Tuesday, March 2, 2010
At a CVS in Hollywood last week I spotted an exceptionally odd Marshmallow Pop among the Easter candy. It was blue and kind of the flounder version of some sort of plush animal - the face was all on one side of the profile. I thought it was a manufacturing mistake - I took a photo of it and made fun of it on Twitter.
Then I was in another CVS, some 50 miles away over the weekend and found another display (pictured here), this time with a half a dozen of these same strange light blue marshmallow creatures. So of course I had to buy one. It was only a dollar.
It’s a large marshmallow pop. On top of a plastic stick is perched 2.46 ounces of powder blue, sugar sanded marshmallow with hand-decorated frosting features. The packaging is simple, a clear cellophane bag - the back has some imprinted nutrition facts and CVS house brand satisfaction guarantee. You can guess where this review is going.
He’s about 5 inches high, 4 inches wide and about 1 inch thick.
But what is he? My first impulse is that he’s a plush version of the Quiznos creatures called Spongmonkies (here’s a video, but turn down your speakers before clicking). But this guy’s teeth are too good, oh, and he’s not furry. My second thought is that it’s a dinosaur, especially because the dentition indicates a carnivorous creature - some sort of Tyrannosaurus rex perhaps. The anatomy isn’t quite right. Look at how big his front legs are - well, there’s also that part where he’s crossed one arm across his chest and the other one is dangling like the elbow is dislocated. (Maybe he’s fallen off his bike and is holding his boo-boo, crying and running home to his mama.)
Then there’s the legs ... is there a leg missing? Is that a tail or a foot that’s also dislocated and facing backwards.
Is this actually some sort of roadkill? Pre-flattened with broken and missing limbs?
Anyway, let’s move on to the actual performance of the product as an edible.
It smells like some sort of raspberry - like an array of body washes and scented creams from Bath and Body Works. It also reminds me of a medicated pet shampoo I used to use (on my dog).
The sugary grain on the outside is substantial, far greater than I would have expected (and messier). It’s not like the fine stuff on Peeps, this is sparkly and gritty sugar.
The flavor of the marshmallow is well rounded, much more like those strawberry gummi puffs than a marshmallow. The texture is latexy, chewy and bouncy. The raspberry is both floral and tangy, sweet but not cloying. The blue goes all the way through and there’s a hint of an aftertaste to go with it. About a half hour later I was wondering if I’d been eating air freshener and forgot. The frosting bits were hard, crunchy and disconcerting - I wasn’t sure if it was unglazed porcelain sometimes.
A few bites in and I thought I’d eaten a little bit of the packaging. Little soft plastic bits (but it was wrapped in cellophane and this was nothing like that). The chunks, as far as I could tell, were unmixed gelatin globs. Flavorless and a little gummy, but probably perfectly edible. But not acceptable.
The nutrition label says one serving is the entire pop. While that’s only 240 calories, there’s no way I could eat more than the three bites shown. I stopped because my curiosity was satisfied, not my craving for a sweet.
It’s not horrible, but it’s really, really bad. While I enjoy novelties that might not be very palatable, they’re usually fun to look at. This is just frightening. The marshmallows are made in China, and since this is a house brand at CVS, there’s really no way of knowing where or how it was manufactured. I tried a similar product a few years ago from Walgreen’s house brand, a Valentine’s Pink Marshmallow Pig.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:48 pm
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Whitman’s is now owned by Russell Stover’s, so it isn’t surprising that they might move into the single serving items and it makes more sense that if they did, it wouldn’t be with an item identical to a Russell Stover product. The new line seems to be all “Easter Pastelle” covered marshmallows.
The eggs were priced as I expected, regular price was 59 cents but on sale at two for a dollar at Walgreen’s where I found them (also spotted at RiteAid).
I found them in three colors: Green, Yellow and Magenta.
I also found that they were not flavored, which might have been fun. A raspberry flavored Easter Pastelle coating with a plain marshmallow would be an innovative piece of candy. A white confection on a marshmallow is, well, ordinary.
Each egg is one ounce. They’re approximately 2.5” long and 1” high. The Easter Pastelle is thin and not quite crisp. It smells like, well, an Easter basket. A fake vanilla and sugar scent.
