Friday, October 26, 2007
Sconza introduced Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds featuring “70% cacao international blend chocolate” at the All Candy Expo last month. I was really looking forward to them, as I think Sconza makes great panned candies, especially nuts.
Sconza is based in Oakland, California, one of the best confectionary areas in the country. Sconza has an interesting product line that includes such wonderful items like Jordanettes (Jordan Almonds), incredible toffee coated nuts and even a line of impossibly-large-to-eat jawbreakers.
This new chocolate covered almond capitalizes on one of those things they do so well, toffeed nuts.
Each generously sized almond is covered in a crunchy and thin coating of butter toffee. It’s salty and crispy and provides a satisfying crunch when biting through the thick coating of very dark chocolate.
The chocolate is strong, with dark fruity overtones and some coffee notes. The almonds are fresh and crunchy and provide a mellow counterbalance to the salty toffee and rich chocolate.
I love these. They’re only vaguely sweet, so I don’t feel sick after eating a handful. At the same time only one or two are extremely satisfying. They’re beautiful to look at smell positively divine.
I haven’t seen these in stores yet, but I’ve found other Sconza toffee and nut items at places like Bristol Farms (a high end grocer). I don’t know what the retail price is, but I think $4.00 for a bag would be such a deal.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Terra Nostra is a favorite chocolate brand of mine. I know, I’ve never written about their bars before. I’ve been buying the Organic Dark Chocolate with Pecans and Raisins since I first saw it at Trader Joe’s ... I’m guessing at least six years ago. I was never a fan of chocolate and raisins until I met Trader Joe and he changed my mind with his wonderful dark chocolate covered raisins in a tub. With that in mind, I gave that bar a try, drawn by the pecans and dark chocolate and pretty well sold on the addition of the tangy, chewy raisins.
It’s not the most complex bar in the world, but it’s a good all around contender when it comes to satisfaction. My biggest problem with it? It’s too big. Yes, I know that the 3.5 ounce size is pretty popular when it comes to premium bars, but it’s just too big for me to finish in one sitting and I want a lot of variety in my life.
Imagine my pleasure at seeing that Terra Nostra is bring out a new line of “Pocket Bars”. At only 1.5 ounces, which means a nice sized portion of chocolate, and they even come with a little zazz to make them more like candy bars.
Each bar is four sections, slightly domed, for most of them to accommodate a filling of some sort.
Creamy Caramel in Satin Milk Chocolate - this was an excellent bar, far superior to most other single-serve caramel bars I’ve had. The milk chocolate is rich, creamy and has a lot of the complex dairy flavors to it. The caramel, though rather syrupy is salty and smooth with a pretty good hit of butter to it. (7 out of 10)
Creamy Caramel in 60% Dark Robust Chocolate - this was a nice bar! The dark chocolate is robust, just like they say, with some coffee notes that set off the salty, sweet and gooey caramel center. I’d prefer a caramel that wasn’t quite so gooey (think Caramello) and it does have a little bit of a grain to it. The whole thing comes together nicely. (7 out of 10)
Goji Berries and Pink Himalayan Mineral Sea Salt in 73% Dark Chocolate - this one took away all the fun of being a candy bar and injected a bunch of trendy items. Goji berries are also known as wolfberries; they’re little red berries (related to tomatoes and deadly nightshade) about the size of a peanut, they’re always sold dried. Goji berries tangy, kind of dry and leathery; though they do have some distinctive flavors, but they’re also really fibery. I’m often left with some piece that feels like a wad of chewed paper - really, I shouldn’t have to spit bits of my chocolate bar out. The chocolate itself doesn’t taste salty, just less sweet (but it’s hard to do a one for one comparison with the others since this is the only 73% dark bar in the range). Honestly, this bar just clicked with a bunch of my pet peeves about trendy foods ... if you want to read something really fun, try this piece from the Sydney Morning Herald about the goji berry. (5 out of 10)
Pomegranate Truffle - a base of 60% cacao dark chocolate has a rich chocolate truffle filling flavored with pomegranate. The dark chocolate is creamy, but not too dark or dry. The truffle center is a light and creamy truffle, not greasy but smooth and of course with a tangy & berry bite of pomegranate. The pomegranate kind of overwhelms most of the chocolate flavors, but blends so well with the texture. (8 out of 10)
All the bars are certified organic ... not that it makes them healthy or anything. The Pomegranate Truffle and Goji Berry dark bars are suitable for vegans, however they are made on machinery that also processes dairy (and peanuts, soy and tree nuts). Terra Nostra also participates in Equi-Trade programs, though their bars are not specifically certified Fair Trade. They’re fun little bars and if presented with an array of commercial mass-produced bars and these, if price is not the deciding factor, you might want to give them a try.
