Thursday, February 15, 2007
While I was at the Fancy Food Show last month I saw that Brown & Haley (who make those Almond Rocas) had a large booth. It was devoted to the Rocas, which is natural for the crowd there. But their display case on one side caught my eye because it had a large pile of a Limited Edition Raspberry Mountain. (I hesitate to call them bars, as they fit into my category of “plops” instead.)
I looked around for a sample bin (but did eat a sample of the Candy Cane Roca while on my search), but when I couldn’t find one, I asked and they happily handed over one!
It’s not easy to find Brown Haley’s Mountain line in Los Angeles. In fact, the regular Mountain (see below) was purchased at Dylan’s Candy Bar in NYC (even further from its spawning grounds). But I know that many Northwesters are in love with their indigenous candy, so it’s high time I covered it.
I have to admit that when the Raspberry Mountain came out of the package I had to giggle. It looks rather poop-like. However, it had the much more pleasant smell of raspberries and sugar. My first bite into it was all mockolate. It wasn’t until the second that I reached the raspberry center. It’s very berry, in fact one of the ingredients, after milk powder, is raspberries. There’s a little tang to the filling and it’s a rather smooth fondant type center that has a little gooey flow to it. The peanuts and mockolate weren’t doing much for it, so I confined my bites towards the end to getting as much filling as possible (yes, eating it from the bottom and leaving the peak).
As the Mountain line goes, this bar is a winner. It’s a flavor combo that you don’t often see and is far and away more satisfying than the regular Mountain ... however, the classic Mountain has very little going for it.
Before I finish this up I should say a little bit about the classic bar. Since the Mountain is made with partially hydrogenated fats instead of cocoa butter for the chocolate, it really never achieves a chocolatey texture or taste. It’s greasy and slightly slippery on the tongue as it melts. In the case of the classic bar, the center is simply a plain firm fondant (think of a flavorless York Peppermint Pattie). It is sweet though perhaps a little bland (but I enjoy that texture). The only thing that offsets the whole fakeness of it are the peanuts, which give it all a little crunch and texture.
There are two other versions of this bar, Peanut Butter (which I bought it was completely rancid and unworthy of even photographing) and Cherry (which we all know I’m not going to like). You can buy the Mountains via the Brown & Haley website (and at a really good price). As a regional bar with such a great history, I’d love to see them convert to real chocolate and really show us how good this combination can be.
Note: after this review I created a new category called “mockolate” so you can find all the fake goodies in one place.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Chocolove is the chocolate for lovers ... or the chocolate for chocolate lover, or something like that. Whatever or whomever you’re supposed to love, Chocolove has the tools. Each bar is wrapped like a mash note and a love poem inside the outer paper (this one was an excerpt from Dream Love by Christina Rossetti).
Nothing says deep infatuation than Chocolove’s Strong Dark Belgian 70% dark chocolate.
The bar itself is a wonderful testament to true love: it’s glossy smooth but has bumps. The scent is a heavenly mix of the woodsy and smoky chocolate flavors as well as a hint of rum. There’s no vanilla in this bar, it’s all chocolate and sugar. The melt on the tongue is smooth (the little domed piece fits really well in the roof of the mouth for maximum comfort during meltage).
It’s very buttery and has some nice dark notes to ... a little coffee but mostly just that quintissential chocolate flavor.
It’s an easy last minute gift for someone you care about ... already wrapped. They have a pretty large selection of bars, most are sold at Whole Foods, Cost Plus World Market and Target. Much better than a greeting card. They also have a limited edition Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Chilis that’s sold only at Whole Foods. I tried it at the Fancy Food Expo and though it was very interesting, the cherries weren’t really my friends. (But if you like cherries, it’s a worthy bar to give a try.)
Friday, February 9, 2007
Dove Jewels are a mid-range Dove confection packaged for Valentines. Inside this little red reflective cube were individually mylar wrapped chocolates. There were six varieties (two of them just solid chocolate). The packaging is attractive and the description of the candies is compelling. I’m not a huge fan of Dove chocolate, but these looked like an interesting option compared to the heart-shaped boxes I already reviewed this week.
Raspberry Truffle (magenta wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate. The truffle center was soft, a bit salty. On top of that (or maybe on the bottom) was a bit of raspberry jam. It didn’t have much zazz, so I didn’t catch more much more that indicated this was raspberry than a few authentic seeds.
Caramel Espresso (gold wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in dark chocolate, this had two components, a flowing caramel on the top of the center and a firm truffle-like espresso chocolate on the bottom.
Chocolate Mousse Truffle (purple wrapper) - an oval shaped piece in milk chocolate. It’s the one pictured above bitten in half. It’s sweet and mellow, not terribly chocolatey. The center has a bit of a salty taste to it that keeps the sticky sweet milk chocolate under control. A little hint of coconut flavor in the center.
