Archive for the 'ZOMG!' Category

Aequare 55% Chocolate Bar

November 30th, 2009 by Rosa

In addition to some delicious dark chocolate cocoa beans, Aequare also sent me an assortment of their handmade single-origin bars for free sampling. Today’s review is of their 55% semi-sweet.

According to their website, the beans that went into this bar came from Aequare’s grower in Quevedo, Ecuador and their summer 2008 harvest. How’s that for precise! I can’t remember if that was stamped on the box or not, but I think it should be. It would be a neat marketing gimmick.

The chocolate bar itself is nicely presegmented into tasting-sized squares. There’s a nice snappiness when the bar is broken apart. The color is a lovely medium brown with a nice, smooth sheen, and while the melt isn’t thick, it is silky soft with just a bit of tongue-coating-ness in the finish.

Flavorwise, it’s brightly sweet with great complexity. There’s a bold fruitiness that lingers in the finish, which also has just a hint of bitter/astringent cocoa notes.

It’s absolutely lovely, thanks to its pleasant texture and intriguing complexity. It blows every other bittersweet/semisweet chocolate that I’ve had in this cacao percentage-range out of the water. A ZOMG!

Category: chocolate, review, single origin, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Milka Joghurt

November 19th, 2009 by Rosa

Today’s review comes courtesy of my roommate, Celeste, who was kind enough to bring me a German chocolate bar that she bought in Boston. I’ve seen the Milka brand in stores, but I’d never tried them before, and I’d definitely never tried their Joghurt flavor.

As best I can tell, the Joghurt bar is not manufactured for U.S. markets (this bar was an import. Note the German on the wrapper), and that’s a huge shame, as it’s ridiculously good. It’s “I’m almost glad it’s hard to find because otherwise I’d eat it all the time, but gosh, I wish I could eat it all the time” good.

Basically, it’s Milka’s “Alpine milk chocolate” surrounding a yogurt-flavored filling. The milk chocolate is sweet and creamy, with strong caramel notes. It’s tongue-coatingly thick.

Then POW, the yogurt flavor comes through. It’s bright and sour, like good quality plain yogurt turned up to 11. That sour tinge wipes the palate clean and readies you for more. Texturewise, it’s soft and creamy and pliable, though it doesn’t coat the tongue as well as the chocolate does.

The milk chocolate is a little too sweet for my liking, but in this bar, that actually makes it better. It provides a stronger foil for the sour yogurt taste, and it makes the yogurt effect that much more enjoyable. The two flavors don’t mesh; instead, they play off each other and, to borrow a corporate buzzword, synergize to make something that’s even better than the sum of its parts.

This bar is incredible. And Celeste is incredible to be generous enough to give me a whole bar. If I ever have the good fortune to come across it myself, I’m stocking up. A ZOMG!

Category: chocolate, European, received as gift, review, yogurt, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Sunbursts

August 3rd, 2009 by Rosa

My first run-in with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds was when my mother brought home several little logo-ed packs that she’d gotten at some booth at a job fair. The two of us polished them off lickety-split and then didn’t know where to find more.

This was several years ago, when chocolate-covered sunflower seeds were a rarity. These days, they’re not exactly ubiquitous, but they are far easier to find. I picked up my 1.3 oz. bag for $0.79 (I think; it was definitely under a dollar) at a local Wegman’s (which, by the way, has turned out to be an awesome candy source. They sell some full-sized Vosges bars for around $2!).

As the front of the bag says, these are candy-coated, cocoa-covered sunflower kernels. Each kernal is bright and covered in a colorful candy shell, M&Ms-style. Most are nicely tear-drop shaped, like sunflower kernels, but a few here and there look a little wonkier. They all taste divine, though!

I really can’t say too much about the flavor notes on these. They taste like chocolate and sunflower seeds. The combination is pure synergy. I don’t like sunflower seeds, but I LOVE these. The sweet cocoa balances so well with the seeds’ nuttiness, and the textural tiny crunch is marvelous.

