Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hageland Ecuador 43% Milk Chocolate

Hageland Ecuador

This is the second of three Hageland bars in my possession, and it also falls into the middle as far as cacao percentage. Earlier this month, I had the 80% cacao from Uganda, and I have a 34% bar from Madagascar on deck.

Like the other Hageland bar, the ingredients list was simple: cocoa butter, sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, and skimmed milk powder. According to the box, there is a minimum of 43% cocoa solids and at least 22% milk solids. The flavors of cacao from Ecuador were described as rich, intense, and acidic with hints of flowers and herbs.

Hageland Ecuador

The chocolate smelled nutty, milky, and very sweet. Luckily, it was not as sweet as it smelled. The melt was smooth, cool, and creamy, and the chocolate had a nice, traditional cocoa taste that I enjoyed very much.

The bar was well tempered, and though I prefer a little darker, this was a very tasty milk chocolate bar. My husband really liked it, and described it as some of the best milk chocolate he'd ever had (he would give it an A). The cocoa flavor was quite strong, but it was well-balanced by the creaminess.


Kim's Chocolate website

Morinaga Dars Crea Chestnut and Caramel

Dars Maron and Caramel

Orchid64 of Japanese Snack Reviews recently held a contest to win a cool, Japan-exclusive KitKat mug. While I didn't win, she was kind enough to give a couple honorable mention prizes, and that's how I got these cute chestnut and caramel chocolates.

Chestnut is a lovely flavor that's not too common in the United States, at least not where I live. It's great for fall and winter (especially when roasted on an open fire, I hear), and typically goes well with sweets.

Dars Maron and Caramel

The chocolates were very cute! They were about an inch long and smelled like chestnut. The textures of the chocolate and the filling blended together beautifully, as both were creamy and smooth, with a cool and buttery feeling on the tongue.

The chestnut flavor was mild and toasty, giving way to burnt caramel notes that complemented the sweet milk chocolate. I didn't find these to be too sweet, probably because of the small size. Dars is something I've never tried before, but I will definitely seek out other flavors in the future.

Be sure to check out what Japanese Snack Reviews thought of these, too.


Morinaga website

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vosges Black Pearl Bar

Vosges Black Pearl Bar

I've been eating so much chocolate recently, but I haven't gotten tired of it. It's hard to get tired of Vosges! The only bar of theirs I haven't liked was the bacon bar, and I'm not a bacon enthusiast to begin with.

When stores only offer a few Vosges bars, Black Pearl is almost always among the ranks. At first glance, wasabi chocolate doesn't sound too appealing, but the whole flavor palette here is pretty interesting. I love sesame seeds and ginger and wish they were used more in chocolate. Like the Red Fire, it's another barely dark bar at 55% cacao.

Vosges Black Pearl Bar

It was easy to see and feel the sesame seeds from the bottom of the bar. The chocolate smelled earthy and roasted, with the ginger and sesame seeds in the background. The chocolate tasted fantastic and had a delightfully smooth melt, and the sesame seeds added to the texture.

The wasabi flavor wasn't strong, but that's probably for the best. The ginger stood out much more. As expected, the flavor progression was interesting. The bar started savory and sweet (full of umami), then toasty, with a mild wasabi/ginger finish. Overall, it was a complex bar, and I enjoyed it.


Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Vosges Red Fire Bar

Vosges Red Fire Bar

Although work has kept me busy, I have continued to work through my chocolate stash. I received some Vosges Haut Chocolat bars from my in-laws, and this is the first of two reviews.

I love all things spicy, and while I've only had one bar that was really hot, when it comes to chocolate, less is more. The heat has to compliment the chocolate, not overwhelm it.

The chocolate smells fantastic, with sweet and toasty notes. At 55% cacao, it's not a very dark chocolate, but the flavor and texture of the chocolate is fantastic. It has a wonderful, smooth texture and a creamy melt.

The flavor progression is also lovely. It started smokey and toasty, then the chocolate emerged, full of flavor. Towards the end, the heat kicks in, and it's a nice chili bite that was just right for me. I loved this bar, and always had to stop myself from eating too much at once. This is probably my favorite Vosges bar.


Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trident Splash Orange Swirl

Trident Splash Orange Swirl

I can never pass up a new gum flavor, and this one spoke to me in particular. Who doesn't love an orange Creamsicle? Of course, that's a trademark, so Trident has called their gum Orange Swirl. It's been around for several months, but I only noticed it recently.