The Pastelle coating is made of sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and milk products plus some food coloring.
The marshmallow is very soft and foamy, moist and sticky, not chewy and latexy like some. It’s all very, very sweet. In the case of the pink one shown above, I got a bitter metallic aftertaste from the pink Pastelle. The green was tastier in that it had fewer aftertastes to mess with the tastes.
The large orange carrot shaped marshmallow is covered in two different colors of Easter Pastelle, the orange body and a green carrot top. The whole thing weighs 1.75 ounces.It’s a little over 4” long, so it’s a hefty piece of fluffed sugar. This package has a little waxed card in it, I’m guessing this candy needed a little more support than the eggs. (It also helped to show off the product well in the package.
The flavor profile is similar to the Egg, except that the carrot is a little flatter, so there’s not quite as much marshmallow to Pastelle.
The marshmallow didn’t seem quite as moist either. But still, this is some intense sugar. I couldn’t eat more than two bites before I had to slip it back into its package.
These aren’t stellar, but they are different enough from what you can get in the drug store aisle from Russell Stover, RM Palmer, Hershey’s or Dove, so they have that going for them. Folks who like really high glycemic load (28 g total weight: 21g of carbs, 3g of fat) fluffed confectionery will probably go crazy for these. The carrot would make an amazing decoration on top of a carrot cake or a plate of Easter desserts.
I still think a bit of flavor thrown in would be interesting. Orange-flavored, Mint-flavored, Lemon-flavored coatings would really set this apart from the ordinary.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow is pretty much the biggest thing to happen to Peeps. Oh sure, they’ve dabbled with cocoa flavored Peeps or maybe put them inside a chocolate shell, but an actual chocolate dipped Peep made by Just Born is pretty revolutionary.
First thing, they’re singles and they’re individually wrapped. Other Peeps are sold in trays with more than one serving. So each one will be fresh and ready to eat. (This may or may not be a good thing, I’m not sure if Just Born is going to make Chocolate Covered Stale Peeps.)
I’m going to start with the dark chocolate covered version because that’s what I was attracted to first, but I also have the milk chocolate version. They’re nicely priced, I think the regular retail is about 80 cents, but I picked these up at RiteAid at two for a dollar.
The big thing about Peeps in their chick format (not the bunny format) is that they sit upright. A standard array comes in a conjoined row of five weighing 1.5 ounces. In this case a single Peep is covered in chocolate and sits on its side. They’re huge but well detailed for a chocolate enrobed item. (Think about how hard it is to get details on the blanket covering something that’s extruded in the first place.)
Each piece is one ounce and biting into it answers several questions I had:
First, it’s a yellow Peep in there. Unlike a standard Peep which is only colored on the outside sugar crust, this Peep has coloring all the way through the marshmallow. (Not really something I’m fond of, in fact, I prefer the Ghost Peeps for Halloween which have no artificial colorings.)
Second, there is no sugar crust. It’s just a skinless Peep covered in chocolate.
The dark chocolate coating isn’t a terribly complex chocolate or even that dark (there’s no percentage on the package). It has milk fat in it (but it’s not like we had any hopes that a chocolate covered marshmallow was going to be vegan, did we?). The shell is rather thin, perhaps a little thicker than I’m accustomed to with the Russell Stover versions.
The marshmallow texture is airy and far lighter and less latexy than I experience with Peeps. I can put my tongue through it in my mouth, kind of like a smooth sugary foam instead of a marshmallow.
It’s sweet of course but not grainy. The dark chocolate has a bittersweet and dry quality to it that helps round out the fake vanilla flavoring.
The Peeps Milk Chocolate Covered Marshmallow comes in a bright yellow wrapper (kind of violating the unspoken industry standard that blue is milk chocolate). It was extremely easy to spot when I first walked into RiteAid, so they can definitely say that the package fits the brand.
The interesting thing that I noticed about the ingredients is that it doesn’t seem that these are just your regular individual Peeps run through an enrober. These appear to be a different formula. The marshmallow portion goes like this: Sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey (milk), gelatin, cocoa processed with alkali, and less than .5% of the following: invertase, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, yellow #5 and potassium sorbate.
