Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For years I’ve seen references to La Higuera Rabitos Royale. They’re a decadent creation, a whole fig is dried and then stuffed with a brandy infused chocolate ganache, then the whole thing is dipped in another layer of chocolate.
The box is big though weighs very little. It’s an elegant 7 inch square with an appealing photo of the freshly dipped figs against a black background and then a sparely designed front that describes the product.
We select the best mediterranean [sic] figs, we stuff them with our truffle cream, we cover then with a thin layer of chocolate and then ... you get the most delightful experience..
I’ve seen them in cheese shops from time to time, but I’m hesitant to buy fresh chocolate products there as I’ve had a few bad experiences in the past and these are often very expensive (about $10 for a box of 9 figs). So when I saw them at Trader Joe’s for only $7, I figured this was the time to try them.
Inside the sleeve of the box is a tray that holds each individually wrapped bonbon. It’s a lot of packaging, but I understand the impulse to seal each one up, as the alcohol in infused chocolates can easily evaporate on store shelves. The package also warns that the nature of the real fig means that there might be some bloom on the product but that it would still be tasty and edible.
The little matte silver mylar protects the candies well, all were uncracked, though all had a few little moisture bloom speckles. (It looks more like sugary moisture is migrating from the filling instead of the cocoa butter moving out of the chocolate itself.) One of the things I noticed on the ingredients list is that the chocolate coating has a little fractionated vegetable oil in it, so it’s not a true chocolate shell. I didn’t notice that it affected the flavor profile or the texture. They smell sweet and woodsy with a definite brandy note to them. The pieces are firm but give way to a bite very easily. If they’re cold then the shell can crack a little, but at warmer room temperatures (in the 70s) they’re soft and the chocolate coating sticks. I like to bite mine in half.
The ganache center is strongly alcoholic - brandy liquor is the third ingredient in the filling after cream and glucose syrup. The brandy mixes well with the deep leathery and raisin flavors of the fig. The ganache is smooth and melts easily in the mouth. The chocolate shell is a thin veneer, so all it’s really doing is holding it all together, so I mostly forgive the splash of oil in there.
These are quite good and I found one or two to be more than satisfying. But it helps that the packaging is a little daunting, so I didn’t find myself eating the whole box at once like I might if they were just in fluted cups.
I don’t think you have to like figs to enjoy these, but it certainly helps. The seedy part of the figs aren’t a textural element, just the deep berry flavors of the dried fruit, which is pretty soft after being stuffed with liquor & cream. I liked that it wasn’t honey-sweet like some glace fig products can be. The chocolate is good quality and the rest of the ingredients are top notch - the chocolate flavors are well matched with good berry, woodsy and a little smoky note to them.
They’re a nice hostess gift though may present an etiquette problem as she may not want to share them with everyone. I don’t see myself picking these up often, but for an intimate cheese course or small treat after a meal with coffee they’re just the thing to replace a heavy dessert. I don’t begrudge the price, I imagine there’s a lot of labor involved in stuffing actual real figs, but they’re still expensive and hard to rationalize for more than the most special occasion or recipient.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I hear there’s this bunch of football (soccer) games going on halfway around the world. When I say hear, I mean, hear. Literally, there are people in my neighborhood of have been watching it live and I can hear it in my house.
Fini is a Spanish confectionery company who makes mostly sugar candies like gummis, jellies and novelty gumballs. These World Cup themed gumballs are shaped like a football and feature a flavored liquid filling. They’re just called Bubble Gum Football - Liquid Filled.
The package has just four pieces in it, but each is a good mouthful for chewing, not quite enough for adequate bubble blowing (which is probably preferable to vuvuzela blowing even if it means people will step in gum, they’ll still have their hearing).
Each piece is .75 inches in diameter. I’m accustomed to soccer balls that are black and white with a hexagonal pattern. These are white (well, pink) with a red (well, darker pink) concentric circle pattern.
The flavor, I believe, is strawberry. The gum part has a light sugar coating, but it’s only barely crunchy. The grainy sugar of the gum itself is overshadowed by the tangy berry goo in the center. It’s a nice combination and the chew is soft and pliable for quite a while. When all that fades the bubble blowing can begin, but by then I’ve lost interest and have to toss that piece in favor of a new one.
Since Wimbledon is around the corner I thought I’d include another more convincing faux sports ball gum that I got. This was a little Tennis Ball Bubble Gum. The gumball is the one on the left, the one on the right is an actual tennis ball. Even though it doesn’t have a coating of fluffy fuzz, the surface at first glance has that texture and a dead on match for the color. The Fini website shows that these are sold in tubs that look like something a Tennis Club would buy to feed the ball machine. I’m sure they’re also in bulk and seen in vending machines for a quarter.
