Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Lindt is an iconic name in the world of chocolate. Its founder Rodolphe Lindt invented the chocolate conching machine in 1879 and set the standard for “eating chocolate”. Today Lindt & Sprungli chocolate is a behemoth company which makes both solid chocolate bars, their consumer truffle line of Lindor products & their iconic chocolate rabbits but also owns the American chocolate company, Ghirardelli.
They have a multitude of lines of chocolate bars, each with different profiles. The Excellence line is often found at drug stores, grocery chains & even at airport shops. It’s a nice size & excellently designed package. The paperboard sleeve holds a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar - it’s thin but nicely scored into easy to break & eat portions. (Other lines include Classic Recipe, Les Grandes, Creation, Petits Desserts - at least 50 bars.)
Before I started writing Candy Blog I was a pretty died hard Lindt fan. Their darker bars were one of the first on the market that I was exposed to that gave the cacao content. I was pretty happy at 70%.
My experience with Lindt milk chocolate is rather limited, so before vacation I picked up this bar: Lindt Excellence Toffee Crunch.
It is rather thin and I have to preface this review with the fact that I prefer my bars that have inclusions to be a little thicker.
It smells sweet & buttery.
The chocolate has a nice snap, even in the heat we were experiencing in Southern California. Inside each piece it was easy to spot the little toffee bits.
The chocolate is smooth and milky and though the texture isn’t quite as fine as I would have wanted, I’m not sure it would matter because of all the toffee bits.
The toffee was firm & gave a good little bite of salty burnt sugar and butter.
The effect was great, it was filling & satisfying without being too cloyingly sweet. Still, for my personal preference I might want bigger toffee pieces and a darker milk chocolate. But I can see that this would have lasting appeal for some folks and if I ate it with something to offset the sweetness it’d probably be gone by now. Also, I was a bit irritated that there were artificial flavors in there for a product at this price point - good toffee is not that hard to create and it doesn’t need artificial caramel flavor.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The name Toblerone comes from the founders name, Theodor Tobler and the word torrone, which is the name of the almond & honey nougat. There have been a few other sizes & shapes of the bar over the years as well as dark chocolate, white chocolate and layered versions.
This year was the first time I saw the new Toblerone Fruit & Nut in stores. The box is a curious design, half yellow, which is easy to dismiss as the regular variety and the other side is purple with a gradient in of the two colors in the center.
Even though it’s called fruit and nut, the only substantial difference here is the addition of raisins. (I wonder why they’re not currants, which I think would be more exotic and evocative of European mountains than plain old dried grapes.)
The bar smells sweet and milky with perhaps a little hint of malt or honey from the nougat. Breaking the pieces apart it’s easy to see the small raisins in there.
The chocolate is sweet and though it’s milky it’s more on the honey side of the flavors than Swiss dried milk flavors. The texture is smooth, but not quite silky. The little hard nougat bits provide a little difference in texture, but are often sticky & tacky - not quite crunchy or chewy. The actual almonds are hard to find (even on the ingredients list they’re below honey, which means there isn’t much).
I like the size & shape of the bar. It’s easy to portion & then store the rest for later in the box. (Though I did end up replacing the foil wrapping it came in with some more heavy duty kitchen foil because it was destroyed by simply opening it for the photo.)
It’s a pretty bar and certainly a bit of a change from the 100 year old traditional one ... was it worth waiting a hundred and one years for? No. I think if I’m going to go for an inexpensive European bar with raisins in it, I’m going to go for the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss (though I don’t think you can even get them in the States any longer). But if you’re a Chunky fan and looking for something that’s better quality and more pointy, this might be for you.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
One of the earlier reviews I did when I started Candy Blog was of Dr. Doolilttle’s Grapefruit & Blackcurrant Pastilles. I liked them quite a bit, even though they were expensive and hard to find.
After a few years, though, Trader Joe’s stopped carrying them and the comments for that post filled up with folks trying to figure out how to order them or even import them by the case.
Flash forward to last Friday, I was returning from a failed sock-shopping trip when I stopped in at Cost Plus World Market. Dr. Doolittle’s Pastilles have returned!
They have completely new and distinctive tins (that I might have mistaken for soap if they were on the wrong shelf) and even come in new flavors.
I picked up all three, even though they’re now $2.99 for a tin that holds only 2 ounces (instead of the Trader Joe’s ones that were $1.99 and held 2.5 ounces).
The other difference is also the actual candy pieces. They no longer have the little silhouette of Dr. Doolittle molded into them. Not that I don’t like the smooth surface, it was just a little plainer than I expected.
Soft Fruit Drops Lemon (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Citron) - these sparkling little gummis boast that they have soothing qualities. They are a gummi with gelatin, but have glycerine in addition to vitamin C.
