Monday, August 29, 2011
In my recent travels abroad I picked up a lot of chocolate bars. Here’s a brief little run down of three of them:
As a little reminder, I went to Amsterdam and Cologne earlier this year. There are flavors there that just aren’t very well known in North America. One of the new flavor trends that I noticed was Absinthe (I’ve seen a little of it in the United States but its influence in The Netherlands was a lot more ubiquitous).
So when I spotted this bar from the Chocolatier Marc Antoine called Edelbitter Absinth Truffle, I though it would be a perfect item to pick up as it would probably travel very well.
The box was stiff and nicely designed with the sickly green swirls of anise & wormwood liqueur. Inside the bar was in a simple cellophane sleeve but remarkably unscathed by its journey.
The bar was big and the pieces were chunky. The dark chocolate was glossy with large reservoirs of the dark chocolate truffle filling inside. The truffle was smooth and creamy and very soft, almost like a caramel sauce. The scent was definitely on the grassy fennel side of things, even before I bit into it. The dark chocolate was smooth and bitter though had a lot of cocoa notes mixed with a sharp and tangy anise. The truffle center had a lot of licorice flavors, very soft and fluffy notes that were sweet along with a little hint of eucalyptus and some other botanicals.
I wouldn’t call it a hallucinogenic experience, but it was a wonderful, strong herbal bar that I enjoy quite a bit. There as a little alcoholic burn to it but it was more like tequila.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The package was a big, flat square, about 4.5 inches. The box was pretty and featured raised and gold embossed lettering for the logo and the image on the front of a clay oven. The chocolate is described on the front a little more puro ciccolato fondente con fichi affumicati or “pure dark chocolate with smoked figs” - so it’s the figs in it that are smoked, not the chocolate itself.
The back of the package is in a bunch of different languages and featured notices about recycling but most importantly that Cuorenero does not use any dairy products other other major allergens, that means no gluten, no eggs, no soy, no peanuts, no nuts with hard shell (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), no celery, no mustard, no sesame seeds, no sulfur dioxide, no lupines, no shellfish and no fish. On top of that, all their ingredients are GMO-free.
The ingredients were: cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter, smoked fig pieces, sunflower lecithin and flavours.
The bar is beautiful, a thick circular slab sectioned into 16 wedges. The bar smelled like molasses, deep and sweet with a lot of notes of smoke, leather and pipe tobacco. The chocolate flavors were tangy and had notes of coffee and charcoal. The figs were little bits with the occasional seed. There were notes of dark rum, raisins and the grassy fresh notes of figs. The smoke flavors were like cognac and fine whiskey.
If you’re a chocolatier and looking for a new flavor combination, please try smoked, dried fruit in dark chocolate. Then let me know how I can buy some from you.
The bar was 60 grams (2.1 ounces) and I think I paid about $6 for it at the Cologne Chocolate Museum Gift Shop (I think it was 4 Euros). Cuorenero Website.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Zotter is a popular maker of fair trade candy bars in Austria. They’re crazy. If you think smoked figs are off the beaten path, you have not explored the uncharted wilderness of Zotter. I’ve had two of their bars before, Banana Curry and Zitrone Polenta. They’re fair trade and organic.
This was another bar that I picked up at the Cologne Chocolate Museums Gift Store (which was a phenomenal chocolate store, if you hadn’t figured that out). It’s Zotter Mandel - Rosen which is almond and rose. (I passed up the Peanuts & Chocolate bar.)
The bar is about 4.5 inches long and about 2 inches wide and weighs 70 grams (2.47 ounces). It’s thin, for a filled bar but rather dense.
Inside there are two fillings layers. The base is a creamy but rather solid almond paste and sandwiched in between two layers of that is a rose petal jelly (which seemed to have a touch of raspberry in it). This was a great flavor combination, classic and sure, a bit Victorian in sensibilities. I liked the delicate almond flavor (no screaming Amaretto here) and even the rose was light and had less of a soapy taste than some other floral flavors I’ve tried. It was fragrant and sweet with that light touch of berry to it.
It wasn’t as crazy bar but like the others I’ve profiled here, it’s unusual for American tastes. It’s not the kind of candy you can get addicted to, it’s hard to find and the flavors come in and out of production. Check out their website.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Storck is a German candy company that makes some fantastically chewy stuff, such as Reisen Chocolate Caramels, Toffifay, Werther Caramels and Mamba fruit chews. While Germany is the homeland of gummis, it’s strange to see such a large, established candy company suddenly get into the crowded gummi market.