Regular sugar-crusted Peeps contain: Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following: potassium sorbate, artificial flavors, yellow #5, carnauba wax. (The wax, I believe, is the eyes.)
The sweetness and moistness of the marshmallow is even more noticeable over the dark chocolate version. The milk chocolate shell has some good dairy notes, but it isn’t quite as creamy as I would have liked. The good thing is that it held together well, I didn’t have big flakes coming off as I bit into the fluffy marshmallow.
The texture differences were rather minor here, not at all like the ordinary sugar crust but not enough of a contrast to provide added interest.
Mostly I found the milk chocolate version too sweet though the fake vanilla was actually kind of fun - like a White Toostie Roll is fun for a while and then I realize that there is food out there with real flavor.
I don’t quite understand why they had to make them yellow inside, I think a lot of parents might have preferred them to leave out the Yellow #5.
I know that many bakeries, candy stores and fudge shops have been dipping Peeps and offering them to their customers for many years, so this version may be a bit of an adjustment and some may prefer the inner sugar crusting.
The package says that they may contain peanuts, tree nuts, egg and coconut - in addition to the ingredients soy and gelatin. They are gluten free.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Russell Stover has a large assortment of holiday treats in Santa-themed packaging. What’s nice about them is that they’re always fresh and moderately priced (often on dramatic sale for three for a dollar but usually about 50 cents a piece). I picked up every variety I could find this year:
What I noticed first was that the packaging is inconsistent in its design. Sure they’re all a mylar wrapper, but beyond that the Santas are different drawing styles with the Maple Cream, Strawberry Cream & Coconut Cream sporting the same Santa holding a gift aloft as he sits in a chimney. But The Peanut Butter Santa is more streamlined, the Marshmallow Santa has some freaky bright red cheeks and insanely short arms and finally the Marshmallow & Caramel Santa is in the style of the European Saint Nicolas complete with staff.
What I also found out is that the definition of “Santa Shaped” is pretty loose in Russell Stover’s world. It’s not quite as egg shaped, and maybe the tapering ends can be a feet/boots and a head. But really, it’d be best to just call these Christmas Lumps or Snow Clods.
The Peanut Butter Santa is pure simplicity: a peanut butter bar covered in milk chocolate. The shape of it is kind of figure-like. It’s the smallest of the pack as well, clocking in at only .75 ounces. It smells nutty and sugary and a little bit like peanut butter cookies. The milk chocolate is quite slick and melts easily, it has a light cocoa flavor to it. Most of all the salty peanut butter center is grassy-tasting. It’s a strange green flavor more like edamame than roasted peanuts.
It was tasty enough for me to finish it easily, but being small didn’t hurt either. The center is moister and a bit oilier than the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree (or Egg or Cup). This wasn’t a bad feature, just different.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I thought perhaps I’d tried these before and looked up to find that I reviewed the Maple Cream Egg way back in 2006. But the Russell Stover Maple Cream Santa is actually different. While the Easter version is coated in dark chocolate, the Christmas version is Milk Chocolate.
The amorphous lump didn’t remind me of Santa’s silhouette in the slightest but the maple cream flavor is a bit more Christmassy than Easterish so kudos for that, Russell Stover.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the dark chocolate version so I’ll spare us all comparisons. What I can say is that this is ludicrously sweet. The milk chocolate is sugary and not terribly creamy and the center while moist and fluffy is also throat searingly cloying and sticky. The maple flavor was simply a flavor, not something that felt natural or integrated into the candy itself.
Rating: 5 out of 10
While the Strawberry Cream Santa is also milk chocolate like the Cream Egg, this one lacks the pretty little swirls and curls on the top. It does smell a little like berries, but mostly it smells like milky chocolate. It’s quite sweet and has only a faint hint of strawberry and is rather similar to a Nestle Strawberry Qwik shake. I know it was really sweet, but I like the texture of the cream center that Russell Stover uses for both this one and the Maple Cream. It’s rather like a marshmallow cream, quite smooth and fluffy and moist without being runny.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The Coconut Cream Santa is also unlike the Cream Egg in that it’s milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. In this case as well, I think the sugar-laden milk chocolate is simply over the top. I like the coconut flake texture of the cream filling and the nice size of the piece, but the sugary quality of the chocolate with its grainy and fudgy melt is just too much. It’s amazing what a difference dark chocolate can make, but it does.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Things were looking up when I found the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa. I didn’t really expect this to be terribly different from the Easter Rabbit version, except that one was huge at two ounces and only in milk chocolate where I shopped.
