Hammond’s Piggy Backs – Dark Chocolate Almond & Caramel and Milk Chocolate Pecan & Caramel

A little while ago, I was delighted when Hammond’s Candies offered to send me some free samples from their catalog. I was even more delighted to get some caramels and these Piggy Backs in the mail a week or so later.

The Piggy Backs were like giant, generously-sized turtles weighing in at 2.2 oz. Each was about half an inch thick and nearly the size of my palm. They were individually wrapped and sat in fluted paper cups.

My dark chocolate version was almond and caramel, while the milk chocolate version was pecan and caramel, but the dark also comes in pecan and the milk comes in almond.

The dark chocolate almond and caramel Piggy Back was lovely! The almonds brought a great roasted nuttiness that was strong enough to stand up to the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate. They added a great textural crunch and just a slight tinge of bitterness to balance all the sugar.

The generous layer of caramel was sticky and chewy and sweet, while the dark chocolate was on the sweet side for dark chocolate, with a smooth melt and a fruity, dusky finish. An OMG for an awesome mix of flavors and textures.

The milk chocolate pecan and caramel Piggy Back was more mild all around. Pecans are a more mild nut, and here they brought a softer crunch and a fattier nutty feel.

The lighter nut let the sweetness of the caramel come through more, and the milk chocolate had a nice caramel sweetness to it as well. I really liked this, but I liked the dark chocolate almond more, so an OM.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark – Cabernet Matinee

I found this Cabernet Matinee bar from Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark line at Cost Plus World Market. It was described as, “dark chocolate infused with a hint of natural blackberry and cabernet flavor”, which sounded awesome. I thought it would be wine-flavored chocolate, though it turns out cabernet could just refer to the grape.

Unfortunately, the execution did not live up to my expectations. For starters, the “natural blackberry” scent was overwhelming sweet and fruity as soon as I unwrapped the bar. It was akin to being attacked by a Bath & Bodyworks saleslady.

The chocolate had a nicely thick, tongue-coating melt that lingered in the finish with a light, boozy bitterness. I suppose that I was the cabernet component.

The rest of the bar’s flavor profile, however, was more attack of the awfully artificial berry sweetness. If I wanted potpourri flavored chocolate, well, I’d just eat potpourri.

My high hopes for this bar were dashed. A . [editied 11/19/2012 per the comments to clarify: this bars gets a, which is not a letter grade. It is a poopy grade]

Hammond’s Crackle Crunch

This Hammond’s Crackle Crunch bar was a gift from a friend, along with their PB&J Sandwich bar. It was described as “milk chocolate with raspberry popping candy”.

This bar was segmented into 2 rows of little striped domed rectangles. It broke easily along the segments, and the chocolate had a nice snap when I bit into the domes.

The solid milk chocolate bar was studded with little bits of deep purple-pink popping candy. As the milk chocolate melted smoothly but not thickly, the popping candy bubbled and popped against my tongue.

The popping made for a fun sensation, like a jumping bean party in my mouth. Every once in a while, a pop would hit the back of my throat, which definitely woke me up.

The first time I tasted the bar, I thought the raspberry flavor was overwhelmingly, dominatingly artificial and off-putting. Revisting the bar a couple of days later, however, found a more muted berry sweetness that was much more tolerable and let the chocolate’s caramel cocoa flavors come through.

I’m not sure if I just picked an unusually strongly flavored segment on first taste, or if letting it sit opened (but in a Ziploc bag) for a couple of days let the artificial dissipate, but it was much improved/palatable the second time.

Funny that the wrapper promotes the bar as a “classic confection” – carbonated candy in milk chocolate doesn’t strike me as super classic, but I’m not a candy historian. An O.

Jer’s Gourmet Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars – Cara Mella

I found these Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars on my last trip to Cost Plus World Market (thanks for the birthday coupon!). I nearly missed them – they were shelved a ways away from most of the store’s other candies – and I’m glad that I saw them and picked up a box.

