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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Limited Edition Ritter Sport Winter Kreation + Factory Store

P1060141You may notice a lot more about German candies on the blog in the coming weeks. I went there for a week of candy factory tours earlier this month and have lots of fascinating adventures to share. (I’ll try to focus on candies you can either get in the United States or are worth seeking out.)

Ritter-Sport is a large German chocolate brand with a unique selling proposition, its chocolate bars are square. Their standard 100 gram (3.5 ounce) bar comes in 23 varieties with another 3-9 promotional and seasonal variations throughout the year. In the United States there are about six core varieties on shelves, but some stores like Target will sell about eight. Even in Germany, I still only found about 14-16 of the versions at the stores (which included the Bio and Winter Kreation varieties). The best place in Germany to find everything Ritter Sport sells, naturally, is at their factory store.

The Ritter family started making chocolate in 1912, but didn’t introduce the Ritter Sport square bars until 1930. They’re becoming better known around the world as 35% of their total sales (over 20,000 tons of the 60,000 they produce) are now for export. (Russia is their number one customer, then Italy, then the United States.) The quality for a consumer bar (sold for less than one Euro) is excellent and the company prides itself on its innovation, ethical sourcing of their raw materials and quality of their products.

Ritter Sport Minis - Winter Kreations

For the past two seasons in the United States I’ve actually been able to find the Ritter Sport Winter Kreations in stores. (Mel and Rose Wine and Liquors and a really good 76 gas station in Glendale on Glendale Blvd & Glen Oaks.) Last year the Winter Kreations limited edition set was Orangen-Marzipan (orange marzipan), Nuss in Nougatcreme (hazelnuts in gianduia) and Vanillekipferl (vanilla cookie cream). This year the Nougatcreme did not return but was replaced by Gebrannte Mandel (burnt sugar almonds).

Ritter Sport Orange Marzipan

The Ritter Sport Orangen-Marzipan bar is pretty special. When I got to Germany back in February of this year, this was one of the first bars I sought out and bought. After eating some of it, I bought the little assortment above plus an additional full size bar. Then when I was there earlier this month, I again bought a full size bar, since I think it’s the right proportion of chocolate and marzipan.

The bar is a little different from the classic Ritter Sport Marzipan bar in that it has a milk chocolate shell (sorry, it’s not vegan). It smells like fresh orange juice, almost like an orangesicle, actually, because of the sweet and milky chocolate. The chocolate is quite sweet and so is the marzipan center, but it all works swimmingly together. The orange flavors are both juicy and zesty, without being bitter. The marzipan is moist and sticks together like a cookie dough instead of being dry and crumbly. There’s a light hint of amaretto to it as well.

It’s terribly sweet, which is usually a turn off for me, but I enjoyed the decadent sticky quality, probably because it’s cold out and I usually want more sugar when I’m chilly.

I do wish that it was the dark chocolate shell though, but since this is the only other marzipan bar that they make regularly, I can understand wanting to hit the milk/marzipan market at least seasonally.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte MandelI don’t think I would have appreciated this flavor in the same way without my visits to the Christmas Markets in various cities. The Gebrannte Mandel stalls were ubiquitous (photo), sealing this confection as a definite seasonal fixture. It only makes sense that Ritter Sport would create a Winter Kreation that includes some toasted almonds with a caramelized sugar coating.

The base of the Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel is milk chocolate. Ritter Sport makes eleven different chocolate bases for its different bars, including several varieties of milk chocolate. This version has a cacao content of 30%, so a richer milk chocolate than most American consumer brands.

Ritter Sport Gebrannte Mandel

The bar is light in color, silky and smells much like the stalls at the Christmas Market, like toasted nuts and sugar. The nuts in this case are crushed (I’m not sure they’d fit well in the bar otherwise and might end up a little too crunchy). It’s sweet and the sugar coating on the nuts gives it more of a grainy crunch, but also adds more toasted flavor. There might be a hint of cinnamon in there as well.

Ritter Sport Vanilla

Ritter Sport Vanillekipferl is based on the classic Austrian cookie called the Vanillekipferl or vanilla crescent. They’re rather like a Russian Teacake or shortbread cookie with nutmeal in it. (There are no eggs in the traditional recipe.)