(Top photo of Robust Dark with Raisins & Pecans courtesy of Terra Nostra)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
When I was a kid one of the prized chocolate bars to get in a Christmas stocking was a Toblerone bar. They were huge and exotic. Pretty to look at and certainly unique in their composition: milk chocolate with almond nougat bits.
Times have changed and Toblorone aren’t so hard to find any longer. Toblerone is named for both the inventor of the confection, Theodor Tobler and torrones, the honey and almond nougat found in the chocolate. The shape is also distinctive (and protected by trademark), each piece a little triangle representing the Swiss Alps. The traditional bar is a series of twelve peaks. The single pieces are now sold in assortments and may be my perferred way of enjoying them.
The Toblerone is now made by Kraft, but before that it was made by Suchard (which was later swallowed by Kraft in Europe). Whether this has changed the quality of the chocolate is up for debate. I remember Toblerone being better when I was a kid, but there could be any number of reasons I appreciated it more.
The Milk Chocolate peak smells mildly of milk and coconut with a little chocolate touch. It has a pretty soft bite to it, so it’s not at all stiff and waxy. The honey notes of the hard nougat bits and almonds come out immediately, and if you’re a chewer, they add a little light texture. It’s rather sweet, but also rather different from the overtly milky Swiss chocolates I’ve become accustomed to.
It has a pleasant fruity overtone to the chocolate. It’s semi-sweet, so it’s not too dark, but still has a good melt. It’s a little grainy, a little chalky feeling towards the end but the abundant torrone bits kind of cover that up well.
The nutty notes from the nougat also blends well. This is the first time I think I’ve tried the dark bar, and it doesn’t really work for me. I’m completely missing the honey flavor from the nougat.
It’s very sweet: throat searingly sweet. It’s a good thing each piece is only two bites.
Though Toblerone calls this a “white confection” the fat in there is cocoa butter (so it really is white chocolate). So no worries about hydrogenated oils! It certainly smells strongly of Easter baskets and vanillin.
The milk flavors are very strong here, so strong it’s almost like eating a block of sweet vanilla cheese or something. The nice thing about it is that it does enhance the honey of the nougat,
Now this one is pretty cool. I have no idea what it’s called, as it’s not really on the Toblerone website. I’m calling it the Toblerone Stack and it features a hefty base of the traditional Milk Chocolate Toberlone and a little white cap of the White Toblerone.
Maybe they’re called Matterhorns. While the white chocolate one was far too much white chocolate, the balance of 3 to 1 milk chocolate actually works here.
The white chocolate makes the honey and vanilla notes pop even more and the milk chocolate keeps it grounded with the chocolate flavors. I know there used to be a candy bar in the States that had a trio of flavors stacked, the only current mass-produced bar I could find is the Australian Nestle Triple Decker (contains Strawberry, Milk & White).
The outside shell is pure milk chocolate, no nougat bits in there. The inside is a softer chocolate cream studded with the almond and honey torrone. There seems to be a larger proportion of almonds in there than usual as well.
It has a very distinct and creamy melt like a truffle, but completely lacking in the honey flavors and coconut scent of the original Milk Chocolate.
I really like these Single Peaks and would love to buy them for Christmas for putting in stockings or perhaps just in a candy dish. I don’t think they’d quite work for Halloween as an individually wrapped candy. Besides the fact that they’re probably absurdly expensive for giving away to kids you don’t even know the wrappers aren’t sealed (just twisted) so it’s possible that vigilant parents would just throw them out (or maybe they’d take them from the kids pointing out that they weren’t sealed to protect them but actually eat them).
I got these as samples from All Candy Expo but of course there’s no American website just for Toblerone, but here’s the page on the Kraft site.
Has anyone seen them in stores?
Monday, October 22, 2007
Here’s one of those candies that I only saw in my Trick-or-Treat haul: Sixlets. Oh sure, they were probably in stores that I frequented. They come in a variety of packets, including the “changemaker” size that holds eight little candy spheres and used to sell for a two cents.
The big reason I shunned Sixlets was I was never quite sure what they were. Are they like M&Ms? Are they candy coated peanuts? Are they a jawbreaker?
Eating them never really answered those questions. They definitely don’t have nuts in them, but taste a little nutty. They’re not like M&Ms, though there is a chocolate-like center. They’re not jawbreakers, in fact the shell is pretty thin.