They’re great for snacking. Each ounce has 110 calories, 5 g of fat, 1 g of saturated fat, and 2 g of fiber. The tiny size of the individual seeds is enough to slow you down, so one bag can last a long time. I managed to make mine last three whole days, over the course of at least half a dozen sessions.

These are definitely making it into my regular snacking rotation. A ZOMG!

And in case you want a second opinion, Candy Addict reviewed the Sunbursts brand, while Cybele from Candy Blog found a similar and cheaper version at Trader Joes. I dunno if buying these in a giant tub is a good idea though, as I’d power through that tub so quickly…

Category: chocolate, nuts, review, ZOMG! | 2 Comments »

Jadis et Gourmande Chocolates from Paris

June 15th, 2009 by Rosa

As promised, today begins a series of reviews of the goodies I picked up on my recent trip to Europe. First up is four chocolates from Jadis et Gourmande in Paris.

Jadis et Gourmande seems to be best known for their molded chocolate bars in the shapes of letters or objects (like ties), but I wanted to try their chocolates and truffles. I picked out four that looked good and promptly forgot what they were. Oops.

First up is the milk chocolate square covered in bits. The bits turned out to be crunchy balls of rice praline. Not just plain old puffed rice; rice praline, meaning that it was bits of puffed rice coated in a sugar glaze, a wonderful touch! The smooth filling inside was fresh hazelnut, making it more peanutty in flavor than the more familiar Nutella. An OM.

The leaf was a lovely molded truffle. It turned out to be a dark chocolate coating around a lighter ganache filling, which, as you can see from the below photo, was neither smooth nor creamy. It had a fruity tinge to it, but was otherwise meh. An O.

The two squares were both pretty great. One was a chewy, non-sticky caramel coated with dark chocolate. The caramel filling had great, deep complexity that made me wish for more. An OMG.

Last, but certainly not least, the second square, also a caramel-filling covered in dark chocolate. The caramel in this one, however, was soft and smooth and more reminiscent of a ganache in texture. It sat atop a thin layer of nut brittle that was crisp, nutty, and delectable – a crunchy sweet surprise. The combination of flavors and texture in this truffle was just impeccable and thus earns this chocolate a ZOMG!

There you have it – a selection of chocolates that nearly runs the gamut of my ratings. If you ever visit Paris, or if you’re fortunate enough to live there, I highly recommend swinging by Jadis et Gourmande for a sampling of their chocolates. If only they had an outpost in the states!

Category: caramel, chocolate, European, nuts, O, OM, OMG, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Amella Caramels

May 27th, 2009 by Rosa

When Amella Caramels contacted me about trying free samples of their caramels, I almost turned them down. I was out of town relaxing in Myrtle Beach, and it was a week and a half before my graduation day, just shy of two weeks when I was to move everything I owned (including my candy stash) to upstate New York (quite far from home in Texas). I thought I’d never have the time. Thank goodness I changed my mind. These guys were ridiculously good.

Amella Caramels are artisan caramels that come in three flavors, carrot cake, black forest, and passion fruit. Not only do they taste great (we’ll get to that in a bit) but also, they come in ingenious packaging. Each box looks artisinal, as if it’s made with handmade paper. Pop the lid open, and you can see the three caramels inside through a little plastic viewing window.

Carrot Cake: “Taste a medley of fresh carrots, roasted pecans, and cocoa butter with creamy caramel, hand dipped in the finest white chocolate.”

White chocolate? I could’ve sworn the topping tasted like cream cheese frosting. This guy blew me away. The chew was soft and non-sticky. It was like eating a bite of gooey carrot cake that just happened to have a light caramel-y finish. The flavor was quite genuine, and a few bits of pecans were dispersed throughout. The white chocolate overpowered the caramel flavor of the bite – I really only got the caramel-ness when I nibbled it sans white chocolate – but it was still quite good.

