Monday, August 22, 2005
I actually had three bars but ate one before I could take its picture (milk chocolate in a saffron yellow wrapper), so pretend there’s a third one in there.
I was excited that Trader Joe’s was carrying these because I was hoping that it meant that they’d be a little less expensive (which they are). Still, I’m not sure I’m on board with this high end chocolate bar movement. Perhaps I’m just looking for a different thing in my chocolate than some other folks.
I think cocoa is great, it’s obviously one of those things that makes chocolate unique, that blend of earthy roasted flavors with those fruity notes that many people compare to wine or coffee. But what makes chocolate so great, for me, is cocoa butter. It’s one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. It makes it smooth and creamy and portable. Sharffen Berger chocolate bars lack that smooth and lustrous feeling on the tongue.
Scharffen Berger, I think, can be described as sour. There’s a pervasive acidic note in all their chocolates that I’ve tried and I don’t find it pleasant. It does provide a good base (except for the fact that acids are not bases as in alkaline) for the other flavors. In the pure dark chocolate I tasted some fruit notes: grape, apricot and some apple. I also tasted some oaky/woodsy notes and something which reminded me of lichens or wood ear mushrooms.
I know Sharffen Berger has its aficionados, but I don’t count myself among them. The product was definitely consistent and for a high-end chocolate, Trader Joe’s has certainly made it more accessible. I can definitely see this as good cooking chocolate - I wouldn’t hesitate to add some of their cocoa to my chili (yes, I put cocoa in my chili), but for eating it just leaves me, well, unaffected.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Does this candy bar look familiar to anyone? I picked this up because it looked like a KitKat bar on the package and found that it looked just like it inside too. However, instead of four little bars, there were three. Unfortunately this is no match for KitKat - the first ingredient is sugar, and after opening the package and that sweet smell, it was obvious. The second ingredient is not milk chocolate or even cocoa butter but hydrogenated oil. That means this isn’t real chocolate on the outside? Nope, it’s not. It even gives you a hint to that in the description - “wafer fingers in milk compound chocolate.” Think “cheese food.”
However, the wafers were wonderfully crisp and the chocolate compound ratio to the wafers was nice. There was also a nice hint of hazelnut to it. If I found myself in Turkey and really wanted a candy bar, I might actually seek this one out, if only for its familiarity.
So, as far as DiDo goes, I’ll keep buying her albums, but she can keep her candy bar.
Interesting note - Dido is the Queen (and founder) of Carthage.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (but if they were made with real chocolate it’d be an 8)
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Name: Toffee Crisp
I have to say that I think I am always bound to like candy that comes in orange wrappers. Perhaps it’s that I already associate it with Reese’s which is a fine brand. The package describes it as “toffee and crisped cereal filled milk chocolate” which I’d probably reverse and call it chocolate covered toffee and crisped cereal, but really, they’ve got all the bases filled.
This combo might sound familiar to those who have had a Nestle 100 Grand, which is milk chocolate and crisped rice covering caramel. In this incarnation the crisped rice is mixed in some sort of toffee flavored cream (and not in with the chocolate covering) and then has a stripe of caramel on the top and is then covered in crumbly milk chocolate (it could be that my bar was beaten up).
It’s sweet and really satisfying because it’s so big. (I don’t think the photo conveys the size, think of a fat Snickers bar.) The toffee part of is a bit lost on me, as far as I can tell there is no actual toffee in here. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. This bar would fit into my list of bars to eat when I’m hankering for a crunchy bar. Much better than a Crunch or Krackle because of the added creamy crisped rice and you know I never argue with good chewy caramel. It’s kind of like the Whatchamacallit, except it doesn’t have a peanut butter component (but if they made one, I’d be down with that).
Rating - 7 out of 10
Name: Violet & Scented Gum
I have a vague recollection of some dolls that were popular back in the late sixties/early seventies called Kiddles. They were little dolls with insanely huge heads and long, stylable hair that smelled of violets. To this day the scent of violet makes me think of those dolls. I never owned any (I think my friend down the street, Lisa did though) but I can recall wanting them badly.