Sixlets are currently made by Oak Leaf, who makes bubble gum and other confections in Canada that are usually sold in bulk and dispensed in gumball machines that are sold by the handful. Before that they were made by Hershey’s, which purchased the Ovation brand that made Sixlets under management of Leaf (they also made Whoppers, which Hershey’s kept).
Sixlets are certainly cute. They come in vivid colors: Yellow, Green, Red, Orange and Brown. They’re spherical and consistent looking, with a shiny candy shell. The center is a malty-flavored mockolate. Made from partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar and milk protein, they’re not really that appealing as a confectionery item to eat on their own. Cocoa powder is way down at the fifth position on the list of ingredients. The candy shells are pretty ordinary, except for the orange one, which has a light orange flavor to it (just as Smarties from the UK do). The mockolate barely has a chocolate taste, and the whole thing is a little grainy and a bit greasy.
What they lack in taste they more than make up for with economy and portion control. What other candy comes in little tubes of 8 pieces? Not to mention the fact that each little tube has only 35 calories!
Why Oak Leaf came out with the Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Flavored Sixlets is beyond me. The regular ones barely taste like chocolate and any health benefits of “dark chocolate” will be ruined by the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The package is attractive, the Sixlets mascot is some sort of an insect ... well, maybe he’s an insect, he only has four legs. And he wears glasses ... and wants us to eat one of his segments.
These little packets were unmarked. Just generic clear cellophane tubes with little unbranded spheres inside.
The taste of the “dark chocolate” isn’t really noticeably different from the regular Sixlets. They’re just as disappointing as the regular Sixlets ... except that I paid for this whole bag (I picked the other little guys up at the All Candy Expo).
There are differing stories about why they’re called Sixlets. The current packaging has them in tubes with 8 pieces or 20. Some folks say that they used to come in tubes that had six for a penny. Others say that they came in boxes that had six individual boxes in each package and that’s how they were written up in the wholesale catalogs. It could be that someone just thought it sounded like a good name ... maybe they were into numerology. The number six represents “Reaction/flux. Responsibility” according to Wikipedia. If anyone else has any theories, I’m happy to entertain them.
Like them if you will ... just don’t call them chocolate. They might be good for decorating ... the rest of these are going in the Trick-or-Treat bowl (don’t worry, I’ll give the kids something good and just slip these in while they’re not looking).
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Dove has been adding to their line of Promises, the little chocolate nuggets they sell. It’s nice they have such a diversified line and I do enjoy a little foil wrapped treat. Lately they’ve been stuffing caramel see review) inside those little nuggets of milk or dark chocolate. Now they’ve added a few more versions of those to the line by flavoring the caramel:
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Caramel - this was less caramel and more like a hazelnut creme. It had a nice nutty flavor to it, though I didn’t quite identify it as hazelnut. A little salty hit cut through the sticky sweetness of the milk chocolate.
Most of my little pieces were dented. I don’t know if that was a function of the travel or if they’re particularly delicate. (5 out of 10)
The Mint Caramel Dark Chocolate terrible, terrible pieces of confectionery nonsense. Gobbledygook, I tell ya! Gibberish! There’s nothing wrong with caramel, nothing wrong with dark chocolate, nothing wrong with mint. But put them all together and you get this humongo double take of “what the heck were they thinking?”
The caramel is just weird - it’s like it’s over emulsified, if there is such a thing. It’s gooey, but has no buttery element, no burnt sugary elements ... it’s become its own strange, pudding-like product. That’s it! It’s like peppermint-butterscotch pudding ... with dark chocolate. It’s just all kinds of wrong when I think too hard. (4 out of 10)
The strangeness continued with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel.
Luckily I didn’t have a whole bag of each of those, just a little handful ... and now they’re on their way to Kimberly, who won the drawing! (I should have had her sign some sort of a waiver.) Again, it’s like raspberry flavored butterscotch pudding. I just didn’t like all the flavors together and the salty hit of the caramel with the raspberry was just over the top. (4 out of 10)
The happy news is that the rest of this is all good. The more traditional new offerings to the Dove Promises line are just the regular milk and dark chocolate with some crushed almonds added in.
Almonds are a personal favorite of mine, I practically live on them (really, I eat them just about every day as a snack). What’s always bothered me about Dove chocolate is its foolish consistency ... it feels too perfect, too manufactured and lacking any personality. The crushed almonds in the Dove Dark Chocolate with Almonds fix that.