This one was by far the most attractive of my Santa set, a nicely detailed figure of Santa Claus scratching his head. Unfortunately I smashed him somewhere along the way and his face was a little worse for it (or maybe he wasn’t scratching his head, maybe he was holding his hand over his nose and cursing me).
The marshmallow is latexy and has a chewy pull. Not too sweet and with a faint whiff of vanilla flavoring.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Of course this one looks like it could be a Mummy or Generic Figure for Unisex Bathroom Door.
It’s smaller in dimensions from the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa, yet it’s actually heavier, it’s the same 1.25 ounces as the Cream Santas. I’ve had the Caramel and Marshmallow Pumpkin before and found it interesting.
This one seems to be more evenly balanced between the caramel and the marshmallow. It’s dense for a marshmallow product, the marshmallow is fluffy and has a light hint of vanilla to it with a smooth and velvety melt. The caramel isn’t runny nor quite chewy but has a good stringy pull to it.
It’s lacking a punch like the See’s Scotchmallow, but for 50 cents and in the shape of a clothes pin, well, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful for a decent piece of candy especially since this one seems to have the proportions just right. I wish the caramel was a little more chewy, a little more salty, but still a fun piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Russell Stover Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pumpkin is what it says. A marshmallow in the shape of a pumpkin covered in a thin shell of semi-sweet chocolate.
The wrapper follows the same design, a stylized colored pumpkin drawing ... this one features a darker background from the milk chocolate version. It’s also smaller than they used to be. My 2006 review showed them at 1.25 ounces, but as sugar & chocolate prices go up, either the candy increases in price or gets smaller.
It’s a big, rather flat and vaguely pumpkin shaped piece. About 2.5 inches across at the widest. Even though they’re just wrapped in a little mylar sleeve, they seem to take traveling pretty well. This one only has a crack from me trying to get it to sit upright for the first picture, not anything that happened in transit or at the store.
Breaking it in half is not advised. This is a candy that’s best bitten & eaten in one sitting. The marshmallow is soft, moist and bouncy. It has a good pull, it almost looks like caramel or latex when I tried to pull it apart. The flavor is only the lightest vanilla, it’s mostly about the fluffy texture and sweet melt. The dark chocolate is decent. The sticky marshmallow keeps it from flaking off, even when it cracks. It also keeps the whole thing from tasting too cloyingly sweet.
I definitely prefer them over the standard milk variety and hope they do the Marshmallow Rabbits in a dark version next year.
For those watching their calories, this is a nice, spare treat. It’s only 110 calories but feels rather filling. (Of course as a marshmallow product it contains gelatin. They’re not Kosher and are made on shared machinery with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and wheat.)
Other traditional Russell Stover Easter treats are now restyled for Halloween. So if you can’t wait until spring you can get Solid Milk Chocolate Pumpkins, Sugar Free Marshmallow Pumpkins, Caramel Pumpkins, Milk Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Cream Pumpkins, Strawberry Cream Pumpkins, Orange Marshmallow Pumpkins, Coconut Buzzard Nest, Strawberry Cream Buzzard Egg, Vanilla & Chocolate Creme Buzzard Egg, Marshmallow & Caramel Creme Buzzard Egg, Peanut Butter Ghosts, Marshmallow Ghosts and Coconut Ghosts.
Friday, September 18, 2009
And they’re also licorice. Actually, the completely unattractive sticker on the front of the bag informs me in English (the rest of the package is in German) that it’s Licorice Foam Candy.
They’re shaped like panda faces and I have to say that they’re fraktacularlary cute. So cute I just wanted to eat them up. And the name? Tappsy! How could you not like something called Tappsy? (It reminded me of Stampy.)
