Vosges Habana

This little half ounce Vosges Habana bar was an A Southern Season find. These tiny bar formats are a nice size for a candy blogger on a budget – I get enough to get a taste, and while $3.25 is a lot for such a little bar, it’s still cheaper than their full-sized versions.

The Habana was “made with organic milk chocolate” and plantain chips. That chocolate was 45% cacao, so pretty high for a milk chocolate.

That “deep milk chocolate” had a thick melt. It was on the sweet side, with a light hint of cocoa powder flavor. The chocolate flavor was pretty pure, with no caramel notes.

The plantain chips were dispersed throughout the bar in small bits. They added a light crunch and the salty toasty starchiness of fried plantain chips.

This bar finished with a strong saltiness that danced on the delicious edge of being too salty. It makes me want to dip plantain chips in chocolate for a sweet and salty snack.

While it wasn’t quite as “ethereal” as the bar’s molding promised, it was a great mix of sweet and salty flavors and soft and crunchy textures. An OM.

Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut bar

I got this Peanut bar as a free sample from the Justin’s booth at Sweets and Snacks, along with the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups that I reviewed last Friday. The wrapper describes it as “dark chocolate, peanuts, caramel, nougat.”

The bar was a bottom layer of stiffly chewy nougat topped with peanuts and caramel, then all covered in dark chocolate. The whole bar was on the lumpy side and had an uneven texture when chewed.

The caramel top layer was softly chewy and tasted lightly sweet with a tinge of burnt sugar to the finish. The bits of peanuts were pretty ensconced in the caramel. They had an incredible roasted nuttiness to them that really elevated this treat with its fresh flavor.

The nougat layer was jaw-workingly chewy and tasted of toasty starch, a hint of marshmallow sweetness, and a dry peanut roastiness. I think there may have been peanut butter mixed into it.

I really enjoyed this treat. It wasn’t too sweet and had a wonderfully fresh peanuttiness throughout the bar that somehow made it feel more wholesome. An OM.

Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I’ve never been an, “OMG PEANUT BUTTER!” person, so though I’ve seen Justin’s peanut butter cups at Whole Foods for ages, I’ve never felt the urge to pick up a pack. When they were being given out as free samples at Sweets and Snacks, however, I made sure to get one!

The cups came two to a pack, each sitting loosely in a little white paper cup. They were gorgeous and well-formed, with well-defined fluted edges.

The dark chocolate was creamy with a smooth melt that had a lightly fatty airy feel. It tasted of dark chocolate cocoa with a hint of fruity finish – maybe cherry?

The peanut butter in the center was quite dry with a slight grit and the occasional larger bit of not-fully-ground nut. It had a great roasted golden nuttiness and a salty finish.

While saltiness is usually a boon in a chocolate+peanut butter treat, here the salt was just a bit too heavy-handed for my taste.

Still, I really appreciated the elevated quality of the fresh-tasting peanut butter. I’m going to hunt down the milk chocolate version of these to see if the sweeter milk chocolate is a better balance for the relatively saltier peanut butter. An O for the dark chocolate version.

Sun Cups – Milk Chocolate Caramel Cup

Today, I’m finally wrapping up my coverage of the Sun Cups line. I was introduced to them at Sweets and Snacks and sent home with a bunch of free samples.

On Monday, I covered their sunflower butter cups. Wednesday was the mint cup, and today I’ve saved my favorite for last: the caramel cup.

The caramel cup was the most fragile of my quartet. By the time I got it home, the thin top shell had cracked, letting some of the caramel filling seep out.

That caramel filling was a thin amber golden liquid with a great flow. It had a great texture on my tongue – it felt almost suspended on my taste buds as it melted with a great complex burnt sugar sweetness.

The milk chocolate component was thick and creamy. It tasted darker than I expected. It had a nice cocoa depth and minimal sweetness, making it a good foil for the just-sweet-enough caramel center.

I thought it funny that my favorite candy from a brand built around sunflower butter was actually a chocolate and caramel number. An OMG for this well-balanced oozy-goey-chocolatey number.

Sun Cups – Sunflower Butter Milk and Dark

Sweet and Snacks was full of booths promoting different kinds of nut butters. Sunflower butter, technically not even a nut butter, was a new one to me, so of course these Sun Cup Sunflower Butter and chocolate cups were new to me as well.

