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[NOTE: I may be getting a few -- or even more than a few -- of the details in this entry a little garbled, mistaken, or otherwise screwed up. Not too many, I hope. But in any event, I'm pretty sure the main facts are correct.]


As I have mentioned at least a few times, my username reflects two of my passions -- chocolate and science fiction. But as you may have also noticed, the overwhelming majority of my entries have a lot more to do with chocolate than they do science fiction. This time, it's definitely about science fiction.

As I sit here pounding away on my laptop, Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, is taking place in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately for me, I am still here in Louisville, Kentucky. But even though there is the slight matter of some 2100 miles separating me from the general revelry, I think my presence has been felt. (A phantom presence, perhaps, but a presence nonetheless.)

This actually started at last year's Worldcon, Aussiecon 4. During a meeting of the Mark Protection Committee (MPC) -- the committee that oversees the various service marks of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) -- passed a resolution that states, "Members of the Mark Protection Committee and any of its subcommittees must agree to decline nomination for a Hugo Award presented in a year following a year in which that person served in whole or in part."

On the face of it, this resolution would appear to be an innocuous means of preventing potential conflicts of interest. But it irritated me for three reasons.

First, there is already an exclusionary rule concerning the Hugo Awards. It's Section 3.12 of the WSFS Constitution, which states, "No member of the current Worldcon Committee or any publications closely connected with a member of the Committee shall be eligible for an Award. However, should the Committee delegate all authority under this Article to a Subcommittee whose decisions are irrevocable by the Worldcon Committee, then this exclusion shall apply to members of the Subcommittee only." This particular section has been part of the WSFS Constitution for as long as I have been a member (for the record, that would be since 1991), and most likely much longer than that. From everything I have seen and heard (or perhaps more accurately, what I have not seen and heard), this particular rule has done its job without any problem. And if there is some need to alter it, the WSFS Constitution does have an amendment process in place -- Section 6.5, and I won't quote that here. Suffice it to say that, in my opinion, the MPC violated Section 3.12 with their resolution. The WSFS Constitution has the authority to determine who is eligible or ineligible for a Hugo Award in any given year; the MPC does not.

Second, (again in my opinion) the MPC's action also violated one of the Standing Rules for governing the WSFS Business Meeting. Specifically, Standing Rule 7.6, which states, "All committees are authorized to organize themselves in any lawful manner and to adopt rules for the conduct of their business, which may include conducting balloting by mail and limiting debate, subject to any contrary provisions of the Constitution, the Standing Rules, or instructions given to the committee by the Business Meeting." Attempting to determine who may or may not be eligible for a Hugo Award violates the "contrary provisions of the Constitution" clause of this Rule.

Along the same lines, I could also argue that the MPC's action violated Section 5.1.4 of the WSFS Constitution, which states, "Meetings shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of (in descending order of precedence) the WSFS Constitution; the Standing Rules; such other rules as may be published in advance by the current [Worldcon] Committee (which rules may be suspended by the Business Meeting by the same procedure as a Standing Rule); the customs and usages of WSFS (including the resolutions and rulings of continuing effect); and the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised." Especially the "customs and usages" part. It has been my observation that the segment of SF fandom who is most likely to attend the WSFS Business Meeting has something of a reverence for tradition. Screw with that tradition at your peril.

Third, the resolution seemed to be directed solely at one person, Cheryl Morgan. Cheryl is a three-time Hugo winner; for Best Fanzine in 2004 (for Emerald City), for Best Fan Writer in 2009, and for Best Semiprozine in 2010 (for Clarkesworld Magazine, of which she is the non-fiction editor). She was also a member of the Hugo Award Marketing Committee (HAMC); a subcommittee of the MPC that, well, markets and promotes the Hugos. Based on what I have read, it is my understanding that Cheryl had contributed to the creation of the website for the Hugo Awards, and was the website's maintainer. When the resolution was passed, Cheryl was the only person who would be affected by its provisions. (Past Hugo winner Mike Glyer had been a member of HAMC, but not for the past couple of years, and he was the only other person who might have been affected by this resolution.) After the resolution was passed, Cheryl was re-appointed to the HAMC, but she felt obliged to decline in order to maintain eligibility for Clarkesworld Magazine.

