There’s some chocolatiers that can do no wrong in my mind and Christopher Norman Chocolates is one of them. I originally discovered them last year at the New York City Chocolate Show where I was graciously given some of their signature bonbons to try. Aside from the fact that I was blown away by the incredible quality and flavor, I was also drawn to the acute artistic sense that was applied to the bonbons. Christopher Norman was a painter before becoming a chocolatier and he now combines his two passions to create chocolates with his modern sense of painterly design. The result? Well, for my taste buds at least, everything is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Dark Chocolate and Blood Orange: These bars are beautifully wrapped and neatly folded in gold foil. I was surprised to find the bar was not a singular slab, but made of six filled connected squared sections. It smells mainly of the dark chocolate and hardly any scent of orange at all. It you concentrated enough you can detect a little, but it’s very, very faint. The inside is a chocolate filling that has a unique texture: think of it as a cooled, soft, not very dense ganache. The blood orange flavor is pronounced with a lovely fresh and very real orange flavor that’s not to sweet and delivers the perfect amount of tartness. It balances beautifully with the rich, complex dark chocolate and it really a masterpiece to taste. This is a great sophisticated bar if you’re looking for a chocolate orange comibination, but don’t want to restort to something cheap and artificial like Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
White Chocolate Lemon Crisp: This bar also follows the same format with six squared sections as opposed to one large bar. It’s a wonderfully creamy white color and just beautiful to look at. The white chocolate is the most delicate I’ve ever tasted, and by that I mean that’s it’s not overly sweet or bursting with vanilla like most of the other white chocolates I’ve had. This is subtly sweet, very creamy, and you can taste the creaminess of the cocoa butter.
Of course, this is all lightly accentuated by a hint of lemon. It’s amazing how the flavor is incorporated since I think “white chocolate” when I eat this, not “oohh, this is lemon flavored”. The flavor is mixed in and balanced so well, that it just makes the white chocolate stronger and more natural tasting. It reminds me of how just a hint of lemon can really brighten a cheesecake, and this is a similar thing. The crisps are like bits of corn flakes and provide a nice texture to the bar and thankfully they do not compete with the chocolate. The amount is perfect too: not too little not too many and it isn’t like a Nestle crunch at all, thankfully.
I just love this bar, because it managed to find elements that compliment the white chocolate rather than hide it, which is what I find most companies do. Christopher Norman managed to find a way to add ingredients that allowed the white chocolate to shine and really show how good it can be when done right.
Words fail me in describing how much I loved these. I cannot wait to make it back to the Christopher Norman store so I can buy more of these and sample some of their other flavors. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on these chocolate bars.
Christopher Norman Chocolate
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
If that isn’t a gorgeous candy package, I don’t know what is! It was totally on impulse that I grabbed these at the Mitsuwa in Los Angeles. The bright colors called right out to me. Whatever was inside, no matter how potentially nasty, had to be mine.
Thankfully, just as the package’s design suggests, these are watermelon flavored gummis. It’s nice that I can read the Japanese to know this, but I also appreciate the package’s intuitive design to bridge the language barrier and let anyone know what to expect from this candy.
The gummis are so adorable. Really, I had to sit there and just coo at them because they’re so cute. The gummis come in two colors, red and yellow. Each have a wonderful wedge shape to them and a green rind. They smell fresh and fruity and the texture is nice and firm.
Red: Color aside, this one is watermelon flavored. It’s very juicy tasting with notes of melon and peach (where I think most of the “artificial” aspect of candy melon flavors come from). It’s pleasant, kinda perfumey and very, very tasty.
Yellow: This one is much more tart and apple-like in flavor as opposed to the red ones. These taste more authentic because of the strong apple presence, but conversely less like a melon. I prefer this one over the red.
I think watermelon works as a great flavor for gummi candy and I can’t help but wonder why there isn’t more non sour varieties like this available. Just goes to show that sometimes you can judge a candy by its packaging.
Rating: Will Eat Again
Sometimes I come across a candy and I don’t really know what to make of it. The Clif Shot Bloks are a good example of this. They’re sold as an energy option for endurance athletes to eat for their training and events. The thing that interests me about them is that they’re gummis. Technically that means they are an energy candy, but what exactly is that? Is it still candy if it’s meant for something else then eating for pleasure?
