Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kanro Pure Lemon Cola

Lemon Cola Pure

Pure is one of my favorite Japanese candy brands. If you like sour gummies, Pure is definitely worth a look. It's very cheap in Japan (around 100 to 120 yen, if my memory is correct), and pretty cheap in import stores in the USA, too. I bought this flavor at Mitsuwa Marketplace for just under $2.

Since I'm not a big soda drinker, I'm not sure if I've ever had actual lemon cola. I will have to give it a taste on my next Sonic run (preferable to committing to a 2-liter bottle or a 12-pack of cans).

Lemon Cola Pure

These gummies did not smell good. The lemon scent seemed artificial and bordering on floor cleaner. Thankfully, they tasted much better than they smelled. Both the lemon and cola flavors were distinct and well-executed.

Both flavors were tart and tasty, and the gummies had that firm but chewy texture that I've come to love. The lemon cola flavor was different and fun, and these would be sure to please sour gummy fans.


Pure website

Friday, December 2, 2011

Poca Nori Seaweed Chips

Poca Nori Chips

Here's yet another product kindly provided by my globe-trotting boss. This time, she and her husband went to Vietnam for a vacation filled with hiking and kayaking, but they also spent some time in larger cities. One of the snacks she brought back to share with the office was seaweed flavored potato chips.

Seaweed isn't a strange flavor to anyone familiar with Japanese snacks, and the dominant flavor in seaweed snacks is typically salt. These particular chips were made by Lay's, which is called Poca in Vietnam. Several of my coworkers tried the nori chips, and most enjoyed them.

Poca Nori Chips

The chips got a bit damaged in transit, but not crushed too badly. They smelled salty and a bit sweet. The chips had the texture of Pringles (Lay's calls their version Stax). As expected, the seaweed chips mostly tasted salty, with just a hint of sweetness and a very faintly "fishy" aftertaste.

Overall, the flavor was very mild. The aftertaste was noticeable, but not unpleasant. I like seaweed, but even people who don't like it enjoyed these chips. They were pretty addictive!


Pepsico website (Vietnamese)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stride Whitemint

Stride Whitemint
Press Sample

The Olympics Games are a big deal in my house. Professional sports just don't interest me, and my lack of knowledge of team sports is almost embarrassing. The Olympics are different. I will watch any (or every, if possible) Olympic event, and the way I track medal standings is borderline obsessive. I know the Winter Olympics have a lackluster reputation in comparison to the Summer Olympics, but I like the Winter Games better.

So, when Shaun White puts his name and face on a product, it totally works for me. The man is a snowboarding god. These samples were kindly sent to me for review by a PR representative, but just so you know, I would have bought this gum anyway. May I also add that the PR sample packaging was the cutest I've ever seen?

Stride Whitemint

The bold colors on the outer package were very eye catching and tied into the promotion nicely. The gum wrappers themselves were pretty, too! I loved the metallic white and blue motif. The gum itself was a cool and sweet mint. There were no hints of wintergreen or spearmint, just a nice, easy peppermint. I liked the sweetness, but some of my coworkers found it to be too sweet.

The texture was great: soft but not mooshy, and it didn't seem to harden as I chewed. The cooling effect was pretty strong, and I found it to be a good after-meal breath freshener. Stride delivered on the long-lasting flavor, too. I was sick of chewing gum before the mint had completely worn off (probably about 10 to 15 minutes - gotta start timing these chews better). Whitemint is a safe flavor, but with the fun celebrity tie-in, it certainly left a good impression on me.


Stride website

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gandour Unica


My sister gave me a nice selection of candy bars from a Lebanese grocer recently, and it's about time I got to reviewing them. The first one I tried was the Unica bar, a chocolate wafer bar.

It's worth mentioning that I have never been a fan of wafer bars. I didn't even like KitKats until college, and those plain delicate wafer cookies? Still not for me. So I am somewhat biased.


The Unica bar was very pretty, with a nice-looking, rippled milk chocolatey coating. It smelled pleasant, like a mild cocoa. The chocolate was extremely mild, in fact. It got a bit lost in the wafers, which were also subtly flavored.

