Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nestle KitKat Kokutou and Kinako

KitKat Kokutou and Kinako

First, just a quick reminder: please enter my Trident Gum Contest! Moving on, if I'm not mistaken, this is the 50th KitKat review on Snack Love! As luck would have it, it's a very good KitKat. I purchased mine at napaJapan ($1.99 for 2 mini bars), and as of now, they are still available for purchase.

There's just something so sophisticated about bitter chocolate, and even though KitKat isn't a sophisticated, classy brand, they have released some very grown-up flavors this year in Japan. Add Kokutou and Kinako (black sugar and soy bean flour) to that list! Although it translates to black sugar, kokutou is a dark brown sugar with a rich, bitter flavor, often associated with Okinawa.

KitKat Kokutou and Kinako

The bar smelled strongly of molasses, and the first bite was pleasantly bitter. The bitterness reminded me of coffee, and the milk chocolate was a lovely, sweet companion. The balance of flavors was fantastic! A hint of kinako was detectable only in the background, but it did give a certain nuttiness to the bar.

It was definitely unlike other KitKats I've tried, and I think it would please an adult palate, especially if that adult was a fan of molasses. I just couldn't get over that delicious initial bitter kick! It's definitely one of the best KitKats I've tried this year, if not of all time.


Check out a review of the first generation of this bar at Japanese Snack Reviews and the re-release at Jen Ken's Kit Kat Blog.

Nestle KitKat website

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of the Year Trident Layers Giveaway

Press Sample

This giveaway is now closed! Winners are being notified.

Where I work, everyone gets a gift certificate for a fancy ham at the end of the year. It's just a nice little bonus that makes a holiday meal a little easier. For my readers, here's a little end of the year bonus giveaway - but it's not a ham - this bonus is paid in gum!

Trident Layers Giveaway

You guessed it, it's Trident Layers! Thanks to a kind PR representative, I've got 4 sealed boxes, each filled with 12 packs of Trident Layers Cool Mint + Melon Fresco gum to give away to 4 lucky readers! It was definitely one of my favorite gum flavors of 2010.

Entering the contest is simple: just comment on this post about the best candy you had this year. Also, be sure you leave an email address for me to contact you if you're not a Blogger/Google member. I apologize, I know Blogger's comment system isn't the best for this. If you would rather not leave an email address publicly, you can send it to me at and let me know which comment goes with it.

From the comments, 4 winners will be selected at random to each receive a sealed box of 12 packs of Trident Layers Gum! The contest is open to all readers (as allowed by your state or country’s laws).

The deadline for entries is 9:00 PM EST on Wednesday, January 12, 2011, at which point the winners will be randomly selected and notified. I will make periodic reminder posts up to the deadline, and post again when all winners have responded.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Almond, Toffee, and Hazelnut Bars

Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Bars Ghirardelli Toffee
Along with the individually wrapped squares, the Ghirardelli Luxe Milk line also includes chocolate bars. Coupons for these bars were kindly provided by a public relations representative. My local Target store only had the almond and hazelnut varieties, but I was able to find toffee at a Wal-mart.

I've certainly mentioned this before, but I'm not typically a milk chocolate person. Dark chocolate (somewhere around 60 to 70% cacao, to be specific) is my preference, but even for me, Ghirardelli's Luxe Milk hits the spot with its rich, creamy, traditional milk chocolate. The pretty, pale gold wrapper helps, too.

Ghirardelli Almond

Almond smelled of roasted almonds, and the chunky nuts had a meaty, chewy texture and strong, roasted flavor. The chocolate was milky and just a little sweet, and the bar seemed better than the individual squares. It was crunchy, a bit crackly, and very nicely balanced. The milk chocolate was just a little sticky but it didn't bother me. A-

Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Toffee

Toffee might have knocked my socks off if I hadn't just tried the new Vosges toffee bar, but that's another review. The Ghirardelli bar smelled only of milk chocolate, but the toffee added texture right from the first bite. It was crunchy like fine hard candy bits, and it imparted a mild salty and savory butter flavor to the bar. The milk chocolate was smooth and cool on the tongue with just a little stickiness, and it was a good match for the toffee. At less than half the price of the aforementioned Vosges bar, it's not a bad choice at all. A-

Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Hazelnut Bar

Finally, Hazenlnut smelled nutty, and the rich flavor and slight sweetness of the hazelnuts brought out the sweeter flavors in the milk chocolate. Although they went well together here, I am not a big fan of hazelnut and chocolate (I don't even like Nutella), so it was a bit lost on me. The hazelnuts were fresh and crunchy, and I think fans of hazelnut chocolate would like it very much. B

Overall, the Luxe Milk line offers a nice range of fillings in good quality milk chocolate, and I think any of these bars would please a chocolate fan.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Meiji Mango Pudding Sweets Gum

Mango Pudding Sweets Gum

Have I ever mentioned my mango phase? When I was in college, there was this local hipster video rental store near campus (I may be young, but I had a VCR) with an attached smoothie bar, and I was addicted to their more-tart-than-sweet mango lemonade smoothies. Bubble tea may have been trendier, but I was hooked on those smoothies.

Once I graduated, I got over my addiction, but I still like mango. It’s fitting that this Mango Pudding gum came in a package from a dear college friend. Even though it happens subconsciously, I love associating scents and flavors with memories, and mango reminds me of fun with college friends and good grades.

Mango Pudding Sweets Gum

Now that I’ve gone off on a complete tangent, I had better get on with the review. The shape of the gum was interesting – sort of like Combos or Collon. According to the box, the outer ring was gum and the middle portion was soft candy, but it all chewed down the same. At first, it was on the hard side, and it was difficult to get the chewing started.

