Guest post: Viba Mandel-nougat

Here’s another guest review from ex-pat Neil while I try to catch up from being out of town for most of last week. ~Rosa

Recent trips to Germany & Austria have refilled the never-empty pantry here. I’ve tried the Viba Mandel-nougat which came from one of those countries (sorry, I should take better notes while shopping!)

I was expecting a crunchy single bar from this. Instead, I got 3 mini-logs, each about the size of my thumb, with a flattened, patterened underbelly of the chocolate base. They looked dried out; this was fortunately not the case.

The texture is much softer than I expected. I think if I’d squished and poked any of the pieces before biting in, that would’ve been obvious. The majority of each piece seems to just be slightly hardened nut butter. While the label tells me that it’s almond-based, it never tasted overwhelmingly of almonds, more like halfway between cashews and peanuts.

This was a bit of a disappointment. There’s not a ton of flavor overall, and very little sweetness. It’s almost hard to know that the chocolate is there, except that said base is a bit more rigid than the nut portion. In each piece, I discovered some slightly crunchy bits that were either nuts or crystallized sugar, but more likely the latter.

The Viba Mandel-nougat was not my best find, but I’m sure it was inexpensive, probably less than a Euro or two. I wouldn’t buy it again. If somebody had just handed it to me and not told me it was almond, I would’ve been a bit happier. It wasn’t terrible, though, so I’ll give it a nice basic O.

Toblerone – Crunchy Salted Almond

Kraft was showing off this Crunchy Salted Almond Toblerone at Sweets and Snacks this year. They were melting it down and giving it out as fondue samples. I managed to charm my way into a free sample for review from the nice ladies at Kraft.

This Toblerone was described as “Swiss milk chocolate with salted caramelized almonds and honey and almond nougat.” For comparative purposes, regular Toblerone is described in the same way, just minus the salted caramelized almonds part.

While regular Toblerones are already pretty crunchy from the nougat bits, this was even crunchier with the added bits of almonds. Those almond bits were variable in size and definitely asserted their presence in both flavor and texture.

They added a strong crunchiness and intense nuttiness. The hit of saltiness that they brought was also quite noticeable.

The honey nougat bits were candied and sweet with an interesting squishy/squeaky texture. Some bits crunched while others got flattened and half embedded in my molars.

The milk chocolate was sweet and thick with a dusky caramel finish that went well with the added salt. If it was the same milk chocolate as that of the regular Toblerone, the extra saltiness helped tone down the chocolate’s sweetness.

It got a bit too sweet in the finish for my taste, though I found it less cloying than regular Toblerone. I think the dark chocolate version is the best balanced Toblerone variety.

Still, I really enjoyed this, and the salted almonds are a great addition. I’ll happily finish my current mountain range of these, but I don’t think I’d buy them again. An OM.

Jelina Chocolatier – Honey Nougat and Maple Crunch

Jelina Chocolatier was one of the most interesting booths for me at Sweets and Snacks. At the time, they were a Canadian chocolate company looking for a US distributor. I hope they managed to strike a deal to get themselves sold in the US!

Their line of chocolate bars included many intriguing offerings. Luckily for me, they were generous in offering me free samples of what I thought were their two most interesting bars, a Honey Nougat Milk Chocolate and a Maple Crunch Milk Chocolate.

Both bars came in a shiny, sturdy silver bag inside an un-dyed cardboard paper box – probably a calculated move to play up their wholesome Fair Trade factor – with quaint little line drawings representing the contents. The chocolate bars themselves were formed into a 3X5 lightly scored grid of rectangular pods.

Honey Nougat had a soft break along its segments. The milk chocolate base was thick and creamy with strong caramel notes.

The nougat bits added a light toffee-like crunch. Those honeyed bits had a pure, amber sweetness that reminded me of Lyle’s golden syrup. It added just the right touch of sweetness.

Finally, there was some tiny bits of almonds dispersed throughout the bar. They didn’t add much nuttiness, but they did contribute to the crunch factor, along with the nougat bits. An OM.

Maple Crunch was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The milk chocolate also had a soft break, but here it tasted sweeter with less prominent caramel notes.

The bar was full of slightly grainy bits of maple sugar that added a wonderful, surprisingly sturdy crunch. I didn’t think it would be possible to mix maple sugar into melted chocolate without melting the sugar as well, but I guess it is.

The deep brown sugar tones of the maple syrup sugar paired well with the sweet milk chocolate. I loved this for its unique flavor and texture. An OMG.

Recchiuti Sesame Nougatine

Here’s another A Southern Season‘s splurge, a full-sized Recchiuti Sesame Nougatine bar to go with their Asphalt Jungle Mix. It was described as “dark milk chocolate with sesame nougatine and fleur de sel.”