Because the piece is so large at 1.25 inches in diameter, I couldn’t just pop it in my mouth and chew. It was more of a bite/gnaw in half and then chew item. The innards are not a goo (though that’s what their website shows), it’s a little pile of sour crystals. At first when I opened it, it was like a little confectionery geode.
The flavor is a mild lemon-lime, almost like a Mountain Dew but sometimes I thought it had a green apple note. The chew was fresh and soft, and it got even softer as I chewed it before the sugar dissipated and it became stiffer. The bubble blowing capabilities were okay, not the best I’ve ever had in a gumball, but passable. The flavor didn’t stick around very long, but my style of gum chewing is to discard it after the sugar is gone anyway.
These are adequate as gum, but probably more attractive as a novelty item. For less than a dollar I’d probably pick up the World Cup themed ones, just because they did seem like descent quality and a little special for the event. The tennis ones are just amazing to look at, and for decorative purposes alone they will get many customers.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I love variety, in fact I crave it. I was excited to find this selection of three different kinds turron (torrone) in this box from El Almendro. It includes Turron Duro, Turron Caramelo and Turron Crocanti.
Each piece is about one ounce (there are seven so I got three of the Duro) and individually wrapped. In fact the package was wrapped a lot. The box was wrapped in cellophane. There tray inside was wrapped in cellophane and each of the pieces is wrapped in cellophane. They’re very fresh.
The most remarkable thing about all three varieties is that they’re mostly almonds. Each lists the ingredients as 60% almonds.
Turron Duro is a light and crunchy turron. This version is common in both Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. El Almendro is Spanish and the best thing about it, of course, is that in Spanish you trill the double r ... it’s like extra exercise for your mouth, so you work off more calories.
The finger is three inches long and one inch wide, so it’s a nice bar-like portion. The white nougat is crispy and filled with nuts and has the scent of marshmallow, almonds and honey.
If you’ve always wanted more of those little nougat bits in a Toblerone, this is the stuff. They’re tacky but mostly crunchy, only mildly sweet with oodles of almonds. The honey notes are prominent but never quite dominate because there are just so many nuts. My favorite of the three,
The Turron Crocanti variation has a transparent amber version of the turron instead of the milky white stuff. Here the caramlelized sugar flavors win out over the honey. There’s no egg white in it, so it’s more of an almond brittle. It’s also a little more bitter as candy part is quite dark and burnt tasting (in the best way possible).
The Turron Caramelo was a little confusing to me at first. Every time I looked at it, I though ... oh, it’s a fig turron! And then I’d eat it and it’d be a sesame turron.
The candy looks like something I’d get in a dish at a Chinese restaurant. It smells quite dark and toasted, like sesame oil. Sesame isn’t always a good pick for me. I enjoy Sesame Snaps (those sesame finger cracker things) and Sesame Brittle (those little fingers wrapped in cellophane and sold at health food stores) and of course I’m a nut for Halvah. But sesame has a dark side - a side that reminds me of burnt hair and flaming plastics. The bars were extra hard and crunchy, which was a little disturbing as I’m worried sometimes that I’ll break my teeth on candy I’m reviewing and then where will I be!
The flavor is actually quite pleasant after I smashed the bar around inside the package when I had my second one. The sesame overshadows any honey or almond and definitely ventures into the bitter burnt notes. This was my least favorite.
I’m glad I got a variety that confirms how much I prefer the version that has egg whites in it. Now I just need to find a package that has them in these perfect sized fingers. Often the Spanish turrons come in dinner plate sized wheels, which means messy smacking & breaking.
It’s pretty wholesome and filling stuff, at only 110 calories per stick and the fact that it’s mostly almonds and all natural might make some parents pretty happy.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I got these at Target, as you can probably tell by the package if you saw yesterday’s review but they don’t make them themselves - they’re just repacked. The bag says they’re made in Spain but I can’t find any note online of who actually makes them (Haribo has a factory in Spain but so do a lot of excellent Spanish gummi companies). You can even buy them in bulk online. The idea that any candy corn products are made outside of North America strikes me as a bit odd - as far as I know, we’re the only market for candy corn products. You don’t see it in Europe or Asia ... or at least you didn’t used to.
As freaky as they look, the idea of a puffy marshmallow-like candy corn was appealing.
Unfortunately these are not as marshmallowy as I’d hoped. Yes, they’re puffy and chewy, though denser than a regular marshmallow. They’re a cross between a traditional dense & translucent gummi and a marshmallow (many of the ingredients are the same, after all).
The bag, once opened, smelled again of that fake butter flavor. I don’t get it. When did candy corn flavor mean butter? I always thought it was toasted sugar and honey.
If you’ve ever had the Haribo Strawberry Puffs, these are very similar, just a little pointier and of course with a cute layered effect. They’re the same height as a regular piece of candy corn, just four times wider & three times thicker. The layers go all the way through, that’s no airbrush job on the outside.
