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Monday, June 23, 2014

Simply Balanced Dark Chocolate Mixed Berry (Target)

Simply Balanced Dark Chocolate Mixed BerryTarget has a variety of house brands on their shelves right now, though not that many in the candy aisle any longer. I did spot this new variety of little fruity chocolate morsels and picked up Simply Balanced Mixed Berry Fruit Juice Pieces Covered in Dark Chocolate. I don’t actually know what these are supposed to be called, since that sounds more like a description than a name. The brand called Simply Balanced is also new to me, the package says that its goodness guarantee takes the guesswork out of eating well.

As far as I can tell, a Canadian confectioner called Brookside invented the concept of a little antioxidant-themed jelly morsel covered in dark chocolate back in late 2010. They grew quickly enough that Hershey’s decided to purchase the company and of course knock-off versions have emerged over the intervening years. This version from Target has some interesting elements to it.

They’re made with Rainforest Alliance certified cacao from Ecuador. Though it’s nice dark chocolate, it’s only 60%. The package also calls them fruit juice pieces, similar to the language used by Brookside for their jelly thingies. In reality they’re jellies. They’re made from glucose, water, fruit juice from concentrate, citric acid, pectin and corn starch. So, it’s less fruit juice and mostly sugar. Honestly, I would mind something called dark chocolate covered fruit jellies (those already exist, and they’re usually raspberry or orange flavored and usually sticks). But this new genre of candy is trying to paint itself with the fine qualities of antioxidant rich berries, when the reality is they’re made from not just blueberry, pomegranate and cranberry juice, but also apple and lemon.

Simply Balanced Dark Chocolate Mixed Berries

As much as I may make fun of their marketing materials, it is a list of ingredients that I could put together in my kitchen (though the end product wouldn’t look as nice). The pieces are large, like Peanut M&Ms instead of the smaller pieces from Brookside. The coats are not quite as smooth, a little dinged up, I think, from getting jostled around. But still shiny.

They smell a little fruity, with some woodsy notes of chocolate. The bite is pretty soft, the jelly center is springy and dissolves quickly. Some had a small hint of grainy sugar to them, but most were smooth. The chocolate is creamy and has a good, quick melt and soft bite. The fruity centers were tangy with a strong blueberry and cranberry flavor to them. There’s a light bitter note towards the end that reminded me of cranberries.

Simply Balanced Dark Chocolate Mixed Berries

The pieces are easy to eat and a nice change from nut and chocolate combinations. They’re not innovative, but nicely done. The ingredients are pretty clean and the use of Rainforest Alliance cacao and labeling it as being made with non-GMO ingredients is a nice touch.

The candies contain soy and are made in a facility that also processes milk, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. (Too bad, it would be nice if these were at least free of some of the major allergens.) They’re kind of expensive at $3.59 for only 7 ounces, but comparable to the Trader Joe’s, Brookside and Brach’s versions price wise, but I actually prefer them.

Related Candies

  1. Brach’s Dark Chocolate Blueberry Acai
  2. Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate
  3. Necco Wafers SmartFruits
  4. Wonka Exceptionals Fruit Jellies: Grapefruit, Goji Berry & Red Apple
  5. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Powerberries
  6. Nestle Cranberry Raisinets


Name: Mixed Berry Fruit Juice Pieces Covered in Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Target
Place Purchased: Target (West Hollywood)
Price: $3.59
Size: 7 ounces
Calories per ounce: 148
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Jelly Candy, 8-Tasty, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:34 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChocolateEthically SourcedJelly Candy8-TastyTargetComments (0)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Peeps Minis Vanilla Creme

Peeps Minis Vanilla CremeJust Born has introduced a new year-round version of marshmallow Peeps. The new Peeps Minis are different in a few ways. First, they’re not packaged a tray, they’re tossed together into a stand up, reasealable bag. Second, they’re mini versions of individual Peeps, each Peeps is not a single bite.

They’re available in several different flavors, but the only one I can find here in Los Angeles right now is the Vanilla Creme Peeps Minis. The package holds on 3.4 ounces and cost $2.79 at Target. They’re part of this whole hand-to-mouth snacking trend, as they analysts call it, that I refer to as morselization.

The surprising thing about Peeps Minis is that they do fulfill a big hole in the candy aisle. There are no sugar crusted marshmallows. If you meander over to the ingredient aisle in grocery stores you’ll find starch coated Jet-Puffed and Campfire marshmallows, but they’re only rarely found in the candy aisle (usually in special displays for S’mores along with graham crackers and chocolate bars).

