5th Avenue

On Monday, I reviewed the Butterfinger. Today’s review is of the 5th Avenue, a highly similar but less well known peanut butter bar made by Hershey’s.

The 5th Avenue is “crunchy peanut butter in a rich, chocolatey coating”. If you’re new to the candy blogging world, you should know that “chocolatey” is candy marketing speak for “not made of real chocolate”. Yum… Still, it fared better than most mockolate bars did.

The peanut butter layers of the 5th Avenue were nice, crisp, and peanut buttery. As a bonus, they didn’t get lost in the nooks and crannies of my teeth like the Butterfinger’s did. And the chocolately coating was super sweet but actually wasn’t that bad, especially compared to that of the Butterfinger. At least the 5th Avenue’s coating had some cocoa flavors to it.

All and all, the 5th Avenue turned out to be a nice combination of salty and sweet, though I personally would’ve tempered the sweet just a bit. I give it an OM, though it may have the advantage of framing effects, as I tasted it alongside the Butterfinger.

And if you want a second opinion, here’s Cybele’s take on a head-to-head match-up of the two.

Limited Edition Reese’s Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups

Reese’s is awesome at churning out limited edition stuff. The newest iteration is their Limited Edition Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups, which I picked up as an impulse buy at the counter of my local Walgreen’s. Hooray marketing!

My friend Steve just asked what makes it crunchy. Just like peanut butter, the peanut butter cups are crunchified by the presence of peanuts. The peanut butter cup doesn’t look any different on the outside, but the peanut bits are visible in the pb cup cross section.

The peanut bits add a nice textural component to the cup and contributes a strong peanut scent, though I don’t have a regular pb cup to compare it to. Even without a regular pb cup handy, I can tell that the peanut butter filling in the crunchy cup is sweeter and less salty than its non-limited edition counterpart.

I think the crunchy is an improvement on peanut butter cups. The peanuts aren’t too intrusive and don’t get stuck in your teeth, and the peanut butter cup texture is more exciting. I do wish the nuts were roastier but still give this limited edition a solid OMG.

Starbucks Chai Truffle

Starbucks came out with its own line of chocolates (made by Hershey’s) to be sold in grocery stores a year or so ago. They’d actually been selling chocolates in their coffee shops for years – my first chocolate covered espresso bean was from Starbucks – so the chocolate line is less of a departure than you’d think. My mother somehow ended up with a coupon for either 2 free truffles or $1 off a bag of truffles. I stole her coupon and decided to try the chai truffles because I loved Theo’s 3400 Phinney Chai Tea Milk Chocolate bar.

The two truffles come in a neat little box. Sorry for the blurriness. The description reads, “creamy milk chocolate invitations to linger with sweetly spiced Tazo Chai black tea.”  Sounds lovely! And the truffles themselves are cute little cup shaped deals, in fine imitation of more high-end truffles that do the same thing. But how is the execution?

Meh. The chocolate and its filling was thick and creamy, but scentwise and flavorwise, it was all clove and nothing else. I know clove is an important component to chai spice, but it would have been nice to taste other things, like tea and cinnamon and chocolate. Theo did it better, with more nuance and less whomping you over the head with SPICE! Just an O.

Dagoba Superfruit and Mon Cheri

Dagoba was my introduction to upscale chocolate. It was a big part of my first chocolate tasting party, when I first really tasted chocolate, which is why I have reviewed as many Dagoba bars as I have. That and they’re sold at the campus convenience store, where I used to have $150 to spend there as part of my meal plan, back when I was on a meal plan. And they come in a ton of flavor varieties, so there are several types to review. Here are two more.

The Mon Cheri was a 72% dark chocolate with berries and vanilla. It was a smooth bar with a creamy melt, which is surprising for a 72%. I was also a little curious about the 72% part – if I remember correctly, most of Dagoba’s super dark bars are 74%. 72% would mean they have a second dark base?

The berries are tiny bits that stud the bar. Based on the color of the bits and the name of the bar, I’m going to guess that cherry was the predominant berry present. Chocolate and berry is a nice flavor combination, though the addition of fruit tends to overwhelm the natural notes of the chocolate. An OM.

