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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Short & Sweet: International Flavors

Meiji Rich Strawberry ChocolateFlavored white chocolate is kind of a strange thing, not something I cared much for as a kid, but as an adult I’m warming up to it. Perhaps because there are some really good options out there.

Meiji, one of Japan’s major candy & snack companies uses white and flavored white chocolates in many of their confections. The flavors range from berry and flower flavors (sakura) to green tea and caramel.

I found this Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate bar in Little Tokyo at Murukai Market, but every store seemed to carry them.

Meiji Rich Strawberry Chocolate

The bar is much deeper in color than the KitKats or even the limited edition Hershey’s flavored white chocolate bars that I’ve had. And the intensity of the color matches the flavor. It’s much more in the berry range than the “light touch of berries”. It’s both tangy and sweet, with that woodsy flavor of seeds in there as well.

I wasn’t as fond of it as a I’d hoped. Something about the tangy mixed with the sweetness and a bit of grain from the real berry in there made me miss the cocoa butter and milk base. But for $1.29, it was a great buy for a little more exotic taste than the ordinary.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Klene KrokantjesFor Licorice Fans, the Klene Krokantjes are all licorice, but three different “jelly bean” style varieties in one bag.

I wasn’t sure what these would be, I thought something like the Skoolkrijt that I’ve come to love. I assumed it was a licorice center with a candy coating. I found a description online that said, “Salty Salmiak & Mint Flavor with a crunchy outer shell” which didn’t really capture it all (except that it included that it was salted licorice, not the straight sweet kind).

There are three shapes, a dark and a light jelly bean style and a larger, um, rock. I didn’t even know there was a third shape at first, as there were only two in the bag so I didn’t photograph it.

Klene KrokantjesThe candies look like little granite pebbles. Black and white and gray, they’re speckled and natural looking. They don’t smell like much, just a bit sweet with a slight anise note.

The beans are two different flavors. The light one is a peppermint, menthol and licorice mix of flavors. There’s a lot of crunch outside, it’s a bit grainy. The inside isn’t a molasses/wheat chewy licorice. Instead it’s a gelatin gummi flavored with licorice (and salt). The combo isn’t bad, a little metallic but the mint helps kind of smooth it all together.

The gray ones were similar but more on the straight licorice side. (They might not have been minted, but the proximity made them so.)

The lumps were a piece of the wheat based chew, again a little salted and covered with the minty crunch. That was my favorite.

They’re a little confusing for me. Not enough of one thing or another and the lack of the molasses punch to go with the licorice (my favorite combo) just didn’t make me want more and I never finished the bag.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Kosher JuicyFruit GumMy favorite gum is Chiclets. They’re not easy to find but are one of the few gums that is still made with sugar and not artificial sweeteners (and no coloring either, for whatever that’s worth).

I was saddened several years ago to see that Wrigley’s altered their time-tested favorites: Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicyfruit and Big Red gums to include those sorts of things. But then at Munchies in Los Angeles I stumbled across this little treasure - Juicy Fruit Gum, not only is it Kosher (which I don’t really need) but it’s also made with sugar and on top of that, they’re candy coated chicklets!

The box was cute and held 20 pellets. I usually chew three pieces at a time, so at 50 cents it’s no different in price than the regular pack.

I liked the crunch of the sugar shell and the indeterminate mellow fruity flavor of the chew. The flavor doesn’t last very long, but I don’t usually chew gum for a long time, just long enough to get most of the sugar out then I rinse and repeat.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Related Candies

  1. Three Pink Bubble Gums
  2. Licorice Assortment
  3. KitKat Chocolatier (Strawberry & Green Tea)
  4. Short & Sweet: Japanese Goodies
  5. Hershey’s Raspberries ‘n’ Creme
  6. Salted Licorices: Djungelvral and Dubbel Zout

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:45 am     CandyReviewKleneMeijiWrigley'sGumKosherLicorice CandyWhite Chocolate4-Benign6-Tempting8-TastyFranceJapanNetherlandsComments (9)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eiffel BonBons

Eiffel BonBonsI saw these last year at the All Candy Expo, but didn’t really give them any of my attention. I didn’t get them. They’re called Eiffel BonBons but I just didn’t know what they were beyond the chewy candy description on the package. The little beret wearing bonbon with his mustache and spats just seemed a little like it was co-opting a stereotype. (He’s also kind of creepy because he seems to find himself tasty.)