The bar is like many of Ritter Sport’s, a milk chocolate shell with a cream filling. In this case the cream filling was slightly sandy with a very sweet vanilla flavor. I can’t say that I got much of the shortbread or nutty qualities out of it. It was decent, but not really different enough from Ritter Sport’s non-seasonal offerings.

Ritter Sport Nougatcreme

The Ritter Sport Nuss in Nougatcreme was a 2010 flavor and was nicely done. It was a milk chocolate bar with a milky hazelnut paste center with a bit of a crunchy, crushed nuts. I didn’t think much of it one way or the other. Again, like the Vanillekipferl, it wasn’t that different from the regular nougatcreme bar.

P1060120

All of the above bars, oddly enough, I bought at the grocery stores (Rewe and Aldi for the bars in February and Kaufhof for the most recent marzipan and candied almonds). Our tour group visited the Ritter Sport factory campus on our last full day in Germany on our way to Stuttgart. The factory is in the small town of Waldenbuch, which has less than 10,000. But it’s about a half an hour outside of Stuttgart (which has about 600,000 people and over 5 million in the metro area) which is the center of Germany’s auto industry.

The Ritter family created a museum on the factory campus. Not just a chocolate museum that shows how cocoa is grown, harvested and processed into chocolate, there’s actually an art museum there. The building houses four areas: an interactive chocolate museum (upstairs to the right), a cafe (in the back left), a factory store for chocolate (on the lower right) and the front half to the left is the art museum.

P1060181

The exhibit while I was there fits well with the aesthetic of the square chocolate bars. They were selections from the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection in a variety of media. Most were paintings but a few sculptures as well.

All of the pieces had geometric elements and either bold use of color (in primary and secondary palettes) and rarely representational.

The space isn’t large, but is well laid out in four areas with tall ceilings and awash in light.

P1060193  P1060196  P1060187 P1060170  P1060166

P1060155

The Ritter Sport Factory Store is exactly what I want from a factory store. First, the prices are excellent. They are below the standard price for the bars (except for what you may find on sale) and they carry everything. There were no varieties or shapes that they make that I could not find on the shelves. The standard price for all 100 gram bars was .69 Euro (about 90 cents US). They were all fresh and in pristine condition and a pleasure to browse.

P1060146

In the back corner was the spot that I love factory stores for. It was where the seconds and over-runs were for sale. If I lived in the area, I’d be sure to visit often to see what turned up. There were plenty of bulk items, such as the Schokowurfel in bags. Far off there in the corner were piles on the shelves of plain white wrapped bars. They were test bars of new flavors, so I picked up a few of those for later investigation and indulgence. They were only a half a Euro each.

P1060157

The branded merchandise was nice. I liked the continuity of the themes, the colors and use of either the cross sections of the bars or the square shapes. However, the prices on these items were definitely premium retail. A little back backpack was 85 Euro. There were also large tins with the chocolate cross-section design - quite large and useful for only 7.50 Euro, but that largeness thing would have been an issue for getting them home. (But what a great gift idea to buy one of those tins, then one of the bulk bags of the minis and fill it up- the whole gag would be less than 20 Euro.) I picked up the coffee mug for my husband and filled it with minis for Christmas.

P1060135  P1060136  P1060154  P1060122 P1060123

So, if you’re in Stuttgart and tired of looking around at the cars or just swinging through the area, it’s a worthy diversion to Waldenbuch. There’s also a Ritter Sport shop in Berlin (which I doubt carries the factory over-runs) that has its own merits for it’s interior design.

P1060113Maybe you’ll also catch sight of their company cars in the area: these were parked in front of one of the factory buildings. When we first arrived in our tour bus, there was a third. It was canary and said Knusperflakes on it.

Full Disclosure: My trip to Germany was sponsored by German Sweets, a government funded trade organization. While this provided me with excellent access to people in positions at the candy companies, in this case all of the products featured here were bought and paid for by me. Of course being at the factory store with its excellent prices which were a fraction of what I pay for the products in the United States probably prompted me to buy things I might not ordinarily. The Ritter Sport factory was not actually on the tour set up by German Sweets (though they’re members), but since it only took our tour bus 15 km out of our way on the last day of our travels, they agreed to stop at my request.

