Archive for February, 2010

Charles Chocolates Teance – The Tea Collection

February 26th, 2010 by Rosa

Charles Chocolates’s Teance Tea Collection, another free sample that I received, was absolutely gorgeous – little square tiles of slate grey adorned with traditional Chinese calligraphy. I have no idea how they did it, but I love the look. I also wish I knew more of the characters; second from the right is “cha” or tea, but that’s the only one I recognized.

I was a bit nervous about the tea aspect. I’ve had Asian tea-flavored chocolates in the past and was not a fan. Fortunately, these were nothing like matcha chocolate – they were far better.

Each tile had a super thin outer layer of chocolate that crunched when I bit into it. It made me think of crunching footsteps in the snow – an instant and satisfying give. The ganache within was cool and creamy with a flawless texture and well-infused flavors.

Formosa Baochong was described as “a premium Taiwanese tea with strong flavors that contrast well with chocolate.” It tasted dark and deep with notes of clove and nutmeg. The spice flavors came across nicely but weren’t overwhelming, making for a well-balanced truffle.

Special Jasmine was billed as “a delicately fragrant floral tea.” It was the only one of the set that actually tasted like my conception of how tea tastes.

It tasted just like jasmine tea, with a lightly bitter and almost astringent bite, and made me think of going out to dim sum with my parents. The finish was a little sweet for my taste – my throat burned a bit – but it was still enjoyable.

Osmanthus is apparently “a floral tea often used in Asian pastries with a very distinctive flavor.” In truffle form, it starts out tasting of chocolate and then gives way to a unique fruity flavor.

I get citrus and banana notes, but it doesn’t taste exactly like either. I can’t quite put my finger on what it tastes of. It’s definitely distinctive and quite intriguing.

Lichee was described as “a traditional Asian fruit with flavors greatly enhanced by chocolate.” The lichee (or lychee, as I’m used to spelling it) flavor was spot on, with all of the fruit’s soft floral flavors. I don’t think the lichee flavor is exactly enhanced by the chocolate or that the two are destined flavor match, but the flavor combo is nice enough.

Charcoal Fired Oolong was “custom roasted Taiwan oolong over traditional bamboo baskets over a charcoal fire to medium dark.” It tasted brightly sweet and fruity at first before it took a darker turn, with a hint of smoky undertone. The brightness was present throughout, including in the finish, which was just wonderful.

Generally, I find drinking fancy teas unsatisfying because the tea always smells so much better than it tastes. Charles Chocolates managed to make tea truffles that taste like tea smells. The oolong, osmanthus, and baochong were my favorites, but I enjoyed all of them. An OM.

Category: Charles Chocolates, chocolate, OM, review | 1 Comment »

Fling –> 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp Bars

February 25th, 2010 by Rosa

Remember those awfully marketed but okay tasting Fling bars from Mars? I think they’ve been repurposed – and repackaged – as “new” 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp bars. Here’s the new bar’s website and the press release announcing them.

Below is the Fling version of the bars. I guess Mars dropped the sparkly chocolate angle. I also find it interesting that they chose to give them the 3 Musketeers brand to boost sales, presumably because they’ve already established the brand as a lower calorie and lower fat alternative candy bar. Isn’t marketing fascinating?

Finally, the new bar’s tagline, “Rich enough to share, but you really won’t want to” is so much better than the Fling’s, “Your boyfriend doesn’t need to know.”

Category: news | 14 Comments »

Charles Chocolates Orange Twigs

February 24th, 2010 by Rosa

Cybele from Candy Blog called Charles Chocolates’s Orange Twigs a signature item, which is perhaps why they included them in the box of free samples that they sent me. Charles Chocolates calls them “delicate milk chocolate ganache with a hint of fresh orange… coated in a thin layer of 65% bittersweet chocolate and then finished with a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.”

The orange twigs come in a clear cylinder, and the twigs themselves are also cylindrical. It’s outer dark chocolate layer was quite thin delicate. The inner filling has a soft ganache-like melt but had a bit of a grit to it.

It tasted very sweet and very bright and very, very orange-y. The orange completely dominated whatever chocolate went into the twigs. The finish was also overly sweet, and the powdered sugar coating certainly didn’t help temper things.

I love citrus-flavored sweets, and I love chocolate, but the combination of chocolate and orange has never really done it for me. While the orange twigs were well flavored and well made, I found them too sweet for my liking. An O from me, with the caveat that my roommates did finish the tube.

Category: Charles Chocolates, chocolate, O, review | Comments Off on Charles Chocolates Orange Twigs

Interview with Chuck Siegel

February 23rd, 2010 by Rosa

I got the chance to interview Chuck Siegel, president and founder of Charles Chocolates, via his PR firm. “Transcript” below.

1) What is your favorite mass-produced, decidedly non-gourmet, checkout aisle/vending machine-style candy bar?