Then folks commented that they were fabulous and I was missing out on something. So I started looking for them. After all, they were introduced in the United States after being known as a sleeper hit amongst travelers to France and students of the French language (apparently they’re sold by French clubs at schools all over North America). Supposedly they’re available at Target or Wal-Mart, but I’ve not seen them at all.

But what are they?

Even after eating a whole package, I’m not sure if I can adequately describe them.

Eiffel BonBons - Strawberry

They’re little spheres, about the size of a hazelnut or garbanzo bean. They’re not completely consistent in color or size but in the case of the Strawberry ones, they’re pink with darker pink flecks. They’re powdery on the outside, kind of like Smarties can be. They smell like strawberry or pink cotton candy - just sweet and fresh.

On the tongue the coating is sweet. There’s a slight shell on the candy, but it’s not crunchy, more like a Smarties kind of crumbly compressed dextrose coating. It’s not tangy though, just sweet with a light touch of strawberry.

Inside is a soft and tangy fruit chew. It’s a foamy Starburst, it’s pillowy when you bite into it. (Also like a Starburst it has gelatin.)

It doesn’t have the sophistication that the name seems to indicate, but the taste & texture are definitely unlike other candies that I’ve had. If you’re going to go to the trouble of importing a candy into the crowded American confectionery market, it should be unique.

I’m smitten and I really want another bag ... this one was only 1.25 ounces. They also come in Green Apple.

Caitlin at Candy Addict gave them an overall positive review.

As far as I can tell there are two avenues for purchasing this. You can stumble across it wherever it’s been picked up for retail or buy it online (Apple & Strawberry only). The other option, if you know you like it, is to buy in mass quantities from the same place that school groups do for their fundraisers (but you’d better be sure you like it, the minimum is 80 packages and they also carry the full range of flavors like Watermelon, Cherry & Blue Raspberry).

Related Candies

  1. Starburst
  2. Mentos Berry Mix
  3. Doscher’s French Chew Taffy
  4. Airheads
  5. Strawberry HiCHEW
Name: Strawberry Bonbons
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Eiffel (distributed Foreign Candy Company)
Place Purchased: sample from All Candy Expo
Price: retail $.75 to $1.00
Size: 1.25 ounces
Calories per ounce: 104
Categories: Chew, France

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:39 am     Comments (24)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Michel Cluizel 99%

Michel Cluizel Noir InfiniFor about six months I’ve been looking for the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% bar. It’s not that it’s new, it just happened that the usual stores where I find Cluizel products were sold out of the bar.

I like the responsible size of it, it’s only 30 grams (1.05 ounces) instead of the usual 100 gram size for Cluizel’s large tablets.

Even though I declared this sugar free week, it wasn’t until I was prepping this post that I found out that there is sugar in this bar. The ingredients are: cacao (99%), cane sugar, spices, cocoa butter & Bourbon vanilla. Honestly, with a list like that, I can’t imagine it’s more than a pinch per pound. The wrapper also explains the bar further: This chocolate with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for connoisseurs’ palate.

Michel Cluizel Noir Infini

It is a lovely little bar, with a rich and deep scent of chocolate.

On the tongue the thin bar melts pretty quickly. Overall it feels a bit like a clay slurry ... not quite chalky enough to call it, well, chalky or dry. The vanilla notes are pretty strong, as is a bit of a green wood and black tea note. By the end I was getting mulch, vanilla grass, pecans, burnt hazelnuts ... all wrapped up in smoke and charcoal.

Though it was bitter, there was very little puckeringly acrid acidity that I get with other high cacao bars (I’ll have a rundown of some of those tomorrow).

But not really a lot of fun. I was grateful that it was a small bar.

Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte

The other chocolate on my list of pursuits lately has been the Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte bonbon.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes when the intensity of the cacao is reduced by just a bit. While this truffle has no added sugar, it is a ganche and contains butter and/or heavy cream. So while the chocolate is 99%, the truffle itself is not.

