Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels

These Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels were an expensive (I think ~$7?) impulse candy buy from my last Trader Joe’s run. They came in a round plywood tub with a lid, sort of like a hatbox.

The tub described them as “buttery, soft chewy caramels with imported French sea salt.” It had two sealed pouches of individually cellophane-wrapped caramels.

Be prepared for some serious teeth picking if you decide to chew these up. They’re incredibly sticky and impossible to eat in polite company.

When held on my tongue, they were buttery and smooth, though constant vigilance was still required to keep them from adhering to the backs of my teeth. When eaten this way, they left a greasy feeling on my lips.

They tasted lightly sweet and mostly of butter with a hint of butterscotch flavor. There was a slightly salty hit at the end that brought just the tiniest edge of sourness.

For me, they were too one-dimensional and way too sticky/chewy. The salt just wasn’t pronounced enough, and I wish the caramel was deeper and more complex.

They were a fine treat, but there are better caramels out there. An O. Cybele liked them more than I did, so your mileage may vary.


Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans

For me, Trader Joe’s is a mecca for impulse shopping. These Brandy Beans, or “brandy filled chocolates”,  were the result of my most recent pilgrimage.

The back of the box had the following wordy description: “From master confectioners in Germany, we bring you an aristocratic treat with a bourgeois bent. Here’s a candy that’s sure to delight both chocolate and brandy connoisseurs alike. Our Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans are a harmonious pairing of creamy bittersweet chocolate and the soothing warmth of brandy. Serve slightly chilled for maximum enjoyment.

While I was intrigued by the mix of brandy and chocolate, I somehow doubt that true brandy connoisseurs would be happy with the booze inside these beans. The booze is real, by the way; you have to be of age to buy it.

The long, slim rectangle of a box contained 24 bean-shaped chocolates. Each was about the size of the first two joints of my index finger.

The beans contained a lightly amber colored ooze of booze. I tried them at room temperature, so the smooth liquid was pretty flowy, only slightly more viscous than water.

The chocolate shell had a thick base and thin upper shell. It was slightly grainy when first bitten into, but its melt thickened if I held it on my tongue.

I thought it rather sweet for dark chocolate, but perhaps that was to counter the alcoholic’s slight bitterness. Beyond that, it was hard to get a feel for its flavor profile through the brandy.

That brandy packed a solid hit of alcoholic flavor and feel, but it lacked the throat searing burn of true brandy. Definitely the easiest I’ve ever had brandy go down.

This was a solid cut above the generic bottle-shaped chocolates filled with liquor that have been my previous experience with booze and chocolate, mostly due to the palatable quality of the chocolate and brandy.

While neither would be exceptional in its own category, they stand out from the pack in combination. That being said, I think I prefer my chocolate and brandy in isolation (or sidecars, for the latter). I enjoyed this for the novelty factor, but I wouldn’t buy them again. An O.


Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels

Cybele reviewed Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Tahitian Vanilla Caramels about a year ago, which first put them on my radar. The little bag nearly escaped my notice in the store. It was near the checkout counters in impulse buy territory.

The caramels were beautiful round balls with a captivatingly glossy sheen. That outer coating quickly melted away when I held the caramel in my mouth, but I much preferred to bite into them.

When I bit into it, the outer shell yielded easily with a soft crunch as it splintered, then melted smoothly. The inner caramel was initially soft and then quickly became chewy.

The caramel and chocolate were amazing. The chocolate had a great cocoa depth with a lovely, dusky finish, and the caramel had a smooth butteriness with some light rum notes and a butterscotch finish.

The combination of the two was absolutely stellar, a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts. The sticky caramel mixed well with the smooth chocolate, and the dusky cocoa flavors played off the buttery caramel.

I loved the complexity of this treat – far better than Milk Duds – and can’t wait to pick up another bag. An OMG.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Edamame

I’ve seen Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Edamame on their shelves for a while but had never been brave enough to give them a try. Chocolate and edamame just didn’t sound like a good combination to me.

I finally picked up a tub over the weekend. Something about the bright green tub that made it hard to resist, I guess.

The chocolate was thin and sharply snappy on its own. It had a nice cocoa depth to it, with a dusky finish. I think it’s the same dark chocolate that goes into their other chocolate-covered things in tubs.

The edamame was lightly salted. It still had its thin, papery shell, which I thought should have been removed. After all, they don’t leave the peanut skin on their chocolate covered peanuts.

The bright green bean crumbled when I bit into it and ended in a rather unpleasant grittiness. When chewed with the chocolate, the grittiness was somewhat masked by the chocolate’s texture.