Cashew Almond Crunch (green wrapper) - a round jewel piece in milk chocolate. It has a rather firm center with lots of bits of cashews & almonds and some sort of crunchy, perhaps hard nougat, stuff. This was the winner in the package (well, it’d score even higher if it was in dark chocolate), however, by the second one I had a sore throat.
While the packaging was elegant for drug store fare from Mars and of course different from the cheesy and dated heart boxes, I still wasn’t blown away by the Dove chocolate itself. I find it a bit too sweet and waxy without much chocolate bang. I did appreciate that the flavor combinations were a bit more adventurous than the usual mint, coffee, blah.
As an after Valentine’s purchase, getting these for $2 or so is probably a great deal (better than an Elmer’s box) as far as quality goes but at pre-Holiday prices, for less than $10 you can get some really good See’s candies (in whatever assortment you think will please your honey) made with Guittard chocolate and fresh, mostly natural ingredients (I think some of their fruity items use artificial colors).
I know some folks are very fond of Dove but it just doesn’t have that zing for me at this price, this was the biggest ticket item I bought for my grand Valentine’s Week (granted, all those other high-end boxed chocolates were gifts) so it did have some high standards to meet.
Friday, February 2, 2007
I picked up some more of the Cacao Reserve line at the 7-11. I figured it would be interesting to give them a try after my chocolate overload at the Fancy Food Show (and fancy should not always be confused with gourmet or even good).
I’ve already tried two of the Cacao Reserve bars, the Hazelnut in Milk Chocolate and 65% Dark Nibby Bar. And they were pretty good. I know that there are some folks who turn up their nose at Hershey’s attempt at upscale chocolate, but I don’t call this upscale ... it’s simply better quality. If I’m stuck making a chocolate choice at 7-11, I’m going to go for the Cacao Reserve Nibby bar over the waxy Ghirardelli every time.
The little tin is quite fun. It’s the same size as an Altoids tin. Yes, there are eight truffles in that wee little box. You know how they fit them in there? They’re wee truffles!
They look all homespun and enrobed/dipped but don’t be fooled, these are molded truffles. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Appearance accounts for a lot in candy and these are nice looking little chocolates.
Each is an easy single bite or two very small bites. The chocolate coating is a bit sweet and has a light acidic tang to it. It’s not terribly complex in the flavor area, just smooth and a bit on the smoky side with a mild dry finish. The truffle filling is rather bland, not as creamy as I would like but has a light salt hit in it that sets it apart from the shell.
The tin is a nice idea, an easy way to carry the little truffles without smashing them in some sort of wonky plastic tray. The price was a little steep, however. At $2.99 for the little tin that holds 1.8 ounces, that means a full pound purchased this way is $26.58. (Compare that with See’s selling a little 4 ounce Valentine’s heart for $5.25 a box which would mean the chocolate is going for $21 a pound.) Of course I wouldn’t go into 7-11 and buy things for the price, I’m sure these are available for quite a bit less at drug stores or mega-marts.
Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with this effort into high end chocolates. The centers were not smooth and creamy enough for my tastes when it comes to a truffle indulgence. However, this has not put me off from my curiosity about the other bars in the Cacao Reserve line.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
100 Grand was one of my favorite bars when I was a kid. Back then they were called $100,000 Bars and there was some sort of jingle that went with it that I’ve forgotten (and I know a lot of jingles). The bars when first introduced were one piece, a long log of caramel, crispies and chocolate. Later when the name changed they made it into two pieces, which I fully supported in theory, but didn’t try at the time because of the Nestle boycott (which I followed from 1983 until 1989 or so).
The 100 Grand was a bar I missed (and I have to admit that I had a few fun sized ones during that boycott period because they were around in office candy dishes or brought home as Halloween booty by someone). There’s nothing else like it on the market.
Of course it hasn’t been immune to the Limited Edition craze and has undergone at least two versions, the Dark (yummy) and the Peanut (shrug). What’s especially confusing is that this 100 Grand with Coconut is not a limited edition version of the bar. It appears to be an actual addition to the line. CandyAddict’s commenters spotted them a full year ago, yet there’s no mention of them on Nestle’s website (well, there’s very little mention of the 100 Grand bar on Nestle’s site, period).
I saw this on SugarSavvy.net a few weeks ago. Joanna got a hold of two new items from Nestle, the 100 Grand with Coconut and the Crunch Bar with Coconut. I have to say that I was skeptical about this version, but I had to pick it up when I saw it.
The bar looks the same as always. The difference is inside. Instead of putting the coconut shreds in the milk chocolate coating with the crisped rice, they put it into the caramel center. What this does, however, is ruin the texture of the chewy, stringy caramel. It’s now more solid and a bit grainier. (See the 100 Grand Dark photo for a better view of what the caramel is supposed to look like.) Joanna pegs it when she calls it a version of Brach’s Neapolitan.