They are firm, like a Haribo (versus a Trolli or Black Forest bear). But the flavor is much more intense than a gummi bear. The lemon is a marmalade or boiled taste - tangy, sweet and a little zesty but more on the jammy side of things than freshly squeezed. They dissolve slowly for the patient among us. But I like to speed it along by kind of chewing them, by folding and pressing them against the roof of my mouth and teeth.
Soft Fruit Drops Pink Grapefruit (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Pamplemousse Rose) - this is the one that I was most interested in, of course, since Pamplemousse is always a huge favorite.
The pastilles are orange, not pink (the ingredients simply say “natural coloring”).
They have a very intense zesty flavor, much moreso than the lemon. Tangy and with that slight bitter flavor of the grapefruit peel. These were definitely the first to disappear. The oily zest essence persists for quite a while after it’s dissolved, too. Not something that goes well with coffee, but I didn’t mind it with afternoon tea.
Soft Fruit Drops Wild Berry (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Baies Sauvages) - this flavor smelled wonderful. A bit like roses, cotton candy and crushed raspberries.
They’re immediately tangy, sweet and jammy. The flavors of the berries are definitely on the blackberry side of things. A bit like a wine gum, there’s a slightly fermented quality to the dark berry tones and maybe a little blackcurrant note.
All the flavors are winners, again, my only complaint here is price. But they are soothing, full of flavor and even have a little dose of vitamin C. The new tins are really pretty and distinctive, though the tops are curved it means I can’t stack them. But I do plan on reusing them as they’re a great shape, easy to open and stay closed in a bag.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The large format bars come in a smart black box with a spare and enticing design and the further promise that this is a product of Switzerland.
The dark chocolate is 64% cocoa solids and features pieces of “crunchy caramel” (what US-folks would call toffee). The dark chocolate recipe contains butteroil (milkfat), so don’t expect a pure experience.
The bar is lovely to look at, with nicely molded segments, glossy sheen and crisp snap. In addition, the caramel bits look like they’re nicely distributed.
The chocolate is dark and rich, not complex but rather robust. There’s a bitter tone to it that seems to come more from the caramel bits than the chocolate itself and it’s rather nice. The caramel bits remind me of sponge candy - very dark burnt sugar notes. They’re crispy and pop with quite a bit of flavor considering they’re so small.
I was shunning this bar for months but now that I’ve tried it, I think it’s a really good effort. I wouldn’t spend more than $2 for it, but for something found at the local drug store, the caramel bits really make this one stand out from the crowd of syrupy filled bars.
Rating: 7 out of 10
But then I read the ingredients. Yes, it’s 64% cocoa solids too and has butteroil but it also has real cherries in it. But in addition there are apples and pineapple and later in the listing some artificial color & flavor (though it appears far more color than flavor). It’s a fruit salad in a bar of chocolate. Curiosity wins.
It smells woodsy and rather like maraschino. Oh, and then biting into it, it was apparent that it was more of a cherry-flavored bar than a cherry-studded bar.
The fruit bits are soft and chewy, kind of tangy, a little grainy (as some dried fruits can be when the sugars crystalize) and a rather noticeable shade of pink. They don’t taste like much of anything though. The flavor seems to come from the chocolate itself.
No, this doesn’t work for me at all.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
I’m still curious to try their caramelized nib bar. This 64% chocolate base is a bit firmer and smokier than the Cacao Reserve that Hershey’s came out with, so I’d like to compare the two nibby bars.
Friday, May 2, 2008
There are a few candies still on my list of “I can’t believe you haven’t tried that before!” and chocolate covered gummi bears were one of them. Once I had the Japanese version, I realized I should try the original. They were invented over 30 years ago by none other than the ultimate “if it should be covered in chocolate, we’ll cover it in chocolate” company: Koppers Chocolates.
When I was in San Francisco I found not only Koppers Milk Chocolate Covered Gummi Bears, but also the White Chocolate Polar Bears at Sweet Dish on Chestnut Street.
I’m not sure why I’ve been reticent about trying them. It might be that I was expecting a Haribo gummi bear, which are rather firm. Instead Koppers uses Swiss gummis (I don’t know anything beyond that) that they are appropriately soft.
I got just a quarter of a pound each of mixed milk & polar bears to try. What struck me at first was the fact that all the white chocolate bears were the same milky yellow color. Even held up to the light, there was no indication what color the gummi bear beneath was.
What I found out later, after diligently sucking the chocolate off of enough of them for a scientific sample, is that they’re all the same color (whether milk or white covered)! Though they’re yellow, I’m hard pressed to say that they’re lemon flavored, merely that they’re a sweet & tangy mix.