Out of the bag they have less of the butter notes and smell more like a regular old vanilla marshmallow. But biting into it the butter scent returns along with a jarring tartness. It’s a tangy vanilla flavor - the only thing I can liken it to is a yogurt flavored gummi. The ingredients list lactic acid, so my dairy comparison wasn’t far off.
I’ve gotta say, I didn’t like them. I really wanted to ... the texture & chew with the lightness is really refreshing. But it just needed a lighter touch of honey or plain vanilla without the tang. But they would still make a striking decoration for a cupcake or in a candy dish.
Like the Chocolate Covered Candy Corn, they give you a lot of info about the origins: Candy Made in Spain, Package Made in China and Packed in Mexico. The expiry on these is January 2011! These are durable candies!
(I got to thinking that maybe Peeps should do a giant marshmallow candy corn. Just a thought.)
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese cola candies for a while, and I think I completely forgot about the German cola candies. (I did review the Haribo Fizzy Cola a few years back.)
The great thing about Haribo is that they make an incredible variety with a huge variation of flavors and shapes. The bad thing about Haribo is that the quality varies depending on which factory they’re made in. These were made in Spain.
The bottles are nicely formed, they’re plump and have the shape of a soda bottle. The candy is created using two different colors - a dark amber and a clear, the bottom of the bottle is the darker color and gives the impression of a glass bottle filled with cola. So simple, but so convincing.
These are rather firm but still have a pleasant cola scent when I stick my nose in the bag and inhale. It’s a little lemony citrus and a bit of spice.
The firm bite doesn’t burst forth with much flavor. It’s at first citrusy ... a little tangy. Later I get the cola notes, which is a little woodsy and mellow spice. But it’s very bland. It’s like lemon soda with a splash of cola instead of a cola splashed with lemon.
I want something a little more intense, something that gives me a lot of cola flavor. Maybe I’m spoiled or impatient ... these are still fun though, a great summer vacation candy to munch on while on long drives.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Last year I tried the Limited Edition Chocolate Covered Pop Rocks. They were interesting, not really anything to bring me back to eating Pop Rocks on a regular basis.
But this year Pop Rocks had something completely new and not packaged in a flat envelope. This is the new Milk Chocolate Pop Rocks Bar. The gentleman at their booth at All Candy Expo was careful to tell me that they used premium chocolate for this bar. (I’m not sure I’d call it premium, it does have PGPR in it.)
The bar is petite at only 1.16 ounces and three chunky segments.
The chocolate is soft and rather creamy but sweet. It melts quickly to reveal the chunks of Pop Rocks that, well, pop. It’s like a proactive Nestle’s Crunch Bar (with better chocolate).
The chocolate is light and lacking in the darker chocolate flavors, I got an overwhelming taste of raisins, but I don’t know if that had something to do with some actual flavor to the Pop Rocks.
The bar can be eaten two ways, as far as I’m concerned. The first is to simply let it melt and allow the Pop Rocks to pop. This creates a mild and interesting effect, but not terribly different. The second is to chew up much of the bar and then let it melt, giving it another chew or two as it dissolves completely. This is extremely noisy (at least inside my own head) and by far the most fun.
Popping candy chocolate bars have been around for a few years, most notably a brief appearance in the United States by the Wonka Xploder bar, which I never got to try.
I expect them to be found in the same places I see Pop Rocks (7-11, Target and candy shops), no word on the retail price. This bar was made in Spain.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I’ve been accumulating chocolate bars faster than I can review them. (And faster than I can eat them, to boot!)
Here’s a selection of what’s been in my queue for a while with some brief thoughts on each. I don’t know much about the companies that make them, but all were tasty enough that I’m going to keep an eye out for the brands again.
My boss went to Spain and brought back three amazingly beautiful artisan chocolate bars from a company called Mallorca. Each bar was similar in format - 10 squares and wrapped in clear cellophane. The plain bar was wrapped face up, the nutted bars were bottoms up to show off the elegantly placed nuts.
The basic bar is called Kilamanjaro Chocolate and was an admirable middle-of-the-road 75% dark chocolate. It was smooth and creamy with woodsy notes and a bit of coffee in there. There was a slight grain to it and a later crisp dry finish. It was pleasant but perhaps a little too dry and acrid for me in the end.
The milk chocolate was creamy and had strong dairy notes, almost sticky and fudgy (but then again it was rather hot when I was eating it). The hazelnuts were dreamy little spheres - they were coated with a crispy sugar glaze of caramelized sugar with the nuts fresh and crunchy inside. They went so well with the chocolate I was often torn between pulling the nuts out and eating them whole and eating them with the blocks of chocolate.
I would love to get my hands on this bar again.
The Chocolate Negro con Almendra Marcona Chocolate features two blanched Marcona almonds in each square. The almonds are crisp and buttery (and are always more rounded than the pointy American almonds).
