Choceur Milk Chocolate Almond Clusters

I found these Choceur Milk Chocolate Almond Clusters at Aldi. I almost didn’t buy them because they didn’t sound that exciting. That is, until I took a closer look and saw the fine print: “almond and gingerbread pieces with milk chocolate.”

Now that sounds exciting! Oh yeah; they’re also supposed to be “deliciously crunchy.”

I love baking with ginger – gingerbread, ginger snaps, ginger in pumpkin desserts, etc. – so the inclusion of gingerbread pieces in this really attracted me.

Each piece was a bumpy, thumb-sized log. They have a crumbly cookie center, sweet milk chocolate coating, and lots of tiny chopped almond bumpies.

It smelled and tasted strongly of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get too much ginger flavor. The milk chocolate coating was pretty sweet – too sweet, in fact – and it may have covered up some of the more subtle spices.

The gingerbread added a nice, crumbly cookie crunch to it, and there was a bit of nuttiness from the added almonds. I love the textural contrast between the cookie bits that disintegrated in my mouth and the tiny chopped almond pieces that needed a bit of chomping.

I adore the idea of the spices with the cookie crunch and the chocolate coating, but the execution was just waaaay too sweet. Even though the pieces were pretty small, the cloying sweetness made it difficult to finish even one.

It should be telling that I put these out at work a week ago, and they’re still there. An . Maybe a dark version could be better?

Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s

I had been looking for Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s for ages, since they first starting popping up in the candy blogosphere.

They were released as a limited edition promotional tie-in for the Transformers sequel, and I finally found them a week or so ago in a local discount grocery store. Only in a giant bag, but oh well. Now I have roommates who eat chocolate to share with!

Strawberry, peanut butter, and chocolate are an unusual flavor combination to find in candy, though it makes perfect sense. Peanut butter and chocolate are great together, and strawberry jam and peanut butter are a classic, so why not combine the three components?

The M&M’s are colored to look like those three elements: brown, red, and orange with light red specks. I’m not sure if that was the intention – maybe they were going for fall colors? – but I appreciate the color scheme.

Like regular peanut butter M&M’s, they’re irregularly sized and lopsided. Also like peanut butter M&M’s, they’re a peanut butter spheroid (oblate, to be precise) surrounded by chocolate, which is covered by a sugar shell.

These guys smell like artificial berry with an undertone of chocolate. No peanut butter scent comes through. When bitten into, there’s the usual M&M’s crunch, then a burst of sweet strawberry fruitiness that finishes with a cloyingly artificial tinge.

Beneath it all, there’s the underlying flavor of creamy peanut butter. It’s reminiscent of cheap jarred peanut butter, as it’s not that roasty or nutty.

The flavor combination really works well, but it’s a tad too sweet for me, mostly due to the artificial fruit finish. I mostly enjoy them when I eat them, but I can’t handle more than a few at a time (built in portion control – maybe not necessarily a bad thing?). I can’t decide if I’d buy another bag of these or not. Normally, I’d say no, but they are a limited edition…

They get an O from me. My roommates seemed to like them more, as the bag didn’t last long in the living room.

Blog Action Day – Climate Change

Today is the third annual Blog Action Day, when blogs around the world write about the same subject to generate awareness. I’ve participated in the past (on the topics of poverty and the environment). This year, the topic is climate change – not the easiest to tie in with candy.

I did manage to find a few things, though!

  • First, the most timely – check out Green Halloween on tips for greening (i.e. making more environmentally friendly) your Halloween festivities
  • Climate Change Cocoa – cocoa is being used as a centerpiece for climate change advocacy. In England, churches are being asked to serve dry cocoa after service. The cocoa recipe calls for adding water, something that’s currently not a high priority in climate change talks. The goal of the program – tagline “Just Add Water” is to spur parishioners to send cards to their members of Parliament asking them to remember water issues when they head to the next big climate change summit in Copenhagen.
  • Climate Change Chocolate Bars – you can buy Climate Change Chocolate Bars (available at Whole Foods) that each come with/represent a 133 pound carbon offset from TerraPass
  • Climate change could screw up cocoa bean production, according to this paper: pdf, html
  • Finally, a link my Taza Chocolate Factory tour – they’re a bean-to-bar chocolate maker that goes the extra mile (via bicycle) to treat the environment well

So there’s some food for thought. If you’d like more to think about, you can click on the above badge to see what other blogs have to say.


