Archive for the 'OMG' Category

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate filled with Speculoos Cookie Spread

May 25th, 2012 by Rosa

It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here! After year (okay, really just months) of searching and asking every time I went into my local Trader Joe’s, after I completely gave up on ever finding one because a Trader Joe’s cashier told me that they were no longer orderable, I GOT TO EAT A SPECULOOS CHOCOLATE BAR!

Got a little over excited there… let’s back up. Trader Joe’s introduced their “Les Chocolates de Belgique” line of chocolate bars {filled with} things with three bars: a caramel one, a chocolate buttercream one, and a Speculoos cookie spread one. The first two were easily found, but the latter most interesting and delicious-sounding one was missing from my local Trader Joe’s.

Until now! My friend Amanda found them on her latest Trader Joe’s run and was kind enough to remember that I had been lusting after them.

If you’ve never had a Speculoos cookie, you’re missing out. They’re light and crunchy cinnamon spice cookies from the Netherlands. Delta serves them on their flights as Biscoffs, and Trader Joe’s sells them as Bistro Biscuits.

The chocolate bar had six segments full of Speculoos in cookie spread form, which was similar in texture to peanut butter. The cookie spread filling was creamy and thick but also pillowy soft.

The cookie bits added a slight grit and crispy crunch. It tasted of sweet cinnamon and dusky caramelized cookie.

The dark chocolate shell was softened by the filling and lacked snap. The whole bar was on the soft side, hence the squished segment on the end of mine.

It tasted of deep cocoa with a woodsy finish and a minimal amount of sweetness – just enough to keep the bitter away. Paired with the cinnamon cookie, it was sweet and spicey and crispy and melty. So much delicious!

It was also so much fattening – 51% of your recommended daily dose of saturated fat in just one little 1.58 oz bar – probably because its center was basically cookies plus whipped oil. For that, I must take it down a notch, to an OMG. I want to hoard them, but I will try not to, for the sake of my arteries.

Category: chocolate, cookie, OMG, review, Trader Joe's | 6 Comments »

French Broad Chocolate Redux – Part 2

April 25th, 2012 by Rosa

Here’s part 2 of my re-review of French Broad Chocolates (part 1 ran on Monday). This review is on fresh truffles sent from French Broad Chocolates as free samples, while the original ones (part 1 and part 2) were on truffles purchased at A Southern Season, a candy reseller.

Canela Picante was described as “cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and 73% cacao bittersweet chocolate.” Alas, its outer chile dusting didn’t stay put and migrated to some of my other truffles, lending them some extra heat. You can see it in the close-up of the pomegranate ginger below.

I usually love chile chocolate, but I wasn’t able to handle more than one bite of this truffle. It was just too spicy and left me in tongue-tingling pain.

If you have more heat mojo, you may like this, but it was too much for me. An O for the experience, but it’s not one I would want to repeat.

Pomegranate ginger was described as “bright pomegranate reduction, ginger, coconut oil, and dark chocolate.” It was topped with a bit of candied ginger.

I loved the intensely bright and tart initial flavor of this truffle. It reminded me of fresh, tangy red fruits, like cranberry or pomegranate juice.

That juiciness persisted throughout the ganache’s melt instead of immediately dissipating. It finally disappeared near the end, letting the chocolate come through.

I didn’t get any ginger flavors here except for when I ate the topper, but I loved the pomegranate side. An OMG.

Finally, the maple was “maple syrup, sweet butter, and a blend of dark and milk chocolates. Covered with milk chocolate, sprinkled with smoked sea salt.”

This ganache was thinner than the rest with a smooth, cool melt that was pleasant on the tongue. There were light maple undertones to its sweetness.

My favorite part of this truffle was that added sea salt. It added a light, smokiness to the semisweet ganache and made for a great chocolate and salt finish.

The salty sweet balance was just perfect in this truffle, so perfect that I managed to forget to photograph the cross-section while I ate them. Another OMG.

French Broad Chocolates is doing some great work. I’d buy them again if I could get them fresh, and if I ever make it to Asheville, I will be sure to visit their shop in person.

As for A Southern Season, I’ve learned my lesson and will stick to their chocolate bars rather than shopping at their truffle bar. Because who knows how long those truffles have been sitting their, losing their flavors?

Category: chocolate, O, OMG, review | No Comments »

French Broad Chocolate Redux – Part 1

April 23rd, 2012 by Rosa

After my last two part review of French Broad Chocolates (part 1 and part 2) that I had purchased at A Southern Season, Logan from French Broad left a nice comment addressing some of my criticisms.