The cream between the wafers was slightly salty with a hint of vanilla. They had a light, delicate crunch, which was really the main experience of the bar. It felt very unsubstantial, but as I mentioned, wafer bars are not my thing.

The wrapper said Wafers coated with milky chocolate sensation and the website says Wafers Coated with Chocolate Flavour, so draw your own conclusions about that. There's nothing really wrong with this bar, but it's just too bland for me.


Gandour Website

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dolfin Chocolat Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon

Dolfin Chocolat Au Lait au The Vert Sencha du Japon

For my brother-in-law's birthday, my sister ordered chocolate from Chocosphere, but since they offer flat rate shipping under for orders under $50, she asked me to order some things to get the total order closer to that level. Honestly, it was hard to limit myself! Don't be fooled by the 1997-esque web design - there is some quality chocolate to be ordered.

I had to try more Dolfin chocolate, so among other things, I ordered their Sencha (green tea) bar for myself and the Lavender bar for a friend of mine. That friend was kind enough to give me a bite of the Lavender bar - I never liked lavender before, but consider me converted! It was that good.

Dolfin Wrapper Dolfin Sencha Bar

Though I prefer matcha, sencha is pretty good, too. It's made from dried tea leaves and it's the most common kind of green tea in Japan (and probably the kind most Americans drink, too). In this bar, the sencha aroma was delightfully grassy and bitter. The tea leaves broke up the smooth chocolate with a slightly gritty crunch.

The green tea melded perfectly with the milk chocolate, which was some of the best milk chocolate I've had the pleasure of tasting (my husband loved it, too). It was smooth, not overly sticky, and neither too milky nor too sweet. This is absolutely the best green tea bar I've ever had. Although it was sencha, I found that it had more of a matcha essence than plain green tea. The green tea and chocolate weren't competing for flavor dominance; they were just in perfect harmony and balance.


Dolfin website

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dolfin Noir au Poivre Rose

I think I have a new favorite brand. My sister gave me Dolfin's Noir au Poivre Rose (Black with Pink Pepper) for my birthday, and it was the first time I had seen the brand. Sometimes chocolate sits around at home because I have so much, but I prioritized this bar because it was so pretty. There's still a bit of wrapping paper stuck to the package in my picture because I was in such a hurry to eat the bar.

The whole experience, from opening the package to finishing the bar, was delightful. The wrapper reminded me of a checkbook (maybe it's a bit overpackaged). The bar itself was wrapped in a liner that reminded me of old-fashioned wallpaper. It was so cute and elegant!

Oh, the chocolate. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed chocolate this much. The bar had a strong peppercorn scent that carried over into the flavor. The pepper was more aromatic than spicy, and it was absolutely perfect with the dark chocolate.

Speaking of the chocolate, it was some of the best dark chocolate I've ever had. It was nutty and only mildly bitter, with very little fruitiness. The middle notes were sweet and creamy, and the finish was bitter and clean. The pepper even cleared my sinuses a bit, but I didn't find it to be too strong.

My husband had one complaint: the slightly gritty texture of the peppercorns reminded him of dirt at times. The texture didn't bother me. After this bar was gone, I promptly ordered more Dolfin chocolate, and, as you'll see in upcoming reviews, I was not disappointed.


Dolfin website

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vosges Exotic Caramels

Vosges Exotic Caramels

On our Las Vegas vacation this summer, my husband sat in his first real Texas Hold 'Em tournament. The stakes were pretty low (none of that televised business), but he's always wanted to try a Vegas tournament. This meant he would be at that casino for several hours, so after watching the first hand and wishing him luck, I embarked on a shopping trip.

Of course, I found myself at the Vosges store inside the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace, and after sampling three different chocolates and exploring the store, I couldn't shake my curiosity about their Exotic Caramels. Since I couldn't limit myself to just one or two flavors, I bought the whole set.

The box was a colorful smorgasbord of caramels, nine varieties in total. Vosges is always a splurge, and at $29 US, this set was no exception. Maybe it was just the Las Vegas spirit that compelled me to buy it. I'm not a big gambler - at least when I go shopping, everyone wins. Reading the flavor descriptions alone was worth at least a dollar. 

