Monday, January 26, 2009
The newest version is Bittersweet Chocolate filled with Ginger Marzipan (called Marzipan Ingwer on the package).
Though it wasn’t open and out on the counter for tasting, the fellows at the booth really thought this was a special bar and opened one up for me to try. After I confirmed that it was in fact, pretty darn tasty, they gave me the rest to take home. I had a hard time, even with all my other samples, not continuing to eat it before I got home to photograph it.
It’s a bittersweet chocolate shell filled with a rustic almond marzipan with chunks of candied ginger.
The bar was fresh and glossy, it has a woodsy and spicy scent. A little touch of bitter almond at the start along with the creamy and slightly bitter dark chocolate. This slowly gives way to the mellow almond paste flavors with less of the “amaretto” taste and into a warm ginger burn. It finishes again with the chocolate.
I ate the whole bar.
I am definitely a fan of Niederegger, though I can’t stress this enough: it has to be fresh. They make a wide variety of products, including traditional loaves of plain marzipan, but they’ve found a new convert through their consistent flavor versions.
The chocolate contains milk products, so this is not a vegan product but it is all-natural.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
It’s a simple bar, described on the wrapper as dark chocolate with peppermint filling. I fully expected it to be like a molded York Peppermint Pattie.
Where this is different from the York Peppermint Pattie is fat. While a York is marketed as a lowfat food, it clocks in with a smidge from the dark chocolate coating, about 2.5 g per 39 g serving.
Ritter Sport Peppermint, on the other hand, has a liberal amount of fat in it, about 11 g per 38 g serving. At first I thought it was because there is more chocolate, ratio-wise, in the Ritter Sport. But looking at the ingredients, it lists palm kernel oil in there (which I’m guessing isn’t in the chocolate, since it does say it’s chocolate and not a chocolate flavored shell).
Some would find that disconcerting, or perhaps even a reason to eschew it. I, on the other hand, have often wondered what a fattier York Peppermint Pattie would be like.
The bar was lovely to look at. Glossy and dark, though not as dark as some dark chocolates. It smells mostly of peppermint, delicate and refreshing with a little acidic twang.
The snap of the chocolate was good. It broke along the segments easily and there was no sticky goo emerging from the margins. Biting into an invididual segment though, that was a very nice feeling. The chocolate shell keeps its shape well, not shattering into a bazillion flakes.
The mint filling is silky smooth, whatever fat is in there is doing a wonderful job of keeping it from becoming a fudgy blob or a crystallized chunk. Instead it’s almost like a white chocolate truffle - sweet and minty but not watery or milky. The chocolate is buttery smooth as well, and melts readily but without any sort of greasy tastelessness. It’s a little bitter, a little dry and the perfect balance for the sweet center.
I don’t know why Ritter Sport hasn’t sent this to the States before, it’s definitely not like other chocolate & mint fondant options here, so it’s allowed to occupy its own niche. I hope it’s not seasonal, because I think this is a perfect item for a crisp fall picnic. (I give these suggestions as if I live this sort of life, which I don’t, but go ahead and imagine it.)
Jim’s Chocolate Mission has been doing an awesome job documenting far more Ritter Sport than I’ve been able to. (Of interest to me are the Trauben Cashew, Neapolitan Waffle and the Voll Erdnuss.)
Monday, January 5, 2009
I discovered for myself then what all the buzz about Aldi markets was about. Like Trader Joe’s (owned by the same family), Aldi has “house brands” of confections. I sampled quite a bit of their Choceur (Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars and Coffee & Cream) already so when my mother offered to send me some more, I took her up on the offer.
Moser-Roth is a German chocolate company, and I couldn’t find much on them except that they’ve been around since 1902 and most recently were bought up by Storck (who make Werther’s, Toffeefay, Riesen and Mambas) in 2007 - well, that’s what the German Wikipedia says, the Storck website makes no mention of it. I’ve never seen them anywhere but Aldi here in the United States. (Maybe someone who knows German better can help out with that, even the translators don’t make it much clearer whether Aldi just has them under contract or bought them.)
The package doesn’t give much information about the company, but does say a little about the chocolate itself: The chocolate is made from the finest quality ingredients, carefully prepared according to a classic recipe. Chocolate lovers will savor the strong aroma of dark chocolate blended with the best South American cocoas.
The packaging is one of my favorite styles. It’s a paperboard box/sleeve that holds a hefty 4.4 ounces but packaged in five smaller single portion bars.
Each little bar is wrapped in a light paper-backed foil. It doesn’t say much on it, not even what kind of bar it is, just Privat Chocolatiers and then on the side it has a little warning: may contain traces of nuts and/or dairy products.
The little bars are the perfect weight, as far as I’m concerned, each is .88 ounces and about 145 calories.
The scent is a light woodsy and coffee aroma. The color was a little dead, a little on the gray side of brown instead of red. It has a distinctive snap and crunch, I was concerned it would be chalky. But it melts nicely. It’s a little tangy but not fruity and buttery - kind of like cashews or pistachios.
