Archive for March, 2009

Lily O’Briens Opens NYC Cafe

March 17th, 2009 by Rosa

Via last Wednesday’s Times Dining section, a piece on Lily O’Briens new Chocolate Cafe in Bryant Park. I’ve reviewed them before, once unfavorably when the chocolates I bought were past their prime, and twice more (bars and truffles) rapturously when they were fresh.

Category: news | No Comments »

Master’s Tea with Judy Logback

March 16th, 2009 by Rosa

A couple of weeks ago, on February 25th, I skipped my bootcamp class at the gym and went to a Master’s Tea with Judy Logback, the founder of Kallari chocolates, instead. After complaining about the Times Styles’ snarky chocolate review that fawned over Kallari a bit too much, how could I pass up the opportunity to meet and taste chocolate with the woman who founded the cooperative?

Judy, a student at Yale’s School of Management, gave a great talk and tea. She covered the details of how the Kallari cooperative works, what the cooperative’s farmers and chocolate makers do, and how each step that they do themselves earns them more money and helps them work their way out of poverty. I was quite impressed.

Along the way, Judy threw in neat chocolate facts. I learned that processing cacao with alkali (aka Dutch processing) darkens the color of the cacao without affecting the flavor, which explains why some chocolates manage look so much darker than they taste. I also learned that high quality chocolate doesn’t need lecithin as an emulsifier because they’re comprised of just cocoa butter and cocoa solids. And, most shockingly of all to me, I learned that in the U.K., single-origin bars only need to contain 10% of beans from that single-origin. In the U.S., the claims are totally unregulated.

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We tasted 8 bars along the way, four of them from Kallair. Three were the above bars that Kallari is now selling via Whole Foods, and the fourth was one of their artisanal bars. While the Whole Food bars are machine tempered and molded, the artisinal bars are entirely handmade, from tempering to molding. Judy had us taste the chocolates as she went through her Kallari slideshow, stopping every few slides ask us about what we thought about what we were eating. It was a little intimidating to verbalize my tasting notes to a chocolate expert, but it was also neat to hear her responses and feedback.

The bars were tasted blindly, though Judy gave us their percentages as we went. The bars and my notes are below the photo.

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  1. 86% Ghirardelli – cool, thin, glossy melt thanks to good use of cocoa butter. Pretty bitter, dry finish, but not exactly unpleasant.
  2. 85% Kallari artisinal bar – more burnt smell; sweeter, winey notes to the flavor. A thicker melt than the above bar, but still not thick, exactly, and with a slight grit
  3. 85% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – thicker melt, fruity finish. Astringent.
  4. 85% Lindt – strong smell, thick melt. A light, fruity sweetness that gave way to a super dry finish.
  5. 75% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – milky, caramel notes with a wonderfully dusky finish (Judy said the caramel notes were from their use of organic raw cane sugar). ZOMG
  6. 75% Chocolove – sweet, strong cherry notes. Suprisingly thick melt for dark chocolate.
  7. 70% Green & Black’s – flat fruity citrus sweetness. Unexceptional and, well, flat.
  8. 70% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – reminds me of European bars with the dusky caramel flavors.

My favorite bar of the lot was number 5, Kallari’s 75% bar. I went back for seconds, and it definitely merits a ZOMG! I’ll be looking for it next time I’m in a Whole Foods.

Finally, just a logistical note to point out, these bars aren’t technically certified Fair Trade, but I’ve chosen to tag them as such. Kallari has gone so far above and beyond the ideals of Fair Trade that they’re really beyond certification.

Category: chocolate, fair trade, organic, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Junior Fruit Cremes

March 13th, 2009 by Rosa

Normally, candy blogging has lots of perks. My friends give me candy, PR companies mail me free samples, people love me for feeding them my extra candy, and I get to eat lots of candy! But eating lots of candy isn’t always fun and games. Candy doesn’t always taste good, and sometimes, it can be downright nasty. Take, for example, Junior Fruit Cremes, one of the most misguided limited edition candies I have ever had the misfortune to come across and actually spend money on.

Granted, it was just a dollar at the Dollar Tree, but still. Junior Mint, why did you even go there? You make a perfectly lovely chocolate mint confection. Why branch out into these horrible things that you call fruit cremes, which are dull and ugly while your Junior Mints are bright and shiny, which erroneously claim “creamy coated fruit centers!” and which taste of unfortunate approximations of black cherry, orange, and raspberry?

Seriously, these guys were gnarly nasty. I’ll give Junior Mints the benefit of the doubt – maybe my box was a bit old, and that’s why the fruit centers had solidified into greasy messes. But that doesn’t excuse the greasy crumbly coatings or the strangely artificial, can’t-find-anything-close-to-it-in-nature waxy “fruit” flavors. I took a nibble of each and just couldn’t bring myself to taste more. These guys went straight into the trash, earning them a null . I want my dollar back. Actually, I want Tootsie Roll to pay me for eating these horrible things. I don’t understand how they ever made it onto the shelves.

