourced ethically and grown sustainably (doesn’t say anything about the palm oil though). They’re certainly better than most other mass-produced boxed chocolates in that respect. Kosher.

Related Candies

  1. Choceur Coffee & Cream
  2. Starbucks Truffles
  3. Starbucks Chocolate
  4. Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Chocolate Truffles
  5. Dove Jewels
  6. Chuao ChocoPods
  7. Pocket Coffee
Name: Starbucks Eggnog Latte Truffles
    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: Target (WeHo)
Price: $3.99 on sale
Size: 4.23 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, United States, Hershey's, All Natural, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:57 am     Comments (5)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TCHO Fruity

TCHO just announced that they’ve opened a store in San Francisco. They’ve also expanded their “flavor” offerings to include Nutty, Fruity and Citrus along with the initial Chocolatey.

I got a hold of a later Beta of their Ghana (Chocolatey) as well as the Fruity through a friend who ordered it but didn’t like it.

Tcho Fruity

The Peru 0.11 M scent isn’t fruity. I expected berry notes or perhaps apples or pears. Instead it smells strongly of coffee and wood shavings. (Kind of like the break room at a sawmill!)

I have to say that I was impressed when I placed a square in my mouth this time. The melt is silky and creamy. The grain size is much smaller and a lot more consistent than the previous version I tried which was more like a variety ground on a stone wheel.

This is immediately tangy. The acidic notes are bright but very high pitched and puckery. I don’t get any real fruit flavors to go with it, just a tingly burst of the sourness and then the creamy background with some powdery green stick flavors. The balance of flavors was all off, like the whole thing was leaning to the left, about ready to tip over.

So while I appreciate the step forward in texture, the flavor was definitely a step back for me. It took several weeks for me to eat half a bar.

Tcho GhanaThe C Ghana D.99D is the Chocolatey variety that I tasted months ago in an earlier version. Now marked with the cacao percentage, this one is 70%.

As I’d hoped from the Fruity beta, this was much creamier and had a much more pleasing mouthfeel than the previous one I tried.

The immediate flavors I got though were absolutely different from the “Chocolatey” Ghana before. This was an overwhelming flavor of honey, cedar and a light tinge of herby balsam like rosemary or lavender.

The notes were confined to a very narrow spectrum. While the Fruity was high pitched with a couple of low resonant notes in the scent, Chocolatey was pure middle notes, like walking down a narrow hallway with the same pictures displayed over and over again on the walls. It felt repetitive and monotonous and had no finish to it ... it just abruptly came to a halt. (Though I admit I loved the initial honey flavor a lot.)

So while both have a much more pleasing texture than the previous test batch, and I can appreciate the differences in the beans without even looking at the labels ... I didn’t like either of these bars. I understand that they’re still in beta mode, I have to say that I’m glad that I didn’t pay for these samples.

Related Candies

  1. Askinosie Chocolate
  2. Stainer: Peru & Bianco
  3. Four 99%-100% Chocolate
  4. Friday’s San Francisco Candy Adventure
  5. Los Angeles may not be the best place for a Candy Blogger to live
  6. Treat Trip: Scharffen Berger Factory
Name: C Ghana 0.7 AH
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: TCHO
Place Purchased: gift
Price: gift
Size: 1.76 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, United States, All Natural, Fair Trade, Bay Area

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:00 pm     Comments (5)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

Divine Fair Trade ChocolateOctober is Fair Trade Month, which makes sense since Halloween is the number one candy holiday. A few years ago I’m pretty sure few people, especially candy fans even know what that meant, happily much of that has changed, both through education efforts and the simple ubiquity of the products displaying the logos. Fair Trade guarantees the growers of raw materials & makers of products a fair and liveable wage for their products, you can read more about it here. Luckily all sorts of fair trade products are becoming more available to regular consumers, even at big box stores like Target, grocery & drug store chains.

I’ve tried quite a few fair trade candies over the years, including Divine Chocolate. Divine is expanding more in the United States and has a broader range of products now than ever before. One of their representatives sent me a nice sampling of their products, so I’ll be reviewing them over the next month or so. The motto is Heavenly chocolate with a heart.