They add some texture, they add some extra flavor, a little crunch ... they just complete the Dove Dark Chocolate. Any trepidation I had about their chocolate has disappeared with the added element. (8 out of 10)
The Dove Milk Chocolate with Almonds benefits similiarly from the crushed almonds. It makes the milk chocolate, which was always a little sticky sweet to me, more malty and rich. The milky flavors now take on a toasted, darker tone.
They please me. (7 out of 10)
A single Milk Chocolate with Almonds has about 45 calories in it.
I don’t have the nutritional info on the Caramel line or the Dark Chocolate with Almonds, just the Milk Chocolate with Almonds, as that’s the only one I have the complete packaging for. I’m not sure when these are showing up in stores, they’re not on the Dove website yet. Anyone see them in stores yet?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The cookie and caramel covered in chocolate combination is pretty flexible and creating new versions of this doesn’t mess with the essential Twix-ness (just like there are many different cream and chocolate variations for the KitKat).
I’ve been searching for a good coffee flavored candy bar for years, for a country so obsessed with coffee it’s rather surprising that we don’t have one. (Yes, I’m aware of the Coffee Crisp and it just doesn’t do it for me.)
The bar is the standard construction: a chocolate cookie with a stripe of coffee-flavored caramel covered in milk chocolate.
It smells sweet and a bit like caramel and graham crackers but not much like coffee at first.
Once broken in half and the caramel revealed it has a pleasant roasted-coffee aroma. The caramel is a bit salty with an actual authentic-tasting coffee flavor to it (in addition to the natural and artificial flavors they list espresso ground coffee as an ingredient). The chocolate cookie is crumbly and crunchy with it’s own salty contribution. The milk chocolate on the outside is super sweet but pulls it together.
I didn’t like the bar much when I first tried it out on the floor (I split a package with Ginny). But I have to admit that it was day two and I’d really only been eating candy for 36 hours (except for an awesome pile of shrimp at a party the night before).
But with the clarity of a lone bar on my desk without the clutter of a gagillion other flavors in my mouth and a billion other conversations flitting by on the show floor ... I really like this bar. I think it’s the best Twix bar I’ve ever had. Yes, it’s still a little sweet for me, but in combination with some nearly black coffee, it’s growing on me.
You can expect these to start showing up later this year (reported release date is December 2007). In other news, if you were a fan of the Triple Chocolate Twix, it’s actually back in the miniature form. Mars released a few “autumn mixes” this year (that included the Vanilla, Strawberry & Mocha 3 Musketeers). The Twix one has regular Twix, Twix Dark Chocolate and Twix Triple Chocolate. I found them at RiteAid in the Halloween candy aisle.
I hope the Twix Java at least finds its way into a seasonal bag ... and in dark chocolate please!
UPDATE 9/29/2009: Mars has announced that TWIX Java will become part of their permanent line of candies. You can expect them in stores starting in April 2010.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I’m a little late to this Limited Edition Milk Chocolate Razzberry M&Ms story, but mostly because I couldn’t find them anywhere in Los Angeles. I tried all my usual haunts (RiteAid, Walgreen’s, Von’s, CVS, Target & 7-11) and finally found them Wednesday night at the Dollar Tree in Harbor City on my way to San Pedro.
The bag felt a little light, and it is. It’s only 1.5 ounces instead of the usual 1.74 ounces for the Peanut variety or 1.69 ounces for the Milk Chocolate. (Of course the Pirate Pearls ones were similiarly scant.)
The bag is a pleasant hot pink and urges me to “Get Razzed” ... which as far as my understanding of the lingo that the kids use these days, that means, “Get Harassed.” Okely Dokely!
At first when I dumped these out to take their photo I thought I got a bad bag. The color looks completely off. Now if you just handed me a bowl of them, I might say, “Oh, what a lovely muted pink color!” But because of the brightness of the package, this feels like it clashes, which makes me feel like it’s unintended. But looking around at other photos on Flickr of the candies, it seems like they’re supposed to be this way.
The size and shape is also irregular. Some are the same size as typical Milk Chocolate M&Ms and others are as big as the now-discontinued Mega M&Ms. I rather like the regularity of M&Ms when spread out on my desk when eating them, but these just didn’t please me as much with their appearance.
The candies smell, like, well, someone spilled a bottle of raspberry after-bath spritz. I’ve spent a lot of time with fresh raspberries. When I was a kid, for several years when we lived in Ohio we had a raspberry patch in the back yard which was absurdly productive. While they weren’t wild berries, they certainly weren’t like the commercial ones sold in stores today. They were on the small side but bursting with flavor, a combination of sweet, tart and floral. By the time I was a teenager and we moved away, I was so spoiled by the real thing that I couldn’t stand raspberry flavored things or bring myself to spend $5 for a teensy little portion of watery-tasting fresh berries at the grocery store.