I'm not sure I love the "splash" type of gum. A liquid center is great in a fruit snack (like Gushers, my favorite brown bag lunch dessert), since it's just going to be swallowed soon anyhow. But with gum, it seems like a gimmick. Typically, the liquid gives a burst of flavor at the beginning, but it just doesn't last. Orange Swirl was no different.

Trident Orange Swirl

The gum started with a liquid burst of tart orange, and then the cool and creamy flavors started to emerge. It wasn't a minty gum by any means, but there was a little bit of a cooling sensation. Within 30 seconds, it tasted like a watered down Creamsicle.

The initial juicy orange flavor was gone within a minute, but it still had some weak notes after 5 minutes. Throughout the chew, the texture of the gum was softer than I prefer. After 20 minutes, there was still a faint orange flavor, but I spit it out anyhow. I had no trouble finishing the pack, and while it wasn't a great breath freshener, it was a decent gum.


Read more reviews of this gum at Candy Addict and Gum Alert.

Trident website

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Glico Almond Pocky

Almond Pocky

It's been a couple weeks since I've done a Japanese snack review, and even long since I've done a Pocky review, so I must be due. There was a lack of matcha sweets at the Japanese import grocer, so I branched out a bit and bought Almond Pocky.

Almond Crush Pocky, which is coated with crushed almonds (how fitting), has been around for years, but I had never seen regular almond Pocky before. Usually, my favorite kinds of Pocky are the ones with lots of chocolate and toppings (like decoration or mousse), but these are the standard, thin coating.

Almond Pocky

When I opened the bag, the scent reminded me of coffee. It didn't taste anything like coffee, though. The sticks were mildly sweet and had a slightly nutty flavor. The coating reminded me of peanut butter white chocolate in both taste and texture, but it wasn't overly sweet at all and went very well with the biscuit.

Before I realized it, I had eaten half of the pack. It was so addictive! I briefly thought I'd like a stronger almond taste with more of the cherry-like notes, but then the package was gone and I decided I liked them just the way they were. The sweetness was just right, and the creamy chocolate blended so well with the crunchy stick. Unfortunately, they were a limited release and are no longer listed on Glico's website. I wish I had bought more!


Glico website

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hageland Uganda 80% Dark Chocolate

Hageland Uganda 80% Dark Chocolate Forastero

This is yet another bar from my holiday stash, and I have to say, I was really looking forward to this one. I am a fan of dark chocolate, but don't usually go in deeper than 70%. It's not on purpose, I just don't seek the products out for myself. Luckily, some friends picked up my slack and got me this bar (along with two other Hageland bars).

I had a very difficult time finding information on the Hageland brand, but I do know it's a Belgian company and that you can buy the bars at Walmart. Even full (English) reviews of the brand were hard to come by, and I couldn't find any for this particular bar. UPDATE: Hageland's website is now up and running, and the link is at the end of this review.

Hageland Uganda 80% Dark Chocolate Forastero

The ingredients list looked promising: cocoa mass, sugar, coca butter, and vanilla. It doesn't say anything about this being a single origin bar, so I'm going to assume it isn't. The box says that the forastero beans from Uganda "renowned for their classic cocoa flavor and low acidity." The opened bar smelled woodsy and earthy, which was also promised by the back of the box.

The chocolate had a very firm snap, and right away tasted a little bitter (but not unpleasantly so). It had a crumbly melt, and as it warmed, it tasted fruity and a little sour or lemony. The finish was earthy and clean (like a chocolate umami, perhaps), with no oiliness or weird aftertaste. The bar was thoroughly interesting, and actually, very good. I wouldn't want to eat it all the time, but I really enjoyed it, and am now looking forward to trying my other two Hageland bars!


Hageland Website

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reese's Dark Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's Dark

From time to time, Reese's Dark pops up in stores. I'm thankful for that, because I had already reviewed them and misplaced my tasting notes. I have small notebooks for candy tasting on the go, but I think I wrote this one on the back of a (solved) sudoku puzzle.

It says something right away that I was willing to buy Reese's Dark again. As a lover of dark chocolate and peanut butter, it's hard for me to dislike them. These have been reviewed at Gigi-Reviews, Candy Blog, and Chocablog, just to hit a few highlights.

Dark Chocolate Reese's Cup

The dark chocolate completely changes the Reese's cup. The coating is harder (as expected with dark chocolate), less sweet, and has an actual snap. It makes for a very different, more indulgent treat. The chocolate melted smooth and cool on the tongue, but the harder chocolate wasn't great with the grainy, sugary Reese's peanut butter.

