Lotte Pepero

Hooray for globetrotting friends! My friends Nana and Justin recently finished up a three year stint teaching English in Korea (next stop for them: Scotland). Before they left Korea, they were kind enough to buy and mail me a bunch of Korean candy for the blog. Thanks for the help, as always, Nana and Justin!

First up is Lotte‘s Pepero. I thought it would be fitting to start with one of Nana’s favorites. According to Nana, this box was “nude”, which is how Korean’s refer to inside-out. It’s basically like an inside out Pocky, with a hollow cookie shell filled with chocolate.

The box had a sealed plastic bag full of Peperos. I kind of chomped right through them and lost count of how many there were. The cookie shell was rather mild, with a hint of buttery nuttiness.

The Peperos weren’t so much filled with chocolate as lined on the inside with chocolate. In other words, I could suck air through it like a straw. The chocolate was slightly fruity with a chalky cocoa hit.

Like Pocky, these are more cookie than candy. Also like Pocky, they’re a nice snack, and I polished off the box fairly quickly, but I don’t know if I’d ever seek them out to buy them again. They’d remain an impulse buy for me – that is, if I could find them in the states; I think I’ve seen them in Asian grocery stores before? – so an O. I do see why Nana likes them, though!

Camille Bloch Mousse Caramel and Noisette

More “discontinued” and thus discounted goodness from Wegman’s, this time in the form of two Camille Bloch Mousse chocolate bars, a caramel and a noisette.

The two bars are quite similar, “Swiss milk chocolate with ___ mousse filling.” Caramel goes in the blank for the former; hazelnut for the noisette.

I love the pictures of the mousse on the outside. They look like twin scoops of ice cream deliciousness that wouldn’t be out of place in a fine dining establishment. And a neat detail I didn’t notice until I photographed the boxes: the seal at the top says Camille Bloch, but when it catches the light just right – or when it’s being photographed – it’s overlaid with 1929, which I’m guessing is their year of founding.

Each 100 g bar had eight squares of chocolate mousse pods. They remind me of pill packs, only with chocolate instead of plastic and foil, and mousse instead of drugs. And you can’t pop the mousse out of the chocolate.

The Swiss milk chocolate is quite rich. It’s soft, with a non-existent snap (hence the ragged edges around the squares in my photos). It’s tongue-coatingly thick and has strong, creamy caramel notes with a sweetness to the finish. I should add that the milk chocolate in both bars tastes the same, so it’s not the caramel mousse that’s lending those caramel notes.

The mousse inside is light and fluffy. I don’t even want to think about all the bad-for-you things they must’ve used to achieve that wonderful texture.

The caramel mousse was nutty, with a mild caramel flavor. It was okay, but I wanted more oomph, more creme brulee/flan/scorched sugar flavor.

Hazelnut was better. Its hazelnuttiness was light, like a mellowed-out Nutella, and a bit more interesting than the meh caramel.

All in all, I’d give these guys an O. I don’t think I would buy them again for myself, as they taste good, but not extraordinarily so. I do think, however, that these would be good for gift-giving or sharing, thanks to their pretty packaging and unique form. It’s definitely not your average chocolate bar, and I think it makes an impression.

Chuao Chinita Nibs

I’ve read several reviews of Chuao products since I started candy blogging, and I’ve been wanting to try them for quite a while. Somehow, though, they never came across my path before I came to Rochester.

I found this bar of Chuao Chinita Nibs at Wegman’s, on sale because they were being “discontinued.” I think in Wegman’s speak, that just means that the Wegman’s I went to is no longer carrying them, as the Chinita Nibs are still on Chuao’s website. Here’s a good time to note that they’re $18 for 3 from Chuao. I think my bar was between $2 and $3 at Wegman’s. Score!

Unlike most chocolate bars, this one came in a loose pouch with room for air, along with the chocolate. The first thing you notice when you open the pouch is the scent: nutmeg. Of course! Because the Chinita Nibs bar is a “dark chocolate bar with caramelized cacao nibs and nutmeg.”

The bar is neatly segmented into small, thumbnail-sized pieces that break with a super sharp, clean snap. The melt on the tongue is smooth and creamy, but thin. That melt is interrupted by the bits of cacao nib that stud the bar. The bits are pretty tiny, giving the bar just a light crunch.

I found it more difficult than usual to get flavor notes from the chocolate itself, as the strong flavor and scent of nutmeg really dominates. There’s a slight bitterness to the chocolate, which may be due to the nutmeg, and the finish is strongly nutty, which is definitely due to the nutmeg. I wish I were able to taste the caramelized part of the nibs, but I couldn’t.

Overall, this bar wasn’t for me. It wasn’t bad or offensive, but I didn’t enjyo the domineering effect of the nutmeg and wished for more chocolate flavors, so it gets an O.

Qra Qra – Lemon

You can probably guess that today’s review is not of an American candy. American companies may give their products weird names to make them memorable, but they’d never go for something as unpronounceable as Qra Qra. Asian companies selling in the U.S., however, totally would.

I love the packaging on this product because a) it says chewchew chewchew, and b) because the kangaroo is weird and inexplicable but kind of cute, and its ears are the wrong shape. Hooray Asia!

Hard to read print on the bag (white on yellow? really?) notes that Qra Qra are “chewy like gum, but melts like candy”. Never mind the messed up parallel with mismatched parts of speech – it’s a good description of what the candy is.

