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.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
As a kid I loved Ice Cubes. They’re little squares of hazelnut mockolate. Their unique selling proposition included the fact that they were individual pieces that sold for 10 cents a piece and had a wild, cool feeling on the tongue when they melted instantly.
I remember buying them at the student union on the Kent State University campus when I was a kid waiting for my mother to be done with classes or my father to be done with work. (I usually panhandled to get the money to buy them, I was pretty shameless in the lengths I would go to get my fix.) Later when I was in college on my own I would use my meal points at the Jolly Giant Commons to buy these by the tub.
The little candies have been around since the mid-thirties, made in Germany by a small company called Nappo and sold by Albert’s in the States. They’re similar to the Caffarel Gianduia, except for the fact that they’re made with partially hydrogenated coconut oil instead of nut paste and chocolate.
I was really excited to find these looking so smart and crisp at The Candy Store in San Francisco on Friday. I see them every once in a while, but they always look sad and melted. The Candy Store had a whole jar of pristine looking Ice Cubes in both wrappers (they’re switching to a gold wrapper from the traditional blue and white so there’s a crossover right now).
They don’t smell like much, a little sweet, a little nutty, but nothing like chocolate. They have a soft bite and an immediate hit of cool on the tongue. They melt quickly (as partially hydrogenated coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees F) and have a decent mix of nutty flavors, a little milkiness and a little hit of cocoa. A little grainy, they’re not quite as good as I remember.
Now, for the sobering part. Read the ingredients: partially hydrogenated coconut oil, sugar, low fat cocoa, dried sweet whey, soy flour, hazelnut paste, soy lecithin, artificial vanilla flavor.
There is no nutritional info included with these, but this page tells me that just one of them is 22% of my daily value of saturated fat (65 calories).
So while I enjoyed this little trip back in time to taste those little cubes of obsession and trans fats, now that I’m all grown up and have found good sources of candy, I don’t think I’ll ever eat these again now that I’ve found Caffarel Gianduias. (The traditional ones are perfect, the novelty shaped ones are fun & make a cute stocking stuffer.) In fact, at The Candy Store the price for Caffarel and Ice Cubes was identical ... 75 cents each. I bought a handful of Fig and Chestnut ones ... something I’ll feel a little less guilty about eating.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
After Christmas last year I bought some marzipan that I actually loved. Made by Niederegger in Germany, these folks have been making marzipan for over 200 years. I wanted to buy more, but the only ones I’ve seen in stores are the regular flavor which I tried at the Fancy Food Show and found to be okay.
While I’m not ordinarily a marzipan fan, it’s my dislike for Amaretto that prompts my avoidance, because I actually love almonds and eat them just about every day. But I’m coming around on marzipan ... Charles Chocolates makes an excellent and zesty set of marzipan and I was hoping that Marzipan Orange was a more easily available version of it. (But sadly, really not less expensive.)
I was a little irritated when I opened the bar to photograph it and found that it was slightly bloomed. At first I cursed myself for not storing it properly (this was before the Great Heat Wave of Labor Day Weekend ‘07 that got temps in my candy studio up to 99 degrees during the day when the power went out), but when I opened the other chocolate items my husband brought back from NYC (the Ritter Sport Schokowurfel and another bar) I found that it was just this one and then I raised my fist to curse the folks who sold him a SIX DOLLAR bar that had not been stored properly.
But you know, I ate it anyway. ‘Cuz it smelled sooooo good. I feel pretty good about it, too.
It smells like someone has been in the kitchen juicing fresh oranges and perhaps baking cookies at the same time. The orange zest scent is lovely with an added note of vanilla and a sort of caramelly nut smell topped off with a light chocolate. It makes me happy.
Though the chocolate wasn’t as creamy-melt-in-your-mouth as the capuccino one I had before, I’m pretty confident that this was still tasty stuff, with full chocolate flavor to add to the light zest of citrus. The marzipan was firm and a little on the dry side and only lightly sweet (one of the hallmarks of Niederegger). It wasn’t a super-smooth, doughy version like a fondant or anything, this felt like a rustic almond paste. (It’s pretty high in protein too, 4 grams per 1.4 ounce serving.)
I would definitely plunk down $6 again for a fresh and properly stored bar. I saw on the Niederegger website that they little foil wrapped pieces in various fruity flavors (this is how I’ve tried the plain), I’m going to keep my eyes peeled at the holidays at places like Cost Plus World Market. If you’ve tried these before, where have you found them? GermanDeli.com has the orange bar (and on sale for $4.99 right now).
Unfortunately it’s not vegan (milk in the semisweet chocolate) but it is otherwise vegetarian.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
No, it’s not German candy week ... it’s purely a coincidence that I bought those Katjes and then my husband picked up this cool box of Ritter Sport Schockowurfel on a recent trip to New York City.
Instead of the regular sized bars, these miniatures are about the size of a regular Ritter Sport “section” ... and they’re filled as well! Kind of like little truffles. The variety is called in 6 pralingen Sorten ... which I’m guessing means an assortment of six pralines.
The bottom of the box is folded in such a way that when I removed the top the bottom expands to make more of a bowl ... which makes it easier to rifle through the assortment to see what they all are. Luckily there was also an inventory with images on the side of the box to guide me through them all.
The wrappers are all distinctive enough in color combos that I got good at telling what they were at a glance.
Creme Coco isn’t something chocolatey ... nope, it’s milk chocolate with a coconut center. The coconut is certainly sweet, as is the milk chocolate, but the small size makes it pretty agreeable. It reminded me a little bit of the limited edition Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses, in a good way. This coconut was a little firmer, a little crispier.
Cappuccino & Amarettini was not one I was looking forward to, since I assumed it was going to be heavy on the amaretto (as the marzipan bar is), but it was much more focused on the coffee notes. Very sweet, so sweet it made my throat burn for a bit.
Tiramisu on the other hand had that amaretto flavor, but distinctive marscapone note.
Caramel Crisp was kind of odd ... the filling was light in color but reminded more of the yogurt Ritter Sports. There were some dark caramelized sugar flavors in there and some light crispies that kind of redeemed the cloying sweetness.
Crocant reminds me of the great Knusperflakes that Ritter makes, though I think it’s actually crisped rice ... the little crispy bits are inside a softer cocoa cream center. Simple, fun, tasty.
The assortment had some nice variation and is a pleasant change from the monotony of buying a whole bar and being force to consume it before you can move on to another flavor (okay, maybe no one forces me). It’s easy to share them and they look pretty sassy in their simple little wrappers. I’d love it if some were dark chocolate though, as I think Ritter is making great strides in the dark department for a mass-consumer chocolate company. I have no idea how much my husband paid for this ... I can’t even find it on the Ritter website. I did see that they have another morsel-sized chocolate simply called Rum; if it’s anything like the Rum Trauben Nuss, I’m sold.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.