Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! No matter what you celebrate, I hope you are having a good time surrounded by loved ones and good food.
I realize that on the surface, this doesn’t seem like a very holiday oriented confection. I thought about reviewing one of the classic candies, like candy canes, or perhaps ones of the new limited editions that was released just for the holidays. But, I wanted something more meaningful. For me, Italian torrone (or nougat, if you prefer) is always associated with Christmas. There’s some foods that you only get once and year, and for my Dad, it’s Italian torrone.
My Mom always buys him a bar for the holidays, and in recent years, I’ve started to do the same. Growing up, I never quite understood what this confection was. My Dad always offered me some, and I didn’t take him up on his offer until me late teens or early twenties. To my surprise, I really liked it. Really liked it. From then on my Dad and I were able to share my love to torrone together, something my Mom and sisters don’t understand.
I think of him whenever I eat it.
This specific torrone is studded with almonds and is enrobed with a lemon flavored white chocolate coating. It’s protected in sturdy plastic, so I’m sure it’s very fresh. The bar smells very strongly of lemon, almost in a soapy way, with a slight almond essence toward the end of it.
The texture is awesome: firm with a edge of softness with a smooth mouth feel that has a slight grain to it. The almonds are fresh and deliver a meaty crunch. The lemon/white chocolate coating is thick and hard, protecting the soft, terribly fresh torrone under it. The flavor is a wonderful mix, and it’s really hard to separate each of the parts from one another (trust me I tried). The lemon flavor is sweet and slightly zesty, and the torrone has notes of nuts and honey. Overall it provides, albeit a little overly sweet, tasty fresh lemon/nougaty flavor, just like you’d expect. I like knowing what to expect from a confection, and this delivers everything I’d anticipated and then some.
Torrone fanatics would love this I think. I’d buy it again, but not regularly. Otherwise it wouldn’t remain such a special holiday treat in my mind.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Strega Alberti Torrone Webpage
About a year ago was when I had my first taste of Charles Chocolates, a San Francisco based chocolatier founded by the endearing Chuck Siegel. This is another chocolatier that I was immediately smitten with and have, like Chuao, been trying to work my way through all of their chocolate offerings.
Charles Chocolates stresses the use of extremely fresh ingredients and making the chocolates in small batches to ensure quality. And believe me, you can really taste the difference as the flavors, for me, are much more intense than other chocolate bars I’ve had. Out of the regular Charles Chocolates offerings, I have a weak spot for the Milk Chocolate Caramelized Rice Krispie Bar and have been eyeing the Tea Collection for some time now.
The Emeryville Collection is a new line of bars that are made to sale exclusively in Whole Foods. They’re immediately eye-catching with their bright, art-deco styled boxes.
Hazelnut bar (65% bittersweet): The chocolate is dark, rich, and fruity. It has a beautiful color, shiny gloss and a strong snap. The hazelnuts are whole and roasted, so the flavors are much more complex. Extremely fresh, nutty, sweet, salty and crispy. It’s really lovey and the whole bar has a great buttery feel on the tongue.
Cashew (41% milk): The chocolate is a beautiful, creamy color. The flavor is milky and sweet and exceptionally smooth. It falls into the “epitome of what good milk chocolate is” category in my book. The cashews are buttery and fresh. They have a great crunch to them and they have a nice saltiness to them that balances out the chocolate well.
Pecan Cherry (65% bittersweet: It’s the same nice dark chocolate as the Hazelnut bar, so it has that delicate sweetness and light fruitiness. The cherries are big and juicy and they really deliver a nice chewy texture. The pecans are fresh with that similar salty roasted flavors and crispy texture that the hazelnuts ad cashews have. This bar is the sweetest of the three and I blame that on the cherries, but it’s satisfying and very tempting. This bar is a sophisticated twist on the usual “raisin and peanut bar” you see everywhere.
This trio of bars are an excellent example of how simple ingredients and combinations can really elevate an already great chocolate. I can’t wait for these to show in my local Whole Foods.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Charles Chocolates Website
Tis the season for limited edition holiday flavors, and that’s all too clear from a stroll down any holiday aisle in your local grocery or drug store. While I fail to get excited about re-packaged Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Hershey’s Kisses, my interest was piqued when I found out that Chocolove released a special flavored bar for the holidays. I was lucky and picked one up when I was at the New York City Chocolate Show. I have been very eager to give it a try, but have been waiting until Thanksgiving was over so my festive review was more appropriately timed.
