Archive for March, 2012

David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans Sampler

March 30th, 2012 by Rosa

Three words: bacon jelly beans.

Oh I’m sorry, you wanted more than that? Okay. I got a free sampler box of David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans (available online from Amazon/Oregon Trail Foods), and it included a bacon flavor. Which I will review last to make sure you keep reading.

The David behind the beans is the David Klein who invented Jelly Belly beans but sold his share of the company before they got big. Like their Jelly Belly counterparts, the Beyond Gourmet beans are packed with flavor in the shell and the jelly center.

I’m going off my Jelly Belly memory here, as I didn’t have any handy for a direct comparison, but I think the Beyond Gourmet beans were softer in texture.

I could easily squish them between my fingers. As I chewed them, the jelly center consolidated into a soft, grainy mush that was vibrant and full of flavor.

Black cherry was sweet and brightly fruity with just a hint of tartness and not a whiff of medicinal notes.

Blueberry did an incredible job of capturing the essence of real blueberries, like blueberry yogurt without the dairy notes and with the tartness turned up.

Coconut was sweet to start, then took on the light creaminess of coconut milk. I didn’t get any nuttiness, but the flavor was pleasant enough, though I felt it was too mild and faded into sugary sweetness too quickly.

Cranberry was sweet and juicy and tart and tangy. I actually would’ve pegged it as pomegranate, as it lacked the tannic bite of cranberry. Either way, it was enjoyably flavorful.

Ginger was incredibly strong and nicely captured ginger’s spicy bite. It was really true to form, like eating raw ginger, and I found it too intense to finish.

Grape went the familiar popsicle route but managed to keep it sweet and fruity but not medicinal (though rather artificial).

Green apple was lightly tart with a grassy note that danced on its edge and set it apart from the standard Jolly Rancher take on green apple.

Himalyan sea salt was a strange choice for a flavor and was weird in execution. It was mostly sweet with just a tinge of saltiness. I was too scared to embrace the oddness and didn’t try too hard to finish it.

Lemon started like a lemon drop with a bright sourness. Then, it took on a edge of zestiness with just a smidge of pithy bitterness. It was wonderfully complex and my favorite of the bunch.

Orange punch tasted just like orange soda. The flavor was spot on, artificial sweetness and all.

Peach tasted like a peach gummi ring rather than the real fruit. It was intense and fruity, if rather artificial.

Pomegranate had a mild floral sweetness, then became tart and tangy with a tannic edge. It had an effervescence to the flavor (not actual bubbles) that was awesome.

Root beer was intense: strong and genuinely sassafrassy with a bitter edge. It was too much for me, but real root beer lovers would enjoy it.

Strawberry was neither mild nor floral. It had an intensity to its flavor, like strawberry jam with an herbal, grassy note to the finish.

Vanilla bean was true to its namesake, mildly sweet with airy vanilla essence overtones.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: bacon was salty, smoky, and meaty with a maple syrup sweetness. The flavor was right but the jelly bean texture combined with the taste of bacon was too weird. I couldn’t finish it due to the cognitive dissonance.

Overall, these beans are great! I can’t reiterate enough how vibrant and intense the flavors were – so much tastiness in such small packages!

I could’ve done without the bacon and Himalayan sea salt, but they were attention-getting in their novelty. I’m glad I tasted them, so they don’t merit the — rating, but once in a lifetime is enough for me.

While ginger and root beer weren’t to my taste, they were faithful interpretations of those flavors and get Os, as do coconut and vanilla bean for their relative mildness. The rest of the beans (all the fruit flavored ones) get an OMG for their awesome intensity, and lemon earns that extra Z for a ZOMG!

Category: jelly candy, novelty, O, OMG, review, ZOMG! | 3 Comments »

Belgian Sweet Treats

March 29th, 2012 by Rosa

Serious Eats has a nice round-up of chocolate and nut treats that can be found in Brussels. I want speculoos almonds!

I know that Neuhaus has US outposts in NYC, so not all of those sweets are out of reach if you can’t get all the way to Belgium.

