Wednesday, February 8, 2006
I guess as Valentines approaches candy is more on the mind of adults than usual. Here are a few links about candy and chocolate from around the web:
The New York Times has a great story in their food section about single origin chocolates that starts with chocolate tastings, which may become the new wine tastings, where customers are given brief histories and specs of the growing regions and then taste samples but also discusses the politics and practicality of fair trade and organics as it pertains to quality product.
Chocolate that Flashes Its Passport by Kim Severson
The Los Angeles Times has a great story that traces the origins of chocolate making in California (which is a far longer history than you’d suspect) and how the new mavericks of chocolate crafting are making the West Coast their home. The photos are tasty too (incuding a huge shot on the front page of the Food section).
Toodle over to a Travel article about Barcelona and hard candies, with a delicious photo to boot. Barcelona: Hard Candy by Lisa Abend about a couple of Australians making traditional pulled hard candies in Spain.
A Bag That’s Good Enough to Eat (shown) by Ken Bookman
Taste Test: From Local Chocolatiers - a lovely gallery, tasting notes and recommendations on DC’s favorite candies. (Remember, the Washington Post was the one who helped folks sort through their holiday gelt.)
For those of us not in the area or shipping elsewhere, you might want to check out Taste Test: Valentine’s Chocolates by Mail.
While you’re on the site you might want to check out their interesting article about Chicago, which was once the candy capitol of North America. Sugar subsidies and corporate consolidation has led to a downturn in domestic production of candy in the Windy City. Chicago is Home Sweet Home to Fewer Candy Factories by Kari Lydersen.
Read up! Eat up!
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
I get a lot of questions about Choxie here at CandyBlog.net. And with good reason ... there aren’t that many places to find out about Choxie. There’s certainly no info on the Target website. I haven’t spent much time with Choxie, but I have to say that the products I’ve tried are always good quality, nicely packaged and feature interesting flavor combinations.
I picked up a few things last week, including the highly rated Champagne-Flavored Truffles. (I actually hadn’t seen them before.) They’re stunning looking little baubles of chocolate. Shiny and dark, the package highlights their gorgeous sheen. They smell rather spicy - of chocolate and a hint of wine. The truffles are about the size of a hazelnut in the shell (smaller than a malted milk ball).
These truffles are panned chocolate. Panning is when you take a solid nugget and tumble it, adding layers of coating on it. Panned candies can range from jelly beans to Gobstoppers to chocolate coated nuts to Lemonheads. Panning is usually done in large turning pans that look like cement mixers and can hold hundreds of pounds of candy. The coating can double the weight of each candy as each successive layer is added and then the final “polish coat” to seal them and give them the high gloss shine. In this case it’s called “confectioners glaze.”
The centers are made of white chocolate (made with real cocoa butter, not hydrogenated oils). The chocolate outside is sweet and smooth, a little on the sweet side but it’s definitely buttery and has a good smoky quality to it. The center is smooth as well and has a raisiny hint to it. Not really a champagne flavor in my mind, just a nice “boosted” vanilla flavor. The small size of them and their glossy appearance makes them easy to pop and of course easy to share.
As Valentine’s gifts go, the Choxie line has some really nice, inexpensive options. At less than $10 a pound for many of their offerings, they’re a really good way of expressing yourself without breaking the bank. The “shareable” nature of them is also a bonus. They also make nice hostess gifts or just a nice treat for yourself. Choxie has done a good job of bringing upscale into the realm of affordable. Their variety is also pretty stunning and it always seems like there’s something new when I check out the Choxie section. The ingredients also appear to be top notch, using real vanilla instead of vanillin and cocoa butter instead of palm oils.
Interesting note from the box: confections made in the USA, packaged in Mexico.
Monday, February 6, 2006
Consumer Reports, the bastion of stodgy and unbiased reviews of common products has tackled the confusing world of boxed chocolates just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Their top picks?
Norman Love Confections but they give Candinas and Jacques Torres Jacques’s Choice a best buy, probably because they’re half the price.
In the Very Good category See’s Famous Old Time Assorted got high marks and of the recommended (Very Good or Excellent) chocolates, it’s by the far the least expensive (at $.88 per ounce) which means you can give your sweetie MORE for the same money!
The worst on the list? Whitman’s Sampler.
(Link found via A Full Belly - thanks!)
Pearson’s Nut Roll is one of those bars I look at and think that it’s not for my generation. It was first introduced in 1933, and during the depression a bar like this could not only be a treat, but supply much needed calories and protein at a rather affordable price.
Pearson’s Nut Roll is kinda like a Payday bar. It’s a soft nougat center, then a small layer of sticky caramel and a generous coating of salted peanuts (Virginia peanuts according to their website). My bar was a little wonky, with the caramel part showing through and the peanuts all gathered around the edges instead of on top. It didn’t seem to affect the flavor at all.
The center is much sweeter, as far as I can tell, than a Payday bar, but the nuts are salty and balance it well. For a candy bar there’s a lot of protein in there too, 8 grams for the regular 1.8 ounce sized bar. A lot of those “nutrition” bars don’t have that much protein in them. Of course you have to like peanuts to eat this bar. Which I do.
It’s a solid middle performer as candy bars go. It’s something I would pick up if I were looking for a “meal replacement candy bar” that has a good balance of taste, texture and of course a hit of protein which gives lasting energy. Without any chocolate, it’s a good hot weather performer as well.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.