The ganache is soft and melts quickly. The lighter berry & fruit notes come out much better, the bitterness is nearly gone and the finish, though dry is not acrid or acidic. But it feels thin in flavor, and I’ve tried quite a few Cluizel chocolates, so I know I can do better.

After eating the straight chocolate, the bonbon is a relief and seems almost sweet by comparison. But if you have this in a box and have been eating Champignon Caramel or Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache it will be jarring.

These pieces feel like exercises, like some single origin bars that give us the sense that it’s great that so many chocolate makers blend beans to give us a consistent and appealing flavor profile. I appreciate them, I grant that they have the right to exist, but I don’t care to eat them again.

As for the aspect that they’re free of added sugar (effectively), they’re not a low calorie food. Chocolate has oodles of fat in it and the bar comes in at 151 calories per ounce and less than a gram of carbs. (I don’t know what the bonbon is, but I’ll guess it’s even higher in fat.) However, if you’re looking for a chocolate punch that won’t raise your blood sugar level (and dark chocolate has been shown to lower insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, blah blah) this is an interesting “theraputic” option that’s probably cheaper than many other medical alternatives. It’s also just an interesting excercise all chocophiles should experience. The Noir Infini tasting square can be found in Cluizel assortments, so that’s probably the best way to experience this ... as part of an entire trip, not as the destination.

Related Candies

  1. The Alien Forehead Chocolate Collection
  2. Mori Ex Cacao Gift Set
  3. Recchiuti
  4. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
  5. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
Name: Noir Infini & Cacao Forte
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Michel Cluizel
Place Purchased: Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits (LA) + Chocolate Covered (SF)
Price: $3.25 & $4
Size: 1.05 ounces & unknown
Calories per ounce: 151 & unknown
Categories: Chocolate, France, Michel Cluizel, Sugar Free, All Natural

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:07 am     Comments (6)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Upscale Hollow Chocolate: Michel Cluizel & Hotel Chocolat

Jacques Torres BunniesThough the standard big item in an Easter basket is a chocolate bunny, there’s nothing in the books that says that is must be a bunny. In fact, many companies make things like eggs (often filled with other chocolate or confectionery items), chicks, ducks, filled baskets, geese and some folks even do crosses.

This week I looked at four different options that could be purchased at just about any drug store or discount retailer: R.M. Palmer, Wonka, Russell Stover & Lindt, though this isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed hollow chocolate items.

Two years ago I visited Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, and if you were ever looking for a Tiffany-style experience for Easter baskets, that’d be the place. You can get a hollow chocolate bunny the size of a toddler. (Well, toddlers aren’t hollow.)

imageOddly enough at this writing there’s nothing on the Jacques Torres website that mentions anything about the impending holiday (I always figured Lent was the classic time to display Easter goodies).

So I thought I’d wrap up the week with two other devilish hollow chocolate items, though they’re not exactly for Easter, they give a good sense of some more pricey items that are out there.

Michel Cluizel Chocolate GnomeMilk Chocolate Gnome by Michel Cluizel with a white chocolate beard - I was sent this as a sample a few days before Christmas along with some other items that I’d already tried (the single origin tasting kit, being one of them).

Cluizel is known as one of the few bean to bar to bonbon companies in the world, so they have exclusive control over everything from the quality of the beans to the molding and packaging of the product. This fellow came in a flat bottomed clear bag and in perfect condition. He’s made with a dark milk chocolate that is tempered to perfection. It has a nice milky scent and perfect snap when I bit the top of his hat off.

The chocolate itself isn’t very thick at the top but moreso as I got down to his little feet. The chocolate is sweet, perhaps a little too much for me, but extremely creamy with a well balanced chocolate flavor.

I also had a white chocolate flat snowman with a candied orange peel scarf and a nose and buttons made from chocolate pearls. The white chocolate was indeed buttery and sweet with wonderful vanilla notes.

