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.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
About a year ago reader Charlene suggested I try Katjes sour gummis. I couldn’t find those, so I ended up trying Katjes Yoghurt Gums and Tropical Gummis. Though they weren’t my favorite candies ever, I still thought that a different set of flavors would suit me. I was also impressed that they used all natural colors and flavors.
Finally at another visit to Cost Plus World Market I stumbled across Saure Ananas, which are sour pineapple gummis.
The package says (in German) that it’s New! and that it has real pineapple juice in it (reading the ingredients it’s actually 10% pineapple juice, not just a splash of some grape or pear concentrate). Oh, and the obligatory, fat free!
When I was a teen one of my favorite snacks was canned pineapple and cream cheese. Throw some rings of pineapple on a plate, throw little cubes of cream cheese about the size of the hole in the ring and eat a little cream cheese with each bite of pineapple. Simple, delicious. Sometimes I’d spruce it up by rolling the cream cheese in crushed nuts but that seemed like a lot of trouble most of the time.
Now I like to get fresh pineapple and eat it until my tongue is fully tenderized. (Though the new low acid ones mean I can eat more pineapple with less tongue damage.)
So I was especially pleased at the appearance of these little gems, which look just like little pineapple pieces cut right from the ring.
Opening the package they smelled more like canned pineapple than the fresh stuff, but as I mentioned above, I quite love that stuff even though I prefer fresh. They have a sugar coating which protects the soft pieces from sticking together. They’re a stunning light yellow, slightly opaque but dead ringers for pineapple chunks.
The sugary coating isn’t flavored so after putting them in the mouth I’d either dissolve the sugar or start chewing to release the flavor.
They’re tart, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them full on sours. But the pineapple flavor is deep and complex with the high tangy notes and the deep fragrance and mid-level sweetness.
Dang tasty. I’m glad I finally found them. Katjes is a huge confectionery company in Germany and I hope to come across more of their products (I really need to try their licorice line). Cost Plus World Market carries a lot of the line as does the online store, GermanDeli.com. While at Cost Plus, Sera (formerly of Candy Addict and now out on her own with The Candy Enthusiast) picked up Katjes fruit jellies, so look forward to her notes on those soon.
Next on my hitlist is to track down their mixed pack called Saure Heringe that includes lemon, lime and blackcurrant and has a sour coating along with the soft flavorful gummi.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Last year I was introduced to Feodora chocolate by my husband who brought me this lovely Hazelnut bar. It was just whole hazelnuts in a rich and sticky milk chocolate. Very tasty (but had bloomed so I didn’t do a full review but somehow managed to eat it all anyway).
In order to properly review it though, I needed to find more.
Feodora is a German chocolate company who named their line of bars and chocolates after Feodora, the sister of the last German Empress and half-sister to Queen Victoria. As an imported brand it’s not as easy to find for me as some others from Germany like Hachez or Ritter Sport.
I picked up this small assortment of Feodora’s small bars at the Fancy Food Show way back in January and found them in my chocolate stash.
Vollmilch-Hochfein Chocolade - 37% Kakao mindestens - sweet but quite deep with strong raisin and grape flavors, smells a little like a mild cheesecake but very creamy.
Edel-Bitter Chocolade - 60% Kakao mindestens - has a wonderful buttery consistency, but a strong and bitter taste. The notes are of balsam woods, coffee, cherry and dark teas.
Grand’or - 75% Kakao mindestens - The Grand’or is reputed to undergo a long conching process, which results in an extra smooth chocolate, so I wasn’t concerned with the texture. It was just as buttery and creamy smooth as the 60% but really intensely flavored. Some dark cherry and tea notes were present here along with charcoal and cedar. It’s quite rich, one of these tiny bars was absolutely satisfying.
The bars are very consistent in their consistency - lovely smoothness and even flavors. The molding was pretty and the tempering spot on for each of the small pieces. They’re not that expensive for import bars, leading me to believe this is a mid-range bar. You can get them online from German Deli and I’ve seen them at Mel & Rose’s Wine & Liquors.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m often a sucker for packaging. In this case it’s the Feodora Mocca’s. Little coffee flavored dark chocolate bits shaped like coffee beans. In this case they came in a gold box with a flip open top and a very attractive cup of coffee on the front. Since I’d already tried the little chocolate bars, I thought something in their flavored line would be ideal. Still, they were $3.99 for 75 grams.
They’re actually quite a bit bigger than real coffee beans at 3/4 of an inch. Each was nicely formed, flat on one side and with a little lengthwise cinch to simulate a bean.
The bittersweet chocolate is smooth, and actually a bit bitter with the authentic taste of freshly roasted coffee infused quite strongly. (It’s 3% coffee according to the label.) It was every so slightly grainy which was disappointing after the smoothness of the bars, but forgivable compared to the gritty nature of many coffee bars I’ve had over the years.
