Scharffen Berger is one of the few, if not the first, American chocolate company to work from “bean to bar”. What does that mean you may ask? To put it simply, it means that the company oversees the whole chocolate production: from sourcing the beans to the molding and wrapping the final bar. This level of control allows the chocolate makers to assure that the chocolate is made to their level of taste and satisfaction. The results are usually a fantastic bar of chocolate.
I’ve known of Scharffen Berger for a long time as I’d often seen it in gourmet stores and the shelves of my local Whole Foods. I always considered them too easily available for me to make an impromptu buy, but I’d knew it’d happen someday when I felt like trying something new (which is all the time, but you know what I mean). I saw this little tasting kit and I knew this would be a perfect way to try out Scarffen Berger’s selection, so into my cart it went.
41% Milk: It has a nice color and the aroma is extremely decadent: sweet with notes of cream, caramel and vanilla. It reminds me of ice cream. The flavor is lovely; chocolatey and creamy with neither flavor dominating over the other. Between the two big players there, there’s hints of the caramel and vanilla to give it that extra sweetness and depth. The mouth feel is extremely silky too, very luxurious. One of the better milk chocolates I’ve had to date.
70% Bittersweet: I love bittersweet, so this will be interesting. It has a strong medium brown color which is a little on the darker side. Smells of cocoa, coffee, and wood. The flavor is very earthy at first, with notes of vegetables, wood and fungi. Then a caramel like sweetness blossoms and mellows the flavor a little until the finish when the earthy notes return. It’s very reminiscent of the jungle where the cacao comes from.
82% Extra Dark: Sharp, dark color with reddish undertones. Smells very bright and fruity with subte notes of cherries and coffee. It’s a lovely aroma, which is also surprisingly pretty sweet smelling. The snap is really hard: loud and clean showing the good tempering of the chocolate. The flavor is very complex. It starts off with light cocoa flavors, then toward the middle bright sour notes of cherries and green coffee burst forward. Those flavors linger and a dry finish comes from under them and washes it all away in a cocoa like aftertaste. Beginners might be put off toward the bitterness, but I found the notes nicely controlled and flavorful. I enjoyed it.
This is nice to try so I could get an idea of what the range of the chocolate coming from Scharffen Berger. It’s a good step for beginners as it gives the opportunity taste the differences between the different cacao percentages. I liked how I know what to expect from them in the “mix in” bars and in their future products. A good chocolate that’s worth returning to every so often.
Rating: Will Eat Again
One of the new products that were announced at the All Candy Expo this year were a new line of “fancy” M&M’s. These M&M’s not only looked different, but they also come in an array of new flavors to appeal to more sophisticated palates. I eagerly awaited these beauties to show up in stores and when I finally say them in Target, I scooped up the three most appealing flavors (hey, they’re $3.99 apiece!) so I could give them a try.
These M&M’s Premiums are different in many ways, but the biggest difference for me is that they lack the candied shell of the originals. I find it really odd not having the shell there. The M&M’s feel like you’ve sucked on them already and have dissolved the shell, so all that hits your tongue is the smooth creamy milk chocolate. This is frustrating, since the shell kept the M&M from “dying” too quickly in my mouth and helped the taste and experience longer. That shell kept the delicious party raging on longer and I miss it.
The packages are cute, I give them that. They’re tall cardboard boxes that curve inward at the waist. They have a little window in the tummy area so you can see the M&M’s inside, all shiny and looking like twinkling treasure. Inside, the design gets even more intuitive. The M&M’s come in a re-sealable little plastic pouch, making it easy to take a little now and safely store the rest for later.
These have the bright blue speckled exterior and I’m reminded of sapphires. The almond is terribly fresh, with a good crunch and a strong nutty flavor. The chocolate is sweet and compliments the nut well. The only thing I wondered was were these worth paying more than the normal Almond M&M’s? I think the only difference is the exterior. My conclusion is no, since I’d rather have the shell and pay a little less.
These are purple and pink spattered and look very pretty. The “triple” comes from the fact they have milk, dark, and white chocolate layered in them. Their size is larger, similar to the size of the Razzberry and Cherry M&Ms.
These are incredibly creamy right off. Again, the lack of shell means you get an intense chocolate hit right away. It’s very sweet, milky and terribly smooth in texture. When bitten in half the cross section shows dark chocolate on top, a layer of white in the middle and the center is the milk. The chocolate is pleasant, as it’s really sweet and milky, with a slight caramel and coffee note in there. Other than that it isn’t any more complex than that (really, it’s an M&M, what do you expect?). Regardless, it’s very satisfying and tasty. I don’t really get a sense of all three chocolates but it’s a good blend that makes this richer than the regular M&M’s.
The fairest of them all in my humble opinion with their bronze, copper and golden colors. They’re the size of plain M&M’s and smell chocolatey with a hint of coffee. Good points right away, since I’m scared they wouldn’t taste very “mocha” like at all.
Like the Triple Chocolate, these are very creamy and have a good coffee flavor right away. It’s strong enough to stand out, but not drown out the chocolate flavor. Thankfully the M&M is not overly sweet and it really reminds me of the mocha you can get at the coffee shop. The coffee flavor is bold and slightly acidic, and tastes of a good brew and not just like there was some Folgers flavoring mixed in there. So if you’ve been looking for a good coffee flavored chocolate, this is worth a try.
The M&M’s Premiums are a fun little experiment. The new colors and flavors are attractive and fun, but with the higher price I don’t find them complex enough to keep me from buying more. I hope these do well since I am a fan of M&M’s, and I hope Mars would consider adding more flavors to the mix so something more unique would come along.