Anyway, my stepmother sent these to me a couple of weeks ago and they went into my pile of chocolates, until I took out a candy bar and it tasted like violets. So I sequestered the invasive violets in three layers of paper bags (and promptly forgot about it because it was jammed in three paper bags and looked like trash). Then I came back to the office after the weekend and it smelled like violets, “Oh, I forgot all about them!” Well, now I’ve photographed them and chewed them up and can speak knowlegably about them. I did a little digging to find out more about Choward’s, you can read the history here.
First, I preface this review (actually, it looks like I’ve prefaced the review several times, would you like to just skip to the bottom for the rating?) with the fact that I love herbal/floral flavors. My favorite ice cream flavor at the moment is Orange Blossom and Pistachio. However, probably from the above association with those damn little dolls, I just can’t get behind the little violet mints.
The mints themselves really aren’t terribly flavorful. They’re sweet and very hard (like a piece of soft shale) are the color of the putty I used to caulk my shower and smell like something I might use in the shower while I’m there. They don’t really dissolve so much as just slowly deteriorate in your mouth. As a touchstone though, I found the peppermint version of Choward’s pretty good, like a dense pillow butter mint. I don’t know why the violet texture was so much more, um, sturdy, but it wasn’t really appealing.
The gum, however, is pretty cool. The color, let’s face it, is something you just wanna string up on a necklace or something. The flavor is not at all like the mint, it’s got a nice cinnamon/clove twang to it and a little touch of the flowery violet. The chew is a little sticky and not at all like a chicklet, lacking that burst of sugar and cooling mint. Even after spitting out the gum after chewing for about ten minutes, it scented my breath wonderfully for a two hour meeting.
Ratings: Violet Mints - 5 out of 10
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Thanks goodness Ikea’s proclivity for sassy names does not extend to their treats at the food section. I have enough trouble buying candy shaped like rats that looks like the felt pulled out from a highlighter pen that I don’t need it to be further called Bjarf, Puke or Funkis.
Name: Licorice Boats
I gave these to Russ to try the other night and he agreed that, “The licorice in my licorice boat had already set sail.” These are definitely sweet - you just open the bag and the sugary smell permeates the air. But there’s no there there. The jelly center has a bit of a licorice perfume to it, but no bite. I think I’ve come to expect molasses with my licorice as it’s a good anchor for the flavor.
Name: Jelly Rats
They’re rather scary looking, and I’m telling you that’s the actual color - some sort of slightly translucent-neon hazard color. They also have a strong sweet smell infused with violet which didn’t thrill me, but biting into them I found a nice, tart and fruity jelly candy. The flavors aren’t complex or strong, but just nice. If I am planning on having a Swedish jelly candy though, I really want some Swedish fish.
Name: Marabou Milk Chocolate with Nuts
This was the positive find in the whole experience. They’re little chunks of milk chocolate with crushed hazelnuts. Really creamy, very sweet with good nuts. The chocolate is smooth and the toasty taste of the nuts infuses it well.
It’s simple and satisfying. The roll is easy to share and I might make a point to pick these up at the start of my shopping experience at Ikea as a little boost. I ate them all before I finished typing this review.
Ratings: Licorice Boats - 4 out of 10
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I have it on good authority that the translation of this candy is, loosely, Kitten Tongues. I suppose they do kind of look like tongues. Having never eaten a real kitten tongue (or any part of a kitten for that matter), I can’t say that they do or don’t taste like them.
The little tray box slides open to reveal an array of these chocolate tongues in a piece of wax paper. Unfortunately they taste rather like wax paper. They could be stale (after all, they’ve been passed through at least two people before getting to me). But the expiration says they’re good until October ‘05. The chocolate is slightly stale and doesn’t melt quickly. It’s sweet and milky, like most European milk chocolate, but not terribly flavorful otherwise.
It’s too bad too, because the photos of the kittens are as cute as can be (I’ve seen other photos on the ‘net and it seems that there are different kittens for different varieties of the chocolates). I have to say that if I were ever in a position to buy these again, I probably will, if only for the novelty of it. I can’t fathom where I’d be where they’d carry them (besides Prague) but at least now I’ve had them and know what I’d be buying (not like that time I tried to buy saffron in Spain and ended up with a tea for air sickness).
