See’s Assorted Chocolates Week – Day 3

Today marks the conclusion of Rosa eats her way through an entire box of See’s on her own because it’s delicious and free. I began my journey on Monday, continued on Wednesday, and today, the finish line is in sight.

I’m not sure what makes the California brittle Californian. It’s a hard toffee with almonds that’s covered in milk chocolate. Unlike some toffees, this brittle doesn’t really cleave. It kind of just breaks. I could almost feel the tiny air bubbles dissolving on my tongue as I chewed it. The salty almonds go well with the brittle, which was pretty throat-burningly sweet. An O, but a positive one that I can see others enjoying.

The Mayfair was probably the easiest to identify, at least once I bit into it, because it was shockingly pink. This is described as buttercream with cherries and English walnuts. I don’t care for buttercream chocolates in general because I find them too sweet, and this guy is both too sweet and unappetizingly bursting with artificial cherry flavor. An O.

Two of my favorite See’s chocolates were the most simple, the above milk peanuts and the dark almonds (photo here). Good quality roasted nuts plus good quality See’s chocolate makes for yum. Both were great combinations of salty/sweet and melty/creamy/crunchy with toasted nut overtones. I could eat these all day. OMGs for both.

The cocoanut (sic) was milk chocolate around a coconut buttercream. I actively dislike most coconut candies, so to say that I found this tasty is a significant compliment. It had a nice coconut flavor without too much of the shreddy textural issues I have with sugared, dried, and shredded coconut. It helped that the milk chocolate mostly overpowered much of the coconut flavor. An OM.

Last up in our pictorial component is the milk pattie, vanilla caramel in milk chocolate. The caramel is soft with a moderate level of chewiness and stickiness. It doesn’t have much flavor that stands up to the milk chocolate, but I did enjoy its dusky finish. I’d love to try the dark version, which may let the caramel assert itself more. An OM.

Finally, I’d like to note two See’s chocolates that I do not have photos for. First, the molasses chips that were in my box got damaged during shipping and ended up in bits and pieces all over the box. I greatly enjoyed picking those pieces out and devouring them. Molasses chips are one of my favorite See’s products. They’re a thin brittle sweetened with honey and molasses and covered in chocolate, and they are divine. They come in dark and milk, and while I prefer the dark, I still love the milk. A ZOMG! for either iteration. You can see them in the below photo of a box I bought myself over a year ago. They’re the four thin rectangles on the left. You can also buy them by themselves, in a mixed assorted box or in milk and dark boxes.

The other See’s chocolate that I do not have a photo of is their Scotchmallow. The Scotchmallow is  absolutely, hands-down my favorite See’s product, and I have no photo of it because I am saving mine for a special occasion. An ex-boyfriend of mine loves them (in fact, he’s the one who introduced me to them), and I knew he really liked me when he was willing to share his beloved Scotchmallows with me. See how seriously I take my Scotchmallows? They’re even at the top of my all time favorite candies list.

They also come in bar form, as in the photo above, in heart form for Valentine’s Day and in egg form for Easter, but the round chocolate form in their assorted chocolates selection is really the best, I think, as it gets the proportions just right: thick squishy honey marshmallow over a wonderfully butterscotchy caramel, all enrobed in dark chocolate… If you couldn’t see it coming, it gets a ZOMG! like whoa.

So after all this See’s reviewing, what would go in my ideal custom box? At least two sets of dark molasses chips, a set of milk molasses chips, a dark cocoanut, a dark pattie (which I didn’t get to try), a dark almond and a dark peanut, a milk almond and a milk peanut, a caramel with almonds, a couple of marzipans, a dark nougat, a butterscotch square, and fill the rest of the box to the brim with Scotchmallows. The next time I’m in a See’s store, that’ll be exactly what I’ll order (plus a few Scotch kisses, Almond Royals, and Toffee-ettes).

I can’t stress enough how great a value See’s is. They may not be as fancy or as dazzlingly pretty as some of the more expensive chocolates that I’ve tried, but you really can’t beat paying just under $20 a pound for great tasting chocolate. Even I can afford that. And as a bonus, at that price, you don’t feel so bad when you come across one that you don’t love.

Surf Sweets – Part II

Today brings the anxiously awaited conclusion to my review of Surf Sweets‘ product line that I began on Wednesday. First up (or is it fourth up?), their Gummy Swirls.