The coffee chocolate is also available as a bar, but I think I’m willing to pay the premium for the cute box and shape of the pieces. But I reckon I’m only going to do that once or twice a year at most. But they’d make a nice stocking stuffer for any coffee fiend.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
All Candy Expo begins in one week, and here I am still sitting on samples from the last show! Part of the reason that I haven’t told you about Mamba Sours yet was because I didn’t see them in stores. Sometimes I review stuff that isn’t out, but most of the time I like to time my reviews of new items to when they actually hit shelves.
Finally I stumbled across them at a truck stop in Westley, CA and figured if they were there, they were probably in other more accessible stores.
Mambas are made by Storck, who also makes some other interesting candies like Toffeefay, Chocolate Riesen and probably most famously, Werther’s Originals. Mambas are simply little fruit chews, rather like Starbursts or HiCHEW.
Their newest addition to the line, introduced last year, is the sour version of the hard to find Mambas. They come in the same flavors: Orange, Lemon,
Strawberry & Raspberry. (But the single pack only includes three random flavors. I was lucky enough to pick out one of each flavor at the convention so I could taste them all.)
They shape of the candies is similar to HiCHEW - a long little rectangle, not a flattened cube like Starburst. Each little mini-pack has 6 chews.
They’re lightly colored, which seems unnecessary since they’re not only wrapped in papers that tell you what flavor they are, then those are in another single-flavor wrapping. (Maybe there’s a superfluous wrapper in this mix?)
They’re firm, perhaps a little hard at first, but soften nicely in the mouth. The flavor is immediately tart for all of them, but also has a strange soft fragrant flavor that’s not usually found in sours. For example, the lemon tastes much like powdered lemonade mix ... which I enjoy, but then there’s this light background like lemon blossom or something, it just adds a dimension to it. And in most cases it feels kind of classy.
I’ve had stronger sours, and really, if I haven’t had Mambas before, I wouldn’t guess that these are really a sour either. They’re tart, and they do get me a little tingly, but there were no faces involved and absolutely nothing to bother my tongue to the point that I’d stop eating all four packages.
The chew is great once it softens, it’s smooth and wonderfully consistent in its flavor all the way to the end. Some chews, like Skittles, can get a bit grainy towards the end, this didn’t at all.
Given the choice between regular Mambas and these, I’d actually pick the sours from now on. (But I have to admit that I haven’t bought Mambas since my last review of them but upon revisiting them, they’re really an underrated candy.) I still prefer the zap of Starburst, but that might just be complacency.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Ferrero always does a nice job of packaging their chocolates. They’re best known for their clear plastic boxes, which show off the lovely foil wrappings of their spheres of Rocher, Rondnoir and now the Ferrero Garden.
While most of what you’re paying for in these boxes is the box itself, for drug store or discounter fare, the Ferrero line is dependable and unique enough in its offerings that I’m often drawn to it.
Ferrero sent me a box of one of their special packages for Easter. This one is the Prestige assortment, which includes their trio of favorites weighing 4.8 ounces and shaped like an egg. There are five Rochers, four Rondnoir and four Garden (13 pieces total, I don’t know if that’s a comment on the Last Supper or not ... I’m doubting it).
I’ve reviewed the Rafaello and the Mon Cheri, but not the Garden. Honestly, I thought it was the Rafaello, just thrown inside some silver foil and given a new name. And it pretty much is.
There seems to be a lighter coconut coating, and instead of being completely spherical, these have a little flat bottom. The top has a little dollop & drizzle of a white confection (they call it meringue, but really it’s more like a white chocolate).
Inside is a milky tasting cream and a little sliver of almond. It’s all very sweet but has a nice touch of coconut and the crisp of the wafer cookie sphere balances it all well.
The assortment here has a good balance between the very sweet, mild & nutty and dark intense chocolate. The plastic tray can be popped out and the domed egg container can be reused. (There are no stickers to take off or anything.) The only drawback is that the plastic box doesn’t stay closed very well when tipped up on its side, so it’s more of a display box than a utility one.
They also come in other shapes, like bunnies and a stand-up egg. These should retail for about $5.50. (The non-holiday version of this is $6.99 on the Walgreen’s website for 5.5 ounces.)
Monday, February 25, 2008
I’ll admit that finding a palatable chocolate bunny at the drug store isn’t easy. Lindt has led the way over the past few years, virtually taking over the high-end bunny domain. Instead of depending on novelty, the Lindt Bunny is the same year after year.
This year was the first time I saw a dark chocolate version, so I scooped it up, even at regular retail of $3.49 for a 3.5 ounce bunny. (But then again a 3.5 ounce Lindt Dark Bar is often about $3 anyway).
The elegant gold foil and dark brown bow is part of the appeal of this confection - it feels timeless but not dated.
Lindt uses their 60% dark blend for this bunny which also features no added dairy ingredients like many other so-called “dark” chocolates from big manufacturers these days. However, it’s not all natural, instead the use vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring.
