Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tirol Daigakuimo and Peach Nectar Chocolates


Here's a little 2-for-1 review of Peach Nectar and Daigakuimo Tirol Chocolates. I love a simple little treat, so I'm always up for new Tirol flavors (though I have my doubts about these Cheese & Pizza chocolates). These were both purchased from napaJapan, where incidentally, you can also purchase the Cheese & Pizza flavor. I'll leave that up to you.

First up is Daigakuimo, or candied sweet potatoes. Literally, it means university potato, and here's a recipe with a back story if you're interested.


The chocolate smelled a bit like potato with hints of butter and something floral. However, I didn't get much of that from the taste. It almost reminded me of strawberry chocolate, and it was sweet with a slight hint of citrus. The biscuit was the best part: very crunchy with a strong black sesame flavor.

Bites with biscuit and chocolate were the best, but the biscuit was too small. Overall, these were decent chocolates, but they lacked sweet potato flavor, and they didn't have that hint of slight savoriness that balances the sweetness in the actual dish. B

Peach Nectar Tirol

Next up is Peach Nectar. There is nothing like a ripe, in-season peach, and as such, my peach expectations are pretty high. Unfortunately, this Tirol didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Peach Nectar Tirol

I knew as soon as I smelled it that this Tirol was going to disappoint. It smelled a bit fake, and intensely sweet. Thankfully, the peach nectar tasted better than it smelled, and it reminded me of white peaches. The marshmallow center was nice, as well.

The problem ended up being the ridiculously sweet white chocolate coating. Not only was it cloying, it was a bit grainy, almost powdery, and just not very good. At least the nectar and marshmallow were good, and 2/3 ain't bad. C

Tirol Chocolate website (Japanese)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mindo Chocolate Makers Celtic Sea Salt

Mindo Celtic Sea Salt

My sister brought me a Mindo chocolate bar about 2 years ago and I enjoyed it, so when I saw the brand again while shopping in Ann Arbor, MI, I had to pick up another bar. This time, I went with the Celtic Sea Salt. Chocolates from Mindo Chocolate Makers are sold mainly out of Michigan with some limited distribution outside of the state.

You can read all about the company and their products on their website, but definitely try their chocolate if you get a chance. It really speaks for itself!

Mindo Celtic Sea Salt

The best word I can use describe the taste of this bar is "rustic." I don't mean that in a bad way - there is just something about the flavor and the texture that lets you know it was made with care. The chocolate itself was bitter and delicious. The bitterness reminded me a bit of coffee, and it didn't have any fruity notes.

The dark chocolate paired well with the warmth provided by the sea salt. The bar was well balanced overall and melted smoothly to a clean finish. I don't have a whole lot to say except that this was a really great bar! I don't often get up to Michigan, but the next time I do, I will definitely look out for more Mindo.


Mindo website

Friday, December 12, 2014

Seed and Bean Lemon and Poppy Seed White Chocolate

Seed and Bean Lemon and Poppy Seed

Here's another flavor combination I enjoy but had never seen in a chocolate bar before: lemon and poppy seed. It seems so simple, but Seed and Bean has transformed my favorite muffin into a candy bar. Their website is full of fun combinations I'd like to try. Seed and Bean is an English company, and so far I haven't seen their products in any US stores (this bar was given to me by that well-traveled coworker).

Seed and Bean's website invites you to "Experience a chocolate taste sensation in our creamy, dreamy white chocolate bar, with poppy seeds for that earthy crunch and infused with Italian lemon oil for a subtle citrus twist." I'd say they delivered.

Seed and Bean Poppy Seed

The chocolate smelled buttery with hints of lemon. The white chocolate melted smoothly and cleanly, with a hint of natural-tasting lemon flavor. It was a subtle, creamy lemon vanilla. The only drawback for me was it was just on the edge of being too sweet - the white chocolate was about as sweet as I can handle.

The poppy seeds added a fun texture - a little crunch, a little pop. I didn't get much of the earthiness the website mentioned, but the bar did remind me of muffins. It's a pretty safe bet to say that any white chocolate & lemon lover would adore this bar.


