Archive for the 'ZOMG!' Category

Bees and Beans Winter Line

December 17th, 2010 by Rosa

I got a lovely assortment of Bees and Beans’s candy bars as a free sample. They’re “handmade from whole ingredients in small batches” using local ingredients from Portland, Oregon.

There are three bars in the winter line: the Coffee bar, the ‘Bert bar, and the Honey bar.

The Coffee bar was “coffee caramel with toasted walnuts hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate. It smelled dark and roasty, just on the delicious side of nearly-burnt.

It tasted dark and deep upon first bite. The caramel had a light pull to it and tasted of roasted coffee with a light bitterness.

The walnuts were mixed throughout the caramel. They added a serious crunch and a nutty, oily aroma. Finally, the chocolate added a layer of deep cocoa. An OM.

The ‘Bert bar was “milk chocolate, filberts, peanut butter, and crispy rice hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate.” Its filling was a mix of milk chocolate embedded with large chunks of filbert nuts and crunchy, crispy rice.

There was a hint of peanut butteriness to the flavor as a light undertone. It mostly tasted of toasty crisped rice and the nuttiness of the filberts. There was noticeable sea salt sprinkled throughout that added a nice sparkle. An OMG.

The honey bar was my favorite of the bunch. It was “honey caramel with filbert nougat hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.”

The bar was comprised of a thick layer of a soft, not-at-all sticky caramel topped with a filbert-studded layer of sweet and soft nougat, all covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt crystals.

Holy cow was it delicious! The nougat had a wonderfully light roasty nuttiness from the filberts, but it was the honey caramel that set this bar apart. It was absolutely limpid, with a pure honey tinge and a light hint of deep butterscotch to the finish.

The chocolate took a nice supporting role here, while the sprinkles of salt highlighted the caramel and chocolate. It was a perfectly balanced mix of flavors and textures. A ZOMG!

If you don’t live near Portland, Oregon, where these bars can be found in stores, you can get them from Etsy. They don’t come cheap, at $20 + shipping for a set of 4 bars, but those Honey bars are totally worth it!

Category: caramel, chocolate, coffee, nougat, nuts, OM, OMG, peanut butter, review, ZOMG! | 3 Comments »

J. Emanuel Wine Truffles

November 8th, 2010 by Rosa

I got the chance to try these J. Emanuel (not to be confused with Jay Manuel) wine truffles as free samples from them, via Chocolate.com.

Wine and truffle pairings are pretty common in these foodie fad days, but I think truffles made with wine are a fairly rare treat. These are all made with a 74% dark chocolate shell/ganache base.

The box contained two Biale Zinfandel truffles, one from 2004 and 2005. Each was marked with a squiggly Z.

The 2004 had a thick and pasty ganache. The grapey wine flavor immediately came through – it was sweet and fruity but had a white wine lightness to it. The finish was lovely, with notes of peach.

The 2005 tasted completely different, despite being made from the same brand and grape type. It was darker and boozier, with notes of plum, raisin, and other dark red/purple fruits.

Trefethen (what a mouthful!) Chardonnay 2005 had a sprinkle of salt on top. It had a strong, fresh grape flavor with light alcoholic undertones.

Schramsberg NV Champagne was marked with the imprint of a circle. Its soft ganache was caramel flavored (but not textured; absolutely zero chew to this) and coolly, fattily melted away in my mouth. I didn’t get any champagne flavors, but it was delicious as it was, with lovely, complex burnt sugar flavors.

The Joseph Phelps Syrah 2002, the one with a cross, was my least favorite of the bunch. It had an extremely dry, almost paste-like texture. It had light raisin overtones mixed with woodsy notes.

The finish was strong on booze and almost chalky. A light astringency in the immediate finish built after the chocolate disappeared and became rather unpleasant as time went on.

The Palmaz Cabernet 2004, which had arcs draped across its corners, had a light booziness. I didn’t like it at first – it tasted of dry dustiness – but then a nice bright pop of cherry fruitiness came through and redeemed it.

The Silverado Merlot 2004 was marked with an M, and there were two in the box. After tasting it, I knew why – it was the best one of the bunch!

It had the strongest scent of all the truffles. It first tasted hugely brightly of cherry and strawberry.

Then, the fruitiness deepened before melding into notes of booze with just a hint of salt. Finally, a nice chocolate finish comes through.