What was also fun was the fact that they’re a European candy, so they don’t use any artificial colorings and seem to have all natural flavorings. (I don’t know if ammonium chloride is consider natural or not ... I mean, it’s a mineral.)
The light & flexible disk are shaped like cartoon panda faces. They’re about 1.5 inches across at the ears. They come in two varieties - licorice faced and foam faced. (Panda’s don’t actually look like that, they have white faces with black eyes and ears.) The white faced ones had little noses made of a berry flavored jelly. (Real pandas also have berry flavored noses, but couldn’t find any verification of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and of course make mention of it in conversation until someone starts sending around emails and Snopes investigates.)
The little faces have a kind of cock-eyed smile that reminded me of Wybie from Coraline.
The licorice parts are quite mellow - a light anise flavor and not overtly sweet and a good caramel & molasses undertone. The texture is more like a chewy licorice than the foamy stuff - not the wheat based chew of the US/Australia and not quite a jelly or gummi. The foam white part is rather like a marshmallow - but smashed, just a bit more dense and not at all sticky.
I loved the licorice parts and ate the licorice-faced ones first (sadly they didn’t make up half the bag). Licorice-eared ones were just a little bland, so towards the end, I just ate their ears and tossed the face ... it’s the candy equivalent of shark finning.
I would definitely buy them again, though I would like to find them in bulk bins so I can pull out a better proportion of licorice. (They also come in a fruity version.) I looked on the Katje’s website and think there may be some other products that are more balanced to my liking like the Domino Delicious (which appears to be the first same-sex-marriage-marketed candy I’ve seen - well, besides the Rainbow Mentos).
Finally, here’s a commercial for Tappsy starring Heidi Klum:
I don’t know what’s going on in that commercial except that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of my Saturday mornings in my breezy white-clad bed, rolling around with my candy.
Finally, just a note about the calories: each piece has only 28 calories. And a whole ounce clocks in at 97 calories. So this is definitely a candy you can use a a little low-calorie treat that looks like a high calorie one.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
A couple of years ago I got a preview of a new line of candy bars from Annabelle’s, makers of Rocky Road. The new Rocky Road Supreme bars didn’t even have wrappers yet when I tried them at the All Candy Expo in September of 2007. They were finally released last year, but it took me another full year to find them on store shelves.
I finally found them at a new shop in Burbank called Rocket Fizz. Though it’s supposed to be a soda pop store - with hundreds and hundreds of varieties of sodas sold in single bottles, it was also a candy shop with hundreds and hundreds of items to choose from. Amongst the mostly classic offerings I found the Rocky Road Supreme Peanut Butter Bar. Though it was a whopping $1.99, it’s also nearly 3 ounces ... so consider it a king sized bar.
The package describes it as Handmade Marshmallow and Peanut Butter with Crunchy Peanuts, Double Dipped in Velvety Milk Chocolate. I stopped eating several days ago in order to accommodate this extra 460 calorie pop.
The bar was a little worse for wear, though I tried to choose carefully from the bars on the shelf. I often have this problem often with Rocky Road bars ... they might benefit from at least a waxed paperboard tray.
The layers are nearly equal strips of marshmallow and peanut butter. Luckily the peanut butter is on the bottom, as it’s the densest. Considering how much peanut butter there is in this bar, plus the peanuts on the top, it doesn’t smell very peanutty. Just vanilla-sweet, a little milky and a little like roasted nuts.
The bar has a nice bite to it. The chocolate is soft and not at all flaky and the marshmallow is firm enough that it springs back easily but is dense enough not to give into the weight of the chocolate shell.
The flavors at first do well. The peanut butter layer has a salty pop and a mellow nutty flavor. The vanilla marshmallow isn’t too sweet and gives a bouncy chew to the whole thing. The chocolate coating is a little lackluster in the flavor department, but also not too sweet. The peanuts give a little crunch. The whole thing is a bit slick & fatty though, it never quite melts.