Related Candies

  1. Ritter Sport Fruhlingsspezialitaten 2010
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  4. Niederegger Marzipan Orange
  5. Caffarel Gianduia 1865
  6. Treat Trip: Jelly Belly Factory
  7. Ritter Sport Assortment


Name: Orangen-Marzipan, Vanillekipferl, Gebrannte Mandel & Nuss in Nougatcreme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ritter Sport
Place Purchased: Rewe, Aldi & Kaufhof
Price: $.90 (price varies depending on size)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Ritter Sport, Chocolate, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:06 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasRitter SportChocolateNuts7-Worth ItGermanyShoppingComments (4)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Bars: Hershey’s, Niederegger, Ghirardelli & Hachez

Here’s a small selection of what I’d call Christmas chocolate bars. I’ve got to eat them up before the holidays - it may be too late for you to get them by Christmas, but there are some special ones that are worth picking up at the after-Christmas sales.

Hershey's Golden AlmondHershey’s introduced their Golden Almond Bar in 1977. It’s a thick bar and clocks in at 2.8 ounces. The bar design and packaging has changed little over the past thirty five years. It’s still wrapped in gold foil with a gold sleeve. Bars are sold either singly or in gold gift boxes of five bars (see a 1984 ad here). They’re not that easy to find, I usually see them at the official Hershey’s stores at Chocolate World or the Times Square shop.

The bar is simple, it’s just milk chocolate with lots of whole roasted almonds in it. It differs from the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar as it’s supposed to be better quality chocolate. The ingredients do not differ from the Hershey’s standard milk chocolate which includes PGPR but is at least made in the United States and not Mexico as the other supposedly upscale Pot of Gold line is.

Hershey's Golden Almond

The bar is wonderful looking, it’s thick and has a great snap. It’s about 1.7 inches wide, 4.75 inches long and a beefy half inch high. There are some almonds in there though not as many as I feel are promised but they look like they’re fresh and of good quality. The chocolate looks a little darker than the standard Hershey’s but smells like I’d expect. It’s sweet with a slight yogurty tang to it.

The texture is smooth and fudgy, with a sticky melt and a light caramel and woodsy chocolate flavor. It’s not complex and it’s not extraordinary. But if you like Hershey’s chocolate and enjoy the decadence of a thicker piece, this is a good bar to choose. I liked the nostalgia of an actual foil wrapped bar, which is so rare these days. If there’s someone on your list that loves Hershey’s, this is a little bit more elegant way to give them what they desire.

Size: 2.8 ounces
Price: about $2.00
Rating: 5 out of 10

Niederegger Marzipan WeihnachtsschokoladeI’ll have more about my German adventures, including a tour of the Niederegger Factory in Lubeck in the coming weeks.

I found this seasonal bar called Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade at the Niederegger cafe at Marktplatz in Lubeck. The front of the package says Saftiges gewurz marzipan mit vollmilch-schokolade. So it’s a spiced marzipan in milk chocolate. The image shows almonds, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The ingredients don’t specifically list anise, just “spices” though cinnamon is a separate item.

Inside the paper wrapper there’s a stiff card (advertising the company and their website) and the foil wrapped bar.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade

The packaging did a great job of protecting the bar. It was glossy and unscuffed.

Niederegger Marzipan Weihnachtschokolade

The milk chocolate is very light in color (33% cocoa solids and 14% milk solids). The bar smells like milky chai, a little spicy and very sweet. The marzipan is moist and a bit like eating Snickerdoodle cookie dough. The chocolate is smooth, but doesn’t contribute much in the way of cocoa to this, it just nicely encases the marzipan. The texture of the marzipan is a little more rustic than the French style fondant type that’s used for creating figures and shapes. Niederegger is meant for eating and enjoying.

The ratios on the 100 gram bars from Niederegger favor the chocolate more than the enrobed little classic loaves. (I’ll get into that more in my master post.) If you’re looking for a starter marzipan that’s more about the texture and celebrates almonds as the source ingredient, Niederegger really can’t be beat. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have any fake amaretto flavors to it.

I would prefer a version of this with dark chocolate, but I can’t argue with the traditional recipe they have. It’s a great balance of subtle spice, sweetness, milk and almonds.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark BarsI’m no stranger to the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark. They’ve been making it for years and it comes in a clever little square that’s perfect for some afternoon tea or coffee.