He agreed with my assessment that there were some freshness issues because I’d purchased them through a reseller and offered to send me a fresh batch of free samples. I’ll review three today and three on Wednesday.

First up, a redo on the vanilla bourbon that I’d already tried. I enjoyed it enough the first time, but it was even better fresh.

It started off sweetly, then took on an increasingly intense level of bourbon booziness. Again, it was all the flavor of bourbon without any of the alcohol’s burn, but it was so much more deliciously intense when the truffle was fresh.

The little pecan topper added a nice, fresh crunch, but the boozy ganache was the star here. It gets upgraded to an OM.

Vanilla bourbon caramel was a caramel version of the above, described as “organic vanilla bean and Knob Creek bourbon in a liquid caramel.” It was a pretty molded dark chocolate pinwheel filled with a smooth, liquid caramel.

That caramel melted in my mouth. It started with a light, fruity sweetness before yielding any boozy notes.

The presence of the bourbon came through, but it wasn’t as strong as that of the vanilla bourbon truffle, and I really loved the buttery scorch to the end of the caramel melt.

The dark chocolate shell finished it all off with a nice degree of cocoa depth. An OMG.

And last for today, their salted honey caramel, described as “local wildflower honey, organic cream and butter, and grey salt. Dipped in dark chocolate.”

There was a hefty dose of fine grained salt. In addition to the slash the cut across the diagonal, lots of salt was stuck to the bottom as well. On sight I worried that it was too much, but on taste, the salt balance was spot on.

The caramel was chewy with a bearably small amount of stickiness. It was sweet with the golden tones of honey – smooth and light rather than the burnt depth that I’m used to in salted caramels – and well highlighted by the added salt.

The honey flavor really came through in the finish, more floral than sugar’s comparatively bland sweetness. Finally, the dark chocolate shell added a nice cocoa flavor.

I like my caramels just shy of burnt, but this lighter version was quite enjoyable as well. An OM.

Stay tuned for Wednesday when I cover the canela picante, pomegranate ginger, and maple.

Category: caramel, chocolate, OM, OMG, review | No Comments »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix

March 16th, 2012 by Rosa

A little over a week ago, I discovered the new eater of my minimal grad student disposable income: A Southern Season. It’s a megalopolis of gourmet goods: fine meats and cheeses and chocolates and pastas and pastries and spices and candy…

I wanted to eat all the things! But all the things were too expensive, so I splurged on a few high end pieces from Recchiuti and Vosges. Today, I’m starting with the high-ending-est of them all: Recchiuti’s Asphalt Jungle Mix, which was a super splurgey $19.99 for a 6 oz box.

Why the crazy profligate spending? I remembered Cybele writing positively about it and David Lebovitz raving about it. Though now that I revisit David Lebovitz’s post, I see that he’s lucky enough to be buddies with Mr. Recchiuti and didn’t have to pay for his mix…

The minimalist box calls them “a riot of burnt caramel hazelnuts & almonds, cherries two ways, and peanut butter pearls.” Let’s break them down, shall we?

Burnt caramel hazelnuts and almonds were chocolate covered and cocoa dusted. Those hazelnuts were awesomely roasty and crunchy and hazelnutty – they tasted incredibly fresh – with a tinge of burnt sugar sweetness to the finish and a overall cocoa sweetness.

Similarly, the almonds were intensely nutty and sharply crunchy. If there was burnt caramel to these, I didn’t notice it, but I still loved the intensity of toasty nuts.

Cherries one way was a cocoa dusted, chocolate-covered candied cherry. It was juicy and slightly moist and chewy, bright and flavorful with a slightly boozy finish. This was my favorite of the bunch, as it positively burst with flavor.

Cherries the other way was a dried cherry covered in dark chocolate. That cherry center brought an amazing flash of fruity sweetness that was slightly tart. It was good, but the other way was better for me.

Finally, peanut butter pearls were really fun. They were little balls of milk chocolate peanut butter with a dark chocolate center that then contained a little ball of crisped rice. A Matroyshka treat!

It started out with a creamy milk chocolate and the texture of the rice crisp, then transitioned to an extreme peanut butter nuttiness that finished with a flash of salt. Peanut butter lovers would love this.

This mix was tasty and delicious. But at $53/lb, I can’t see myself ever buying these again; they’re just too expensive. Though I did love those chocolate candied cherries… An OMG for the candied cherries and an OM for the rest.