Category: --, limited edition, review, Tootsie Roll | 6 Comments »

New Skittles Website

March 12th, 2009 by Rosa

Via AdFreak: Skittles’ website gets a makeover, earns the developing ad agency Twitter buzz. Personally, I don’t get the point of the website. Shrug.

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Emily’s Milk Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

March 11th, 2009 by Rosa

More from Emily’s holiday lineup that I received after the holidays (thanks a lot, Fed Ex). On Monday we had pecan halves. Today, we’ve got graham crackers. Beautifully enrobed in milk chocolate and individually wrapped for freshness graham crackers, that is.

Like the pecan halves, these guys are simple, yet tasty. The milk chocolate layer is pretty thick, nearly as thick as the graham cracker itself. But because graham crackers are light and airy, the chocolate is far heavier. Though I love Emily’s milk chocolate – it has a nice thickness to its melt and a lovely dairy finish – I wish the graham cracker was a bit more assertive here. It could have provided more nuttiness or something. Instead, it mostly just added a nice crunch and grain.

This straddles the border between an O and an OM. I’d definitely eat it again and again, but I just don’t think I’d buy it, especially since Emily’s makes other stuff that I like better. After revisiting my rating scale explanation, I think it merits an OM, but with the aforementioned caveats.

Category: chocolate, cookie, OM, review | No Comments »

More on chocolate and the poor economy

March 10th, 2009 by Rosa

Rob Walker of the NY Times Magazine’s Consumed column muses about premium chocolate in our current economy. Unlike the WSJ piece that I previously posted about, Walker concludes that luxury chocolate isn’t just getting by; it’s actually doing well.

Contrast that with a NY Times pre-Valentine’s Day piece about using the recession as an excuse to scale back:

Nick Haramis, a magazine editor who lives in Brooklyn, had no such qualms.

He dropped the R-bomb on his boyfriend this year. “I’m usually a flowers-and-chocolates kind of guy,” he said, but this year, he is planning to use the economic downturn as an excuse to emphasize creativity over lavishness. Instead of a box of Vosges chocolates, he said, he plans to buy his boyfriend a single, ripe tomato.

“Some people refer to them as ‘scarlet love apples,’ ” he said.

To each his own, I suppose.

Category: news | 1 Comment »

Emily’s Milk Chocolate Cocoa Dusted Pecan Halves

March 9th, 2009 by Rosa

I’ve worked with Emily’s Chocolates several times before, and since they make solid, decent chocolate, I’m always happy to try their products. After a few shipping snafus, I finally received a generous sample box of their holiday goodies. Even though it’s now March, no worries; their holiday/seasonal wares are still available on their website.

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While I’d already reviewed the cherry hazelnut and cranberry almond mixes, I’d never before tried the milk chocolate cocoa dusted pecans or the milk chocolate covered graham crackers. I’ll cover the former today; you’ll get the latter on Wednesday.

Calling these guys “milk chocolate cocoa dusted pecan halves” are quite a mouthful, so from now on, they shall just be pecan halves. But they are far more than pecan halves. They are whole pecan halves (is that oxymoronic?) evenly coated in a thin layer of high quality milk chocolate and dusted in unsweetened cocoa powder. So simple, yet somehow so good!

I can’t figure out why these were so addictive. Pecans are a mild nut, and these halves are unroasted, so they’re extra mild. Yet there’s something about their grainy crunch that, when combined with Emily’s high quality milk chocolate coating, makes these guys extremely poppable and addictive. I wish I had more. Just goes to show, simplicty can be sumptuous. A ZOMG!

Category: chocolate, nuts, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Fling

March 6th, 2009 by Rosa

I was excited/mad when I read this Jezebel post about Mars’s new Fling bar. Excited because my press packet and free samples were in the mail; mad because they were still in the mail and ugh, if I’d already reviewed them I might’ve been able to nab a link from Jezebel, like CandyBlog and CandyAddict did, which would’ve been huge free publicity for this site! Oh well. I still got to try them, at least. And I got to page through the hilarious/horrible press packet they came with.

Fling chocolates are marketed as portion controlled chocolate indulgences that are “naughty but not too naughty.” Now, I’m all for portion control, but I hate the way Mars went about marketing these guys. Here are some of my favorite quotes from my press packet, with my thoughts in italics:

  • FLING offers chocolate liberation – freeing every woman from the guilt of indulging in chocolate pleasure. Why do women need to feel guilty about eating chocolate?! Guilt implies wrongdoing, and there’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate.
  •  California women confess that they enjoy chocolate as much as passionate kissing (77% enjoy chocolate, 75% enjoy passionate kissing). That’s not how statistics work, Mars.
  • Your boyfriend doesn’t need to know. If this is a legit concern for you, you deserve a better boyfriend who isn’t judgmental about your chocolate consumption habits. 

