Thursday, December 22, 2005
Name: Dolfin Chocolat: Noir au Gingembre Frais, Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon, Noir aux Fuelles de Menthe
I thought on the eve of the start of Whalewatch Season here in Southern California it was appropriate to review something under the brand name Dolfin (we see more dolphins on whale watching trips than whales anyway). The Man bought these bars for me recently at a wine & spirits store in our neighborhood. The gentrification of our little ‘hood means that the former liquor store now carries a wider selection of wines, beers and of course Belgian chocolate.
What drew him to the bars wasn’t the reviews but the fact that the bars are packaged in these plastic cloaked paper envelopes that reminded him of tobacco pouches. It’s actually a pretty simple and successful idea, a long bag that you fold over several times to keep a good seal. The bars inside are additionally sealed in little plastic sleeves but at 2.47 ounces, I wasn’t going to eat them all in one sitting and I appreciated having a clean and crisp way of carrying them around until I do.
Noir aux Fuelles de Menthe (Dark with Mint Leaves): Instead of being your common dark chocolate bar with mint oils in it, this bar contains real spearmint leaves. This was the least successful bar for me. The mint was nice and it being spearmint was a nice change from the more common peppermint, but the bar seemed a bit more chalky than the others. At first I thought it had bloomed, but the sheen was right and the snap looked good. I can only assume that it’s the interaction of the real mint leaves in there. They also make the bar kind of grainy. The sugar balance is good though and the mint is smooth and has some good tannins in it that mix well with the rich dark chocolate.
Noir au Gingembre Frais (Dark with Fresh Ginger): I’m a ginger nut and many of the ginger/chocolate combinations that I find are with milk chocolate, so finding one that was in dark chocolate is exciting. The bar had a good woodsy mix of scents - the spicy ginger and smoky chocolate. The dark chocolate is only 52% cacao (as is the mint one) but it just felt really rich and dense. It was a little grainy but had a lot of flavors in the mix with a good buttery base to help the ginger and chocolate mingle.
Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon (Milk with Sencha Green Tea from Japan): Wow, this bar smells like green tea ice cream. The wonderful lightly floral and woodsy tea blends wonderfully with the delicately dairy tasting milk chocolate. The bar is smooth and very sweet except for the green tea bits. It makes the bar better for doing a bit of chewing before letting it melt on the tongue instead of leaving a tab of it on the tongue first. This is definitely a bar that I could eat a lot of and I’m hoping that even though it only has 32% cacao, the benefits of both the green tea and chocolate will bring me good health in the new year.
Dolfin has a huge line of these “creation” bars, including Masala (hot spices), aniseed, pink peppercorn and Earl Grey tea. They have boxes with tasting squares that look like they would make for a fun evening.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, November 4, 2005
Everyone’s talking about Choxie. Probably half of you reading this right now are here because of a Google search for Choxie. Under a huge marketing blitz, Target is running national commercials that feature go-go dancers extolling “Cha-cha-cha Choxie. Chocolate with Moxie!” They’re having free tastings this weekend (Sunday, November 6th from 1-5 PM at all locations).
A couple of weeks ago my husband picked up some new candy at Trader Joe’s called “Slate of Bliss.” Very cool, I thought. Then I went to Target and saw the SAME thing under their Choxie label called simply “Thin.” As Trader Joe’s is well known for their repackaging of food under its own label, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. The Choxie is $2.50 a package, the Trader Joe’s is $1.99 ... a 20% savings. The biggest question is who makes the candy for both Target and Trader Joe’s? Actually, the biggest question is ... is it any good?
Since the packaging is identical (a clear cellophane inner wrapper and a matte cardboard box) and the sizes (2.5 ounces) and flavors are similar (Trader Joe’s carries only two flavors, both are included in the Choxie line, but Target has added selection on top of that) I’m going to treat them all the same.
Slate of Bliss - Espresso and Milk Chocolate: I’m not sure why I’m starting with this one, because I was most disappointed with it. The milk chocolate base is sweet (32% cocoa solids) and has that European milk chocolate taste. On top are crushed Arabica espresso beans. The beans are crunchy and of course taste like coffee. They’re not bitter, but definitely have a lingering taste to them and oodles of caffeine. 7 out of 10.