Turns out, sunflower butter is awesome! I shouldn’t be so surprised – I love chocolate covered sunflower seeds, and these are basically the same stuff in a different configuration. Thanks for the free samples, Sun Cups.

On the surface, the Sun Cups were visually similar to Reese’s iconic peanut butter versions, sharing the fluted edges and little paper bottoms. Once I bit into them, however, I could see how they differed.

The milk chocolate version had a soft, almost chewy texture. The sunflower butter center was creamy and moist, quite similar to the texture of peanut butter right out of the jar.

The sunflower butter had a seedy nuttiness that basically tasted just like sunflower seeds. It paired quite well with the caramel sweetness of the milk chocolate.

The dark chocolate Sun Cup was much more solid. The chocolate portion had a light snappiness with a fatty melt and nice cocoa flavor.

For some reason, the sunflower butter center here was dry, crumbly, grainy instead of moist and creamy. It was reminiscent of the texture of astronaut ice cream in its airiness, just minus the crunch factor that astronaut ice cream has. It also had a more noticeable salty hit to the finish as it melted away.

I really enjoyed this seedier twist on peanut butter cups. As an added bonus, they were organic and made with Rainforest Alliance cocoa. They were a tasty way to shake things up a bit – an OM.

Coco Keeno – Coco Goldrush

I got this box of Coco Keeno as a free sample from their booth at Sweets and Snacks. They were sampling all kinds of chocolate-covered things, and I asked for a box of their Coco Goldrush to take home for review. I thought they were the most delicious and unique of their offerings.

The box describes them as “organic dried goldenberry covered in natural cocoa.” I’d never heard of goldenberries before – I can’t decide if they sound magical or like a juvenile euphemism.

Apparently they’re dried gooseberries, which I’ve had before in England. I remember fresh gooseberries tasting like super tart grapes.

The dried goldenberries were all shriveled up. They sort of looked like giant golden raisins studded with seeds, like raspberries.

They were seedy and chewy and became increasingly tart as I chewed them, and they finished with a slight bitterness. Alone, they were too intensely sour to be enjoyable.

Covered in dark chocolate, however, they found a great flavor foil that balanced them out. The dark chocolate was dry with a light cocoa flavor that tamped down the goldenberry’s tartness.

When all chomped together, these were a uniquely tasty treat. I don’t buy into all the superfood hubbub about them, but I will give them an OM.

Recchiuti Asphalt Jungle Mix

A little over a week ago, I discovered the new eater of my minimal grad student disposable income: A Southern Season. It’s a megalopolis of gourmet goods: fine meats and cheeses and chocolates and pastas and pastries and spices and candy…

I wanted to eat all the things! But all the things were too expensive, so I splurged on a few high end pieces from Recchiuti and Vosges. Today, I’m starting with the high-ending-est of them all: Recchiuti’s Asphalt Jungle Mix, which was a super splurgey $19.99 for a 6 oz box.

Why the crazy profligate spending? I remembered Cybele writing positively about it and David Lebovitz raving about it. Though now that I revisit David Lebovitz’s post, I see that he’s lucky enough to be buddies with Mr. Recchiuti and didn’t have to pay for his mix…

The minimalist box calls them “a riot of burnt caramel hazelnuts & almonds, cherries two ways, and peanut butter pearls.” Let’s break them down, shall we?

Burnt caramel hazelnuts and almonds were chocolate covered and cocoa dusted. Those hazelnuts were awesomely roasty and crunchy and hazelnutty – they tasted incredibly fresh – with a tinge of burnt sugar sweetness to the finish and a overall cocoa sweetness.

Similarly, the almonds were intensely nutty and sharply crunchy. If there was burnt caramel to these, I didn’t notice it, but I still loved the intensity of toasty nuts.

Cherries one way was a cocoa dusted, chocolate-covered candied cherry. It was juicy and slightly moist and chewy, bright and flavorful with a slightly boozy finish. This was my favorite of the bunch, as it positively burst with flavor.

Cherries the other way was a dried cherry covered in dark chocolate. That cherry center brought an amazing flash of fruity sweetness that was slightly tart. It was good, but the other way was better for me.

