Friday, January 19, 2007

Frangos Dark (62%)

imageI’ve mentioned Frangos a lot on this blog, but I’ve never reviewed them before. So after Christmas when I stumbled on a 50% off sale, I picked up a variety I’d never had before, 62% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Frangos. They were regularly $20 a pound, but at $10 a pound, I thought it was time they made an appearance here.

But first, how about a little background about Frangos?

People in the Pacific Northwest and the Chicago area are most familiar with Frangos, as the history of the confection is closely tied to both areas.

The Frango confectionery line was first introduced by Frederick & Nelson department stores in Seattle in 1918. The Frango name was applied at F&N to a few confectionery products, but the Frango mint meltaway (which joined their line in 1927) is the one that struck a lasting chord with consumers. (Note: there’s some disagreement about the early name of the candy, which may have been Francos, but was changed after Francisco Franco and the Spanish Civil War gave the chocolates a less festive feel.)

imageA Frango is a small chocolate - currently they’re taller than they are about 3/4” high and 1/2” wide and deep. The center is a firm meltaway - harder than a truffle but softer than pure chocolate. The original flavor and still the most popular is Mint.

Frangos made their migration to Chicago in 1929 when Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) bought the store and started up Frango production right there at the flaship State Street store. Though the products are virtually identical they are packaged differently - the Northwest version are individually wrapped and the Chicago version are sold in a traditional candy box in little fluted cups.

I first had Frangos in the late seventies when my mother returned from a trip to Chicago with a box. I despised most of the flavors (Coffee, Raspberry, Cherry, Double Chocolate) but I rather liked the Lemon and of course was obsessed with the Mint. Boxes were sold with mixes of flavors and the ultimate gift was the “Foot of Frangos.” (The little paper cups gave a clue to the flavor, so there was no problem with little dents in the bottom from picky children.)

image

The 62% Cocoa Dark Chocolates are quite nice. They have a strong vanilla aroma mixed with the smoky notes of the chocolate. The centers are firm but the pieces are small and easy to pop into your mouth whole. The meltaway middle gets a little kick from a hit of salt (which I always loved in the mint version).

The worst thing about them right now though, is that they use partially hydrogenated soybean oil to get them “melty” in the center. This adds 1.5 gram of trans fats to a serving of 4 pieces (about 40 grams). Hopefully, they’re reformulating.

My interest in Frangos faded when I discovered chocolate truffles. It was nice to have some again and they do hold a strong place in American confectionery history, but probably not much of a place in my current candy-eating repertoire. 

You can learn lots more from the Wikipedia article about Frangos (be sure to click through to the links if you’re really obsessed). I’ve glossed over most of the controversy about the Macy’s/Marshall Fields/Northwest bruhahah but feel free to weigh in about it here.

Name: Frango Dark Chocolates (62% Cocoa)
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Frango (Macy's)
Place Purchased: Macy's (Costa Mesa)
Price: $10 (50% off after Christmas)
Size: 16 ounces
Calories per ounce: 170
Categories: Chocolate, United States, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:42 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

Comments
  1. i was in chicago for the holidays and they had a bunch of wacky frango flavors on clearance… i tried pumpkin pie, apple pie, creme brulee and french silk.  all of them were good, especially pumpkin pie.  i obviously don’t condone the hydrogenated oils bit, but i definitely have a soft spot for frangos

    Comment by ruffy on 1/19/07 at 7:54 am #
  2. I first had Frangos nine years ago (I’d never heard of them before that). I really loved the mint ones at first, but the novelty wore off after a while and I just got tired of them. My in-laws keep sending boxes and they never get eaten…

    Comment by Grace on 1/19/07 at 8:55 am #
  3. Creme Brulee you say, ruffy? There have been a few Creme Brulee flavoured things out over the past couple of months, from chocolate bars to ice-cream and I’ve been impressed by how well they have worked. I guess it’s because it’s not hard to replicate such a simple dessert, since it’s just a case of adding vanilla and pieces of caramel.

