Archive for the 'candy' Category

03
May
13

3 products that baffle and delight

Mast Brothers teamed up with Shake Shack for no apprent reason except that they're both based in NYC.

This Mast Brothers-Shake Shack bar (available at the cash registers at the Dupont Circle Shake Shack) perplexed me. Was there burger or bacon in the bar? No, it’s just dark chocolate. Apparently the only connection is that they’re both based in NYC.

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The copy on the back of this ginger & chilli biscuit tin (really spicy gingersnaps from Fortnum & Mason) is as good as the cookies themselves. In fact, these were so tasty, they made Mr. X-sXe admit that maybe not all British sweets suck. (“Biscuits” courtesy of Ms. & Mr. Pie, who schlepped them across the pond.)

Red velvet fudge from Reading Terminal Market

Beware your bowels, screams the label on the back of this chunk of red velvet fudge. Ms. Pie brought this gem back from Reading Terminal Market. Noteworthy because (1) it’s telling diabetics to talk to their doctor about incorporating it into their diet–like, reach for red velvet fudge when your blood sugar’s low? Dubious marketing. (2) I’ve never seen a diarrhea warning on candy that didn’t have artificial sweeteners. But I appreciate the heads up.

02
Oct
12

Trader Joe’s takes on the Mounds Bar

Trader Joe's dark-chocolate covered coconut mango bites

At least, that’s the first thing that came to mind when I spotted these new dark-chocolate covered coconut mango bites (forgive the adjective string). I know, I know. Mounds has milk chocolate–Trader Joe’s uses dark. TJ’s version has mango. Mounds doesn’t. Either way, the principle’s the same: chocolate-coated shredded coconut.

Trader Joe's dark-chocolate covered coconut mango bites, cross-section

While the mango’s a nice touch, it’s not tart enough to add much flavor. Overall, a split opinion on these. I like them pretty well but they’re not the little bites of paradise I’d imagined after reading all the hype on the back of the package. Mr. X-sXe is a bigger fan, commenting that they’re packed full of “nice, stringy* pieces of coconut.”

*One of the rare occasions where you’ll see “stringy” used as a compliment.

05
Mar
12

UK vs. US: chocolate bar face-off

Hershey’s new Air Delight bar is clearly a rip-off of the British Wispa or Aero bars you find in every UK corner store: chocolate with air bubbles in it. But Americans don’t give a crap about texturized chocolate, if you believe this article. In some ways, it feels like whipped yogurt or cream cheese: an excuse to give you less product for the same money.

Hershey's Air Delight, from foodette-reviews.blogspot.com. Click on the photo for their review.

In contrast, the British are all about texture. They even name their bars for it: the Cadbury Flake (chocolate that, uh, flakes off), the Cadbury Crunchie (chocolate coating over a crispy honeycomb center), the Galaxy Ripple (like a Flake but coated in smooth chocolate and made by one of Cadbury’s competitors).

Cross-section of the Cadbury Flake. Difficult to eat gracefully but delightful with your soft serve cone. Photo from chocablog.com.

So, what are Americans looking for in a chocolate bar? I quickly surveyed the candy rack at Target to find out. If I had to pick an overall trend, I’d say we’re suckers for a good salty-sweet mix—usually involving peanuts.

1)      Snickers: chocolate coating, peanuts, caramel, and nougat

2)      Twix: chocolate coating, caramel and a subtly salty cookie

3)      Reese’s: chocolate coating, salty peanut butter

4)      Take 5: chocolate coating, caramel, peanuts, and pretzel

5)      Butterfinger: chocolate coating over a peanuty, crunchy center

In summary, I don’t think the texturized chocolate thing is gonna catch on here. Personally, I love a Flake or Crunchie now and then (pick one up at the Classic Cigars & British Goodies store in Clarendon, World Market, or Dean & Deluca). Plus the overall quality of British chocolates is better, due to higher cocoa content. Eat a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar side-by-side with a Hershey’s bar and you can tell the difference.

But given that my UK friends used to always ask me to bring them bags of mini-Reese’s cups, it seems there’s a gap in the UK market for more salty-sweet bars. Got that, Cadbury?

15
Jan
12

Remember Almond Roca?

Photo poached from jessicaclairesworld.blogspot.com

It’s a chocolate-and-almond-covered toffee that takes some serious chomping to bite into–so it kinda sounds like your teeth are breaking (but you won’t care, since it’s delicious). Back when I was growing up in the 80s, it came in these unmistakable Pepto-pink tins. They actually still make the stuff in similar packaging. My mom re-used the tins everywhere in our house when I was a kid. It was always a bummer to open a tin only to find a collection of loose buttons or rubber bands instead of gold-wrapped toffee nuggets.

This dark chocolate roasted-pistachio toffee is basically the Trader Joe’s version of Almond Roca. At $4 for 7.5 oz, part of me hoped it would suck so I wouldn’t have to buy it again. It didn’t suck. On the contrary, it’s addictive. Luckily, I’m afraid that eating this toffee regularly will result in more chipped teeth.* That, and the price, will likely deter me from keeping this stocked in the pantry.