The Milk Chocolate is okay, for some reason it tastes sweeter than the regular Milk Chocolate M&Ms (remember, I’ve eaten a lot of those lately), it could be the larger size of most of them that gave a bigger hit of the ordinary chocolate center. The chocolate simply wasn’t creamy and I have to wonder if these were stored properly. Southern California experienced a wicked heat spell around Labor Day weekend and there were sporadic power outages all over which means that these could have bloomed in some way.
M&Ms stressed in their press releases about these that they’re the first fruit flavored M&Ms ever given full distribution. (I guess they were ignoring those super exclusive fruity ones they did last year.) I’m sad that they didn’t do orange, as I think that’d be a good place to start. It’s easy to get an authentic orange flavor with chocolate. But then again these aren’t raspberry M&Ms ... no, they’re razzberry M&Ms, here to mock real raspberries (and us) with their fakeness.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The mint market is well, full of mints. So what’s a company gonna do to distinguish themselves from the crowded field? Ver thinks it’s hit on the right balance of novelty, quality and qualifications. Their line of six different flavors are vegan, Kosher and gluten free, nut free and all-natural (and featuring many organic ingredients).
The blue tin was predictably Peppermint, their original flavor. Unlike a mint like Altoids, these aren’t blindingly strong. Just simply, well, mints. The texture is pleasant. Not chalky, but a little crumbly but sufficiently dense. The intensity of the mint grows (though sometimes one mint may be stronger than another) as it dissolves and leaves a breath-freshening coolness when it’s gone.
WinterMint is what I’m guessing is wintergreen since it features wintergreen oil in the ingredients. I think wintergreen flavor is undervalued in our culture and I blame Pepto Bismol for giving us the association of wintergreen with being sick. (Some additional blame goes to Ben Gay for making us think of locker-rooms and old people.) Upon reading a little more on the subject, wintergreen is not to be taken lightly as it can be toxic in very large doses, which you really can’t achieve with a tin.
This was like one of those big Canada pink mints (wintergreen is also called Canada mint), but not as chalky. Smooth and peppery, I enjoyed these quite a bit. There were also little bits of real peppermint leaves in the pastilles.
With my motion sickness difficulties I tend to eat a lot of Ginger candies. I like to strike a balance between their spiciness, the amount of actual ginger in the candy and of course the overall taste. Too much spice and I can’t maintain my intake (though fanning my mouth often takes my mind off of nausea ... so that’s effective).
These crazy mints have a lot of ginger flavor in them and burn on my tongue right away. It dissipates after a moment and I forget about the inital scalding by the time I eat another one.
They have two kinds of ginger in them: ground ginger root and ginger flavor. I think ginger goes particularly well with Maple Syrup.
It’s definitely cinnamon, completely spicy, kind of woodsy and a little sweet. There are peppermint leaves in this one too, but I think it would have been better to throw a few little bits of cinnamon in there while they were at it. But they didn’t ask me.
For a while I was pronouncing this as Very Mints ... not realizing, first that they were spelled Ver with no I in there after the Ver. It wasn’t until I got the VerMONT connection that I understood the name. I still think Very Mints is a good name, too. I might start calling the state it Very Mont.
The two flavors that set this set apart are the flavor combos. This one, Chai features Fair Trade teas from Honest Tea. Of course this means that this ingredients simply say that it contains “Organic Chai Tea” which is a pretty vague thing, kind of like “cake mix”. I can taste a bit of the black tea background, some cinnamon and strong clove, a little nutmeg. I’d have liked, of course, more cardamom and perhaps vanilla notes. And less clove. Just make a clove mint and leave clove out of the other candies.
It’s pretty good and a nice change of pace from the others. The spicy notes are refreshing and I think gives me pleasant breath.
The last flavor is Cafe Express which features Fair Trade coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The ingredients list both coffee and natural coffee flavor and they certainly smell like sweet, sweet coffee. The flavor is a little less intense, mellow and coffee-ish. On the good side of that, there’s no coffee breath afterwards. On the bad side, they feel more like candy than a breath mint. Not that there’s anything wrong with that since they’re pretty much gone now.
Overall I prefer the texture of these to Altoids, they’re a little smoother and the binder gums in there give them a very slight slippery feel on the tongue as they dissolve. The flavors are more pleasing than the similarly-textured Pastiglie Leone and completely different from the also-vegan friendly St. Claire’s Organic Mints.
Curiosities & other facts associated with these mints:
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