Vosges Exotic Caramels

I forgot to photograph each one individually, but let's start in the lower left corner of the picture above. Canadian maple sugar + maple syrup + walnuts + dark chocolate didn't seem that exotic to me. The maple wasn't very strong, but the rich caramel still reminded me of pancakes. It was smooth and a little salty with a nice crunch from the walnuts. Dark chocolate was a good match, and the coating was smooth and mild. The salty-sweet balance was nice, and this one would please even a timid palate.

The next caramel to the right was Blood orange + Campari + dark chocolate + hibiscus powder. That's more like it! Campari is an Italian bitters made from fruit and herbs, and I've never tried it, but Wikipedia says it is bitter, spicy, and sweet. The red coating was lovely and had a sour, floral flavor. The caramel was very soft and fruity with a citrus finish that reminded me of lemonade or jelly fruit slices. It was quite complex, and complemented by the dark chocolate coating.

Aboriginal Anise MyrtleRounding out the bottom row was Aboriginal anise myrtle + dark chocolate, and I did manage to photograph this one. After a bad experience tasting Absinthe, I lost my liking for anise, so I was wary, but the flavor in this caramel was very pleasant. The bitter chocolate stood out, but the mild licoricey anise was noticeable especially in the mid to end notes. It was surprisingly tasty, despite my distaste for anise and it being the last caramel I sampled (two months after buying the box). The chocolate sagged a bit over time, but the flavor still wowed me, so I doubt any real damage occurred.

The leftmost caramel in the middle row was Hawaiian red sea salt + milk chocolate + li hing powder. Again, Wikipedia was required: li hing powder is a red powder that covers dried salty li hing mui (plums). Despite not knowing what it would taste like, the li hing was easy to detect. The sea salt combined with the li hing gave this caramel a complex salty-sour-sweet flavor. The milk chocolate was on the sweeter side, but it helped to balance the extremely salty finish.

In the center, Mexican guajillo chilies + licorice root + dark chocolate + organic pumpkin seeds had the longest name. It smelled woodsy, and the dark chocolate felt deep and smooth. The pumpkin seeds were dispersed throughout the melty caramel, giving it a tender crunch. The chilies gave it a nice heat on the finish. I didn't get a sense of the licorice root, but it was still a standout piece.

Vosges Exotic Caramels

To the right was the strangest caramel in the collection: Tupelo honey + milk chocolate + bee pollen. It was the first one I tried because it seemed the "most" exotic. The pollen beads were floral, slightly bitter, and maybe a little waxy. The honey felt warm and was not overly sweet. It seemed very filling compared to the other caramels!

Rose water + pink peppercorns + dark chocolate + red rose petal was in the upper left corner, and I loved the rose petal garnish. It was aromatic and floral, but the peppercorn gave it an intense kick! It was unexpected and delicious. The rose was delicate but easy to detect, and well matched to the subtly sweet caramel.

In the upper middle, Brazil nuts + South American cocoa nibs + dark chocolate had the most crunch of any of the truffles. Brazil nuts have an earthy flavor that I have never enjoyed on its own, but when mixed with sweet and creamy caramel, I had no objections. The cocoa nibs added a hint of bitter fruitiness to the nutty flavor, and all together it was comforting and easy to eat. This caramel seemed firmer than the others.

Finally, Argentine dulce de leche + Costa Rican cashews + milk chocolate was one of my favorites. Although the sources of the ingredients are exotic, this one didn't push and flavor boundaries; it was just extremely well executed. The milky caramel was refreshingly simple, with the slightly bitter nuts at the front of the flavor. It was rich and creamy, and neither too salty not too sweet.

Vosges Exotic Caramels

Any food lover would enjoy this set. It was such a pleasure to taste, and there is not a single bad caramel in the bunch. Words like delectable, delightful, savory, and complex easily spring to mind. Am I gushing? Yeah. Is this set worth $29? Without a doubt.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caffex CaffeMallows

Press Sample

I'll admit it, I was a bit apprehensive about trying caffeinated marshmallows. I love my coffee (currently drinking Trader Joe's Dark Sumatra), but energy drinks and shots just aren't my thing. Still, when it comes to food and candy, I will try anything* once. It was with that spirit I accepted an offer for free samples of Caffex Caffeinated Mallows for review consideration. As always, the samples were free but no compensation was received for this review.