Choxie - Toffee Ginger Thin: I’m a ginger nut, and I love toffee too, so I had high hopes for this. I was a little leery of the milk chocolate base though from the description, as I thought the sweet toffee and crystallized ginger would be set off better by semi-sweet chocolate. The label does not say how much cocoa solids are in the chocolate, and it’s definitely a different chocolate blend than the espresso Slate of Bliss. The milk chocolate is not as dairy smooth, but very sweet and lacks a chocolate punch. The toffee is nice, but I didn’t think there were enough bits on it and the ginger chunks were few and far between (when breaking the whole thing into 8 pieces, two ended up without ginger). 7 out of 10.
Slate of Bliss - Cacao Nibs and Dark Chocolate: I’ve had a few premium bars this year that have cacao nibs in them, and I really enjoy them. They’re like nuts, only chocolate! This bar has a wonderful cocoa aroma to it. Smoky and roasted with a slightly fruity fragrance. The chocolate here is only 54% cocoa solids, but instead of being overly sweet, it has a wonderful creamy cocoa butter melt. The chocolate is smooth with no hints of grainyness and the nibs give it a punch to highlight the nice apricot and cherry notes to the chocolate. 9 out of 10.
Choxie - Peppermint Marbled Crunch Thin: The sassiest of all the packages, this one is exactly what you’d expect from looking at it. A rich semi-sweet chocolate with a little marbling of white chocolate on top and some crushed peppermint candies. There’s no indication of the cocoa solids on this one, but with Sugar as the first ingredient of the chocolate, I suspect it’s less than 50%. The chocolate is slightly more astringent than the chocolate in the Slate of Bliss Cacao Nib one, but the light bitter/dry finish helps to buoy the lighter note of the mint. Though the bar smells mostly minty, it’s definitely chocolatey on the tongue. 9 out of 10.
Now, there’s been some talk in the comments section of this blog about BruCo being one of the company’s that’s making Choxie (I suspect that Choxie is made by several different candy manufacturers to Target’s standards). I don’t know BruCo well enough to comment on that. The two BruCo bars I’ve tried were not at all similar to anything that I’ve seen as part of the Choxie line. I’ve also heard that Vosges is making some of the candy (specifically the chocolate bars and some of the truffles - especially since the flavor of Vosges’ Red Fire Bar is similar to the Choxie Hot Chocolate Bar), but again, I have no confirmation on that. No matter who makes the stuff and my opinions on the flavor combinations, it’s all good quality with fresh and real ingredients.
UPDATE (11/15/05): I got an email from a very helpful reader that pointed me to Veritas Chocolatier who makes something called True Flats which looks EXACTLY like the Trader Joe’s Slate of Bliss packaging shape and of course the flavors.
Friday, July 22, 2005
It’s a like a dream come true. Someone’s combined one of my favorite candies with one of my favorite flavors.
Well, it’s the thought that counts.
Ginger Bears are gummi bears with real ginger in them. That’s why they’re kind of cloudy looking. I’m not sure if that expains why they smell like photoprocessing chemicals. Not the bears themselves, just when you smell them in the bag. I know that ginger in and of itself doesn’t have a great scent, kind of like wet earth. But this was more of a chemical smell and might be from the bag itself. I took a few out and let them air out on the desk, they seemed fine after that.
These bears are a bit larger than the ones we’re used to from Trolli or Haribo. They’re also not quite a gummi, think Swedish fish, really. But, they’re very spicy, not too sweet and are decently priced.
What I like about them is that they’re not sticky. While I like the Ginger People’s and Chimes’ Ginger Chews, they are very sticky and might one day yet pull out some of my fillings. These are soft, chewy but with a good consistency and not the slightest bit sticky. They could use a little work on the appearance but other than that, they’re a solid recommend as long as you keep your nose out of the bag.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Name: Emperor’s Ginger Tea Chocolate
A few months ago I reviewed another flavor of this chocolate, the Jasmine Green Tea. To refresh your memory, these are cute little foil-wrapped medallions of rich milk chocolate infused with tea and stacked in a little can. This version is green tea and ginger. If you’ve been reading candy blog at all, you know I’m a huge chocolate and ginger fan. This take on the combination however, is disappointing.
The chocolate is sweet and smooth, there is not grainyness like I’ve experienced with other infused chocolates. The bite of the ginger comes across quite quickly, but has less woodsy bite to it than just a slow burn. Don’t get me wrong, the peppery feeling is really refreshing, but it tastes more like ginger powder than fresh ginger. I get no hints of tea to it at all.