I adored the amazing complexity of the Merlot and give it a ZOMG! The assortment as a whole gets an OMG, with only the syrah missing the mark for me. My friends and I loved tasting these and have already discussed who these would be a great gift for (our moms, to start!).

Category: chocolate, OMG, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

Hedonist Goat Cheese Truffles

September 17th, 2010 by Rosa

I LOVE goat cheese. Especially warmed and drizzled with honey. Mmmm…

And, as y’all may have guessed, I LOVE chocolate. So I was super excited when I popped into Hedonist Artisan Chocolates one day in June to see that they had a Goat Cheese Truffle Collection, featuring goat cheese from a local goat dairy.

I bought a few and ate them on the spot. Now, a few months later, I got a free sample box of Goat Cheese truffles to properly photograph and review, thanks to the gals at Hedonist.

First up is Fig and Honey. It was easy to ID because it was topped by a seed-studded chunk of golden brown fig.

The truffle had a dark chocolate couverture with a textured ganache full of figgy seeds and pulp. The berry-tinged sweetness of fig flavor was clearly present.

Despite the strong fig flavors, I found that the mellow sweetness of honey dominated this truffle’s flavors. The chocolate flavor comes through in the finish, along with a hint of floralness from the honey.

Strawberry Balsamic was easy to identify by a tiny topper of dried strawberry. It had a dark chocolate shell around a deliciously in-your-face ganache.

This truffle’s filling was supremely bright, fruity, and tart. It was cheerfully fragrant with the concentrated flavor of picked-at-the-peak-of-ripeness strawberries.

I could tell that the balsamic contributed to the truffle’s super concentrated flavors and especially to the bright tartness. But had balsamic not been in the truffle’s name, I would never have guessed that there’s vinegar in there.

It brought just the right touch of tartness while avoiding the addition of any acidity, bitterness, or unpleasant sharpness. It was a really well-formulated treat.

Thyme, Pepper, and Pistachio was the only rolled truffle of the bunch, and the only purely savory one too. It was rolled in crushed bits of pistachio, which provided added nuttiness and crunch.

The truffle initially tasted of nutty pistachio with a lightly spicy peppery undertone. Then a big kick of thyme came through and walloped my taste buds with a savory herbalness.

I liked the initial peppery nuttiness, but the emergence of the thyme was strange for me. It was too strongly herbal for my taste.

Ancho Chile and Cinnamon was the most nondescript looking one, though it was still gorgeous, with a beautifully tempered smooth and glossy top.

There was a slight grit to the texture of the ganache, I think from the bits of cinnamon. That texturally noticeable cinnamon also brought a touch of astringency to the finish, but it was slight enough that it wasn’t off-putting.

The truffle initially tasted of beautifully fragrant and fresh cinnamon with a lightly fruity undertone. There was just a touch of heat that was barely noticeable at the finish.

While the chocolate, cinnamon, and chile were harmoniously balanced, I actually wished that the heat in this was less subtle. I love chile in my chocolate!

Finally, Black Currant was distinguished by a little topper of what I presumed was a dried black currant. It tasted brightly fruity – like the Strawberry Balsamic – but with a raisin finish.

This was the only one of the set in which I could detect the presence of goat cheese. Its influence was light and brought a noticeable tang with an almost pungent savoriness.

The Black Currant was my favorite because of how it managed to blend fruity and tangy and savory. It and the Strawberry Balsamic get ZOMG!s, Fig and Honey and Ancho Chile and Cinnamon get OMGs, and the Thyme, Pepper, and Pistachio gets an O.

I think my favorite part of the collection (aside from the Black Currant truffle) was that they didn’t just let the goat cheese do all the work. It would’ve been easy to just mix goat cheese and chocolate and say, “Look how novel this combination is!”

Instead, they put together a thoughtful and tasty collection that’s much more than just a novel ingredient. Hooray for Hedonist’s effort and care!

Category: Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, O, OMG, review, ZOMG! | 2 Comments »

Trader Joe’s Black Cocoa Almonds

August 23rd, 2010 by Rosa

I’ve never been shy about proclaiming my love for Trader Joe’s nor lamenting Rochester’s lack of one. These Trader Joe’s Black Cocoa Almonds only underscore those points.

They’re described as “fresh California almonds dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in black cocoa.” They’re beautifully dark and smooth and matte, like velvet pebbles.

They’re covered in a Dutched cocoa powder that’s so dark that it’s nearly black (hence the name). It’s also flavorless on its own.