I don’t know what you can get from Cluizel in the States via the web, but a visit to their NYC shop or any of their French locations would probably be divine. The closest item I can find online right now is in the Chocosphere “Bargain Basement”.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Hotel Chocolat - PenguinChocolate Penguin from Hotel Chocolat - again, just before Christmas I got a package of some items from Hotel Chocolate which included some things that I couldn’t eat because of walnuts (okay, I actually ate one of them and besides being very uncomfortable from a swollen throat I was mostly cross).

The mostly milk hollow figure is a bit thicker than the Cluizel. It’s nicely formed and decorated in the shape of a penguin with both dark and white chocolate accents.

The Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate is 40%, which is really high in cacao for a milk. It’s very creamy with a strong dairy component, good malty tones and a mellow chocolatey base.

Hotel Chocolat is new to the States, but has a strong following in the UK (see the coverage at Chocablog for more reviews). They source their chocolate ethically and use natural ingredients. They don’t actually have any chocolate bunnies here in the States, but a really attractive “engraved egg” that’s either hollow or filled with an assortment of their chocolates. Their UK assortment is much wider (and has a great mix of elegance and casual kookiness.)

Rating: 7 out of 10

My hollow chocolate adventures are not over, I’m still planning on getting some from See’s (which uses Guittard milk and dark chocolate), Vosges, L.A. Burdick, Lake Champlain among others.

Related Candies

  1. Hotel Chocolat Crostini Fruit & Nut Slab
  2. Godiva Easter Eggs
  3. See’s Egg Quartet
  4. CocoaBella “World’s Best Box”
  5. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:53 am     CandyReviewEasterMichel CluizelChocolateEthically SourcedNovelty/Toy7-Worth ItFranceUnited KingdomComments (10)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Short & Sweet: Fancy Food Bites

Nougat aux FiguesLast year I ordered some wonderful products from Artisan Sweets which included this Nougat aux Figues: Cuit au Chaudron. I promptly took a photo of the product and then ate it.

Made by Suprem’ Nougat G. Savin in Montelimar, France it is much like the Arnaud Soubeyran Montelimar Nougat  that I’ve had previously, meaning it has wonderful lavender honey in it along with a generous embed of almonds. Of course it also has bits of figs in there too, as you might have guessed from the picture and name.

The figs gave the nougat a bit of texture, with the crunchy little seeds and combined well with the musky notes of the lavender honey. It seemed to make the whole thing a little sweeter, but it was a fresh taste. It’s expensive stuff, so it’s a sometimes-indulgence for me. ($8.00 for 3.52 ounces.)

Walters Handmade Honey NougatI picked up these nice sized samples at the Fancy Food Show from K.L. Keller Imports. She also handles the excellent G. Savin nougats

This particular nougat has full macadamias in it. It’s a light nougat, it actually felt lighter than many nougats in the hand. The scent was a light vanilla, almost like toasted marshmallows. Wow, the marshmallow comparison was evident once I bit into it. The nougat is fluffy and completely smooth ... there’s no hint of sugary grain to it at all.

While I was completely missing any honey notes and macadamias aren’t my favorite nut, this was fantastic. Sweet without being sticky or cloying and just the right balance with the neutrality of the macadamias.

Walters is a South African company (which explains the macadamias) and besides these samples and a store I found in the UK online, I don’t know where else to get this. I guess I’ll just have to keep hitting Keller’s booth at the trade shows. Here’s a review from Our Adventures in Japan of the Almond variety.

I’ve been on the prowl for good sources of Caffarel in the United States. Besides picking up those few pieces at The Candy Store in San Francisco and seeing them at trade shows, I’m completely at an impasse on how to find them besides hyping them on Candy Blog in hopes that more shops will carry them.

Caffarel - Conetto

And why? Their products are good quality and in most cases so freaking cute I want to put a leash on them and buy them squeaky toys.

Above is one of the new items they were showing called Conetto, which is like a teensy Drumstick Ice Cream Cone (warning, sound on that site).

The little confection is about 3 1/2” tall. The waffle cone holds a firm guanduia that is then rolled in little toasted cereal “nuts” with a few little chocolate chips tossed in there. The hazelnut paste is soft enough to bite like ice cream with the added bonus that it doesn’t melt. So take your time.