As I went on, I tried eating the separate elements. The chocolate is satiny smooth, but lacks a real cocoa punch. It’s all about the texture, I guess. The peanuts on top were kind of chewy instead of crunchy. The marshmallow is actually great, mostly because it’s foamy and has a smooth texture without being too sweet. The peanut butter layer though is weird. It’s very firm and has a greasy Crisco texture to it. A look at the list of ingredients reveals why #4 on the list is partially hydrogenated soybean & cottonseed oils ... that comes before #5 which is peanut butter.
Now I’m as much a fan of fat as the next person, but fat has to add texture ... it needs to give a pleasing mouthfeel as well as deliver flavors. This peanutty layer simply doesn’t. It’s like the grease is a cloaking device.
I really wanted to like this, I wanted it to be a powerful combination of textures & flavors. Instead it just left me feeling heavy & unsatisfied. (And I didn’t finish it, so now I get to have lunch!)
Here’s Sera’s review from Candy Addict.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Though I wouldn’t call Los Angeles a candy city, we certainly have our share of sweet spots. I’m more likely to go to San Francisco for candy adventures than the west side, but after promising for several years I finally made it to Compartes Chocolatier to pick up some items for Candy Blog.
This wasn’t actually my first visit to the Brentwood shop, but certainly the first one in this century (I was a D-Girl in the 90s and my office was not far from there). I had to see the place since the new generation, Jonathan Grahm expanded the classic line of stuffed fruits & novelty molded chocolates with truffles & ganaches with inventive flavor combinations.
The shop is compact but has a lovely display area on the wall of the chocolates and the main counter that appears to be divided in to two areas: classic offerings and modern. (My distinctions, not theirs.) They serve gelato so there are a few tables inside and out front. (For those who follow Compartes on Twitter, I did spot Jonathan at his laptop tucked in the corner at one of the tables.)
The classic products are sold by the pound (as fruits & nuts tend to come in various sizes) while the truffles & bonbons are sold by the piece. The classics were $35 a pound and the bonbons were $2 each. I left the shop with $50 worth of chocolate in one rather large & heavy box.
The fig is glossy is and sticky. It looks like a light fig (green) like a Kalamata. I prefer black figs (Mission) mostly because they have darker flavors ... it’s like the difference between golden raisins & regular raisins. It’s very sweet at first, the figgy flavors are tangy, a little grassy from the seeds with some raspberry & floral-like green tea flavors. The dark chocolate offsets this well, especially by bringing in the creamy melt.
It’s definitely show-stopping beautiful. Best eaten fresh & quickly.
These tiny little fingers were wonderfully shiny on the peel edge. It was all peel, too, cooked in sugar syrup to a light and translucent tenderness - no trace of acrid & foamy white pith. The dark chocolate looked silken brown. Each piece was a combination of bitterness from the orange oils and dark chocolate, vibrant zest and sweet citrus & cocoa flavors. The texture was chewy & a buttery creaminess. Perfection.
Hazelnut & Orange in Dark Chocolate (not pictured)
These were simple little dark chocolate cups that could have easily been coconut haystacks. I was hoping that the combo of the chocolate & nuts with those awesome orange pieces would work ... sadly the whole thing tasted a bit “cheesy” and I couldn’t figure out why ... something about the hazelnuts lacking their nuttiness. I’ll pass on these in the future.
The ginger coins are tender and soft, a bit juicy. With citrus notes and a warm woodsy burn, the sweet candied ginger goes well with the bittersweet chocolate that has a slightly dry finish. There’s no trace of sugary grain here, it’s more of a smooth jelly texture. Beautiful to look and and expertly made.
I would buy a pound of these. Ginger is a root vegetable, right?
Mexican Hot - (skull & crossbones)
A strong mix of cayenne & black pepper notes in dark chocolate. The ganache is smooth while the dark chocolate flavors are woodsy with a slight tannin to go with the earthy pepper flavors.
Original - (blue stripes)
I try to buy these wherever I go. It’s always good to try the base for everything else. The chocolate enrobing was perfect, the little design on top was cute and easy to remember. The dark chocolate flavors were mild, the ganache was very buttery with a good smooth and quick melt.
Vanilla & Black Pepper - (stripes with dots)
I should have taken a photo of this, I didn’t realize it would be a white cream center until I bit into it far from the camera. The immediate hit was of vanilla and butter, in a cupcake sort of vibe. Then the peppercorns kicked in, giving the vanilla more of a rum & woodsy moderation. Rather sweet, but with a lingering brightness from the pepper & vanilla pods.
