Happy Halloween!

Are y’all handing out anything good for your trick-or-treaters?

I live downtown and haven’t really seen kids around the neighborhood, so I don’t think we’ll buy any kid-specific stuff. We’re throwing a Halloween party for grad student-aged people that night. There will probably be some extra candy from that that we can hand out. And if all else fails, what kid doesn’t love a nice, tasty, sugar-free chocolate calcium chew? (I have plenty of those!)

Have a wonderful and happy Halloween! As always, stay safe, but be especially careful this year since it falls on a Saturday. If you’re liquor treating instead of trick-or-treating, have a designated driver, mmkay?

Hedonist Milk Chocolate Sesame Bark

Hedonist gave me this bag of milk chocolate sesame bark as a free sample, along with their current Autumn Truffle Collection that I reviewed on Wednesday. I had seen their bags of bark in their shop before, but I’d always dismissed them as being not nearly as exciting as their truffles. Boy was I wrong!

If I remember/heard her correctly, when Zahra at Hedonist packed this sample for me, she told me it was their best seller. At the time, I found that a bit odd, as milk chocolate sesame bark doesn’t sound like it should be a best seller – it’s an unusual flavor combination that I’d never heard of before, and I’d expect best sellers to be more generic in order to be crowd pleasing.

And then I promptly forgot about that oddness, as I was distracted by trying to pick out a variety box of truffles for myself.

On the surface, this just looks like milk chocolate slabs floating white and black sesame seeds. Once I opened the bag, however, I realized that it was much more.

For starters, it smells strongly of sesame oil. I actually first thought it was soy sauce because soy sauce and sesame oil are often used together in Asian cooking, so I guess my scent memories/references got crossed.

Tastewise, there’s a noticeable saltiness to the bark that’s the first flavor to hit the palate. It’s not always evenly distributed; some bites were saltier than others, though none were unpleasantly so. I actually enjoyed the occasional changes in saltiness, as it perked up the palate.

Immediately after the saltiness comes a rush of sesame oil flavor. It’s super aromatic – that’s the best word I can find to describe it. Finally, you get a roasty, nutty sesame seed bite every time you hit a seed, which is fairly often, as you can see.

The milk chocolate is a bit player in this, as the bark mostly tastes of sesame oil, but it does add a sweet, thick melt, a slight dusky flavor, and a touch of fruitiness to the finish.

All in all, Hedonist’s milk chocolate sesame bark is an amazing, complex, who would’ve-thunk-it-would-work flavor combination. It’s not the most delicious chocolate that I’ve ever had (though it is delicious), but it does have an extra intrigue factor that puzzles the tastebuds and kept me reaching for more. And more. And more. A hearty OMG.

Hedonist Autumn Truffle Collection

Remember when I complained about having to miss a free Hedonist chocolate tasting? My boyfriend and I ended up swapping our travel duties, and he came to Rochester instead of me going to New Haven, which meant we both got to go to the tasting party. Hooray!

Cody came up with some great stuff – the cardamom was the stellar standout for me – and I made off with a goodie bag full of treats: a Rosa-selected box of 5 truffles (above) that I paid for (including another of Cody’s cardamom truffles), and free samples of their Autumn Truffle Collection, their milk chocolate sesame bark, and their pistachio ginger bark.

I’ll review the milk chocolate sesame bark on Friday; today’s all about the Autumn Truffle Collection. This season’s collection includes fennel, whiskey sage, honey thyme, cinnamon, and rosemary.

I love that Hedonist includes a customizeable guide with every box, to help you identify which is which. So much easier than trying to guess or cross-reference with the chocolatier’s website.

Fennel was easy to spot, as it was garnished with whole fennel seeds. Fennel goes quite well with the high quality, dusky dark chocolate (Valrhona, I think) even in its most potent, whole-seed state.

In the actual truffle, a dark chocolate shell around a white ganache, the fennel flavor is tempered, and it works even better, especially with the slight saltiness that Hedonist added.

Whiskey sage smells a little boozy but in taste, the whiskey mostly manifests as a light sweetness. The most prominent flavor in the truffle is sage.

The herb and chocolate meld together beautifully. It tastes velvety, and it’s a unique flavor combination that melds beautifully.

Honey thyme smells just like the jar of thyme in our spice rack. It tastes just like thyme too, with a dusky, dry cocoa finish. I can’t pick out honey flavors from the overall sweetness of the truffle, as the thyme has such a strong presence.

Again, the flavors go together well, but it makes me think of Italian food and pasta sauce when I eat it, and that’s cognitively jarring. I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I would seek it out again.

Cinnamon, understandably enough, smells just like fresh ground cinnamon. I think it’s Ceylon rather than your more run-of-the-mill Cassia, as the cinnamon tastes delicate and maybe slightly sweet. Its presence is super strong in the truffle, so much so that it becomes slightly astringent. It definitely seeks a different target palate than Cinnamon Toast Crunch (which I love, too, by the way).

Rosemary was a rolled rather than a molded truffle and came wrapped in cheery orange foil. I didn’t get an unwrapped picture of this one, specifically, but it looked like this (actually Hedonist’s Imperial Stout, another rolled truffle), all charmingly lumpy and dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Again, it smells and tastes of my spice rack. The ganache inside is rich and fattily cool on the tongue. I know “fattily cool” doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, but it’s a good sensation!