I suppose the best way to describe my reaction when I read about what the MPC had done was that my sense of justice was outraged. I wouldn't say that Cheryl and I are friends; we really don't know each other that well. I will say that our encounters have been cordial. I just found it irritating (to say the very least) that someone who has possibly done the most in recent years for the marketing and promotion of science fiction's most prestigious award being forced out by a group who, as I understand it, seems to place very little value in that marketing and promotion.

I knew that I wanted to do something. I like to think that I have something of the knight errant in me, though I am probably far more likely to resemble Don Quixote than Sir Gawain in the execution.

Despite realizing that this was one of those times when Something Needed To Be Done, it was a few months before I actually did anything. Part of it was that I knew it wasn't a particularly urgent matter. Even if I had done something in September or October, nothing would have come of it until this past week, anyway. After all, the WSFS Business Meeting only takes place once a year, at Worldcon, and nothing could be done until the Business Meeting.

Well, earlier this year, I contacted Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee), SF fandom's Jedi Master of parliamentary procedure. I expressed my outrage at the turn of events, and asked his advice as to what could be done to reverse the actions taken. I knew that, as much as Kevin might have wanted to do something himself, he probably wouldn't, given his position as a member of the MPC. I also volunteered my services (such as they would be) to help reverse what had been done.

Kevin told me that the correct counter-action would be to submit a resolution to this year's Business Meeting. This resolution would be two-fold: First, it would reverse the action of the MPC, and second, it would instruct them not to take similar action in the future. Kevin also suggested that I get at least one person to second the resolution.

Another few months went by. I suddenly realized that Renovation was fast approaching, and that I needed to:

A. Write and submit that resolution to the Business Meeting staff, and
B. Get someone to agree to second the resolution.

(Not necessarily in that order, of course.)

For the seconder, I contacted Chris Barkley. I explained the resolution to him, and asked if he would be interested in seconding/so-sponsoring the resolution. He readily agreed, so the next step was writing the resolution, which I did based on a couple of suggestions that Kevin gave me. I emailed the resolution to the Business Meeting staff, and mailed a hardcopy to Chris, just in case they wanted something with an actual signature on it. Because of other things, I had forgotten to mail my site selection ballot for the 2013 Worldcon, and he was also going to deliver my ballot for me. (Thanks again, Chris!)

A day or so later, I checked the Renovation website, and I saw that the resolution was indeed part of the Business Meeting agenda. And now it was just a matter of waiting for the fireworks to start.

And from what I can tell, "fireworks" seems to be the right word to describe what happened. Of course, I had to wait to hear from Kevin and Chris for news of what transpired during the Preliminary Business Meeting (which is when the resolution would have been discussed). I was also interested in hearing about Chris's proposed amendment creating a Young Adult category for the Hugos.

I was able to get bits and pieces of information from the Renovation Twitter feed, and from what I could tell, the resolution had passed. The first in-depth report, though, came from Cheryl's blog. There has to be a little bit of irony in that because, like me, Cheryl was not attending Renovation.

Quick version -- the resolution passed. From what I read on both Cheryl and Kevin's blogs, the debate was quite vigorous, including a debate on whether or not the resolution was even legal. The Business Meeting first decided that it was legal, and then approved it.

My contention in introducing the resolution was that if there are changes to be made in Hugo Award eligibility, they have to be made in the WSFS Constitution, through the normal amendment process. Well, there was an amendment introduced that would have done precisely that. As soon as that item came up on the PBM agenda, Chris lodged an Objection To Consideration, and apparently, most of those attending the Business Meeting had already had their fill of the subject, and they voted to kill the proposed amendment without debate.

Unfortunately, Chris's proposed YA Hugo amendment suffered a similar fate when it came up on the agenda. The reason for this seems to have been that there wouldn't be sufficient time to debate the proposal, given several of the items up for a ratification vote. I do know that Chris will be introducing the measure again next year at Chicon 7.

Yes, I'm feeling rather pleased as to how the matter turned out. I think I may still be blushing over Cheryl's thanks on her blog. You know, sometimes when you tilt at windmills, the windmills fall down.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
I'm sure you've seen at least one version of the Tootsie Pops commercial. You know, the one with the tagline, "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know."

The rest of the world may not know, but I have known for years.

It takes 615 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

How do I know this? Well that, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.

I discovered this little bit of information many, many years ago. I'm pretty certain it was on a Saturday, because I had seen that commercial at least once during my weekly ritual of Saturday morning cartoons. To be honest, that commercial really irritated the hell out of me. I think it was mainly because it asked what I thought was a legitimate question, and came up with a cheap shot punch line.