The dark chocolate coating is nicely mellow – sweet with notes of raisin and a cool finish that really lets the nut come through. The melt is thick and smooth with a muted cocoa essence.

The nut inside was nice and crunchy. I would’ve preferred it with a tad more roastiness, but all in all, it served as a great foil of texture and flavor for the chocolate coating.

They reminded me of Charles Chocolates Triple Chocolate Almonds but far cheaper (though not as nicely packaged). Trader Joe’s version was also crazy addictive. A ZOMG!

Update: These were discontinued right around when my review posted. I’m attempting to rally people to ask Trader Joe’s to bring them back, since so many of y’all seem to miss them as I do. Take ten seconds and drop them a quick line!

Category: chocolate, nuts, review, Trader Joe's, ZOMG! | 12 Comments »

Gail Ambrosius Chocolates – Day II

May 17th, 2010 by Rosa

Last Friday, I reviewed my free samples of Gail Ambrosius’s classic and tea collection truffles. Today’s review is of her Adventurous Collection, which is presenting quite adventurously in the below photo (courtesy of Gail Ambrosius’s media kit).

The Adventurous Collection includes Machu Picchu, Lemongrass With Ginger, Sweet Curry With Saffron, Rica Organica, Cinnamon/Cayenne, and Shitake Mushroom. That’s right – shitake mushroom. With chocolate.

I originally labeled the below truffle as a mystery one, as it didn’t look like any of the truffles in the guide. I’ve since decided that it’s the Machu Picchu, which is supposed to be topped with “crushed and candied almonds.” I guess my topper missed the crushing step.

It had an airy cinnamon flavor and lots of grit to the texture. The gritty bits were astringent and pulled the moisture from my mouth. I guessed that it was an allspice truffle.

The Machu Picchu’s description says that it included caramelized cacao nibs (the grit), 65% Peruvian chocolate, and “a light touch of cinnamon and vanilla bean.” My tasting notes weren’t too far off!

Lemongrass With Ginger had the prettiest topper, a colorful mix of candied lemon peel and dried safflower. It tasted floral with a bright, sweet lemony fresh flavor.

It managed to be cheerful while avoiding that medicinal floor cleaner effect. I didn’t notice any ginger flavor – I think it got all mixed up with the taste of the lemon zest topping.

Sweet Curry With Saffron is definitely a non-traditional truffle flavor. It tasted strongly of dried spices – cumin was a high note I picked up. The truffle guide also listed coriander, tumeric, cardamom, and saffron.

In this savory truffle, the chocolate took a backseat supporting role, while the curry was the star. All those spices brought a little astringency to the finish.

Rica Organica had a beautiful cacao bean as a decorative flourish. The bean was a solid chunk of chocolate. This ganache had a cool, fatty melt that was at once savory and sweet.

I loved the distinctive flavor of the Rica Organica. This may not be the most feminist-friendly description, but its bold flavor tasted manly (the truffle guide calls it muscular) and assertive before giving way to a bright finish.

Cinnamon/Cayenne was the only rolled truffle of the bunch. It was quite possibly the roundest rolled truffle I’ve ever seen. It had a thin chocolate shell and was rolled in cocoa powder.

The chocolate flavor came through first. It was super smooth, creamy, glossy, and slightly sweet. Then, the cinnamon and powerful cayenne come through. The cayenne burns the throat with its heat, but the spicy tingle dissipates after a few minutes.

The kicky spice makes this not for the faint of heart. It’s not a daily, casual treat, and it’s definitely an exciting adventure.

Shitake Mushroom was another hard one to identify, as the biggest mushroom pieces that topped it had fallen off in transit, so I tasted it thinking that it was the Cointreau truffle.

It started with a bright citrus sweet high not from the chocolate shell. Then, a powerful cream and butter flavor punched through. It had a familiar earthiness that I couldn’t place until I realized that I was eating a mushroom chocolate. Unique and delicious!

Gail Ambrosius definitely has a way with chocolate. The shitake mushroom truffle alone is a taste experience worth seeking, and the rest of the box ain’t too shabby either.

All of the truffles were so packed with flavor that they were extra satisfying. A ZOMG! for the shitake mushroom and Rica Organica, and OMs for the rest.

Category: chocolate, OM, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

Gail Ambrosius Chocolates – Day I

May 14th, 2010 by Rosa

Gail Ambrosius (yes, that’s her real name) is a chocolatier with an eponymous shop in Madison, Wisconsin. There, she makes amazing chocolates (with amazing descriptions; her copy writer is definitely earning his/her keep), mostly with single-origin chocolates from South and Central America.