Chuck Siegel: I love a frozen Snickers bars on a really hot summer day.

2) What is the most unusual chocolate you’ve ever tasted?

CS: I was at a chocolate conference a few years ago where one of the passed hors d’oeuvres was small chocolate covered squids.

3) What flavor combinations have you played with that just didn’t work?

CS: How much time do you have?  In the name of experimentation, I have tried hundreds of combinations that will (rightly so) never see the light of day.

4) How does you feel about the closing of the Emeryville factory? Do you hope to recreate it, or elements of it, in the new flagship?

CS: Very sad on one level – Our 4 1/2 years in Emeryville have been fantastic, and we have developed a wonderful local following here.  We are indeed planning on recreating the unique open kitchen experience that we have in Emeryville in San Francisco.  I can’t say more right now, but our newsletter will have more information as soon as it can be made public.

5) Any advice for aspiring chocolate entrepreneurs?

CS: Practice, practice, practice.  Seriously, you need to make sure you have mastered the craft to the point where you chocolates can stand side-by-side with the best that are out there.  Beyond that, make sure to feed as many people that you don’t already know, and who will give you very honest feedback, to make sure that you are making something that people will go crazy for – there is nothing easier than getting people to buy exceptional confections.

Chocolate-covered squid? I don’t we’ll be seeing those in the candy aisle anytime soon.

Thanks, Mr. Siegel, for taking the time to answer my questions! And thanks for making delicious confections!

Category: Charles Chocolates, news | Comments Off on Interview with Chuck Siegel

Charles Chocolates Triple Chocolate Almonds

February 22nd, 2010 by Rosa

Charles Chocolates contacted me when they launched a revamped website and a new flagship store in San Francisco. I got sent a bunch of free samples which I’ll be reviewing this week and into next, and I got an email interview with Charles Chocolates’s founder, Chuck Siegel, which y’all can read tomorrow!

Today, however, y’all get to read about their Triple Chocolate Almonds. They come in a beautiful cylindrical tin. Check out the top! Here’s the back-of-the-tin blurb: “Our premium California almonds are roasted darker, then coated in our exceptional blend of bittersweet and milk chocolates.”

The almonds themselves are beautiful as well. First of all, they’re ginormous, thanks to a generously thick chocolate coating. They’re also coated in cocoa powder and look like matte, brown zen stones (I was too busy eating them to try to balance them, and they weren’t really flat enough anyway).

The milk chocolate coating is thick with a flawlessly smooth and creamy melt. It’s got dusky caramel notes, and while it’s on the sweet side, that sweetness pairs perfectly with the nutty roasted almonds.

The flavors are wonderful, the textures are great, and the flavor and texture contrasts between the chocolate and the almonds make these triple chocolate almonds seriously addictive. They are dangerous to keep around; I emptied my tin all on my own and wish I had more. A ZOMG!

Cybele enjoyed them too; you can read her take on Candy Blog here.

Category: Charles Chocolates, chocolate, nuts, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off on Charles Chocolates Triple Chocolate Almonds

Wonka Sour Puckerooms Gummies

February 19th, 2010 by Rosa

I bought a bag of Wonka Sour Puckerooms Gummies on sale for just a dollar (along with a $1 bag of their new Sluggles Gummies, which shall be reviewed in the future). I hope the Puckerooms’ on-sale-ness doesn’t mean that they’re on the way out! I found them adorable, creative, and most importantly, tasty!

I love the bright, colorful, slightly psychedelic-hippy-ish packaging on these babies. And I love that, when Wonka chose to make a sour gummy, they thought outside of the cutesy animal box and went with cutesy fungi instead.

The mushrooms come in three shapes and three flavors, but the shapes don’t correspond to a specific flavor. In other words, all three flavors come in all three shapes: a pointy mushroom, and bulbous mushroom, and a mushroom-cloud-y mushroom (aka a bulbous mushroom with a little stretch to the stem).

The Puckerooms are really more sour than sweet – the white sour coating is basically sugar. The chew is soft but also quite sproingy, making them fun to chomp on.

Red is cherry. I expected the somewhat medicinal flavor of artificial cherry. Instead, I found it more reminiscent of Hawaiian Punch.

Purple is grape and tastes of deep purple or black grapes. It’s like grape juice concentrate. I’m usually not a purple-grape candy person, but these were actually enjoyable for me.

Yellow-and-orange is lemon-orange and is by far my favorite. The colors are pretty, and its clear citrus zesty notes brightly sing on the tongue.

You can really only go so far with mass-produced gummies, and I think Wonka’s made it to the pinnacle with their Puckerooms. The shapes are fun and the texture is spot on. My only critique is that I wish there were more flavors. Please? An OM.

Category: gummi/gummy, Nestle, OM, review, sour, Wonka | 6 Comments »

Chocolate Theme Park in Beijing

February 18th, 2010 by Rosa

The “World Chocolate Wonderland” theme park recently opened in Beijing. The UK’s Daily Telegraph has a slideshow gallery of the amazing things in that park, including a gorgeous yellow robe that looks like embroidered silk but is actually chocolate. It’s mind-boggling!