I found this set of bars at Target last month on sale for $2 each. They’re heralded as limited edition and come in milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

I’m not actually a fan of barks. I like my inclusions fully immersed in the chocolate. So the bar version of Peppermint Bark is perfect for my strange fondness for things being hidden in the chocolate.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

Unlike most Peppermint Barks, which combine white chocolate with crushed peppermint candies (like candy canes or starlight mints), the Ghiradelli version uses minty, artificially colored corn flakes. I haven’t the foggiest why they did it that way, but honestly, they created something unique enough to be a new genre.

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Bars

The milk and dark vary a little bit in their coloring. The milk version is sweet and has a lot of dairy notes to it from both the milk chocolate base and the white chocolate top (made with real cocoa butter). The mint is clean and bright, the little cereal bits are crunchy and a little salty and keep it all from being too cloying.

The dark version has two kinds of bits, the red bits and some little dark brown bits, which I think are little chocolate cookie pieces. The dark chocolate has a little smoky note to it which overshadowed the minty layer a bit, which I enjoyed. There’s a definite difference between the Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark and the Dove Peppermint Bark, which can also be found for comparable prices at similar stores. Personally, I prefer the Dove version, because it’s a bit butterier. This one is about the crunch, a grown up sort of crunch.

Size: 3 ounces
Price: $2.00 (on sale at Target)
Rating: 7 out of 10

Hachez Weihnachts Knusper BarThe last item I have is not quite a full review. The Hachez Weihnachts Knusper Bar (Christmas Crunchy Bar) is a darling looking bar. The soft white paper wrapper has a classically illustrated scene of a child ice skating on a pond.

Feine Vollmilch-Chocolade mit Zimt, Mandeln und Nussen

My German was getting pretty good, even though I’d only been listening to German podcasts for a week and was only there for a day. The front of the package said Fine milk chocolate with cinnamon, almonds and nuts. The little image also showed all of the above -cinnamon sticks, milk chocolate blocks, almonds and a hazelnut in its shell.

So I was very excited when I got it home and put at the top of my list to photograph and review before Christmas. I took it out of the wrapper, snapped it in half ... it looked and smelled so good:

Hachez Weihnacht Knusper Bar

The bar was glossy and showed no ill effects from the long journey (about 750 more miles on a bus at that point then the 5,700 mile plane ride).

I broke off a little piece of it to try after the photo, I was greeted by wonderfully smooth and milky chocolate and amazingly fresh, crunchy and crushed nuts and a hint of cinnamon. I could taste the hazelnuts and something else ... it wasn’t pecans, it was walnuts. What I didn’t realize was that while Nussen might be a generic word for nuts, it usually meant walnuts. (Walnusse is the more specific word.) So technically, I didn’t eat any of the bar. I had to spit it out and rinse out my mouth (I still ended up itchy and with a sore throat all evening - my allergy has not developed beyond this irritation stage). But I’m going to go out on a limb after eating many of the other Hachez products in the past week (which I’ll have reviews for) and say that this really is a good bar.

Size: 3.5 ounces
Price: 2.20 Euro ($2.89 purchased at Hachez factory store)
Rating: 8 out of 10

Do you have a favorite winter flavor combination? Anything regional or something from long ago that they don’t make any longer?

Related Candies

  1. Lindt Holiday Almonds
  2. Choceur Nougat Bites & Marzipan Bites
  3. Dove Peppermint Bark
  4. Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate
  5. Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds
  6. Niederegger Ginger Marzipan
  7. Dove Caramels & Chocolate Covered Almonds


Name: Golden Almond
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hershey’s
Place Purchased: gift
Price: $2.00 retail
Size: 2.8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Candy, Hershey's, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 5-Pleasant, United States


Name: Marzipan Weihnachtsschokolade
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Niederegger
Place Purchased: Niederegger Cafe (Lubeck, Germany)
Price: 1.95 Euro (about $2.50)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 143
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Niederegger, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany


Name: Peppermint Bark with Milk Chocolate & with Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghiradelli
Place Purchased: Target
Price: $2.00
Size: 3.0 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Ghirardelli, Chocolate, Cookie, Limited Edition, Mints, White Chocolate, 7-Worth It, United States, Target


Name: Weihnachts-Knusper
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Hachez Chocolade
Place Purchased: Hachez factory store (Bremen, Germany)
Price: 1.90 Euros ($2.89)
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 161
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Hachez, Chocolate, Nuts, 8-Tasty, Germany

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:49 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasGhirardelliHachezHershey'sNiedereggerChocolateCookieKosherLimited EditionMintsNutsWhite Chocolate5-Pleasant7-Worth It8-TastyGermanyUnited StatesTargetComments (2)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds

Trader Joe's Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White ChocolateBack around Halloween when Mars introduced their Candy Corn flavored White Chocolate M&Ms, I mused what it would be like if they made Egg Nog M&Ms.