First, their standard 3.5 ounce chocolate bars. While fair trade chocolate isn’t hard to find, fair trade candy bars are. Yes a nice dark bar is all well and good, but sometimes I want a little more in my decadent treat (without enslaving any children in Africa for it either). With a retail price of about $3 a bar, it’s certainly no hardship for the chocolate aficionado. But of course the larger question is, how do they taste?

70% Dark Divine Fair Trade ChocolateI’m starting with the Divine 70% Dark Chocolate.

I tried this chocolate back in 2005 and while I can’t say whether they’ve changed the formula or way that they’re making the bar, I like it much better than I did then.

The packaging is lovely. Before it was a simple black wrap with their logo. The new package is a matte paper with a foil inner wrap. The decorative icons are fun and attractive, I spotted hearts, turtles, geese and something that’s either a comb or a Menorah.

The bar inside is wonderfully tempered. Shiny, even and no hint of bubbles or bloom. I like the thickness of the pieces and that the bar snaps easily into the little portions.

70% Dark Divine Fair Trade Chocolate

The scent is a little grassy and fruity.

On the tongue the cocoa butter melts quickly into a silky puddle. Flavors are middle of the road, there’s nothing difficult or loud about this bar. I get a little bit of coffee, cherries, olives, woodsy eucalyptus and very little acid. The finish is smooth and with only a slight bitter note but no dryness.

The high fat content makes this very munchable. I like that in a chocolate bar, though I know that some fans prefer a more intense concentration cacao.

99% of the ingredients are fair trade certified for this bar (this includes the sugar, vanilla and cocoa products - only the non-GMO soy lecithin is not).

Rating: 8 out of 10

Divine Milk Chocolate with HazelnutsThe Divine Hazelnut Milk Chocolate is completely new to me. I tried the 27% cocoa plain milk chocolate and was struck by how the milky flavors reflected the European-style.

I think this package is the prettiest of the three. I liked the brown wrapper with gold and cream colored icons, it feels elegant, playful and subtly conveys that this is a milk chocolate product.

The ingredients in this bar, like the dark one go for fair trade when possible, though this one only clocks in at 69% with the cream, soy lecithin and chopped hazelnuts as traditionally sourced.

Divine Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts

The bar is softer than its dark counterpart. Snapping it in half it’s clear that part of the reason is the plethora of crushed hazelnuts.

The bar smells milky, a little nutty and a little cheesy.

On the tongue it melts quickly but is a little sweet and sticky at first. Then come the flavors, the dairy flavors lean towards powdered milk, have a great smoky cocoa flavor and of course the hazelnut.

It’s not quite giaunduia, but it’s close. The bar overall is a bit sweet for me but fills that gaping hole out there for fair price fair trade candy bars that are more than straight chocolate.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Divine White Chocolate with StrawberriesI’ve fallen in love with real white chocolate. The Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries bar provides an additional confectionery twist. It has little “strawberry crisps” mixed in.

The cocoa content on this bar is a staggering 25%, which means it’s one quarter cocoa butter. Milk solids make up another 26%. (And the fair trade percentage here is 71%.)

Strangely enough the calcium content on a single serving is 16% of your RDA and 4 grams of protein. I wouldn’t call it a full serving of dairy, but it’s certainly not completely junk food.

Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries

The bar smells like Frankenberry cereal.

The little berry crisps dot the bar and look to be evenly distributed.

The melt of the white chocolate isn’t quite as even as the other two bars, it has a slightly fudgier grain to it, but it is smooth. The strawberry crisps are more than just little dried bits. They’re crunchy and tangy, with the floral scent of berries along with the high pitched tartness. But the tangy part isn’t intergrated into the white chocolate like the Meiji bar I tried recently.

If you have a soft spot for white chocolate and strawberries, I’d suggest giving this bar a try. I enjoyed it a lot more than the Frey but the Green & Black’s White Chocolate (plain) is still the gold standard for me.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

All of the bars are Kosher. I don’t know the full distribution of the bars but you can find some of them places like Whole Foods and other stores that carry natural products. Look for wider distribution soon as well as new products from Divine for the holidays. I saw some little foil wrapped milk chocolates themed for Halloween (available web only) on their site.