I was offered the chance to try some free samples, and boy was I glad that I took that offer! Today, I’ll cover the more normal ones from her Classic and Tea collections, and next Monday, we’ll hit up the Adventurous Collection.

Lucille’s Vanilla was the only unadorned chocolate of the bunch, a simple dark chocolate shell with a chocolate ganache inside. The truffle guide that came with the box said it would taste “like a rich spoonful of homemade chocolate pudding.”

The outer chocolate shell had a pleasantly sharp snap, while the ganache was creamy with a luscious, thick melt.

That ganache was the perfect embodiment of chocolate flavor. It was thick and rich and decadent, and it had a lingering finish of pure cocoa. Isn’t it amazing when something so simple can be so delicious?

Raspberry was topped with a sprinkle of cacao nibs. The guide says that it’s a combination of 36% milk chocolate, 65% dark chocolate, and raspberry puree.

The raspberry gave the ganache a sticky, pasty texture, while the cacao nib topping added a nice crunch. The filling tasted super bright and was bursting with fresh raspberry flavor that paired well with its chocolate shell. It was very sweet, but because it was a natural fruity sweet, it was desirable rather than off-putting.

Cognac wore a cap of candied ginger. It tasted of fruity booze with a spicy ginger finish. The ginger flavor is strong and easily identifiable, while remaining understated so as to be harmonious with the chocolate.

Cointreau was originally topped with candied orange peel, but mine fell off in transit, so mine looks like it has a couple of sprinkles of chunky sugar or something. What little was left of the candied peel added a slight grain to this truffle’s taste experience.

It tasted brightly of orange. Such a strong citrus presence would be overwhelming if paired with a lesser chocolate, but the strong dark chocolate shell tempers the citrus flavor quite nicely.

Earl Grey had a pretty little sprinkle of lavender buds on top. The actual Earl Grey tea flavor was mild and just brought a light floral/lavender undertone to the chocolate.

Caramel Sprinkled with Grey Salt was a square of caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with a few grains of fleur de sel. It’s a sweet that’s now made by many confectioners. I now know that Gail Ambrosius makes one of the best versions.

The caramel was wonderfully complex with deep molasses notes. It was smooth and buttery on the tongue if I let it melt and chewy but not teeth-sticky if I chomped it. The sea salt crunched a bit when I got a big grain, and it really set off the sweet complexity of the caramel.

Gail Ambrosius’s truffles were exquisite. The Lucille’s Vanilla, Raspberry, and Caramel were my favorites (yes, that’s half of the ones I just wrote about, which just further underscores how delicious these were) and get ZOMG!s.

The Cognac gets an OMG, while the Cointreau and Earl Grey get Os mostly because I don’t really like floral flavors and have never been much for orange and chocolate combos, and they therefore got overshadowed by their truffle buddies.

Come back on Monday for Gail’s adventurous collection!

Category: caramel, chocolate, O, OMG, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

Alter Eco Dark Chocolate Quinoa – Midnight Crunch

April 12th, 2010 by Rosa

When I met my sweetie in Saratoga Springs*, our wanderings about that cute little town took us into a natural food store. This Alter Eco Dark Chocolate Quinoa (aka Midnight Crunch, hidden under that hefty price tag) bar caught my eye, as I’d never seen quinoa and chocolate together. At nearly $5 with tax, it was definitely a splurge, but one that I couldn’t pass up.

Alter Eco is a brand that’s only recently made its way onto my radar. They’re a Fair Trade organization that’s also carbon neutral, and I believe all of their stuff is organic as well. This bar was all three.

The back of the box describes this bar as, “A crispy chocolate like no other. Made with cacao and quinoa from Bolivia, Alter Eco Dark Quinoa chocolate brings together ancient ingredients from indigenous Andeans.”

As you can see, the bottom of the bar is heavily studded with bulging spheres of quinoa. While I could easily see it, however, I couldn’t taste it. Or if I was tasting it, it just tasted like crisped rice – the ingredients list calls it “rice-quinoa crisps”, so maybe it was all just one crispy entity that I was eating.

No matter. While the crisps added a nice little airy crunch, the real star here is the chocolate. At 61% cacao, it’s quite snappy.

It started off with dusky cocoa notes, then a fruity sweetness emerged along with notes of caramel and coffee, until the chocolate disappeared, leaving me with that lovely fruitiness in a lingering finish.