The Gummy Swirls were little gumdrop shaped gummis about the size of the first joint of my pinky finger. They came in two versions, pink/white swirled and orange/white swirled. Pink/white was strawberry, I believe, and its flavor was of lightly muted “red” candy. I’m not sure if the muting came from the white swirl or from the all-natural ingredients. A bit of each, perhaps? My guess is that orange/white was orange-flavored, except I didn’t find it to taste very orangey. Instead, I got more of a pear profile. The gummy itself was fairly firm and sproingy, while the sugar coating added a bit of textural grain.

Surf Sweets’ Gummy Worms were absolutely gorgeous, proving that one doesn’t need artificial colorings to make something look tasty. They came in red and yellow and red and lighter yellow/clear. Cherry and pineapple, maybe? The flavors weren’t terribly distinct, but they were nice and fruity. Appearances aside, however, there wasn’t much to separate these gummy worms from their artificially-flavored (and much cheaper) counterparts.

While the Gummy Worms were fairly run of the mill, I found the Super Sour Worms to be truly exceptional. Like Wednesday’s Fruity Bears, these were more like a fruit pate or a fruit gem, which may be why their moniker leaves out the word “gummy”. The sour sugar coating on these is mostly sweet and only lightly tart, but it’s just right.

The red and yellow one tastes of cherry – as I’ve written many times, I have difficulty differentiating red-flavored candies, but this one had a bit of a bite to it, so I’m going with cherry – with a sour finish of lemon. The orange and white one tasted like a lovely sweet yet tart orange. Either the white part was also orange flavored, or it was too lightly flavored to compete against the brightness of the orange.

The Super Sour Worms were my favorite of the Surf Sweets bunch. I couldn’t stop eating them, so they get a ZOMG! The Gummy Swirls and Gummy Worms, while good, weren’t exceptional, and, as I said on Wednesday, I’m too poor to shell out extra for all natural and organic when artificial and full-of-pesticides tastes pretty much exactly the same, so they get Os. If you’re not poor like me and care about what you put into your body, or your kids’ bodies, then the whole Surf Sweet lineup is probably perfect for ya – they taste all-natural, but in a good way, and you or your kids won’t miss unnatural flavorings/colorings one whit.

Charles Chocolates – Part II

Here’s the review of the rest of the box of Charles Chocolates that was introduced on Wednesday. We did the top row then, so today we’re going over the bottom row.

First up, bottom right, the bittersweet chocolate fleur de sel caramel. It was goooood. You can buy a box of 10 or 20 of just these, and I can see why. It’s a “a fleur de sel caramel with bittersweet chocolate and enrobed in 65% bittersweet chocolate.” The caramel was chewy and just slightly sticky with wonderous burnt notes, making it dark and salty and delectable, with the whole thing mellowed a bit by the chocolate coating. I could eat a whole box of these.

Next are the two square ones, the blood orange Yankee (why Yankee? I have no idea), which contains a blood orange marmalade ganache in a dark shell, and the meyer lemon Yankee, with a Meyer lemon marmalade in a dark and milk shell. If it’s made with lemons, does it still count as marmalade?

Orange and chocolate are a pretty common combination, but lemon, and chocolate, not so much. The Meyer lemon Yankee was good – it had a slight citrus finish with just a hint of zest, so its lemon-y-ness was not at all overpowering. The blood orange was similarly lightly citrusy, but with a sweeter, rounder flavor profile. In both, the ganache was smooth, silky, and lightly greasy, but not unpleasantly so.

The scalloped oval one in the middle is the espresso caramel, “rich caramel with real espresso and Kahlua in a  65% bittersweet oval.” The filling inside was soft and creamy, which surprised me, as I expected a stickiness due to the caramel moniker. I got a slight hint of the Kahlua flavor but didn’t pick up any espresso notes in the filling.

And last, and in this case least, the bottom left lemon marzipan: “Marzipan made with fresh, organic Meyer lemons and organic California almonds are coated in our rich 65% bittersweet chocolate.” I think one should always become a bit suspicious when one is being sold to with so many enthusiastic adjectives. Why is the same chocolate enrobing “rich” here, and the Meyer lemons “fresh, organic”? I didn’t taste any lemon in my marzipan, and I was just not a fan of the taste or the texture. I didn’t even finish my first one, and the second one is still sitting alone in the box, the only one left (I didn’t eat the entire box myself, by the way; I did share some with friends).

The marzipan alone gets an O, the espresso caramel and the Yankees get an OM, and the bittersweet fleur de sel gets a ZOMG! At around $2 a truffle, these are not exactly cheap indulgences. I wouldn’t buy the assorted box for myself (though I would happily accept one), but I would buy them by weight if I got to pick and choose which ones I wanted. I think that’s an option at their store/cafe. And I would buy these for gift-giving for special occasions.