Black Forest: “Lose yourself in a blend of real Amarelle cherries, 70% dark chocolate, and Tahitian vanilla with buttery caramel, hand dipped in fine white chocolate and topped with dark chocolate sprinkles.”

This was far more caramel-like in texture than the Carrot Cake. It was soft and chewy with just the right amount of sticky, so that the chew didn’t last too long and so that your fillings are never in danger. The caramel has a deep, dark chocolate flavor that would be great as is – but it gets better! After a few chews, a strong and fruity cherry finish comes through, delighting the palate. The white chocolate top isn’t really noticeable because the caramel is so strongly flavored, and that’s just fine by me.

Passion Fruit (bottom right): “Discover pure bliss from real passion fruit, cocoa butter, and Tahitian vanilla with buttery caramel, hand dipped in the finest milk chocolate.”

This was the most caramel-y of the three. It starts out like a nice, buttery caramel (same texture as that of the Black Forest) before bursting into a sudden bright and vibrant fruity sweetness with citrusy high notes. The chocolate is there, but I didn’t care, as the caramel flavor with the transition to fruity sweetness is the selling point. I think I could eat these all day and never get bored by that sudden switch.

These all get ZOMG!s, though I like the Black Forest and Passion Fruit much better than the Carrot Cake. I tried the Carrot Cake first and gave it a ZOMG!, not realizing that the other two would get even better, and I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to downgrade it.

Sadly, they ain’t cheap – $4.99 per 3-pack, with free shipping on orders of $29.94 or more. You can order online for now. I do hope they wind their way into stores. I can see places like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table keeping these by the register (they’re certainly better than the Mitchell Sweets that Sur La Table already sells), and I’d even enjoy these as dessert in a nice restaurant.

Category: caramel, chocolate, review, ZOMG! | 2 Comments »

Schocolat – Part III

May 1st, 2009 by Rosa

Dear readers, your regularly scheduled review of the rest of the Schocolat chocolates appears below the break. But first, a story. Just scroll down and click “Read the rest of this entry” if you want to skip straight to the review.

The box of chocolates came from Rita’s mom with a request that I pass the reviews onto the proprietors of Schocolat. About a week ago, I sent them the three links to the three reviews, with a note that each link would go live the day that it was scheduled to run. Here’s part I and part II.

Yesterday, I received the following email:

Rosa

Thanks? Maybe you will find chocolate covered fruit gushers more pleasurable.

Regards
Susie

I was initially offended and pretty hurt. Then I thought, maybe I’m jumping to conclusions and being overly sensitive. Maybe she was suggesting that I try another product of theirs, these “chocolate covered fruit gushers”? But I didn’t see those anywhere on their site, so I guess Susie was referring to actual Fruit Gushers after all.

So that’s my story. You can interpret it as you wish, and I’ll bet you can guess how I ended up taking it.

And do click through and read today’s review. It’s exactly what I wrote a week and a half ago – in other words, I didn’t change anything after Susie’s email. As I told Susie when I wrote back, “I don’t have to like anything or everything that I review. I do have to be honest with my readers.
Read the rest of this entry »

Category: caramel, chocolate, O, OM, received as gift, review, ZOMG! | 4 Comments »

Hedonist Artisan Chocolates

April 1st, 2009 by Rosa

I was in Rochester, NY last week and came across a delightful little chocolate shop called Hedonist Artisan Chocolates. While there I struck up a nice conversation with one their chocolate makers (perhaps the proprietor?) and partook of their generous free samples of just-made rolled champagne truffles and some bits of chocolate bark. The great samples convinced me to buy two of their ever-changing selection of handmade truffles: molasses ginger and peanut butter cayenne.

The molasses ginger (left) was a square of molasses ginger flavored ganache covered in dark Valhrona and topped with a tiny piece of candied ginger. It was fresh and tasted amazing. The ganache was creamy but not greasy and had a distinct fresh ginger flavor without the less pleasant bite that real ginger has. I didn’t get any direct molasses notes, but there’s a mellow sweetness that permeates throughout. The little dab of candied ginger was a wonderful touch that again, brought ginger flavor without any bitter notes. All this was nicely juxtaposed against the snappy shell of good quality dark couverture.