Each Qra Qra is about the size of a small grape or a large blueberry. They have a hard candy shell, but they’re also texturally homogenous. Each Qra Qra has a stiff, long lasting chew that’s quite sproingy. It’s a bit like Hi-Chew, but it gets stuck in your teeth less, and it’s a bit like Starburst but not as slick – the Qra Qra are almost grainy or fuzzy on the tongue.

The flavor on these is tremendous! Each has a bright, sweet, and bitter lemon bite that’s so acidic that it stings the tongue and so sweet that it burns the throat. I know that sounds awful, but it’s wonderful and addictive. Once I finished a Qra Qra, I was ready for another, even as my tongue tingled and my throat burned.

The candy does eventually melt away after about 40 seconds or so of chewing, and admirably enough, the flavor never dissipates throughout the long chew. It’s a good thing the chew lasts for a long time, as there are only about a dozen Qra Qra per pack, and they disappeared all too soon.

An OMG that warrants a special trip back to the tiny Asian grocery store where I found them. I know they come in at least one more flavor! If the price ever goes down ($1.00 for 12 Qra Qras is pretty steep), I’m upgrading them to ZOMG! status.

Santander Tropical Fruit Bits

When I first moved to Rochester, I found it a bit odd that everyone talked about how great Wegman’s was. Really, Rochester? The coolest thing about you is a grocery store?

But you know what? Wegman’s is awesome. I come from Austin, TX, home of the 80,000 sq ft flagship Whole Foods (also awesome), and I was still impressed by Wegman’s. They may not be as big as some Whole Foods, but they’re far more affordable.

I could never afford to grocery shop at Whole Foods; it was just a place for treats and small amounts of bulk bin stuff. Wegman’s is my go-to grocery store here in my new home, and they’re everywhere in Rochester.

And they all have awesome candy selections. Even my local Wegman’s, which is smaller and lacks bulk bins and a giant candy section (some day, I will take and post photos of big Wegmans’ candy aisles. They have choo-choo trains overhead), has great deals, like the cheapo full-sized Vosges bars that I previously mentioned, or the two discounted chocolate bars that are the subject of today’s review: 70% Dark Chocolate Santander Pineapple and Passion Fruit.

Both bars have a 70% single origin Columbian chocolate base, plus bits of tropical fruit embedded without. I assume that the chocolate base in both is the same, but they actually tasted a bit different in each bar. That could be a testament to the power of contrasts for bringing out different flavors – a chocolate tasting paired with fruit instead of wine.

The pineapple bar came wrapped in a flimsily thin gold foil that tore easily, making it hard to wrap up the rest of the bar for later. The bar itself had a soft snap. I know that pineapple has some enzyme that keeps gelatin from setting; I wonder if that affected the texture of the chocolate too?

The texture of the chocolate didn’t bother me, but the taste did a bit. There just wasn’t enough cocoa flavor! It was pretty one note, in a mellow way. That then transitioned to sweet with just a tinge of tart from the pineapple bits before finishing with slight caramel notes.

Passion fruit came in a more substantial combination of wax paper and silver paper, and its snap and flavor were more substantial as well. The bar’s snap was sharp and crisp, and the passion fruit bits were a tad crunchy.

While the chocolate was similarly one note, the fruit flavors, when they came through, were a pleasant surprise. The passion fruit flavor was like sunshine on the palate, super bright and enjoyable. The bar’s finish, however, was bitter and astringent, and it lingered unpleasantly.

So to recap, pineapple starts meh, gets better, and finishes okay. Passion fruit starts meh, gets wonderful!, and finishes bleh. Both bars get an O for being far less awesome than the Wegman’s that they came from.

Awesome animated short

Via Candy Addict, an awesome and beautifully done animated short about a boy who finds himself in a land where everything is made of candy (kind of like that Simpsons episode where the same happens to Homer, only way cuter).

I love the part where the boy picks up a gummi egg to use as a shield. Since those aren’t so ubiquitous in the U.S., I can see some people getting confused by the sudden appearance of protein in the candy land.

Miam! Supinfocom Arles 2008 from miamteam on Vimeo.

Gummi Jelly

I bought these Gummi Jellys (Jellies?) in Spain, but I’m 90% sure that I also saw them in France. Though the gummi part of the name conjures up thoughts of springy gummi candies, the jelly part is the more accurate moniker, as the Gummi Jelly is a soft fruit pate-like candy.

Each Gummi Jelly is individually wrapped. They’re about an inch in height and a centimeter in width and depth (yes I’m mixing my metric and customary). They’re quite soft, with a bit a grainy texture from their granulated sugar coating.

They come in four flavors: lime, orange, strawberry, and pineapple.

Lime (green) has a bitter bite of zest that tastes rather medicinal. For a sweet candy, it’s actually a tad unpleasant. Sad, as I usually love all things citrus flavored.

Orange (orange) has a big zesty bite, only in this case, it’s quite enjoyable. The orange flavor isn’t bright, but it is intense.

Strawberry (red) is floral and sweet, with a deeper than expected strawberry flavor. It’s the strongest one of the bunch.

Pineapple (yellow) is sweet and lightly acidic, with just a tinge of the flavor of pineapple cores. It could pass for a sweet and mellow lemon, but I’m pretty sure it’s pineapple because there’s a pineapple on the bag.

Overall, these are good and dangerously poppable. I like that the flavors are more concentrated than your average gummi candy, though they’re weaker than fruit pate. But hey, the mass produced candy is also much cheaper than fruit pate. An OM, though I could do without the lime ones.