Seed and Bean website

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Babaevskiy 75% Cocoa

Russian Dark Chocolate Bar

My world traveling coworker went to Russia this year, and she brought some Russian chocolate back for me to taste. Although I had some exposure to the Russian language in elementary school, it was only once a week and I don't remember any of it. However, through some Googling I was able to find the name (Russian and Romanized) of the brand as well as their website, but that was about all I could do.

The Babaevskiy (Бабаевский) bar has a stunning wrapper. My photo doesn't really capture the beauty of the gold, embossed letters and design. I almost didn't want to unwrap it because I can never seem to fold chocolate bar wrappers up the way they came. You'd think after 5+ years of candy blogging...

Russian Dark Chocolate Bar

I am so glad I unwrapped it, because this bar was absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking, at least compared to most chocolate bars. It was a rich, glossy brown with intricate patterns, and it seemed a shame to break it. The chocolate had a big, loud snap, and it was firm and slow melting.

The cocoa flavor was very mild with no distinct fruity notes. It wasn't too bitter, maybe just a bit of a roasted flavor. It didn't melt smoothly, but the texture was fine. Overall, it was good, but not remarkable. Just straightforward dark chocolate. Still, for the gorgeous design, I'd say this bar was a pretty awesome souvenir.


Babaevskiy website (Russian)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Morinaga Cream Soda Choco Ball

Cream Soda Choco Ball

While I've got to give Morinaga points for originality, I really need to stop buying every flavor of Choco Ball that I see. Darn you Kyoro-chan, and your irresistible little face! I'm not sure if I'm too old or just too boring, but these limited edition flavors just don't suit me. The original peanut kind is tasty, and these fancy ones from 2009 were good, but the rest have been interesting at best.

In Japan, the term cream soda refers to a melon soda float. Melon soda is my favorite Japanese fountain drink, so I definitely still have some kid in me. That must have been what compelled me to buy these candies, which are are white chocolate (and it does contain cocoa powder) wrapped around a fizzy melon-flavored ramune (Japanese vaguely citrusy soda) candy center. Sound appetizing?


I went in with an open mind, but these were as bad as they sounded. The candies smelled like ramune and dissolved easily with a slight fizzy sensation on the tongue. I didn't get much of a sense of melon flavor, just sour. There wasn't much flavor to the chocolate, either; it was just sweet and sort of milky (I guess that was supposed to be the ice cream component). Both had a bit of a stale aftertaste.

Either part would have been at least okay on their own, but when they tried to play together, it was a problem. The flavors clashed violently, resulting in a milky and sour mess of a candy. The soft, slow melting texture of white chocolate didn't go with the gritty fizzy candy either. The first piece I tried made me laugh out loud because it just felt and tasted so wrong in my mouth. Sucking the flavorless chocolate off and eating the candy alone improved the experience just a little, but that was about as pleasant as it sounds. Points for a fun concept, but no thanks.


Morinaga website (Japanese)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meiji Mild Chestnut Takenoko no Sato

Chestnut Takenoko no Sato

Well, it's almost the end of the year and my blogging has been spotty at best in 2014. Thankfully, I've got some time off work coming up, so I thought I'd try and catch up on some blogging. Rest assured my level of snack consumption has remained unchanged! Here's a review of the fall limited edition Mild Chestnut flavor of Meiji's Takenoko no Sato (Bamboo Shoot Village).

I've reviewed Takenoko no Sato many times before, and they are still just as cute as ever. The bright, colorful package designs, variety of fun flavors, and adorable shape of the product itself do a lot of the heavy lifting, but I would still call Takenoko no Sato a reliable buy. They may not be a premium chocolate cookie, but I've never had a flavor that was just plain bad.

Chestnut Takenoko no Sato

These done have much scent, just a little bit sweet, maybe with a hint of something that reminded me of coffee. The chocolate coating starts to melt right away, smooth, creamy, and cool. It has a very mild flavor that's a bit like chestnuts, but again, more like very milky coffee. The biscuit doesn't have much flavor; it's a bit like a shortbread cookie, only not very buttery.