I appreciated the mix of salty and sweet here, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture. They get an O. I’ll be letting my boyfriend finish the tub, as he loved them.

Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Popcorn

Over the weekend, I went to Trader Joe’s to stock up on pumpkin butter. While there, I couldn’t help nabbing some of their store brand candies. This week will be a week of Trader Joe’s reviews, starting with their Milk Chocolate Covered Toffee Popcorn.

The fat nuggets of popcorn looked so tantalizing, tumbling out of the bag with their slight sheen. Their outer coating was a thin layer of milk chocolate. Beneath that was a thin layer of toffee glaze, and then the fattest, fluffiest popcorn I’ve ever seen.

I wonder if Trader Joe’s is starting with some seriously genetically modified corn or something. Every piece was nearly all lovely puffy popped part and barely any noticeable gets-stuck-in-your-teeth kernel part.

The milk chocolate was malty and sugary sweet. The toffee added a bit of crunch and a light buttery scorchiness, and the popcorn fluffiness capped it all off as a light, neutral foil.

This treat was a great synthesis of flavors and textures. Chocolate-covered popcorn style treats tend to be pricy (looking at you, Moose Munch), but this was only $2.99 for the 8 oz bag. Sold!

My only complaint is that it got a tad too sweet in the finish after a few pieces in a row so it gets a slight downgrade for that. An OM.

Trader Joe’s Black Cocoa Almonds

I’ve never been shy about proclaiming my love for Trader Joe’s nor lamenting Rochester’s lack of one. These Trader Joe’s Black Cocoa Almonds only underscore those points.

They’re described as “fresh California almonds dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in black cocoa.” They’re beautifully dark and smooth and matte, like velvet pebbles.

They’re covered in a Dutched cocoa powder that’s so dark that it’s nearly black (hence the name). It’s also flavorless on its own.

The dark chocolate coating is nicely mellow – sweet with notes of raisin and a cool finish that really lets the nut come through. The melt is thick and smooth with a muted cocoa essence.

The nut inside was nice and crunchy. I would’ve preferred it with a tad more roastiness, but all in all, it served as a great foil of texture and flavor for the chocolate coating.

They reminded me of Charles Chocolates Triple Chocolate Almonds but far cheaper (though not as nicely packaged). Trader Joe’s version was also crazy addictive. A ZOMG!

Update: These were discontinued right around when my review posted. I’m attempting to rally people to ask Trader Joe’s to bring them back, since so many of y’all seem to miss them as I do. Take ten seconds and drop them a quick line!

Trader Joe’s Citrus Gum Drops

Every time I visit my boyfriend’s Boston home, I make ask him to take me to Trader Joe’s, as they always have an assortment of neat packaged foods. The last time I went, I picked up a bunch of new candy loot, and their Citrus Gum Drops are first up to be reviewed.

The gum drops came in a cheerful nature-themed bag that invoked eco-friendly associations. I don’t think the candies are as such, as the first ingredient is corn syrup, but I still appreciated the aesthetic.

I love citrus fruits and citrus-flavored candies, so I had high expectations for these gum drops. They come in tangerine, pink grapefruit, lemon, and key lime.

Each gum drop was about the size of the first joint of my pinky finger. They were all covered in sweet granulated sugar and had sticky-soft chews. That is, they yielded immediately upon being bitten into but still stuck to my teeth, just a tad.

Tangerine was expectedly orange colored. Its actual orange flavor, however, was unexpectedly dark. It tasted deeply of orange oil and lacked the bright citrus flavor that most orange gummi candies have.

Pink grapefruit was a purplish-pink. It tasted sweet at first bite before the grapefruit acid flavor came out. It’s not the best grapefruit gummi I’ve had, but it was a solid effort.

Lemon was yellow and sweet with no tartness. It tasted of lemon zest and had a light edge of bitter pith, which brought a wonderful complexity.

Finally, the white key lime was my favorite (to eat, at least. Its lack of color threw off the color balance of the photo!). But it perfectly encapsulated the flavor of fresh limes. It tasted extremely zesty and limey and had a bitter undertone that set off the whole thing quite nicely.

Trader Joe’s Citrus Gum Drops are a great flavor mix and a cut above “normal” gum drops. Better yet, the price point is awesome – $1.99 for an 8 oz bag. An OM.

Trader Joe’s The Art of Chocolate truffles

I have awesome timing – I just recycled my empty box of Trader Joe’s “The Art of Chocolate” truffles last weekend, and I’m noticing now, as I write this review, that I forgot to photograph the box. Oops. Photos of the box can be found on other sites here and here.

