Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tirol Adriatic Sea Salt Vanilla

Adriatic Sea Salt Vanilla Tirol

Normally, the only Tirol chocolates sold in Japanese import grocers are the ones that come in a long strip, but on a recent trip to Tensuke Market in Columbus, Ohio, I bought the last bag of Adriatic Sea Salt Vanilla Tirol chocolates. Never have I seen such a specific Tirol flavor.

The package promised slightly salty vanilla chocolate and a crispy biscuit, using salt from the Adriatic Sea. I was also surprised to see that the package proclaimed the use of "pleasantly cool" erythritol, a sugar alcohol that seems fairly innocuous as artificial sweeteners go (this is based on a little internet research, so take that with a grain of salt - or sugar, if you like). Normally, the only products I see touting the cooling effects of some artificial sweeteners are gums and mints, so it was nice of Tirol to be upfront about it.

Adriatic Sea Salt Vanilla Tirol

The chocolate smelled buttery, and the white chocolate was very soft with a smooth melt. Everything about this Tirol was mild. The vanilla flavor was very subtle, the chocolate was only slightly salty (as promised), and the biscuit had a very soft, fine crunch to it. I didn't really feel any cooling effects, nor did I taste the sugar alcohol.

White chocolate can get unbearably sweet, but the combination of the sea salt and the dry biscuit kept the sweetness in check. This Tirol had a good balance of flavors, but it was a little bland. I wished the vanilla flavor had been stronger and more authentic.


Tirol website

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trader Joe's Orange Hibiscus Chocolate Bar

Orange Hibiscus

This goes back a while, but the Orange Hibiscus chocolate bar was part of the Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Tasting Odyssey. I received a set as part of a Christmas gift from my sister and her husband, and those were some of the best chocolate bars I've had. This one was my favorite, and I'm sorry I didn't get to this review until now.

Trader Joe's did such whimsical packaging for these dark chocolate bars, and while I'm not a huge fan of whimsy, it works here. The little orange bird makes me chuckle. Like the other bars in the set, this one was 70% cocoa - just the way I like it. Unfortunately, the set (and many of the bars in it) was limited edition.

Orange Hibiscus

The chocolate had a fantastic, citrusy aroma. At first, I tasted the tart bits of dried fruit, and it almost seemed like candied fruit. There were so many different fruity flavors (and different fruits listed on the package) that calling it an orange bar seems almost inappropriate. That's not a bad thing, just a bit misleading. The bar had a floral aftertaste that reminded me of lavender - probably just because I don't have a point of reference for hibiscus.

The texture of the bar was great, especially since this sort of bar can tend towards grittiness. The dark chocolate had a great snap and a smooth melt. It was mild for dark chocolate - not too bitter or acidic, which let the fruity, floral flavors take the lead. There was none of the soapy flavor that some floral foods have. The bar reminded me of red tea, and it was my favorite in the set!


Trader Joe's website

Friday, June 28, 2013

Polishing Off the June Skoshbox

The items in this review were provided by a marketing representative.
June Skoshbox

For the past week or so, I've been reviewing snacks from Skoshbox, a new subscription box service just for Japanese candy, snacks, and trinkets. Let me repeat that I received a promotional box, but I'm not affiliated with Skoshbox and did not (nor will I) receive any compensation for the reviews or for anyone who subscribes. I just think it's a great idea and I want to help spread the word! You can find my previous reviews here and here.

Skoshbox is $12 a month including shipping, and you can find more information at their website. If you do decide to sign up, you can use the code SNACKLUV04 by July 15th to receive a free mystery snack with your first box! Currently, Skoshbox only ships within the US.

UHA Milk Candy

UHA High Concentration Milk Candy was a little scary because of my lactose intolerance, but it was nothing a little Lactaid couldn't fix. The hard candy was extremely milky, as expected. It tasted a lot like drinking heavy cream, and it was pleasant and rich. The candy itself melted down slowly and uniformly, leaving no jagged edges as it got smaller.

