Monday, August 29, 2005
Name: Hot Stinky Feet
This is one of those candies that tries to be edgy but really isn’t. They’re little cinnamon jelly candies and they happen to be shaped like feet and they happen to have the unfortunate name “Hot Stinky Feet.”
Here’s what the package says (because I couldn’t find any mention of it on Necco’s site):
The feet themselves are actually pretty cute. The detail even includes a big toenail. They’re definitely cinnamony - upon opening the package there was no doubt what flavor these are. They’re kind of like Hot Tamales, only without the candy shell.
Personally, if I were marketing these I couldn’t call them Hot Stinky Feet. I’d probably call them “Hot Foot” and have a little image of a foot with some lit matches or something. But maybe some over-protective group thought that’d give kids some bad ideas. Anyway, I couldn’t find any mention of these on the Necco site, but did find the good podiatrist’s website called Toefood - which is kinda cute too. The Stinky Feet also come in Sour Apple.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I did eat the whole package, but I doubt I’ll buy them again)
Friday, August 26, 2005
Before I had a candy blog I had trouble getting people to bring me gifts from their travels. Maybe I was too embarrassed to actually ask for candy from other countries, but now it’s a given that if any of my friends (hell, friend’s friends) goes anywhere interesting, they are tasked with bringing something back.
At first the name was kind of scary. Krachnuss sounds like “knuckle cracker” to me. And that hazelnut on the package? It’s bigger than a chestnut. However, open up the wrapper and it’s pure delight.
Those are whole hazelnuts in there. It makes for a rather lumpy bar and the hazelnuts are poorly distributed, but man are they good! Not roasted too long, they have an excellent snap and slightly sweet tinge to their nuttiness. The milk chocolate is sweet and smooth and doesn’t try to upstage the delicate hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts, by the way (or filberts as they’re called in the Pacific Northwest) and love how they’re the peanuts of Europe. Even the packages, which give information about possible allergens only mention soy and almonds - there’s no note about any peanuts.
Over the past few weeks the topic of Ice Cubes has come up a few times. At a party, in my interview on Radio Open Source and when Jay gave me this candy bar. For those of you not familiar with Ice Cubes, they’re a little chocolate cubes made with hazelnut paste. However, the pernicious part about them is that the first ingredient is hydrogenated coconut oil. I’m lucky my arteries are still open. My first year in the dorms in college there was a little store on campus that let you use your meal card to buy food - I bought a tub of 100 of these (probably cost me the equivalent of 10 meals). Though I love them, I’ve been trying to resist them ever since then.
Well, along comes a Ragusa bar, and thank goodness the Swiss have made a more wholesome version. You can’t tell from the photo, but the bar is about 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and 3/4” high, and pretty dense for its volume. This little bar is filled with a smooth and cool truffley filling and studded with whole hazelnuts. (If this sounds good, you might also want to try Perugina’s Baci.) Man, this is a good breakfast. The nuts give it just enough of a protein balance to keep the sugar charged filling from causing glycemic overload.
The bar is a bit messy to eat. It’s wrapped in a thick aluminum foil and the chocolate coating only covers the top and bottom, so the sides get kind of sticky. I still haven’t managed to get to the end of the bar and master popping the last of it out of the wrapper. It’s also been a bit warm here in Southern California the past few days and I wasn’t keeping this in the fridge, so on top of its natural softness, it’s downright limp. I might just go get a spoon.
Ratings - Krachnuss - 8 out of 10
Thursday, August 25, 2005
This is not a new product to me, however, I’ve gotten a couple of notes (one email and one comment) to review this, so here goes. My husband bought a set of three of the unique origins bars one year before vacation and we took them with us to rocky beaches, windswept dunes and rolling oak-dotted hills of the central Californian coast, so any pleasant past associations with the bars must be taken into account.
The bars in question were from the cocoa crop of 2004. The freshness date said they were best before 04/2007.
First was the Guaranda, which is 71% cocoa solids of forastero arriba cocoa from Ecuador. The tasting notes on the back: “Perfumed aroma with fruity, acid notes and floral tones of acacia honey, with milky and exotic wood nuances. Typical personality of the cocoa bean: smooth dark chocolate taste with floral tones of honeyed character.” The ingredients are simple: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter and soya lecithin.
