Wednesday, July 18, 2007
One of my favorite chocolate treats since I was a teen are Koppers’ Cordials. They’re little dark chocolate spheres, about the size of a hazelnut that hold a crystal sugar shell inside filled with a “cordial” of some sort. They’re just flavored, not real alcohol. The easiest flavor to find is Rum, but I’ve picked up Cognac, Mandarin Orange, Mint and Sambucca (Anise). In fact, Koppers has at least 40 different varieties.
Most of the time I find them at the chain bulk candy stores like Candy Station or Sweets Factory. They’re usually rather expensive (being a chocolate item and also rather difficult to make), most of the time approaching $20 a pound. But I was happy to see them at the Jelly Bean Factory over the weekend. They’re a great movie candy because they’re easy to eat and easy to savor, so that’s what I did with them.
The bonus to buying them in a pre-packaged bag is that you’re pretty sure you’re getting the flavor your want. The problem I have getting them in bulk sometimes if they have a large assortment is that they all look the same and can get jumbled up by a careless employee or a devilish customer. There are a few flavors that I find really unpleasant (Amaretto), so it’s no fun to get one of those by accident.
I’m positively spellbound by everything Koppers makes. They’re all so beautiful to behold. They’re always so shiny and perfect. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to about the All Candy Expo ... that huge wall they do of all of their products with little spoons so that you can taste each and every morsel.
The dark chocolate is sweet and mellow. Not too bitter or complex. It’s really just there to hold the cordial. The sugar shell is crunchy if you like to bite yours in half or just chew the whole thing. The cordial filling is like a hit of rum extract. I felt very sophisticated as a kid when I’d go to the candy counter at the department store and get a quarter pound of these (and a half a pound of gummi bears).
It’s also kind of fun to dissolve the chocolate slowly to get to the sugar sphere. It’s pretty durable, until of course enough of that to dissolve and out comes the little trickle of the cordial center.
Rum Cordials are the easiest to find, but I have to say that I prefer the darker flavors of Cognac and Whiskey or the real flavor zaps of Mandarin Orange or Sambucca.
If you want to feel really sophisticated, you can try real cordials from K Chocolatier in Bevery Hills (I know I was kind of harsh about the price, but they were $40!) for a real vodka martini inside of a chocolate sphere. Now that’s a sophisticated indulgence.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
There comes a time in every candy blogger’s career where she has to admit something tough, something that perhaps she never wanted to say out loud to anyone before. But you, dear readers, deserve to know.
I’m a nougat freak.
I love turrons, torrones, French nougat, Italian, Spanish, South African, Australian ... it doesn’t matter. I just love the stuff. I’m a nut for it. And while my sense of adventure is sometimes muted by my pocketbook, it seems that never matters when I’m presented with nougat ... especially when I see the word HONEY on the ingredients.
At Bristol Farms over the weekend I spent a good ten minutes staring at everything in the candy aisle. The place has a very nicely provisioned candy aisle ... a full selection of Green & Black bars, Cafe Tasse, Jo’s comfort confections, Jelly Belly by the pound, Scharffen Berger and of course a healthy assortment of imported consumer goodies like Aero and Violet Crumble. There tucked between some pastilles and Panda licorice bars was this solitary representative in the nougat family: Flamigni Torrone Morbido con Mandorle e Pistacchi.
The green paper wrapper has an inner foil wrapper and it felt nice and soft ... just the way I like it. (Okay, I like it hard and crisp, too.)
That’s the good stuff, all the way from Italy. The ingredients? Almonds (30%), Pistachios (13%), honey, glucose syrup, sugar, candied orange and citron peels, egg yolks, flavors and wafers.
Sounds good, and the egg yolks instead of egg whites colored me intrigued as did the citrus peels.
The bar was attractive unwrapped with the high percentage of nuts readily apparent.
The scent was only slightly of citrus and mostly of sugar with slight caramel notes and a little pistachio and vanilla thrown in. On the tongue though the honey flavor come out (not like the Nutpatch Nougat of course). Then come the zesty lemon peels and soft crunchy pistachios. It’s a riot of soft and mellow flavors and satisfying textures.
As long as you go into the bar realizing that it’s all about the subtle flavors and not about heavy honey or citrus, I think you’ll be pleased.
It’s definitely a bar I could indulge in every time I go to Bristol Farms (which is about five times a year, so certainly within the range of my pocketbook). I didn’t find much in the way of sources online, but Daprano has some other Flamigni nougats on their site.