It only weighs .9 ounces, so it’s probably not a show-stopper when it comes to calories and since indulgence is partially about appearance, this might be an excellent calorie controlled treat. (Of course the wrapper doesn’t say how many calories, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not more than 150.) Now the only things holding me back are where to get them and how much do they cost?

BruCo confectionsAnother little sample from another hard-to-find Italian chocolatier.

BruCo makes wonderful flavored chocolate bars. I’ve had their orange one and rum one and thought they were quite nice with an attractive package. Last year at the Fancy Food Show I also tried their spiced chocolate and found it far too spicy for me. This year that had some other items that were definitely to my liking: BruCo Salt Tasting Chocolate, Ciocc’Olio & Cabosse.

BruCo Olive Oil Chocolate

Ciocc’Olio: The firm white chocolate center has a quick buttery melt. The taste is not strongly of olives. I was expecting a sort of grassy quality to it, but instead it was more nutty. It was definitely smooth and set off by the equally smooth and slippery melt of the dark chocolate shell.

Cabosse: I wasn’t quite sure what this was supposed to be. At first I thought it was a dark chocolate guanduia, but later I thought it was simply a firm ganache with cacao nibs in it. Strong and fruity, this was a nice piece, the perfect size and really attractive.

I also tried a Salt Tasting Chocolate set. I’ll probably have a full review of that at a later date. Basically it’s two different versions of a salted chocolate in one package. Hooray for variety.

Triple Chocolate ToffeeOne of the other companies that I see at the trade show a lot is Marich. They’re known for their fine panned chocolates, especially their Holland Mints and produced the first gourmet malted milk balls in flavors like Espresso and Peanut Butter.

They’re based in Hollister, California (which seems to be a hotbed of panning with other confectioners like Jelly Belly, Sconza and Gimbal’s nearby) but seem rather hard to find. Part of it is that they sell in bulk to many shops that repackage the product without reference to the supplier or they end up in bulk bins. In this case I found this little package of their Triple Chocolate Toffee at Ralph’s in Glendale after trying them at the All Candy Expo.

Triple Chocolate Toffee

They were absurdly expensive considering everything else in that aisle, $2.89 for that handful pictured above. But they are lovely to look at. They smell great too, like burnt sugar.

I didn’t know at first if the triple was referring to how much chocolate was on the outside or the fact that there were three different kinds. But suffice to say that either title works, because there is a lot of chocolate on each of these ... a pretty precise proportion that matches well with the chunk of butter toffee at the center. The toffee itself is wonderfully crisp and has that great cleave that very buttery toffee has. A little salty, it balances well with the not-so-dark but also not-too-sweet chocolates.

I’d probably pick these up again, but not at this price. Luckily Marich has a webstore.

Everything here gets an 8 out of 10 but no further specs as I don’t know retail prices (unless otherwise noted), calorie profile and often not even the ingredients.

Related Candies

  1. Fancy Food Show 2010 - Day 3 Notes
  2. Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews
  3. Laica & Caffarel Chocolate Eggs
  4. Caffarel Figs & Chestnuts (Fico & Castagna)
  5. Nougat de Montelimar

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:07 am     All NaturalCandyReviewCaffarelMarich ConfectioneryChocolateCookieNibsNougatNutsToffeeWhite ChocolateFranceItalySouth AfricaUnited StatesRalph'sComments (3)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Voisin Papillotes

Voisin TreatsWhen I was in San Francisco I picked up this assortment from Voisin called Papillotes at The Candy Store.

I wasn’t quite sure what it was (and it was $12) but was led to believe that some in the assortment were nougats (hey, they’re French, I love French nougats!) and jellies. Though they’re kind of a traditional Christmas sweet, they’re actually available year round.

The pretty little wax-paper-wrapped treats had little curly fringes and inside the wrappers are little riddles, quotes or cartoons. In France you can just buy them by the handful, and I must admit they’re so cute I wouldn’t mind finding a Christmas stocking stuffed with them. They’re popular in the Lyon region, the legend says that they originated in a confectionery shop owned by a man named Papillot and were invented by one of his workers who was trying to create something pretty to woo a co-worker. Papillot saw the marketing possiblities of the frilly wrapped treats immediately as did the customers. Of course I’m not sure if this is just legend or not. Papillotes means curly papers if I’m to believe some web translators. Are curly papers in general named for this candy or did the man who own the candy shop bear the name Mr. Curly Papers? (Could someone who speaks French educate me?)