I love the balance of cookie to chocolate in Takenoko no Sato. It keeps them from being too sweet, and that did help here. The crunch of the biscuit reminds me a bit of a graham cracker, and it's a nice contrast to the soft white chocolate. In short, these make a tasty snack, but they just didn't scream chestnut to me. Maybe that's because I associate chestnut more with a meaty, nutty texture rather than a distinct flavor.


Meiji Takenoko no Sato website (Japanese)

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.

Andes Rock Salt Doritos

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.


Doritos website (Japanese)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chuao Ravishing Rocky Road


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).


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!


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.


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.


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!


Trader Joe's Website

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hammond's Caramel Mocha

Hammond's Caramel Mocha

One of the best things about having this candy blog is that people in my life are sweet enough to bring me candy when they travel! This Hammond's Caramel Mocha bar came from my boss after her trip to Denver. It had a friend, called Pigs n' Taters (bacon and potato chips) but my husband finished that one before I could blog it. For the record, it was good.

Hammond's is a Denver company that has been around for quite a while. There are some other fun-sounding flavors on the Hammond's website: Whoopie Pie, Cookie Dough, Malted Milkshake - I was impressed! As flavors go, Caramel Mocha isn't too out there, but I appreciate a well-executed classic as much as funky innovation.

Hammond's Caramel Mocha

The chocolate had a rich, glossy look to it, and it smelled like coffee and very dark chocolate. Surprisingly, the coffee flavor wasn't that strong - good news for me. The chocolate had a big, crisp snap, but it didn't break along the perforations at all. This is a pet peeve of mine, especially in a caramel bar, because it makes a big sticky mess.

The caramel was extremely sticky and creamy (not at all runny). The caramel also didn't have much of a burnt sugar flavor, maybe because it seemed to carry the mocha aspect of this bar. The flavor conveyed the richness of a mocha, but the actual coffee flavor reminded me more of coffee grounds than liquid. Still, it went well with the bitter flavor of the cocoa. The bar was good, but not my favorite, and it was sticky as all get out.


Hammond's website

Monday, September 1, 2014

Universal Studios Minion Taffy

Minion Taffy

Who doesn't love the Minions from Despicable Me? I'm a huge fan, so when I was browsing around a candy store at Universal Studios Florida, I couldn't resist these bags of adorable Minion Taffy. The Banana flavor came highly recommended by the cashier, but Sour Grape is more my style, so both bags came home with me.

A bag of Minion Taffy ran about $8 or $9, but that's an amusement park for you. Besides, I'm willing to pay a premium for cute. Look at their goggles, and check out the little teeth on the Purple Minion! I loved how the variations in the taffy meant that each Minion was a little different, just like in the movies. I was ready to give these an A+ without even tasting them!

Minion Taffy

Banana is a tricky flavor for me, but luckily, these were some of the best banana-flavored candies I've had. The banana flavor was mild and authentic: a little tart and a little sweet, like a banana at that perfect stage of ripeness. The taffy was firm but softened quickly, and as the taffy got stickier, the tart flavors gave way to just a slightly sweet banana, with almost no aftertaste. My husband (who loves banana candy and salt water taffy) said this was some of the best taffy he'd ever had. A+

Sour Grape wasn't super sour. The grape flavor was tart and slightly floral, and it did remind me of muscat grapes. It was sweeter than the banana, and was quicker to become soft and sticky. Normally, sour flavors are my thing, but this one was just a little too sweet to really hit the spot. The banana was superior, though I can see kids liking the Sour Grape flavor better. That's not to say it was bad - it was still quite good and quite adorable! B+

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Bubble Gum

Juicy Fruit Bubble Gum

Blowing bubbles with gum is just as fun for me now as it was when I was a kid - maybe even more fun now that I know to take my glasses off first. These days, I stick to small, safe bubble blowing using boring regular gum, but every now and then it's fun to tackle the real stuff.

This Juicy Fruit bubble gum called to me in the gas station. The size and shape of the package made me think that this was a Bubble Yum or Bubblicious product, but it's actually from Wrigley, who also makes the regular Juicy Fruit gum. That does make more sense.

Juicy Fruit Bubble Gum

Man, this was a large piece of gum. It was soft and very chewy, but I felt like a chipmunk. How is it that I chewed this stuff all the time when I was a kid and had a smaller mouth? But the real issue was that the gum tasted nothing like Juicy Fruit. Juicy Fruit may not have any distinguishing fruit flavors, but it does have its own unique flavor, and this was not it.