Hedonist’s Autumn collection of savory spice + dark chocolate is definitely a winner. Their flavor combinations were novel (well, cinnamon and chocolate is relatively common, but not the way Hedonist made them) and despite their… unintuitiveness… worked together quite well, making this an intriguing and delicious set.

Whiskey sage was my favorite, and even my least favorite (the honey thyme) was tasty – it just messed with my mind a little too much. It makes me want to whip up a pan of chocolate bark and sprinkle the contents of my spice rack over it to see if I can find chocolate magic too. An OMG for the collection as a whole, with whiskey sage meriting that extra Z.

If you want to try them out for yourselves, remember that they’re offering free shipping until the end of the month!

Peeps – Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Cats

Yet another treat from my NCA Halloween goodie bag: Chocolate Mousse Marshmallow Cat Peeps! I write about Peeps a lot, but I’ve never actually formally reviewed them. I feel like they’re a candy that’s so ubiquitous that people already know all about them.

I decided to give these guys a review – if a short one. They not only look different from the standard chick/bunny peeps but also taste different as well.

Chocolate mousse is a good moniker for these. They look like it, taste of it, and even share a similar fluffiness.

They’re basically soft, fluffy, cocoa powder flavored marshmallows coated in fine granulated sugar. They have a sweet finish, but they’re Peeps; they’re supposed to be sweet!

Nothing extraordinary, but fun! Worth a try if you’re a Peeps or marshmallow fan, and definitely helpful for future Peeps dioramas. An O.

Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwich Dips

I got this bag of Snyder’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwich Dips in my Halloween grab bag from the NCA. I’m glad that I did, because they were delicious and because I would never have thought to buy them myself for the blog, as they’re only sort of candy.

They’re a peanut butter and pretzel sandwich coated in sweet Hershey’s milk chocolate. The chocolate is kind of greasy, and I’d prefer something of nicer quality, but it does its job okay.

It doesn’t look all that impressive though. Imagine how great it would be with a shiny, glossy coat!

The pretzel portion is great – just crackery and salty enough to stand up to the sweet milk chocolate coating and make you take notice, but not so salty as to make you thirsty.

There isn’t much peanut butter, but there’s just enough to add a roasty nuttiness that’s quite enjoyable. The pretzels are round waffles, and the peanut butter sort of seeps into the grids.

All in all, I think they’re an awesome mix of textures and flavors. They remind me of the Take 5, only with real chocolate (cocoa butter’s on the ingredients list; hooray! Along with PGPR, less hooray…). An OM.

Bat Dots

Bats!! I have an affinity for bats. They’re a special tourist attraction in my hometown of Austin, for starters. And last year, a bat once somehow made its way into my New Haven apartment on the last day of Thanksgiving break. My now boyfriend (then just a friend) made fun of me for completely freaking out about it giving me rabies.

Later that night, he got a call from home – his mother had found a dead bat in his bed, and he may or may not have been sleeping with it all Thanksgiving break. He ended up needing rabies shots, just in case. How’s that for karma?

Anywho, on to the candy! These Bat Dots are a Halloween special. They’re blood orange flavored (vampire bats!). I LOVE the little orange smiled, juice-dripping, winged Dot on the box.

Sadly, the actual candy isn’t nearly as adorable. But it is delicious! And it is as black as it looks on the box. I love the color. I can see parents totally taking advantage of this to not have to share with their kids by pretending that they’re licorice.

They’re soft and slightly sticky. Though they give instantly when bitten into, they have a nagging tendency to sometimes stick to the crannies of my teeth. But I should expect that; normal Dots do that too.

It’s sweet with a round citrus flavor. It’s wonderful, spot-on orange. There’s no citrus tang or tartness, but it’s still clear that it’s citrus. I found these super addictive and kept popping them. I wish these were available year-round, and I’ve got to buy these up before Halloween is over! The dilemma – to buy them now or hope they’re not sold out and go on sale after the holiday?

An OMG. You can check out Cybele and Sera‘s take on these and the rest of Dots’ Halloween line.

Free candy and more self-promotion

Two news posts for today (the recent rush of Halloween activity has outpaced my twice weekly news schedule; I’m currently backed up through November on candy news!):

1. Win 10 lbs of candy from the National Confectioners’ Association! I was lucky to be sent one of those goodie bags courtesy of the NCA. It’s perfect for a candy blogger: lots of variety and in mostly small, manageable quantities. I kept the new stuff to photograph and review and shared the less new stuff, making me verrry popular at work.

2. I’m quoted in an article about marshmallows (thanks to Carl from the NCA/Candy Dish Blog for the facebook heads up)! My (grammatically incorrect; grr) quote is about about GudFud Stuffed Marshmallows. Sadly, the author chose not to include my anecdote about how much monkeys like them – they get super surprised when they hit the stuffed center.

Before you think I’m a horrible person who randomly feeds zoo animals, remember that I’m a cognitive scientist, and one of my areas of research is primate behavior and cognition. And I was sure to get approval from our vets first!