The Super Fruit bar I disliked on principle. Just take a look at the wrapper, and see if you can guess why.

Any ideas? It’s a 74% dark bar with acai, goji berries, and currants. In other words, it jumps on every hype train! All it’s missing is pomegranate seeds and giant boasts about antioxidants splashed across its wrapper. For the record, I don’t buy into the “dark chocolate is better for you because it has more antioxidants” hype. You’d need to eat a ton of it to get any real effect, and eating a ton of any kind of chocolate is bad for you.

All the hype aside, this bar isn’t bad. It tastes a lot like the Mon Cheri – like dried fruit plus good quality chocolate. I thought I noticed a slight saltiness around the dried fruit bits, but it was so faint that I couldn’t be sure. Another OM.

Basically, Dagoba makes good, solid bars. I don’t give them Os because they’re so much better than your standard Hershey’s bars (even though Hershey’s owns Dagoba), but they also don’t stand out enough to warrant higher ratings. The way I see it, they’re great to taste your way through, but I’ve yet to find one that I’ve become attached to enough to buy a second time.

Hershey’s Cacao Reserve Single Origin Collection

I’ve previously written about Hershey’s Cacao Reserve line, their attempt to make better chocolate than their low quality, increasingly vegetable oil laced everyday fare. Their Single Origin Collection is a blatantly obvious but still smart attempt to jump on the single origin bandwagon. Like the word “Belgium,” the “single origin” moniker can lend cachet but doesn’t always deliver. Hershey’s, however, does a pretty nice job of making single origin chocolate accessible to the non-foodie snob.

The collection contains three chocolates of three origins and three cacao percentages. There’s Java, which is a 37% milk, Arriba, a 50% billed as dark milk, and Sao Tome, a 70% dark. They come individually wrapped with cute little locale pictures and different colors depending on the percentage. And they were perfectly sized for a two-bite tasting.

The Java is a creamy milk chocolate with strong caramel undertones. It wasn’t as thick on the tongue as I would’ve expected a 37% to be, which left me slightly disappointed. Arriba also carries a creamy melt with an undertone that I had some trouble placing. I finally decided that it tasted like butter.

Unsurprisingly (because I prefer dark to milk chocolate), the Sao Tome was my favorite of the bunch. It had a super sharp snap to it, with strong cocoa notes and a slight sour berry fruitiness. While the Sao Tome made a nice impression, the overall collection isn’t that exciting, so it only gets an O.

You can taste some of the cacao nuances, but other, more expensive bars do that better. Still, it’s a great way to ease yourself into chocolate tasting and an affordable way to host a little chocolate tasting party. For that, Hershey’s gets an A for effort.

Chocolate Mints Roundup

Chocolate and mint is a classically delicious combination. I bet the Girl Scouts owe their continued existence to the continued financial support of Thin Mint sales. I’ve already reviewed quite a few chocolate and mint candies on the site. Here are three more.

Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kisses

Yet another variety of Kiss from Hershey’s (excellent photos of the lineup here), this time a molded chocolate shell with a mint truffle filling. The mint filling was soft and only lightly minty. There’s not much of a mint finish, but it’s there. I’d prefer more mintiness, so an O.

Andes Mints

In my mind, Andes mints are the classic chocolate mint. As a kid, the shiny foil wrappers made them seem super fancy, and the mints within were such a treat. Now that I’ve revisited them as an older candy eater, I was surprised at how light the mintiness was. I guess it seemed stronger while I was a kid. They were duskier than the Mint Truffle Kisses and had a crisp snap. An O.

Zachary’s Thick Mints

I’d never heard of Zachary Thick Mints until I stole this one from my friend’s I-banking gift basket. The wrapper says it’s “real chocolate and cool, creamy peppermint.” It’s quite similar to a York Peppermint Patty, only smaller and thicker.

The mint paste inside was thick and only minty in the finish. I also found it rather salty. An O, as it’s too weak in mintiness for my sake.

Basically, all three of these chocolate/mint combinations were too tepid for my taste. Give me richer chocolate and more powerful mint flavors, and then we’ll talk.