The milk chocolate was pretty smooth, and very milky tasting. It melted well and didn’t have that light waxy glaze that many other panned candies have. The white chocolate was similarly milky in its taste, but not too sweet. As a combination goes, I still wasn’t completely on board with having chocolate with my gummi bears. They’re cute and easy to eat, but I think I might like them apart.
Rating: 6 out of 10
To be fair, even though Koppers invented the confectionery genre of chocolate covered gummi bears, the ones I see most often in drug stores, movie theaters & discount chains are called Muddy Bears and are made by Taste of Nature (who also makes Cookie Dough Bites) which I think is an awesome name for an unappetizing looking product.
The box features a yellow bear who is entirely too happy to be covered in chocolate. I’m not sure if he understands that once he’s sealed in his confectionery shell he’s doomed.
I’ve only seen them in the theater sized boxes. Inside the box is a cellophane pouch that holds the bears and keeps them fresh. (And makes for extra wrapper noises at the theater and probably scowly looks from me if I’m sitting near.)
As unattractive as the Koppers were, I think the Muddy Bears are even worse. But since they’re meant to be eaten at the movies based on the packaging, I’m going to guess that doesn’t matter much. (For the record, I like candy that looks the same after sitting unwrapped at the bottom of my purse, so that when I switch purses and find it down there, I know what it is ... and then I eat it.)
One of the big differences in the products is the gummi center. Muddy Bears use multi-flavored gummis. Of course being covered in milk chocolate there’s no way to know which flavor is which. It’s a benign chocolate-covered Russian roulette. Mostly I seemed to get green apple.
The chocolate coating seems a bit crumbly, not as smooth melting as the Koppers and very sweet without much of a “chocolate” taste. I can’t see myself buying these.
Candy Addict did a review last summer as well, interestingly, their photo of the box says, “The Original”, I’m guessing Koppers took issue with the accuracy and they’ve changed it to the version I have.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Meiji Gummy Choco set the bar too high. Their candies come in lots of different flavors, they’re packaged so nicely, the price is right even for an import and if you get a flavor mix, they’re color coded. But if you’re not able to get a hold of those, give the Koppers a try (you’ll probably see them in bulk bins), if the shop also carries chocolate cordials, they’re probably Koppers.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
When I was a kid one of the prized chocolate bars to get in a Christmas stocking was a Toblerone bar. They were huge and exotic. Pretty to look at and certainly unique in their composition: milk chocolate with almond nougat bits.
Times have changed and Toblorone aren’t so hard to find any longer. Toblerone is named for both the inventor of the confection, Theodor Tobler and torrones, the honey and almond nougat found in the chocolate. The shape is also distinctive (and protected by trademark), each piece a little triangle representing the Swiss Alps. The traditional bar is a series of twelve peaks. The single pieces are now sold in assortments and may be my perferred way of enjoying them.
The Toblerone is now made by Kraft, but before that it was made by Suchard (which was later swallowed by Kraft in Europe). Whether this has changed the quality of the chocolate is up for debate. I remember Toblerone being better when I was a kid, but there could be any number of reasons I appreciated it more.
The Milk Chocolate peak smells mildly of milk and coconut with a little chocolate touch. It has a pretty soft bite to it, so it’s not at all stiff and waxy. The honey notes of the hard nougat bits and almonds come out immediately, and if you’re a chewer, they add a little light texture. It’s rather sweet, but also rather different from the overtly milky Swiss chocolates I’ve become accustomed to.
It has a pleasant fruity overtone to the chocolate. It’s semi-sweet, so it’s not too dark, but still has a good melt. It’s a little grainy, a little chalky feeling towards the end but the abundant torrone bits kind of cover that up well.
The nutty notes from the nougat also blends well. This is the first time I think I’ve tried the dark bar, and it doesn’t really work for me. I’m completely missing the honey flavor from the nougat.
It’s very sweet: throat searingly sweet. It’s a good thing each piece is only two bites.
Though Toblerone calls this a “white confection” the fat in there is cocoa butter (so it really is white chocolate). So no worries about hydrogenated oils! It certainly smells strongly of Easter baskets and vanillin.
The milk flavors are very strong here, so strong it’s almost like eating a block of sweet vanilla cheese or something. The nice thing about it is that it does enhance the honey of the nougat,
Now this one is pretty cool. I have no idea what it’s called, as it’s not really on the Toblerone website. I’m calling it the Toblerone Stack and it features a hefty base of the traditional Milk Chocolate Toberlone and a little white cap of the White Toblerone.
Maybe they’re called Matterhorns. While the white chocolate one was far too much white chocolate, the balance of 3 to 1 milk chocolate actually works here.