Well, Trader Joe’s has gone over the top with their iteration of white chocolate with nutmeg with their Trader Joe’s Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate

They’re sold in a very simple plastic tub that holds 11 ounces and sells for $3.99 ... about the same price as Almond M&Ms ... but they’re all natural (but have no candy shell, unless you count confectioners glaze as a shell).

Trader Joe's Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate

Trader Joe’s starts with premium almonds. I’ve noticed that a lot of other almond candies (Almond M&Ms) use the smaller almonds about the size of peanuts, but these are big, fresh nonpareil almonds at the center. The coating is real white chocolate with oodles of nutmeg. The combination is convincingly like egg nog. It’s sweet but tempered with strong vanilla and earthy/balmy nutmeg. The almonds are crisp and keep the whole thing from being too sweet (like actual egg nog tends to be). The white chocolate has an excellent melt, not quite silky but quite creamy without being sticky.

I love them, but I fully understand that they’re not for everyone. If you don’t love nutmeg, you’re not going to like these. However, if you do, the combination with the almonds is stellar. I can only hope they’ll have these year round, but I know that they’ll disappear in a few weeks.

It’s all natural and there’s not even any food coloring in there. There is dairy, soy and almonds in the ingredients plus it’s made on shared equipment with wheat, tree nuts and peanuts.

Related Candies

  1. Amsterdam on Foot: Three Chocolate Shops
  2. Ghirardelli Holiday Squares
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds
  4. See’s Pumpkin Spice & Root Beer Lollypops
  5. Naked Chocolate Maltballs
  6. Chuao ChocoPods
  7. Ethel Holiday Assortment


Name: Eggnog Flavored Almonds covered with Creamy White Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silver Lake)
Price: $3.99
Size: 11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 153
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Trader Joe's, Kosher, Nuts, White Chocolate, 9-Yummy, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:39 am     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasTrader Joe'sKosherNutsWhite Chocolate9-YummyUnited StatesComments (10)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trader Joe’s A Very Merry Mingle

Trader Joe's Merry MingleTrader Joe’s a very Merry Mingle is new for 2011 at Trader Joe’s for the winter Holidays.

I was pleased to see that Trader Joe’s managed to give this candy a name, as so many of their other holiday treats end up with nothing more than a functional description of ingredients or assembly.

The Merry Mingle is described as Cranberries, pecans and caramel don their dark chocolate apparel, creating a heaping helping of holiday candy. The box is large, holding 11 ounces, so it’s a good portion, and should be for the price.

Trader Joe's Merry Mingle

The packaging is interesting, the box is sturdy and the graphics are clear and attractive. The inside is a little less posh: a plastic tray insert with four sections filled with four to five pieces each. While I may not have found the inside very nice to serve from, it did protect the pieces well, as they were all in very good condition when removed from the box. The chocolate was glossy and the pecans and cranberries were intact.

Trader Joe's Merry Mingle

The pieces varied rather widely in size. Some were as small as one and a half inches while others were a full two and a half inches in diameter. The construction is interesting. The nuts and cranberries are held together with a little bit of caramel then they’re partially dipped in dark chocolate. There are a few zags and dribbles of chocolate on top of the pieces as well.

The base is mostly caramel, and it does a good job of keeping everything together. The caramel flavors (salt, burnt sugar) are lost in the toasty maple flavors of the pecans and the tart cranberries. The textures are great though, the caramel is smooth and chewy without being sticky or flowing. The chocolate, as the bottom, hits the tongue first, so it makes a bold impression on me as being deep and dark. There are coffee notes and probably some others but they’re lost in the flavor riot of the turtle.