Carambar (Part I?)

There’s a wonderful restaurant in Cambridge (England) called Le Gros Franck near the city’s train station. Apparently, at night it’s a fine dining establishment. I only went there during the day, when it’s a French cafe that serves a deliciously decadent salmon crepe. Nom nom. They also had a wide selection of Carambars, which are these French taffy/chew type candies. They definitely cost more than 5 cents (what Wikipedia gives as their suggested retail price) at Le Gros Franck, but I forgive them for upselling a bit. With import costs and the weak dollar, some things can’t be helped.

Carambars are long, thin rectangular prisms of a soft and chewy taffy that’s not at all sticky. See above photo for size reference. If you check the Wikipedia page, you can see that Carambars come in a bazillion flavors. And if you can read French, you can check out the Carambar website for another list under la marque Carambar, des gouts pour tout (tastes for all, I think). I bought one of every flavor Le Gros Franck carried, so here’s the quickshot list and mini-reviews:

  • strawberry – surprisingly bright and unartificial
  • raspberry – strong seediness
  • lemon – bright and fake
  • pomme d’amour – caramel apple? like a chewy taffy version of those caramel apple lollipops. Yum!
  • big oouu pomme cassis – blech. seedy raspberryness. I looked it up – it’s blackcurrant and apple

  • pineapple – WHOA! So pineappley; fresh with a tinge of acid. A clear ZOMG!
  • mango – also whoa for it’s genuine flavor, carried through by a slightly bitter bite. It almost tastes stringy, if there’s a way to taste like a texture.
  • diabolo cassis – more blackcurrant? Good, but not really blackcurranty. I get more citrus and fizz
  • peach tea – like peaches with a tea finish rather than like tea with a peach finish.

Overall, Carambars earn an OM from me, with a hearty ZOMG! for the pineapple. I think there are a few more flavors that I bought that I have yet to taste too. If I ever get around to those, you’ll get a Carambar, Part II review.

Lindt Chili Chocolate

Chocolate and chili is a taste combination familiar to Latin America (think Mexican hot chocolate) that’s beginning to catch on in foodie circles here in the U.S. It’s a flavor combination that I love, and I even submitted it as my Dream Bean to Jelly Belly’s contest. If you live in New Haven, try something at Claire’s Corner Copia with their Mexican chocolate frosting (yes, I know their cream cheese is great, but the Mexican chocolate is much more exciting).  Viva Chocolato had a delectably tingly chipotle gelato the first time I went there. I haven’t seen it again in my repeat visits, but they do rotate through their flavors, so you may get lucky.

I discovered Lindt‘s Chili Chocolate bar while in the UK, and when it went on sale in Sainsbury’s (1 pound a bar, or about $2), I stocked up and bought a couple to add to the half already in my stash. Yes, that counts as stocking up for me. When you consider how much candy I keep around, it’s rare that I buy seconds of something, and even more rare that I buy two seconds.

Super hoity toity chocolate connossieurs sometimes look down on Lindt the way that I look down on Hershey’s milk chocolate. I think they find it too mass produced and commercial to be worth eating. While I agree that fine artisinal chocolate can be better tasting and more nuanced, I still find Lindt to be a great fine chocolate at an affordable price.

Lindt’s chili bar (I guess it’s chilli in British English?) is set in their Excellence dark chocolate, which I’m pretty sure is a 70%. The chocolate is lusciously dark and glossy with pretty little etchings for decoration. At first taste, all you get is cocoa. But after a few chews, as the chocolate creamily melts over your tongue, just the slightest hint of chili heat comes through. It starts slowly, then builds to a noticeable but not unpleasant tingle. I love it. A ZOMG! from me, with the caveat that I’m biased by my adoration of chili chocolate.


Riesen are one of those candies that I’d often seen on store shelves and in commercials but had never bothered to try. When I was in England on my toffee binge, I saw these under the counter and thought it was time I gave them a shot. It helped that they came in a small candy bar-sized portion rather than in the bigger peg bag version I was more used to seeing in the U.S. I should’ve known that a candy made by Storck (they also make Toffifay and Mambas but are probably most famous for Werther’s Originals) would be pretty good.

