Archive for June, 2008

Thorntons Chocolate Smothered Toffee

June 30th, 2008 by Rosa

Last semester, I went to a Master’s Tea with Melanie Dunea, author/photographer of My Last Supper. The book consists of her photographs of 50 world famous chefs, including Eric Ripert, Wylie Dufresne, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Thomas Keller, and Mario Batali, and what they’d like their last suppers to be like. If you ever come across the book, check out Guy Savoy’s excellent response. It’s a great coffee table book, and it makes a great gift for foodie friends. In fact, I got a copy of it signed for my friend Cassie’s 21st birthday present. I also may have read through it before I gave it to her…

So what does My Last Supper have to do with Thorntons Chocolate Smothered Toffee? Well, after hearing Ms. Dunea talk about meeting all those great chefs, I was curious as to what she would have for her last supper. So I asked her. She said her ideal last meal would be Thortons Chocolate Smothered Toffee and a glass of red wine. Luckily, there’s a Thortons right in the Cambridge City Centre, so I was able to make a bag of chocolate smothered toffee my first candy purchase in the UK.

I was surprised at how irregularly shaped the toffee pieces were, as they all looked fairly uniform on the photo on the bag. The outer coating of milk chocolate was sweet and creamy and definitely noticeable, as there was about 1/2 a centimeter thick layer of it. It certainly smothered, and it made the confection a tad too sweet for my taste.

When the candy was cold, the toffee inside cleaved like American toffee but once warmed in your hand or in your mouth, it chews into a super sticky caramel, like UK toffee normally does. And when I say sticky, I mean sticky. The flavor was nicely buttery, but it gets stuck in your teeth like whoa. Somehow that buttery taste didn’t translate into a physically buttery (aka greasy, not overly sticky) toffee. Usually, that would be a plus, but in this case, not so much.

The toffee was just too messy to eat. Because the chunks were so big, you couldn’t pop one whole in your mouth, but if you bit off a piece, by the time you finished chewing and chewing and chewing, the rest of the piece would have melted all over your fingers. I know because I brought the rest of the bag into lab to share at lunchtime. I warned people that it was hard to chew, but the intrepid sweet-toothed ones forged ahead anyway. And they struggled messily, and I felt guilty for subjecting them to candy-related social faux pas.

In conclusion, the toffee was tasty but messy and difficult to eat, making it more difficult to enjoy. I didn’t think to try it with a glass of red wine; I think that would actually pair nicely, with the acidity of the wine cutting through the sweetness of the candy. The toffee gets an OM from me. I wouldn’t turn it down if it appeared at my last supper, but I wouldn’t make any special request for it.

Finally, on an unrelated note, happy birthday, Mom! I’m sorry I can’t be home to spend it with you, but I am thinking happy thoughts for you, with a 5-hour time difference head start.

Category: caramel, chocolate, European, OM, review, Thorntons, toffee | 4 Comments »

More candy quickhits – another gifted edition

June 27th, 2008 by Rosa

In continuing with Wednesday’s spirit of cleaning notes out of my candy tasting notebook, more quick reviews of candies that I didn’t have much to say about. These, like Wednesday’s, were all gifts, but they are not all international.

South African Nestle Chocolates from former suitemate, future roommate Catherine (who doesn’t like chocolate!), who got them from a YDN friend

Tex – milk chocolate coating around two wafers sandwiching an aerated chocolate middle. Meh chocolate quality, but coolness and novelty points. I’ll definitely seek this out if Concert Band tour is in South Africa next summer. OM.

Bar-one – nougat and chocolate. Reminds me of a Tootsie Roll‘s flavor. O.

Quality Street – the name confused me, because Quality Street is a whole line-up of assorted and individually wrapped chocolate miniatures in the UK. In this case, the treat labeled “chocolate nut toffee creme” had caramel and was vaguely hazelnutty. Another O.

Hershey’s Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses from a YPMB scavenger hunt group, submitted as “Candy Rosa’s never tried before”

I think these kisses had melted a bit, then reformed, hence the kind of lumpy look on the wrapped one. I wonder if they have a lower melting point because truffling the filling means adding vegetable fat or something.

Like many of the overabundant Kiss varieties (seriously thorough round-up from Cybele here; awesome photographic round-up here) that Hershey’s rolled out recently, these are molded truffles rather than “kissed” out like traditional kisses. The hot cocoa kiss had a milk chocolate shell surrounding a soft truffle center with a cocoa powder finish. It was soft and sweet and so-so. An O for something that was awfully similar to the plain old truffle kisses.