Voisin Treats

Whatever the origin, they’re cute and come in four varieties:

Red = Pistachio Creme - okay, maybe it’s not pistachio, maybe it’s marzipan. Anyway, it’s a little too floral/medicinal for me. The good news is that there were only two of these in my assortment.

Green = Hazelnut Praline - this one has a dark chocolate shell with a light nutty truffle filling with a strong hazelnut note to it. Creamy, smooth and satisfying.

Blue =  Orange Truffle - this one was easy to tell apart, it smelled strongly of orange zest. The milk chocolate was a little sweet, but the pieces of orange peel in there and the creamy texture of the whole thing was quite nice.

Pink = p?tes de fruits - I’m guessing this was a pear jelly, it was sweet and flavorful with that little bit of pearish grit to it. Not really the best flavor for me, but nice enough. I would have preferred a citrus or perhaps a raspberry.

The mix I got favored the green & pink wrappers with the exception of two red and two pink, so I lucked out with getting my favorites in quantity.

The little riddles were, well, like those little riddles you get in candy:

Je suis en metal et en plusieurs morceaux. J’habille les chevaliers et les robots. Que suis-je?

The answer is une armure. Oh, man, that’s funny! (Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that the French also suffer from Knock Knock jokes, which they call Toc Toc.)

They’re a fun traditional treat the would make a nice little cultural exchange or just a bright little display on a table at a party. The chocolates are good, not phenomenal, but the story and interactivity with the little curls and wrappers is what sets these apart. (Here’s another French-filled review from Moko Wants Candy.)

Related Candies

  1. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  2. Soubeyran Array
  3. Caffarel Chocolate Truffle Mushrooms
  4. Boule Chocolates and Fruit Pate
Name: Papillotes
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Voisin
Place Purchased: The Candy Store (San Francisco)
Price: $12.00
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Chocolate, Jelly, Nuts, France

POSTED BY Cybele AT 4:44 pm     Comments (5)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Candy Dump - International House of Chocolate

I’ve been accumulating chocolate bars faster than I can review them. (And faster than I can eat them, to boot!)

Here’s a selection of what’s been in my queue for a while with some brief thoughts on each. I don’t know much about the companies that make them, but all were tasty enough that I’m going to keep an eye out for the brands again.

Kilamanjaro Chocolate - MallorcaMy boss went to Spain and brought back three amazingly beautiful artisan chocolate bars from a company called Mallorca. Each bar was similar in format - 10 squares and wrapped in clear cellophane. The plain bar was wrapped face up, the nutted bars were bottoms up to show off the elegantly placed nuts.

The basic bar is called Kilamanjaro Chocolate and was an admirable middle-of-the-road 75% dark chocolate. It was smooth and creamy with woodsy notes and a bit of coffee in there. There was a slight grain to it and a later crisp dry finish. It was pleasant but perhaps a little too dry and acrid for me in the end.

Avellana Caramelizada Chocolate - MallorcaThis bar was by far my favorite. Called Chocolate con Leche Avellana Caramelizada it is a milk chocolate bar with caramelized hazelnuts.

The milk chocolate was creamy and had strong dairy notes, almost sticky and fudgy (but then again it was rather hot when I was eating it). The hazelnuts were dreamy little spheres - they were coated with a crispy sugar glaze of caramelized sugar with the nuts fresh and crunchy inside. They went so well with the chocolate I was often torn between pulling the nuts out and eating them whole and eating them with the blocks of chocolate.

I would love to get my hands on this bar again.

Almendra Marcona Chocolate - MallorcaThe Chocolate Negro con Almendra Marcona Chocolate features two blanched Marcona almonds in each square. The almonds are crisp and buttery (and are always more rounded than the pointy American almonds).

The dark chocolate here was not as strong as the first Kilamanjaro bar. It was sweet and bright tasting, some citrusy flavors along with light woodsy notes and a good buttery melt on the tongue.

