Thursday, January 17, 2008
Over the holidays my mother was in town for a visit and we went on a hunt for exotic citrus. I thought for sure I could find some fresh yuzu in Little Tokyo. (I was also keeping my eyes open for kalamansi, dalandan and ponkan.) Finally I did see some yuzu at Mitsuwa Marketplace, but at $29.99 a pound (about $8 each), I had to give up on my plans to candy yuzu peel.
There were a few consolation prizes though, including my new favorite Wheat Chocolate and I picked up a tube of Meiji Gummy Choco.
I’ve had these before, one of my co-workers loves to bring in new finds from her local Asian market and shared some with me. But I gobbled them up before I could take any pictures. So here they are, in all their glory.
Meiji packages these in several different ways, but I prefer the tall tube (a little shorter than a standard paper towel roll).
The design on the package is absolutely wonderful. It’s colorful and exciting but not too busy. Even without the English on the package, it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going on inside. Each end shows the little candies, just slightly larger than real life. There are also cute little peep mascots on the package wearing little hats ... I think they’re hats, or someone’s dipped their heads in chocolate.
Luckily this was an export package and was in English. The mix of flavors here are Strawberry, Muscat and Orange. The flavored white chocolate coating is real white chocolate. The ingredients for the confection start out like this: sugar, corn syrup, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, palm oil, concentrated fruit juice, skim milk powder, cacao mass, gelatin ... and so on.
Now, you may find this a little odd, but before I was exposed to the Gummy Choco, I’d never had chocolate-covered gummis before. (I’ll have some Muddy Bears up in the next week or so as a comparison). Somehow I always thought that the texture combo wouldn’t work, that the chocolate would be grainy and flaky compared to the gummi or that the chocolate would be subpar. Meiji has balanced theirs with a very soft gummi that’s pretty intensely flavored along with a generous and flavored white chocolate coating.
If the idea of white chocolate is just too difficult for you, Meiji makes a milk chocolate and strawberry version that’s also spectacular (and often sold in boxes instead of the tubes). I haven’t seen them in the States, but here are some more versions on Flickr.
Basically, I love these. I love the look of the package, I love the easy-to-dispense tube. The taste is great, often with flavor mixes there’s one that I don’t like, but I loved all of them. The price for an import candy wasn’t too bad ($1.49 at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo Plaza) and it was absolutely fresh. There’s even 8% of my daily RDA of calcium in every serving. If they sold these at movie theaters, I might actually start going to the movies again.
They’re pretty popular and can be found in both Chinese, Korean and Japanese markets as well as various webstores. I’m not sure if they’re carried in comic book stores, but keep an eye out anyplace that you can find manga and other Asian imports.
(Meiji also makes other tubular goodness with their Coffee Beat.)
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I’ve been cleaning up my studio space and going through all my unreviewed items. Let me say that there are a lot of them so I’m going to devote the rest of the week to clearing them out of the queue.
I don’t know where they came from. My neighbor Robin gave them to me from one of her friends at work who travels a lot. The back of the package has a translation on it, unfortunately into another Asian language. The only thing in English on the package besides the calorie info is the words “Half Cut Chocolate.”
These lovely little hemispheres look just like itty bitty cantaloupes. They each come individually wrapped in cellophane. Even though they’re wrapped, the bag smells of a light melon flavor. Once opened, they do smell a lot like cantaloupe. The white confection base is sweet and a good complement for the flavor. They’re a little bland, but so incredibly cute and of course so unusual.
I was rather unsure of how melon would go with chocolate, but it’s a perfectly natural combo for white chocolate.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I’m not a big fan of sesame flavored things. I enjoy sesame snaps (basically, sesame brittle) and the odd seed on a bun ... well, I also like halvah. Okay, I might just love sesame!
I was kind of on the fence about these. They tasted a lot like toasted sesame oil used in Japanese cooking, which always tastes a little burnt to me. But they were very smooth and creamy and after chewing for a minute or so they become very rich. But the smell put me off each and every time.
I ordered this box from JList.
(I realize now that I carelessly photographed this package upside down. Even though I don’t read Japanese, it’s not like I couldn’t have figured out that the little angel went at the top.)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I had high hopes for the red bean flavored caramels. They package was easy to spot, pretty much kidney bean red.
The Morinaga caramels have always had a slight grain (kind of a short caramel or dry caramel). This worked particularly well with the red bean flavor, which of course I always expect a little bean mealiness. It’s so smooth though and has such a consistent texture, it really works. It reminded me a lot of adzuki ice cream in that it got that creamy texture, but it’s much less sweet and more flavorful.
I really liked this and was looking forward to buying more, but I haven’t seen them again. I got this box in Little Tokyo after lunch one day when I was on jury duty.
Rating: 7 out of 10
This was one of the products I was looking forward to at the All Candy Expo. I didn’t make it over to their booth until the last day and all they had left was their original flavor. Their Creamy Pralines also come in Bananas Foster, Chocolate and Cafe au Lait but all they had left was the original.
Aunt Sally’s makes two different kinds of Pralines (pronounced PRAH-leens), this Creamy kind and a Creole kind.
The Creamy Pralines are a nice size, 3/4 of an ounce, like a small chocolate chip cookie. The nuts are abundant and smell fresh and kind of like maple. The sugary praline base is soft and kind of chewy like a fudge, but not quite caramel. It’s very smooth with only a slight grain to it.
I’m much more fond of either the straight chewy pralines or the sandier version (I think that’s Creole), but these were still very nice. I’m still curious to try the Bananas Foster version. At $2 each on the website, they’re a little pricey. I get one that’s almost triple the size at Littlejohn’s Toffee at the Farmers Market for $2.50 (it’s the sandy style).
