Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Oh, some dear readers (and neighbor) have led me astray ... they’ve raved about the Black Sesame Pocky and I believed them! (See comments in this post.)
Now, I’m a huge fan of halvah and those sesame snaps (like a sesame nut brittle). Sprinkle a little on my sushi rolls too, while you’re at it. But there’s something about toasted sesame, specifically that sesame oil that I’ve just never liked. It’s actually banned from my house (well, my husband sneaks in deli sesame noodles sometimes). It smells like something wrong, something burnt, something rancid or perhaps something toxic. A combination of burnt hair and plastics.
This is just like that: a crunchy and mild cracker stick covered with milky sweet white coating and mixed with every vile black seed known to create an acrid tasting treat. (Okay, I overstated that. I actually ate one of the four packets in the interest of giving a full-featured review, so it can’t be all that bad.)
But there are other things that cause me to hesitate to recommend this, and they involve reading the label. Here are the ingredients: wheat flour, sugar, palm oil, powdered (black sesame, black rice, black bean, black pine seed, black Chinese quince), lactose, whole milk powder, shortening (hydrogenated fish oil), nonfat dry milk, malt extract, salt, yeast, butter, soya lecithin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), artificial flavor.
Maybe there are some omega3 fatty acids in there.
Besides my innate displeasure for toasted sesame, the Pocky were nice. This variety comes in four smaller packets instead of the two large packets like the Men’s and traditional chocolate (so that you may give them away more easily without being offended by the smell).
I am happy to report that this bad review is just because of my personal tastes - it has nothing to do with this being a good product. Feel free to defend the Black Sesame Pocky. If you like toasted sesame, you’ll probably be ga-ga for this, too. I know some folks think I’m nuts for liking the stuff I do, and I think it’s great that the planet affords such a variety of products. And I will be passing along the rest of this package to my dear neighbor how does happen to like the stuff. I’m also happy to report that I picked up several other varieties at the same time and they’re all delightful and you can look forward to nice statements about them.
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!)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.