Riesens are chocolate-flavored caramels (or toffee, in Brit-speak; because I bought mine in Britain, I shall refer to them as toffees) covered in chocolate. The chocolate coating, which could have gone horribly wrong and been made of fake vegetable oil chocolate, was lovely, dark, and rich. The chocolate-flavored toffee inside was just the right blend of creamy and chewy and sticky. It managed to glue my teeth together a bit, but none of it got stuck in the nooks and crannies of my mouth, so no embarrassing post-candy teeth picking necessary. I have no idea how Riesen got their toffee texture teased to perfection, but it was wonderful.

The flavor of the toffee inside was quite nice – a round, mellow cocoa – but wasn’t anything revolutionary. What really sold me on the Riesen’s was the texture, which can be so crucial for creating a candy that constantly surprises the tongue and makes one want to reach for more. I polished off my pack super quickly; thus, Riesen get a ZOMG! from me, coupled with a tinge of regret for my not having discovering these sooner.

If you want a second and third opinion, check out reviews from Cybele at Candy Blog and Jamie at Candy Addict.

Kinder Happy Hippos

Sometimes, candy can come awfully close to being too cute to eat. Fortunately for you lot, dear readers, I am willing to sacrifice my cuteness sensibilities and chomp down on adorable candy, even if it happens to endearingly resemble frightened hippos.

Kinder’s Happy Hippos, like nearly everything made by Kinder/Ferrero, is tinged with hazelnut deliciousness. The Hippos come in two varieties, cacao cream (left) and biscuit (right). Both varieties consist of hippo shaped wafers (complete with eyes, nostrils, and eyebrows) filled with flavored cream and half dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. They differ in that the cacao cream has, well, a cacao (cocoa) flavored cream, and while the Cacao Hippo can be found submerged in a lake of chocolate, the Biscuit Hippo’s prefers a lake of white chocolate.

The wrapper of the Biscuit Happy Hippo shows milk and hazelnuts, and that’s what you get in lovely combination in this chap. The light wafer crunch of the Hippo stands in sharp contrast to the thick hazelnut and milk cream that fills its three pods – bum, head, and nose. The fillings are so thick and creamy that they’re moisture-suckingly good, even if the finish is rather cloying.

The wrapper of the Cacao Hippo calls the filling fat-reduced. Clearly I should take that to mean that I can eat a bloat of Happy Hippos (yes, a group of hippos is called a bloat) and not have to worry about personally bloating from Hippo-related weight gain, right? There are two layers of cream inside, one brown that tasted of cocoa and one white that tasted of milk and vanilla. Online ingredients lists for the cacao cream Hippo lists hazelnuts in the ingredients, so the milk layer may have been the same as the filling of the Biscuit Hippo, but I didn’t taste any hazelnut in the filling of the one I got. The filling of the Cacao Hippo was thinner, which meant that it didn’t coat the mouth or cloy.

An ZOMG! for both because I am a sucker for chocolate and hazelnut things and cute things.

A few chocolates from Cocoa Bella’s assortment boxes

I’ve been sitting on these reviews for ages. The chocolate truffles were leftovers from the first Calhoun College chocolate tasting I hosted. That’s right – leftovers. We had that much chocolate overload. From Cocoa Bella’s Exotic Assortment comes a Van Coillie Kastanjes, a Christopher Elbow Rosemary Caramel, and a Lillie Belle Farms Cayenne Caramel. Another Lillie Belle Farms chocolate, a Jamaican Spice Caramel, came from the World Select Assortment (photo below).

Accoring to the guide, Van Coillie Kastanjes (top left) is from a Belgian chocolatier that consists of “Whole Walnut & Coffee Caramel.” The thin chocolate shell was made of sweet, well-tempered chocolate with fruity notes and a lovely, creamy finish. The center contained a whole walnut swimming in sweet caramel that had no butter or burnt sugar notes. As for the coffee part, I didn’t notice it. And I didn’t miss it. The truffle was lovely.

The Lillie Belle Farms Jamaican Spice Caramel (top right) was a pretty molded dark truffle filled with a smooth, creamy caramel that was slick rather than sticky. The guide didn’t give much hint as to what it was beyond “Jamaican Jerk Spiced Caramel.” I’ve never had proper Jerk Spiced anything (this fairly recent NY Times Dining article lists some places I’d love to try to track down, if I ever get a chance to), so I didn’t know what to expect. What I got from the truffle was a flavor reminiscent of chai tea and cloves with just a hint of heat.

