When I think of certain foreign countries, very specific candy come to mind. I think of Smarties and Mars bars for the United Kingdom, Michel Cluizel chocolate for France, Haribo Gummis for Germany, and Pocky for Japan. My point to all this is that the candy that comes to mind for Australia is Cherry Ripe.
I eyed Cherry Ripe for a long, long time. As silly as it may sound, the whole reason it interested me to begin with was its intensely bright red package. Once I read the description of the bar: “ripe juicy cherries and moist coconut smothered in rich ‘Old Gold’ Dark Chocolate” I was sold on the idea of it. It was a matter of time before I got my hands on it.
My patience was eventually rewarded and I tore open the wrapper with an intense purpose. I really didn’t know what to expect on the inside of the bar from the description. Was it coconut studded with maraschino cherries like a fruity version of Almond Joy? Were they mixed in and evenly dispersed throughout? Just a flavor? I couldn’t wait.
The bar looks like a standard enrobed candy bar on the outside, smooth and dark and smelling very coconutty and sweet. Breaking the bar in half revealed the moment of truth: the interior was an intensely bright red coconut center. No cherry bits to be seen.
As for the flavor? Well, take a Mounds bar and flavor the coconut center with maraschino cherry syrup and a little Red 40 and you got yourself a Cherry Ripe. Sweet, slight medicinal cherry flavor with a hint of bitterness. The coconut really saved it with its sweet, nutty and extremely moist texture. The combination works, but comes off as a little odd to me.
I’m happy I tried this so I could put my mind and taste buds to rest. It’s not really my thing, to be honest, but I certainly will give it another go if I find myself in the land down under.
Rating: Might Eat Again
Cherry Ripe Webpage
I was originally introduced to the work of Lake Champlain Chocolates by my Mom, and I wish I could remember where and when she originally discovered them. All I can recall is her gushing to me about how good their chocolate was and how I needed to try it. I finally caved and bought some when I saw it in Whole Foods some time later, and when I tasted it, I was hooked.
I saw these earlier this year as one of their seasonal spring releases, and it was too pretty and tasty looking to pass up. The chocolates are so beautiful. They’re shaped like dogwood flowers and are wrapped by flavor in colorful foil. The actual chocolates is very dark in color and has a nice “clean” chocolatey aroma. I can’t imagine how they could be any more enticing.
Dark Mint (green): The bite is surprisingly firm and breaks off with a good “klok” sound. The mint flavor shows immediately yet it’s light and not overpowering at all. The chocolate provides sweetness and a good richness to the palette. What I thought was really cool was that there’s slivers/chunks of peppermint in here, like crushed pieces of candy cane. It delivers an unexpected burst of mintiness in some bites and the slightly chewy texture is a lot of fun.
Milk Chocolate Caramel (pink): The milk chocolate is wonderful and is the “standard” chocolate base for Lake Champlain: very creamy with dairy flavors and strong sweetness. The overall effect is extremely chocolatey and very satisfying satisfying. I’m reminded of good Swiss chocolate. The center holds the caramel which is very free flowing and drippy. The flavor is quite sweet with really strong notes of cooked sugar resulting in a toasty flavor. I also taste a strong hit of cream that gives it a little tang. The caramel center and chocolate exterior make a very sweet and dedicant combination here.
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Praline (blue): This uses the same delicious milk chocolate as above but the the taste of the hazelnuts is immediately apparent. It’s as if Nutella has come and crashed milk chocolate’s party. It’s a wonderful combination, and dare I say, the whole thing feels smoother and richer because of it. This is hard for me to believe since Lake Champlain’s chocolate is so smooth to begin with. A lovely chocolate morsel to say the least.