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Vosges Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar

March 28th, 2012 by Rosa

I’m slowly tasting my way through Vosges’s many different bars – slowly because they run about $10 for each 3 oz bar. The Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar was comprised of “Rogue Ale’s chocolate stout beer, alderwood smoked salt, burnt sugar caramel” and 70% dark chocolate.

Like all of Vosges’s full-sized bars (at least the one’s that I’ve had), this was segmented into 8 squares, each etched with either “Vosges Haut Chocolat” or a cartoon girl. And like all of their caramel bars that I’ve had, each of those squares was filled with an oozy caramel.

Unfortunately, the bar didn’t easily split along its segments. More often, it broke open across the squares, releasing an oil slick of caramel. It was pretty to look at but left a sticky mess to deal with.

The caramel here was really unusual looking. It was completely opaque and so dark it was nearly black. It was liquid and flowy with no chew or pull.

It tasted sweet and smoky with a wheaty beery note from the ale. There was a salty hit to the end. There were no burnt sugar notes that I could detect – they all got swallowed up in the caramel’s sugary sweetness.

The dark chocolate was sweet and softer/less snappy than I would’ve expected for a 70%. It was thick and dark with a nice cocoa depth.

As a whole, the bar was too sweet for me. After a few bites, my throat began to burn.

I took more bites than I normally would have because of the messiness factor – I wanted to leave only sealed squares without exposed caramel, but as I nibbled, it kept splitting open and spilling more caramel.

The bar was nice enough, but at its price point, I expected more toffee notes and less mess. It had so much mess! An O.

Category: caramel, chocolate, O, review, Vosges | 3 Comments »

No Bake Snickers Cake

March 27th, 2012 by Rosa

I’ve always been meh on peanuts, so Snickers don’t really do it for me. But man, check out these food porn photos of a no bake Snickers cake on Bakers Royale. They’re luscious enough to change my mind!

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Recchiuti Sesame Nougatine

March 26th, 2012 by Rosa

Here’s another A Southern Season‘s splurge, a full-sized Recchiuti Sesame Nougatine bar to go with their Asphalt Jungle Mix. It was described as “dark milk chocolate with sesame nougatine and fleur de sel.”

This bar came in a plastic inner wrapper inside a classily designed cardboard sleeve. That plastic inner wrapper was infuriating – there was nowhere to grip or tear to open it, and I wrestled with it for several minutes before I gave up to fetch a pair of scissors.

The bar itself was gorgeous, with the gold nougatine playing out in pretty swirls against the deep brown of the chocolate. Some of the squares were etched with a cursive Recchiuti or R.

The randomly cut assortment of different sized squares and rectangles was pretty and made the bar look like abstract art. They were also impractical, as you couldn’t break the bar neatly because of the intersecting lines.

The milk chocolate was quite creamy with a nice malty edge to it. It melted thickly and sweetly, finishing with a hint of salt.

The sesame nougatine part turned out to be disappointing. I was expecting a crunchy, toffee-like treat.

Instead, this bar’s nougatine had no crunch, either by design or lack of design that let the nougatine take on too much moisture. The sesame added a bit of grit and a light, mild nuttiness.

The flavors were nice – the milk chocolate was great, and I enjoyed the taste of the nougatine – but the textures could have been improved. I wanted caramelized crunchiness, not a soft, chewy seediness.

I bet this bar would be great if it were fresh and crunchy. As is, just an O.

Category: chocolate, nougat, nuts, O, Recchiuti, review | Comments Off on Recchiuti Sesame Nougatine

Hedonist Spring Collection

March 23rd, 2012 by Rosa

I went back to Rochester over spring “break” to work on some brain data I left there. Grad students don’t get vacation! Fortunately, my visit was timed so that I was able to pick up a free sample of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates’s new Spring Collection (full description and “artist’s notes” here).

While in the shop, I got a chance to chat with head chocolatier Nathaniel Mich about his creative process in developing the collection. He was inspired by spring gardens and put together a collection that utilized a variety of flavors, textures, and techniques.

Strawberry Rhubarb is Hedonist’s first layered truffle. It was gorgeous to behold, with a bottom layer comprised of a creamy pink strawberry ganache and a top layer that was a translucent rhubarb fruit pate.