The gum was vaguely fruity and a bit floral, but mostly it just tasted like sugar. I suppose "vaguely fruity" also describes regular Juicy Fruit, but they just didn't taste the same. I kept waiting for the Juicy Fruit flavor to kick in and move me, but it never did. At least I got some good bubbles in during the wait.


Wrigley website

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

TCHO Mokaccino

TCHO Mokaccino Bar

Even though I'm not by any means a picky eater anymore, there are some foods I'm not crazy about. Olives, banana-flavored candy, and coffee-flavored candy fall into that category. As a child, I used to hate fish, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, but age has changed my palate and I love them now. Project Olive (in which I try to make myself like olives) has been an abysmal failure thus far, but I'll never give up. My husband thinks that if your first experience with a food is really bad, then it can sour you for life, but if your first experience is amazing, then even poor imitations will remind you of the best version.

By that theory, TCHO's Mokaccino bar is definitely the coffee chocolate bar to try if you're on the fence! It was one of our tasting samples at the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe, and I was surprised to find that I loved it! My husband was also a fan, so we bought the full bar in the shop. Now if only I could find some really good olives...

TCHO Mokaccino Bar

The bar had a strong coffee aroma, and strong coffee was the first thing I tasted, too. Although it was almost too bitter at first bite, the rich flavor of the milk chocolate cut away most of the bitterness and acidity, leaving behind a mellow mocha. The combination was great, especially since I'm not usually a huge fan of coffee and chocolate together.

The chocolate itself was incredible, and I just could not get over how smoothly it melted. It wasn't sticky or waxy, and it seemed like there was nothing standing between me and the cocoa butter. For that alone, this bar is worth a little splurge. The hints of caramelized milk were subtle, but with the coffee flavor it really was like drinking a good mocha. Basically it was another stunner from TCHO.


TCHO website

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Furuta Matcha Chocolate

Matcha Chocolate

Furuta isn't one of my favorite Japanese candy and snack brands (though they do make a lot of fun themed candies), but I have a hard time resisting matcha chocolates. Long story short, these came home with me on my spring trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, Illinois. I was in the area for a graduation ceremony (mine!) and that put me in a celebratory, buy-all-the-things mood.

It's hard to go wrong with matcha-filled chocolates, and adding black sesame paste makes me even happier. The green and gold wrappers were very pretty, and reminded me of Lindt with a Japanese twist. They looked nice in my candy dish, especially since my guests ended up enjoying them more than I did.

Furuta Matcha Chocolate

After unwrapping, I could smell the milk chocolate, and I didn't get a sense of the green tea filling. The thickness of the outer shellwas about right, and the chocolate itself was fairly standard: sticky, but not too sweet. The gooey, oozy matcha center had the consistency of liquid caramel, and the tea flavor was very mild and not too bitter. I didn't taste the black sesame at all.

While the filling was ere a little too sweet for me, these chocolates were still quite pleasant, if a little messy. I think these would please people unfamiliar with matcha. A few of my pro-matcha family members tried and liked them, but I didn't really test them on unsuspecting subjects. The composition reminded me of American chocolates I've had, so I wouldn't anticipate the recoil I sometimes get when I green chocolate to someone who hasn't seen it before.


Furuta website

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bourbon Sakuramochi Mochi Chocolat

Mochi Chocolat

In a previous post, I mentioned how hard it is to find traditional Japanese sweets outside of Japan. That time, it was mitarashi dango, but here's another one to add to the list: sakuramochi. Sakuramochi are pretty little pink rice cakes filled with sweet red beans and wrapped in pickled sakura (cherry blossom) tree leaves. They might look or taste a little different depending where in Japan you get them, but they are sweet with a subtle very subtle sourness.

Bourbon makes this fancy line of chocolates called もちしょこら (mochi shokora), or Mochi Chocolat. On my last napaJapan purchase, I got the Matcha, Ganache, and Sakuramochi flavors. The thought occurred to me to review the matcha mochi chocolates right after I polished off the whole box, but at least I remembered to do the sakuramochi.