I am torn on the issue of candy as athletic fuel. Granted, it’s well known scientific fact that sugar is a fast way to get an energy fix, which is necessary for many of the athletes who use these sort of products. It’s also a given that you’d want these products to taste good, too. So it’s really logical to make these energy supplements to taste like candy. Here lies the problem though: can these energy products really taste like candy? Would you eat them if you didn’t need the energy fix? I was curious to find out.
Strawberry: The shape of these are very large, about 1oz apiece. They’re square and reminds me of the approximate space and size of a standard chocolate bonbon. They’re semi-opaque, with a deep berry like pink color. The flavor is wonderful, especially considering this is meant purely as a form of quick-energy and not as something to savor. It tastes intensely of strawberry with a very thick, jam-like flavor. I also get some tartness in there, and it comes through as tasting like fresh apple cider. it’s so good. The texture is nice too. Thick, your teeth slice though it in the nicest way. It’s a little sticky, but only in your hands. The chew is firm yet quick, since you don’t want to be spending time chewing when you’re trying to deliver glucose to your muscles. What can I say, I’m impressed!
Cran-Razz: These are much darker than the strawberry, a very deep opaque berry purple. The taste is very jammy, but very bland. I get light notes of raspberry, but no hint of cranberry, not even a tart edge, to be found. It reminds me of how watered down juice tastes.
Cola: A nice deep brown color and looks yellow ish toward the ends where the gummi is a little translucent. It has an odd smell like the other, oddly fruity and a little salty. The flavor is a very spicy cola flavor, which is sweet and earthy with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and a twist of lemon. These have a very strong bitter aftertaste to them which I’m not too fond of though, which is a killjoy for me. Kinda like drinking a soda that’s gotten flat. It just feels like something is off.
As a workout boost these are a great option. But as candy? Personally, I wouldn’t eat them as such.
Rating: Might Eat Again
Shot Bloks at the Clif Website
This is one candy that I fail to understand why it has so many fans. I remember seeing childhood friends opt for Jolly Ranchers over a KitKat or a Milkyway (gasp!) and feeling totally nonplussed by it. Perhaps the fact that the they were just a “cool” candy because the colors were bright, the flavors fake, and the fact that every business had them in a candy basket for us to grab when the parents weren’t looking.
I wasn’t so desperate for sugar, as my parents rationed it to me well, so I found I didn’t eat Jolly Ranchers at all. Oddly enough something about the flavors always stuck with me, partly because they are so iconic in how artificial they taste. I find myself referencing the Jolly Rancher flavors often, so I decided it was time I tried them again and give them a full review.
Opening the bag up it smells sickeningly sweet and of chemicals. The smell is so mixed up that I can’t identify a single specific flavor. Once unwrapped the candies are cylindrical and pretty to look at with their semi opaque colors. The surface is mostly smooth except in spots where it gets tacky from moisture.
Blue Raspberry: I really don’t get what’s up with this flavor, really, blue raspberries? It’s tart with strong floral flavors mixed with melon and berries. It turned my tongue blue.
Watermelon: Intensely tart and powerful flavors right away. It’s artificial with sharp perfume-y notes and a juicy fruitiness. There’s also hints of bitterness lurking in there that I don’t find very pleasing.
Green Apple: Sweet, with strong juicy apple nuances. It reminds me of a very strong cider. There’s a tartness to them which makes me think of granny smiths. There’s a slight perfume-y aftertaste, yet I really like this one.
Cherry: This one is intense right away. The flavor is very deep, woodsy, and with a strong fruitiness. It reminds me of tart cherries and it really gets my saliva going. I was frightened that this would be very medicinal tasting, but it’s not.
Grape: Tastes of Dimetapp Elixir. It’s mainly sour and metallic with the grape flavor only showing briefly from time to time. It’s very syrupy sweet and artificial. Like the others, there’s an odd floral note and it just launched this flavor into the “nasty” zone. I spit this one out.
These are not any better from what I remember. In fact, they’re worse. Little about Jolly Ranchers appeal to me and I am once again stumped by them. Especially since my roommate was so happy to take the rest of the bag and then proceeded to polish them all off in one evening.
Rating: Not Worth It
Jolly Rancher Website