Peanut butter cayenne was topped with a little half peanut. The filling in this was stiffer and slightly gritty. It initially starts with a roasty fresh nuttiness before giving way to a lingering cayenne burn. The heat is more intense than other chili chocolates, so it may not be for the faint of heart, but I loved it.

Both truffles were great, if not exactly cheap at $2 a bite. Still, they get a ZOMG! for their high quality and wonderful flavors. There were other interesting sounding flavors that I didn’t try (like raspberry wasabi and lapsang souchong), so I’m sure that I’ll revisit Hedonist Chocolates again and again once I move to Rochester.

That’s right – I’m moving to Rochester! I get my BA in psychology/neuroscience at the end of May, and sometime during the summer, I’m starting a two-year stint as a research assistant/lab manager at the University of Rochester. The decision to move there wasn’t an easy one to make, especially since my other option was a fully funded, generously stipended year in a Master’s program at Cambridge University (back in England, with British accents and Cadbury and Haribo…), but Rochester made me a great offer full of great opportunity. Besides, it’s close to Canada, so I’ll still get to explore an international candy scene while there!

Category: chocolate, Hedonist Artisan Chocolates, peanut butter, review, ZOMG! | 5 Comments »

Master’s Tea with Judy Logback

March 16th, 2009 by Rosa

A couple of weeks ago, on February 25th, I skipped my bootcamp class at the gym and went to a Master’s Tea with Judy Logback, the founder of Kallari chocolates, instead. After complaining about the Times Styles’ snarky chocolate review that fawned over Kallari a bit too much, how could I pass up the opportunity to meet and taste chocolate with the woman who founded the cooperative?

Judy, a student at Yale’s School of Management, gave a great talk and tea. She covered the details of how the Kallari cooperative works, what the cooperative’s farmers and chocolate makers do, and how each step that they do themselves earns them more money and helps them work their way out of poverty. I was quite impressed.

Along the way, Judy threw in neat chocolate facts. I learned that processing cacao with alkali (aka Dutch processing) darkens the color of the cacao without affecting the flavor, which explains why some chocolates manage look so much darker than they taste. I also learned that high quality chocolate doesn’t need lecithin as an emulsifier because they’re comprised of just cocoa butter and cocoa solids. And, most shockingly of all to me, I learned that in the U.K., single-origin bars only need to contain 10% of beans from that single-origin. In the U.S., the claims are totally unregulated.

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We tasted 8 bars along the way, four of them from Kallair. Three were the above bars that Kallari is now selling via Whole Foods, and the fourth was one of their artisanal bars. While the Whole Food bars are machine tempered and molded, the artisinal bars are entirely handmade, from tempering to molding. Judy had us taste the chocolates as she went through her Kallari slideshow, stopping every few slides ask us about what we thought about what we were eating. It was a little intimidating to verbalize my tasting notes to a chocolate expert, but it was also neat to hear her responses and feedback.

The bars were tasted blindly, though Judy gave us their percentages as we went. The bars and my notes are below the photo.

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  1. 86% Ghirardelli – cool, thin, glossy melt thanks to good use of cocoa butter. Pretty bitter, dry finish, but not exactly unpleasant.
  2. 85% Kallari artisinal bar – more burnt smell; sweeter, winey notes to the flavor. A thicker melt than the above bar, but still not thick, exactly, and with a slight grit
  3. 85% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – thicker melt, fruity finish. Astringent.
  4. 85% Lindt – strong smell, thick melt. A light, fruity sweetness that gave way to a super dry finish.
  5. 75% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – milky, caramel notes with a wonderfully dusky finish (Judy said the caramel notes were from their use of organic raw cane sugar). ZOMG
  6. 75% Chocolove – sweet, strong cherry notes. Suprisingly thick melt for dark chocolate.
  7. 70% Green & Black’s – flat fruity citrus sweetness. Unexceptional and, well, flat.
  8. 70% Kallari bar available at Whole Foods – reminds me of European bars with the dusky caramel flavors.