The initial flavor was a delightfully sharp, sour mango, but after a few seconds, the gum became much softer, and the flavor dulled to a mild, waxy tropical. The way the gum became so soft reminded me of the center of a Charms Blow Pop, as if the candy portion somehow altered the texture of the gum for the worse. That first burst of tart mango was great, but along with the satisfying texture, it was short-lived.


Meiji website

Friday, December 17, 2010

NewTree Granola

NewTree Granola

After loving the NewTree Belgian Biscuit bar, I was excited to come across the NewTree Granola bar at my local Wal-Mart. It offered another unique combination of flavors and textures I had not yet tried: milk chocolate and granola with lime and green tea extract.

The cocoa percentage was on the low side at 31%, but NewTree bars boast lower amounts of sugar than comparable chocolate bars (without an artificial sweetener in sight, mind you). In addition, half of the bar was well under 200 calories, which seems like a very reasonable indulgence. The box also mentions higher fiber and antioxidants, which are nice to have, but in the end, it’s still a chocolate bar.

NewTree Granola

The bar smelled of rich cocoa and lime juice, and I could taste the lime immediately. The granola bits (more like single pieces of oatmeal scattered throughout the bar) had a subtle vanilla flavor and added a neat crunch, making the chocolate a bit drier than I expected. This worked well for me, because it seemed to cancel out some of the stickiness I often experience with milk chocolate.

The green tea was almost undetectable, but concentration rewarded me with a few hints of grassiness. The chocolate, lime, and granola combination reminded me of cereals I liked as a kid, and the sweetness level was just right. It didn’t blow me away like the flax seed bar, but it was still an innovative, enjoyable chocolate bar.


NewTree website

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Las Vegas Treats - Payard

Payard at Caesar's Palace

While on our long weekend in Las Vegas, my husband and I were determined to stop in at the Payard Patisserie inside Caesar's Palace. Last year, we went there for the first time after reading Cybele's enticing review on her Candy Blog. This year, I was definitely looking forward to visiting Payard again.

The gigantic clock in the picture above spits out a chocolate sample every 15 minutes - my husband snagged one last year, but we were not so lucky this time. Still, I was there for the pastries rather than the chocolate.

Payard Dessert Case
This photo is from last year, by the way.

The dessert case is a wonderful collection of delightfully decorated miniature cakes, tarts, and pies, costing around $7 each. They definitely fall into the almost-too-pretty-to-eat category, and although they are a bit pricey, it's Las Vegas. At least when you spend that $7 on a cake, you've got a guaranteed win.

I selected the gorgeous Manjari Berry Tart (shown below) because it was such a glossy, sexy red, and it reminded me of topsy-turvy designer cakes. The edible gold leaf topping didn't hurt, either. The cashier served it up on a plastic dish for me and my husband, and we sat at a table just outside the boutique, overlooking the slot machines. One of my favorite touches at Payard is that the plastic cutlery looks like silverware. It's very cute.

Payard Manjari Berry Tart
"Chocolate Almond Sponge layered with Berry Curd and
Manjari Chocolate Mousse topped with an Almond Macaron"

The gold leaf was a gorgeous, luxurious touch, and the French macaron was a fun, crispy topping. Apparently, Payard serves gorgeous full size macarons, but I guess I've been so distracted by the dessert case that I've missed them both times. Anyhow, the mousse and sponge were delightfully bitter, providing a rich contrast to the tartness of the berry curd.

Payard Manjari Berry Tart Inside

The texture play inside the tart was quite fun, with sponge cake, mousse, gel, and a cookie-like bottom. Keeping the chocolate in the airier components of the cake gave it a delicate feel, and the intense berry curd flavor was just right. In short, the Manjari Berry Tart was decadent without being heavy, and the contrasting flavors were interesting and delicious.

Payard Chestnut Tart

Finally, this is the lovely Chestnut Tart I sampled last fall. Underneath the glossy orange coating, the texture of the filling was meaty and tender like a chestnut, but the flavor was more like pumpkin (which must have been intentional, since the description mentioned pumpkin). Still, it was quite tasty and again, not heavy.

To sum it up, these small luxuries are certainly worth it. If you happen to be on the Las Vegas strip, Payard is definitely worth a visit. They also have a beautiful sorbet and gelato display and a chocolate shop. Everything looks delicious, but I've really only tried the pastries.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vosges Bapchi's Caramel Toffee Bar


Technology never ceases to amaze me! Right now, I am writing this entry from cruising altitude on my way to Las Vegas. Thanks to Google, Delta's on-flight internet service is free this month. So, it seemed a good of a time as any to break my lazy blogger streak.

Vosges is not an indulgence I often allow myself to make. It's one of the more expensive chocolate brands available at stores in my area, but when I saw this new flavor, I couldn't resist. It was placed next to a mint flavor for the Holidays, but Caramel Toffee sounded better.


The bar was a little beaten up, but it had an amazingly complex scent and taste. It smelled of rich, browned butter toffee with a hint of something that reminds me of rum. The flavor was at first sweet cocoa, then the salt hit the tongue, and finally, it was nutty and full of rich, incredibly buttery toffee.

There were several textures at play - smooth, rich 45% cacao chocolate (just dark enough to offset the sweetness), crisp and chewy toffee, and meaty nuts. This is definitely the best bar I've tried all year. It reminded me of chocolate caramel corn, only much more refined. It was so hard to put this bar down, but after talking it up so much, I had to save some for my husband.