Monday, July 16, 2007
There are two challenges going on right now from candy companies that are engaging consumers to get involved.
New Flavor Selection
The first comes from Just Born and Mike and Ike. They’re looking to add a new flavor assortment to their current repertoire that includes:
The items up for a vote are:
There’s no listing for what flavors are actually in any of those assortments (for all I know, they’re the same assortment of flavors, they’re just calling them different names!).
You can vote at the Mike and Ike website. By voting you’re giving them an email address ... and you don’t really win anything, except perhaps the satisfaction of the flavors you want.
Endangered Species is prepping a new bar and are looking for an animal to feature on the package.
You can vote here. Give your top three choices. For more about endangered species, check here at the IUNC Red List. And of course don’t suggest an animal they’ve already covered, so check those out here and here.
I’m not gonna say what my votes were for, but there weren’t any whales or dolphins on my list (as you might think).
For quite a while I’ve resisted going to visit L’Artisan du Chocolat, one of the few true chocolatiers here Los Angeles. (Jin Patisserie also falls into that list, but is in Venice so it may as well be in Santa Barbara.)
I can’t really explain my lack of interest, perhaps I doubted that they were any good. Perhaps it’s that I don’t like pretty painted looking chocolates ... there’s something about the idea of things that look like acrylic nail tips that just turns me off. But I’ve eaten and enjoyed such things (Christopher Elbow). Perhaps I resented their high prices. But then I have to look at my own hypocrisy of spending about a hundred bucks in one day walking around to three chocolate shops in New York City. There’s something about believing that something good can’t be just around the corner ... how special could it be if you could go there every day?
I went over to 1st Street, which is about two miles from my house and two miles from my office at lunch on Friday. Parking was super simple, so I don’t have that to whine about. The shop just so happens to be right next to Valerie Confections’ (which precipitated the visit) new shop that opens officially today.
The space is charming. A brick facade outside and bright yellow walls and green accents inside. The display case had a decent, if scant, assortment (the Salon du Chocolat was on Saturday and they were going to be closed, which I’m sure prompted the limited inventory). They were advertising their summer flavors in the window, so I made sure to pick out a few of those.
I got a box of nine chocolates (and gave one to my husband of his choice ... raspberry). I wrote down my selections, but not what they looked like so it was a bit of a struggle to figure some of it out (I took a couple of reference photos but even those weren’t much help when it turned out that they weren’t labeled in the case either). Their website offered no key.
Because the team at L’Artisan du Chocolat sells right out of the candy kitchen, I get the feeling that these were all very fresh (and there was certainly nothing in the flavor when consuming them that dissuaded me). I don’t mind a smaller selection if it means that everything meets a high standard. L’Artisan has been known for the past three years or so for their European style of molding and dipping, high chocolate content & fine ingredients along with a special penchant for interesting flavor combinations. I enjoy this with Chuao as well, and while at Chuao I get a rather masculine vibe from the flavors and the whole aesthetics of it, I get a neutral vibe from L’Artisan (and I get a feminine vibe from Vosges).
Cucumber & Vodka: Dark chocolate shell with a white chocolate cream center. There’s a light fresh flavor of cucumbers and faint little crunch of them in the background. The vodka adds a light alcoholic touch, it’s not a burning feeling, just a light tingle.
Basil: this one was very interesting in the best way possible. The basil was immediately apparent and reminded me of both licorice and basil and rosemary all at once. Fresh and clean and woodsy.
Fennel: a nice little square with an embossed design on the top. The shell is nice and dark and the center is super creamy. I wasn’t getting much in the way of fennel though. Just some grassy sort of flavors. Both fresh herb shapes were really cute and probably my preference for designs (embossed but not painted).
Classic: this was a perfect little sphere, dusted in cocoa powder. It’s soft and buttery and has a slight salty hint (cooca powder often does that for me). A little woodsy, very smooth and satisfying.
Rose Petal: quite floral but not in a soapy way. fresh and with a slight fruity edge, this was not in the least bit soapy tasting like some rose items can be. The ganache was a little custardy, but smooth and not too sweet.
Tomato: fresh and with a slight fruity edge, I honestly wasn’t sure it was the tomato one at all. The ganache was a little custardy, but smooth and not too sweet
Lemon Mousse: this was one of the few that smelled like the flavor it was supposed to be before I even bit into it. The mousse in the center is chocolate (I didn’t know if it was going to be white). It’s definitely a zesty lemon, with little bits of lemon rind in the ganache. A little on the tangy side and definitely lemony. Very satisfying (especially since it was such a big piece).