The white chocolate makes the honey and vanilla notes pop even more and the milk chocolate keeps it grounded with the chocolate flavors. I know there used to be a candy bar in the States that had a trio of flavors stacked, the only current mass-produced bar I could find is the Australian Nestle Triple Decker (contains Strawberry, Milk & White).
The outside shell is pure milk chocolate, no nougat bits in there. The inside is a softer chocolate cream studded with the almond and honey torrone. There seems to be a larger proportion of almonds in there than usual as well.
It has a very distinct and creamy melt like a truffle, but completely lacking in the honey flavors and coconut scent of the original Milk Chocolate.
I really like these Single Peaks and would love to buy them for Christmas for putting in stockings or perhaps just in a candy dish. I don’t think they’d quite work for Halloween as an individually wrapped candy. Besides the fact that they’re probably absurdly expensive for giving away to kids you don’t even know the wrappers aren’t sealed (just twisted) so it’s possible that vigilant parents would just throw them out (or maybe they’d take them from the kids pointing out that they weren’t sealed to protect them but actually eat them).
I got these as samples from All Candy Expo but of course there’s no American website just for Toblerone, but here’s the page on the Kraft site.
Has anyone seen them in stores?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
If you haven’t been in a Target store and browsed their candy aisles, you’re missing a price-conscious chocoholic’s dream. There are shelves and shelves of high end bars at reasonable prices these days. They’ve started carrying more European bars and even some lines of organic and fair trade bars.
I noticed a series of bars in smart paperboard wrappers called Frey from Switzerland and thought I should give them a try. All the bars were flavored (I kind of wanted to just try their “chocolate” first) so I ended up choosing two of the lemon flavored bars.
Frey Supreme White Lemon & Lime is a pretty bar made with, as you can guess, white chocolate as a base.
The little flecks in the bar looked promising too. I didn’t read the ingredients until after I opened the bar, so I was a little confused when I finally had a bite.
It was crunchy! There were little tangy, citrusy, crunchy bits, like someone had mixed some pulverized lemon drops in my chocolate!
Here I was thinking I was going to get bits of zest. But why was I thinking that? Pure assumption. Mostly because that’s what I wanted. After I got over that initial shock, it wasn’t bad. The tartness of the candy bits set off the chocolate nicely, but interfered with the overall creamy texture because it had a dry aspect to it. There was a very small note of black pepper in this as well, which did give the ordinarily bland white chocolate a little kick.
The second bar I picked was also on the lemon theme, Citron & Poivre. Mmmm, lemon and pepper. Lemon and pepper go so well together, they’ve bottled it and called it Lemon Pepper. And if it’s good on fish, it ought to be great in chocolate. (If they had a milk chocolate and lemon bar, I would have bought that, too.)
The package says that this is extra fine dark chocolate with a fruity touch of lemon and black pepper. The bar is lovely, large and thin with a good snap. It’s 55% cocoa solids ... which isn’t terribly dark, so I was expecting a sweet and creamy bar.
A couple of things bugged me about this bar before I even started eating it. One, it’s very thin. While some folks like that, I kind of like a little depth to my chocolate when I bite it. It also makes the bar a bit more compact. This 3.5 ounce bar was packaged to look big (at least an inch longer than a regular 3.5 ounce bar from Green & Black’s or Endangered Species which are featured nearby on the shelf), but was really no different in mass.
Biting into it I found the same bitty, crunchy candy crumbles in it as the white chocolate bar. They had a nice tart bite to the, though some had a different bite: the black pepper.
The dark chocolate was largely overshadowed by these strong flavors. The texture was nice, not as buttery as the Lake Champlain I had yesterday which was a similar cocoa content. Instead it was sweet and then had tangy bits that just made the sweetness more apparent.
The dark bar contains no milk products so is suitable for vegans. (However it is processed in a facility that also uses milk and nuts, so is not for those who are allergic or very strict.)
I have to say that I wanted to like these more. The flavor combinations are certainly ones that I’m predisposed to like, but I wanted a smooth, creamy, Swiss chocolate experience. They have a huge selection of bars and I might have to try the Caf? & Cacao, which is extra fine milk chocolate with coffee and crispy cocoa nibs. At $1.99 I certainly don’t feel cheated, they were a fun experience. The White chocolate bar has a slight edge if I had to pick from these two again. The packaging is nice, the box folds back together well and I was able to put a piece of tape on it to keep the leftovers until I finished them. I’m certainly thinking about trying other bars in the line, so stay tuned for what I hope are rave reviews.
SugarHog has a review of the Frey Japonais, which sounds like a winner ... a combo of hazelnut and milk chocolate. Nicole of Slashfood (now of Baking Bites) liked the Citron & Poivre bar a bit more than I.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.