Country the Candy Comes From
“Black licorice and fruit gummies?” was what ran through my head as I saw these on the shelf at a Cost Plus World Market. I have a big spot in my heart for black licorice, and the idea of a chewy version of it combined with fruit flavors was too much for me to handle. So into my shopping bag they went.
The fruit flavors here are tropical: kiwi, mango and passion fruit. I’m tickled by this choice, as I’d imagine more domestic fruits like apples, pears, peaches and strawberries blending better with licorice. I’m not a candy maker though, so what would I know? I can only imagine and express what my taste buds say to me.
The shapes of these are really cute; some are round and coin shaped while the others are more slender and oblong. The texture is like how I’d imagine a flat DOT would be: soft, chewy, lightly firm and nice staying power in the mouth.
Kiwi (green): The kiwi flavors are really juicy and the taste a nice mix between apple and peach. I don’t know how that translates to kiwi, but I’m open to the interpretation. The licorice matches with it well; it’s refreshing with strong notes of molasses and an herbal zest to it.
Mango (yellow): The mango is not quite mango in my mind. It’s more peachy and a little more berry tasting than the kiwi. It also lacks that signature “bite” I associate with mango. The flavor mixes nicely with the licorice side which tastes milder to me than the licorice in the kiwi.
Passion fruit (red): Tastes of peach (I’m seeing a trend here), strawberry and grape. Also blends nicely with a milder licorice.
These were fun to try and certainly quite tasty. I admit I’m slowly working on my bag, choosing to savor them as opposed to feeling that I need to gobble them up immediately. I love how unique they are, I cannot think of anything like this sold here in the United States. I’m happy that I got to try them, but I don’t see myself craving these once my bag is gone.
Rating: Will Eat Again
You can’t have Hershey’s without the Hershey’s Kiss. They are one of America’s most iconic candies with its classic tear-drop like shape, bright foil wrapper and thin paper strip at the top. This, like the Cookies ‘n Creme Kisses I reviewed earlier this month, is one of the new limited editions Kisses to be found on store shelves. I found these in my local Walgreens.
I admit, I am a Kiss junkie. I cannot resist trying the latest and (sometimes not the) greatest Kiss variety I see when I’m in the store. I since lost count of the flavors I’ve tasted, but it’s always fun for me to just give them a try. I found these Marshmallow Creme ones especially appealing because last year Hershey’s released a Chocolate Marshmallow Kiss variety that was less than stellar. When I saw the illustration of the Marshmallow Creme Kiss on the package showing a filled center, I couldn’t help but get excited about it.
The Kisses are very cute with their silver and brown checkered foil wrappers. The texture of them is very creamy and the smooth interior makes them much less structurally sound than the other kisses I’ve had. You just look at the buggers and they melt.
The inside isn’t a marshmallow creme at all. Actually, it really reminds me more of that tub frosting you can buy at the store. It’s thick, creamy and has that roasted vanilla flavor that marshmallows get after you toast them. Combined with the chocolate coating, it’s a very sweet little Kiss. I can’t help but wonder what they’d taste like smooshed between some graham crackers. I’ll put it on my to do list.
I like these better than a majority of the Kiss varieties I’ve had to date, but they don’t take home the blue ribbon. I found myself finishing the bag with no problem, so at least I know they’re good enough to be addictive. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Hershey’s does with the Kisses.
Rating: Will Eat 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
There’s been word floating about the candy-sphere that there were new DOTS to be released sometime this year. I really hadn’t paid it much attention since I’m not an avid DOT eater, but when I spied them in a Vons on a recent trip to LA, well, I decided to change my mind. New candy is always worthy of attention.
I almost passed these boxes by on the shelf, since their design is so different from most other candy packages out there, it just didn’t read as “candy” to me right away. With colors that are predominately dark completed with a black backdrop, overall it feels very masculine and I wanted to move them next to all the energy drinks.
The boxes are big too as they’re the giant theater sized boxes with about 2 1/2 servings in them. Thankfully I was able to share my find with Cybele who shared her thoughts on these last week. I admit I couldn’t even finish them even after Cybele took a share of them.
Earth (Pomegranate): A pretty, deep, berry purple color. The most similar of the bunch to the regular DOTS line, as it’s fruit flavored. It tastes very fruity with accents of grape and cherry. Sweet, yet tangy and it reminds me of red licorice a little. The flavor doesn’t really read as “pomegranate” to me, but I forgive them since it’s a difficult essence to peg since it’s not very iconic.
Air (Wintergreen): The color of these is so bright and it immediately reminds me of toothpaste. The wintergreen flavor is mellow, which I love becaue it doesn’t feel like I’m eating a mint. It has a subtle herbal edge to it, with notes of root beer and licorice that I find very pleasing.
Fire (Cinnamon): A very intense bright semi-opaque red, it almost comes across as neon to me. The cinnamon flavor is medium intensity, not fully sweet but not “hot” either. It has subtle woodsy notes and a bit ofcherry flavor to it.
Water (Green Tea): This combination I found amusing, since I drink green tea so often it might as well be water. The color is an odd, delicate yellow green which doesn’t read as “watery” or like “green tea” at all. The flavor is full of very floral and light soapy notes. The “plantiness” of it is reminiscent of green tea but so very, very removed. On top of that it’s lightly sweet and the whole thing just comes off as gross to me.
I liked the fact that Tootsie took the daring step with trying more unconventional flavors for DOTS. In theory I would have loved to eat green tea and wintergreen DOTS, it’s something I’d see myself buying often. However, the flavors didn’t strike home with me, so DOTS Elements just come across as a wasted opportunity. I just hope these don’t scare away ideas of any new and better attempts, because I’d love for candy to branch more in this direction.
Rating: Not Worth It
I love trying new chocolate, which I’m sure comes as no surprise at all. It’s really interesting for me to taste what each individual chocolate maker and chocolatier does with it. No two chocolates can taste the same, even if crafted by the same hand. It’s like a visit to an art museum, but for you taste buds.
Chocolove is one of the my favorite recent chocolate discoveries. I got my first taste of them at The New York Chocolate Show last November. I got to sample most of their line of chocolate bars and immediately fell in love with their Toffee & Almonds in 33% Milk Chocolate bar. Once you taste something utterly addictive, it’s only a matter of time until you go back for more. So the next trip to the store I found myself perusing the Chocolove selection and decided on trying the 65% Rich Dark chocolate, since I find bittersweet a good base for judging.
I love the red wrapper as it’s such an appealing color (not to mention my favorite). According to the front, you also get a love note along with the bar of chocolate, so I immediately think this would be a really cute gift for a special someone. The overall design is really cute, meant to look like a piece of mail sent especially to you.
Once the chocolate is free from the paper, you immediately notice the rich dark brown color and a gloss. The bar had a good hard snap to it and the break clean aside from a few pink prick sized air bubble holes. The molded domes of the chocolate have a little embossed curly heart on them and it’s really, really cute. The flavor is very mild and sweet with no notes of frutiness or acidity, which is common in darker chocolates. Instead I get a lot of roasted notes of coffee and cocoa, and accents of earthiness with coconut and some lingering vanilla. The mouthfeel is very rich, the chocolate is smooth and creamy and almost has a “thick” feeling on your tongue. It was especially nice a to savor this and let melt slowly in my mouth.
The Chocolove 65% Rich Dark is a really beautiful tasting bar and it’s been added to my list of chocolates I must have on hand at all times. The flavor and rich mouthfeel makes it feel really indulgent for times when I feel I need to treat myself. You know, so I can show myself some Chocolove!
Rating: Will Buy Again