The strawberry ganache reminded me of super flavor-concentrated strawberry yogurt, a great mix of fruity sweetness mixed with dairy creaminess and just a tinge of tartness. The rhubarb layer was a soft gel that was bright and sweet. Apparently it’s made with a local rhubarb wine – who knew there was such a thing?

I loved the berry brightness of this treat, and its dusky chocolate chaser was a great ending note. It was like a perfectly ripe chocolate-covered strawberry distilled into one creamy bite. Easily my favorite of the collection.

The Earl Grey Caramel was a dark chocolate dipped caramel that was infused and topped with organic tea leaves. The dark chocolate coating cracked and flaked off when I bit into it, revealing a speckled caramel center.

The caramel was chewy and slightly sticky with just a bit of grit and grain to the texture.

I usually like chewing caramels, but I preferred to let this one melt into my mouth so that I could savor its depth of flavor – a deep burnt sugar caramel with woodsy tea notes that had a hit of salt and a slight bitterness at the end.

Porcini Thyme was a rolled truffle coated in chocolate and dusted with cocoa. It was deep and woodsy and earthy with a dash of smokiness. The thyme brought a mild herbal grassiness to the finish.

Mushroom and chocolate is a unique flavor combination that I’ve only had once before. The bittersweet and savory blend was well-balanced here. It’s definitely an unusual surprise for the tastebuds and harkens back to chocolate truffles’ original namesake.

Tarragon Carrot was a dipped truffle topped with a tiny piece of chewy dried carrot. It started off sweet from the chocolate, then turned earthy with a vegetal rootiness, and finished with carrot’s sweetness.

The tarragon added an herbal undertone that was hinted at throughout the flavor profile. The sizeable dried carrot bit on my pieces added a chewiness that distracted from the truffle. From the looks of the website, they’ve replaced it with a sprinkle of smaller dried carrot bits, so that’s probably no longer an issue.

Cardamom Rosewater was a pink striped dipped truffle that started off chocolatey sweet, then became full-on gingery (cardamom is a member of the ginger family!). The ginger flavor was more like what I associate with powdered ginger spice rather than fresh ginger – it had a light edge of dry bitterness to the finish.

This truffle was sweeter than the others, either because of its milk chocolate base or the addition of honey. I wonder if the honey was what also gave the ganache an unusually smooth look?

Nathaniel said the cardamom rosewater was his favorite of the collection. I feel bad for admitting that it was my least favorite – I liked it, but something has to be on the relative bottom! I just don’t like ginger enough to embrace the intensity of the gingery cardamom flavor here.

Cardamom rosewater gets an O, the tarragon carrot and porcini thyme get OMs, earl grey caramel gets an OMG, and the strawberry rhubarb earned a ZOMG! for its combination of flavor, texture, and sheer beauty in construction.

As a whole, this collection is a truly unique assortment with inventive flavor combinations that really set them apart. Compare that to Godiva’s more conventional (i.e. boring) and more expensive spring collection – there’s no question where your money should be going!


Category: caramel, chocolate, Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, O, OM, OMG, review, ZOMG! | 1 Comment »

Homegrown Skittles Star

March 22nd, 2012 by Rosa

Skittles is known for its off the wall commercials. Now, via Serious Eats, they’ve hired an off the wall spokesperson in Trale Lewous, a crazy guy who can’t pronounce words and has an annoying voice.

The story behind Trale Lewous is pretty interesting. He’s just a comedian who started making silly videos about Skittles that caught on on YouTube and managed to turn that into a paid gig.

Excuse me while I go make a series of videos in which I mispronounce Mercedes Benz…

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French Broad Chocolates – Part 2

March 21st, 2012 by Rosa

Here’s part 2 of my review of some French Broad Chocolates purchased at A Southern Season. On Monday, I reviewed the vanilla bourbon and mole negro. Today, we’ll cover the fig and port and the sorghum caramel.

Fig and port was “55% cacao Hawaiian dark chocolate, coconut cream, a puree of local figs from an old man’s back yard, and port, coated in 91% extra-dark chocolate and rolled in toasted almonds.”