I found a fun new, and unlikely place to shop for candy. It’s a gas station convenience store simply called Food Mart near my mother’s house in Glendale, CA. I’d filled up with gas there many times before (because it was one of the least expensive places in the area, clean, well maintained and had soapy windshield cleaner). One day when I actually went into the store I was shocked to see a huge selection of international candies. They carry German products including the most popular items in the Kinder line, Ritter Sport bars (including the seasonal varieties), British bars (Mars, Cadbury, Maltesers) and a really wide selection of American candies.
So I picked up this little package of Storck Mamba Gummies which are called funny fruity gummies and feature banana, orange, raspberry, pineapple, watermelon and cherry flavors. They feature real fruit juice in the ingredients and no artificial colors.
What I thought was interesting about this flavor assortment was the fact that it included banana, not a common gummi flavor. After I got the little package home (it’s only 1.5 ounces) I noticed that I didn’t have the full assortment of flavors. Above is everything inside the packet, four different flavors.
The texture is soft and pliable, they don’t stick together though they do have a little touch of oil on them. The shapes are tropical, little palm trees, snakes, a chameleon, sharks and something that’s either a raspberry or a puffer fish.
Banana (yellow) is tangy but with that creamy banana flavor. It was less artificial tasting than some other banana candies that have more of a caustic flavor. This was pleasant and soothing.
Pineapple (clear) is tangy, floral and jammy all at once. It’s an excellent rendition of pineapple.
Raspberry (deep red) was by far the most common flavor in my package, which is just fine with me because these are well done. The flavor is a mix of the boiled sweetness of raspberry puree with a light touch of the woodsy seeds and a note of iced tea in there. It wasn’t overly tart like some “blue raspberry” versions of the fruit.
Watermelon (pink) was quite authentic, at least as far as watermelon candies I’ve had this summer. It had a sort of rind taste to it, not just the sweetness of the flesh. Watermelon really isn’t much of a flavor as an actual melon, it’s more of a texture.
So, I missed out on Orange and Cherry in my package. I think I scored overall, as these were all nicely done. The fact that it’s a small package (only 130 calories) with no artificial colors makes it a pretty light treat for kids.
Monday, July 11, 2011
My sense of adventure with licorice from around the world is starting to ruin my appreciation of licorice. I’ve found that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to appreciate other versions, especially the salted styles from Northern Europe, that I’m spending less of my time just eating the products I’ve already found I love.
After my earlier experiments with German licorice, more specifically, licorice from Haribo (Lakritz Parade, Goliath Lakritz-Stangen and Sali-Kritz) , you’d think I would have learned something. I found most of the licorice I bought there downright inedible by my preferences. Yet when I was at Mel & Rose Wine and Liquors last month, I bought yet another Haribo licorice product. At the very least while I was in Germany I could rationalize that the candy was cheap, most under one Euro per package, here it was over $3.00.
They’re called Haribo Pearlico. The ingredients seemed to indicate that they were a children’s licorice, with no ammonia salts. My mouth may say otherwise.
I admit that I was attracted by the look of them. Each is a large mounded gumdrop shape. They’re soft enough to be squished with firm pressure. The ingredients are all natural, so the muted tones of the little candy spheres coating the licorice center is made from vegetable dyes.
At the center of each is a soft licorice gumdrop made with treacle flavor and licorice. It’s earthy, soft and relatively smooth. The candy sphere are soft and crunchy, not dense like the American version that might be found on SnoCaps. If you’ve ever had the Haribo Raspberries, you’ll know what I mean.
The licorice center has a lot of molasses flavor, some deep ginger and beet notes, burnt sugar and soft anise. But every once in a while I was getting a real whiff of ammonia. At first I thought that certain colors were ammonia (yellow in particular) but it turned out that they were all the same, just very mildly “salted” licorice.
As a first introduction to the world of salted licorice, they’re good. The textures are fun, though the colors remind me of something that’s been left in the sun to be bleached, like old plastic toys found washed up in October on the beach.
The center contains a combination of gelatin and agar-agar so it’s not quite suitable for vegetarians.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
I’ve seen the Villosa Sallos Salmiak Lakritz Bonbons at import shops before. Their simple mostly black and white design is quite eye catching, especially in riotously colorful candy aisle at Cost Plus World Market.
The hard candies are strong licorice with a hint of herb extracts and ammonia salts.
For a while I wasn’t sure what they were. The picture on the package just shows a brown rectangle with a highlight on it that might indicate it’s soft and chewy or filled with goo. Every time I’d see them in the stores, I’d feel the candies inside and they were always hard. When I was in German, I saw these a lot at the stores (they’re apparently one of the best selling licorice products there), so I figured they were fresh and exactly they way they should be.