The U-NO was another chocolate bar in my free sample box from Munchies Sweets and Treats. I had been excited about tasting it because I’d never had one before, and I had no idea what would be inside. The shiny silver wrapper touted “rich creamy chocolate,” but it didn’t have the heft of a solid chocolate bar. What could be inside?

I wish I had let that remain a mystery. For starters, my bar looked like an unappetizing wreck when I opened it. Instead of a shiny, glossy, chocolate-covered something, it was cracked and flaking, and much of it stuck to the inside of the wrapper.

I don’t think that was Munchies’ fault; Annabelle’s, which made this, also makes the Rocky Road, which is known to suffer from lack of adequate packaging.

I snuck a piece of this while I was photographing it. I remember it being AWFUL. Greasy and strangely overly fruity.  I had to really psych myself up just to take another nibble for the purposes of this review – I made sure it was miniscule – and yup, still greasy and strangely fruity. Somewhere in there is a nice malty chocolate note, but the U-No is beyond redemption.

It does have a fascinating texture. It’s like someone stuck chocolate in a food processor, added a ton of hydrogenated vegetable oils, pulsed it into a super-fine-grained paste, and formed it into a log. You can almost feel the little fat globules suspended in the bar.

One tiny 1.5 oz bar has 11 grams of saturated fat. To put that in perspective, that’s 57% of the recommended daily allowance for someone on a 2000 calorie diet. The remainder of the bar went straight in the trash, still in the Ziploc bag that I had been keeping it in since I’d first unwrapped it for photographing. I think that’s the candy equivalent of chucking a full Tupperware container because whatever’s gone bad inside is so horrible that you can’t bring yourself to open it and wash it out.

It’s too worthy to inflict on another human being. Pardon the obvious pun, but the U-No is a huge no-no – if anyone ever offers you one, you should scream “No! No!” and run away. Even thinking about eating it makes me nauseated.

Old Faithful

This Old Faithful bar was in the free box of candy samples sent from Munchies Sweets and Treats (full disclosure: they’re currently running a paid text link ad in my sidebar). I had been intrigued when I saw it while browsing through their online store. It had the look of a retro candy bar that’s been around for ages, yet I’d somehow never heard of it.

I was quite surprised to find that it was made by the same company that makes the Idaho Spud, as I enjoyed the Old Faithful enough to finish it all in one go, and the Idaho Spud I had to throw away because I found to be too nasty to finish.

The wrapper claimed an “original creme center”, which made me expect something, well, creamy, in the center. Instead, the bar turned out to be a pad of white nougat (the creme center) topped with a thick layer of peanut studded chocolate.

As you can sort of tell from my cross-section photo, the top layer of chocolate was surprisingly thick, about a centimeter. It was quite snappy, an indication of good tempering and not too low a cacao content. I actually rather enjoyed the chocolate – it didn’t have any tasting notes that stood up against the nuts and nougat, but it was solid quality, not too sweet, and totally palatable.

The nougat had a stiff chew and a plain sweetness to it. It added more in terms of texture than taste. I appreciated the bar’s generous use of whole peanuts, but I did wish that their nuttiness had been more pronounced. Roasting would have been appreciated!

All in all, a surprising solid product with a nice mix of tastes and textures that’s elevated by its use of decent (and real!) chocolate. It’s like a Snickers, but with less caramel and lots more chocolate. I appreciated it enough to eat it all in one go, and if I bought candy on impulse for snacking (I rarely do since I have soooo much of it stashed away for reviews that I may never write), I’d choose this over other checkout aisle offers. An OM.

You can read Cybele’s take on this bar here. I had no trouble with the peanuts in my bar, and I wonder if they’ve reformulated it since then, as my bar looks much more chocolate heavy than hers did.

Vere Raspberry + Lemon

Here’s the second of my two Vere bars (remember, they were buy one get one free), Vere Raspberry + Lemon.

