Monday, January 2, 2006
I’ve reviewed a few single orgin chocolates before (and I really liked the Chocovic). I find the idea of it being like fine wine and elusive and all that intriguing, but it’s also kind of frustrating because you might find something really fantastic that can never be replicated. That’s why chocolate blends like we’re used to are so widely used. A Hershey bar always tastes like a Hershey bar. Godiva always tastes like Godiva.
Lake Champlain is also the maker of the highly esteemed and highly expensive Five Star Bars. And of course my friends Will & Susan are well aware of my affection for good chocolates and gave this to me for Christmas.
The packaging is very pretty, four different single origin/cocoa percentages in pretty little wrappers and six of each little square. They’re in a clear plastic box that lets you see the delectable stacks of squares. Not only did I review these in alphabetical order, but it also happens to be the order of increasing cocoa solids.
African Blend (54% cocoa solids) - This one was by far the sweetest, it has a good mild woodsy aroma with a slight smoky note. It’s not at all complex, but very pleasant.
Sao Thome (70% cocoa solids) - This one has more immediate bitter notes and though very smooth it was also rather dry. The buttery melt has a slightly tart bite towards the end, complex blend of woodsy notes and vanilla. By far my favorite, the most chocolatey in my feeling.
Tanzania (75% cocoa solids) - This one was exceptionally smooth and buttery, which surprised me given its high cocoa solids. It was also bitter and had a very dry finish. There was a bit of a sour bite on the front of the mouth and a slight cherry note to the whole flavor (a blend of both the sour cherry and the more robust wild cherry flavor).
I tasted all of these without looking at the website and was pleased to see that I was tasting the same things that they’re selling these squares on. These types of tasting squares are a great way to get a good cross section of all the flavors that chocolate can hold within it.
Sunday, January 1, 2006
Happy New Year’s Day! Here’s a special review of an item some of you may be eyeing as part of a resolution to eat healthier.
I’m one of those people who believes that you should eat what you want and try not to compromise on it. If you want chocolate and you’re on a diet, instead of obsessing over what you can or can’t have, have the chocolate, but in moderation. Maybe walk an extra mile or something to make up for the indulgence. But denying yourself just makes you want that thing all the more and of course less satisfied with what you end up with. A chocolate yogurt will never be the same as a chocolate mousse. This is the way I live my life. And you’d think from reading this blog that I weigh over 200 pounds, but I don’t. I actually have a fair bit of self control because I allow myself indulgences and savor them. (I’m also, probably, blessed genetically with a good metabolism and of course I do remain active.)
It’s nice to think that sweets can be nutritious and I’m grateful that good news is coming out about nuts and chocolate not being as evil as once thought. I have no illusions that Pixy Stix will ever be a healthy choice. They can make candy healthier by choosing good ingredients, like eliminating trans fats. What I question is fortifying regular candy with things in order to make them more healthy. Sometimes it works: the grapefruit pastilles I like have vitamin C in them and of course it’s nice to get a boost of fiber from my regular Mounds bar (well, it’s not fortified with it, that’s just the wonder that is coconut). When adding a vitamin or mineral to a treat though, it’s important not to spoil it what we liked in the first place.
Adora is calcium fortified chocolate. It comes in two flavors, Milk and Dark Chocolate. They’re like thick coins of chocolate. They smell nice and are certainly pretty. I bought a bag of the dark chocolate tabs and they gave me a sample with the milk chocolate tabs to try as well. At first it was rather nice, sweet chocolate ... but as it went along it tasted, um, dusty. If you chew it, you can definitely hear the grain on your teeth. This was a dry gritty grain like that stuff the dentist uses to polish your teeth. The weird thing is that I’ve eaten a few of them now and they’re not all like that. The milk chocolate one was very sweet, but no grain at all until the very end. Some are pleasant and the grain is barely noticeable, and other times I have to wash it down with water or a few crackers. If I were to buy these and use them regularly, I’d definitely go for the milk chocolate one, even though it probably has less of the antioxidant benefit, you’re going to be more likely to eat them.
It is generously fortified though:
They recommend at least one tab a day and no more than three as overconsumption of calcium provides no additional benefit.