This bar came in a plastic inner wrapper inside a classily designed cardboard sleeve. That plastic inner wrapper was infuriating – there was nowhere to grip or tear to open it, and I wrestled with it for several minutes before I gave up to fetch a pair of scissors.

The bar itself was gorgeous, with the gold nougatine playing out in pretty swirls against the deep brown of the chocolate. Some of the squares were etched with a cursive Recchiuti or R.

The randomly cut assortment of different sized squares and rectangles was pretty and made the bar look like abstract art. They were also impractical, as you couldn’t break the bar neatly because of the intersecting lines.

The milk chocolate was quite creamy with a nice malty edge to it. It melted thickly and sweetly, finishing with a hint of salt.

The sesame nougatine part turned out to be disappointing. I was expecting a crunchy, toffee-like treat.

Instead, this bar’s nougatine had no crunch, either by design or lack of design that let the nougatine take on too much moisture. The sesame added a bit of grit and a light, mild nuttiness.

The flavors were nice – the milk chocolate was great, and I enjoyed the taste of the nougatine – but the textures could have been improved. I wanted caramelized crunchiness, not a soft, chewy seediness.

I bet this bar would be great if it were fresh and crunchy. As is, just an O.

See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar

This See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar was another mall stand buy. The 1.5 oz bar was described as “chewy nougat with almonds and honey covered in dark chocolate.”

The bulk of the rectangular bar was a log of chewy nougat covered with a dark chocolate hsell. The texture was great. It was chock full of crunchy whole almonds surrounded by a lightly sweet and chewy nougat.

The nougat had the amber undertone of honey, which nicely set off the crisp, fresh almonds. The dark chocolate shell was only lightly sweet and brought a great cocoa depth to the bar.

I loved this bar. The honey in the nougat added a delicious complexity while the almonds had a great crunchy nuttiness.

The chewy nougat and the crunchy almonds and the dusky chocolate also made for a great textural mix. It was a near perfect treat.

My only complaint was that the dark chocolate shell shattered and made a bit of a mess when I bit into the bar, but it’s a minor one. An OMG.

Again, here are Cybele and Sera’s takes.

Torku Nugamel

I believe I received this Torku Nugamel as a free sample from the NCA (my post-move pared down candy stash is still ridiculously large. I have not done my best in tracking its origins). I have a few other random Torku bars in my stash, one of which I’ve already reviewed.

It looked absolutely luscious on the wrapper, with its ooze of caramel seeping out. I don’t read Turkish, but I assume the wrapper promised chocolate, caramel, and nougat.

Alas, the caramel was too much like that of the wrapper – mine had completely seeped (or been squished) out in transit and somehow nearly disappeared from the actual candy bar, though some remained stuck to the wrapper. Perhaps the caramel had become absorbed by the nougat?

That nougat was dense, much more so than that of a 3 Musketeers or even a Milky Way. It was soft but had a large grain to it as it melted.

The nougat had a nice maltiness to it, but it was overwhelmingly sweet. I wonder if the disappearing caramel played a part in the sugar bomb-ness.

The chocolate coating was mild and added a slight chocolate finish. I could detect a hint of sweet caramel scorchiness, but it was overwhelmed by the overall sweetness of the bar. On its own (licked off the wrapper), the caramel had a nicely light burnt taste, though it was a little grainy.

While I enjoyed the malt flavor of the nougat and the edge on the caramel, it was just too sweet for me. An O.

Bees and Beans Winter Line

I got a lovely assortment of Bees and Beans’s candy bars as a free sample. They’re “handmade from whole ingredients in small batches” using local ingredients from Portland, Oregon.

There are three bars in the winter line: the Coffee bar, the ‘Bert bar, and the Honey bar.

The Coffee bar was “coffee caramel with toasted walnuts hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate. It smelled dark and roasty, just on the delicious side of nearly-burnt.

It tasted dark and deep upon first bite. The caramel had a light pull to it and tasted of roasted coffee with a light bitterness.

The walnuts were mixed throughout the caramel. They added a serious crunch and a nutty, oily aroma. Finally, the chocolate added a layer of deep cocoa. An OM.

The ‘Bert bar was “milk chocolate, filberts, peanut butter, and crispy rice hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate.” Its filling was a mix of milk chocolate embedded with large chunks of filbert nuts and crunchy, crispy rice.

There was a hint of peanut butteriness to the flavor as a light undertone. It mostly tasted of toasty crisped rice and the nuttiness of the filberts. There was noticeable sea salt sprinkled throughout that added a nice sparkle. An OMG.