Related Candies

  1. Askinosie Chocolate
  2. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  3. Zotter Candy Bars
  4. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  5. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  6. Endangered Species Halloween Treats
Name: 70% Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Milk Chocolate & White Chocolate with Strawberries
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Divine Chocolate
Place Purchased: samples from Divine
Price: retail ~$3.00
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 159, 153 & 153
Categories: Chocolate, Strawberry, White Chocolate, Germany, Divine, Kosher, all Natural, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:19 am     Comments (9)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Askinosie Chocolate

Askinosie San Jose Del Tambo (Ecuador)Less is more. And I never would have guessed that such simplicity would be so complex.

Askinosie Chocolate makes Authentic Single Origin bars. They’re made with a very short list of ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter (they make their own facility from the same origin beans).

There are no emulsifiers and not even any vanilla.

The package isn’t quite so simple. It’s a waxed paper envelope that folds over at the top with a little tie of recycled string from the bags that are used to transport cocoa beans. Inside is the bar itself, wrapped simply in a clear cellophane sleeve and an insert that details the origin of the cocoa beans.

Askinosie

The first bar that I tried is the San Jose del Tambo made from Arriba Nacional beans from Ecuador. At 70% this is a pretty dark bar.

The bar is absolutely gorgeous. The simple molding with the lettered squares format is inspired - each is the perfect sized portion for a bite and it’s fun to play with them to make new words if you’re Scrabble-y.

The snap is quite sharp and doesn’t quite melt readily, but when it does, it’s quite smooth.

The overall flavor was light and bright with notes of caramel, cardamom, coffee, black pepper, licorice & molasses. The finish is a little dry but also sweet.

AskinosieAfter that happy experience I picked up the Soconusco from Mexico made of Trinitario beans.

The look of the bar was the same - beautifully shiny and with a bright snap.

This bar had a grassier scent of olives and black & green teas. The melt was smooth but had a very perceptible dryness right away. There were a few fruity notes of some berries, but overall it didn’t have the variation in elements that I like especially in the woodsy and balsam tones.

Askinosie Nibble itty bar

Askinosie makes a large variety of products including cocoa (which make sense if Shawn Asknosie is making his own cocoa butter, he’s gonna have a lot of cocoa solids left over) but there were two that I was especially interested in. His Nibble Bar which includes cacao nibs and the White Chocolate bars.

I found these Itty Bar Nibble Bars in Santa Barbara at Chocolate Maya a few weeks ago.

They’re not big, just two inches long and about an inch wide, but packaged in pairs. At only $1.00,  I think they were a steal! (The big bars were $8 each.) They’re the same San Jose del Tambo but, obviously, with some same origin cocoa nibs scattered in.

They’re much more tangy than the large format bar but it still has the same caramelized sugar notes and coffee flavors with a light peppery finish.

It’s easy to say that $8 is too much for chocolate. But keep in mind that like many artisan chocolate makers, Shawn Askinosie is making his growers essentially his partners. It’s called a stake in the outcome and not only do they get fair prices, they also get a share in the final sales of the finished products.

Some fair trade products can make me feel like it’s charity, not an actual purchase for the sake of the quality. That’s far from the case here. The consumer of the chocolate gets both the full experience from the look and feel of the package down to the actual taste of the product there’s also so much more going on in the background.

I am a huge fan now and will probably seek out every product in the Askinosie line. (Except maybe this item.) Maybe someday Askinosie will do an Ocumare bar.

Related Candies

  1. Amano Single Origin Bars: Madagascar & Ocumare
  2. Theo 3400 Phinney Bars
  3. Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs
  4. Sweetriot!
  5. Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs
Name: San Jose Del Tambo & Socunosco 70% Bars
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Askinosie Chocolate
Place Purchased: Fog City News (SF), Mel & Rose's (LA) & Chocolate Maya (SB)
Price: $8.00 for bars, $1.00 for Itty
Size: 3 ounces & 14 grams
Calories per ounce: 165
Categories: Chocolate, Cacao Nibs, United States, All Natural, Single Origin, Fair Trade

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:35 am     Comments (12)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate CupsOn my way to San Francisco back in April I took a little detour off of 101 North in San Luis Obispo to gather some little organic and fair trade goodies from Sweet Earth Chocolates. They’re sold on the web and at Splash Cafe, which shares space with Sweet Earth’s confectionery kitchen. The two display cases at the cafe were well organized and kept the chocolate at a consistent temperature. (A little cold for immediate indulgence but perfect for storage.)