I could take it or leave it with the quinoa crisps, but the chocolate I could eat all day. It was satisfying yet kept me reaching for more. As always, I’m amazed at how much flavor complexity can come from just cocoa mass, cane sugar, and cocoa butter.

The bar earned itself a ZOMG! The next time I’m feeling flush and in the mood for a candy splurge, I’m going to check out more of the Alter Eco line.

Finally, for those who care about these sorts of things, the bar is soy-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, vegan, and without artificial flavors or emulsifiers.

*For the record, I don’t often refer to the boyfriend as my sweetie, but the alliteration was too good to pass up

Category: chocolate, fair trade, organic, review, ZOMG! | Comments Off

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

Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows

January 8th, 2010 by Rosa

These Espresso Pillows are yet another purchase from Trader Joe’s arsenal of candy, this time from the candy display near the checkout counter. I nearly missed them, despite their classy looking tins, and I’m glad I didn’t.

They’re billed as “crunchy toffeed espresso bits covered in dark chocolate”. I’m not sure where the pillow part fits in, exactly, as they’re neither pillow soft nor pillow shaped. Each “pillow” is somewhere between the size of a Tic Tac and a jelly bean.

The dark chocolate is sweet, though unremarkable. It does its job just fine, though, paring well with the toffee centers.

The espresso toffee has a great texture. It cleaves with a clean crunch, which gives way to a bitter coffee edge on buttery toffee sweetness.

These things are AWESOME to crunch on. They have the flavor profile of chocolate-covered espresso beans, but they lack the grit of actual beans. They’re addictively tasty, warranting a ZOMG! and a stop to pick up more next time I’m near a Trader Joe’s.

If you want a second opinion, check out Cybele’s Candy Blog take.

Category: chocolate, coffee, review, toffee, Trader Joe's, ZOMG! | 7 Comments »

More truffles from Hedonist

December 4th, 2009 by Rosa

I’ve previously sung the praises of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates on this blog, and today, I’m adding to the chorus. Unfortunately, because they shake up their line up so much, I’m no longer sure these truffles are even still available. Oops. On the plus side, that also means that they’ve got new flavors out!

These are a custom assortment that I chose (and, unlike the previously reviewed autumn collection, paid for) myself. I love that Hedonist lets you write down your order and then turns that into your chocolate guide. From left to right in the above photo, I’ve got cardamom, peanut butter and honey, imperial stout, ginger pop rock, and sesame.

Cardamom, a rolled truffle, is by far my favorite of the bunch. There’s an intense, almost savory note to the truffle that makes it wonderfully earthy. It’s a great flavor pairing that’s astoundingly delicious.

Peanut butter and honey (above) is a molded milk chocolate truffle with a fun skull stenciled on top. The peanut butter inside is dry, with a slight grain to it (similar to the texture of a Reese’s).  It’s super peanut-y, with a tinge of sweet and a slight saltiness to the finish. The honey and the milk make it a little too sweet for my taste, but it’s otherwise good.

Imperial stout is another rolled truffle (below). It tastes of cocoa with a dark yeastiness, with a finish that’s reminiscent of the scent of Guinness. Ever since I had Guinness for breakfast as a college freshman, I’ve generally avoided dark beers, so this wouldn’t be a truffle I’d pick out again, though I did enjoy tasting it.

Ginger pop rock was a hollow, heart-shaped dark chocolate shell filled with flavorless pop rocks and bits of candied ginger. It adds a fun effect to the fairly familiar (to a candy blogger, at least) combination of chocolate and ginger.

I tasted this one about 2 weeks after I’d bought it, so the pop rocks had softened a bit from moisture. They were still poppy and fun, but I’ve now learned that pop rock truffles should be consumed as soon as possible for maximum crunchiness.

Last, but not least, the sesame truffle was a molded milk square sprinkled with sesame seeds. Unsuprisingly enough, it tastes similar to the bark, just creamier because it’s a ganache, and maybe a tad heavier on the salt and sesame oil. I think I prefer it in bark form because you get a bit more crunch that way, but the truffle incarnation is nice as well.

All in all, I’m happy with the five truffles that I chose. As I write this from my notes, weeks after I first tasted them, I wish I had more of the cardamom, so that gets a ZOMG! Sesame merits an OMG for its surprising and surprisingly delicious flavor combination, while the rest hover around an O/OM. While all are expertly crafted and well-made, they do run the ratings gamut solely based on my personal flavor preferences.

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