The almonds were the star here, I love Marcona almonds, it’s like they’re a different nut from the almonds I usually get, they have an almost hazelnut/pine nut flavor to them.

Dark Angel from HaitaiThis bar came from a friend traveling in South Korea (thanks Kiele!). It’s almost like a greeting card in chocolate!

Since it was purchased in South Korea, I have not idea what the back of the package says except for the web address: www.happynco.com which didn’t help me much in figuring out this bar. Sure, the front says stuff like “lighten up your day with dark angel dark chocolate” but I was curious about ingredients and stuff. The website is filled with cutesy images with butterflies and daisies but no sign of this bar. The character on the package, the spindly-legged princess with blonde hair is called Happy Girl with her even blonder Happy Guy. But the bar is called Dark Chocolate Dark Angel from Hatai and says it’s 42% cacao. Not too dark ... kind of in the middle.

The back of the package has some helpful pictograms that told me that the bar can be broken in half while it’s still in the package (the paperboard sleeve is scored). Then I think you’re supposed to share.

Dark Angel from HaitaiThe bar inside the package is quite cute (mine was a little broken, but I reassembled it). It features a large section with a butterfly in darker embossed chocolate and four smaller squares with a milk chocolate heart and potted flowers opposite a darker chocolate piece of wrapped candy and a rainbow.

The pieces have a nice snap (obviously, since they broke easily before I got the bar). The flavor is creamy and has a slight dairy edge to it. I wasn’t wild about it, but I thought the packaging was sweet (a little too sweet and immature for me, but fun for a tween or teen and the fact that you can get sheets or pillows to match just sends it over the top for me).

What I found in the end was it didn’t have quite enough of a chocolate hit to me, but it went well with a handful of almonds and pretzels as a snack.

French ChocolateFinally, I got three bars from Cacao et Chocolat in Paris shortly after Christmas from my father. Two of the bars (including the one shown) were dark chocolate. One was called Teculi and was 79% cacao. It was rich yet still buttery. The bar was crisp and glossy and really smelled glorious. It has some fruity cherries in there, maybe raspberry and plum along with the deep cocoa notes.

The second bar (which looked an awful lot like the first so there’s not another photo) was called Tobago and was 88%. This one I actually still have about 1/3 sitting around in my chocolate box. It’s very dark and really a lot of effor to eat. It’s like a riot of flavors in my mouth. Some acidic notes of citrus (grapefruit mostly) and dark woodsy tones of cedar along with coffee ... but then it’s just too dry for me. I miss the creamy cocoa butter to float it all around on my tongue.

The final bar in the set was a white chocolate one (which I didn’t photograph because it was broken). It was glorious ... it was so buttery and though sweet, it had some wonderful cocoa background notes (I don’t know if it was deodorized cocoa butter as a base or it just assumed some of the chocolate flavors from being shipped to me with the other strong bars).

In my package were also some truffles, which didn’t look photo-worthy after their world travels, but I found them quite nice, very simple. Creamy, toasted flavors and a good buttery melt. They have a nice website in both French and English (though I don’t know if they’ll ship to North America). It looks like the kind of place I’d definitely put on my list of shops to visit (along with everywhere else David Lebovitz tours).

I give the whole pile of chocolate a 6 out of 10 with the standouts of the Mallorca Chocolate con Leche Avellana Caramelizada and Cacao et Chocolat White Chocolate bar at 8 out of 10 (bars I would buy for myself). I have no idea of the price on these and of course none of them have nutrition labels on them.

Related Candies

  1. Theo Confections
  2. Michel Cluizel Les 1ers Crus de Plantation
  3. Cafe Tasse: Orange, Extra Noir & Noir Praline
  4. Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
  5. Nestle Carlos V Milk Chocolate

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:15 am     CandyChocolatierReviewChocolateNuts6-Tempting8-TastyFranceSouth KoreaSpainComments (9)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Anis de Flavigny

Anis de Flavigny StackLast year I read the book Sweets: a History of Candy by Tim Richardson. For a book about candy, there wasn’t much of the “modern” candy that we’re familiar with, instead a large portion of the book was spent on tracing the evolution of sugar and early candied fruits. Later it documents the rise of pastilles in the mid 1500s in Europe as sugar became available. The most basic definition is “a kernel of something coated with sugar.” It can be a nut (like Jordan Almonds) or a seed, like Anis de Flavigny.