Peeps Mini Vanilla Creme

They do smell a lot like cake. A sort of butter flavored cake, maybe pound cake and strongly of vanilla extract.

Each Peep is pretty small. They’re about half the weight of a regular Peep (which is usually about 8.5 grams) at about 4 grams each. There are only 14 calories per Peep, mostly because they don’t weight much and are made from sugar and a little protein.

I like white Peeps because they have no artificial colors to get in the way of the flavors. They do taste rather cakey, like an Angel Food Cake in both flavor profile and actual texture. I liked them much more than I thought, though I still doubt I’d pick these up as a go-to candy, even in the summer. My biggest issue is the eyes, I can’t stand the little wax eyes on Peeps, I have to pull them off, which means that I can’t just eat them. They are an ideal version of Peeps to take to the movies, as the package is very quiet and of course they’re easy to share ... and would probably pair very well with popcorn.

It seemed like there was less sugar sanding on the, and because the package does a better job of containing the leftover sugar than the trays, they were far less messy. I don’t know how good of a job the zipper-top package does at keeping them fresh, I only had them for a few days, did not seal them and they’re still fresh. (But it’s a bit more humid in Southern California as were in our June Gloom weather pattern of low clouds in the morning.)

They’re gluten free and fat free (as if people have allergies to fat). They’re made in the USA, and may contain milk but have no other notations about allergens such as nuts. Since they’re marshmallows, they’re also made with gelatin and are not for vegetarians. There’s no specification as to the source of the gelatin, so I would guess it’s porcine.

Related Candies

  1. Party Cake Peeps
  2. Limited Edition Milky Way French Vanilla
  3. Peeps Chocolate Dipped Sugar Cookie & Candy Cane
  4. Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows + Vanilla, Cinnamon Bun, Strawberry, Chocolate Royale, Gingerbread
  5. Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy - Chocolate, Vanilla & Strawberry
  6. Peeps Spooky Friends
  7. Peeps Mash Ups


Name: Peeps Minis Vanilla Creme
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Just Born
Place Purchased: Target (West Hollywood)
Price: $2.79
Size: 3.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 99
Categories: Candy, Morselization, Just Born, Marshmallow, 7-Worth It, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:17 pm     CandyMorselizationPeepsReviewJust BornMarshmallow7-Worth ItUnited StatesTargetComments (3)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Short & Sweet: Mentos

Though Mentos are a little less boring in the United States than they used to be, some of the most interesting flavors come from overseas.

Mentos Tropical Rainbow

I ordered a package of Mentos Tropical Rainbow from Japan (through Napa Japan, my new alternative to JBox.com).

The flavor array is interesting, you get just two of each flavor, they’re all lined up with the flavors listed on the package. Of note:

Passion Fruit - it’s a little bit on the metallic side. It’s quite tangy and has a sort of black currant note mixed with pineapple, but still a bit of authentic passion fruit flavor.

Mango - less peachy than some others I’ve had, but still not convincing. It lacks that pine flavor that many mangos have, it’s more like a very sweet peach crossed with pineapple.

Kiwi - a cross between green apple and strawberry. Kiwi is usually more about the texture than the flavor anyway, so a fruity candy that’s supposed to be a kiwi is at a disadvantage.

Other flavors included were also:

Strawberry - fresh and sweet, but less tangy than a Skittle.

Green Apple - tart without too much of the artificial note in the American green apple candies.

Grape - wonderfully round, tastes like a concord grape.

Pineapple - an incredible mix of tart and floral.

I can’t see myself ordering these again, but I do like some variety in my package from time to time ... still, I think the classic Rainbow Mentos suit my flavor preferences better.

Mentos Lemon Cola

Mentos Lemon Cola (also from Japan) are just a little more tangy than the Fresh Cola Mentos that are already widely available. I like the hint of zest and more intense flavor. It would be nice to see these in a mix, perhaps Cola and Cherry, Cola and Lemon and Cola and Lime all in one cola rainbow package.

Mentos Mintensity

Mentos Mintensity are available in Europe and are kind of like a Mint Rainbow, except that there aren’t just 2 of each flavor. Instead it’s like a sliding scale of intensity. None of the flavors are new, I’ve had them all in other packaging forms in the past. There are 2 Air Action, 2 Strong Mint, 4 Spearmint, 6 Mint chewy candies.

Overall, the Air Action delivers a potent mix of menthol and mint. It’s not so different though, from the Strong Mint, which is also sold as Xtreme Mint in Southeast Asia. Strong is, well, a chewy Altoid. It’s refreshing but doesn’t exactly burn. The Spearmint were very good, and just the right amount. The Mint are, well, the standard Freshmaker. If you start with them, it’s a nice progression, if you end with them, they taste kind of like sugar.