This truffle had a sticky ganache with a thin chocolate shell that was then rolled in almond bits. Those almonds brought some nuttiness, which was nice, but also some astringency, which was less nice. They didn’t taste toasted to me; I think they’d gone a bit stale in A Southern Season’s chocolate case.

The ganache, on the other hand, was great. It had a lightly jammy scent and tasted of a sweet, figgy fruitiness that became noticeable brighter as the chocolate melted.

There was a lightly sweet grapey boozy note to the finish. Like the vanilla bourbon, it captured all of the alcoholic flavor of the port without any of the burn. I enjoyed the ganache to this one, but the less-than-fresh almonds were a bust.

The sorghum molasses was the only molded truffle that I purchased. Its milk chocolate shell melted thickly with dairy caramel notes to reveal a prettily oozy, thick liquid caramel center.

The texture of that caramel was gorgeous, a velvety smooth pool that lay on my tongue and melted into my taste buds without any sticky chewiness. It started off sugary sweet with buttery, scorched notes.

Then, the flavor took on maple syrup’s amber edge. Finally, it finished with a flash of fruitiness and just the right slight bitterness. The chocolate was maybe a tad too sweet, but I forgave it because man, that caramel was divine!

The fig and port gets an O because of the almond detraction. Without those nuts, it would’ve earned an OM.

I suspect that had I purchased them at French Broad Chocolates’ actual store, they’d be fresher and tastier. Who knows how long they’d been hanging out at A Southern Season?

The sorghum molasses gets an OMG. It haunts my dreams, and I’d happily spring for another one when my wallet has recovered enough to return to A Southern Season.

Category: caramel, chocolate, nuts, O, OMG, review | 2 Comments »

Candy Candy Chewing Chewing

March 20th, 2012 by Rosa

Oh Japan and your crazy commercials! Via the Hairpin, a Candy Candy music video from Japan that makes Katy Perry look normal.

Category: news | 1 Comment »

French Broad Chocolates – Part 1

March 19th, 2012 by Rosa

I picked up a quartet of French Broad Chocolates while I was at A Southern Season. They got a special mention at the chocolate counter because they were local. In fact, they were only local-ish, as their Asheville store is about 4 hours from Chapel Hill.

Though A Southern Season carried many different French Broad Chocolates, I limited my purchase to just 4. They were $2.50 apiece, and I had to limit my spending since I’d already decided to splurge on Recchiuti.

I got a vanilla bourbon, mole negro, fig and port, and sorghum molasses. I’ll review the first two today and save the next two for Wednesday.

Vanilla bourbon, as described by the website: “In this dark chocolate truffle, we use Knob Creek, our favorite small batch straight bourbon whiskey from Kentucky, and chase it with organic vanilla bean. They are dipped in dark chocolate and topped with toasted Missouri sweet pecan.”

This dipped truffle smelled quite sweet. Its base was a solid dark chocolate that, alone, tasted bright and a tad sour with a slightly too sweet finish.

Its ganache center was creamy with a cool melt. It packed a sweet boozy punch, with all the flavor of bourbon but none of the alcoholic burn, which I appreciated. I didn’t get any vanilla notes, which were probably dominated by that bourbon.

Mole negro was described as, “a panoply of chiles, nuts, seeds and spices [that] are dark-roasted. Soaked and ground, the resulting paste is added to a dark chocolate ganache for a one-of-a-kind truffle.

It was also a dipped truffle, and it smelled of cinnamon. One bite brought a serious punch of a complex spice mixture. It left a firey tingle in the back of my throat that dissipated after a few seconds.

I caught cinnamon, chile, and maybe cumin? There were probably other spice and flavor goodies that I didn’t pick up on or couldn’t identify.

A light grit from the spices was left in my mouth after the chocolate melted away. I wish they’d used the spices to infuse cream and then strained them out before making the ganache. Spice bit leftovers are unpleasant on the tongue and add astringency.

I appreciated the unique taste experience of the mole negro truffle, but it was not one I’d like to repeat. The vanilla bourbon was nice, and I’d eat it again if it were offered to me, but I wouldn’t buy it again at its price point. Both get Os.

Category: chocolate, O, review | Comments Off on French Broad Chocolates – Part 1