Rating - 5 out of 10.
Name: Chocolate Truffles
I know, I’ve said it before but I truly believe that candy is for the masses. I’m not sure if this counts as candy - it might be edible art or perhaps just some sort of upscale “proof of exclusivity.” They’re just chocolates, so why are they so damn expensive?
I only bought four, because they were so dang expensive. They are, from left to right - Bronte: Raspberry & Earl Grey; Maya: Espresso; Veda: Ginger and Jade: Green Tea. (I think they all had chic names.)
The raspberry & earl grey was my first try - it was definitely the one that I was most interested in. We’d started our visit with some caramel ice cream and another scoop of their black tea ice cream. These folks know how to work with botanicals. The raspberry flavoring is in an ultra-soft and creamy bittersweet chocolate center. After that melts onto the tongue, a dryness is noticeable and then the bergamot of the Earl Grey really shines. I could have used more chocolate taste though.
The green tea was next and didn’t really thrill me. The texture at first was beautifully smooth. The center on this one is a creamy, well, cream, no chocolate there. The green tea gave it a woodsy flavor but also a bit of a chalkiness (I’m guessing they used matcha instead of an essence).
Espesso was definitely coffee-ish. Predictable - but dependable. Smooth, woodsy, strong and with a slight smokey quality and a caffeinated charge with bits of espresso beans on the top.
The only milk chocolate choice I made was the ginger one (which the woman at the counter said was her personal favorite). Upon biting into it, the ginger was wonderfully fragrant. It didn’t smell like powdered ginger, it was fresh and zesty. The milk chocolate is a great foundation for this.
All the centers were a bit too buttery for me - they needed a bit more of the cocoa solids or something for it to not feel like I was eating a stick of butter.
So there you have it, my two favorites are Veda and Bronte with Maya making a good showing. Will I buy them again? Unlikely. But if someone were to give them to me as a gift, well, I’d tsk, tsk and protest that you shouldn’t have and then probably give you a kiss.
Name: Fruit Pate
The other purchase, which was much more affordable were the slabs of fruit pate. Think fruit jellies and then jam twice as much flavor in them and you’ve got fruit pate. I picked up three of these flavors:
Raspberry, Blood Orange and something called Calamansi which is a Philippino citrus similar to a lime.
These are more flavorful and a bit fresher feeling that those Sunkist fruit gems (which I also enjoy). Of course no one’s going to mass produce uncommon flavors like calamansi so you have to go to one of these places to get that kind of stuff. In fact, the calamansi was divine. It was zesty, tart and sweet. It was like lime but also had some grapefruit notes to it. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for this fruit in other forms. The raspberry was really flavorful, like distilled jam but the blood orange was a little bland after all that. I’d definitely buy these again and would look for some more exotic tea/botanical essences.
Ratings - Chocolate Truffles - 7 out of 10 (for $2.50 each, they should do the dishes or wash my car)
Monday, August 15, 2005
Name: Haribo Wheels Licorice
Yes, you can get licorice in whips, twists and bites, but I think that Haribo has the corner on the market when it comes to wheels. It’s really just a whip all rolled up into a disk. They look kind of like typewriter ribbon.
What I think is great about this licorice is that it strikes the ideal balance between texture, molasses and licorice flavor. Some licorice is really sweet, some kind of salty and some is just plain tasteless. This has a nice licorice punch without overwhelming (or causing those nasty licorice side effects) with a mellow and smoky molasses hint from the brown sugar and a good chew with a hint of salt to blend the flavors together.
I find I enjoy eating them by unraveling the spiral, but sometimes I’ll just bite right into the disk. By keeping them in these tight wheels, it allows you to have a soft, chewy whip instead of a hard and flavorless one.
I’d never bought these before, they’ll never displace licorice pastels, which are my absolute favorite incarnation of licorice, but I can still see myself buying these again as they are far cheaper than licorice pastels (why are they so expensive?).
Rating - 8 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.