If you dump the package out, it’s hard to tell the pieces apart, they’re all white, grey or slightly tinted blue or green, but in low light situations, you’re not going to be able to tell.

Spearmint Mentos

My final item is that Spearmint Mentos are now available widely in the United States. The flavor has been popular in other parts of the world for years, including Australia and Europe, but not here. So it was great to see them at 7-11 recently. I’ve picked them up on Europe before, and tried the Xtreme Spearmint version before as well.

It reminds me of toothpaste but also has a good, fresh green tea note to it. They’re light green, so they do have some coloring to them, unlike peppermint Mentos. I’d definitely pick these up regularly.

As much as I like Mentos, their freshness varies. Unlike most candies sold today, they’re not sealed in plastic, but instead just wrapped up in foil. So, I do get about a third of my packages where the candies are quite hard, often brittle instead of chewy. They’re still edible, but not quite as good as the fresh and chewy ones.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:36 pm     All NaturalCandyMentosReviewPerfetti van MelleChewsColaMints7-Worth ItJapanNetherlandsComments (1)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark Chocolate Promises

Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark ChocolateBack in January Target introduced Dove Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Promises for Valentine’s Day. Instead of an actual gianduia product,which would combine hazelnut paste with chocolate, these were just dark chocolate with a hazelnut flavoring.

Dove hasn’t abandoned the idea to Valentine’s Day, instead they’ve released the new Target-Exclusive flavor: Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark Chocolate Promises. The curious difference here is not actual hazelnut pieces, but little crispy bits.

The bits are made from tapioca starch and rice flour, so for those who avoid wheat, these might seem like a good option (sadly the full allergen disclosure says that they’re made on shared equipment with wheat, so those with extreme sensitivities should be aware).

Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark ChocolateThey have the same nutty smell and deep cocoa notes.

The flavor of the Promises doesn’t disappoint. The chocolate is soft to bite, quick to melt and has a very dense, brownie batter flavor to it. There are a lot of toasted and woodsy notes to the chocolate and a light sort of chalky dryness towards the end, even though it’s exceptionally fatty.

The cookie bits are interesting, they remind me of the sort of Oreo-like bits found in the Cookies & Cream type chocolate confections. It’s a little sandy, very crunchy but less cereal-like than a corn flake bit or crisped rice.

Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark Chocolate

The addition of the texture is successful. It’s just the sort of boost these needed to make me eat them one after another. It would be ideal if they actually were gluten free, since celiacs have been denied the wonders of cookies and cream for far too long.

A previous Target-exclusive flavor was Sea Salt Caramel, which is now widely available.



Name: Dove Hazelnut Crisp Dark Chocolate Promises
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Mars
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $3.34
Size: 8 ounces
Calories per ounce: 157
Categories: Candy, Mars, Chocolate, Cookie, Kosher, 8-Tasty, United States, Target

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:11 pm     CandyReviewMarsChocolateCookieKosher8-TastyUnited StatesTargetComments (0)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Artisan du Chocolat Black Cardamom

Artisan du Chocolat Black CardamomI have a love for cardamom, and my recent trip to London did not disappoint when it came to cardamom-infused confections.

I was happy to visit the Artisan du Chocolat boutique within the Selfridge’s Food Hall. Not only did I get to choose from the full array of chocolate bars that they make, they also had one of their most famous chocolates that I’d been eager to try ... Pearls. They’re about the size of a hazelnut in the shell, spherical and come in light colors like silver, peach and creamy white that are dusted with pearlized color. It’s a stunning presentation. The chocolates themselves (I tried two) are decent. I had a caramel, which was covered in milk chocolate, so it was salty enough but still quite sweet and milky. The other was a hazelnut praline, which was also very sweet but also satisfyingly nutty. They’re quite expensive and nothing that I would buy on a regular basis.

So, back to what I did purchase, the Artisan du Chocolat Black Cardamom 70% Cacao

Artisan Du Chocolat Black Cardamom

Though the bar is called Black Cardamom, a mix of green and black cardamom is infused into the 70% dark chocolate made from South American cocoa beans. The bar is made from a simple mold with well defined segments that snap easily into portions.

The smell of the bar is woodsy and deep, a bit like burnt brownies. The cardamom notes aren’t really evident until I put it in my mouth. The cardamom is infused smoothly into the chocolate, there are not fibery hulls or little seeds. The flavor of cardamom is interesting, it’s a bit of a cross between nutmeg, jasmine and lavender.