Those press notes bothered me far more than the hot pink wrappers or the sparkles in the chocolate (which I thought were kind of neat) because they embody how society can dictate how women should behave and eat and look. On a non-candy note, Frito-Lay is running a similarly annoying and sexist promotion for Baked Lays, SmartFood, and Flat Earth chips.

But that’s enough of my feminist rantings. How do the Fling bars taste? Not bad, actually, but not great. They come in three flavors: from left to right, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and hazelnut. The milk chocolate is described as “a delicate truffle on a subtle crisp layer enrobed in shimmering chocolate,” and the same could describe all three bars. I initially thought the “crisp layer” was like the inside of a malted milk ball, just minus the malt flavors. After perusing the press packet, I learned that it’s a bit of meringue cookie. The same meringue is in all three bars and is consistently light, airy, and crisp. The chocolate literally shimmers, thanks to some added pixie dust (a.k.a. mica). Yes, it’s a bit irritating to think that Mars made the chocolate SHINY! to appeal to women, but I’ll admit it – I like shiny things. I thought the shimmer was neat, it wasn’t nearly as horrid as it looked in the press photos Mars sent me (see below), and it didn’t affect the taste at all, so why not?

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The truffle of the milk chocolate bar reminds me of a 3 musketeers’ nougat filling. It had a slightly dairy finish, but there was something a bit off about the flavor, perhaps due to PGPR being listed in the ingredients.

The dark chocolate had a slightly deeper cocoa flavor and a sweet finish. It didn’t taste as dark as it looked. The ingredients for the dark bar didn’t have PGPR, but it did have “chocolate processed with alkali,” which is where the dark coloring came from.

I was most excited about the hazelnut, as chocolate and hazelnut are a great flavor combination. Unfortunately, the hazelnuttiness was far too light and not enough to really distinguish it from the milk bar. And it has more PGRP. Yay!

Overall, I give these an O. I really enjoy the novelty of the meringue cookie, but I wish the chocolate was nicer. Better chocolate and more nuttiness to the hazelnut could’ve pushed these up to the next rating. As for their marketing… Right now they’re just being test marketed in California (others can buy online). We’ll just have to wait and see how much further they get.

Category: chocolate, cookie, Mars, nuts, O, review | 2 Comments »

WashPost Peeps Diorama Contest now open!

March 5th, 2009 by Rosa

I love the Washington Post’s annual Peeps diorama contest and look forward to it every year. People’s creativity and attention to detail are awe-inspiring. Now’s your chance to be awe-inspiring too! The contest is now open! Actually, it opened on March 1st. Photos of entries are due on the 15th, so get crackin’!

Category: news | No Comments »

Mike and Ike Lemonade Blends

March 4th, 2009 by Rosa

Considering how many different flavor blends that they make, I was surprised to realize that I’d never reviewed any Mike and Ike candies on this site. Today, I shall rectify that oversight by covering their Lemonde Blends.

I’m already annoyed at the name. Shouldn’t it be a lemonade blend, as in a blend of different types of lemonade flavored Mike and Ikes? I understand what they were going for, that the candies themselves are flavored like lemonade blends, but it still bothers me. I can’t be too annoyed though, since JustBorn (same people who make Peeps, by the way) does donate a portion of proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity that fights childhood cancer. Plus they’re all citrusy, and I love citrus candies.

According to the JustBorn website, these come in five flavors (thanks, Cybele, for pointing me to the website in your review; the flavors aren’t actually listed on the packaging). Clockwise from the top in the below picture, they are lemonade, tangerine lemonade, strawberry lemonade, lime lemonade (back in Texas, we call that a limeade), and raspberry lemonade. Like all Mike and Ikes, these are basically bullet-shaped jelly beans, with a sugar shell and a chewy interior.

Straight lemonade is bright, tart, and lemony while avoiding any reminiscence of floor cleaner. Tangerine lemonade has a lemony finish and is similarly citrusy, but it tastes a bit more round than the plain lemonade. Strawberry lemonade has a mellow strawberry flavor that’s more genuine than most strawberry flavored candies. Lime lemonade has a great zesty lime tang to it, and raspberry lemonade has a seedy finish that I usually find unpleasant in raspberry candies but can tolerate better in this, thanks to the lemonade finish.

I’m convinced that I could tell these guys apart in a blind taste test. However, I’m not sure I would know to recognize them as lemonade blends, though they do all finish on a sweetly sour note, making me think that these all taste like Snapple-fied versions of Mike and Ikes. Despite their lemonade finishes (or perhaps because of them), these never felt heavy or overly sweet. I enjoyed them so much that I may buy them again next time I see them, despite my ever-growing queue of candies waiting to be reviewed. An OMG.

Category: jelly candy, Just Born, OMG, review | 1 Comment »