Mochi Chocolat

The box contained two separate packs of 4 mochi balls, so if you have some self control, you can share them or at least not eat all at once lest they go stale. I wish the box had contained a little pick or spear because the sticky little mochi were tough to get out of the container. The mochi chocolates smelled a little like fresh cherries with a hint of a sour, pickled aroma - and that's a good thing!

Rest assured that the outer coating was soft, sticky, actual mochi! According to the box, the middle layer of cherry chocolate was made with sakura leaves. It had no chocolate taste whatsoever, just a delicate cherry flavor. The red bean center was nice, adding just a touch of sweetness and a little pleasantly beany texture. The whole thing was a soft, lovely medley of textures and mild flavors.


Bourbon website

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Morinaga Uji Matcha BAKE

Uji Matcha BAKE

Seems like baked chocolate is one of those Japanese trends that came and (probably) went, but to my knowledge it's not something that has caught on here in the US. I've seen several flavors of Morinaga BAKE online, as well as KitKats intended for baking. I'm not sure if there's anything special about the chocolate, because I can't imagine anything stopping someone from sticking any old KitKat in the toaster oven, but it's a neat idea. All food trends are a little gimmicky,

Since I automatically gravitate towards matcha, this flavor was a natural choice for my first foray into baked chocolate. This pack came from my usual source for Japanese sweets, napaJapan. As you can see below, the trip overseas was a little rough on these chocolates, but at least baked chocolate is resistant to melting.

Uji Matcha Bake

These had a powerful matcha aroma, even by my standards! Most of the pieces were falling apart, but the hard top layer was so delicate, I think this would have happened anyway. The outermost layer was slightly crunchy and stuck in my teeth sort of like a cookie when I chewed. The center was softer and melted away smoothly, but the texture contrast made for a messy, crumbly experience. They reminded me a bit of Collon (or sweet Combos), only not as tasty.

On a positive note, I liked that the matcha flavor was so intense. Unfortunately, the dry texture coupled with the bitterness made it feel almost like I was just eating plain matcha, and I am not that hardcore. Furthermore, these weren't very sweet; they were even a little salty (maybe that's why they reminded me of Combos). BAKE was interesting, but I found myself wishing these were cookies rather than just really dry chocolates.


Morinaga website

Friday, August 8, 2014

TCHO Galactic Gelato

TCHO Astronaut Ice Cream

I mentioned my Disney honeymoon in my last post, but on that trip, we also visited the Kennedy Space Center. My husband is a space and astronaut enthusiast, so he was over the moon (sorry!) the entire visit. This love for space exploration also means that he buys astronaut ice cream every time he sees it. I'm not a fan of the stuff myself - give me real ice cream any day!

Even though astronaut ice cream reminds me of the chalky "marshmallows" in Lucky Charms, I couldn't resist this TCHO bar. Who thinks to put freeze dried ice cream in a chocolate bar? Just like TCHO's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, the packaging was fun and enticing.

TCHO Astronaut Ice Cream

TCHO bars are perforated in thick, slanted blocks, making for easy, satisfying breakage. It was easy to see pieces of mint astronaut ice cream within the dark chocolate. Together, the mint and the dark chocolate had an earthy scent. The chocolate itself was smooth and slightly fruity, and the minty ice cream seemed to permeate the bar.

The balance was right because the mint didn't overpower the chocolate and the dark chocolate didn't drown out the mint. The astronaut ice cream provided an interesting (non-chalky), briefly crunchy texture, but both elements melted smoothly and creamily for an all-around tasty bar. Still, for such a clever concept, the end result didn't really stand out from other mint chocolate bars I've tried.


TCHO website

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TCHO Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

TCHO Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This year, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Orlando, Florida, or more specifically, at Disney World and Universal Studios. This is not the first anniversary we've celebrated there, and we did our honeymoon there as well, so I guess you could say we're those people. But even those people have their limits, and after 3 days at the parks, we needed a break from the magic.

After a little searching on Yelp, we settled on the World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe. We arrived just in time for the first tour of the day, and the tour guide David was amusing. The admission included a little history on the cultivation and production of chocolate, some massive chocolate sculptures, and finally, a chocolate tasting of about 10 different bars ranging in cocoa content and retail value. If you can't make the tour, this place is at least worth a visit for the impressive array of chocolate bars and truffles in the shop.