Jasmine Tea (pink flowers & blue lines)
The dark chocolate takes a back seat to the strong & musky floral notes of the jasmine. The tea adds a little pop of acidity to it that gives a fresh lingering feeling to this. The ganache is silky smooth and not too sweet.
Blackberry & Sage (blue & purple square mosaic)
The blackberry is a dark and jammy flavor with a light tangy touch, the sage brings it back around with an herbal splash - a bit on the strong side, so much so that I’m not sure I’d know that it was blackberry without a key. Still, a sage truffle is great.
This little ganache center was topped with some lightly candied (glazed) fennel seeds (instead of the brightly colored candy shells that most of us are familiar with). Fennel on its own has a light sweetness and anise flavor. These brought out the dark licorice and molasses notes of the chocolate. Smooth and satiny with a curious fibery crunch from the seeds.
Lavender Marshmallow in Dark Chocolate
Yes, it’s a bit jarring to see that bright lavender center. The marshmallow was moist, fluffy but dense. Sweet but not sticky, it had a good bite. The flavor was woodsy & floral - but a bit odd combined with the chocolate. The whole thing reminded me of bug spray ... though not in a bad way, just that the floral notes weren’t quite as balsam-ish as I’d hoped.
Coffee & Cacao Nib and Coffee
The ganache in this pair is flavored with real coffee, so there’s a slight grain to the otherwise silky center. The flavor was good, rich & bold. I liked the crunchy nibs but I’m not that fond of eating coffee beans when it messes up the texture of well-tempered chocolate.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
I’ve made it pretty well known that I favor “wet” caramels, that’s the chewy stuff that has a good stringy pull and long, smooth chew. These were the “short” caramel style and have a strong butter flavor. I wasn’t fond of the texture, which was a cross between fudge & caramel and the lack of toasted sugar notes.
Shichimi - (the spice dusted one) this is made of seven spices: red chili pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, seaweed, and ginger. The spices here angle towards the toasted sesame and chili peppers. I didn’t get much citrus out of it. The whole thing kind of left my lips burning, but the chocolate & fatty ganache balanced it well. The only issue here was that the spices kind of got out of their cup and I caught a few of these flavors in the other chocolates I ate.
Smoked Salt - (square with black crystals on top) delicate and light chocolate ganache with an earthy & metallic aftertaste to the salt. I’m beginning to think that I don’t care for smoked salts. Often they remind me of a campground in the morning, that lingering scent of a fire gone out mixed with damp sleeping bags from the morning dew & coffee made in an aluminum pot.
Cashew Fruit - (gold sphere) - this wasn’t a ganache but a bit of gooey cream center, kind of like a runny creme brulee. The flavor was a bit like green bananas. Smooth, a touch of grassy brightness and sweet milk.
I loved the classic items. I’d go back and buy the orange peels (some of the best I’ve ever had), figs (though I’d like to have some candied figs too) and ginger medallions in a heartbeat. I thought the price was really competitive and fair ($30 when sold in full pound boxes) for a line that is so labor intensive and requires top quality ingredients.
The truffles & bonbons were good and I enjoyed some of the flavor combos and of course the plain one. The price was a bit higher than I’m willing to do for such small items unless they’re particularly unique. The great option though is that it’s a fun shop to visit, they’re very knowledgeable about their products (they’re made right there, after all). They also have a line of African-themed bonbons called Chocolate for a Cause that are made with African-sourced flavors (mango, coconut, cardamom, plantain, grains of paradise, red rooibus tea). They’re a fundraiser for Relief International and their projects in Darfur and include a bead bracelet. After getting emails about these for year and pretty much going there to pick up a box ... they were sold out.
If I’m in the area, I will definitely visit again. The bonbons change constantly as new produce comes into season & Jonathan experiments with new combinations so I give them a 7 out of 10. I’ll probably continue to taste the bonbons but will go home with the fruits/ginger so they get a 9 out of 10.
Compartes Brentwood Boutique Chocolate Lounge
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.