I have to give Adora credit. They have a good website with lots of information and points to some good resources about bone health and the importance of Vitamin D. The thing is, I think I can eat these every day as a supplement, but I’m never going to feel like it’s a treat. So they would just become an addition to my regular candy consumption, not replace any portion of it. It doesn’t quite rise to the “Calcium the gourmet way,” but I could probably eat one of these every morning or evening. I will, however, finish the bag I have. If they come out with other varieties, I’ll be interested to try them. The good news is that Adora is reforumlating the dark chocolate ones to be less grainy, so if you purchase them now, you’re likely to get a more pleasant product. (I’ll update when I get a hold of the new ones.)
I’m also going to get some to try the new formulation and will report back.
UPDATED UPDATE: I got the new samples! (Thanks Ed, that was fast!). I have to commend them for smoothing out the chocolate, especially on the dark ones. There’s still a trace of grainyness, but the overt gritty feeling is gone completely. I’m still not going to mistake these for a piece of candy, but the aroma is really pleasing and of course the boost of calcium for my aging bones (yes, my birthday is in a week). They are MUCH better tasting than the Viactiv chews I’ve tried (both the calcium ones in chocolate and the vitamin ones in fruit), so if taste is something that will help you keep up with taking a supplement, this might be the way to go. I’ve upgraded the rating from 6 out of 10 to 8 out of 10.
Friday, December 30, 2005
The Man picked up some new stuff for the stockings this year. Besides the typical hard candies (Brach’s) and Hershey’s Kisses (in red and green foils) we got two new items:
Butterfinger Jingles (Nestle) - you know what’s great about these? They’re made with real milk chocolate. Instead of that waxy “chocolate coating” on the Butterfinger bar, Jingles start with real milk chocolate and then put little crunches of Butterfinger centers. They’re a bit bigger than a Hershey’s Kiss, which is a little too big in my opinion, but I’ll survive with a larger bite.
The other thing is, these made me realize is how clever Milton Hershey was when he decided how to wrap the Kisses with the foil wrapping “up” the Kiss, instead of putting the edges of the foil on the bottom. This is evident with the Jingles because all the foil edges are folded to the bottom of the Jingle so that it doesn’t have a flat bottom ... they wouldn’t sit straight for my photo.
The other new candy for us was the Hershey’s Mint Mix Miniatures. There are three different bars, Milk Chocolate with Mint, Semisweet Chocolate with Mint and White Chocolate with Mint and Candy Bits.
The Milk Chocolate with Mint is positively blasted with mint. Seriously minty. Not Altoid-level, but for a chocolate product, I’m surprised it was brown it was so minty. I had to sequester these bars from the rest of the stocking mix because they were contaminating the Jingles. No one wants minted Butterfinger Jingles. The dark one was nice, nothing to write home about and maybe a little sweet but I did actually enjoy the White Chocolate one. I know, white chocolate, most people go, “ew.” But I do have a fondness for misty mints and let’s face it, that’s all this is. The good news is that Hershey’s uses actual cocoa butter in their white chocolate, so at least it’s not jam-packed with trans fats. They are actually the best thing in this mix, smooth, not too sweet and not too artificially vanilla tasting.
If you see any of these on sale after Christmas, they’re well worth picking up to keep around for snacking. I really don’t care what my candy is dressed in, as long as it’s good.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (but if you can find them for 75% off, then it’s a 10 all the way)
I had no idea Ferrara Pan came out with a new candy. They’re best known for Lemonheads, which are the best lemon hard candies ever. I figured these would be like Skittles.
They’re about the same size, maybe a little larger but a bit harder feeling. There’s a candy shell with a bit of flavor to it and then a chewy center. The center doesn’t taste like anything at all, just sweet and the shell is tart and sweet and crunchy. The cool thing about the shell is if you bite it right, you can get just the shell to come off, which is where the flavor is. The center isn’t quite a gummy, not quite a jelly bean. It’s hard to describe and not really that good. If they really wanted to make everyone sit up and notice their first new candy line in 40 years, a combination between a Skittle type chew and the Lemonhead’s flavored shell would have been awesome.
Sadly, they did not consult me.