Like its Mint + Nibs counterpart, the Raspberry + Lemon is an organic, single origin bar. It takes the cacao content up a notch, to 75%, and I found that difference hugely apparent. The snap of this bar is super hard – it almost hurt my teeth. It was so snappy as to be unpleasant to bite into.

The scent was dark and chalky with just a hint of citrus sourness. Upon tasting, if you survived biting into it, you’d find a dry melt and a bar that tasted of powdered dark cocoa with a lightly sweet and tart fruity finish. I could taste the raspberry and lemon, though I’m not sure that I would’ve been able to identify the specific fruits in a blind tasting.

While the Mint + Nibs bar was studded with bits of cacao nibs, the Raspberry + Lemon bar was full of raspberry seeds. That I greatly appreciated, which is surprising, considering my profound distaste for seedy raspberry candies. It may have been my imagination, but I felt as though I got a bonus burst of sweet raspberry flavor from grinding up those seeds.

All in all, the fruit flavor was decent, but the chocolate was lacking. And the bar was way too hard to eat. This bar would greatly benefit from a reformulation to make it softer. An O.

Rock Candy Crystals

Before we begin, I must warn you – today’s post is sort of a cop-out. Ya see, a box of free samples arrived from Munchies Sweets and Treats right in the midst of a gloomy patch of Rochester weather. I rely on direct sunlight to take my photos, so lack of sunlight means lack of new photos (if anyone wants to buy me a special lamp so that I can take nicely lit photos indoors – my birthday was two weeks ago, and you forgot it! – I certainly won’t stop you!).

Saturday was actually pretty sunny, but I’d brought the most interesting of the Munchies shipment to work (I get better access to direct sunlight there, especially since I’m at work during the bulk of the sunlit part of the day), leaving me with some less interesting stuff to shoot at home. Like these Rock Candy Crystals.

As the box says, they’re pure cane sugar. Thus, not that interesting to review. But I didn’t want to leave Munchies Sweets and Treats hanging for too long, so they get this half-review to make up for having to wait extra weeks for real reviews (they also sent some Zero, U-No, and Zagnut bars, none of which I’ve had before and all of which I’m itching to review).

The Rock Candy Crystals are just plain, crystallized cane sugar, like rock candy without any added color or flavor. They taste like, you guessed it, plain sugar. The pretty pebble-sized crystals have a light, cleanly-cleaving crunch and… well, that’s about all I can think of to say about these.

I’m not sure why these warrant being made as a candy, as you could get the same effect by eating straight white sugar or sugar cubes. My parents buy a larger-chunked version of these for cooking with (they go well in slow braising, as they slowly melt throughout the cooking period). But as a packaged candy?

I’m not sure what the target audience is – I can’t imagine any parent being willing to literally feed their kids straight sugar – or why these even exist as a candy. Maybe back in the Little House on the Prairie days, these were a special treat, but today, they just have the dubious distinction of being even more boring than rock candy. They get a baffled from me.

Free Shipping on Hedonist Chocolates

Back in April, I wrote a rave review about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates in Rochester. If I did my job right, it made you want to try them out. Well, here’s something that may help – until the end of the month, the coupon code FRSAU09 will getcha free shipping on online orders over $30.

Their stuff is on the pricey side, yes, but I think it’s pretty worth it. I’ve been back a couple of times (the last truffle I tried was a dark chocolate shell with flavorless pop rocks – simple yet amazing) and always have to restrain myself from buying everything in the shop. They rotate their flavors, which often sound novel and interesting, so I want to try them all.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve been back but haven’t posted new reviews – now that I know how tasty the truffles are, I’m no longer able to resist temptation long enough to get them home and photographed. Instead, I usually demolish/savor the truffles on site in the shop. Oops.

Finally, I want to make sure y’all know that Hedonist isn’t paying me in money or chocolate for my endorsement (though they do have free tastings events; sadly, I’ll be out of town visiting my boyfriend and shall have to miss the next chocolate premiere/free tasting. I don’t think my boyfriend appreciated how long it took me to decide that yes, I would rather see him than go to a free chocolate premier party). I just think they’re a great local small business and deserve what little publicity boost I can give them.