Three varieties of marshmallow came in the sampler: Java, Coffee, and Mocca. I kept putting off trying them for a morning when I wasn't drinking coffee, but that never happened. Eventually, I just went for it, sampling each kind on three different days. More on the buzz later, but I was very productive at work those days.

Coffee Mallows

The packages were printed with the caffeine dosages (though I did not capture this on camera), which was a bit frightening for a caffeine novice like me. The Coffee Mallows had 200 mg of caffeine per serving, which is just over the caffeine content of two cans of Red Bull. The pale brown Coffee Mallows smelled of cinnamon, and they had a slightly bitter coffee flavor. The marshmallow was had a slightly gritty texture. I appreciated the aroma, but I'd rather drink coffee. Unlike a cup of coffee sipped slowly over time, I felt the Coffee Mallow right away; I was downright hyper! My coworkers noticed a difference

Mocca [sic] Mallows

The Mocca Mallows were the best of the bunch. They also had 200 mg of caffeine, but I loved how this marshmallow looked-and tasted-just like a brownie. It was dense with big sugar crystals and cocoa nibs, giving it an excellent chocolate flavor. It had the mildest coffee flavor of the three, and while I still prefer a cup of coffee, I really enjoyed this one. Again, I got a pretty strong buzz.

Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the beast of the bunch, the Java Mallow. I saved this one for last. It contained a whopping 280 mg of caffeine, and I was so intimidated, I split it with my husband (and neither of us had coffee that day, based on previous experience). This marshmallow was extremely bitter with a very strong, concentrated espresso flavor. It was absolutely not for me, but someone who enjoys energy drinks might like it more. Even though I split it with my husband, the buzz was intense!

Candy Gurus, Energy Fiend, The Daily Nerdgasm, and Food Junk also reviewed these, and opinions ranged from love to hate. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.


Caffex website

* I reserve the right to make exceptions to this rule. "Anything" is pretty general.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hubba Bubba Max Mystery Flavor

Hubba Bubba Max Mystery Flavor

Back in elementary school, when I got an allowance of 2 dollars a week, much of that money was spent on bubble gum from the grocery store a couple blocks from my house. There's just something so fun and frivolous about bubble gum, and I still blow bubbles to this day, no matter what kind of gum I'm chewing.

These days, I tend to stick to sugarfree gum, but every now and then, something like Hubba Bubba will jump out at me. When I bought this gum at the supermarket last week, my exact words to my husband were, "This girl I can't resist a mystery flavor." I love a good gimmick, and I think I have a pretty good guess at this flavor.

Mystery Flavor

The two-toned gum smelled like almond extract. Right away, it tasted like lemonade, and as I chewed, cherry flavor emerged. My guess is Cherry Lemonade. It was juicy and sour, and not too sweet. When I blew bubbles, the woodsy cherry flavors really emerged, reminding me of amaretto and cherry Starbursts. The lemon wasn't at all like a cleaning product, just sour and tangy.

The gum itself was large and very soft, making it easy to chew and blow bubbles. I had to be careful of my glasses, because the bubbles I could blow could have easily overtaken my nose. As expected, the flavor started to wear thin after just a couple minutes, but the delicious initial favor won me over.

Check out another review at Gum Alert, and from reading the comments, it seems like this "mystery flavor" is a simple re-release. Well, it worked on me.