Even out of the wrapper the bunny is quite beautiful. The sheen was pleasant and I was fortunate to get one that hadn’t been nicked & dinged up on the shelf.
It may be billed as a hollow bunny, but this is pretty substantial stuff. The ears are nearly solid and the head pretty thick as is the base. Most other rabbits this size would probably weigh 30% less. (And require additional packaging to protect them.)
The chocolate is pleasant. I don’t think the 60% is Lindt’s best, but is creamy and has a nice robust flavor with some coffee & cherry notes. It has a slightly dry & chalky finish, which makes me feel like I’ve just had a cup of cocoa. Seeing how Easter is in March this year, cocoa is quite welcome.
The Reindeer, like the Bunny, is equally handsome and actually sports the Lindt name on the side (the Bunny doesn’t).
Like the Bunny, the Reindeer had nearly solid ears and a thick base.
Since it’s the same size and has the same recipe as the Lindt Gold Bunny, just substitute that mentally. (Besides, you want to be prepared for Christmas, don’t you?)
Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had Lindt Milk Chocolate before this. I’ve had their Lindor Truffles, but this all milk chocolate, all the time and quite a change for me.
It’s very milky but still maintains a robust chocolate flavor and none of the “powdered milk” flavor that I don’t care for in many European milk chocolates. It has more than a hint of malt to it, which of course I gravitate towards. It’s quite silky on the tongue and not so sweet that it makes my throat hurt.
As chocolate animals go, they’re both real winners. The price is a bit steep ... but if you have a mind to start some sort of new tradition of Easter Reindeer, you could get away with buying them after Christmas (this one was good until 5/31/2008).
The German Lindt website lists all sorts of other versions of the iconic Bunny, including 1,000 gram versions (yowza! that’s almost three pounds!), white chocolate and minis.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I haven’t written about Ritter Sport in a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been eating them. There’s a wonderful feature for the All Candy Expo attendees, it’s a candy room where they give you a little bag and you can fill it to the top with candy in a huge room of bins and barrels of the stuff. I found a tub of Ritter Sport Minis and took home about two pounds of the tiny buggers.
But I also stopped at the booth for the Ritter importer to see what was new and found a few bars I’ve never reviewed, including this hefty White Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts bar.
I’ve hung onto this bar for a while because I really need to be in the “mood” for white chocolate. It was 43 degrees this morning in Los Angeles when I got in my car to go to work; brisk weather usually helps to push me over into the white chocolate territory.
The wrapper says whole hazelnuts and they’re not kidding. Just look at that first bite I got! The bar itself is a lovely creamy ivory color, a little on the yellow side.
What the front label leaves off that the back mentions is the whole description for this bar: white chocolate with hazelnuts & crispy rice. (Turn it over and the hazelnuts are quite evident sticking out as are the little nibs of rice.)
The bar smells like hazelnuts and milk with a light touch of vanilla. It’s not until I bit into it that I got the malty notes of the crisped rice (hey, barley malt is actually listed on the ingredients).
Most of the hazelnuts are large and nicely toasted to bring out their flavor. The crisped rice adds a texture to the bar as well, keeping the pure white chocolate (made with sugar, cocoa butter, cream, skim milk, whey, lactose and vanillin) from feeling too sticky or cloying. I think it could use a smidge more salt (there’s a little in the crisped rice) but for non-white-chocolate consumers, this could be a gateway drug (well, the real gateway drug for white chocolate would be Green & Black’s White Chocolate bar).
It’s a very pleasant bar and I had no trouble finishing the whole thing.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This box of Trader Joe’s Irish Cream Chocolates was suspiciously inexpensive. I was on the prowl for an item they had last year, which were infused vodkas in chocolate. This was the only alcoholic chocolate I could find. When I say alcoholic, I mean that these do contain alcohol, 3.8% by weight. That’s enough for the register to ding when I bought them to make sure that I was of the legal age to purchase an alcohol product (I am).
The dark green box shows the little rectangles in nearly full size. Inside the box are three rows of five chocolates (15 total).
They’re a milk chocolate shell with an alcoholic “Irish Cream” syrup center. It’s quite thick and flowing, very sweet and rather odd. I didn’t care much for it at first, it tasted more like a slightly minty cough syrup, but the alcohol bite is certainly apparent. After a few of them, the creamy notes of the center came forward and I found myself reaching for one after another. (Not before driving.)
The milk chocolate isn’t the highest quality. It’s sweet and has a slight grain to it, but it contains the syrup center well. I only noticed two that had a leakage problem. There are a few ways to eat these. I prefer chomping off a short end and then slurping out some of the throat-blistering goo. But you can also just pop the whole thing in your mouth or probably nibble away at opposite corners to suck out more of the Irish Whiskey laced cream center.
Though they’re called Irish Cream Chocolates, they’re made in Germany.
Interestingly enough, this is the previous format of these chocolates, circa 2004.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.