Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rock Salt Doritos

Andes Rock Salt Doritos

For better or worse, Doritos and I go way back. While my favorite will always be Cool(er) Ranch, I love trying any and all new Doritos flavors I find in the US and Canada. Every now and then, I like to try Japanese flavors, though they do require a bit more work to acquire. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like explosion of Japanese Doritos flavors has only happened within the last 10 years. When I visited in 2004, the students I met in Japan hadn't really heard of Doritos and we had to get them from a pricey import store, but now they seem downright common!

These Andes Rock Salt Doritos called out to me while browsing napaJapan (my favorite site for ordering Japanese treats - and no one gives me anything or pays me to say this). Sure, it's gimmicky, but come one, they're black chips! Sure, it's no Corn Cream Stew, but for some reason, I thought they'd be special.

It turns out, they were just peppery corn chips. These threw me for a loop because they don't have that Doritos smell or taste - even different flavors of Doritos still taste like Doritos. Maybe I need to investigate additional Japanese flavors to see if this is only true of North American Doritos.

At first, I was very disappointed because these just tasted like regular corn chips. Then, a nice, cracked black pepper flavor kicked in as I chewed, building until the salty finish. After eating a few chips, the heat built to about a medium. The slight spiciness was nice, but I really didn't need to go all the way to Japan to have this experience. At least the bag looked cool.

B-

Doritos website (Japanese)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chuao Ravishing Rocky Road

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When I was little, I wouldn't touch a walnut brownie, I omitted the nuts from every dessert recipe, and I never would have picked Rocky Road ice cream. Maybe it was because my mom didn't care for them, but I never gave nuts a chance. Since then, I've seen the error of my ways, and now I fully embrace the use of nuts in edible applications. [Insert your own crude joke here]

Since Chuao is a brand I love and trust, I picked up this Ravishing Rocky Road bar on my last chocolate buying spree. I was expecting big chunks of "stuff" embedded in milk chocolate, and as you can see from the following picture, Chuao did not disappoint. This bar is a craving killer - it hits you with the triple threat: sweet, salty, and chocolate (which is a totally separate craving from sweet).

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The chocolate was a rich brown with gorgeous hunks of marshmallow and almond inside. Some bites were just creamy, smooth milk chocolate, and these bites melted easily and without that stickiness that some milk chocolates have. Other bites had the caramelized almonds, which had a great combination of salty and sweet, as well as some nice toasty flavor - all of which went well with the milk chocolate.

Still other bites had mini marshmallows inside, which had a delicate marshmallow flavor that held up all right next to the chocolate. The marshmallows were a bit firm, but the texture didn't bother me. The almonds were my favorite, but I loved the combination of textures and flavors because each bite was a little different. It was a lot like eating Rocky Road ice cream!

A

Chuao website

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shiratama Anmitsu Choco Ball

Shiratama Anmitsu Choco Ball

I haven't always had good luck with limited edition flavors of Choco Ball, but look how cute this little box is! I couldn't resist it. Plus, I had been craving anmitsu all summer. It wasn't that I thought these would taste like a bowl of anmitsu, but maybe they would remind me of it.

Anmitsu is, after all, a bit of a pain to make. It's a beautifully arranged dessert with fruits, rice dumplings, jellies, ice cream, and red beans, all topped with syrup. It requires a lot of preparation, though it is refreshing, delicious, and probably worth the effort. I've never made it myself.

Shiratama Anmitsu Choco Ball

As soon as I unwrapped the plastic, there was a strong fruity smell coming from the box. I wasn't sure what fruit, maybe cherry or melon, but it wasn't entirely appealing. The white coating was sweet and a bit creamy, more like candy melts than white chocolate. It didn't have much flavor.

The center reminded me of both agar agar and mochi - it was tougher than either, more like a gummy candy. The flavors inside were slightly reminiscent of azuki (red beans), but for having such a strong scent, it only tasted vaguely fruity. Together with the coating, I got a weird, syrupy flavor that was sort of like anmitsu. I wasn't expecting a perfect replica, but these just weren't great.

C

Morinaga Choco Ball website

Monday, October 20, 2014

Theo Fig Fennel & Almond

Fig Fennel & Almond

I love when people bring me chocolate! This bar came from my Aunt on a trip to a cute shopping district in northern Michigan, though the company is located in Seattle. I've tried a few Theo bars in the past and remembered their flair for unique combinations.

This bar is no exception; fig and fennel are not your typical candy bar ingredients. Along with using unique ingredients, Theo's website also notes their commitment to organic, Fair Trade, and Fair for Life products. "Fair for Life" was a new moniker for me, but it's a certification that appears to encompass fair trade standards and "social accountability."

Fig Fennel & Almond

I could smell and taste the fennel immediately, and it gave the bar a rather savory flavor. The fig came in later as the chocolate melted, and it complemented the fruitiness of the chocolate. The almonds added a nice, roasty flavor, but it didn't come through in every bite.

The bar was a complex mix of flavors and textures. The fig pieces were chewy, almost like raisins. The almonds, and maybe even the fennel added a bit of crunch. The cocoa content (70%) was just about perfect for me, and it broke well and melted cleanly. Definitely unique, but not a bar I'd reach for again.

B+

Theo Chocolate website

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate (filled with) Speculoos Cookie Spread

Cookie Butter Bar

People make such a big deal about Trader Joe's Cookie Spread. I bought a jar myself and I was pretty underwhelmed. It was extremely sweet and didn't really work in the same applications as peanut butter. Maybe it wasn't supposed to. In any case, that jar is still sitting on my shelf a year later. It's probably time to throw it away.

The last time I was at Trader Joe's, I saw these cookie butter filled chocolate bars by the checkouts and thought I might give Cookie Butter another try. In a dark chocolate bar, it seemed like it could work.

Cookie Butter Bar

The dark chocolate didn't have a strong scent, but it was rich and smooth. It wasn't very bitter, but thankfully it wasn't very sweet, either. The cookie butter inside was soft and creamy, with a slight crunch from the cookie bits. The two textures went together very well.

The gingersnap flavor from the cookies came through, though the bar was very mild on the whole. Still, it was very tasty, and I had a hard time stopping after just 2 sections. I was impressed with the level of sweetness, because this bar could have easily gone cloying. It did change my mind about Cookie Butter, though I think I'll stick to the chocolate bar rather than the jar!

A-

Trader Joe's Website