Hubba Bubba website

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Chocolate Frog

Chocolate Frogs

Is anyone else anxiously awaiting access to Pottermore? Is anyone already exploring the site? I was accepted for early access, but with barely over 2 weeks until it's open to everyone in October, I've just about lost hope of getting that sneak peek. At least the wait is almost over for all of us! Just because I needed a Harry Potter fix, it seemed like a good time to sample the Chocolate Frog I purchased during my trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Chocolate FrogsIn the books and movies, Chocolate Frogs are presented as lithe, enchanted chocolate creatures that could slip through your fingers with ease, or, if you're quick and lucky, wiggle all the way down to your stomach. Of course, there's no way to reproduce that experience for a mass market, but I was surprised by how the Chocolate Frog was brought to life for Universal Studios. There's no way the Chocolate Frogs sold at the actual Honeydukes inside the park could slip out a window. They're solid, huge, and surprisingly hefty! At an equally hefty theme park price price of $9.95 US, maybe Universal Studios was going for the value angle, but they didn't really hit that mark, either.

IMG_4994 The solid chocolate frog filled the entire box, but unfortunately it smelled a bit dusty, like a cheap Easter bunny. The easiest way to serve the frog seemed to be cutting into it with a knife, which was fun for my husband. Much to my dismay, the chocolate tasted like it smelled: dry, grainy, and a little chalky. The cocoa flavor was mild and very sweet, and even though it was a one-note chocolate flavor, I did appreciate that there were no sour or otherwise unpleasant aftertastes. The chocolate wasn't very milky, and although I dislike the overly sticky quality that milk chocolate often has, this frog could have used some creaminess. Now, I must disclose that I did wait a couple of months to eat this, but the package was sealed and far from the sell-by date, so it was a bit of a letdown.

I'll admit that this blog has spoiled cheap chocolate for me, but for this price, I'd rather have less chocolate of a higher quality than this giant brick of disappointment. But, as Ron Weasley pointed out to Harry, It's the card you want, and in that respect, the Chocolate Frog was pretty cool. The package was gorgeous and well-constructed, and finding the holographic trading card inside really made me feel immersed in the Harry Potter universe. I got Rowena Ravenclaw (and I think I'd be a Ravenclaw), but I can't see myself trying to collect them all at $10 a frog.


The packaging is absolutely an A+, but overall, this is a C. It's still a good souvenir because of the card and box, but the chocolate left a lot to be desired. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter blog reviewed Chocolate Frogs and really liked them. Please remember, this is just my opinion. If you've got your heart set on a Chocolate Frog, I think the box and card alone will make you happy, and if you enjoy the chocolate, even better.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Monday, September 19, 2011

Green & Black’s Classic Collection

Press Sample

It’s about time I continued working on my backlog of reviews. First, a PR representative for Green & Black’s kindly sent the lovely Classic Collection of miniature chocolate bars. The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the tiny bars was that they would be a great size for an American Girl doll (my favorite childhood toy). Maybe that's why I still think miniatures are so fun!

The cutest thing about the bars was that they were perforated, just like a full size bar! Adorable. The perforations worked, too, which is always a plus! The collection includes six varieties: Milk, 70% Cocoa, Ginger, Cherry, Almond, and Toffee. There were two bars of each kind, so I recruited my husband as a guest taster and have included some of his comments below. I should also mention that, to quote the press email, Green & Black's sources high-quality organic and fair trade certified ingredients for all of its bars, and that this collection will be available for $9.99 in US major retailers starting in September.

IMG_4743 Tiny Ginger Bar
look how cute these are!

Even though it's a standard flavor, Milk was not my favorite of the set. It's really just my personal preference (which is typically > 60% cocoa or bust). It was very sweet and milky with a sticky melt (which is what my husband likes about milk chocolate). I detected a hint of what almost seemed like mintiness, but it could have been my imagination.

However, when the milk chocolate was combined with Toffee, I loved it. The bar had a nutty, caramelized flavor that went very well with the sweet milk chocolate. The chewy, slight crunch of the toffee was just right (Heath bars are too hard for me). The finish was very sweet, but it went well with the subtly salty toffee.

The Almond bar smelled milky, and the chocolate was soft and sticky. the almond pieces had a tender texture with a slightly crunch coating. The flavors mixed well, and it had a well balanced sweetness.


But you know I was waiting for those dark bars. The Dark 70% bar had a satisfying snap and a nice, sweet start. The middle was fruity and slightly bitter, with the bitterness in the forefront on the finish. It had a lovely smooth melt and hints of toasty marshmallow flavor. It was never too bitter or too sweet, making it a fine specimen of dark chocolate. I'd be tempted to buy this bar alone in full size if I had a dark chocolate craving.