The bar, in typical Chocolove fashion, is decorated to look like a love letter. This one is unique, with an addition of a red ribbon and a picture of a present, so it feels like a present as well. The bar is described as “Fruits & Nuts in 55% Dark Chocolate”. Looking at the ingredients list, I see that “pecans, currants, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, orange peel, and ginger” are listed on the back. Already it sounds enticing.
The flavor is of their nice dark chocolate. More importantly it’s bittersweet, which is one of my favorites. You taste a strong presence of orange from the peel. There’s an ever-changing flavor with each bite, as the bits of dried fruits and nuts really effect how the chocolate tastes. I got bites that were slightly more tart with one of the cherries or currants, or nuttier with some of the pecans, walnut or hazelnuts. There’s a constant underlying spiciness that makes the bar feel very cozy and warm. It does evoke the holiday season very well, and it feels very fitting to be munching it as the events draw near.
I’m happy to got two of these bars. It’s a shame that it’ll be gone once the holidays are over, but it gives me something to look forward to next year.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Here’s the second Dolfin summer edition chocolate bars. This one is pretty appropriate with its name: “Summer Memories”, as summer is indeed a memory as of now. The flavor is “Apple crumble” with “apple, hazelnuts and sugar cane” in it. I don’t know about you, but apple crumble is more of a fall dessert in my mind. I digress.
Today’s bar is a darker chocolate, a 60% bittersweet to be exact. The chocolate’s color is very dark, with blue-ish tones to it and a bright gloss. You can see the bits of apple and/or hazelnuts in the back of the bar. The snap is very crisp and strong.
The aroma is spicy like a lot of cinnamon chili bars I’ve had before. There’s notes of coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg and chili.
The flavor begins sweetly and I get a “warmth” from the cinnamon with some nice creamy flavors of the chocolate. Then it’s accented with flavors of coffee and caramel. The end of the flavor is very chocolatey with a strong cream note and then it finishes smooth and lightly with subtle notes of vanilla and cocoa. I’m sad to say I don’t get any apple of hazelnut flavor, which I find quite disappointing. The hazelnut texture I do detect amidst the velvety chocolate. The tiny pieces impart a praline like crunch.
I’d buy “Southern Passion” before getting this one again.
Rating: Might Eat Again
Toffee has always been a rare treat in my family. Something that I made each Christmas season with my Mom and sisters to give out as gifts. I haven’t had any other kinds, save for a Skor bar here and there. This is why I was pretty excited to give Enstrom’s Toffee a try. Was it going to stand up to the homemade kind I’ve been eating for years?
The toffee comes beautifully packaged in a box where inside it’s separated into large slabs. And I do mean large, as the the base layer is about 1/2 inch thick. The toffee has a nice rich,creamy, milky caramel color. There’s a generous amount of grated almonds bits on top were dusty and therefore a little messy. Reaching in to secure a corner for immediate tasting, I was pleased to find it was easily broken off.
The chocolate layer that sits on top of the toffee has a nice thickness: not too thin so the toffee shows though, but not too thick so it’s like cake frosting. The almonds are roasted and terribly fresh. They release nice nutty, salty, smoky flavors that compliment the sweet toffee and chocolate beautifully.
The toffee crunches fantastically in the mouth. It’s light, crispy, and not sticky. It holds its texture yet is soft enough so I don’t get any in my teeth. I get wonderful buttery, creamy, rich caramelized flavors right away. Combined with the nuts I’m reminded of caramel corn with it’s sweet/salty/nutty flavors. The flavor is so terribly fresh and flavorful, it could easily stand alone without the almonds and chocolate.
And speaking of the chocolate, it’s fantastic. It’s very chocolately, mildly sweet, and it holds it’s own when eaten separately. Yes, I did pick pieces of it off. Alone I was able to explore the sweet, creamy, slightly coconutty flavors. With the toffee, as it’s meant to be, it adds a little richness to it all and rounds out an already stellar combination of textures and flavors.
So did this live up to my expectations? Oh yes, it exceeded them in fact! I didn’t anticipate wanting to finish off my box, but it was so good I found myself picking at the toffee every chance I got. I can’t wait to get my hands on more and am extremely tempted to forgo the kitchen work this year and put in a few orders with Enstrom instead.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Enstrom Toffee Website