Long Grove Confectionary Chocolates from Mrs. Cobb that didn’t make it to Chicago Week

Clockwise from the top: Kahlua, raspberry, vanilla buttercream, and dark chocolate.

Kahlua – nice whole coffee bean on top. A thick and creamy ganache with a slightly sweet finish. Not much chocolate or coffee flavor.

Raspberry – nicely sweet raspberry flavored filling without the bitter seeds

Vanilla buttercream – strong maple notes with a super sweet maple finish. Slight grain to the ganache.

Dark chocolate – doesn’t taste very chocolatey or very dark, but the ganache is lovely, as it’s thick and creamy and smooth.

A good assortment that’s better than most grocery-store bought boxed chocolates, but nothing that really sets it apart from other not mass-distributed chocolates. An O.

Category: aerated, African, caramel, chocolate, Hershey's, limited edition, Nestle, O, OM, received as gift, review | 1 Comment »

TCHO Coupon

June 26th, 2008 by Rosa

TCHO is an American chocolate maker in San Francisco that I ran out of time and didn’t get to visit when I was in California last winter. When I say chocolate maker, I mean they make their chocolate from scratch, and when I say visit, I mean stop by their distribution center and buy a bar (they don’t give tours. Yet). From the looks of the website, you can no longer buy the bars in person and have to order them online.

If you’re curious and want to give them a try, from now until June 30th, the discount code newsletter1 will let you take 25% off whatever batch they’ve brewed up. Their batches are “cleverly” (or obnoxiously) named based on what phase of testing it’s in, what flavor profile it is, and where the beans are sourced. Blame the fact that the company got its start-up money from the founder of Wired.

I’ve never tried TCHO, but Cybele did. You can also read more about the company at The Chocolate Life.

Category: news | No Comments »

Candy quick hits – gifted edition

June 25th, 2008 by Rosa

A quick round-up of things that I ate and photographed but couldn’t come up with many words for. If the picture takes up more room than the review, it doesn’t warrant a standalone review. These were all gifts from friends who brought (or mailed) me candy from afar, which is why they’re mostly hard/impossible to find.

Israeli something from my friend Monica (update: According to Candy Addict, it’s a Pesek Zman):

Like a prettier, square-r, tastier, and creamier Kit Kat. Amusing because to me, the words on the wrapper look more correct when they’re upside down. I had to spin the wrapped bar around a few times to remember how it should be oriented. An OM

St. Lucia Rum Fudge from friend and former roommate (which is quite different from a roommate and former friend) Jenny:

I don’t know if it was the St. Lucia or the rum part that made it weird, but it was weird. Instead of being sticky/creamy/gritty like regular fudge, this was dry and sugary. It was supposed to be chocolate-flavored, but to me just tasted like sugar. I don’t actually like fudge (way too sweet for my palate), and I, despite dear Jenny’s best intentions, didn’t much care for St. Lucia’s rum fudge, though I bet I’d love St. Lucia, where Jenny got to go for Spring Break. A .

Australian Cadbury Picnic from reader Hannah (who now writes for Sugar Savvy)

Similar to the British version, but minus the sultanas. The strip of caramel was quite hard and only sort of got chewy once you worked it around in your mouth a bit. The peanuts were plentiful and crisp but could have been more roasty and flavorful. All that plus the dry wafer center made this bar much drier than its British counterpart. I have no notes on the chocolate, which meant it, like the bar, was unremarkable, though the plentiful peanuts would make it a hearty snack. An O.

Turkish chocolates from my friend Ben from his suitemate:

The one shaped like a giant Hershey’s kiss had a thin chocolate shell around creamy but not silky ganache with slightly fruity notes. Those sprinkle looking things were made of chocolate as well. Mine had a slight tinge of mustiness (like it had taken on the scent of a paper towel). I will chalk up to storage and transport rather than to the chocolate and thereby give it the benefit of the doubt. But still just an O for unremarkableness.

I really liked the shape of the one that had bits of pistachio all along one side. It would make for good architectural inspiration, doncha think?

The pistachio studded one was a thin chocolate shell around a nutty paste that was soft and quite velvety. I’m assuming the paste was made of pistachio, though it tasted more of pine nuts to me. The filling is heavy on the palate, so I ate the confection over several days, spacing out my bites and nibbles. An OM.