The final curiosity of this bar is that it’s bilingual. It’s in both English and Spanish. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be marketed in Hispanic neighborhoods or if it’s for export and they’ve decided to carry it in the States as well.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I tried the Honey Roasted Peanut Roca for the first time at the All Candy Expo in Chicago last summer. It took quite a while before I saw it in the “wild” and I was really surprised that my first sighting was at the 99 Cent Only stores.
I don’t have a photo of the innards, but I can tell you that it looks just like any other Roca. The foil wrapper on this one is coppery-orange but the little turd-looking candy is just like you’d expect.
The aroma was definitely peanutty with a strong initial crunch in the toffee. The toffee softens quite quickly to a firm chew and then becomes very buttery and a tad grainy as the sugar gives up its structure. I didn’t get much of the Honey Roasted Peanut vibe but the toffee was certainly competent (and I’ve eaten a lot of toffee this week.)
The faux chocolate coating on the candy was less than satisfying though. Rather greasy and soft, it was held in place by the peanut bits stuck to it. I appreciate that they’re experimenting, but this particular one was distracting for me. It didn’t add any “chocolate” flavor to the mix.
On a side note I did try the Candy Cane Roca while at the Fancy Food Show. The combination of toffee and minted chocolate was kind of odd, but overall nice. I don’t think I’d buy it, but I’d pop a few in my mouth if they were sitting in a candy dish.
I found the packaging for Honey Roasted Peanut Roca a little odd on this one as well. Perhaps it was that it was sold at the 99 Cent Store, but the incongruous 3 PIECES on the lower left kind of cheapened the whole thing. It also didn’t look like it belonged because of the font and it didn’t have the gold shadow the rest of it had. I know, I’m being super picky here. But I actually looked at the label rather critically when I first picked it up because I thought it was some sort of knock-off.
I think I’m going to stick with Almond Roca.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I’ve seen these bars around, usually in big cities, usually in Kosher delis or Jewish neighborhoods. I’ve had Joyva’s products before, but always the halvah. The Joyva Joys is a long, flat and rather solid jelly bar covered in a thin shell of dark chocolate.
The jelly has a very strong floral scent and is raspberry flavored. It’s mostly sweet with a light tart bite to it. The jelly itself is medium pink, which I thought a little odd because the only way you’d know that is if you nibbled off the chocolate. For some reason I figured they colored it, but maybe not.
The chocolate is not terribly interesting, but I rather liked how it took a back seat to the jelly.
I enjoyed the bar for the most part. It wasn’t terribly sweet and it was different. The jelly was firmer and less sticky than something like a Chuckle or a Sunkist Fruit Gem - more like Jell-O. But Raspberry isn’t really my favorite flavor combo with chocolate. I think I’d enjoy an orange bar better, but I have no clue if Joyva makes an orange jelly. I get the sense that jelly candies like this are for old people or maybe I just think that because I’ve never seen anyone eating them. They’re probably a good candy to eat if you’re on a diet and want something chocolate, but not all that fat. They’ve got a pretty low caloric density for a candy with chocolate in it.
Note: Joyva Joys are thickened with agar-agar (made from seaweed), so they’re appropriate not only for those who keep Kosher, but also vegans (who don’t mind a little sugar), however, they are not Kosher for Passover as they contain corn syrup.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Another Limited Edition item from Reese’s and again playing around with similar ingredients. This time they’ve taken the Big Cup with Nuts (which was also a limited edition item - review here) and added some caramel to the bottom of the cup.
I don’t have a cross section of the actual cup because I kind of trashed it taking it out of the package and though it was certainly edible, it was not photogenic. So have a look at the Big Cup with Peanuts (click to get a pop up photo) and imagine a smidge of caramel at the bottom there.
The cup itself is nice and meaty, with lots of room to explore the nuts and peanut butter and a good balance of chocolate. The center is a bit salty which is good because the milk chocolate is a bit sweet and kind of greasy (I know that’s the hazard with chocolate and peanut butter). The caramel blends in well, it has its own salty kick but it doesn’t detract from the crunchy nuts or add too much sweetness. I’d prefer a chewier caramel like you find in a Snickers, but that’s not Hershey’s way.
I actually liked this one a bit better than the Reese’s with Caramel, the caramel was distinctive and the roominess of the peanut butter/peanut stack let it all breathe.
Just to give you a sense, here are the previous Reese’s reviews: Reese’s Bites (soon to be discontinued), Reese’s Cookies, FastBreak, Reese’s Sticks, Nutrageous, Reese’s Snack Barz, Reese’s Pieces Peanut, Reese’s Easter Eggs (two versions), Reese’s Bars for those who don’t like their candy in cups or shaped like trees, and of course the less-than-comprehensive Reese’s Full Line, another Big Cup (with mixed nuts) and their new favorite child, the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.