Thursday, April 5, 2007
Here’s the proposal ... I’m going to do another drawing for some free tasty goodies.
I don’t know what the actual prize is yet, but I can tell you that it will be GOOD chocolate.
How can you get some? You have to help get the word out about the open comment period on the FDA’s proposed changes for the definition of chocolate.
(Don’t worry, I’m not telling you what to say, you can go on there and comment in support of mockolate if you want. I want the FDA to actually hear from the citizens who buy the stuff and not just the industry action groups.)
For each one of the actions below, you can earn a virtual raffle ticket. The more you do, the better your chances:
Here are a few extra rules:
Please do not comment on the FDA site if you’re not in the United States or an American living abroad. That doesn’t mean that folks outside US can’t enter, you just don’t qualify for that particular point. (I could be wrong about foreigners commenting ... someone correct me.)
You are limited to five entries (though you’re free to make greater efforts, but only the first five will count).
You are responsible for calculating your “raffle tickets”. Just come here and leave a list of your deeds (you don’t have to list them all on the same day).
You must comment with a valid email address, don’t worry, no one sees it but me (how else can I tell you that you won?).
Final note, the object of this challenge is not to create a bunch of empty chatter, but to just widen awareness of this issue by engaging you, sweet readers, to pass the info along. So keep in mind that we’ll all win if we Keep It Real.
Deadline for all comments here is April 25th at 11:59 PM PDT.
UPDATE 4/17/2007: The first prize will be a $100 Gift Certificate to Chocosphere
Also, since folks have asked, yes emailing your friends also qualifies. (Just don’t spam them over and over again ... but you wouldn’t do that.)
UPDATE 4/26/2007: Contest entries are now closed. I’ll announce a winner later. Since the comment period has been extended by the FDA I’ll start a new raffle with a new prize.
Folks are obsessed with Peeps around this time of the year. As I’ve stated before, I love the idea of Peeps, I just don’t really enjoy eating them. So I thought I’d try to improve my experience by creating some Peeps Mash-Ups. These aren’t full-blown recipes but more of a “dry fondue” with some items I had lying around:
Peeps Rocks - here I’ve mashed my Peep into some Strawberry Pop Rocks.
First, when mashing a Peep, it helps to pull it apart. This way you have two sticky halves for picking up other candy goodness as well as alleviating the issue of “double dipping” if you’re mashing with a buddy.
When I mashed the Pop Rocks into this fresh Peep, the rocks started snapping immediately. (You can’t see the noise in the photo, but it’s cracklin’ away, trust me.)
The cotton-candy-like flavor of the strawberry goes really well with the flavorless Peep. Light and refreshing. The pops give it a little sizzle.
Peeps Nerds - when you look at it, a Peep is really just a giant spongy Nerd with a pointy nose. Oh, and eyes. Nerds may have eyes in their little cartoon versions on the packaging, but not on the real candies like Peeps do.
I wasn’t really fond of this flavor combination, or the colors. The red and green (cherry & watermelon) looked too Christmasy. The taste combo was pretty good though. The crunch of the Nerds gave the spongy marshmallow a good texture and the zap of tartness also balanced out the sweetness of the Peep.
Peeps & Mini M&Ms - this is a natural combo and the colors couldn’t look better together if I tried. The little M&Ms adhere really well to the Peep’s exposed marshmallow. The sweet chocolate has a good crunch though it might be a little too sweet.
You could probably try mini dark chocolate baking chips for a less sweet experience (though you’d lose the crunch). The little tube they come in is especially easy for mashing on the go, just press the stickiness to the opening and tip the M&Ms Minis into it.
Peep Tarts - I have to admit that I was especially proud of the name for this one. Originally I wanted to use Pixy Stix for the powder, but I couldn’t find any (I try not to keep them in the house, for sanity’s sake). So I took the powder from an extra Topps Baby Bottle Pop. The Citrus Craze powder is already less sweet because it’s also intended to be “mashed up” with the lollipop top, so it adds flavor and tartness without more throat-burning sugar.
I’m not really sold on the combo, but after eating everything pictured here within about 15 minutes I had a stomach ache. Gah, I’m getting another one just typing this up!
So, what are your ideas for Peeps Mash-ups - either theoretical ones, or ones that you actually do?
This is a great little assortment provided by Amber (via Bronwen) all the way from Toronto. I’m not sure why they don’t sell bags of these in the United States. Inside are four different items. There are little solid foil wrapped eggs of Dairy Milk chocolate, then there are mini Caramilk Eggs (Caramilk Oeuf) and mini Creme Eggs (Oeuf Fondant).
This way there’s something for everyone, and not too much of anything (because they’re the minis). The wrappings aren’t exactly Easter-ish, but maybe I’m locked into thinking that Easter is a pastel holiday.
All of the items are slightly different in side. I’ll go from smallest to largest.
Dairy Milk eggs - smooth and creamy with a rather noticeable caramelized milk taste to it. It’s slightly different from the American Cadbury chocolate, just a little less crumbly, a little more fudgy.