Pomegranate: pomegranate is one of those fruity flavors that I think goes very well with chocolate, mostly because it has some dark syrupy and molasses notes to it. This one is bursting with pomegranate flavor ... a little like raspberry and a little like rose and a bit of a lemon tang to it.
The 9 piece box was $22 ... probably more than I want to go for on a regular basis. Their website also mentions that they do boxes by the pound as well, starting with a half a pound (I found this was the most cost effective at Recchiuti in San Francisco as well.)
It took about four pieces to sway me ... I’m still not keen on the design of all the truffles, but it’s something I can overlook when the flavors are solid and authentic like this. They’ll get another visit from me, if only because I missed out on quite a few flavors after checking the website.
Other flavors that I didn’t try that were stocked at the shop were: Kalamata Olive, Ginger, Mild Chili, Pina Colada, Maple Syrup with Cinnamon & Cloves, Vanilla, Kumquat and Chestnut. I’m also interested in Caramelized Banana, Spicy Hot Chili Pepper, Lavender, Rosemary, Candied Citrus & Ginger. They were also out of the dark chocolate Three Teas which I’m sure are great.
What I really wanted was a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea with my purchases. Perhaps 1st Street will become a new artisan confection mecca. As a place that’s convenient for me to go and pick up a small assortment (I’d like to just buy three and not have the whole box/packaging thing) I’m going to explore it further. I still am not convinced that it will surpass Chuao as a favorite local chocolatier (their quality is comparable, but the flavor sets are a little different) ... I think only the Caramelized Banana will be able to tell me.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:24 am
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The first is the Storck Chocolate Riesen in the individual pack (thanks so much for the heads up on their existence!). I finally found these at the Shell station on Hollywood where I fill up when I want a car wash. The pack looks a little bit like a roll of Starburst, it’s long and narrow. It holds five unwrapped caramels. They were tasty, though I think they might have been softer than the individually wrapped ones (or it could be the candy-unfriendly heat around here).
I picked up the Sour Patch Fruits because many folks recommended the assortment after my Sour Patch Kids review. The big difference here is the addition of grape and watermelon and the substitition of Raspberry for Cherry. If you know me, you’ll know where I’m going with this.
The watermelon is rather true feeling but the grape is very odd. I usually like SweeTart type grape items, but when I first tried this one I’d just brushed my teeth and for some reason that combination made it taste of sulphur. (Of course there are very few candies which do well after a hefty serving of toothpaste and it shouldn’t be a requirement.)
That aside, the great thing about the assortment in Sour Patch Kids for me was that my least favorite flavor in the mix was lime. In the Sour Patch Fruits the lime ranks as the third favorite flavor ... right in the middle. (Watermelon, Grape and then Cherry fall below.) So there’s just not enough flavors that I like here to keep the assortment in balance. I think it’s great though that they offer both assortments to satisfy folks who prefer one assortment over the other. (And yes, you can get all watermelon if you like!)
In other posts I’ve seen around the other candy blogs, here are the other reviews I’m going to try to track down the candy for:
Terry at The Chocolate Review has an array of Niederegger Marzipan. I’ve always been fond of the idea of the stuff, but not the actual flavor (amaretto just doesn’t do anything for me). But I did try the Niederegger capuccino marzipan bar a couple of years ago and think that this assortment would be similarly enjoyable for me.
Rebecca at Sugar Hog had a similarly lovely assortment from Europe called the Ferrero Garden. I know they’ll probably never sell these in the States, but there are always friends that are willing to pick up stuff for me at Duty Free.
The week in reviews:
Monday: Trader Joe’s Espresso Chocolates (9 out of 10)
Tuesday: 3 Musketeers Mint with Dark Chocolate (7 out of 10)
Wednesday: Dogs versus Cats ... fruit snacks that is (5 out of 10)
Thursday: Jelly Belly - All Natural (8 out of 10)
Friday: Baby Bottle Pacifier Tarts (6 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 6.67 ... 33% chocolate content.
Coming up this week, I took at little tour of the new Valerie Confections store (write up on Chowhound & photos here) and also finally visited L’Artisan du Chocolat (a high end chocolatier here in my neighborhood in Los Angeles).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.