The other offering from Lillie Belle Farms was a Cayenne Caramel (bottom circle) was billed as “Spicy Hot Caramel,” and boy was it! The caramel within the prettily decorated shell was smooth, creamy, and buttery before it turned WHOA spicy. The spiciness was throat burning and lasted for at least 30 seconds. It was one of the more adventurous truffles.

And last, but not least, a Christopher Elbow Rosemary Caramel, “Fresh Rosemary Steeped in Caramel.” And it was just that – rosemary-flavored caramel inside a chocolate truffle shell, a unique flavor combination that really worked. By the way, my photo of the truffle doesn’t do it justice. It was a beautiful, luminescent green.

Cocoa Bella does a great job of bringing together well-made and interesting chocolates from all over the world. A ZOMG! for the boxes. I only tasted a fraction of them, and not every one was ZOMG!-worthy alone, but taken as a whole, they’re an indulgent chocolate adventure. Like many fine things in life, they don’t come cheap, especially with shipping. I wish I had had the chance to drop by their brick and mortar shop while I was in San Francisco. But I can look for the truffles at other specialty chocolate shops (I still have the guides), and I can ask to host more chocolate tasting parties next year…

Georgia Nut Bear Claw – Part III of Chicago Week

As Chicago Week continues, yet another delicious confection courtesy of the Cobbs: the Bear Claw (and a similar looking product here) made by Georgia Nut (bottom right in a poorly lit shot; sadly the only photo I have of it).

The Georgia Nut Bear Claw is a serious candy. It’s ginormous, about the size of the palm of my hand. Since you probably have no idea how big my hands are, here’s another measure. The 1 pound box (they’re well priced at $10.50/lb, by the way) from Mama Cobb contained 6-7 bear claws. Also, it’s crammed full of caramel and pecans and smothered in milk chocolate. And finally, it’s good. Real good.

The pecan halves are fresh and crunchy, and their saltiness goes wonderfully with the smooth, well-tempered milk chocolate and sweet, gooey caramel. The caramel was possibly on the verge of being too sticky, but I was too busy licking it off my fingers to care. The Georgia Nut Bear Claw, like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, manages to wonderfully capture a perfect blend of sweet and salty. Even better, the Bear Claw one-ups a Reese’s on the texture front with its melting chocolate, oozing caramel, and crisp pecans. A would-be OMG that transcends the boundary to ZOMG! because they’re so ridiculously reasonably priced.

The little rectangular thing in the top left corner, by the way, is a milk chocolate English toffee square (I think; Mrs. Cobb bought these for me, and the Georgia Nut website doesn’t have a picture). It’s a dusky milk chocolate coating a sweet, buttery, cleanly cleaving toffee that I’d give an OM because the finish is too sweet. I write this lest you think I’m only giving rave reviews to my gifted chocolates to appease my chocolate giver. But I do love Chicago. See?

Frango Mints – Part I of Chicago Week

Back in March, over my spring break, I road-tripped to Chicago with my dear friends Katie, Chris, Rita, and Steve (who needs to get a blog or something. I’m not going to be creepy and link to his facebook page). Lemme tell ya, you’ve got to really love the people you’re road-tripping with, especially when you’ve decided to make a 17/18-hour drive in one day, and you’re driving a tiny little sedan that doesn’t comfortably fit 5. Chicago was our destination because that’s where Katie is from, and her parents were kind enough to take us in for a week. And they were kind enough to buy me candy, including a delicious box of Frango mints (I repaid the favor by buying them some chocolates at Haven’s… except Katie forgot to bring them with her when she flew home for Cubs opening day, so I still owe them one).

Frango mints have a storied Chicago history and are a sore subject for some Chicago natives who resent that Marshall Field’s was bought out by Macy’s. Chicagoans are quite proud of their city, and they should be if they are the home to these delicious chocolate mints.

I expected the Frangos to be like Andes mints or little peppermint patties or something. Instead, they’re chocolate all the way through. Rich, thick, creamy (like a thick, melt in your mouth ganache), dense, sinfully indulgent chocolate with a light smokiness and a great finish. The mint flavoring is just right; not too overpowering, but strong enough to assert its presence.

My 1/3 pound box had a generous 15 mints in it. I ate about a third of them and shared the rest, which were quickly gobbled up and praised by my friends. As I write this review and reminisce about the Frangos, I wish that I had kept them all to myself so that I could have another right now. Though, according to Cybele’s take on the dark version, they’re high in trans fat, so maybe it’s better that I spread the unhealthy deliciousness around. A solid ZOMG! Many thanks to the Cobb’s for introducing me to such a tastebud delight.