The Marukawa Orange Fusen Gum came in a set of 4 gumballs in a small box. I split it with my husband, so we both chewed 2 pieces at once. The gum was very soft and smooth, making it a little tricky to blow bubbles. The flavor authentic orange with a little extra sweetness, sort of like a creamsicle. We both loved the gum, and the flavor longevity was about average (less than 5 minutes).

The Shoyu Bite-Sized Senbei had an extremely mild soy sauce flavor that was so subtle, it got a bit lost in the salty and buttery flavors of the crackers. They had a great crunch, but the flavor was a little bland. These would be an excellent introduction to senbei, because some varieties have much more intense flavors.

LOOK Matcha Mousse

Since matcha (powdered green tea) is my favorite flavor in the world, the item that had me the most excited was the LOOK Matcha Mousse. It contained two flavors: Matcha Azuki (red bean) Matcha Milk. Unfortunately, the chocolate lost a little something in shipment, and it was a bit dry.

LOOK Matcha Mousse Matcha Azuki and Matcha Milk

The dry chocolate lost its smooth texture and a bit of its cocoa flavor, but the insides were still intact. The mousse in the Matcha Azuki had a mild flavor, and the sweet red bean gel was sweet and almost jammy. The Matcha Milk mousse was a little creamier and stickier, and the matcha flavor was stronger. I liked both, but liked the Matcha Milk just a bit better. In cooler months, the chocolate would be just fine, but it wasn't up to the journey this time of year.

Despite a few issues with chocolate texture, I loved my June Skoshbox, and I'm definitely going to subscribe. For the overall experience, I give Skoshbox an A-. The only change I could recommend would be fewer chocolate items in warmer months. Still, Skoshbox is a great way to try new Japanese snacks, or to enjoy your old favorites! The June box had a great variety of items, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next month!

Skoshbox website

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Skoshbox Continued

The items in this review were provided by a marketing representative.
June Skoshbox

One of the nice things about receiving the Skoshbox is that it's given me the chance to try Japanese snacks I've seen but never tried before. If I'm shopping at a store or online, I'll go for the KitKats and Tirol chocolates every time, so it's fun to try things that someone else has picked!

As discussed in my previous post, Skoshbox is a new subscription box for Japanese candy, snacks, and trinkets. I received a promotional box and have been covering the items within, but I'm not affiliated with Skoshbox and did not (nor will I) receive any compensation for the reviews or for anyone who subscribes. Skoshbox $12 a month including shipping, and if you do decide to sign up, you can use the code SNACKLUV04 by July 15th to receive a free mystery snack with your first box! Currently, Skoshbox only ships within the US.

Umai Bo

Umaibo is the perfect example of something I've seen in stores many times but never got around to trying. It's a cylindrical puffed corn snack that comes in tons of different flavors, and the mascot looks awfully similar to a certain ear-less cat... The promotional box included Mentai and Cheese flavors. I tried the Mentai first because it sounded more interesting. Mentaiko is marinated fish roe, and the stick did smell just a tad fishy (in a good way).


I don't remember ever eating mentaiko, but the Umaibo certainly tasted like Japanese food. It had the flavors of soy sauce, fish, and onion, with a hint of pepper heat. The coating was quite salty, but still tasty. It was very similar to Cheetos in terms of crunch. I will probably let my husband have the cheese flavor, but I'm curious to see how closely it resembles American cheese puffs.

The Skoshbox also included 2 individually wrapped Morinaga Hi-Chew candies in grape and apple. Hi-Chew does a great job with authentic, juicy fruit flavors, and these were no exception. The product guide included in the box explains that Hi-Chew was designed to be an edible chewing gum, which explains the bouncy, almost rubbery texture and long-lasting chew. Hi-Chew is slowly becoming available in stores in the US, but it's still mostly confined to the East and West coasts.