In fact, the dark chocolate made the peanut butter harder to taste, especially on bites including the thick rim of the cup. I liked these, but didn't love them. In the end, the texture marriage of milk chocolate and peanut butter of the original Reese's cups is just better. Still, these were a fun distraction.


Reese's website

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chuao Firecracker

Chuao Firecracker

I'm still working my way through the six chocolate bars I received this Christmas. This is the first of two that I have opened so far, now that the cookies and other more immediate perishables are gone.

This bar has a whole lot going on, and without even trying it, the Firecracker must get some points for originality. I've had salt and peppers in bars on their own, but popping candy in chocolate is entirely new to me. Pop Rocks were never my favorite candy as a kid (they hurt to eat and made my ears feel funny), but I tried to approach this bar with an open mind.

Chuao Firecracker

The [beautiful] bar didn't have a strong smell, just a mild chocolate aroma. From the first bite, I was surprised. Instead of a snap, the bite literally popped! The range of flavors as I chewed was exciting as well. It went from a smooth, nutty beginning to a salty and popping middle, with a medium-hot (and still popping) finish. With all that going on, it was a little tough to tell, but the dark chocolate itself seemed good.

The whole effect reminded me of popcorn, especially with the hints of salt. I could have done with more heat, but I understand that super hot does not appeal to everyone. The popping was strong but not to the point of being intense or violent. It was really fun to eat this bar, and it was unlike anything I've ever had before! I might be upping the rating a bit for novelty, but I really enjoyed the Firecracker and would definitely recommend it.

Scott Roberts also reviewed this at his spicy food blog.


Chuao Chocolatier website

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sour Mamba

Sour Mamba

Mamba is a little hard to find in my area, but I found these at the check-out counter in Home Depot (a hardware superstore) and couldn't resist. The last time I had tried Mamba was almost 10 years ago, and I didn't even know Sour Mamba existed.

Along the lines of Starburst, Mamba are fruit chews. The pack I bought came with lemon, strawberry, and orange, but there is also a raspberry flavor that I didn't get, and I was a little bummed to miss out on it.

Strawberry Sour Mamba

The chews were all a bit hard to chew at first, but once they warmed up, they softened. As promised on the package, they are sour all the way to the end, which I enjoyed. Lemon was my least favorite of the three, as it was quite tart but tasted a bit too artificial and chemical-laden to me. Orange tasted a lot like an orange Starburst, in that it was a watered down orange drink (Tang or Hi-C) flavor rather than orange juice. Still, it was tart and tasty.

Strawberry was my favorite, even though it didn't taste much like the actual fruit at all. The flavor was more like a berry punch, with a tart and juicy bite and no aftertaste. I think I will stick with Starburst (better texture) or Hi-chew (better texture and flavor) in the future if I want a chewy candy, but I wouldn't hesitate to eat Mamba or Sour Mamba if it was in front of me.

Cybele has also reviewed these at Candy Blog.


Storck website

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Altoids Cool Honey

Altoids Cool Honey

Honey is something that I've only recently learned to enjoy. It seems strange, since my father always bought honey by the liters when I was a kid, but I never liked the taste. As I get older, though, it's definitely becoming sweet on me.

Altoids never had to grow on me, because I liked them the first time I tried one. Previously, I had been a loyal fan of the white TicTac, but Altoids were far mintier, and my sister and I used to go through tins much quicker than we should have.

Honey Altoids

Opening the tin, I could definitely smell the floral notes of the honey, as well as the cool mint. It was a nice, refreshing scent. The mints were a pale yellow instead of the usual white. I could just barely taste the honey in the mints themselves, and only for a split second. After that, I could hardly distinguish them from regular Altoids.

The Cool Honey mints were definitely good, but I wished I could taste the honey just a bit better. I suppose I'm glad that they didn't taste like cough drops, but aside from the cute bee-themed tin and the aroma, there was almost no difference between these and the standard version.

These have also been reviewed at Candy Blog and Gigi-Reviews.


Altoids website

Friday, January 8, 2010

Casali Choco Banana

Choco Bananas

Specialty grocery stores are kind of dangerous for me, as I have a tendency to buy things I don't need. These Austrian banana sweets were one of those impulse purchases. I'm not normally a fan of banana flavored things, but these sounded interesting.

To be honest, part of the draw was that they reminded me of Japanese souvenir snacks. These particular candies are Austrian in origin, and it looks like strawberry and orange versions are also available.


The chocolates smelled slightly of banana, but mostly of a sweet, inexpensive chocolate. The banana center tasted a little sour and almost lemony, but I liked that it didn't have the rotten sweetness that I detect so often in banana candy. According to the package, they were made with real bananas, and it was reflected in the fairly authentic flavor.