These are awesome, no question about it. Even if the flavor selection doesn’t appeal to you, I can safely say that these also make excellent gifts. My Mom relies on me to give them to her.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Lake Champlain’s Milk Chocolate Flowers Webpage
“Cioccolato extra fondente 74% all-assenzio” reads the box of this chocolate bar. I don’t speak Italian, yet I knew immediately what this was when I saw it: absinthe dark chocolate. I’ve had liqueur flavors in chocolate before and I’ve had anise flavored chocolate before, but together? This is something I had to taste for myself.
This is made by Leone, a very well know Italian confectionery company. This bar is actually part of an absinthe line that they offer; including absinthe chocolate bonbons, pastilles and a bottle of the green stuff itself. As for this chocolate bar version, the packaging theme is very dark and mysterious with deep brown tones with copper accents and green detailing. It really delivers the odd mystique of absinthe, in a dark turn of the century like feel.
The back shows a very suggestive image of molten chocolate and some history on the chocolate (all in Italian). The ingredients list is simple: cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, absinthe infusion, extracts and essences of aromatic herbs and plants, natural vanilla. There’s no funny business here.
You immediately you smell the anise when the opaque foil protecting the bar is opened. It’s pretty strong smell. The chocolate is very dark and smooth, with no gloss at all. It feels glassy smooth to the touch. The break is very hard and clean, save for a few random air bubbles.
The flavor is quite complex. There’s a very bright sweetness that rests at the base of the whole flavor. The strong, herbal anise flavor of the absinthe shows up almost immediately. It’s varies between intense and mild, allowing hints of mint, grassiness and fennel to appear. There’s no burn at all, just a mix of very strong herbal notes. The chocolate lends a great deep roasted richness to it all, staying grounded and strong and keeping the whole bar from tasting too medicinal. There’s a coolness to this bar too, and overall, I think this is like a very intense mint chocolate, with those extra anise flavors included.
I enjoyed this. I wish I bought more of them.
Rating: Will Buy Again
I’ve heard of these Cream Nut Clusters long before I ever found them to try. Like yesterday’s Tronky bar, they were something I discovered in the DiBruno Bros. store and as soon as I saw them, I snatched them us as if there were the last bit of food on earth. Yes, I was that excited to try them.
The Cream Nut Peanut Butter Clusters are made by Koeze Company, who specializes in making the infamous Cream Nut Peanut Butter. I’ve heard it’s the best peanut butter out there, but I haven’t tried it myself. As if my opinions on peanut butter on a candy blog would matter, anyways. These clusters use that peanut butter, blend it with white chocolate to make a creamy center, then layer it on fresh pecans before covering it all in dark chocolate. I’m drooling already.
They look similar to caramel turtles: a ploop with edges that curl under into a little mound. It’s large too, about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 in tall. It smells chocolatey with a hint of coconut to it.
The first bite is terribly creamy. The chocolate is a good thickness and cleanly snaps when you bite into it. The peanut butter white chocolate center is terribly smooth and very sweet. The peanut butter flavor is not very strong as it’s been diluted by the white chocolate, but it still is the start of the whole candy. The pecan bits are a perfect size; not too big or small. They deliver a wonderful light nutty flavor with an incredibly fresh, meaty texture that’s crunchy at first then buttery smooth for the rest of the time.
The entire symphony of flavors works beautifully: the chocolate provides a deep, characteristic flavor which balances out the sweet creamy center and ends with the crunchy pecans. Think of this as a extreme quality Russell Stover creme bonbon or maybe what the Reeses’ Select Clusters should be like.
Rating: Will Buy Again
There’s been lots of artisenal chocolate makers popping up in the United States the past couple of years. There has, in my opinion, been a great deficit of them and it’s so rewarding for me to see that many have caught the chocolate making “bug”. These newcomers to the chocolate making scene have helped shape the future of chocolate by adopting progressive practices on how they source, make and sell their products. None of them have gone as far as Askinosie chocolate, who have literally taken chocolate making into their own hands.