Category: chocolate, nuts, OM, OMG, organic, peanut butter, Recchiuti, review | 3 Comments »

Milk Chocolate Salty Pocky

January 30th, 2012 by Rosa

I found these Milk Chocolate Salty Pocky at an Asian grocery store back home in Austin. I immediately snatched them up – salt + chocolate has always struck me as a European thing, so I was excited to see them on Pocky, a classic Asian treat.

They were basically regular milk chocolate Pocky – thin biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate – with an added sprinkle of salt. The salt crystals were small but visible, though not quite as sparkly as they appear on the packaging.

The biscuit sticks were crisp and crunchy. They tasted mostly neutral with just a bit of butteriness. Their purpose was mostly to serve as a neutral flavored but texturally interesting foil for the chocolate.

The chocolate coating was thin but creamy. It had a nice duskiness, and the salt crystals added a flash of flavor that really set the chocolate off.

These were a really simple yet wonderful treat. It’s amazing how the simple addition of a few grains of salt added so much more complexity to it. An OMG.

Category: Asian (China, Japan, and Korea), chocolate, cookie, OMG, review | 2 Comments »

See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar

January 11th, 2012 by Rosa

This See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar was another mall stand buy. The 1.5 oz bar was described as “chewy nougat with almonds and honey covered in dark chocolate.”

The bulk of the rectangular bar was a log of chewy nougat covered with a dark chocolate hsell. The texture was great. It was chock full of crunchy whole almonds surrounded by a lightly sweet and chewy nougat.

The nougat had the amber undertone of honey, which nicely set off the crisp, fresh almonds. The dark chocolate shell was only lightly sweet and brought a great cocoa depth to the bar.

I loved this bar. The honey in the nougat added a delicious complexity while the almonds had a great crunchy nuttiness.

The chewy nougat and the crunchy almonds and the dusky chocolate also made for a great textural mix. It was a near perfect treat.

My only complaint was that the dark chocolate shell shattered and made a bit of a mess when I bit into the bar, but it’s a minor one. An OMG.

Again, here are Cybele and Sera’s takes.

Category: chocolate, nougat, nuts, OMG, review, See's | 1 Comment »

Harbor Sweets Perennial Sweets

December 16th, 2011 by Rosa

On Wednesday, I reviewed my free sample Harbor Sweets‘s Sand Castle Dark Chocolate and Caramel Bar. Today, I’m reviewing their Perennial Sweets, another free sample that I received.

The Perennial Sweets was a box of “dark chocolates inspired by the garden.” My box of 16 contained 4 Nantucket Baskets, 4 Topiary Toffees, and 8 Sweet Irises, each individually wrapped in gold foil.

The chocolates themselves reminded me of cameo jewelry due to their oval shapes and raised (really molded) decorations. As with the Sand Castle bar, I was impressed by the detail captured by the molding, as well as the lack of air bubbles in the chocolate.

The Nantucket Basket was a “rich, dark chocolate with dry roasted almonds” with a pretty basket of plants as its molding. The thick oval of chocolate was snappy with a smooth melt.

The chocolate carried a hint of cherry sweetness and was studded with whole almonds. While the almonds were nutty with a nice roasted flavor, they got bitter at their gritty end. I thought they were a tad too tannic.

Topiary Toffee had a potted tree decoration and was described as “rich, dark chocolate with almond butter crunch.”

It was also thick with a solid snap, and though the dark chocolate looked identical to that of the Nantucket Basket, I thought it tasted just a hair sweeter and had a thicker melt.

I expected the almond butter crunch to be dispersed throughout the treat as little nuggets. Instead, there was a big triangular slab of almond butter toffee hidden inside.

The toffee was simply lovely and paired well with the dusky, thick chocolate. It had the just-shy-of-burnt sugar taste that I love with just a hint of nuttiness. It cleaved cleanly, shattering into shards of deliciousness when bitten into.

Sweet Iris, “rich, dark chocolate with raspberry crunch,” was markedly thinner than the other two. Each Sweet Iris well held two chocolates while the Nantucket Basket and Topiary Toffee were one per well.

The Sweet Iris smelled extremely fruity. There was a light grit to the chocolate that I thought maybe came from raspberry seeds or bits of dehydrated raspberry but actually were bits of “lemon crunch,” according to the ingredients list.

The dark chocolate had a nice cocoa duskiness from the chocolate and a brightly sweet fruitiness. It was nice but a bit too artificially fruity sweet for my taste.

The Topiary Toffee was my favorite of the bunch and gets an OMG, while the other two get Os. They get high marks for prettiness, though. If I owned a bed and breakfast, I’d leave these on the pillows.

Category: chocolate, nuts, O, OMG, review, toffee | No Comments »