I chose the Cara Mella flavor because it was the most tempting: “All natural Valencia peanut butter center and creamy caramel covered in dark chocolate.” Yes please!

The box contained two decent-sized, individually wrapped bars. Mine got a little squashed – a few dribbles of caramel peeked through the cracked dark chocolate shell. That dark chocolate had a wonderfully dusky and deep cocoa flavor with a lightly sweet finish.

The peanut butter center was topped with a layer of caramel, and the two combined in a salty-sweet dream. The caramel was sweet with a slight burnt sugar tinge and a salty hit to the finish. It was sticky and chewy and got stuck in my teeth a little.

The peanut butter center had bits of rice crisps that added a great crunch. That, along with some tiny bits of peanuts, provided a nice textural contrast to the chewy caramel and melting chocolate.

Finally, the peanut butter flavor itself was great. Its roasted nuttiness was strong enough to stand up to the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel.

I had blanched a bit at the $2.99 price tag, but I shouldn’t have, as it works out to $1.50 for each 1.5 oz bar. A little pricier than Snickers bars, sure, but definitely a good buy for the quality that you get. An OMG for an addictive mix of textures of flavors.

Farts – Sour and Fruiti

These candy Farts made a big splash at the Expo, with tons of people milling around the Leaf booth saying things like, “Hey, can I get some Farts?” and “Oh I’d love to try the green Farts.”

Let’s face it: it’s fun to talk about Farts. Of course I had to ask for some free samples.

The Sour Farts were coated with a stridently tart outer layer that made me wince (in a good way!). That sourness took on moisture quickly, making the Sour Farts clump together a bit after I left the package open through some humid days.

The Sour Farts were basically little bits of multicolored rock sugar candy, like Nerds but with an easy, almost soft crunch that was easier on the teeth. As you can see from the photos, they were far from uniformly sized.

Each color corresponded to a different flavor, but those flavors dissipated quickly. Plus the candies were so tiny that it was hard to isolate specific colors. The overall effect was that of sourness followed by sweetness.

The Fruiti Farts of my sample were all one uniform army/watermelon green color. They lacked any sour coating, and their matte shells were enough to protect them from the humidity effects that the Sour Farts felt.

These, too, were basically just little bits of rock candy coated in a sugar shell (again, like Nerds but softer). There was a flash of red underneath that green, so I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be watermelon flavored.

To me, they just tasted generically of artificial red candy flavor and lots of sugary sweetness with a little flash of brightness. I think if I had some other flavors of Fruiti farts for contrast, I could’ve detected some subtle differences, but really, these Farts are less about the flavor integrity and more about a tasty, sweet treat with a silly name.

I liked these better than Nerds because their softer texture was more pleasant to chew on. I never buy Nerds (though I’ll make an exception for a post-holiday Nerds Rope that’s on sale), but I’ll eat the occasional fun-sized Nerds box out of a Kiddie Mix.

I feel similarly about these Farts, but they have the added bonus of a nicer chomp and a funnier name. I think I know some little boys and girls who’ll love these and find them hilarious. An O.

Benita’s Peanut Brittle

Benita’s Peanut Brittle (warning: website annoyingly plays music upon opening) had their big debut at Sweets and Snacks this year, where they snagged a primo spot in Innovation Alley. My box was a free sample from the Expo.

Benita’s is still a small company, so their brittle was all handmade. The packaging was wonderfully thoughtful. The gold, beribboned box contained a plastic bag of brittle and a golden twist tie for resealing the bag once you opened it.

It was a softer brittle than others – some bits of it shattered as normal brittle does, but most of it was chewy. The mix of cracking and chewy brittle plus peanuts made for an interesting texture.

The flavors were great as well. The brittle portion tasted of gold caramel and butterscotch with a great, buttery sweetness to the finish, while the peanuts were flavorful and roasty.

Between the chewiness and the peanuts + caramel flavors, it reminded me of a Snickers bar without the chocolate. I thought it was great and especially liked the buttery complexity of the treat. An OM.