*I already have a chipped tooth that’s been unsuccessfully “fixed” twice. The first time, biting down on a baguette took the filling out. The second, a Twizzler was the culprit. I didn’t want to stop eating baguettes or Twizzlers, so the tooth remains jagged.

08
Aug
11

A waste of sugar?

To state the obvious, I have a sweet tooth whose daily demands must be met. Yet there are plenty of sweets that I can walk away from without a tinge of remorse. Here’s a rundown.

Fudge is the bastard child of chocolate
Ever made fudge? You add sugar, butter, and cream or milk to chocolate. Only in America would we find a way to make chocolate sweeter, fattier, and richer.
Another reason I’m not a fan: fudge with nuts. You know what that looks like. (Sorry, but at least I spared you the photo.)

Photo from musingfoodie.blogspot.com

Entenmann’s is delicious only if you’re 10
Actually, I’ve got a soft spot for their danishes, since as a kid, they were an exotic treat in a house dominated by Chinese food. But for nostalgia’s sake I tried a box of their “chocolate”-covered donuts a while back, which was like biting into cakey matter coated with candle wax. They’re so bad, I’d feel guilty about leaving them in the company kitchen.
Candy corn should have existential questions about why it was put on Earth
Pass out packets of these at Halloween if you want to see what dejection looks like. As a kid, when splitting your Halloween spoils into the “keeper” and “trade” piles, bet this was usually in the latter.
Hershey’s Chocolate Bar gives “American chocolate” a bad name
If you want quality chocolate, don’t eat this. Chocolate is #2 on the list of ingredients, after sugar. Hershey’s makes plenty of good stuff (Reese’s, Take 5, Peppermint Patties), but the classic chocolate bar isn’t one of them.
Black licorice, the Marmite of the candy world
A Danish friend who came to visit traveled with bags of black licorice, as if it was life-sustaining insulin that she couldn’t leave home without. Maybe, like Marmite, you develop a liking for it only if you were raised on it.

Photo from mochachocolatarita.blogspot.com

Obscure ethnic wildcard: mooncakes are proof that my people shouldn’t make desserts
Mooncakes are a seasonal tradition during the Mid-Autumn Festival, in a bunch of Asian countries. They’re basically a pastry shell wrapped around dense, sweet paste. Usually that paste is made of mung beans, but variations include fruit, sesame seeds, etc.
The thing that gets me is that to represent the full moon, there’s sometimes a salted egg yolk in the middle. Biting into one unexpectedly is slightly traumatic. This is why most Chinese people eat fruit after a meal, and why there’s a limited selection of desserts on a Chinese menu. Sweets aren’t our culinary strong suit.
07
Jul
11

Co Co Sala’s chocolate boutique

Walking back to the car after lunch at Ella’s, a Co Co Sala sign beckoned me and Mr. X-sXe: “Frozen Co Co.” It was 90+ degrees, and humid as a devil’s armpit. We dutifully went inside.

CoCo Sala opened a chocolate boutique adjacent to their main restaurant about a year ago. As we waited for our drink to be blended, we checked out the high-end goodies. “Chocolate-enrobed bacon,” read one sign. It brought back memories of the mac and cheese I’d had here a couple years ago, which came with a piece of said bacon. Although a little too chewy, it actually went well with the mac.

Finally, the frozen “co co” emerged. It’s made with ganache (chocolate + cream), ice, and chocolate shavings. Liquefied brownie meets Frappuccino. Delicious, yes. But if you’re looking for something light and refreshing on a hot summer day, this isn’t it.

While inside, Mr. X-sXe was taken by the fetching display of individual chocolates. Next thing you know, we walk out with a box of 4 for $10. At that price, it almost hurts to eat them. Our flavors were pistachio, lemon, co cojito, and banana ginger. While they were all good, I can only get so excited about filled chocolates. Doesn’t matter how high end they are—they always bring back memories of the Whitman’s samplers we’d get at the drugstore as kids (“I want the chocolate-covered cherry!”). Damn you for ruining filled chocolates for me, Whitman’s.

26
May
11

Chocolate infographics & other tasty ideas

There’s a gourmet food store in my hometown called A Southern Season. As you walk in, there’s an entire wall of exotic/gourmet/overpriced chocolate bars to the right called the Chocolate Bar. I usually peruse the selection, then walk away empty-handed. Problem is, I don’t really want to eat an entire bar of chocolate studded with pork rinds, Himalayan pink salt, or curry powder–I just want to break off a piece to taste, then call it a day.

That’s why these choco-creations from Chocolate Editions seem like a great gift for the chocolate fan*–they get back to the basics. Take this pie chart, which I believe is proportioned according to their  customers’ preference for dark, milk, and white chocolate.

This Neopolitan Bar reminds me of the tubs of Breyer’s ice cream we used to fight over as kids. The hierarchy was chocolate, vanilla, then strawberry. Woe to the strawberry.

And this Milk to White bar brings to mind a paint chip, Missoni print, or misguided Dove ad, depending on where your head’s at.

*I beseech you to excise the word chocoholic from your vocabulary, and to run from anyone who happily slaps that label on themselves.