Rating: Will Eat Again
I bought this in an Irish grocery store in Queens because it was something I hadn’t seen before. I researched it once I got home to I find that it’s from the Dominican Republic. Wha, wha whaaaa? So confusing considering the rest of the store’s slotting was all from the UK.
The description on the wrapper reads: “Soft caramel and crisped rice in milk chocolate” and it immediately reminds me of Nestle’s 100 Grand bar. My suspicions were confirmed once I unwrapped it, since it also looks very similar to one too. The only different is it’s one long bar instead of being split into two like the 100 Grand is. Because of this difference in form, the Catch bar is a little less molded so it’s “wider” due to it spreading.
The bar smells chocolatey and sweet with some dairy notes from the caramel. My first bite had a good meduim chew, not too soft and not too hard. I’m surprised because the puffed rice, followed by the caramel, are the main flavors I taste here. Yes, you heard me, the rice. It has a light, slightly sweet wheat-y taste to it like how I’d imagine a “whole grain” version of rice crispes would taste. They are fresh and crunchy and make this feel oddly wholesome.
The caramel is great, since it’s a little on the firmer side compared to most caramels in American candy bars. Because if this it chews a little longer and has some staying power in the mouth. The chew time allows you to feel the wonderful slightly grainy texture that caramel has, it’s so nice. Sadly, I don’t notice the chocolate very much, but from that I do taste of it it has a nice milk chocolatey flavor that balanced out the rice and caramel very well.
This is a lovely bar and I’m happy I picked it up. It’s a good example how a bar with similar ingredients can have a totally different flavor. So if you see Catch, go and catch it! It’s good!
Rating: Will Buy Again
As a child of the 80s, I remember commercials for the Whatchamacallit very vividly. They were always one of the coolest candy commercials on the TV. Chances were, though, if you asked me exactly what it was, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you as it was something I never begged my parents for at the checkout line in the grocery store.
So what exactly is a Whatchamacallit? The wrapper describes it as: “peanut flavor crisps, caramel, rich chocolatey coating”. As an adult I’ve avoided this bar for the longest time simply because I know it’s covered in mockolate, which I feel is the scourge of the candy world. I know it’s a question of production costs and shelf stability, but really, chocolate is perfect the way it is, why mess with it? I digress.
The bar is long and wide; imagine if two Kitkat fingers were laid out and flatted with a rolling pin. I have a hard time trying to think of another candy that’s more short and wide than it is tall and thick, but I am drawing a blank. So the shape immediately feels unique to me. The top is pretty with subtle textural ripples from the enrobing. The bottom is even better, with that lovely diamond criss cross pattern from the conveyor belt. Does anyone else admire this along with me? I may be alone in my appreciation.
I’m surprised that Whatchamacallit smells quite chocolatey considering the questionable ingredients. There’s aromas of caramel and a lack of any suggestion of peanut butter. I find myself again reminded of Kitkat. My first bite was really nice: you get some thick, chewy textures from the caramel and a nice crispy crunch from the peanut butter crisp. The first flavor is the chocolatey coating mixed with the caramel giving it a sweet kick. Then comes the peanut butter crisp which is very nutty and perfectly salty. The crisp’s flavor is also well balanced: not as intense as a Reeses’, yet it’s not subtle enough to let the other flavors shove it to the sidelines. Even so, I do think it’s the star taste in this bar.
Ok, so color me surprised. I liked this bar despite the mockolate. The flavors of the caramel and peanut butter crisp deliver solid flavors that are strong enough to mask the lack of real chocolate. I also find that the textural contrast of the the caramel and peanut butter crisp overshadow the unusual greasiness that mockloate always has. This is an excellent example how the combination of ingredients can make or break a candy bar. I probably won’t buy this again because of the mockolate, since I don’t like to willingly eat the trans fats, but I will eye Whatchamacallit with subtle affection every time I see it at the checkout counter from now on.
Rating: Not Worth It
Whatchamacallit commercial on YouTube.com
Hershey’s Kisses have been busy this year with their 100th anniversary, as they’ve been releasing various limited edition flavors to celebrate the occasion. The Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor is one of the newest Kiss offerings that I stumbled across on a recent trip to Wal-Mart. Despite the fact that the bag of these is huge, I happily tossed it into my cart without a second thought.
These new Kisses are described as white chocolate with “cookie bits”. The wrapper is a pleasing bright sky blue with designs of cookies printed in silver on them and I find it very attractive. I turned over the bag to read the ingredients list to find that these are sadly not real white chocolate. Tropical oils are present towards the top, which cheapens the product as well as manufacturing costs. It’s discouraging to see these aren’t all cocoa butter like they should be. To add to the frustration, PGPR shows up as well so you know Hershey’s isn’t making a top notch Kiss here. I’m already disappointed without even tasting them yet.
The Kisses look pretty with their milky appearance and brown spots peeking though, which look suspiciously like brown non pariels. The taste is very strong on the vanilla flavor and are quite creamy, yet they still carry that “white chocolate” essence to it. I was correct, the “cookie bits” are indeed chocolate non pariels. They provide an interesting textural crunch but no actual cookie flavor. These are also pretty sweet as far as Kisses go and as a result are very cloying. The flavor is very compelling though, since the overall effect does taste like cookies to me.
As far as the limited edition Kisses go, I liked these more than most of the varieties that’ve been released. My only wish is that they’d used real cocoa butter and the non pariels were actually cookie bits. Otherwise I feel a bit cheated by the false promise of cookies and creme.
Rating: Might Eat Again