Category: --, Australian/New Zealand, Cadbury, chocolate, Israel, nuts, O, OM, received as gift, review | 1 Comment »

Free Stride Gum

June 24th, 2008 by Rosa

Stride Gum is having a promotion and giving away free packs of gum, if you have the patience to answer a bunch of silly questions. I asked for Always Mandarin.

I heard about this promotion from an internet freebie website. Coincidentally enough, in the same week, Stride Gum contacted me to ask that I help promote some new game they’ve got on their website (and said nothing about the free gum). So if you like playing games, there’s a candy themed one for you at Stride’s main website.

You can read my review of Stride Gum’s Forever Fruit flavor here.

Category: Cadbury, news | No Comments »

Gummis!

June 24th, 2008 by Rosa

In the U.S., gummi bears and gummi worms are the main gummi go-to treats, though other gummis are available. Here in the U.K., thanks to the popularity and ubiquity of Haribo, there’s a huge assortment of gummi shapes and flavors to choose from. My personal favorites for creativity, if not taste, are gummi hard boiled eggs, which feature a yellow gummi yolk on a white foam gummi albumen (see below).

I still, however, have yet to come across the absinthe gummi or the “lighthouse” gummi (not suitable for small children or safe for work; perfect for immature adolescents).

I’ve so far limited myself to just one bag of gummis since, as far as I can tell, they’re all variations on a theme, but if there’s any particular must-taste variety of Haribo out there, do let me know, and I’ll buy it if I see it.

Category: news | 4 Comments »

Baci Perugina

June 23rd, 2008 by Rosa

Remember Sixpence None the Richer? No? Remember “Kiss me beneath the milky twilight/lead me out on the moonlit floor/lift your open hand/strike up the band and make the fireflies dance/silver moon sparkling” (weird grammar there)? Still no? Maybe this will jog your memory. It’s frightening how quickly those useless lyrics come back instantly, yet I can’t remember the definitions of all the fancy and never used SAT vocab words I memorized four years ago now that I’m starting to prep for GREs.

baci.jpg

That’s a long enough mental detour, I think. Back to the  candy! Baci Perugina, an Italian confection, are a Duty Free staple. In fact, I can’t remember seeing them anywhere but in Duty Free shops and at Economy Candy, where I got my box. Loyal readers and vigilent will remember that the one time I’ve been to Economy Candy was back in September of last year (while caring readers can take heart, for halvah is easy to find in Cambridge!). That means my Baci sat around in the bottom of my candy drawer for months before I finally got around to eating them.

The box claims that Baci Perugina are “An Italian Tradition of Passion and Style” and lets the consumer know that they are “dark chocolate with whole & chopped hazelnuts.”  My favorite message from the candy came from the slip of paper that came with it. Mine, in several languages, said “Given the right chance women are capable of anything.” Resisting urge to make explicit political comment and…

As you can see from the photo, there is indeed at least one whole hazelnut in the Baci Perugina that comprises a neat little tumor hat for the chocolate. You can also see that I wasn’t paying attention and photographed the wrapped Baci upside down. My little box contained two Baci, which was the perfect amount for a taste, unlike the giant pallets of Duty Free Baci sold in international terminals.

It was also just enough for me to realize that I don’t really like Baci enough to ever buy a giant Duty Free pallet of Baci. It’s chock full of those chopped and whole hazelnuts, so much so that the confection becomes too dry. And I found the chocolate filling that mixed with the hazelnuts to be too dry as well, though that may have been due to how old my Baci were.

All in all, I’d rather have a Rocher than a Baci to satisfy my cravings for walnut-sized chocolate and hazelnut confections, as Rocher are far creamier and have a bit more going on. Still, the Baci wasn’t bad, and I loved the feminist affirmation so much that I carried it around with me in my wallet until I lost it. Plus I’d probably buy another pair of Baci again just to see if they’re any better fresh, and Baci is really fun to say, so they get an OM. Baci baci baci baci. Kiss me, beneath the milky twilight…

This just in: Baci means “Kiss” in Italian. Suddenly it all sort of makes sense. And, as this has been one of my sillier, more nonsensical reviews (I blame the Baci website and song for completely throwing me out of my proper candy reviewing mindset), I shall point you to Cybele’s review of the Baci Bar, with the warning before you read it that you may never be able to try a Baci Bar because they seem to no longer exist, and that is quite saddening.