TCHO Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Even though the shop carried many of my favorite brands, I wanted to try something new, and the spectacular TCHO packaging and unique flavors caught my eye. I bought a couple flavors, but I'll start with Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. My mom makes a tasty pie, so the tagline, "Like your mom made - then plunged into milk chocolate!" really spoke to me. Sorry that I spazzed and forgot to take a picture of the bar before I devoured it, but that should tell you something!

The chocolate was nice and thick and had a good snap when broken. I could see the chunks of real strawberry and tiny pieces of crust inside the milk chocolate. Right away, it was tart like rhubarb, and then I could taste the sweet, freeze-dried strawberries. The fruit was well-balanced by the subtly sweet, slightly sticky milk chocolate. The melt was clean, leaving real fruit pulp and seeds behind for a great, tart finish. The strawberry was definitely the main player here in terms of taste and texture, while the rhubarb only adds an extra sour kick. I didn't get much of a sense of the crust at all. Still, this was a standout bar, and fans of fruity chocolate will definitely appreciate it!


TCHO website

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Ghirardelli Cabernet Matinee

Cabernet Matinee

Even when I'm not blogging regularly, it is very rare not to have chocolate in the house. I found myself in that unpleasant situation just a few weeks ago, so I went to the nearest drugstore to restock. It was like going grocery shopping while hungry - I came home with 4 chocolate bars and a bag of Twizzlers Pull 'N' Peel. In any case, I had never tried this Ghirardelli bar before, so it was one of the lucky bars that came home with me.

I couldn't find any specific information on the cocoa content of this bar, but it was marked Intense Dark. Semi-sweet chocolate was listed as the first ingredient, but that's as far as the information on the package went. For a bar to be called Intense Dark, I would expect a minimum of 70% cocoa, but this bar was actually pretty light.

Cabernet Matinee

All of the flavors in this bar comes from extracts, and the chocolate was smooth, uniform, and very pretty. I didn't really sense a wine flavor from this bar (maybe I wasn't supposed to) - it reminded me more of grape fruit snacks. The bar was fairly soft for dark chocolate rather than snappy. All of the flavors were mellow and mild - I guess that's the "matinee" part of the bar - but I didn't love the combination.

Nothing stuck out about the cocoa. It wasn't milky or sweet, but it also wasn't bitter, nor did it have much of a fruity flavor outside of the tart and juice coctail-like flavor from the grapes. I couldn't taste much in the way of blackberry, maybe just a hint on the finish. It was pretty basic and boring. Not bad, but not particularly dark or intense. My husband enjoyed this bar much more than I did, but he likes lighter chocolate than I do.

Here's another take on this bar from ZOMG, Candy.


Ghirardelli website

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Morinaga Super Sour Ume Hi-chew


As a kid, I could never get enough sour candy. I could eat it until the insides of my cheeks were raw! These days, I still love a sour sweet, but my self control is a bit better. As far as sour foods go, it doesn't get much more extreme than umeboshi. Umeboshi is one of those polarizing foods that people either seem to love or hate (like black licorice or natto). It's an extremely sour and salty pickled plum (though the fruit is apparently closer to an apricot) that's often served with rice. I like them, but I don't think I could just eat one by itself. This Hi-chu flavor actually just calls itself ume and not umeboshi, but sour plum is a natural fit for Japanese candy.

It's interesting to see Hi-chew coming out with lots of new flavors and textures, perhaps to compete with Puccho. This particular flavor has crunchy sugar crystals in the center. Actually, this isn't just regular Hi-chew, it's Suppai-chew, which is a cute play on words because suppai means sour in Japanese. Furthermore, these aren't just sour, they're 超/SUPER sour! Just look at the puckered face on the logo around the パ! With that lead in, I was expecting at least a Warheads level punch in the mouth.


Sadly, it was not so. The Hi-chu smelled and tasted like ume candy, which is to say it sort of tasted like sour cherry. It was sour, but I wouldn't say super sour. There was definitely a citric acid-like flavor, along with the fruity flavor of the plum. While I really did like the taste and found myself eating a lot of them in one sitting, the mild to moderate sourness was a bit of a letdown when I was expecting a kick.