The melt of the chocolate is good, it’s smooth and has a dark flavor and dry finish and a very slight raisin or raspberry note to it. The cardamom flavors are fresh and linger much longer than the chocolate notes.

Overall, it’s one of the best cardamom chocolate bars I’ve had. The portion is good, I found this size bar to be two servings. The price is a bit steep for the size and of course it’s hard to find in the United States. The company is artisan, but not terribly transparent about the sourcing of the ingredients beyond the basics that I’ve listed here.

Made with soy lecithin. May also contain traces of sesame, nuts and milk but is otherwise consider vegan.

I’ve purchased a few Artisan du Chocolat bars in the past, but haven’t featured any reviews to date. Since these bars are still available, here are a few tasting notes I made a couple of years ago:

Artisan du Chocolat Orchid & Orange BlossomThe Artisan du Chocolat Orchid & Orange Blossom is also a 45 gram bar and made with 72% cacao. The beans are a mix of Venezuelan and Mexican cacao.

The package is similar to the Black Cardamom bar, it’s a simple, glossy paperboard box. The bar inside is just wrapped in a clear cellophane bag. It’s easy to open, and because it’s not exactly form-fitted, it’s easy to get any remnants back in the package to seal up for later.

All of the bars I’ve tried from Artisan du Chocolat also use the same mold. It’s rather generic, with no special lettering or embossed designs ... it’s just a series of well-proportioned pieces.

Artisan Du Chocolat Orchid & Orange Blossom

Orange blossom is forward and loud. The soft flavor does well with the strong chocolate. Tangy notes, a little soapy at times and perfumey. Was much more subtle when I first opened the bar, but got stronger as the month went on. Chocolate is less sweet, smooth though has a dry finish and woodsy quality overall. There’s the slightest bitter note towards the end, but it fades to a rather fresh note that lingers.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Artisan du Chocolat Almond MilkThe Artisan du Chocolat Almond Milk is a bit of a change up. Instead of a fusion bar, as the previous two were, this is from the line called “break the mould” which includes their 100% cacao bar and sugar free bars in both milk and dark chocolate.

The bar is what it sounds like, instead of using dairy milk, Artisan du Chocolate substitutes almond milk ... well, specifically partially defatted almonds (26%), to boost the creamy texture of the bar and even out some of the chocolate’s intensity. The bar contains 40% cacao, but a lot of that is cocoa butter, not cocoa solids (probably because the almonds are defatted and the cocoa butter is necessary to maintain the chocolate texture).

There is no nutritional panel, so I don’t know what the fat, protein or sugar content is here. It would be interesting to find out, as chocolate itself has a fair amount of protein as do almonds.

Artisan du Chocolat Almond Milk

Very light looking for a 40% bar. Light cinnamon note to the bar. The melt is not quick, but very smooth. Creamy with a cashew-like nut flavor. Cocoa notes are really watered down. Lightly spicy without any actual spice.

Interesting bar, far too sweet than I’d want but at least it doesn’t have that sticky thick melt that dairy milk has. I enjoyed it as a confection, but it in no way replicated the experience of milk chocolate and didn’t have enough of a chocolate boost to satisfy me either. I’d actually throw it closer into the white chocolate category (can someone attempt an almond-cocoa butter white bar or maybe a cashew-cocoa butter white bar?).

Rating: 7 out of 10 (only because it’s dairy free - it’d be 6 out of 10 if it were going head to head with other 40% cacao bars)

I enjoy Artisan du Chocolat’s flavor mixes, there are a lot of herbs and spices and florals that they utilize that I don’t see in other confections here in the United States. But they’re not for everyday consumption, because of the price and difficulty to find.



Name: Black Cardamom 70% Cacao
    RATING:
  • SUPERB
  • YUMMY
  • TASTY
  • WORTH IT
  • TEMPTING
  • PLEASANT
  • BENIGN
  • UNAPPEALING
  • APPALLING
  • INEDIBLE
Brand: Artisan du Chocolat
Place Purchased: Selfridges (London, UK)
Price: £ 3.50 ($5.85)
Size: 1.588 ounces
Calories per ounce:
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, 9-Yummy, United Kingdom

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:11 pm     All NaturalCandyReviewChocolate9-YummyUnited StatesComments (0)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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Choose one or more:

  •   Halloween
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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Eat with your Eyes: Fruity Gumballs

• Seattle Chocolates Devil’s Delight Bar

• 10 Candies that Shouldn’t Be So Disappointing

• Orgran Molasses Licorice

• Rogue Chocolatier

 

 

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