Archive for the 'OMG' Category

Hammond’s Piggy Backs – Dark Chocolate Almond & Caramel and Milk Chocolate Pecan & Caramel

September 28th, 2012 by Rosa

A little while ago, I was delighted when Hammond’s Candies offered to send me some free samples from their catalog. I was even more delighted to get some caramels and these Piggy Backs in the mail a week or so later.

The Piggy Backs were like giant, generously-sized turtles weighing in at 2.2 oz. Each was about half an inch thick and nearly the size of my palm. They were individually wrapped and sat in fluted paper cups.

My dark chocolate version was almond and caramel, while the milk chocolate version was pecan and caramel, but the dark also comes in pecan and the milk comes in almond.

The dark chocolate almond and caramel Piggy Back was lovely! The almonds brought a great roasted nuttiness that was strong enough to stand up to the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate. They added a great textural crunch and just a slight tinge of bitterness to balance all the sugar.

The generous layer of caramel was sticky and chewy and sweet, while the dark chocolate was on the sweet side for dark chocolate, with a smooth melt and a fruity, dusky finish. An OMG for an awesome mix of flavors and textures.

The milk chocolate pecan and caramel Piggy Back was more mild all around. Pecans are a more mild nut, and here they brought a softer crunch and a fattier nutty feel.

The lighter nut let the sweetness of the caramel come through more, and the milk chocolate had a nice caramel sweetness to it as well. I really liked this, but I liked the dark chocolate almond more, so an OM.

Category: caramel, chocolate, Hammond's Candies, nuts, OM, OMG, review | No Comments »

Jer’s Gourmet Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars – Cara Mella

September 21st, 2012 by Rosa

I found these Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars on my last trip to Cost Plus World Market (thanks for the birthday coupon!). I nearly missed them – they were shelved a ways away from most of the store’s other candies – and I’m glad that I saw them and picked up a box.

I chose the Cara Mella flavor because it was the most tempting: “All natural Valencia peanut butter center and creamy caramel covered in dark chocolate.” Yes please!

The box contained two decent-sized, individually wrapped bars. Mine got a little squashed – a few dribbles of caramel peeked through the cracked dark chocolate shell. That dark chocolate had a wonderfully dusky and deep cocoa flavor with a lightly sweet finish.

The peanut butter center was topped with a layer of caramel, and the two combined in a salty-sweet dream. The caramel was sweet with a slight burnt sugar tinge and a salty hit to the finish. It was sticky and chewy and got stuck in my teeth a little.

The peanut butter center had bits of rice crisps that added a great crunch. That, along with some tiny bits of peanuts, provided a nice textural contrast to the chewy caramel and melting chocolate.

Finally, the peanut butter flavor itself was great. Its roasted nuttiness was strong enough to stand up to the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel.

I had blanched a bit at the $2.99 price tag, but I shouldn’t have, as it works out to $1.50 for each 1.5 oz bar. A little pricier than Snickers bars, sure, but definitely a good buy for the quality that you get. An OMG for an addictive mix of textures of flavors.

Category: caramel, chocolate, OMG, peanut butter, review | No Comments »

Jelina Chocolatier – Honey Nougat and Maple Crunch

July 2nd, 2012 by Rosa

Jelina Chocolatier was one of the most interesting booths for me at Sweets and Snacks. At the time, they were a Canadian chocolate company looking for a US distributor. I hope they managed to strike a deal to get themselves sold in the US!

Their line of chocolate bars included many intriguing offerings. Luckily for me, they were generous in offering me free samples of what I thought were their two most interesting bars, a Honey Nougat Milk Chocolate and a Maple Crunch Milk Chocolate.

Both bars came in a shiny, sturdy silver bag inside an un-dyed cardboard paper box – probably a calculated move to play up their wholesome Fair Trade factor – with quaint little line drawings representing the contents. The chocolate bars themselves were formed into a 3X5 lightly scored grid of rectangular pods.

Honey Nougat had a soft break along its segments. The milk chocolate base was thick and creamy with strong caramel notes.

The nougat bits added a light toffee-like crunch. Those honeyed bits had a pure, amber sweetness that reminded me of Lyle’s golden syrup. It added just the right touch of sweetness.

Finally, there was some tiny bits of almonds dispersed throughout the bar. They didn’t add much nuttiness, but they did contribute to the crunch factor, along with the nougat bits. An OM.

Maple Crunch was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The milk chocolate also had a soft break, but here it tasted sweeter with less prominent caramel notes.

The bar was full of slightly grainy bits of maple sugar that added a wonderful, surprisingly sturdy crunch. I didn’t think it would be possible to mix maple sugar into melted chocolate without melting the sugar as well, but I guess it is.

The deep brown sugar tones of the maple syrup sugar paired well with the sweet milk chocolate. I loved this for its unique flavor and texture. An OMG.

Category: chocolate, fair trade, nougat, nuts, OM, OMG, review | 1 Comment »

Sun Cups – Milk Chocolate Caramel Cup

June 29th, 2012 by Rosa

Today, I’m finally wrapping up my coverage of the Sun Cups line. I was introduced to them at Sweets and Snacks and sent home with a bunch of free samples.

On Monday, I covered their sunflower butter cups. Wednesday was the mint cup, and today I’ve saved my favorite for last: the caramel cup.

The caramel cup was the most fragile of my quartet. By the time I got it home, the thin top shell had cracked, letting some of the caramel filling seep out.

That caramel filling was a thin amber golden liquid with a great flow. It had a great texture on my tongue – it felt almost suspended on my taste buds as it melted with a great complex burnt sugar sweetness.

The milk chocolate component was thick and creamy. It tasted darker than I expected. It had a nice cocoa depth and minimal sweetness, making it a good foil for the just-sweet-enough caramel center.

I thought it funny that my favorite candy from a brand built around sunflower butter was actually a chocolate and caramel number. An OMG for this well-balanced oozy-goey-chocolatey number.

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

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 »