Everything tasted fresh, each element was distinct (though the caramel a little lost). It also felt lighter then a traditional fully enrobed turtle (which actually do clock in at about 20 more calories per ounce). I get the impression from readers that they don’t look so good in the photos, but I thought they were great. If you’re a fan of Trader Joe’s trail mix but would like it dressed up for company, this might do the trick.

It’s Kosher but with so many ingredients, there are a lot of potential allergens: soy, milk, pecans plus traces of wheat, eggs, peanuts and other tree nuts.

Related Candies

  1. DeMet’s Turtles: Pecan & Cashew
  2. Fannie May Pixie
  3. Robitaille’s Presidential Inaugural Mints & Turtles
  4. Nestle Cranberry Raisinets
  5. Christopher Elbow: No. 6 - Dark Rocks
  6. Sweet Earth Chocolate Cups
  7. Hotel Chocolat Crostini Fruit & Nut Slab


Name: A Very Merry Mingle
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Silver Lake)
Price: $7.99
Size: 11 ounces
Calories per ounce: 127
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Christmas, Trader Joe's, Caramel, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:59 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChristmasTrader Joe'sCaramelChocolateKosherNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (8)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lindt Holiday Almonds

Lindt Holiday AlmondsI mentioned in an earlier Candy Tease that Lindt has some new holiday items. In addition to their new hollow chocolate figures of Teddy Bears, Snow Men and Santa they also have some holiday new Lindor Tuffles in Holiday Spice plus their usual holiday offering of Peppermint.

I also spotted this coppery bag of Lindt Holiday Spice Almonds.

It’s a tiny bag. It’s a cute bag, but it really is tin, especially when you consider that 1/3 of the height is just empty “flair.” But still, it’s dense. Jam packed with 3.5 ounces of roasted almonds in milk chocolate with holiday spices. Ah, the vague holiday spices. They’re so vague that on the ingredients list, they’re not even specified as holiday. They’re just spices.

Lindt Holiday Almonds

The almonds vary widely in size, some as small as a Peanut M&M and some appear as large as a peach pit.

The candies are a little more complex that what was described. The almond at the center is lightly toasted. Then there is a little sugar shell on top of it. That is then dipped in milk chocolate and finally finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Lindt Holiday Almonds

They smell a bit like amaretto and custard. The sugar on the outside is a little dusty, a little messy. The milk chocolate coating is smooth but quite sweet and with a strong dairy note. The spice flavor there is mostly the amaretto, but perhaps a little touch of cinnamon. The sugar shell on the inside is lightly crunchy but not thick at all. The almonds at the center were fresh and overall good quality. They work well either chewed for the combination of textures and flavors or slowly melted and dissolved through the layers.

I don’t usually care for amaretto, and in this case it wasn’t very strong. It’s a very sweet combination but also rather different from so many other chocolates and holiday items, I found it refreshing. I would have preferred a better, more specific description on the package though. Amaretto is not a spice and I don’t expect my real almonds to also be flavored with it unless we’re in the territory of marzipan.

While I may make fun of the packaging, I did like how efficient it was. There are two layers, an inner waxed paper and then the decorative metallic mylar. It had a sturdy, flat bottom and didn’t take up an excessive amount of space.

They’re made with wheat, dairy, almonds and soy plus they’re processed on shared equipment with peanuts and other tree nuts. Their cocoa is sourced responsibly and sustainably though not certified fair trade but also sourced from a wide range of locations (many not associated with slavery or brutal unrest). Read their statements here which specifically state that no supplier, anywhere in their chain can use forced labor.

Related Candies

  1. Cinnabon Pecan Clusters
  2. Divine Milk Chocolate with Spiced Cookies
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee
  4. Lindt Fioretto
  5. Pumpkin Pie Gourmet Candy Corn
  6. Ginger Chews: Hot Coffee
  7. Hershey’s Almond Joy Pieces
  8. Lindt Chocolate Bunnies (Dark & Milk)


Name: Holiday Almonds
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Lindt
Place Purchased: Cost Plus World Market (Glendale)
Price: $3.99
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 145
Categories: Candy, Christmas, Lindt, Chocolate, Nuts, 7-Worth It, Germany, Cost Plus

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:45 pm     CandyReviewChristmasLindtChocolateNuts7-Worth ItGermanyCost PlusComments (2)

Monday, October 24, 2011

La Pone Jordan Almonds

La Pone Jordan AlmondsJordan Almonds are one of the oldest confections. Panning nuts with a hard sugar shell is not only a beautiful way to serve nuts, it also seals the nuts up so that they don’t get rancid.