Caramilk Eggs (Caramilk Oeuf) - these are wrapped in pretty little orange and brown foil. Under the wrapping is a texturized surface, kind of like crocodile. Inside the chocolate shell are two halves that have been pressed together to form the egg. They’re filled with the sticky Caramilk caramel, which again is like a cross between a syrupy flowing caramel and a dulce de leche. Not too sweet, just a really thick texture that just about sticks to the roof of my mouth, and definitely to my ribs.
Creme Eggs (Oeuf Fondant) - this is the largest of the three and cloaked in the gaudiest of purple, red and yellow foil. These do not have the septum of the Caramilk eggs, so biting into them is a pure fondant experience. The filling on these is a saffron yellow and much thicker than the flowing stuff I’m accustomed to with the larger eggs I’ve had from the States. This fondant has a slight crumbly look to it, but the same flavor ... sweet. The texture reminds me a little bit of Oreos and the larger ratio of chocolate helps me to keep from going completely batty on sugar overload.
None of them are particularly pretty after de-foiling (come on, that Caramilk one looks like the progeny of The Thing!), the surface of many of them doesn’t have that bright unspoiled sheen of, oh, the Godiva ones. But at about 80% of the price, I’m willing to just look at them fully clothed.
These aren’t bad but I’m not sure if they’re better than the American ones available, since I didn’t taste the mini ones that are available here (and it’s been a whole year). I certainly liked this set of ratios better than the large ones. Cadbury Canada does not use PGPR in their chocolate (but then again, neither do the American creme eggs).
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
I’ve been doing much more research on the issue of the FDA allowing chocolate companies to sell us chocolate that doesn’t contain cocoa butter. First, there’s nothing stopping confectioners from creating a product that contains cocoa solids and other fats. It’s perfectly legal. They want the FDA’s blessing to confuse consumers by letting them call an inferior product CHOCOLATE.
I read over the “Citizen’s Petition” (PDF) on the FDA website for 2007P-0085: Adopt Regulations of General Applicability to all Food Standards that would Permit, within Stated Boundaries, Deviations from the Requirements of the Individual Food Standards of Identity. This is what it says:
I’m not sure which ‘consumers’ they’re talking about when it comes to our generally held expectations about the precise technical elements of chocolate, but I’m pretty sure the majority of chocolate consumers would be able to tell the difference between mockolate and chocolate - both by looking at the label but more importantly by tasting the product. (I will grant you that I’ve had passably good mockolate from Guittard and Wilbur, which is useful your home kitchen when you don’t want a chocolate that you need to temper, like with dipped strawberries.)
And which citizens are saying this to the FDA on our behalf? Well, that’d be our good neighbors:
Food Products Association (merged wtih Grocery Manufacturers Association)
Grocery Manufacturers Association (merged with Food Products Association)
But let’s get back to the simple fact that the confectionery companies can make mockolate and sell it right now. So ask yourself, why do they want to call it chocolate? Because it saves on printing costs to simply say “chocolate” instead of “chocolate flavored coating”? Or is it because vegetable oil substitutes cost 70% less than cocoa butter? (source)
If you’re curious about the current definitions, Hershey’s even has it all spelled out very well on their site.
The FDA is The Nation’s Premier Consumer Protection & Health Agency ... the open comment period on this proposed shift is our opportunity to keep the CONSUMER in mind.
I had to go for a classic this year. I haven’t had traditional spice jelly beans for quite a long time. These were pretty looking jelly beans. The Blueberry Hill Foods Spiced Jelly Eggs are the traditional jelly bean size, not the itty ones that Jelly Belly seems to have popularized.
I chose a bag at the store that didn’t look like it had too many purple ones in it, as I assumed that the purples were clove and I’m just not that keen on clove.
Upon opening the bag I found that they ALL smelled like clove. I have to say that these were odd.
I’m still not quite sure what flavor these are, so I’m going to guess on some:
Black - Licorice. Definitely licorice. Sweet and spicy with even a little hint of sizzle.
Now I just need to sort out the bag of jelly beans and get rid of those orange and pink ones and I think it’s a nice mix.
The texture of the beans is a little grainy, but not overly sweet, but has a good chew to it and well rounded flavors that last.
A couple of other notes. This company has one of the worst websites I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if it’s been updated since 2004 (it’s really not a website for consumers anyway). This product is manufactured in Mexico.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I’ve been asked a few times what I think of Godiva. To be honest, I don’t think much about it. When I was a kid and the same company who owned Pepperidge Farm (Campbell Soup) also owned Godiva (well, that’s still true today). There was a Pepperidge Farm thrift store not far from our home that we’d shop at once a month. Much of the time they’d have Godiva at ridiculously low prices. Besides chocolates at holidays, this was my only interaction with fine chocolates.
Of course I was in love with the elegant packaging. But I also appreciated the nice flavor and beauty of the chocolates as well. As I got a little older and became less impressed by those things, I realized, I didn’t like the chocolates themselves much. It’s not that they were bad, by any means, they just weren’t within my set of preferred flavors (you know, peanut butter and citrus) and I found the chocolate a little waxy.