Meiji Marble Meiji Marble

One of the long-standing candy rivalries (at least in my head) is between M&Ms and Smarties. Preference seems to depend upon home country, and being partial to M&Ms, I'm no exception. Meiji Marble is a similar type of candy, but I'm not sure it's quite in the same league. The texture of the Marble pieces reminded me of Reese's Pieces - thin, crispy shell, and smooth, almost airy chocolate inside. The chocolate wasn't very rich or solid, but it did have a nice, mild cocoa flavor. I loved that a couple pieces had character faces, and it was fun to see a different variety of colors from other similar candies.

Koala's March

Lotte Koala's March is a classic Japanese snack that was available in the US as Koala Yummies when I was a kid in the 1980s. It's a simple chocolate cream filled cookie, and it tastes the same as ever (which is to say it's pretty yummy). The filling is sweet, but the crunchy cookie shell isn't, so it's got a good balance. The only issue I have with Koala's March is that it contains some trans fat, so I keep my consumption to infrequent, small servings like this.

Since I'm probably not going back to Japan in the near future, I'm very tempted to subscribe to Skoshbox for July. I'll finish up the rest of the snacks within the next couple days and keep you posted on my decision! Is anyone else thinking about signing up?

Thursday, June 20, 2013


The items in this review were provided by a marketing representative.
Image provided by PR

The most common question I get about this blog is, "Where do you buy Japanese snacks?" In the United States, unless you live in very specific areas, Japanese import shops are few and far between. When I was contacted by a marketing representative for Skoshbox, a new subscription box just for Japanese snacks and goodies, I agreed that it was a perfect fit for Snack Love readers.

Skoshbox was created by two childhood friends who have lived in both Japan and the United States. The creators hand-pick each item, ranging from Japanese candies to traditional snacks to stationery. Skoshbox kindly offered to send me their June box, and I'll be reviewing the snacks over the coming days.

Please note that while I did receive the promotional box, I did not receive any compensation for writing about Skoshbox here, nor will I receive any compensation should you choose to subscribe. I'm writing just because I honestly think it's a fun service!

Skoshbox June Skoshbox

The service is $12 a month (including shipping), and a 6 month gift subscription option is available. If you think you might be interested, check out for ordering information. In addition, Skoshbox has kindly created a promotional code for Snack Love readers! Use the code SNACKLUV04 at check out to receive a free mystery snack with your first box. This code expires on July 15th, which is also the last day to sign up for the first box. At this time, Skoshbox only ships within the United States.

Here's a rundown of the items in the June box: Choco Ball, Orange Bubble Gum, Kaki no Tane, Marble Chocolate, Koala's March, Milk Hard Candy, Hi-Chew, Look Chocolate, Shoyu Senbei, and an Air In Eraser.

June Skoshbox

This is a pretty classic assortment of Japanese snacks and candies, which would be especially great for someone new to the world of Japanese goodies, or someone feeling nostalgic for old favorites. The snacks covered the spectrum from savory (Kaki no Tane and Senbei) to sweet, chewy to crunchy to hard candy, and the eraser was a nice touch! A postcard listing everything in the box was included, and I loved that there was a little fun fact about each item.


To start with something savory, I tried the Kaki no Tane. It's a mix of peanuts and tiny rice crackers shaped like persimmon (kaki) seeds. I never paid much attention to Kaki no Tane, although I did think that they were actual persimmon seeds (so now I feel a little silly). But clearly, I was wrong to ignore this snack. The rice crackers were mildly spicy with a light soy sauce flavor, and they had a nice crispy texture. The peanuts were simply lightly salted nuts. The mix of the two components was great, and they were so addictive!


Choco Ball is a simple snack: chocolate covered nuts. Although the card enclosed in the box said that these had an almond in the center, it was actually a peanut. The peanut was toasted, crunchy, and much lighter than the peanuts I'm used to, but I liked the texture! The bite-sized balls were just slightly sweet and highly addictive. Unfortunately, shipping chocolate in the summer months is always a bit of a gamble, and though the Choco Balls were still tasty, they were a little worse for the wear.