As a little indulgence they’re extremely satisfying. I didn’t feel the need to start another bar after the first one for several days.
Like the dark, this little sleeve holds five .88 ounce individually wrapped bars. Part of the description goes like this: In this variety, bits of buttery golden toffee are encased in fine milk chocolate made from select cocoa varieties. This extraordinary combination gives the smooth chocolate its refined crisp, making it pure enjoyment for chocolate lovers.
Like most milk chocolates, this had a much softer snap than the dark chocolate.
The bar was pristine, nicely tempered and glossy smooth. The little nuggets of toffee were pretty easy to spot even before I took a bite.
It smells rather sweet and milky. The bite is soft and immediately sweet and creamy with a strong dairy flavor. The toffee crunches are exactly that, crunches with a distinct buttery flavor that made me think they were butterscotch flavor for a while it was so strong.
The velvety milk chocolate was a bit sweet for me, though I liked the slightly salty crunch, I would have prefered just a little less sugar here.
This bar is rather similar to the Dove Peanut Toffee Crunch (though obviously no peanuts here). But it’s also a bit of a better deal if the price on these is the same as the dark one.
The box is nicely made but perhaps a little downscale for what’s actually inside.
The photo doesn’t give a good sense of the scale here. The box is 4.5” across and 2.5” tall.
The height made more sense once I opened it. Inside each little truffle is wrapped in foil & tissue, with a little gather at the top. It reminded me of some Caffarel Eggs I got from Williams-Sonoma after Easter last year (never reviewed, just photographed & eaten).
The little eggs are, well, little. They’re molded with the name Moser-Roth on one side and little squirlies all over. They’re about 1.25” tall. The wrappings protected every last one of them.
This is pretty much the same as the Lindt Lindor 60% Extra Dark
I’ve never seen high fat milk powder, but it sounds awesome.
It was easy for me to bite them gently along the seam to cleave them in twain. Inside there’s a chocolate creme.
The outer shell is a nicely smooth very dark chocolate with a distinct bitter edge to it. The cream filling is less flavorful but achingly silky. Like the Lindor 60% Dark Truffles and some other vegetable oil based truffles, they’re a little “empty” tasting. But in the case of these the proportions are more equal with the chocolate shell and filling, so I got more flavor from them.
As a little indulgence they’re also pretty low in calories - only 52 each versus the 70 for a Lindor ... simply because of the size.
If there’s an Aldi near you, these are a great Valentine’s or Easter treat. (I don’t know if they were a Christmas item or an every day one.)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The bar is also 7.05 ounces and is described on the front as Fine coffee flavored milk chocolate combined with a layer of white chocolate.
The box is quite nice, though a little generic (and the cup of coffee there is completely out of scale with the bar shown). The bar is wrapped in an oversized paper-backed foil that is easy to re-wrap around the bar and put back into the box for later. (And yes, at seven ounces I wasn’t eating this all in one sitting, even with help from co-workers.)
Instead of little fingers like the Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars, this is a full sized bar.
The bottom layer is coffee flavored milk chocolate with little rectangles of white chocolate on top.
The effect is attractive, the bar was nicely molded with nice attention to detail. Each piece was a nice mouthful.
The flavor is immediately a sweet coffee. In fact, it’s almost all coffee. I caught a few notes of chocolate in there, but it’s all about the milk and coffee flavors here. It’s a tangy and woodsy coffee with a strong dairy component, especially from the white chocolate part.
It wasn’t as sweet as I’d feared, so I was pleased that I could eat as much as I could.
It’s a treat for coffee and white chocolate fans and for those who really like the powdered milk flavors of European chocolate. The fact that it’s milk chocolate and white certainly sets it apart from most other bars and it doesn’t have actual pieces of coffee beans in there.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
While in Ohio popped into an Aldi’s market as my mother had scouted out their candy section for me. This international chain is kind of like Trader Joe’s or Fresh & Easy, offering low prices for standard and gourmet fare with most products under house brands and a rather warehouse-style shopping environment.
One of Aldi’s brands of confections is called Choceur and is priced so well that I was dubious that it could be any good at all. But they have a Double Quality Guarantee, which means if I don’t like it, they’ll give me another and my money back.
This box was called Choceur Luxury Mini Chocolate Bars and described on the front as Bittersweet chocolate bars with hazelnuts and rice crisps in a chocolate creme filling.
Inside the box are 11 little bars, which are more like sticks. They’re about 3.5 inches long and .75 inches wide and .5 inches tall. Each is nicely molded with a simple design on top and made the trip from Ohio, through Pennsylvania and back to California without incident. Each little bar has 100 calories (and unlike the 100 Calorie Chocolate Bars I wrote about yesterday, the packaging here has the appropriate balance of protecting the product, advertising the contents and not taking up more space than it needs to).
The little sticks have a sweet hazelnut and chocolate aroma.