At least I nabbed photos of all the truffles! They come 9 to a box, and though they’re small, the whole box is just $1.99.

Three of the nine were filled with “praline, nougat”. One was covered in all milk (above); the other two had shells that were part milk and part white. The praline was slightly dry and gritty and tasted of sweet chocolate with a light undertone of nuttiness. It worked well with the milk chocolate, which had a nice cocoa finish, but it was too sweet when paired with the white.

Another two had a mocha praline truffle filling. One was coated in dark chocolate while the other had a dark chocolate base and a white chocolate top (above). The mocha praline had a pleasantly bitter coffee undertone that was lovely with the dark chocolate but again, too sweet with the white.

A milk chocolate covered cream and vanilla truffle (above; looks far lighter in this shot) had a thick milk chocolate shell with an overly sweet vanilla cream filling. The cloying sweetness made my throat itch.

Crisp hazelnutpaste (sic) had my favorite molding, a pretty little triangle of a hazelnut, complete with veiny leaves. Its filling had a light, fine grit of ground up hazelnuts that I could hear against my teeth more than I could actually feel on my tongue. It was thick and nutty. It was also super sweet, but I could handle the sweetness here because it was tempered by the nuttiness.

Cream and pistachio was an interesting and unexpected flavor combination for such a generic box. The dark chocolate shell was nice, and its filling was a dry white ganache flecked with light green. Despite the pistachio colors, I didn’t get any pistachio nut flavors. It did at least have a nice dusky caramel finish.

And finally, the crisp chocolate truffle cream was a pyramid of deliciousness – a caramel colored upper layer topping a crisp chocolate truffle bottom that tasted like milk chocolate buttery toffee notes.

The Art of Chocolate was all about permutations: three types of chocolate (milk, dark, and white) and six different fillings, mixed and matched. Sounds like a candy math problem for Carl at Candy Dish Blog!

While not all of the combinations were stellar, this little box was a fantastic deal at just $1.99 (nice truffles can cost that much for just a single one!). The truffles are one bite indulgences that, at 3 truffles per 100 calories, are reasonable for the wallet and the waistline.

They get an OM, not because they were especially tasty in general but because they were especially tasty at the price point of 33 cents each. I’d buy them again to satisfy a sweet tooth craving or for just-because gifts.

Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows

These Espresso Pillows are yet another purchase from Trader Joe’s arsenal of candy, this time from the candy display near the checkout counter. I nearly missed them, despite their classy looking tins, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Trader Joe's Espresso Pillows

They’re billed as “crunchy toffeed espresso bits covered in dark chocolate”. I’m not sure where the pillow part fits in, exactly, as they’re neither pillow soft nor pillow shaped. Each “pillow” is somewhere between the size of a Tic Tac and a jelly bean.

So how are Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows?

The dark chocolate is sweet, though unremarkable. It does its job just fine, though, paring well with the toffee centers.

Espresso Pillows - Trader Joes

The espresso toffee has a great texture. It cleaves with a clean crunch, which gives way to a bitter coffee edge on buttery toffee sweetness.

These things are AWESOME to crunch on. They have the flavor profile of chocolate-covered espresso beans, but they lack the grit of actual beans. They’re addictively tasty, warranting a ZOMG! and a stop to pick up more next time I’m near a Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's Espresso Pillows

If you want a second opinion, check out Cybele’s Candy Blog take.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels

Since we don’t have Trader Joe’s in Rochester, I like to make it a point to shop there and check out their candy selection when I visit my boyfriend in Boston. I picked up a few things over Thanksgiving, including this box of their Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels.

They’re promoted as “buttery smooth caramels drenched in Belgian chocolate, then sprinkled with crunchy rock salt from the Dead Sea”. Each box contains 12 square chocolate-covered caramels, all generously sprinkled with sea salt (some more generously with others).

The dark chocolate shell is thick and snappy and is juxtaposed against a gooey, liquid caramel that has a barely noticeable grain.

The caramel is too sweet for my tastes, for me akin to eating brown sugar. Its strong flavors overwhelm much of the cocoa flavors of the chocolate shell, but the chocolate does have some fruitiness, before turning dusky at the end.

For me, the chocolate and caramel are too sweet. Normally, a sprinkle of salt can offset such sweetness, but I think these guys were overly salted and lent a sourness to the sweet. Each salt crystal was quite large, so it packed quite a wallop.

These aren’t something I’d buy for myself again, but when I shared the caramels with friends, the remainder of the box got quickly gobbled up. An O from me, with the caveat that my friends gave them rave reviews.

If you want another opinion, here’s Cybele of Candy Blog’s take on an earlier version with different packaging.