I want to be perfectly honest here. I love, love spice beans. I realize that they’re the jelly beans we’ve all encountered as kids, probably visiting the Grandparents over the Easter holiday. We’d see a candy dish on the table full of jelly beans and eagerly grab a handful. As we shoved the colorful, sugary orbs into our mouths, we realized they were full of odd flavors: cinnamon, peppermint, and heaven forbid, clove. Flavors that are not suited to our sugar-oriented taste buds, and they’re promptly get spit into the garbage when the adults weren’t looking.
So yes, I am strange in this love of mine. In my defense, I didn’t eat them as a kid. I wasn’t ever exposed to them to be honest. It wasn’t until college where I noticed them in the candy aisles and decided to try them to see what the fuss was about. The rest is history, as so they stay.
Brach’s has always been one of my favorite varieties. I liked the flavors and textures, especially more than the other cheaper pectin spice beans I’d enounter. I was tempted by them a few times from the cheaper price tag, but I soon realized that you got what you paid for.
So why do I feel Brach’s are so superior? Firstly, these beans are large, like three to four times the size of Jelly Belly Beans, and maybe two to three of the Starburst and Just Born’s beans. They just have an satisfying size, even if you’re just looking at them.
Ginger (orange): I hard a hard time placing this flavor at first. Which I found frustrating for a bit. It didn’t taste gingery at first, but then halfway though that gingery burn shows up a little bit. I’d say it’s the spiciest of the bunch, but it’s still pretty mild, all things considered. This was the flavor I was looking forward to least, but I did liked it after all.
Clove (purple): It’s woodsy, sweet and not as strong as I was expecting. I enjoyed the nutty and herbal chew. Am I the only one?
Licorice (black): Oh yay! I love licorice jelly beans. This reminds me of the licorice flavor in Good & Plenty; good strong flavor with molasses’ sweetness to it. No hints of anise here. I really thought this was a stellar flavored licorice bean. Yum, my second favorite of the bunch.
Spearmint (green):A nicely fresh, bright flavor that reminds me of toothpaste. Has a little grassy note to it.
Cinnamon (red): Was there any doubt? This one is wonderful warm and grainy, I felt like I was chewing some Big Red gum, minus the extremely intense burn.
Peppermint (white): I was nervous about this one at first, as I’m not big on peppermint. Thankfully, it’s a very light and delicate flavor. I liked this too since it didn’t overpower my taste buds which I find peppermint usually does.
Wintergreen (pink): Lovely grainy, clean, fresh, a little sweet and peppery. Can’t you tell I just love wintergreen? The flavor is strong, and has good spicy notes similar to root beer.
I always buy a few bags to keep me going for a few months past Easter, and this year is no exception. If you haven’t tried spice beans before, I really suggest giving them a try. You may just find you love them as much as I do.
Links Brach’s Website
One of the other items I bought along with the bonbons was this Aztec Chocolate Strawberry bar. I didn’t quite understand what made this bar “Aztec”, but the idea of strawberries in high quality bittersweet chocolate sold me right away. I did my best to pay little attention to the $8 price tag and threw it in with the rest of my purchases.
The bar is a pretty 100g bar. It comes in a square, as opposed to the traditional rectangular shape. It has these fun little peg holes in it, which reminds me of an old fashioned switchboard or a game of light brights. The packaging is nice too, ornate with a simple yet elegant color scheme, and the bar comes wrapped tightly in clear plastic. The chocolate is very dark and the back side is bumpy from bits of strawberries.
The chocolate has a medium hard snap, as it’s 60% cocoa. It smells very chocolatey with deep notes of caramel,coffee, a slight nuttiness and a good creamy note from the milk. I smell no strawberries.
The flavor is very creamy, which surprised me as I’m used to bittersweet chocolate to being a little on the drier side. The chocolate is rich and “dark” with good notes of cocoa, coffee, and a light nuttiness to it. The chocolate feels very light and airy, almost crumbly when you bite into it, but it melts smoothly on the tongue.
And the strawberries? They’re little freeze dried chunks, that are evenly distributed throughout the bar. They give a “rice crispy” sort of texture and a blast of fresh flavor that blends with the chocolate for a very sweet fruity finish. The combination works nicely together and it’s very tasty.
I really liked this bar and I polished it off pretty quickly. I’d buy it again, but not regularly because of the price.
Rating: Will Eat Again
MarieBelle Chocolates Website
Mariebelle is one of those high-end gourmet chocolate stores in New York City. With a store each in Soho and Madson Avenue, you know they are chocolate of style and sophistication. I’ve often browsed their stores, but have always been frightened away but the choices, and of course, the price tags. On a more recent trip there, I decided to finally splurge on a few items, especially since I’ve started to hear good things about their chocolate from reputable friends. I decided it was time I finally tried it out for myself.
Texture is so rich, as the chocolate exterior is light and soft. There’s not “snap” to these at all. The ganache is terribly slick and silky smooth as it just rolls over you tongue and it feels like heaven.
The bonbons comes in a snazzy blue box and you can pick your flavors that are neatly stacked behind a glass counter in the store. The lady at the counter told me how long they’d stay fresh and warned me, in her french accent, that “they will melt if you walk too long” as she eyed my walking shoes.
Dark Meyer Lemon: Image of a girl playfully lifting barbells: The ganache is so silky and has a nice dark chocolate hit with smooth notes of coffee and cream. Then a tart fresh zesty flavor of lemon shows up. The lemon and the chocolate are lovely together and the flavors of sweet/tart are beautifully balanced.
Spices: Showing suited men around a giant high heeled shoe: Smooth and sweet at first, then cinnamon enters to make a starring appearance. I wait for other flavors, a burn perhaps, but none show up.