The flavor variety is nice: orange, lemon, grape, green apple and cherry but the colors are a little off. The grape is not purple as shown on the package but more like a navy blue. The colors were also not consistent or even, which is too bad because I’ve always liked the way Lemonheads looked. The name is cool, like marbles but with an N, only I don’t know what the N stands for. It also feels like the candy is trying to hard to be cool, calling them “slammers” and positioning them as “awesome” and “get narbleized”. But their website is a little odd when you click on “where to buy” it says you can’t find them in stores for your state ... but I did!
If Ferrara Pan wants these to be a big hit, I really think they need to add that Lemonhead layer, you know, the one under the candy shell that’s a little grainy and bursting with sour goodness. That fills a hole in the fruit chew market and would put these up on the list of candies that I’d buy. It’d not only make the candy tastier, it’d set it apart from other sours and chews because of the interactive element of waiting for the sour layer or trying to peel it with your teeth. I know it’s probably more expensive to pack that much flavor into them, but at over two ounces per package, I’d be willing to settle for 1.5 ounces of really tasty candy. For now, I’ll just keep picking up Skittles.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Thursday, December 29, 2005
It took me a long time to figure out what a chocolate donut has to do with Wonka (the books or movies), but after mulling it a bit it came to me that there’s a line in Veruca Salt’s song “I Want It Now” in the 1972 version of the movie:
Yeah, that’s a stretch, but there you have it, the donut Veruca was insisting on.
It’s okay, the Wonka Donutz has as little to do with the bakery donuts as they do the movie. They’re donut shaped. There’s no bready, fried dough in there at all. It’s chocolate, through and through except for the fun little colored nonpareils. But whew, these are chocolatey.
The Donutz is a plump, milk chocolate hoop with a firm, creamy chocolate truffle-like center. The outside chocolate is mild and sweet, like that found in a Nestle Crunch bar. A little on the grainy side, but pleasant. The inside of the candy is a sweet and melty filling of chocolate with a slight rum aroma to it. The sprinkles (half of which are guaranteed to not make it into your mouth) provide a fun little crunch.
I wasn’t really that interseted in this candy until Alexander, a reader, sent me his own review. Overall I was expecting something fudgier and sweeter (which would have been a bad thing). Instead it was just very mildly chocolatey and mildly sweet with some textures to mix it up a bit. I would probably eat it if you put it in front of me, but I don’t see myself buying them unless I’m going for a Wonka theme thing. This candy bar was made in Brazil.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Name: Snickers Almond
Why didn’t someone mention that the Mars bar was quietly replaced with the Snickers Almond bar five years ago? I didn’t notice. Mostly because I was never a Mars bar fan. A Mars bar in the States used to be a nougat bar with almonds and a strip of caramel and covered in milk chocolate. A Mars bar in other parts of the world is like a Milky Way is here in the States: a nougat bar with a stripe of caramel covered in milk chocolate. In the rest of the world a Milky Way is like the American 3 Musketeers. I can go on and on, but suffice to say that Mars has a big old confusing name problem on their hands and all I can do is try to make a grid to display it. (Please correct me if I’ve got them wrong.)
USA….............. contents ..................UK/Canada
You know, there are a bazillion names for these candy folks to choose from, why do they have to confuse the globe-trotting candy lovers so? For some other attempts at disambiguation, have a look at this page comparing the old Mars and the Canadian Milky Way (with cross sections).
But I digress. I’m supposed to be reviewing the Snickers Almond bar.
But I don’t wanna review this bar because I didn’t like it much and it reminded me why I forgot about the bar entirely. It smells good, which is just a ruse. First, the nougat is nothing more than a flavorless grainy sweet blob. Good nougat has a flavor of some sort, an essence of honey or malt or, well, something. This is just sweet. The caramel is also sweet, but has a touch of salt to it which I fully support. The almonds are nice, but scant. The chocolate is sweet and passable as a chocolate cloak. As a whole combination it just didn’t wow me and didn’t satisfy me. I didn’t finish it.