The chocolate coating was a little crunchy, but the quality of the chocolate didn't seem great. Even though it was real chocolate, it was a little grainy and chalky in spots. The texture of the banana was soft, sticky, and spongy, like a marshmallow fluff. These were certainly unique, but not something I'd seek out again.

Here is another review of the Choco Bananas.


Choco Banana website

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Morinaga Watagashi Hi-chew

Watagashi Hi-Chew

This candy was sent to me by the lovely Kelly of Tasty Japan! I participated in and won a contest that she held in October, winning this pack of Hi-chew. It got a little bumped around during its long journey from Australia to the US, but arrived in good shape.

This summer, Morinaga put out a line of seasonal Hi-chew flavors, showcasing treats commonly sold in Japanese festivals. This flavor is called watagashi in Japanese, which is pretty much the same thing as cotton candy or candy floss. Here is a review (by Kelly) of another festival flavor Hi-chew, toffee apple.

Watagashi Hi-Chew

Cotton candy flavored treats in the US often have a very distinctive sugary and slightly fruity taste. I was a bit surprised when the Hi-chew didn't smell or taste at all like that. Instead, the flavor was more like mild butterscotch with a just a hint of molasses. It was surprisingly rich and caramel-like!

The small sugar crystals inside the chew were crunchy and gave the feeling of spun sugar. The texture of the chew itself seemed a bit softer than normal Hi-chew. It's been a long time since I've had cotton candy, so I'm not sure if it's made differently in Japan or if this candy is just a better approximation of the flavor than I normally experience.

CandyBlog and Pocky Watch also reviewed (and enjoyed) this flavor.

Thank you again, Kelly!


Morinaga website

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kanro Pure Shikwasa Gummy

Shikuwasa Pure Gummies

Okinawa is on my list of places I must visit before I die, but until I get there, I will sustain myself with Okinawan candy. After trying these gummies, I think it might be possible.

Before trying these, I had no idea what shikwasa was, other than a citrus fruit. According to Wikipedia, it is also known as Citrus depressa, and because of its sour taste, shikwasa can be used in cooking like lemon or lime. Because it is native to Asia, it doesn't show up in my local supermarket.

Shikuwasa Pure Gummies

Since I have never tried the actual fruit, I can't comment on the authenticity of these candies, but they did smell like a sweet citrus fruit without smelling like floor polish. The gummies were quite sour with a hint of a tropical flavor that distinguished it from lemon.

Of course, the texture was like that of all Pure gummies - firm and chewy, sort of like a thick fruit leather. The sour sugar coating gave a nice crunchy and extra punch of flavor. I could have eaten the whole bag at once! I hope that I can try the real fruit in the near future, because these candies were delicious.


Pure website

Bissinger's Peppermint Chocolate Bar

Bissinger's Peppermint Chocolate Bar

Peppermint bark is a classic holiday treat. It's pretty easy to make, too. Usually, it's a layer of milk or dark chocolate, followed by white chocolate, topped with crushed peppermint candy. With all that white chocolate, it can often be cloyingly sweet.

This bar pretty much solves that problem. I picked it up at Whole Foods for about $3, drawn in once again by the swirly design. There's no white chocolate here, just dark(ish) chocolate and peppermint candy bits.

The bar had a mild and pleasant minty scent. The first thing I noted was that the dark chocolate had a nice snap and was sweet and velvety on the tongue. The peppermint pieces added a good level of crunch, and the mint/dark combination reminded me of a peppermint patty.

I liked it much better than the other Bissinger's bar I tried (key lime), but chocolate and mint is a much safer combination. I bought another bar to give away as part of a gift, since it seemed like a decent value for the quality of the chocolate. Did I mention how pretty it looks?


Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year + Plug

Happy New Year! During the holidays, I took a bit of a break from blogging, but new reviews are on the way for 2010!

I wanted to take a moment to mention one of my favorite blogs, Japanese Snack Reviews. For anyone with even a passing interest in Japanese treats, it doesn't get any better. Living in the US, I am at the mercy of importers when it comes to Japanese snacks, but reading one of Orchid64's witty and thorough reviews is vicarious snacking at its best!

Although I am a fan and link Japanese Snack Reviews fairly regularly (when our reviews overlap), I must mention that this isn't a spontaneous plug. She's having a contest to draw readers, and really, who wouldn't want to win this sweet pentagonal KitKat mug? So, please, stop by her blog and if you have a blog, enter the contest yourself!