My tasting notes: the scent is woodsy, smoky and a bit like coffee. The surface is smooth and shiny (better than the photo) with a red hint to it. Upon biting into it, it snaps easily and melts quickly on the tongue. The cocoa mass is very smooth, not at all gritty. It’s very dry yet the cocoa butter gives it a slippery, cool feeling on the tongue. I don’t detect much of the honey notes, but the butteryness gives it a sort of empty feeling, like there’s a top and bottom but no middle flavors.
Next was Ocumare, which is 71% cocoa solids of criollo cocoa from Venuzuela. The tasting notes on the back: “Smooth perfumed aroma with tones of exotic wood, nuts and dried fruit as well as spicy nuances. Refined and lasting taste, balanced and round at the same time. Also, aspects of cedar, tobacco and dried plums are particularly noteworthy.” The ingredients are the same as the first: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter and soya lecithin.
My tasting notes: the smell is woodsy with more of a fruit note to it, perhaps apple. The color is a dark and consistent brown with a good snap to the bite. It immediately starts to melt on the tongue. It has a rounder flavor just as the package suggests with more middle notes of sweet apple or apricot (I’m not catching the plum here). It’s a much fuller flavor from top to bottom with absolutely no grain to it. Towards the end there’s less of a dry finish but a nice lingering woodsy note.
For high end 70%+ bars, I think these are the best I’ve tried to date. Though the single origin means that you may never get these bars again, they’re wonderfully balanced with an excellent smoothness. I do think overall that I prefer a blended chocolate to get the full-bodied taste with a multitude of notes (like a chorus instead of a soloist) but if you hadn’t told me that they were single origins, I could still state unequivocally that these are good bars. Where I find so many upscale bars lacking in the cocoa butter/smoothness factor, these bars excel at the melting and without any graininess at all.
I wouldn’t say that they’re worth more than $3.50 per bar though, like you might be charged some places. So if you can get them at a Trader Joe’s or other similar economical location (maybe Cost Plus carries them), they are the best $2 you can spend on a high-cocoa content bar.
Interesting facts from the package: Chocovic is based in Barcelona, Spain and has been in business since 1872.
Rating - 9 out of 10.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I decided to create a new icon for my chat program.
Here are some others, feel free to take them and use them.
Once again, I will be doing a radio interview. This time with a program called Radio Open Source. It will be broadcast live (yee!) at 4PM to 5PM Pacific time (check their site for stations that might carry it near you). You can also hear a live stream (and call in!), on XM channel 133, or catch it later in the archived broadcast (or subscribe to the podcast).
The coolest part is the OTHER guest on the show is Steve Almond, author of Candy Freak (I promise, I’ll write a review soon, which I can sum up here as, “Good! Go read it!”) The topic is basically about candy and its role in our everyday lives - I think some people think that candy is fixed entity but it really changes with us through the years. Our tastes as individuals change and our tastes as a society change. Things we loved as a kid have come and gone, and yet others were eaten by our grandparents and may be consumed by our grandkids. Threads that bind the generations.
What’s cool about Open Source is that things are transparent. They put up a blog entry on a show that they’re “warming up” and you get to comment and help shape the focus of the hour, then the show goes “on deck” and they show you their pre-interview notes and then folks can comment. Then they do the show and it stays in “recently aired” for folks to continue the conversation (great if you don’t catch the live show or stream but still want to add something).
So, here’s your chance to talk about candy!
Name: Blackcurrant and Finest Pink Grapefruit Pastilles
A few weeks ago I got an email from a kind reader named greenhaven suggested that I try Rowntree Blackcurrant Pastilles, since I couldn’t find them, I picked these up. (I know, they’re not at all the same.) I’ll keep looking though, as I remember liking “wine gums” that I bought at a newsstand in London quite a bit. I’m not sure all folks consider pastilles candy, after all, most people think of them as throat lozenges. However, as a person who used to eat cough drops as candy, I fully embrace these as sweets. (One of my favorites was Smith Bros Black Licorice.)