There are other bars out there that do this better. The See’s Awesome Nut & Nougat Bar is one (but probably not a viable alternative as it’s not that easy to get a hold of). Frankly I prefer the plain old Snickers bar to this. There was a Mars Midnight for a while there in the nineties that I was rather fond of but gone now.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Friday, December 23, 2005
Name: Italian Soft Almond Nougat
When I was a kid we got rather eclectic Christmas stockings filled with candy treats that we never got any other time of the year. Christmas candy was unlike any other in our house or for any other holiday, it was a trip around the world in an oversized sock. English hard candies, Swiss & Belgian chocolates and Italian Torrones. I’ve been having a hard time finding Torrones the past few years here in Los Angeles, I used to get them at Cost Plus World Market, but haven’t seen them for quite a while. This is why I was so excited to see that Trader Joe’s had these when I was there last weekend.
Torrones are soft nougat usually flavored Amaretto, orange, vanilla or
lemon. Most European countries have their own version of the Torrone, the French do nice nougats, in both the soft and hard varieties and the Swiss Toblerone bar has hard honey nougat bits in it and the Spanish are well known for their version, the Turron. The European nougat is rather different than what you find in the American candy bar trade. Trader Joe’s has carried nougat in the past in long bars, but I’d never seen these Christmas classics before. They’re individually wrapped pieces in its own little box and gives a little history:
There are 18 of these little individually wrapped packages, boxed together. The torrone is soft and pliable white nougat that is and is sheathed in an edible, tasteless wafer to keep it from sticking. The slice of nougat has a lot of nuts but is not as “fluffy” as some others, in fact, it looks downright flat. The pieces are ample, like one of those big block pencil erasers. The scent is very nice, sweet and with a good
dose of honey in there. It’s good and soft, so it’s not going to remove any dental work, sweet and it dissolves quickly and mixes with the delicate almonds. The flavoring is a little odd. Most Torrones are one flavor but this one seems to be a mix of lemon and amaretto. But neither is very apparent so it just ends up being a subtle essence.
Overall, they’re not quite satisfying my jones for a good Torrone, but they are fresh and here so they’ll do for now for the stocking stuffers. They’re certainly cheaper than some others I’ve bought but I miss the fanciful pictures of Italian royalty on the individual boxes. The biggest drawback of the overpackaging (plastic wrap, boxes inside bigger box) is that it’s quite obvious how many you’ve eaten when there’s a huge pile of torrone detritus next to you on the couch.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I’ve noticed that I get a lot of Google search hits on this blog for CraniYUMS. Well, that and Choxie. So it’s about time I gave folks what they’re looking for. This has got to be one of the more innovative candy formats I’ve seen. I got this as a sample at my Candy Warehouse visit over the summer. They hadn’t decided to carry the pops, so I didn’t want to blog about it until it was available then I forgot about it until I saw Candy Addict‘s post a few weeks ago.
What is it? It’s a hard candy lolly in the shape of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull then covered in a gummi “flesh”. The fleshy part is transparent, so you can see the skull shape at the center. It’s actually a pretty fun idea.
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach consuming it. A gelatinous skin does not lend itself to sucking, and of course it’s a bit big for putting in the mouth whole. So when I tried nibbling on the end of his snout, I kind of get the sense that there should be some growling involved. The gummi part is definitely gummi, but I guess that’s a good thing. You kind of have to rip it off the candy skull with your teeth. As a gummi it’s rather mild, not zesty orintensely flavored. The skin is cherry flavored and the skeleton is green apple. Once a corner has been started it’s pretty easy to nibble off pieces then to get to the center. The skeletal center is hard candy, but not quite hard, because I’m guessing the gummi softens it a little bit. The flavor overall was just bland, I wanted some zip to it all. Maybe mine was a little old, but I also think I’d prefer the lemon/cherry combo.
I’m obviously not the target market for this candy, but I can see it being a fun thing to pick up at a museum gift shop for my nephew should we go look at a dinosaur exhibit. But I can also see a kid getting kind of bored with it after a few minutes. It depends on the kid. I found myself eating all the gummi skin but I didn’t eat the center. They get big points from me on originality, but I see it as more of a special occasion candy than a regular one.
The package says it’s made in China, but it’s distributed by an Denver, CO company.
Rating - 5 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.