Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Candy makers are calling on the USDA to allow more sugar imports. The recent hurricanes have damaged the sugar crops in the United States and sugar reserves will fall to 70 year lows within a year if the quota is not changed.
The National Confectioners Association, which notes that sugar prices have doubled in the past year, wants to boost the import quota by one million tons.
Name: Roseberry, Lavender and Xocolatl
I know it seems strange that I got this on the same trip as the dismal SunDrops, but it’s true. I tried the Dagoba Chai bar last spring and really enjoyed it. That was a milk chocolate bar and I was very interested in the more botanical and spice flavored bars, but alas, Whole Foods does not seem to carry them. So, the trip to Wild Oats was most fortunate in the end. All the bars contain 59% cocoa mass chocolate. It’s extra smooth and very buttery. The chocolate itself isn’t too sweet and is a nice backdrop for the flavor additions.
Roseberry - Dark Chocolate, Raspberries & Rosehips. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. This was not one of the bars I was most interested in, but the concept of rosehips was rather intriguing. I used to try to eat rose hips when I was a kid because I’d heard they were good for you. Though they didn’t really taste very good. This bar has a wonderful fruity and flowery aroma. The raspberries provide a dash of zesty flavor. However, I found the raspberry seeds incredibly annoying. They’re big and when chewing or dissolving such a smooth bar, a big seed was a rather unpleasant finding.
Lavender - Dark Chocolate, Lavender & Blueberries. 59% cocoa mass chocolate. I’ve heard of a few lavender infused chocolates and even tried the New Tree Tranquility bar (which was milk chocolate) and still believed that there would be a better lavender chocolate bar out there. Well, this might be it. I was a little leary of the blueberries in the mix as I thought maybe they’d give the chocolate too much of a fruit punch flavor. Of the three I tried, this was by far my favorite. Where the Roseberry has gritty things in it, this bar is smooth through and through, with little chewy bits of blueberries. The lavender gives the bar a soft essence, a lingering top note that doesn’t overpower the smokey and woodsy flavors of the chocolate itself. Not sticky sweet or cloying, it’s just an incredibly pleasant bar with a good, slightly dry finish.
Xocalatl - dark chocolate, chilies & nibs. 74% cocoa mass chocolate. The darkest of the three bars, this one was much more chocolatey. Not quite as buttery, it still melted quickly and had a very nice flowery note at first, like orange blossoms. That quickly gives way to a peppery heat that sizzles on the tongue as the buttery chocolate melts away and brings out some very woodsy, earthy tones. The finish is slightly dry with some lingering plum notes and of course the warm burn in the throat. The most interesting part of this bar is that it contains no cinnamon. Most of the other “spicy” chocolate bars I’ve tried have cinnamon (and sometimes cloves) in them. What’s cool about this one is that it’s all New World spices (okay, maybe that’s not true ... seems there’s some nutmeg in there).
I am completely in love with Dagoba now and I want to try everything of theirs. However, at $2.79 for a 2 ounce bar, it’s freaking pricey stuff and I don’t plan on buying much of it anytime soon. I’m curious about their single origin line and there are still about 20 bars that I haven’t tried yet. Maybe I’ll splurge via mailorder on one of their tasting kits except for the fact that it’s more expensive on their website than in stores. Sigh. I need a corporate sponsor.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Name: Ghirardelli Squares - Milk Chocolate with Carmelized Almonds
I couldn’t resist picking up this bag of sweet treats. I was originally plowing through the clearance table at the drug store because they had Hershey’s cookies for 50 cents a package (and it was one of the few times I’d seen the York ones) and I was hoping for some Halloween finds but then I thought, $2 bucks for Ghirardelli? I’ll take it!
I suspect that this flavor is being discontinued because it has no page of its own on the site (well, there’s a link, but the page has a 404 error on it). Anyway, these are cute little 1.75” squares of milk chocolate with little crunchy almond bits in it.
The milk chocolate is smooth and creamy, not too milky tasting but a bit sticky. The almonds are nicely roasted and have a good carmelized bite to them. Mellow and a little bit zippy, there are really nice little sweets to have around.
Rating - 8 out of 10
What a gorgeous site Pergale has, seriously. The photos are fabulous and they document gobs and gobs of candy. It’s really a delight to browse around, it’s well organized and has great brief descriptions of all their products. The UK, Candian and American manufacturers could learn from this Lithuanian company - a lot of the candy sites I’ve seen are oriented towards capturing consumer information and not giving much in return in the way of information. I like a candy site that’s a full catalogue of the company.
These tiny bars were part of a larger cache of candy from Eastern Europe (I already reviewed the full sized Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss and Capuccino bars). I’ll sprinkle more in as the weeks go on. The bars are 30 grams, which is less than an ounce and about the size of a thumb, well maybe your thumb, my thumbs are pretty small.