Finally, peanut butter pearls were really fun. They were little balls of milk chocolate peanut butter with a dark chocolate center that then contained a little ball of crisped rice. A Matroyshka treat!

It started out with a creamy milk chocolate and the texture of the rice crisp, then transitioned to an extreme peanut butter nuttiness that finished with a flash of salt. Peanut butter lovers would love this.

This mix was tasty and delicious. But at $53/lb, I can’t see myself ever buying these again; they’re just too expensive. Though I did love those chocolate candied cherries… An OMG for the candied cherries and an OM for the rest.

Endangered Species Organic Health – Dark Chocolate with Goji Berry, Pecans, and Maca

This Spider Monkey Endangered Species bar was part of their Organic Health line. I think the “health” part means that they’re full of those trendy superfruits and things of dubious actual health benefit.

The bar was Dark Chocolate with Goji Berry, Pecans, & Maca. Maca seems to fall pretty squarely in that trendy health claims category. Wikipedia claims it may help gentlemen in the bedroom…

The 70% rainforest alliance certified cocoa had a softer snap than that of the 72% I reviewed on Monday. It smelled lightly and pleasantly fruity.

The chocolate bar’s melt was thick. It was sprinkled through with little white bits of pecan and… stuff.

It started off nice, then brightened and became fruitily sweet, probably thanks to the goji berry. It then took on a medicinal weirdness that was quite artificial and off-putting.

The little embedded bits of stuff added a puffed wheat essence of toastiness, which was nice, and a heavy astringency, which was not so nice.

The finish was extremely bitter and quite astringent. It left a bad taste and feel in my mouth. I didn’t notice any pecan flavors, and I just couldn’t bring myself to try more of the chocolate to try to find them.

I was disappointed. This bar seemed so promising and ended up tasting so awfully medicinal and moisture-sucking. A .

Surf Sweets Fruity Hearts

I received a bag of Surf Sweets Fruity Hearts as free samples from the manufacturer. The press release said that they were launched in time for Valentine’s Day, though it was never explicit about whether these were a limited holiday edition or not.

They were, however, explicit about touting all the benefits to the Surf Sweets line. These are organic, gluten-free, and vegan. No big surprise: they’re available at Whole Foods.

The Fruity Hearts were watermelon and cherry flavored. They were difficult to visually distinguish. Both were pink though my lighting made them look red in the photo; the watermelon was a slightly lighter shade.

The texture reminded me of fruit gems. They were soft enough for me to easily bite right through, exposing slick and shiny surfaces.

There was a slight sproinginess when I chewed them. The surface was covered with a crunchy granulated sugar that added a nice textural contrast.

Watermelon was sweet and floral with a brightly fruity finish. It reminded me of a mellow, more natural version of a watermelon Jolly Rancher.

Cherry was also brightly fruity but had a darker edge with plummy notes. It reminded me of cherry Popsicles.

I enjoyed the texture and flavor intensity of these. Watermelon and cherry aren’t my favorite candy flavors in general, but these are seasonally appropriate choices.

It’s nice that Surf Sweets takes extra care with their ingredients, but it’s even better that their organicness and wholesomeness doesn’t come at the expense of deliciousness. An OM.

sweetriot – Pure 70% and 85% chocolate bars

Today I’m reviewing the rest of my free samples of sweetriot‘s new riotBar line: the pure 70% and pure 85% dark chocolate bars. I covered the 60% dark chocolate with crunchy cacao nibs on Wednesday.

Like the 60%, both of these bars were too lightly scored to be useful for clean snapping. The 70% (top) had a sharp initial snap but softened as it was chewed.

The melt was smooth and matte. It started off lightly sweet before developing a hint of bitterness, then finishing with a brighter, fruitier sweetness than the start.

There was a bit of astringency to the end that made me want a drink of water afterwards, but it was mild enough to not be off-putting. An OM.

The 85% was even snappier. The melt wasn’t much fun, as it was very dry and astringent.

The flavor profile began with a sharply bright fruitiness that was quite vibrant. The finish, however, was quite astringent and left a lingering bitterness that I didn’t care for. An O for the strong start, at least.