Cherry consisted of dried cherries in dark chocolate, and I was immediately stuck by just how sour the cherries were. My husband and I both love sour cherries, but neither of us were crazy about them here. The cherries struck me as especially tangy against the dark chocolate, and I might have liked it better with a sweeter chocolate to counteract the sour. It might have been because of the small size, because I noticed bites that had more chocolate than cherry were much better.

Green & Black's Ginger Bar Green & Black's Ginger Bar

Finally, the Ginger bar was a standout for both myself and my husband. It totally hit the spot. The 60% cocoa went very well with the sharp and noticeable (but not too strong) ginger pieces. The bar was clean, refreshing, and unique. The ginger added a tasty crunch and spicy flavor without a sinus-clearing burn. I could definitely see this as a great dessert after a pungent meal.

Green & Black's Classic Collection has a lot to offer, with the Toffee, 70% Cocoa, and Ginger bars standing out in particular. While I wasn't crazy about the Cherry, I did appreciate its boldness, and it was really only the Milk that didn't excite me. The Classic Collection felt fresh, and tasting the set was a very enjoyable experience.


Green & Black's website

Product was submitted for review by a PR representative. No compensation was received and the product was reviewed just like any other.

Isala Amaretti

Isala Amaretti

This summer, a scientist from the Italian branch of my company came to work at our lab for a couple weeks. Before she left, she shared some treats from Italy. Our lab interns warned me that they tasted weird, but I was undeterred; I thought the Amaretti macaroons looked delicious!

Almond can be an intense flavor, and I think that might have been what scared off some of my coworkers. My dad (who works in the same office) sampled the cookies before me and described them as fragrant. For the record, he enjoyed them.


The Amaretti smelled strongly of almond extract, heavy with woodsy, cherry-like notes. I was surprised that the cookie was very soft and had a sugar-like crunch. It chewed from a light and fragrant fluffy nut paste to a slightly bitter but very sweet finish. I got a strong sensation of amaretto, but there was no alcohol taste.

The Amaretti was moist with a gritty, soft crunch - not at all doughy. The delicate texture reminded me of French macarons, although the Italian Amaretti were much denser and had a much stronger flavor. I enjoyed the heavy aromatic almond sensation, but those less keen on almonds or amaretto would do well to avoid these.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mentos UP2U

Mentos UP2U

Sometimes, I'm all for gimmicks. The idea of the Mentos UP2U gum struck me as quite cute: two different types of gum in one pack, so the chewer can choose between fruity and minty. Since I'm physically incapable of resisting new gum when I see it, I bought this gum during a recent grocery store run.

While a slogan like a choice for every moment of the day seems like a major overstatement, I did like the packaging. With its bold colors and metallic accents, it was stylish and eye catching. Very current, right down to the strong social media tie-ins.

Mentos UP2U

Being a fruity gum fan, I went for the Mandarin Strawberry first. It smelled like strawberry Mentos, and the flavor was mostly fake strawberry with hints of orange sherbet. It was tart and juicy with soft flavor crystals, and the overall chew seemed a bit on the firm side. I did find the initial fruitiness to be short-lived, only a couple minutes, leaving behind a vaguely tart but not unpleasant hint of citrus. There was no mint, but it did leave my mouth feeling cool and fresh without any staleness.

Mentos Mandarin Strawberry Mentos UP2U Spearmint
though not as beautiful as Trident Layers, the two-tone gum was quite pretty

Spearmint didn't push any flavor boundaries, but as far as an after-meal breath freshener, it did a fine job. As expected, the mint flavor hung around for a while, with the stronger stuff wearing off after about 5 minutes. I chewed for about 20 minutes, and could still detect a slight flavor when I threw it away. The crunchy flavor crystals were a welcome textural addition. Again, the chew was firm, but this one seemed to soften over time.

Both gums fall solidly in B+ territory.