I picked up this cheap box at Rite Aid a few weeks ago because it was on sale for 75 cents but it’s not the first time I’ve purchased them. I picked them up on sale before, about three years ago when I took these photos. No, the packaging hasn’t changed. In fact, the copyright on the box says 1999 (but the expiration date for this box was December 2011).

I’ve never heard of the brand La Pone which is a division of Kings Candy Company. But I figured Jordan Almonds are all kinda the same.

I was encouraged that these were Thin Shell, as sometimes the sugar coating is so thick as to scare me that it’s really a candy encased rock.

La Pone Jordan Almonds

The sugar coated almonds come in a variety of soft pastel colors: pink, yellow, orange and green plus a bright pink. They’re shiny and huge. At first I thought it was because the almonds were really big, but it turns out that the shell is really thick. So thick that I have to wonder what their regular non-“Thin Shell” version is like.

They were hard, definitely not something to just mindlessly crunch away at. The shell is sweet, but not sticky or sickly. The nuts are fresh and chewy but not quite crunchy. I didn’t get any fake flavors like a lot of vanilla or almond extract, though an unnamed artificial flavor is on the ingredients.

The shell made me nervous, and I’m not good at sucking on things until I can crunch them. They’re pretty cheap, even at regular price which seems to be about $1.25 when I’ve seen them. It’s a nice snack that cuts down on the overall calorie load of plain nuts (almonds area bout 160 calories per ounce, these are 127 calories per ounce). The shell definitely kept me from gobbling them up too quickly.

The colors are inoffensive. This sort of packaging isn’t quite right for weddings or favors, but as a sort of way to bring back that wedding feeling they’ll do in a pinch.

(Also of concern in the ingredients is flour, so this is off limits for gluten free folks. They’re Kosher and otherwise vegan as long as you’re good with artificial colors and titanium dioxide.)

Related Candies

  1. Eat with your Eyes: Maison Pecou Jordan Almonds
  2. Marich All Natural Holland Mints & Chocolate Jordan Almonds
  3. Sconza Jordanettes
  4. Romanego Dragees, Cordials & Fondants
  5. Confetti & Agrumetti


Name: Thin Shell Jordan Almonds
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Kings Candy Company
Place Purchased: Rite Aid (Echo Park)
Price: $.75 (on sale)
Size: 4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 127
Categories: Candy, Nuts, 6-Tempting, United States, Rite Aid

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:05 pm     CandyReviewNuts6-TemptingUnited StatesRite AidComments (4)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Abdallah Caramels

Abdallah CaramelsAbdallah Candies was founded in 1909 by Albert Abdallah in Minneapolis. The company still run by the family using traditional recipes and focusing on classic candy products like caramels, dipped fruit and chocolates.

I picked up an assortment of Abdallah’s Wrapped Caramels while on vacation here in California. They’re cute little two bite pieces that I thought were reasonably priced at 60 cents each.

Their varieties go beyond the typical vanilla, chocolate and nut versions. They offer about a dozen different kinds. They’re wrapped in clear cellophane, which shows of the candy very nicely.

Abdallah Caramels

I tried three different varieties:

Vanilla Caramels I started with the classic, as this is the base of the other caramel candies. The color is a pleasing creamy brown. The pull of the caramel was good, stringy without being too tough or grainy. The flavor was sweet with milky notes ... I tend to prefer a little more salt in my caramel these days, but this was still a great classic vanilla caramel.

Abdallah Caramels

Pecan Caramel Nougat is, as you can probably tell from the photo, a layer of pecan nougat sandwiched between two layers of the vanilla caramel. The pecans were soft but crunchy with a woodsy maple flavor. The nougat didn’t do much for me in the way of actual flavor (no honey notes) but the chewy and denser texture was interesting compared to the softer, quicker dissolve of the caramel.

I wouldn’t call it a complete win for me, but I loved the addition of the nuts.

Abdallah Caramels

Pecan Alligator Caramels are another layered caramel. The top is a chocolate caramel and the bottom is a pecan vanilla caramel. It’s great. It’s soft and chewy, the chocolate gives it a little smoky and salty edge, the nuts are fresh and ample, the caramelized sugar notes are perceptible ... I loved this one. It was a little grainier, could have just been that I ate them last of my little set, so they might have gotten a little humid.