Inside the package are a couple dozen individually wrapped pieces. They’re well sealed and easy to open. The candies are one inch long and about 2/3 of an inch wide.
The texture is smooth and hard, kind of like a hard caramel like Coffee Rio, except it’s licorice. The overwhelming flavor is not really licorice, it’s a bit more rustic than that. It’s a mixture of molasses, caramel and a little touch of menthol and mint along with the soft licorice notes. There’s a little waft of ammonia now and again, but it’s not as strong and offensive as some other European licorices I’ve had.
Overall, it’s hearty and not too sweet. They’re more like a cough drop than a piece of candy, which was fine with me. While this wasn’t quite as good as the Amarelli Sassolini, my other European licorice favorite, they’re certainly more affordable.
I also picked up their Schul Kreide (Skoolkrijt or School Chalk) a few weeks ago as well at Mel & Rose Wine & Liquors. I found it rather expensive ($3.50 for a little 5 ounce bag) and a little understated compared to the Venco version I’m accustomed to. There’s also a Sallos Black & White review on Candy Gurus. I think I’ll try to track those down.
Friday, July 01, 2011
Tic Tacs come in more than mint flavors. Those flavors also vary, depending on where you are in the world. I picked up this package of Zitrone Honig Tic Tac in Germany. They’re honey-lemon flavored.
One of the key differences between European Tic Tac and the American ones are the colors. In the US, the Tic Tac candies are different colors. In Europe the package is colored; the Tic Tacs are all white.
The flavor is quite intense, there’s a lot of lemon oil flavor to it, so much that it’s a bit too zesty at time and feels a little medicinal instead of soothing or refreshing. The honey notes are quite subtle and oddly enough, remind me of Murphy’s Oil Soap. It’s a sort of flavor that’s clean but a little nostalgic.
They’re a little tangy and a little tingly because of the bitter citrus oils. I liked them quite a bit and will be sad when I finish them in about five minutes. I’d buy these if they sold them in the States, but they supposedly sell the Pink Grapefruit ones here and I can rarely find those either.
Link: Ferrero press release about the flavor (German).
Monday, June 27, 2011
Mederer GmbH is a Germany candy company best known for its Trolli is a brand of gummis. By 1975 gummis were already very popular in Germany, with most of the market dominated by Haribo. So Mederer introduced the Trolli line with an affectionate mascot, the Trolli troll, with rainbow hair. The Mederer company also started making gummis in the United States, in Iowa, but later sold that off in 1996. It changed hands a bunch of times (passing through Nabisco & Wrigley’s, notably) to what is now known as Farley’s and Sathers Candy Company.
So in the United States, the Trollis you buy here are different from the Trolli candies from Europe (which are now made in Germany, Spain and Czech Republic). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get the German Trolli brand, you just have to look for it under their American brand, called e.fruitti.
While I was in Europe earlier this year, I visited with the Trolli company’s booth at the ISM Cologne candy fair. They make an amazing array of candy and many of their gummis, most in novelty flavors and shapes, which are available in the United States as well. One that I was excited about was the Trolli Gummi Bear Rings. (They’re sold here in the United States with the same name, here’s a comparison of the non-US branding of the candy with the Trolli brand and the American efruitti branding.) They’re exactly what the name sounds like, rings made out of gummi candy with gummi bears on them like gems.
The bears are made with real fruit juice. Each piece is a combination of two flavors which are: orange, strawberry, apple, lemon/lime and cherry. The bears come in a variety of poses as well, with reclining bears, bears doing single pawed handstands, waving and splits.
The pieces are firm and have a soft, non greasy waxy coating. They fit pretty well on the top of my rather chubby fingers. If I tried I could get them down across the big knuckle. As long as your hands are really sweaty or damp, they don’t get sticky.
The gummi part is quite stiff though still chewy and intense in its flavor. I’ll just dissect them and take the flavors separately:
Cherry (red) is quite good and not the American style, it’s more Kirsch-like, more like a classic cherry juice flavor.
Lemon/Lime (yellow) is zesty and tangy. It really is a great flavor to complement just about all the others.
Orange (orange) is rather ordinary. There’s a fair amount of zest which keeps it from tasting like a rubberized version of orange Jell-O. But it was still a little bland.
Apple (green) isn’t the regular artificial American green apple flavor, this was quite authentic, with apple juice flavors, it reminded me a little bit of a fruit roll up with a much smoother texture.
Berry (blue) is the one I wasn’t sure about. The flavor of the blue gummi was rather berry-ish, more like raspberry. But the package said strawberry. However, the red was most definitely cherry. So I’m not sure about this one. It was tasty, chewy and a bit sour with some nice florals and jam notes.