The honey bar was my favorite of the bunch. It was “honey caramel with filbert nougat hand-dipped in 70% dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.”

The bar was comprised of a thick layer of a soft, not-at-all sticky caramel topped with a filbert-studded layer of sweet and soft nougat, all covered in dark chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt crystals.

Holy cow was it delicious! The nougat had a wonderfully light roasty nuttiness from the filberts, but it was the honey caramel that set this bar apart. It was absolutely limpid, with a pure honey tinge and a light hint of deep butterscotch to the finish.

The chocolate took a nice supporting role here, while the sprinkles of salt highlighted the caramel and chocolate. It was a perfectly balanced mix of flavors and textures. A ZOMG!

If you don’t live near Portland, Oregon, where these bars can be found in stores, you can get them from Etsy. They don’t come cheap, at $20 + shipping for a set of 4 bars, but those Honey bars are totally worth it!

Brach’s Jelly Nougats

I love bulk bins because they let you buy exactly how much you want. I especially love them for candy because they let me buy just enough to taste for a review. The last time I was at a Wegman’s with bulk bins (my neighborhood one is too small to have a bulk bin section, but that’s a good thing, as it prevents me from gorging on malted milk balls and Albanese 12-flavor gummi bears on a too-regular basis), I picked out four Jelly Nougats by Brach’s.

Thank goodness I only spent about 50 cents on them.

I was naive enough to think that, because they had nougat in the name and because they were white in color, they would taste like actual nougat. And they were so colorful and artsy looking to boot!

Alas, they just tasted like blech. The jelly bits look like they should be fruity, and they kind of are, but not really. They mostly tasted of sproingy sweetness.

The nougat had a persistent chew that was soft and not at all sticky. It tasted a bit floral and fruity, but mostly it was just sugar overload like whoa. I don’t think it was the sweetness factor alone that made this a spit-out candy for me – rather, I think it was that the sugar lacked any other substantial flavor to back it. Sweet and fruity is okay. Sweet and more sweet is not. One of my roommates called it old people candy.

My roommates enjoyed it, though they agreed with me that it was cloying. I could smell the candies as they were eating them from several feet away, and the smell was lovely, bright, and fruity. Why couldn’t they taste like that too?

For me, it’s a . Save your pennies for something else!

Kettle Confections Almond Nougats

Up until now, my food-related experience with Etsy has been with the myriad mini food jewelry pieces you can find there; I had no idea you could buy actual food – and more importantly, candy – there!

Word of warning: It looks like there’s a sidebar link for candies on the Etsy homepage. It’s actually candLes; disappointing. You want to click on the link for Plants and Edibles.

Kettle Confections is an Etsy maker of Almond Nougats that’s been featured on Martha Stewart Weddings’s website (as of writing time, they’re #47 in this list). I was fortunate enough to receive a free sample of their original and coffee flavored almond nougats.

The nougats were cut into thumb-sized rectangles and wrapped in edible rice paper. The rice paper will dissolve in your mouth without affecting the flavor.

It sticks to the candy but not to the wrapper, making it a smart packaging choice by Kettle Confections (also smart that they noted that it was edible on the package; not everyone grew up eating White Rabbit candy as I did, so not everyone thinks nothing of popping “paper” right into my mouth along with the candy). Though one or two of my un-rice-papered ends stuck to the wrappers, I had no trouble unwrapping my nougats.

Maybe a little trouble would have been a good thing. These nougats were delicious and disappeared all too quickly!

Both flavors were generously packed with almonds. I’ve been on an almond kick lately – I baked three batches of macarons and Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Amaretti Torte when I was home for the holidays – so these arrived at a good time. The whole almonds were super fresh and nicely roasted and thus packed with delicious roasty-nutty flavors.

The nougat was just chewy enough to get my jaw going, but not so chewy that it stuck to my teeth. The textures of the crunchy nuts and chewy nougat played off each other well, creating a texturally varied and addictively interesting treat.

The original nougats were sweet and tasted of milk and vanilla, which balanced well with the stronger roasted almond nuttiness. The coffee nougats had a strong coffee flavor but not of strong coffee – it was more cafe au lait. There was a slightly bitter coffee bite, but the nougat still tasted strongly of milk.

I loved both flavors and managed to polish off half of my bag all on my own. I would’ve eaten the whole thing, but I put some out in the living room for my roommates, and they got snatched up pretty quickly.

I didn’t know that I was a white nougat person until I tried these OMG-worthy treats. I’m now inspired to try more white nougats. Kettle Confections has certainly set the bar high!

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.