The Chinese characters for chocolate are “qiao ke li”, which (as best I can represent) is pronounced “chiao keuh li”. To me, that sounds enough like chocolate to think that it came from the English word, and some other internet postings seem to agree. Anyone know for sure? If it is an import, that could help explain the chocolate conundrum that Slate’s Daniel Gross faced in China.

Category: news | Comments Off on Chocolate Theme Park in Beijing

Trader Joe’s The Art of Chocolate truffles

February 17th, 2010 by Rosa

I have awesome timing – I just recycled my empty box of Trader Joe’s “The Art of Chocolate” truffles last weekend, and I’m noticing now, as I write this review, that I forgot to photograph the box. Oops. Photos of the box can be found on other sites here and here.

At least I nabbed photos of all the truffles! They come 9 to a box, and though they’re small, the whole box is just $1.99.

Three of the nine were filled with “praline, nougat”. One was covered in all milk (above); the other two had shells that were part milk and part white. The praline was slightly dry and gritty and tasted of sweet chocolate with a light undertone of nuttiness. It worked well with the milk chocolate, which had a nice cocoa finish, but it was too sweet when paired with the white.

Another two had a mocha praline truffle filling. One was coated in dark chocolate while the other had a dark chocolate base and a white chocolate top (above). The mocha praline had a pleasantly bitter coffee undertone that was lovely with the dark chocolate but again, too sweet with the white.

A milk chocolate covered cream and vanilla truffle (above; looks far lighter in this shot) had a thick milk chocolate shell with an overly sweet vanilla cream filling. The cloying sweetness made my throat itch.

Crisp hazelnutpaste (sic) had my favorite molding, a pretty little triangle of a hazelnut, complete with veiny leaves. Its filling had a light, fine grit of ground up hazelnuts that I could hear against my teeth more than I could actually feel on my tongue. It was thick and nutty. It was also super sweet, but I could handle the sweetness here because it was tempered by the nuttiness.

Cream and pistachio was an interesting and unexpected flavor combination for such a generic box. The dark chocolate shell was nice, and its filling was a dry white ganache flecked with light green. Despite the pistachio colors, I didn’t get any pistachio nut flavors. It did at least have a nice dusky caramel finish.

And finally, the crisp chocolate truffle cream was a pyramid of deliciousness – a caramel colored upper layer topping a crisp chocolate truffle bottom that tasted like milk chocolate buttery toffee notes.

The Art of Chocolate was all about permutations: three types of chocolate (milk, dark, and white) and six different fillings, mixed and matched. Sounds like a candy math problem for Carl at Candy Dish Blog!

While not all of the combinations were stellar, this little box was a fantastic deal at just $1.99 (nice truffles can cost that much for just a single one!). The truffles are one bite indulgences that, at 3 truffles per 100 calories, are reasonable for the wallet and the waistline.

They get an OM, not because they were especially tasty in general but because they were especially tasty at the price point of 33 cents each. I’d buy them again to satisfy a sweet tooth craving or for just-because gifts.

Category: chocolate, coffee, nuts, OM, review, Trader Joe's | 2 Comments »

Pretty Chocolate Packaging

February 16th, 2010 by Rosa

From my friend Steve, a list of 20 prettily packaged chocolates. I don’t quite get why some of these merit a special mention (not that I think they’re ugly, but I wonder what makes them prettier than the rest of what’s out there), but I do love the Swiss Army Knife chocolates – if they really look that good in person, that is!

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Foosh Energy Mints

February 15th, 2010 by Rosa

I’ve been off caffeine for several years. Nowadays, if I have a glass of caffeinated soda in the afternoon, it’ll keep me up all night! Thus, I’m probably not Foosh Energy Mints’s target consumer. But when their maker, Vroom Foods, offered to send me free samples, I decided to try them for your sakes, readers.

Each mint contains 100 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of a cup of coffee. They wanted me to keep in mind that such a high caffeine content gives them a unique texture.

The texture definitely stood out as being different. The mints melted with little bumpy grains all over them. It was unusual but not off-putting. What was off-putting, however, was the taste. Or rather, the aftertaste.

They tasted strongly of strong peppermint, which was great and breath-freshening. But they also had a horrid under/aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Such an aftertaste is bearable when it lasts just a few seconds after you swallow your Diet Coke. In the mints, unfortunately, it lasted the entire time the mint was melting in my mouth. About halfway through, I just couldn’t stand that undertone of fake saccharine-ness and had to spit the thing out.

I didn’t like the taste of these, and I have no need for its caffeine content, so they weren’t for me and get a solely based on taste. But my caffeine addict friend loved them. To each his or her own, I suppose.

Category: --, mint, review | 2 Comments »