What attracted me to them is that they make candy not just fine chocolates. My curiosity was mostly about these candy cups that they feature on their website.

The little cups are about 1.25” at the base and 1.5” at the top. They weigh about .8 ounces with the wrapper on. (Bigger than the standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis.)

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate Cups

Turtle Cluster (the bronze wrapper - pictured unwrapped in the center)

This is the only milk chocolate cup in the bunch (they have other cups, but they have walnuts in them).

The one has a flowing caramel center with crisped rice in the milk chocolate.

The caramel is sweet but a little salty and rather buttery tasting. It’s a good consistency, not too much like syrup, though not chewy.

The whole thing was rather sweet and not creamy enough for me, but I have to say that the texture combo was great and really filled any craving I had for a fair trade & organic candy.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate CupsCranberry Ginger

Dark Chocolate. It’s a solid cup with a little decorative flourish of a piece of candied ginger and a dried cranberry on top.

The chocolate is sweet and just a bit grainy from the inclusion of the crystallized ginger. It has a light spicy bite to it. I felt there was more ginger to it than cranberry. In the bites where it was just one of the other, it was fine too.

It was a tasty little piece, and interesting change from barks because it’s so chunky and the inclusions stay moist & chewy.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate CupsToasted Coconut Fondant

Both of the cups that I ate were absolutely gorgeous. The chocolate was shiny and the little flakes of coconut on top told me what was inside.

It smelled only slightly of woodsy, tropical coconut (not like suntan lotion).

The fondant center was both sugary and coconutty. It wasn’t as soft and chewy as a Mounds bar. It was a bit firmer, but not at all gritty. A bit cool on the tongue, it was like a cake of confectioners sugar and coconut bits.

There was a lot of chocolate to it, which kept it from being too sweet, but also drowned out the coconutiness a bit. So consider this a more subtle coconut candy than Bounty or Mounds.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate CupsPeppermint Fondant

Dark chocolate. This cup has a natural fondant (not bright white) with a light touch of peppermint. The overall effect is fresh and balances well with the semi-sweet chocolate.

There’s a lot of chocolate on top, maybe more than I’m used to as proportions go with these sorts of things, so don’t think of it as a peppermint pattie.

I liked this one a lot, I know it’s not a hard thing to do well, but they did it.

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolate CupsRoasted Almond

This was probably the most irregular looking of all the cups. The lumpy top hinted at large almond pieces below.

Not only is it loaded with them, they’re not just roasted ... they’re caramelized. Each almond bit has a bit or a crunchy sugar shell and then the chocolate around it.

Crunchy, much less sweet than the others and entirely satisfying.

I also tried a vegan turtle while I was there, made with coconut oil instead of butter. It wasn’t quite a “caramel” in my book as the coconut flavor was detectable ... but it was still very tasty and felt like a no-compromise treat for anyone avoiding dairy. Unfortunately they were out of their peanut butter cups (and they do have a vegan dark chocolate version).

I’m hoping that these candy cups will show up at more cafes and as impulse items at natural stores (heck, any kind of store). With a retail price of about a dollar (they’re much less when you buy a whole box though.), it’s more than most of us spend on a candy bar, but as a fair trade and organic product, this doesn’t have the feel of a charity compromise. All of the dark chocolate offerings are also Vegan. You can buy online (they even do wedding favors) and their website has an up-to-date list of where they’re sold in stores.

UPDATE: Sweet Earth Chocolate changed their name to Mama Ganache.

Related Candies

  1. Crispy Cat
  2. Zotter Candy Bars
  3. Terra Nostra Pocket Bars
  4. Pure Fun & Yummy Earth Organic Hard Candies
  5. Endangered Species Chocolate
  6. Thompson’s Organic Chocolate
Name: Fair Trade Organic Candy Cups
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Sweet Earth Chocolates
Place Purchased: Splash Bakery (San Luis Obispo)
Price: $1.00 each
Size: .6 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Nuts, Coconut, Caramel, Mint, Ginger, Cookie, United States, Organic, Fair Trade, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:26 am     Comments (2)

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)

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