More candy quickhits – another gifted edition

In continuing with Wednesday’s spirit of cleaning notes out of my candy tasting notebook, more quick reviews of candies that I didn’t have much to say about. These, like Wednesday’s, were all gifts, but they are not all international.

South African Nestle Chocolates from former suitemate, future roommate Catherine (who doesn’t like chocolate!), who got them from a YDN friend

Tex – milk chocolate coating around two wafers sandwiching an aerated chocolate middle. Meh chocolate quality, but coolness and novelty points. I’ll definitely seek this out if Concert Band tour is in South Africa next summer. OM.

Bar-one – nougat and chocolate. Reminds me of a Tootsie Roll‘s flavor. O.

Quality Street – the name confused me, because Quality Street is a whole line-up of assorted and individually wrapped chocolate miniatures in the UK. In this case, the treat labeled “chocolate nut toffee creme” had caramel and was vaguely hazelnutty. Another O.

Hershey’s Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Kisses from a YPMB scavenger hunt group, submitted as “Candy Rosa’s never tried before”

I think these kisses had melted a bit, then reformed, hence the kind of lumpy look on the wrapped one. I wonder if they have a lower melting point because truffling the filling means adding vegetable fat or something.

Like many of the overabundant Kiss varieties (seriously thorough round-up from Cybele here; awesome photographic round-up here) that Hershey’s rolled out recently, these are molded truffles rather than “kissed” out like traditional kisses. The hot cocoa kiss had a milk chocolate shell surrounding a soft truffle center with a cocoa powder finish. It was soft and sweet and so-so. An O for something that was awfully similar to the plain old truffle kisses.

Long Grove Confectionary Chocolates from Mrs. Cobb that didn’t make it to Chicago Week

Clockwise from the top: Kahlua, raspberry, vanilla buttercream, and dark chocolate.

Kahlua – nice whole coffee bean on top. A thick and creamy ganache with a slightly sweet finish. Not much chocolate or coffee flavor.

Raspberry – nicely sweet raspberry flavored filling without the bitter seeds

Vanilla buttercream – strong maple notes with a super sweet maple finish. Slight grain to the ganache.

Dark chocolate – doesn’t taste very chocolatey or very dark, but the ganache is lovely, as it’s thick and creamy and smooth.

A good assortment that’s better than most grocery-store bought boxed chocolates, but nothing that really sets it apart from other not mass-distributed chocolates. An O.

Hershey’s Bliss Coupon

Missed the chance to throw your own Hershey’s Bliss party? Their website has a $1 off coupon so buy it for yourself at a discount. I’ve never tried Bliss (and did not get selected to throw a Bliss house party) and am not planning on going out of my way to do so based on this tepid review from Candy Addict.

And don’t forget to enter my Junior Mint Giveaway (helped along by wholesale candy store Candy Xpress) by 9 PM EST on Friday!

Calhoun College Chocolate Tasting Notes, Round II

After the success of my first chocolate tasting (notes here), I held a second one with the extra bars. Unfortunately, by the time the second tasting rolled around, most of the bars had bloomed thanks to New Haven humidity and temperature fluctuations and a lack of air conditioning. The Vosges chocolate bars were the only ones that survived because their wrappers are airtight. We tasted them anyway, and all the flavors were there; it’s just that the textures were all wrong. Sadness. Here’s what we tasted, with my notes:

  • Green and Black’s milk, 34% – sweet, yogurty flavor; tastes like a Cadbury mini-egg. Thick texture.
  • Dagoba milk, 37% – slightly fruitier than the Green and Black’s with a dusky finish.
  • Vosges Macha (Japanese macha green tea in 41% deep milk) – woodsy dirt flavor, brittle texture. Tastes like green tea, as it should. I don’t like the taste of green tea, but if you do, this bar is true to its name.
  • Vosges Woolloomooloo (roasted and salted macadamia nuts, Indonesian coconut, hemp seeds in 41% deep chocolate) – I’ve reviewed the truffle version of this bar. Nicely nutty, smells of coconut.
  • Vosges Goji (Tibetan goji berries, pink Himalayan salt in 41% deep milk) – fruitiness to the bar; goji berries just taste like red berries. Saltiness works, I think.
  • Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar (applewood smoked bacon, alderwood smoked salt in 41% deep milk chocolate) – I bought another one of these bars because it’s such a great conversation piece for tastings.
  • Chocolove dark chocolate, 55% – nuttiness to the flavor, which starts off sweet and has a long finish. Vanilla notes? Thick texture.
  • Nirvana Single Origin Granada, 60% – fairly straightforward cocoa flavor with a strong roasted taste.
  • Scharffen Berger 62% semisweet – fruity notes, sweet finish