The pastille was often the work of a pharmacist or herbalist, not a confectioner. They started with seeds or herbs that were prescribed for various reasons (fever, digestion, impotence), then coated with sugar syrup, tossed in a pan and repeated until layer upon layer is built up. The most talented pharmacists made beautiful pastilles that looked like shimmering opalescent spheres and were kept as if they were treasures as well, inside ornate boxes, often locked by the lady of the household.

imageAnis de l’Abbaye Flavigny may have one of the longest histories of a candy, as the town of Flavigny may have been making the little candies since Roman times. Whatever the timeline and beginnings may be, in modern times the pastilles have been made by confectioners in those largely unchanged traditions. Anis de Flavigny is one of those companies that has been carrying on for hundreds of years. Each pastille takes fifteen days to make ... they are labor intensive (though the materials themselves are rather cheap). They still start with a single fennel seed and (as you can see from the photo) a sugar syrup is poured over it, tumbled until dry then repeated dozens of times. (See the Anis de Flavigny site.)

image

Anis de Flavigny makes a large array of delicately distinctive flavors, all rather classic and old world.

Anise, Licorice, Rose, Violet, Orange Blossom and Mint. The tins tell a little story as two lonesome young people pine in solitude, then meet, share their candies and finally consummate their affection (on the violet tin - which modestly only shows us the flowers and not our young lovers).

I’m quite taken with them. I’ve been eating them since I was a kid. I know they’re not particularly snazzy. The tins are simple (though redesigned recently, they still look classic) and the candy unchanged by time and trends.

The only trend it appears they’ve responded to is that they now have an Organic line. The only difference I can tell is that the sugar is not pure white, so the little pastilles are a little beige. I kind of like the look. The flavors are the same, though I did have Ginger in the organics that I’ve not had in the regular ones.

The little candies have a slightly soft and rough feeling to the surface. The sugar itself is dense and even the package warns you against crunching them. (I do, but they have to get down to about a third of their size.) I liked to eat mine two at a time, rolling them around on my tongue like Chinese health balls. The friction of the pastilles against each other releases the sugar a bit faster. Call me impatient. But I do have a dexterous tongue and can also tie a cherry stem in a knot with it. Not that I eat cherries that often.

The floral candies (orange blossom, violet and rose) have a lovely soft flavor to them without feeling soapy. They’re great for getting rid of bad breath, especially since they take so long to dissolve. The spicier flavors like anise and licorice are rooty and natural tasting without feeling artficial (pretty much because they’re not). The mint is softer than many of the modern super-mints like Altoids with a smooth melt on the tongue and an even amount of mint. The flavor is strong as you dissolve the first few layers away and then mellows out. Towards the center the gentle hint of anise from the fennel seed emerges.

I was quite excited to have a full set of their most popular flavors, which I picked up at the Fancy Food Show in January. It’s taken me months to get through all of them. Not because I didn’t want to eat them, but they just last so dang long. I love each and every flavor. Yes, they’re really expensive at $2 to $3 a tin. (I don’t know why I can’t find the assorted package online.) I prefer them to just about every other breath mint on the market. It was a little unclear if the organic line will be available in the States because of the differing certification processes.

Italy also has their long-standing tradition of panned sweets with the Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano company. They not only do the small pastille dragee but also a wider variety of panned spices, fruits and nuts.  I’ll have a profile of those at some point as well.

Related Candies

  1. Loukoumi Artisan Confections
  2. Sconza Jordanettes
  3. 3400 Phinney: Fig, Fennel & Almond and Hazelnut Crunch
  4. Licorice Assortment
  5. Romanego Dragees, Cordials & Fondants
  6. Chocolate Covered Sugar Babies
Name: Anis de l'Abbaye Flavigny
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Anis de Flavigny
Place Purchased: samples from Fancy Food Show
Price: retail $2.50 each
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Licorice, Ginger, Mint, France, Organic

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:13 am     Comments (18)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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