The bite is soft, the center is a buttery light chocolate cream with little crisped rice bits and crushed hazelnuts. The hazelnut flavor isn’t overwhelming, not quite as intense as Baci or a true gianduia, but amazingly satisfying.
The chocolate is silky and smooth, but doesn’t have a lot of pop to it. It doesn’t detract from the bar much, it just supports the texture and gives a small bittersweet background to the sweet creme center.
Overall, for the price these are amazing. They’re the perfect little treat for coffee or tea, an afternoon snack or something to tuck into a lunch without breaking the bank. Or a hostess gift or perhaps dump them out of the box and put them in Christmas stockings. Are there better versions of this out there? Sure, but even Ferrero Rocher or Perugina Baci costs about $6 for the same amount but most of that is packaging and you’re not likely to see commercials for these.
I have another Choceur bar that I bought at the same time that I’m quite eager to try ... especially since this box is almost gone.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
They were on sale for $9.99, but going further into the store to the Christmas displays (yes, already out) they had several Christmas mixes that weren’t on sale ... for the same price.
The bag is big, as this is hollow chocolate, and holds 14.1 ounces of actual confection. Not a bad deal for 30% cacao milk chocolate, if it’s good quality.
There were two shapes and seven designs.
Each piece is rather light, weighing approximately 12 grams (about the same as a tasting square).
The designs are cute, the little figures come in ghost, witch, monster and jack-o-lantern ghost. The spheres are just different varieties of jack-o-lanterns.
The figures look like of like board game pieces, little pegs with flat bottoms (though much bigger, about the size of a meaty thumb). The spheres are about the size of a golf ball.
The chocolate itself is glossy and well molded. It smells, well, a little like parmesan cheese and caramel. Not entirely sweet or chocolatey. I’m guessing this is the high milk content (14% minimum) that comes from dried whole milk.
It takes a little getting used to, it’s rich and creamy, rather smooth but still has a strong dairy component that is less confectionery tasting and more like something I’d expect in a bechamel.
The foils are very pretty and nicely done. They’re a bit thin and I had to pick my package carefully as it’s easy to break these (I’m guessing some thumbs poked through two of mine before I got it home).
The ingredients include PGPR and whey (not allowed in the American definition of real chocolate) but also natural vanilla. But the package was fresh, which I think makes a big difference. (Expiration is July 2009.)
They’re well worth it on sale after Halloween if you can find them, but I think that the Christmas ones are a bit nicer. There’s more variety to the shapes, the balls come with little strings so that you can hang them as edible ornaments and I found the Santa to be quite attractive and would make a great centerpiece accent. But I wouldn’t buy a bar of this chocolate.
Friday, October 24, 2008
A few months ago I picked up some Kosher Haribo Pink Grapefruit Gummis.
I love grapefruit and I love Haribo’s take on them. They’re gummy and chewy and have a nice crisp bite to them. I was curious though what the difference would be like with the Kosher version. It uses a fish gelatin instead of a non-Kosher gelatin that I can only guess is porcine in origin. (Gelatin is the thing that keeps me from being a true vegetarian - I just love gummis more than I love animals right now.)
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The Kosher version seemed gummier, seemed more gelatinous, seemed firmer and chewier. Happily it was also very intensely flavored, stellarly attractive and of course in my belly.
Haribo makes a bunch of other products that they don’t sell in the United States. I found this imported Haribo Saure Dinosaurier. The majority of the packages is in French with some German and a third version of the ingredients is in Spanish. The only thing in English is their tagline “kids and grown ups love it so.”
I’m no French major, but I know that this package contains sour dinosaur gummis.
The front of the package shows a bunch of different colored dinosaurs, but I only found four inside. Each shape came in all colors. The different dinos appeared to be Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus and Triceratops.
The sugar sanding is rather thin and has small grains to it. It’s not sour either, it’s pure sweet sugar.
Green is green apple (in the Haribo gummi bear world green is strawberry, so I had to close my eyes a couple of times to be sure). This was great with some really authentic apple flavors.
Red is definitely cherry. Like a Blow Pop and Kool-Aid.
Clear is peach. I have no idea why. But I liked it! It was kind of like a nectarine, none of that weird fuzzy taste, it was tangy and sweet.
Yellow is an eye popping lemon. Like eating a concentrated batch of lemonade mix. It doesn’t have a lot of zest to it, but it’s unmistakably lemon.
The sanded gummis don’t have a lot of detail and they all smell rather similar, kind of like a big bag of mixed Jolly Ranchers.
I found the overall level of the sourness to be rather adult, not shocking or blistering but certainly tingly and it got my salivary glands going.
The chew is not like the soft and lingering durability of a gummi bear. Instead these are more like Sour Patch Kids, an easy bite and quick chew. They were on the expensive side, but I’m sure I could find them cheaper if I were in Europe. I’ve noticed that even Haribo’s own Gold Bears taste different depending on which factory they were made in. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a hold of the German Gold Bears in the United States, but these were made in Germany.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
October 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?
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.
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.