  • Vosges Calindia (Indian green cardamom, organic California walnuts, dried plums in 65% Venezualan dark chocolate) – strong spice flavor. Can taste the sweetness of the plums and feel where it adds texture.
  • Nirvana Single Origin Santa Domingo, 67% – strong earthiness, dirt flavor. Not at all well received (the wrapper promised herbal tones, which must have been the dirt flavor people complained about).
  • Green and Black’s Maya Gold (orange and spices) – on first taste, strong notes of pepper with a light orange finish. On second taste, orange flavor stronger. Many people said the bar tasted like marmalade.
  • Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet – super fruity with a cocoa finish
  • Dagoba Conacado, 73% – nutty
  • Dagoba New Moon, 74% – sweeter than the Conacado with a dark fruitiness
  • Dagoba Xocolatl, 74% with chilies and nibs – slight fruitiness to the chocolate. STRONG chili flavor that wallops your taste buds on first impact. Not the way I like my chili chocolate.
  • Endangered Species 88% Extreme Dark (panther) – vanilla scent with a nice smoky flavor.
  • Ghirardelli 100% baking chocolate – completely dries up the mouth. Worse than the 100% La Maison du Chocolat bar.

Joseph Schmidt truffles

Before your regularly scheduled candy review, a plug for my personal life. Tomorrow (Tuesday), I will be conducting the Yale Precision Marching Band LIVE! on ESPN’s First Talk. We’re scheduled to go on at 10 AM EST (note time change from original posting) for a quick performance of our fight song.  First Talk airs on ESPN2 and ESPNHD Live from 10AM-Noon, EST, and the day’s episode is then rerun from Noon-2PM EST. We’re also shooting a bit of a “This is Sportscenter” commercial that day, which should air sometime in the future. Hope you get the chance to tune in! And now back to candy.

I have been sitting on these tasting notes for ages. Like most of my notes I guess. I bought these four Joseph Schmidt truffles last winter when I was in California. Joseph Schmidt used to be an independent truffle maker; now they, along with Dagoba and Scharffen Berger, are owned by Hershey’s Artisan Confections subsidiary. I was able to buy these at the Scharffen Berger factory.

Joseph Schmidt truffles are of the molded variety, as their smooth, glossy, perfectly formed dome/cone shapes indicate. The outside shell of chocolate is thicker than I expected, with a great snap that shows that the chocolate is well-tempered. The creamy ganache inside is extremely smooth on the tongue and fairly flowy. They come in regular and mini sizes. The mini truffles are pretty standard-sized, while the regular ones are ginormous and are too big to be eaten lightly.

Pomegranate mini truffle (right)

The first hit of flavor was lightly sweet and fruity. It then suddenly takes on a very intense pomegranate sweetness that pretty much tastes generically like berries. Nicely flavored and gorgeous to look at. Way to jump on the pomegranate bandwagon! An OM.

Mexican chocolate mini truffle (left)

Upon biting into this chocolate and broaching the shell, I can smell the chili before I can get around to tasting it in the ganache. Once you get to the ganache, the chili adds a slight burn and tingle. It’s a nice amount of heat that makes itself present but isn’t painfully strong. I looooove well-done chili and chocolate. An OMG.

Vanilla cognac (left) and lemon meyer (right) truffles

Sooo… I didn’t eat these myself. They were just too big and daunting to take on, and I ended up giving them away.

These truffles would make an impressive gift, and they’re not too expensive for fancy well-made and well-flavored chocolates. I personally prefer truffles with thinner hard chocolate shells that are easier to eat, but I did enjoy the flavors of the ones I tasted. But they weren’t so delicious that I just had to taste the other two I ended up giving away. So, good for gift giving, meh for personal splurging.