UP2U on Facebook (feels more relevant than a website)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar

Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar

Looking back at my recent (and infrequent - sorry about that) reviews, it seems I've been into chocolate bars lately. Trying different chocolate brands and types is one of my favorite things about running this blog; I love looking for little differences in flavor and texture.

Vosges is not a brand I buy often, simply because it's expensive. This bar, for example, was $5.99. Despite the price, when I went on a recent chocolate buying spree (seems like this happens a lot these days), the Black Salt Caramel bar called out to me. The Bapchi's Caramel Toffee bar I tried last year was so delicious, I thought another caramel bar from Vosges would be a sure bet.

Vosges Black Salt Caramel Bar

If you were wondering, the unbroken bar looks like this, but it was important for me to show you how this bar broke, because it completely dominated my overall impression of the bar. It was such a mess, even by caramel standards! The bar just wouldn't break at the "perforations" for me. The chocolate just kept cracking, leaving an oozy, sticky pile of caramel I had to lick off the wrapper (I'm not ashamed). Maybe it's just because I'm very neat, but this really bothered me.

The bar didn't have a strong scent, just a mild hint of cocoa. The 70% cocoa chocolate was slightly bitter, but it had a dreamily smooth melt. The runny liquid caramel was intensely sweet, but it did carry a hint of salt along with a toasty, slightly earthy flavor. The caramel really needed the dark chocolate to balance the bite, but since the caramel kept leaking out, that goal was hard to accomplish. When I did manage to keep it together, the bites along the borders of the pre-formed squares were more appealing; bites from the middle were just too sweet because there wasn't enough chocolate to offset the caramel.

Vosges does dark chocolate very well, but I could have done with less caramel. Don't eat this bar in the car, or at least try to have a moist towelette on hand if you do. This review is based on the entire consumption experience - if the bar hadn't been so messy, I would have rated it higher based on flavor alone, but as much as it pains me, I've got to account for my frustration. I still love you, Vosges!

Please read other reviews at The Candy Enthusiast and The District Chocoholic for some different perspectives on this bar.


Vosges website

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ferrero Gran Soleil Caffe Cappuccino


The laboratory for which I work has close ties with our facilities in Italy, and people from my office are constantly traveling there for business. I haven’t gotten this opportunity yet, but at least when people from my department go to Italy, they often bring back sweets for my blog.

Gran Soleil is an interesting, ice cream-like treat my boss found in the check-out lane at an Italian supermarket. It comes in other flavors, but this one is Coffee Cappuccino. My boss doesn’t speak much Italian (nor do I), so neither of us knew what it was, but we gathered that it had to be frozen. My stepmother-in-law, who speaks some Italian (thanks to several lengthy assignments there), was able to gather from the instructions that I needed to freeze the package overnight. It was a snacking experience unlike any I’ve had.


Before freezing, the Gran Soleil sounded like gel when I shook it. It solidified after freezing, and since there were two packets, my husband and I each had one. The frozen paste didn’t really look like the picture, but it was still somewhat ice cream-like. It was quite sticky and had an intense coffee scent.

Gran Soleil must have contained a fair amount of water, because there were plenty of ice crystals. True to its scent, the coffee flavor was strong. This was a good thing, though, because the mixture was syrupy and sweet, even a little cloying. Still, the experience of freezing the package myself was fun and new. I think I’d like to try other flavors, though.


Gran Soleil website

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Madecasse Chocolate

Madecasse 70% cocoa IMG_4664
I just might have a new favorite chocolate brand. It's not cheap at $5.99 a bar (I bought both of these myself), but Madecasse Chocolate is worth the investment. It's single origin chocolate from Madagascar, but beyond that, they pay above fair trade prices and provide equipment and training to their cocoa farmers. Oh, and it's delicious.

The two bars I've tried are the 70% Cocoa and the Sea Salt & Nibs (63% cocoa). My friends and family have had to put up with me raving about this brand for several days now (but it's worth it because I share). I'm not a chocolate connoisseur, but it's not often that a bar impresses me this much.