The closest western analog to the texture of Hi-chew might be salt water taffy or Starburst, but Hi-chew are actually a bit chewier and don't tend to break down as easily. This flavor softened easier than normal Hi-chew because of the large sugar crystals in the center. The sugar crystals were extremely sweet and crunchy and actually made it a bit painful to chew. I don't think it would have bothered me as a kid, but it was a bit unpleasant on my adult teeth.


Morinaga website

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fujiya LOOK Chocolate Premium Matcha


The temptation to punctuate the name of this snack is too strong to resist, so here goes. Look, Chocolate! I'm going to guess that's where the name came from, because otherwise, it doesn't make much sense. Not that English brand names in Japan always make sense. Crunky, anyone?

LOOK's matcha varieties haven't always impressed me, but this is Premium Matcha. Fujiya, the manufacturer of LOOK, released several Premium Matcha snacks this spring, but this was the only one I could find online. I liked the simple, old-fashioned package design.

LOOK Premium Matcha

The chocolate smelled mild, sweet, and milky. It was a soft and slightly sticky milk chocolate with a mild cocoa flavor. In the center was a slightly bitter matcha creme that was almost like a ganache. The mild chocolate was a perfect companion for the subtly bitter flavor of the smooth matcha center; stronger cocoa would have overpowered the tea.

The well-balanced combination was delicate and tasty. Neither the coating nor the filling was overwhelmingly sweet. Both the chocolate and the filling melted smoothly and creamily on the tongue. Premium Matcha LOOK was simple, classic, and delicious.


Fujiya LOOK Website

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tirol Chocolates

Tirol Chocolates

Here's another bit of my recent napaJapan order. One of the reasons Tirol chocolates are so fun is that Tirol is always putting out new limited edition package designs and flavors. Sometimes, these limited edition Tirol chocolates are themed, and two of the Tirol in this review feature Kumamon, the mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan. You can probably guess which two.

Tirol chocolates mainly come in two sizes, and the ones pictured and reviewed here are the larger size. Many of those limited edition flavors I mentioned above only come in the larger size, and unfortunately, I have yet to see this size make it to import stores in the United States. On the bright side, it's relatively easy to find variety/mix packs of the smaller size in larger cities in the US and Canada. These packs usually have one or two rotating special flavors along with the classic Tirol flavors, so you're

Jersey Milk Soft Serve Tirol Jersey Milk Soft Serve Tirol

First up is Jersey Milk Soft Serve. I had no idea what Jersey milk was, but according to Wikipedia, Jersey cattle are known for their high milkfat milk and their "genial disposition." They sure sound like nice cows! But having never tasted Jersey milk, I can't say whether or not these Tirol hit the mark. The chocolate smelled a bit like sweet cheese, and pieces of ice cream cone were visible in the white chocolate. Overall, the flavors were fairly plain. The chocolate tasted milky and lightly sweet, and it had a creamy, smooth melt. I really enjoyed the bits of cone, which had a fun crunch. B

Tirol Ikinari Dango Tirol Ikinari Dango

I've never had Ikinari Dango, but they are rice dumplings made with sweet potato and sweet red bean. This Tirol has been released before, and you can check out Tasty Japan's review here. The chocolate had a somewhat starchy smell that reminded me of prepackaged manju. The chocolate and filling had a slightly grainy, vegetal texture. The chewy mochi center was more like bland jelly candy than actual mochi. Overall, the flavors were very mild, but this also meant that the chocolate wasn't too sweet. B

Tirol Strawberry Cheese Pie Tirol Strawberry Pie

This Tirol was stamped with a P, perhaps for pie? I could smell the cheese and just a hint of strawberry. As you can see from the picture, this Tirol had several layers: white chocolate, an oozy, gooey strawberry gel, a soft, almost chewy cracker, and a strawberry chocolate bottom. The strawberry syrup almost tasted more like cherry hard candy to me (and was it ever sweet), but the cheese flavor in the background was nice. I have to give extra points for ambition. B+

Tirol Website