My favorite bar of the lot was number 5, Kallari’s 75% bar. I went back for seconds, and it definitely merits a ZOMG! I’ll be looking for it next time I’m in a Whole Foods.

Finally, just a logistical note to point out, these bars aren’t technically certified Fair Trade, but I’ve chosen to tag them as such. Kallari has gone so far above and beyond the ideals of Fair Trade that they’re really beyond certification.

Category: chocolate, fair trade, organic, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Emily’s Milk Chocolate Cocoa Dusted Pecan Halves

March 9th, 2009 by Rosa

I’ve worked with Emily’s Chocolates several times before, and since they make solid, decent chocolate, I’m always happy to try their products. After a few shipping snafus, I finally received a generous sample box of their holiday goodies. Even though it’s now March, no worries; their holiday/seasonal wares are still available on their website.

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While I’d already reviewed the cherry hazelnut and cranberry almond mixes, I’d never before tried the milk chocolate cocoa dusted pecans or the milk chocolate covered graham crackers. I’ll cover the former today; you’ll get the latter on Wednesday.

Calling these guys “milk chocolate cocoa dusted pecan halves” are quite a mouthful, so from now on, they shall just be pecan halves. But they are far more than pecan halves. They are whole pecan halves (is that oxymoronic?) evenly coated in a thin layer of high quality milk chocolate and dusted in unsweetened cocoa powder. So simple, yet somehow so good!

I can’t figure out why these were so addictive. Pecans are a mild nut, and these halves are unroasted, so they’re extra mild. Yet there’s something about their grainy crunch that, when combined with Emily’s high quality milk chocolate coating, makes these guys extremely poppable and addictive. I wish I had more. Just goes to show, simplicty can be sumptuous. A ZOMG!

Category: chocolate, nuts, review, ZOMG! | No Comments »

Q.bel All-Natural Chocolates – Wafer Rolls

February 20th, 2009 by Rosa

When reviews of Q.bel chocolates started hitting the candy blogosphere, I was intrigued. It’s not often that Cybele bestows a candy with a 10 out of 10 rating, and Q.bel managed to nab the honor.So when Q.bel asked me if I wanted free samples to review, I eagerly said yes. I’m so glad that I did.

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Q.bel (the Q is for quality; the bel is for Isabel, the wife of the creator. When will I get a delicious candy named after me?) chocolates come in two types, wafer rolls and wafer bars, with three iterations of each: milk, dark, and peanut butter. Today, I’ll cover the wafer rolls. The wafer bars will be reviewed on Monday.

The wafer rolls were crispy, crunchy, fresh, and flaky wafer cookie rolls filled with chocolate or peanut butter and enrobed in more chocolate. The milk chocolate of the milk chocolate wafer roll (center) is wonderful – rich and creamy, but not too sweet, and with a dusky finish, earning it an OMG.

The peanut butter wafer roll (right) is covered with the same milk chocolate, but it’s filled with salty, thick peanut butter that tastes fresh roasted. The overarching finish of the peanut butter lingers a bit, and I found it a bit overpowering for the chocolate. An OM from me, but peanut butter lovers would absolutely adore this.

My favorite of the wafer rolls was the dark chocolate wafer roll (left). The dark chocolate and wafer were an amazing match. The dark chocolate had an earthiness to it, but its finish was sweet and fruity, which needed the cookie wafer to cut it. It gets a bit cloying in the finish, but if you have enough self control to stop after one roll (I don’t), it’s perfect. A ZOMG!

I highly recommend you check these all-natural chocolates out. Q.bel is doing a huge rollout in Whole Foods, so look for them there. They’re probably a bit pricier than your average candy bar, but these are not your average candy bar. And check back on Monday for my review of their wafer bars!

Category: chocolate, cookie, OM, OMG, peanut butter, review, ZOMG! | 1 Comment »