These are soft and chewy, but wonderful to suck on and kind of fold up as it gets smaller in your mouth. The glycerine provides a soothing, moisturizing coating to dry throats. But what’s best about these is the intense flavor. Packed with more flavor than just a gummi bear or hard cough drop, these are zesty. They come in little tins (the size of Altoid tins, only gold.)
The pink grapefruit has a wonderful zest with a good rounded tartness that goes through and through. The blackcurrant is smooth and tart with a good winey note to it. I prefer the grapefruit ones, mostly because I’m just not a blackcurrant fan. These are very soft and I don’t really like them this soft, so sometimes I’ll just leave them open for a day so they can toughen up.
They have 18% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C (in 2 drops) and their ingredients are all natural. If you go on the Dr. Doolittle website (it’s in French) and click on production, you can see how they make the drops by pouring the mix into little molds.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (I buy them a couple times a year, they’re rather expensive)
UPDATE: I found a new local supply of Dr. Dolittle’s Pastilles. They come in Lemon, Blackcurrant and Pink Grapefruit. Different tins now, a lot more expensive. See new review here.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Name: Wild Huckleberry Gummi Bears
I know, you’re asking yourself, “what is a huckleberry? and is a wild one better?”
Well, first, a huckleberry is related to the blueberry and cranberry, or so says Wikipedia. And if my experience with wild strawberries and wild blueberries means anything, the wild ones are smaller and more expensive and hopefully organic.
However, upon further examination of the package, I found the following ingredients listed: Corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, artificial color, citric acid, artificial flavor, lactic acid, mineral oil and carnuba wax. Hmm, nowhere in there does it mention huckleberries.
No matter. these fellows are cute anyway, with the carnuba wax shines and their A emblazoned on their little chests. Wait, what’s the A for? Got me, they’re distributed by the Benjamin News Group and the brand seems to be “Rocky Mountain”, not really any A initials there. Are they adulterous bears?
They’re very soft bears, with a nice tart flavor and a pretty smell, a cross between blackberries and violets. They’re cute and fresh and so easy to pop in your mouth even if they purely a chemistry experiment. The color is exquisite, especially if you line them up on the desk. The trick, if you must know, if you want to get them to stand up is this: get a clean piece of white paper then lick the bottom of the bear (lightly, we don’t want a lot of slobber) and then press them down gently on the paper in a row. A little backlight and they’re practically luminous.
Rating - 7 out of 10 (they might be gone by the end of the day)
Monday, August 22, 2005
I actually had three bars but ate one before I could take its picture (milk chocolate in a saffron yellow wrapper), so pretend there’s a third one in there.
I was excited that Trader Joe’s was carrying these because I was hoping that it meant that they’d be a little less expensive (which they are). Still, I’m not sure I’m on board with this high end chocolate bar movement. Perhaps I’m just looking for a different thing in my chocolate than some other folks.
I think cocoa is great, it’s obviously one of those things that makes chocolate unique, that blend of earthy roasted flavors with those fruity notes that many people compare to wine or coffee. But what makes chocolate so great, for me, is cocoa butter. It’s one of those rare fats that is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature. It makes it smooth and creamy and portable. Sharffen Berger chocolate bars lack that smooth and lustrous feeling on the tongue.
Scharffen Berger, I think, can be described as sour. There’s a pervasive acidic note in all their chocolates that I’ve tried and I don’t find it pleasant. It does provide a good base (except for the fact that acids are not bases as in alkaline) for the other flavors. In the pure dark chocolate I tasted some fruit notes: grape, apricot and some apple. I also tasted some oaky/woodsy notes and something which reminded me of lichens or wood ear mushrooms.
I know Sharffen Berger has its aficionados, but I don’t count myself among them. The product was definitely consistent and for a high-end chocolate, Trader Joe’s has certainly made it more accessible. I can definitely see this as good cooking chocolate - I wouldn’t hesitate to add some of their cocoa to my chili (yes, I put cocoa in my chili), but for eating it just leaves me, well, unaffected.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.