Cardamom: A crazy abstract stained glass window pattern: Immediately you get the spicy, warm notes of cardamom with it’s woody and zesty flavor. Nice, but nothing noteworthy.
Pineapple: Model Legs showing off some expensive hosiery: Sweet with a flavor that is so subtle and delicate. The chocolate is mellow and is a wonderful base for the pineapple with it’s sweet pine like notes. I’m reminded of pineapple tort cake, and it’s just lovely. My favorite by far.
Impressive to look at but nothing that strikes me as particularly noteworthy in terms of flavor. I’d buy these as a gift, but run too rich for my tastes and wallet.
Rating: Might Eat Again
MarieBelle Chocolates Website
Now that, in my opinion, the most depressing and cold months of the year are upon us, my thoughts immediately turn to hot chocolate. It’s something soothing and comforting that eases my anxiety about the cold and darkness that I feel the world becomes in the middle of the winter. As my thoughts turn to places that are warmer, the idea crossed my mind that I should branch out and try new kinds of hot chocolate. The idea then hit me: why not try what many consider to be the “original” hot chocolate? The types that are a decedent of the Meso American drink and can be found in most any Mexican grocer. I went out on my hunt and found two types of Mexican drinking chocolates and a Molinillo to stir it properly.
I couldn’t wait to give these a go.
One note on the difference on Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate. Hot Cocoa used the de-fatted cocoa powder mixed with milk or water to make a drink. This is the kind you find on most supermarket shelves. Hot Chocolate is when you actually take a bar of chocolate and melt it into milk or water. It’s obviously richer, fattier and more delicious.
Ibarra: Comes in a round disc with instructions that are easy to follow. You chop off a certain number of wedges depending on how much hot chocolate you wish to make. Simple.
It was fun to make the hot chocolate, as the texture of the disc is very grainy, so it’s pretty easy to make precise cuts and it also melts quickly. Mexican hot chocolate, from what the Ibarra package says, uses hot water as a base, so I went with that in order to get the most authentic experience possible. Once the chocolate was melted and blended into my hot water, I took the Molinillo and placed the round end in my cup and rubbed the handled between my palms. This blends the chocolate further, as well as aerates the drink to make it nice and frothy.
The flavor is mild, so don’t expect this drink to be terribly rich. It has a good sweet chocolately flavor that’s kissed by cinnamon. It’s very comforting and I found myself wanting a second cup once I had finished my first.
My next test for this chocolate was to eat it as is. It obviously is much stronger in flavor eating it out of hand, and what I really found interesting about this was the textue. It’s very sandy, with the sugar granules still intact, so the chocolate broke easily and was immensely fun to chew. My only complaint was because it was so much fun to eat, it’s way too easy to polish off a disc before you realize what’s happened.
Moctezuma: This is essentially the same idea as the Ibarra chocolate, just a different brand. The flavor was pretty much the same, both as a drink and eaten alone. The only small differences I noticed was that this was a little sweeter and the cinnamon wasn’t as strong as the Ibarra.
I liked these, but not enough to buy them again. I prefer my hot chocolate to be thicker and more, well, chocolatety. These were great, they just didn’t fit my personal preferences.
Rating: Might Eat Again
See’s Candies is a confectionery giant out in the West coast. They’ve an impressive history and have been making candies since 1921 following traditional recipes and using quality ingredients. With such quality products, it’s really hard to go wrong. It’s a shame that I’m in the East Cost, which has a sad lack of See’s products. I hope to work my way though their products as time goes on. But I can say that from what I have already tasted, they make pretty stellar stuff.
This past summer I was lucky enough to visit a See’s store while on vacation in Los Angeles. Like a kid in a candy stores, I couldn’t decide on exactly what I needed to buy, as so many of their confections could be considered a “must try”. I did decide on some of their Root Beer lollypops, as I have a big weak spot for all things root beer. They were only a small part of the purchases I made there.
After bringing my See’s swag home, I discovered that the Root Beer lollipop was a summer limited edition. I was lucky enough to catch it in stores. It’s the same format as their other lollypops, a thick rectangular mass that smells sweet with notes of wintergreen and spice.
The Root Beer lollipop was a summer limited edition and I was lucky enough to catch it in stores. It’s the same format as their other lollypops, a thick rectangular mass that smells sweet with notes of wintergreen and spice.
The flavor is awesome, it’s like a single brew, old fashioned draft root beer. The different flavor components are very separate and easily distinguishable. First there’s the creamy sweetness, followed by a wintergreen peppery hit, rounded out with sharp, spicy woodsy notes. It’s so lovely. My favorite “hard” candy root beer flavor to date, as other varieties I find are usually too heavy on the herbal flavors in Root Beer. This one is just right.
Like the Root Beer, the Cinnamon lollipop is a limited edition flavor for this holiday season. They come in attractive bright red wrappers and they call to you immediately from the shelf.
The lollipop is opaque and doesn’t resemble a hard candy at all. It smells creamy and milk, but there’s also a strong cinnamon scent that’s very “hot”.
The flavor is really interesting. It’s cinnamon, and it burns a little, yet it’s very smooth and creamy. It’s a nice mix of both worlds. I get a little mouth burn with it, but it’s very mild and it reminds me of a red hot. The creamy flavors cool off the burn and I’d imagine it being like drinking a steamed milk with cinnamon syrup.
It’s a shame that both of these are available for only a limited time. They’re so tasty! I can’t help but wonder if their short shelf lifespan is part of their appeal though.
Rating: Root Beer: Hoard
Cinnamon: Will Buy Again
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