I do like that there aren’t ginger pieces in it, just the pure essence. This is not snacking chocolate, but something to enjoy in small pieces, perhaps with some tea and shortbread. The packaging is really nice and my purchases of this brand have always been fresh, but the price is a bit high.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Name: Wha Guru Chew
Reading over the ingredients list, I’m wondering what this has to do with the Yogi Bhajan. But I suppose even the most enlightened among us wants a sweet now and then. While there’s nothing bad about these caramel nut bars, they contain no trans fat and use brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice instead of corn syrup, I’m struggling with the health food aspects of this. Aw hell, let’s just call it candy and be done with it.
These are fab. I can’t tell you how fab these are. The caramel is flavorful and soft, the nuts are fresh and crunchy and the smell is pure buttery sweetness. The only problem I have with them is that they’re very soft, so you taking them out of the package is nearly impossible and even getting the package open without scissors ended up too much of a challenge for me.
Cashew Vanilla - the right sweet notes of vanilla blended with buttery cashews. There are also sunflower seeds in here, which add an extra crunch and earthy taste to the bar to balance the sweetness of the caramel. A little touch of salt balances it all out.
Almond Ginger - it doesn’t smell quite as inviting as the cashew vanilla bar (I don’t think ginger smells that good inherently, as it has a rooty/earthy smell). But biting into this bar wipes away any hesitation that this bar will be as good as the former. The ginger pops out as a spicy base for the sugary caramel and the mild almonds. A slight trace of lemon zest links all the flavors together well.
Peanut Cashew - this one diverges from the recipe of the above two which are sweetened primarily with brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice. This is sweetened with clover honey (and barley malt syrup). This honey base makes for a less viscous caramel but really amps up the flavor. The first tone you get upon biting into it is a strong orange essence. In addition to the peanuts and cashews are sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Of the three this was my least favorite, though still worthy of trying.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Name: Chimes Ginger Chews
How could you not love something that comes in this nifty tin? Chimes has three different kinds of ginger chews, Peppermint (this review), Peanut Butter Ginger (previous review) and Ginger. I believe that The Ginger People also have the same repetoire and that these are all probably made in the same factory somewhere in Indonesia.
There are about 14 of these individually wrapped chews stuffed into this tin. The lid slides back for dispensing, though they’re jammed in there pretty good and not that easy to just dump out. Further, when opening the little individual wrappers, the chews sometimes get stuck to the plastic.
Beyond that, once you’ve got on in your mouth, it’s instantly minty. The chew is soft and sticky with a distinct barley sugar note to it (I like that). As you chew, the spicy notes of the ginger come through and as you’re done with the chew, the burn of the ginger lasts for quite a while. They’re very satisfying but as snacks, I think the packaging is great because I don’t think you’d want more than two or three of these at any given time (the peanut butter ones, however, I think lend themselves to greater consumption).
On the whole, now that I’ve tried all three of these flavor combinations I think I prefer the plain ginger, then the peanut butter and then these. Not that these aren’t good, but I don’t really think that mint and ginger are the best of all possible flavor matches. The Ginger People also make an Apple Ginger chew that I think I’m going to have to seek out now.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Name: Peanut Butter Ginger Chews
I happen to love ginger. I love the stuff the Ginger People put out. I think I’ve seen this product offered by them as well.
Imagine a peanut butter taffy chew (with real nuts in it) and add some spicy ginger and you’ll have Peanut Butter Ginger Chews.
They’re soft, but not sticky. Chewy but not hard. Crunchy and smooth.
I was kind of dubious when I took it out of the package, because it looks like a powdery turd. But they’re rather addictive. And unlike the regular ginger chews, these aren’t as sticky and the peanut butter keeps them from giving you a hard sugar rush.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Name: Dagoba Chai
There was a small selection of these organic bars at Whole Foods. Some are single origin and some are flavored, like this one. Basically I see chocolate in two different ways, some chocolate is for snacking and some is for savoring. It expected this to be savoring chocolate, however, I found it to be extremely snackable.
The Chai bar is milk chocolate with chai spices and ginger. Opening the package I found the spicy aroma quite evident. Not overly any particular spice, it smelled more like a spice cupboard. A little like pumpkin pie, actually.
On the tongue the chocolate melts easily and is immediately sweet. The mix of flavor is not intense but really a great compliment.
I plan on buying some more Dagoba chocolate again. I think I’ll try their tasting squares.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
PS - One of the problems with this candy is that every time I hear the name or see it or type it, it reminds me of the Weird Al song called Yoda (to the tune of the Kinks’ Lola). It starts with the line, “I met him in a swamp down in Dagoba.”
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