Air-In Eraser

As for the Air-In eraser, I thought it was a fun extra. Japanese stationery has a well-deserved cult following in the USA. One swipe of this soft, gummy eraser and you'll see why. I can't even count all the Japanese pens, pencils, and erasers I've amassed over the years, and I'm still hungry for more.

While I was a little disappointed that the Choco Ball had melted, I was still quite pleased with the variety of items in the box - many of which were much more heat-stable! Stay tuned for more items from the Skoshbox!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Vosges Woolloomooloo and Peppermint Candy Cane Bars

Vosges Assortment

If I'm feeling like a splurge, I often turn to chocolate. In this case, my splurge resulted in this Vosges mini bar sampler pack. I bought it on special the day after Thanksgiving last year, and it wasn't a bad deal! The pack came in a bundle of cookie mixes and other chocolates that I doled out as Christmas gifts, but I greedily kept the sampler for me.

Vosges is known for some pretty wild flavors (carrot or Absinthe, anyone?), but the flavors I'll cover in this review are fairly tame. The Woolloomooloo is a slight variation on the winning combination of nuts + chocolate, and the Peppermint Candy Cane bar is perfect for Christmas (or maybe Christmas in July by the time I post this review).

Vosges Woolloomooloo Bar Vosges Woolloomooloo Bar

The Woolloomoloo bar smelled like butter and macadamia nuts. It was quite salty from start to finish. The chocolate was soft and just a tad sticky, but it was velvety and had a lovely cocoa flavor. The hemp seeds added a soft crunch, and while I couldn't taste the coconut, it did add to the texture. With the exception of the salt, the flavors were all quite subtle, and the combination of tastes and textures made for an interesting bar.B+

Vosges Peppermint Candy Cane Bar Vosges Peppermint Candy Cane Bar

Peppermint and dark chocolate are normally great together, but this bar was too minty for me. The mint was so intense I thought there might have been peppermint oil infused into the chocolate, and it felt chilly on my tongue. The dark chocolate had a nice, crisp snap and the candy cane bits added a good candy crunch without being too sharp. I can't bring myself to give this bar a C because the ingredients were great, but it was hard to get past that chill. Mint lovers only for this one! B-

Vosges website

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tirol Mix 9

Tirol Mix 9

It's time to emerge from blogtirement! It's been a little while, but before it got too hot to ship chocolate to my house, I purchased this 9-pack of Tirol chocolates from napaJapan. It's the standard assortment, though Tirol always rotates a few limited edition flavors in and out of these packs. If you bought this assortment now, you'd get Lemon Cookie instead of Caramel Bis.

Some of these flavors have been reviewed here before, including Milk, Hot Cake, and White & Cookie Crunch. Some of the never-before reviewed on this blog flavors in this assortment are classic Tirol chocolates, so most of them should be easy to find online or in Japanese import grocers.

Caramel Bis Caramel Bis

One of the rotating flavors in this mix was Caramel Bis, which is a twist on the classic Bis. The dark chocolate and caramel chocolate layers reminded me of purin. The lighter caramel chocolate was sweet and creamy, and it mixed well with the darker, slightly bitter chocolate base. The center biscuit added a fun crunch, but as usual, not much flavor. The darker chocolate was a nice touch and it made this flavor stand out.

Chocolate Almond Chocolate Almond

According to the Collection section of Tirol's website, Chocolate Almond has been through a few different wrappers before the cute one we see today was introduced in 1996. The tried and true combination of almond and chocolate is just what you'd expect. The chocolate smelled nice and nutty, and it a little sticky but melted smoothly. The almond had a crunchy caramelized coating and it imparted hints of cherry flavor.

Tirol Milk Nougat Tirol Milk Nougat

According to the Tirol website, the Milk Nougat flavor was introduced in 1983 and the Swiss-inspired packaging hasn't changed since then. I tried to break this one in half for the second picture but the nougat was too hard! The piece only smelled of plain chocolate, but the nougat had a slightly nutty flavor. I liked the taste but wasn't crazy about the texture; the nougat was at first sticky like taffy, then crumbly, and finally it got stuck in my teeth.