Shawn Askinosie, the founder of Askinosie chocolate, was a criminal defense lawyer before he was called away to pursue a passion of chocolate. Learning everything he could about the process, he’s taken great steps to make sure his product is the best that it can be. Not only that, but his background has given him the gift of great social responsibility and has created a new way to work with the farmers whom he sources all his cocoa beans. Aside from traveling to the cocoa plantations to meet the workers and taste the beans himself, Shawn also pays above Fair Trade prices to his farmers so that they can focus on making better cocoa beans from more sustainable farming techniques and enjoy higher living standards.
Another amazing thing about Askinosie is that they are the only small batch chocolate maker in the United States to press their own cocoa butter. They use all natural cane sugar and also refuse to use additives in the chocolate as they feel it messed with the chocolate’s flavor and texture. This results in a very short shelf life of these bars which is about 6 months. Oh, and did I mention that the chocolate is also organic?
With all the fanfare in regard to the practices and processes of Askinosie, the big questions still remains: Does the chocolate taste good? I can give you a very enthusiastic “Yes”.
70% San Jose Del Tambo Dark Chocolate Bar: Very beautiful bar to look at. It has a great dark color with a gorgeous temper and gloss. The blocks are so cute, each sporting a letter of the “Askinoise” name. The aroma is intense: fresh, bright, red, fruity and very alive.
The flavor starts off mild with notes of cream, caramel, raisins and vanilla. The middle blossoms into a bright bouquet of fruits, berries, tart cherries and citrus which is pleasantly tart and pure tasting. That flavor lasts and has good staying power for a bit before fading into the finish like a brilliant sunset. The aftertaste has clean notes of cocoa and orange.
San Jose Del Tambo 34% white chocolate: There are many special things about this bar, but the main one is that it’s the first small batch white chocolate bar. Another special thin about this is that it’s a non deodorized white chocolate, which means the aromas in the cocoa butter aren’t removed. Other than El Rey’s Icoa white chocolate which is also non deodorized, this is the only type of white chocolate you can find on the market. It’s amazing to look at too, as the bar isn’t white at all; but a soft caramel, beige color. It doesn’t have much aroma, other than a slight fatty cocoa scent. the break is soft, the chocolate feels smooth and has a subtle gloss.
Right away it’s very sweet, and the flavor slowly comes out after a moment of melting on the tongue. It’s has a sweet, dairy-like musk to it (from the goat’s milk I’m guessing) that plays with the subtle notes of cocoa in the non deorodized butter. There’s light notes of caramel too and I’m reminded of dulche de la leche. The mouthfeel is very rich, with a thick texture that’s smooth but not slippery. The finish is light and sweet, and I admit I want more of it when it’s done.
75% Soconusco Dark Chocolate Nibble Bar: This bar uses the prized cocoa beans from the Soconusco valley in Mexico, where there are great pains are taken to collect these beans since it’s such a remote location. The bar is a deep rich brown and turing it over you can see the nibble bits are generously studded into the backside of the bar. It smells birght and roasted: notes of coffee, red berries, cinnamon, cutrus, and vanilla.
The flavor is beautiful and starts off with mild vanilla and nutty flavors that then bloom into citrus, cream and cocoa. Those flavor longer a moment, then fade when a slight acidic notes of berries and sweet red fruits leave a clean, fresh finish with no aftertaste. Along with all this you get a constant, light nuttieness from the nibs as they deliver a slight chewy texture which goes beautifully with the chocolate. The nibb’s texture is not too soft to get lost in the chocolate or too hard to compete with it. Lovely.
I cannot help but gush about the Askinosie chocolate. The chocolate is top-notch in terms of appearance, texture and flavor. Not only that, but the thoughtfulness of the practices of the company in regard how it processes the chocolate at the factory (they’re as green as possible) and the huge social commitment they make to the cocoa farmers where they course their beans makes this company one I want to support. With retail value $8-$10.50 per 85 g bar, this many not be an everyday indulgence, but it’s something I’ll happily pay for frequently. It’s something sweet for my taste buds and the planet.
Askinosie Chocolate Website