The dark chocolate here was not as strong as the first Kilamanjaro bar. It was sweet and bright tasting, some citrusy flavors along with light woodsy notes and a good buttery melt on the tongue.
The almonds were the star here, I love Marcona almonds, it’s like they’re a different nut from the almonds I usually get, they have an almost hazelnut/pine nut flavor to them.
Since it was purchased in South Korea, I have not idea what the back of the package says except for the web address: www.happynco.com which didn’t help me much in figuring out this bar. Sure, the front says stuff like “lighten up your day with dark angel dark chocolate” but I was curious about ingredients and stuff. The website is filled with cutesy images with butterflies and daisies but no sign of this bar. The character on the package, the spindly-legged princess with blonde hair is called Happy Girl with her even blonder Happy Guy. But the bar is called Dark Chocolate Dark Angel from Hatai and says it’s 42% cacao. Not too dark ... kind of in the middle.
The back of the package has some helpful pictograms that told me that the bar can be broken in half while it’s still in the package (the paperboard sleeve is scored). Then I think you’re supposed to share.
The bar inside the package is quite cute (mine was a little broken, but I reassembled it). It features a large section with a butterfly in darker embossed chocolate and four smaller squares with a milk chocolate heart and potted flowers opposite a darker chocolate piece of wrapped candy and a rainbow.
The pieces have a nice snap (obviously, since they broke easily before I got the bar). The flavor is creamy and has a slight dairy edge to it. I wasn’t wild about it, but I thought the packaging was sweet (a little too sweet and immature for me, but fun for a tween or teen and the fact that you can get sheets or pillows to match just sends it over the top for me).
What I found in the end was it didn’t have quite enough of a chocolate hit to me, but it went well with a handful of almonds and pretzels as a snack.
Finally, I got three bars from Cacao et Chocolat in Paris shortly after Christmas from my father. Two of the bars (including the one shown) were dark chocolate. One was called Teculi and was 79% cacao. It was rich yet still buttery. The bar was crisp and glossy and really smelled glorious. It has some fruity cherries in there, maybe raspberry and plum along with the deep cocoa notes.
The second bar (which looked an awful lot like the first so there’s not another photo) was called Tobago and was 88%. This one I actually still have about 1/3 sitting around in my chocolate box. It’s very dark and really a lot of effor to eat. It’s like a riot of flavors in my mouth. Some acidic notes of citrus (grapefruit mostly) and dark woodsy tones of cedar along with coffee ... but then it’s just too dry for me. I miss the creamy cocoa butter to float it all around on my tongue.
The final bar in the set was a white chocolate one (which I didn’t photograph because it was broken). It was glorious ... it was so buttery and though sweet, it had some wonderful cocoa background notes (I don’t know if it was deodorized cocoa butter as a base or it just assumed some of the chocolate flavors from being shipped to me with the other strong bars).
In my package were also some truffles, which didn’t look photo-worthy after their world travels, but I found them quite nice, very simple. Creamy, toasted flavors and a good buttery melt. They have a nice website in both French and English (though I don’t know if they’ll ship to North America). It looks like the kind of place I’d definitely put on my list of shops to visit (along with everywhere else David Lebovitz tours).
I give the whole pile of chocolate a 6 out of 10 with the standouts of the Mallorca Chocolate con Leche Avellana Caramelizada and Cacao et Chocolat White Chocolate bar at 8 out of 10 (bars I would buy for myself). I have no idea of the price on these and of course none of them have nutrition labels on them.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
I found this bar at a store called Kearn’s on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles. I’ve passed by this little convenience store for 13 years without ever stopping in. Because it’s in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, I thought they might have an interesting selection (and perhaps some leftover Passover Coke). They carried a good line of candies, with a strong focus on jelly based ones (Sunkist Fruit Gems, anyone?). They also had some imported items, especially ones from Israel in the Paskesz brand.
I’ve had a few Paskesz candies and find them decent middle of the road fare, rather like Hershey’s or Mars but with a good wholesome twist on the ordinary crunch.
Looking at the Milk Munch bar it was pretty obvious that it’s a Milky Way knock-off (Mars knock-off for your European readers).
The milk chocolate is unremarkable. It’s sweet and creamy, but lacks any real chocolate flavor contribution here. The main flavor here is the rather cereal tasting nougat. Salty and perhaps a little malty, it tastes a bit like cookie dough. The caramel is nice and soft, but again, not very flavorful.
I was hoping for a Milky Way Bar here, but I got something a little more toned down but far saltier ... and Milky Ways are pretty sedate as it is. But there was something more dense about the nougat portion that just didn’t please me. And at more than the price of a regular Milky Way, it just wasn’t worth it.
Note from wrapper: made under the supervision of Rabbi O.Y. Westheim, Manchester
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.