Bis Bis

Regular Bis is one of Tirol's standard flavors, and it's also one of my favorites. It's a simple combination of sweet milk chocolate and a crunchy, cracker-like biscuit. The biscuit was dry and pretty bland, but it added a nice crunch and balanced the sweetness of the milk chocolate.

Strawberry Tirol Strawberry Tirol

Strawberry was a simple pink strawberry filling covered in milk chocolate. The filling was creamy, fluffy, and full of strawberry seeds. Despite a slightly soapy taste, the strawberry flavor wasn't bad. On the whole, it was quite sweet.

Tirol Coffee Nougat Tirol Coffee Nougat

Finally, the iconic Coffee Nougat flavor. I love the contrast of the colorful lettering against the dark wrapper, but I like the packaging better than the flavor. It smelled mostly of chocolate and just barely of coffee. The nougat had a mild, lightly roasted coffee flavor, and it had the consistency of extremely thick, sticky caramel. This is another stick-to-your-teeth piece, and it's just not worth the potential tooth decay.

Overall, this collection was a B. The Caramel Bis was my favorite of the bunch, but though they may be classics, I just wasn't crazy about either nougat flavor.

Tirol website

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Trader Joe's Caramel with Black Sea Salt

Caramel with Black Sea Salt

Oh, how I wish I didn't have to drive 30 miles to get to the nearest Trader Joe's. Maybe it's a good thing, because otherwise I might have gone through 4 boxes of their Dark Chocolate Tasting Odyssey by now. My sister and her husband bought a box for me for Christmas, and it's long gone, but I wanted to post a couple reviews of these amazing bars.

The boxes have fun, whimsical packaging to compliment the whimsical, imaginative flavors. All of these flavors are set in 70% cacao for the perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Unfortunately, the set was limited edition, and it is likely gone by now. Hopefully it comes back someday, because there were some real stars in this box.

Caramel with Black Sea Salt

The Caramel with Black Sea Salt bar was one of those stars. It smelled of rich cocoa and milk. The glossy dark chocolate broke with a satisfying snap and the liquid caramel center only oozed out a little bit. The chocolate had a hint of sea salt to it, and it was rich and smoky rather than fruity and acidic.

The caramel had a strong, toasty flavor that matched the chocolate perfectly. It was a bit too sweet, but the flavor was so bold that I didn't care. There were bits of sea salt in the caramel that added not just flavor but a poppy, crunchy texture as well. This bar was one of my favorites out of the whole set, and I hope it's not gone forever.


Trader Joe's website

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cocoa Ooze White Chocolate Bar

Cocoa Ooze

I hope those readers who celebrate are having a nice Easter. My mom always hid our Easter baskets first thing in the morning, so my sister and I usually dug into them before breakfast. Unlike Halloween, where the candy was dessert after dinner and trick-or-treating, Easter candy was always enjoyed on an empty stomach. It took me several years to learn that when you only eat candy for breakfast and lunch, you get a nasty stomach ache.

The holiday put me in the mood for white chocolate, and I just happened to have this Cocoa Ooze white chocolate bar from Aberdeenshire in Scotland. The name "Cocoa Ooze" puts a delightful image in my head, like a chocolate volcano. Though the packaging was quite elegant, there wasn't much information about the bar on the wrapper except that the chocolate was made with 28% cocoa solids.

Cocoa Ooze

The chocolate was quite thick and broke with a satisfying snap. The bar smelled milky, and the white chocolate was about as good as I've had, if a little boring. The chocolate was creamy and buttery, and it melted without getting sticky or grainy.

Despite being a solid hunk of white chocolate, the sweetness was perfect. It was still sweet enough to satisfy my Easter craving, but it didn't burn my throat. I am curious what was used to sweeten the bar (probably plain old sugar) but it didn't say. Cocoa Ooze makes a strong white chocolate bar, and even though it won't thrill you, it certainly won't disappoint.