The big point to these though isn’t the flavor it’s the fact that they’re rings. You can wear them while you eat them. As an alternative to keeping them on your fingers, I’d say putting them on a necklace (just a piece of string) might be fun too. Just in case you were thinking that these were the gummi equivalent of brass knuckles, well, they would have the opposite effect if you punched someone with them on. They’re quite bouncy. (Don’t try that at home, please.)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
In the United States there are only a few options for candy coated chocolate morsels. There are M&Ms, and let’s face it, they’re ubiquitous and come in so many varieties, it’s hard to fathom why anyone else would try to make them. But there are Koppers Milkies and Hershey’s Pieces (though not in milk chocolate), and every once in a while you can find a store that carries Nestle Smarties.
In Europe things are a little different. There are M&Ms, though fewer varieties, and their main competitor, Nestle Smarties. And then there are all the other lentils. I picked up a few of them in Germany, today I present the Choceur Choco Dragees. For those who are familiar with Aldi, you’ll recognize the name Choceur as one of their house-brands of chocolate confections.
The package says (in German), multicolored full milk chocolate pieces with natural colors. I picked up the smallest bag I could find, which is 400 grams (14.11 ounces). I liked the package, it’s pretty compact and features a gusseted bottom so it stands up.
The shells were crunchy and shiny. The chocolate inside, well, it’s very German tasting. There’s a strong milk taste to it, a little tangy but not spoiled like Hershey’s. It’s smooth and rather sweet as well, but has a discernible caramel note to it as well.
They’re very different from M&Ms. The crunch of the shell is more pronounced and there’s no faint bitterness from any artificial flavors like I get from brown or red M&Ms. They’re sweet, but in a more muted, perhaps honey flavored way.
I’ve never seen these at Aldi in the United States, though they might have them in the seasonal stuff for holidays and I missed it. They’re worth picking up if you do see them and if I lived in Germany, I’d probably get these quite often.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Scho-Ka-Kola has a cult following, especially in Germany. The concept is simple, it’s a caffeine enhanced chocolate. They use both coffee and cola nut to boost the stimulant content which is where the name comes from, Schokolade (chocolate), Kaffee (coffee) and Kola (cola) . It was introduced at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin by Hildebrand as a “sport chocolate”. Later it was used during the war, especially by German pilots. Today it’s made by Sarotti, which is owned by Stollwerk which itself is now owned by international chocolate giant, Barry Callebaut. It’s still made in Berlin and the packaging has changed little over the years.
The tin is easy to carry in a roomy pocket (though I’d worry about melting). It’s about 3.5 inches in diameter and one inch high. There’s a helpful little thumb-print impression on one side of the lid, press it and the tin opens easily.
The round tin holds little “slices” of the chocolate disk. There are eight slices on each layer of the tin, separated by a stiff piece of waxed paper. A serving which would contain the equivalent caffeine as a cup of espresso. My guess (and part of this is from translating the package) is that a serving is four pieces and the actual caffeine content is about 50 mg. So it’s not a lot, but it’s a mild and even boost. It says to me that munching a few pieces an hour would be a good way to keep a steady dose of caffeine in your system without getting all jittered up.
The chocolate isn’t very intense or dark, it’s 52.5%, but the rest of the content isn’t all sugar either. It’s 2.6% coffee and 1.6% cola nut powder. Kola nuts (or cola nuts) are closely related to cacao and have a fair amount of theobromine as well as caffeine in them but far less fat.
The pieces are thick (just shy of a half an inch) and have these great ridges that make it easier to hold them without getting too warm from your hands and bite. (One piece is less than a quarter of an ounce, so it’s a fine mouthful if you won’t want to bite.) The flavors are quite deep and on the woodsy side. There’s a dry and bitter note to it in the flavor, but it didn’t leave me wanting a lot of water. The coffee flavor is muted, it’s mostly a roasted and charcoal sort of chocolate. Not intense but also not pansy. There were no acrid caffeine flavors for me, so the fact that the caffeine was still integrated into their natural sources probably helped. It probably also means that the caffeine is metabolized a little slower.
I picked up this little tin for 2 Euros, but in the States these things sell for about $6 retail. For $6 I could buy a truly extraordinary bar of chocolate. But if I were traveling in Europe and wanted an alternative pick-me-up to the sub-par coffee that’s found in far too many places, then this is the way to go. Easy to carry and share and with a reliable dosing scheme.
There is a little milk in there, so it’s not a vegan product. The tin also says that it may contain traces of almonds, hazelnuts and gluten.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.