So I don’t eat them, I don’t pay much attention to them.
But hey, it’s Easter and it’s about time I had something from Godiva represented here. So I popped into their shop over the weekend to see what was there for Easter. Lo and behold, it seemed they had a product that sounded right up my alley: an assortment of foil-wrapped Easter Eggs.
The assortment included Solid Dark Chocolate, Solid Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Coconut and Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter. Seeing that there were 16 eggs in the box and there were four flavors, I naturally assumed that there would be four of each flavor. Unfortunately there were only three of each of the filled eggs and five each of the solid eggs. Grrrr. I don’t want Godiva’s chocolate ... I want Godiva’s chocolates.
The eggs themselves are sizeable. At about .42 ounces each they’re twice the size of the regular foil-wrapped eggs we’re used to in Easter baskets.
The milk chocolate is nice. Creamy with a good caramelly milk flavor, though a little sticky and cloying as it melts on the tongue. The dark chocolate has a sweet but compelling scent, a little on the smoky side. It’s super creamy on the tongue with a slight dry finish. It doesn’t have the berry or fruity notes, just sticks to the woodsy/smoky side of things.
But let’s get to the fun ones! The pink foil holds a Dark Chocolate with Coconut egg. I could smell the nutty coconut as I unwrapped it. The center is a light and creamy fondant with little flecks of coconut. It smelled like coconut but also a little floral, like lilacs. Amazingly good.
The light blue foil holds a Milk Chocolate with Almond Butter egg. This one smelled immediately of dark toasted almonds. It was very soft to bite, I’m guessing from all the oils in the almond butter. Very thick and rich, the almond butter was fabulous, very much like a peanut butter, but with that unmistakeable almond taste. The milk chocolate set off the texture and flavor very well.
I really liked these but at almost a DOLLAR PER EGG they were horrendously expensive. Over $35.00 per pound. That price is fine for high quality boxed chocolates, but not for a product that was mostly solid chocolate. Keep your eye out for their post-Easter sale though if you’ve just gotta have them. (This particular box of foil eggs is already sold out on the site, but they have this more expensive version with only six eggs. (Jeeze, where’s a thrift store when you need it!)
Does anyone have any insider info on who supplies Godiva with their chocolate?
Monday, April 2, 2007
So, if you saw my post about mobilizing folks to respond to the FDA about changes in the definition of Chocolate and you want to help, here are some little pretty images you can post on your site or blog or use in your sig line on forums. Link to the www.dontmesswithourchocolate.com site to spread the word.
Please download the images to your computer and place them on your own server. Hotlinking to my site will not work.
You’re welcome to link to them from this Photobucket Gallery.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the FDA controls what fits under the definition of chocolate for sale in the United States. They want to make MOCKOLATE into CHOCOLATE.
As it is, chocolate is not an unhealthy treat. Cocoa Butter, which is composed of stearic acid, has been found to have no effect on blood lipid levels (cholesterol). Cocoa solids have been shown to have a positive effect on our bodies because of the high levels of antioxidants, insulin-like and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The new rules would completely obliterate the current definition, basically making any concoction containing cocoa solids and a fat into Chocolate. Like magic!
The rules currently state (basically) that chocolate must contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Other things can be in there, like milk fat and milk solids to make milk chocolate and a small amount of milk fat can be added to dark chocolate as well. The new proposal would allow products that contain NO COCOA BUTTER to be called chocolate.
We all know that these mockolate products are crappy. They don’t taste the same ... they feel oily or greasy on the tongue and don’t have the smooth buttery melt. What’s worse? They usually contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) or tropical oils (saturated fats) ... these fats raise our cholesterol levels.
Why is the Chocolate Manufacturers Association pushing for this? Because it’s more cost efficient.
There’s no reason that consumers want this dilution of the standards for chocolate!
It’s all for the chocolate companies to be able to make a cheaper product, an inferior product. Think about it, have you ever picked up a mockolate product and thought, “Goodness, that’s better than real chocolate!” Have you? I thought not. There will be a few holdouts that will continue with the tried and true traditional formulations of chocolate and they’re going to be the losers. Sure, the high end companies will do okay, because they’ve always had consumers with deeper pocketbooks. But the big chocolate companies that want to make this cheap mockolate will flood the market and confuse consumers ... ultimately just frustrating us with bad experiences and wasted money (and possibly a fatter belly and clogged arteries).
You know what? The FDA doesn’t have to give the CMA what they want. You have the power to reject this ... but you have to tell the FDA!
It’s never been easier ... just visit the FDA’s public comment portion of their website and tell them that you don’t want to lose real chocolate in a sea of wax and tropical oils. You can fill out the form, or send them a letter or a fax. Here’s what you’re commenting on:
Just visit this page for a tutorial and some talking points ... or read through the issues and draft your own letter. The important thing to do is to tell them that this change does NOT PROTECT CONSUMERS. The use of alternate fats not only makes for crappy chocolate, it’s not good for us.
The deadline for public comment on this is
April 25th, 2007
June 25, 2007.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.