Dubingiai - Dipped rum-flavoured confection of cocoa and milk paste containing waffle crisps. This tiny little bar was glossy with a beautiful dark sheen even after traveling across the world in a suitcase and then in my candy bag for weeks until I took a photo. Once I snapped it in half the rum scent wafted out and made my mouth water. The filling looks like a fluffy truffle, but it also has a bit of crisp mixed in. It’s an odd sort of combo, the flavors are nice, but the texture of the center is a little odd. The chocolate outside is smooth but the crisp gives the center a little grain. It’s got a nice rum flavor to it and the chocolate is pretty decent. It goes great with my morning coffee.
Veliuona - Dipped confection of cocoa and milk paste containing waffle crisps. This bar seemed quite similar to the Dubingiai but didn’t have the rum flavor to it. It was actually a little weird and tasted a bit burnt. The chocolately taste was more evident and the little cookie bits in the fluffy, buttery center were nice, but I couldn’t get past the feeling that maybe a cigarette butt ended up in the mix that day.
Ratings: Dubingiai - 8 out of 10 (I really like rum and chocolate as a combo)
Monday, November 21, 2005
Here’s a perfectly good idea gone awry. There’s no reason there can’t be good, tasty, “natural” chocolate candies (I think that’s been proven more recently with things like Equal Exchange, Green & Black, Newman’s Own, etc.). This is an example of a weak candy line. Here’s why: First, the colors are dull and unappealing. They’re not colors that I want to eat (except for the yellow, they look like old-lady lipstick colors). They’re not strong or clean, they’re muddy looking and uneven. A grainy looking outside does not bode well for the inside.
The ingredients are basically sugar (natural with unsulfured molasses, blah, blah) then milk powder, then the chocolate ... that’s a long way down the list. And it shows in the final product. The addition of molasses is a little odd. It gives the whole thing a rather toasty burnt flavor, which I enjoy with my oatmeal but not in my chocolate. In fact, I can taste everything in these drops except for the chocolate. The powdered milk, overly sweet sugar and slightly grainy chocolate just combine for a depressing treat. The crunchy shell is too tough and again adds sweet without flavor and further distances me from any chocolately goodness. If it’s possible, the peanut ones tasted more like burnt sugar and milk powder.
With the same number of calories and fat as M&Ms, why am I eating these? I gave them to Amy to try and after much cajoling (because the package, colors and list of ingredients scared her off - and she was the one that wanted to go to Wild Oats on Saturday!) she did put one in her mouth. She chewed a couple of times and then spit it out in my trash can.
If you are a parent trying to find a wholesome treat for the kids, this isn’t it. It sets them up for a lifetime of disappointments, now that’s spoiling them. Just let them have some M&Ms in moderation (the Almond ones are actually not bad for you since the bulk of the candy is actually a very healthy nut). Or just let them have plain old semi-sweet chocolate chips. Dark chocolate really isn’t that bad as a food. Raisinettes? Really, anything but this. Don’t tease the poor kids by telling them this is candy.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Friday, November 18, 2005
If you’ve ever gotten a hold of a Coffee Crisp in Canada or the UK but you live in the States, maybe you want to be able to get a hold of them more easily.
Check out the CoffeeCrisp.org. They’re mounting a campaign to urge Nestle to release the coffee flavored crisp bar nationally.
I tried one. I thought it was a little sweet, but not bad and I can see how it might have some fervent followers. See my original review here.
Name: York Chocolate Mint Truffle Pattie
I have no idea how long these limited editions last. But I’m still seeing the Whopper’s bars in the 7-11 (I picked up three on this trip and I’m considering checking out CostCo to buy a whole box of them). York did a limited edition Pink Pattie this year too, but that wasn’t really a taste change, as they only made the center of the patties pink instead of white.
This is a different product.
First, I have to say that the Pattie that I got at the 7-11 was exceptionally fresh. The chocolate on the outside was smooth and glossy, the smell was minty with a hint of chocolately promise to it. The center of a York is usually a bit more crumbly, like fudge than it is like a truffle cream. The chocolate truffle pattie is no different. More mint than chocolate, it was much more mild than the traditional mint pattie center. Not quite chocolately, but a nice mellow taste to it. Almost like a brown sugar instead of a sweet white confectioners feel to it.
If you can get past to the promise of a truffle inside, it’s actually a really nice bar. The calorie count per ounce is pretty low for a chocolate candy, so if you’re on a diet and looking for a little treat, this might be very satisfying.
As for the difference from the regular pattie, well, it’s not substantial. If they stick around for a while, I’ll continue buying them. They’re a little creamier, a little mellower than a regular York.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Yes, more good news from the candy science front. Not only is chocolate a health food (something that I’ve been espousing since I was in high school and did a term paper on it with that thesis), but sugar may ease stress hormones.
Scientific American reports on a recent study where rats were given twice daily doses of water - either sugar sweetened, dosed with artificial sweeteners or left pure.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.