Category: chocolate, European, Nestle, nuts, OM, Perugina, review | 4 Comments »

Brach’s Rich and Dreamy Chocolatey Cremes

June 20th, 2008 by Rosa

I think the unofficial theme for this week is something along the lines of “Candy that’s so fake tasting it may actually be a crime against nature.” Had I been paying attention when I picked these Brach’s Rich and Dreamy Chocolatey Cremes out of the bulk candy bins at my local HEB in Austin, TX, I never would have bought them in the first place. In the candy world, “chocolatey” is code for “not made of real chocolate” and is usually an indicator of candy badness. In this case, it was a sign of candy terribleness. Please note that they are not filed under chocolate.

The Chocolatey Cremes came in Orange Sorbet, Cherry Jubilee, Double Dutch, Raspberry Parfait, and Vanilla Bean. I guess you could call the shapes of these to be like oversized Rolos. I only got a photo of the Double Dutch out of the wrapper (below) because I was too busy tasting nasty candy and spitting it out to remember to take pictures of the others. I think the orange, cherry, raspberry, and vanilla ones had unnaturally colored fillings, but I’m not sure. My notes on these are pretty sparse because I was so distracted by the terrible taste. In fact, I think it’s best if I just reproduce my notes below.


Double dutch – EWW. fake and sugary

Orange Sorbet – like orange creamsicle

Cherry Jubilee – bright cherry popsicle flavor

Raspberry Parfait – gritty raspberry (translation – I was referring to the slightly bitter, seedy olfactory taste artificial raspberry can have, as described here in one of my first ever reviews)

Vanilla bean – caramel vanilla

What is left off of my notes was exactly how mindblowingly terrible they all were. Fortunately for this review, unfortunately for me, I still remember. My tasting process for these basically consisted of take bite, make blech face, spit out bite, hurriedly jot down notes so that I could taste the next one to get the taste of the previous one out of my mouth, make blech face, and so on. Texturally, they were awful – gritty and grainy with a fake chocolate shell that cracked because it was so dry – and the fake chocolate just made the fake fillings taste worse. A , coupled with a wish to rebrand them as Poor and Nightmarish and a temptation to tag these as “not candy”.

Category: --, Brach's, chewy, review | 6 Comments »

Taste of London and other food festivals

June 19th, 2008 by Rosa

Today marks the start of the Taste of London festival in Regent Park, and I just happen to be hopping a train to London tomorrow. Of course, once I get there, I’m hopping a bus to Stonehenge for overnight early Summer Solstice celebrating. BUT I’ll be back in London for Saturday (though verrrry tired from a sleepless night, I’m sure) and Sunday fun.

Taste of London dish and Crowns currency

I asked about getting free access as press, but I also asked pretty last minute (as in on Tuesday) since I only recently found out about it. If a press pass comes through, I’m totally there. If it doesn’t, I may splurge and cough up the 25 pound (~$50) entry fee anyway. After all, everything in England is expensive thanks to a terrible exchange rate. It’s reasonable England prices for what looks to be a fun event, and even though food isn’t included in the entry fee, it would still be way cheaper and easier than actually visiting the brick and mortar versions of the great restaurants serving food at the festival. And maybe some the exhibitors will have samples?

If I end up not going to the Taste of London, or even if I do, is there anything off the beaten path that I should see while I’m in London? I want to visit the Tate Modern and at least walk past Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, but that’s about it.

Taste of London dish

In other food festival news, I had successfully registered as press for the BBC Good Food Show Summer, which was held in Birmingham last weekend, but I wasn’t able to make it because a friend came to visit me in Cambridge that weekend. It meant missing out on Gordan Ramsay and a long list of interesting looking exhibitors. Note the one called “Chocolates for Chocoholics“. But, instead of going to Birmingham all alone, I got to explore more of Cambridge and watch some of the May Bumps races with my friend, which was great fun.

Finally, I am for sure attending the New York City Wine and Food Festival in October this year. Fortunately, it was scheduled for one of the few fall weekends in which the football team is away and the band isn’t following, so I’m free to catch Anthony Bourdain interview Ferran Adria with my friend and former roommate, Jenny. Hooray!!! Jenny managed to book our tickets before they sold out. Hooray again!!!!!