Madecasse 70% cocoa

The first bar I tried was the 70% Cocoa. The understated packaging was beautiful, and according to the back of the wrapper, the little straw tie was hand-tied in Madagascar. Inside, the bar was wrapped in pale gold foil (and I do love shiny things), and the chocolate itself was a lovely shade. It broke cleanly along the perforations with a nice snap. The chocolate was had a deep and varied flavor; strongly fruity, but not acidic. I often enjoy chocolate at around 70%, and this was no exception. It was certainly bitter, but still silky smooth on the tongue.


The packaging and look of Sea Salt & Nibs was similar, but the back of the bar was just beautiful. It smelled quite bitter, but the flavor was fruity and bright. The cacao nibs added a fantastic crunch and a strong, bitter bite on the tongue, but overall, it was sweeter at 63% cocoa. The sea salt was there to bring out the slight sweetness of the chocolate, and it was just right - not too strong but not absent. While I prefer the plain dark chocolate, it's nice to have a bit of texture variety.

I was thrilled with both of these bars, and looking back at old reviews, I've got to give both my top rating. Review blogging is subjective by nature, and it all depends how I feel about a product at the time. It usually takes multiple tastes over several days, but it's really just for fun.


Madecasse Website

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Butterbeer


Along with candy and chocolate, Harry Potter is another one of my great loves. Shortly before the fourth book was released in the summer of 2000, I was introduced to the series, and have been a rabid an avid fan ever since. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in 2007, I was feeling bittersweet, but I remember thinking, at least I have the movies to look forward to.

With the recent release of the last movie, I thought it'd be a good time to post a little non-review of the Butterbeer served at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Florida. My husband and I went there in June on vacation, and it was like a dream. Even though my husband is not really a Potter enthusiast, he had a blast there as well.


After riding The Forbidden Journey (which was incredible) and the Dragon Challenge, we headed to the Hog's Head Pub to beat the heat. There's only one way to cool off in Hogsmeade, and that's with an ice cold Butterbeer. Only available in the Harry Potter section of the park, Butterbeer comes on ice or frozen, and both varieties are about $3 US.

The regular, on ice variety smelled of cream and mild soda. The bartender first dispensed the amber-colored soda, then topped it with a fascinating bit of magic in the form of a thick white cream. The soda tasted like mild cream soda with hints of butter and vanilla, but the topping was incredible. It was thick and frothy and reminded me of marshmallow fluff, only smoother. It had a lovely vanilla flavor with a hint of saltiness, and seemed to expand and bubble with the carbonated soda, so that there was soda and cream in every single sip.

Here's that magical topping in action!

Later that evening, we returned to the Harry Potter area to ride the Forbidden Journey again, and top off the night with a frozen Butterbeer and a Pumpkin Fizz. Again, the bartender first dispensed the Butterbeer, this time a frozen slurry, and then the magical topping. Because the topping comes out of the tap at around room temperature, it melted some of the frozen Butterbeer, dripping down the inside of the cup.

The frozen Butterbeer was much denser and thicker than the regular variety. If it was carbonated, I didn't notice, and the buttery flavor was much richer. While I really enjoyed it, neither my husband nor I could quite finish it, as it was a much more filling beverage.

Pumpkin Fizz and Butterbeer

I should also mention the Pumpkin Fizz; when I ordered Pumpkin Juice, the bartender recommended a Pumpkin Fizz instead - half juice and half club soda. Apparently, the Pumpkin Juice on its own is nearly unbearably sweet, and the soda cuts down on the sweetness. The Pumpkin Fizz was still sweet, but it was tasty and refreshing. The pumpkin pie spices were great: cinnamon and nutmeg were easily detected. It was much easier to finish than the frozen Butterbeer!

I expected Butterbeer to be more like a thick butterscotch than a fancy cream soda, but I wasn't disappointed at all. Harry and his friends drink it warm in the books, but that's not practical in the Florida heat. The Harry Potter-themed beverages were highly enjoyable and not terrible overpriced (for a theme park).

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an absolute delight for fans of the books and movies, but anyone would have fun there. It's absolutely worth the admission price! If you made it this far, thanks for putting up with my fangirlish raving. Are any of you Harry Potter fans? The last movie was amazing, wasn't it?

Hog's Head Pub