    Comment by GTO on 1/19/07 at 8:57 am #
  4. Awww, how nice to see you reviewing an old favorite there!  My first job out of college was in the Loop and the boss in my department had a policy that you could take an extended lunch break if you brought back a mini box of mint Frangos from Marshall Fields for her.  Since each box held four, and there were 4 people in the department, and our boss always passed around the box, it created a kind of bizarre incentive structure (come back late from lunch and everyone gets chocolate?) but a very pleasant working environment—and I don’t think anyone ever abused the policy. 

    That said, I don’t think they’d be my first choice for a mint chocolate if I were being picky—too dense and not minty enough.  Still, I’d eat them for memory’s sake.

    Comment by good enough cook on 1/19/07 at 9:03 am #
  5. I remember hoping you would review these, and I’m glad you did, though I doubt I would eat one.  Mint is wonderful, trans fat isn’t.

    Comment by Sophia on 1/19/07 at 1:25 pm #
  6. We had some relatives in Seattle who used to send us Frangos every year at Christmas - I still have one of the funky shaped boxes for holding pens! They seemed so exotic to me, because they definitely were not available locally (in small town New Mexico). They would send odd flavors sometimes, but I never turned down a mint frango.

    Comment by Tricia on 1/20/07 at 7:11 am #
  7. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and it’s very strange to see Frangos in something other than a hexogonal box…

    Comment by Elizabeth on 1/20/07 at 10:19 am #
  8. Since I grew up in suburban Chicago, I’ve got a nostalgic soft spot for Frangos. I’ve tried a lot of the specialty varieties - lemon, raspberry, peanut butter - but as much as I like them, I prefer the regular mint.

    I couldn’t care less about trans fats - a year from now there’ll be a new study that says they’re wonderful - so I’m gonna keep on eating. I usually just have one or two of these things at a time anyway because mint candy stays with me a long time.

    Comment by Bruce on 1/21/07 at 2:37 pm #
  9. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington so you know I grew up on Frango cany.  My mom even worked at Fredrick and Nelson in the early 50’s and my daughter Heather worked there in the 90’s just before the store was forced to close. 

    We had a family tradition of going downtown for a shopping day with our children.  They would always want lunch at Fredrick & Nelson, which they always ordered a Frango chocolate mint milkshake. After lunch our daughters and their dad would always go and buy a box of candy for my stocking stuffer. 

    We enjoy some of the flavors but the mint is most people’s all time favor it. 

    I’m so glad that I found your website because I have an on going argument with a friend from Illinois who thinks that Frangos started at Marshall Fields and now I have proof.  Thanks a lot.

    Comment by Gayle on 12/10/07 at 7:41 am #
  10. “Though the products are virtually identical…” This comment is not exactly true. If you do a taste test of the Marshall Fields version and the Macy’s Northwest version, they are actually quite different. I prefer the Northwest version, but then again, I’m from WA and used to work on the Frango account.

    From Wikipedia: Although the Northwest version still uses the original Frederick & Nelson recipe, the Marshall Field’s recipe has been modified a few times. This as well as the use of different ingredients and equipment would account for any difference in taste between the two versions.

    Comment by Renee on 10/28/08 at 9:59 am #
  11. Grace, please feel free to send me all of your unopened boxes of Frangos. Thank you.

    I love these candies and would eat them more often if not for the cost, and the inconvenience of ordering them. Macy’s sometimes carries them here in the West, but they have made a greater push with the Godiva line and treat the Frangos as if they were their red headed step child. They probably can’t kill the Frango line altogether for fear of a massive backlash from the old guard of Marshall Field’s customers who are already peeved over the red star company’s killing of the Field’s name, stores, and traditions.

    Try melting a couple in a cup of hot milk. Mmm mmm!

    Comment by Drewcifer on 11/20/10 at 11:48 am #
  12. I have to second that request, Grace. I just moved back to Chicago from New England where nobody knew what they we’re. I can’t really afford them, now! I can sure smell them!

    Comment by Rebo on 1/06/14 at 3:37 pm #

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