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.