I still haven’t been able to find them in person anywhere, SugarHog.net found them at the Albanese Candy Factory store.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This is one of those times where I missed the boat when photographing a selection of chocolates. This eentsy-weentsy box holds 1.76 ounces of chocolate. The box itself is about 3 1/2 inches square. There are nine pieces of molded Belgian chocolates.
So for the same calorie count that you’re used to with a candy bar, you can indulge in these cute little bon bons. They’re a perfect little stocking stuffer, especially when you see that the price is $1.99.
There’s even a little guide to each of the pieces (I’ll go kinda clockwise starting at the top with the biggest piece):
Though you could just pop each piece into your mouth whole, I bit each in half while eating them, so there are 18 bites total ... a nice way to slow down and enjoy such a small portion.
The selection is a little sweet and hazelnut-focused for an assortment for me. I wanted a bit more dark chocolate (and the dark ones were good). As a change from the normal Toblerone or tube of Droste as a stocking stuffer, party favor or office gift, these are pretty spectacular. As something I’d grab to satisfy me, they don’t quite make it.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I’m not sure what the precise name of this item is, as there are lotsa different things on the package, different sizes, different fonts. I’m going to go with Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark White Chocolate Bar. The description clears this up, “White chocolate covers a bar of dark chocolate & peppermint bits.”
Though the bar looks kind of like some sort of yogurt-covered meal replacement bar, it’s actually high-density candy. It’s pretty hefty at 2.25 ounces. It’s all-natural, with the pink coloring coming from beet juice. The white chocolate is real, with the first ingredients being sugar and cocoa butter. So be prepared, this is a fatty, fatty bar. The recommended dosage for some reason is 2/3 of the bar which clocks in with 36% of your daily RDA of saturated fats (though none of them trans).
But it’s the holidays!
The core of the bar is a solid plank of semi-sweet chocolate with a light peppermint essence in it. Then it’s coated in a generous layer of white chocolate studded with crushed peppermint candies.
If you’re a fan of peppermint bark, this is a good, portable option. High quality ingredients. Nice packaging (the bar is sealed in plastic/foil wrapper inside) and a decent price at $1.49 (this works out to about $10.50 a pound). I wanted more texture difference, more crunch, maybe not quite such a thick chunk.
It’s a good stocking stuffer or just a little treat for yourself when you don’t want to buy a huge tin of peppermint bark.
Friday, December 7, 2007
You know what’s great about the Holiday season? Hostess gifts. People come to my house and for no reason I can tell other than crossing the threshold they feel like they have to give me something. And the gift most often in their hands is some sort of sweet goody.
I should just leave the door unlocked from November on!
My brother-and-sister-in-law brought some wonderful New Mexico goodies for my husband (posole & green chiles) but I got some Jo’s Candies Peppermint Crunch. The box makes it look like a pretty simple confection: dark chocolate over crunched up peppermint candies.
Oh, they’re so much more than just chocolate and crushed candy canes. I was worried that the center would just be a mint honeycomb (not that it would be bad that way). Instead The center is a mix of white chocolate/confection with crushed hard candy mints then covered in a dark chocolate.
This makes the center easy to bite but still satisfyingly crunchy, not overwhelmingly minty or tacky/sticky to chew.
They’re also all natural and Kosher. That means that even the little crunchy candies don’t have that dreadful Red #40, instead they use Red Beet Juice. Jo’s Candies are kind of pricey but quality ingredients, good packaging and freshness costs money. I’m deeply curious about their Dark Chocolate Turtles and the Mint Coco Jo’s that sound like a much better Girl Scout Cookie.
The little squares a dang pretty, glossy and dashed with little dark chocolate squiggles. The dark chocolate coating is pretty thick on the top, thicker usually than the photo above shows. So the proportions are pretty equal.
I think they were intended as a gift for me and my husband, but I don’t see myself eating his green chiles, so I’m pretty comfortable eating the whole box on my own to keep things equal in the relationship.
Monday, November 12, 2007
First, the package. It’s a 3 ounce bar in a pretty tab-top box. The printing is elegant, with a matte-gold background with a little wallpaper pattern and an embossed gold logo for their new Private Reserve line. The bar inside is wrapped in gold foil.
The Vanilla Bean Brulee with 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate boasts on the front that it contains Madagascar Vanilla Beans. (On the back in far smaller print it mentions additional artificial flavor in the filling.)
The bar consists of eight squares. It’s dark and shiny and really a stunningly lovely bar. It has a pleasant but not overwhelmingly sweet smell of chocolate, mostly the cherry fruit notes and some smoke with just a light wiff of bourbon once snapped in half.
Though the package shows the filling as being thick and rather yellow, it’s actually a creamy white and thin. The chocolate has a good snap and a creamy melt for a 70%. Not too bitter with mostly woodsy notes of sandalwood and smoke. Though not a lot of filling, the white chocolate and vanilla center is wonderfully buttery and smooth and does have a good vanilla note to it. It also has a little salt, which really makes it pop, giving each set of flavors and textures distinctiveness.
I was impressed! I ate the whole thing. The price is pretty good for something that you find a drug store. If faced with this and the more standard candy bar fare, I might dig deep for this more expensive bar. It still wouldn’t replace an exceptional chocolate bar, but as something to compete with Hershey’s Cacao Reserve or Ghirardelli, I think it holds its own. It also holds a distinct place, I don’t think anyone else makes a bar like this in this price range.
UPDATE: Since some others have commented about the little tasting squares, I’ve gotten a hold of some of those and have to agree, they’re not the same! They taste tired and weak and a little waxy.
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.