I’m absolutely intrigued by Abdallah now. I want to order more of their candy directly but I’m a little hesitant as I sent them an email with a question on Monday and they still haven’t responded. But their prices are very reasonable. I had no trouble plunking down 60 cents for each of these.

The other items on their website include other caramel and nut combinations called Alligators (completely chocolate dipped nut caramels) and Grizzlies (caramels with whole nuts and dollops of chocolate). The confectioner has a factory store in Burnsville, Minnesota that you can get fresh candy and even watch the factory floor where they dip their chocolates (photos on their facebook page).

Related Candies

  1. See’s Double Caramel
  2. Trader Joe’s 70% Dark with Caramel and Black Sea Salt
  3. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels
  4. Eat with your Eyes: Asher’s Salted Caramel
  5. Bequet Gourmet Caramels
  6. J Morgan Caramels
  7. Grandma’s Caramels
  8. Cowgirl Chocolates Buckin’ Hot Habanero Caramels


Name: Vanilla Caramel, Caramel Pecan Nougat & Pecan Alligator Caramel
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Abdallah Candies
Place Purchased: Candy Counter (Cayucos, CA)
Price: $.60 each
Size: unknown
Calories per ounce:
Categories: Candy, Caramel, Nougat, Nuts, 8-Tasty, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:01 pm     CandyReviewCaramelNougatNuts8-TastyUnited StatesComments (2)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt SoireeGhirardelli Chocolate is America’s second oldest chocolate company, making cacao products in the Bay Area of California since 1852.

The Ghirardelli family owned and ran the company until the 1960s when the company was sold to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company (makers of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat), then in the 1980s Golden Grain was swallowed up by Quaker Oats (the Pennsylvania treat). About 6 years later Quaker sold Ghiradelli off and it was once again an independent entity, if only for about six years when in 1998 it was bought up by Lindt and Sprüngli of Switzerland (which was making chocolate only seven years longer than Ghiradelli).

I mention all of this because there was something vaguely familiar about this bar called Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree when I picked it up and it took me a while to figure it out. A couple of years ago I reviewed Lindt Excellence Dark with a Touch of Sea Salt. While I found Lindt’s a good bar, it’s either the quality of the Ghirardelli chocolate or the addition of almonds that really make Ghirardelli’s bar special.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree

The bar’s mold is nicely designed. Each of the eight sections include the Ghirardelli eagle logo. The molding is overall good, though there are some voids and bubbles on the front of the bar, I didn’t notice anything else amiss when I snapped the bar in half or inspected the bottom of the bar.

I didn’t think it smelled particularly special, like brownies, which in itself is a tantalizing scent, but really didn’t do the rest of the bar justice.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree

The bar is called Intense Dark but I can’t find anything that says what the percentage of cacao is for the bar. The appearance is dark like coffee with a light reddish hue to it. The bar has a liberal sprinkling of crushed almonds in it and of course large flakes of sea salt.

The flavors of the chocolate are very mild, but a good blend of hot cocoa, coffee and woodsy tobacco. The almonds give a fresh crunch and the light sprinkling of salt doesn’t overwhelm any of the other elements.

It’s an extremely munchable bar, not too dark for a snack but still more sophisticated than a standard Dove or plain Ghirardelli bar. I didn’t expect to like the bar so much since it’s such a simple idea and construction, especially since I had the nut-less Lindt version before. The freshness of the elements and well executed format just come together so well here. I wish that Ghirardelli didn’t feel the need to use dairy (milk fat) in their dark chocolate though, it would make this a much more accessible bar. (It’s also made in a facility that processes peanuts as well.)

Related Candies

  1. Trader Joe’s 70% Dark with Caramel and Black Sea Salt
  2. Equal Exchange Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt
  3. Lindt Excellence Dark with a touch of Sea Salt
  4. Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews
  5. Ghirardelli Intense Dark


Name: Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Ghiradelli
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $2.99
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 142
Categories: Candy, Ghirardelli, Chocolate, Kosher, Nuts, 9-Yummy, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:09 pm     CandyReviewGhirardelliChocolateKosherNuts9-YummyUnited StatesTargetComments (4)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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