Cocoa Ooze website

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seed & Bean Chili & Lime Extra Dark Chocolate

seed&bean Chili & Lime

When a chocolate bar has "spicy" in the title, I usually take it with a grain of salt. My husband and I are spicy food junkies and our tolerance for heat is pretty high. So when a chocolate bar actually does have a nice kick to it, it's a very pleasant surprise.

This Seed & Bean bar is another gift my boss brought back from the UK. This bar is organic, fairtrade, and vegan (though it might have traces of milk). While 72% cocoa is not what I'd call "extra dark" it's right where I like my chocolate bars to be. Everyone's got a chili chocolate bar, but this is the first chili lime bar I've tried.

seed&bean Chili & Lime

The chocolate was glossy and quite pretty with a nice, hard snap. Right away, I could taste the crisp hint of lime, but as the chocolate melted, the chili heat began to build. This bar was pretty hot! Even after the chocolate was gone, the pleasant burn lingered for several minutes.

The chocolate itself was fantastic. Despite the heat, the bar still had a nice, mildly bitter cocoa flavor. It melted so smoothly and cleanly, leaving just the heat behind. In fact, all of the flavors were very clean, with no odd pepper flavors or sour notes from the lime. If you're not a fan of hot stuff, you may want to skip this one, but it's one of the best spicy bars I've ever had!


Seed & Bean website

Monday, March 18, 2013

Marks & Spencer White Chocolate Crème Brûlée

Marks & Spencer Crème Brûlée

Work, grad school, and trying to have a social life have all kept me very busy, and unfortunately this blog has suffered as a result. Sorry for going missing again, but I'm going to keep trying to do it all! So, you may remember that my boss is British, and that when she goes to visit her parents in Scotland, she often brings back British chocolate to try. She brought back so much this time that I have consumed most of my calories from chocolate today, and it's just after noon.

This Crème Brûlée (thank goodness for autocorrect, it saved me a lot of trouble with those accents) bar came from the large department store chain Marks & Spencer, which sells a wide range of chocolates branded with its own name. The ingredients list was quite simple, and the label said the white chocolate contained at least 21% milk solids.

Marks & Spencer White Chocolate Crème Brûlée

The speckles in the bar were quite pretty and reminded me of Easter. The chocolate smelled of vanilla and butter, almost like butterscotch. It was quite sweet, but it had a pleasant milky vanilla flavor. The little flecks turned out to be crunchy, toffee-like caramel granules that evoked the first wonderful crunch of stabbing crème brûlée with a spoon (definitely the best part of eating crème brûlée).

While the bar was a little too sweet for my liking, it thankfully wasn't cloying. The crunch from the caramel granules was fun, and against the smooth and creamy melt of the chocolate, it captured the feeling of the dessert. I'm not a big fan of crème brûlée (aside from the stabby part), but this bar had some nice textures. Still, one little square at a time was enough for me.


Marks & Spencer website

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Extra Dessert Delights Lemon Square

Extra Dessert Delights

When it comes to lemon bars, "Go big or go home" is what I would say if I ever said things like that. Nothing is more disappointing at a bake sale than a lemon bar without enough zest. Take whatever the recipe calls for and double it, unless it's a really good recipe. Then, you probably only need a little extra.

The newest Dessert Delights flavor from Extra to hit shelves in my area is Lemon Square. Although some Dessert Delights flavors miss the mark, Extra always nails the packaging. The bright, sunny yellow and bold text caught my eye immediately. But what about the taste?

Extra Dessert Delights

The gum smelled very lemony, with a hint of buttery shortbread. That's some pretty impressive chemistry. When chewed, the gum tasted like very sour lemon with powdered sugar, and I couldn't taste the crust without using my imagination. The lemon was nice and zesty and didn't taste like cleaning chemicals.

Unfortunately, the flavor was only strong for about a minute, then it faded to something like cotton candy. The gum was soft at first, but it firmed up as I chewed, and after about three minutes, I didn't want to chew anymore. That initial flavor is great, and it definitely tastes like a lemon square, but enjoy it while it lasts.


Extra website