It should be really good (and at $35 for an hour-long program, it better be), as Bourdain is awesome and Adria is the man. I’m excited just thinking about it! I sort of wish I hadn’t given my signed (by photographer Melanie Dunea) copy of My Last Supper to a foodie friend for her birthday, as the NYC Wine and Food Festival features a TON of big name chefs, many of whom are photographed in My Last Supper (like Adria and Bourdain). I may just have to buy another copy for myself and try to rush the stage at the end of the talk like a squealy fangirl.

Take a look through the full events list for the NYC Wine and Food Festival. Soooo much of it looks absolutely amazing, but on my college student budget, the only way I could afford to attend more events would be to scalp the ticket I already have. But I would never do that because it’s Bourdain and Adria on the same stage! Still, I bet at least some of you, dear readers, are real people with real sources of income who could buy tickets to festival without having to live off ramen (or, more realistically for me, stop splurging on nice chocolate) to be able to afford it.

If you do go, or if you happen to live in NYC and would want to go on a ZOMG, Candy! outing, let me know. We can visit Economy Candy or Jacques Torres or La Maison Du Chocolat. And Momofuku Ssam Bar, which has nothing to do with candy but is delicious nonetheless.

Category: news | 3 Comments »

Bassetts Allsorts – Fabulously Fruity

June 18th, 2008 by Rosa

On the heels of Monday’s review of a strongly artificial tasting candy that I just couldn’t stomach comes a review of more strongly artificial tasting candy. Only this time, I’m ashamed to say that I completely polished off my bag of Bassetts Allsorts of the Fabulously Fruity variety. It’s also my first review of UK candy that I bought and ate in the UK.

These were on display at Sainsbury’s, and I immediately snatched them up. I hate licorice (or liquorice here) and therefore have never been able to fully try normal licorice Allsorts. I say fully try because I’ve occasionally bitten into one, fooled by its bright, non-black colors, and then spat it out once I tasted it for what it really was. At any rate, I was happy to see that they also came in Fabulously Fruity flavors.

The fruit Allsorts were red strawberry licorice (which I don’t love but can tolerate) paired with fruity flavors like lemon, lime, and orange. The fat round ones with the red dots are Round Lemon and Round Orange, the long tubular round ones are Lime Rock and Orange Rock, the three-layered ones are Lime, Lemon, and Orange Sandwiches, the five-layered ones are Lemon, Orange, and Blueberry (the one with three white layers) Cubes, the checkerboard prisms were Lemon and Strawberry (white and red) Check, and the buttons were Bobbly Blackcurrant (purple) and Bobbly Strawberry. Phew!

In real life, they’re a bit more neony and a bit less pastel-y than they look in the photo above. Unfortunately, I don’t have my usual candy shooting set-up while I’m abroad. I’ve been trying to shoot in sunlight near my room’s window, but it’s England. The sun doesn’t come out all that often, so most of my photos came out too dark and had to be more photo-edited than usual. My deepest apologies.

I don’t know what to make of Allsorts. I didn’t like them, exactly, but I also polished off the whole bag in three days (I guess that’s what happens when I don’t have my friends around to eat my candy leftovers for me). The red licorice bits are smooth and slippery while the rest of the colors are this weird grainy texture. The ingredients list wheat flour and dessicated coconut; one or both of those may be the cause of that. Strangely enough, the textural combination worked well in the cubes and sandwiches and checks; I only found the graininess to be overpoweringly unpleasant in the Rounds when there wasn’t enough strawberry licorice for balance. The fruity flavors were super brightly artificial, but in a tasty way, which may be why I found them strangely addictive. It also helped that they were mostly citrus flavors, which are my favorite.

The Bobbly pieces were tough gummi buttons covered in tiny nonpareils. I’ve seen the licorice versions sold on their own around here in bulk candy stores, but I don’t know about the fruity ones. They were okay, mildly fruity and pleasant enough, but they don’t hold a candle to the deliciously bright fruitiness of Jelly Belly’s Raspberries and Blackberries.

I kind of wish I had more of these to eat, but I also know better than to buy another bag. Actually, no, maybe I’ll buy another bag right before I leave. As quickly as I ate them, I’m unsure as to how much I actually enjoyed them in the eating process. An OM, I think, but proceed with caution. And for those who want a review of Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts, you’ll have to go to Cybele and Candy Blog for that, because you sure ain’t gonna get one out of me.

Category: chewy, European, OM, review | No Comments »