I think I had seen that commercial one time too many, and I decided that I wanted to know how many licks it really did take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. How many licks it really took, without biting.

Either there were already some Tootsie Pops around the house, or I went to the grocery store to get one. (Sorry, but I am a little fuzzy on some of the details.) I do remember that I armed myself with a grape Tootsie Pop, paper, and pen. I settled down where I would be undisturbed, unwrapped the Tootsie Pop, and I started licking.

With every lick, I made a tally mark on the paper. I didn't even think about keeping count, because I had a feeling that someone would probably try to distract me. I figured that it would be easier to count the marks after I finished my Tootsie Pop.

It took a while, but eventually, I finished licking off all of the hard candy surrounding the Tootsie Roll center. Once all the candy was gone, I finally bit into the yummy little nugget of Tootsie Roll, and thoroughly savored it.

After I finished the Tootsie Pop, I counted the tally marks. Counted them at least twice, if I'm not too terribly mistaken. And the number I came up with every time was 615.

I don't think I ever did anything like write the people at Tootsie Roll to tell them how many licks it took. I don't know if I've ever really shared it with anyone else until now.

But now you know. And the next time you see that commercial, you'll know that it takes 615 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. That, and a lot of patience.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Earlier this afternoon, I found myself at Mall St. Matthews. Specifically, I went by the Godiva store to pick up my monthly freebie. I spent the usual few minutes trying to decide what to get before finally settling on the Banana Split Truffle. This is one of the Ice Cream Parlor Truffles that they are featuring during the summer months.

As usual, I will turn to Godiva's chocolate menu for the description. They describe the Banana Split Truffle as "Banana cream and strawberry mousse in milk chocolate, topped with pecan pieces."

The particular truffle that I got had a scant dusting of pecan pieces. I think this just happened to be the luck of the draw; I did notice that some of the other Banana Split Truffles in the display case were topped with more pecan pieces. The pieces were easily flicked off the truffle, and I nibbled on them before starting on the truffle in earnest.

The milk chocolate shell on this truffle seems to have been slightly thicker than the shells on some of the other truffles I have sampled. As always, the milk chocolate was creamy and rich. I suppose "decadently creamy and rich" would be a good description to use (if I haven't used it before).

As luck of the draw would have it, the first of the two fillings I encountered when I bit into the truffle was the banana cream. From the way it tasted, I'm guessing that real live bananas (or formerly real live bananas) were used in the making of the banana cream. It had a pale yellow color, and quite frankly, I would have expected more of a white color to it. The banana cream was the softer of the two fillings.

Th strawberry mousse was a pale pink color. Like the banana cream, it tasted like it had been made with genuine strawberries. The flavors of the two fillings blended together quite well, both with each other, and that of the milk chocolate.

The truffle was enjoyable, although I don't know if I would have put both fillings in one truffle. I think I would have gone with just the banana cream filling as a solo act, but of course that is a judgement call on my part.

And once again, I have probably squeezed as much analysis out of one truffle as I possibly can.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
HERSHEY'S AIR DELIGHT


Hershey's newest candy bar is not really something new. I first encountered aerated chocolate back in 2006, when I reviewed Nestle's Aero Caramel (an import from England). This may be, though, to the best of my knowledge, the first time an aerated chocolate bar has been marketed here in the US.

The chocolate itself is the same milk chocolate you find in the standard Hershey bar. This was determined with a simple side-by-side taste comparison of the two. Trust me, it's the same thing.

The Air Delight bar is a shell of solid milk chocolate containing the aerated milk chocolate. Presumably, the solid outer shell serves to give the bar a more uniform appearance. Especially since the "Hershey's" name is molded into the top of each of the bar's six segments.

Pumping air into the chocolate hasn't altered the flavor any. As I said, it's still Hershey's milk chocolate -- however you want to take that. There is, however, a slight alteration in the texture. The Air Delight doesn't have as sharp a snap to it when you break off a section. Or when you bite into a piece, for that matter. For lack of a better term, it feels a bit softer.

This is not the only new product that Hershey's has recently introduced under the Air Delight name. They are also now selling an Air Delight version of Hershey's Kisses. I'll probably give them a try eventually, but I rather suspect that the Air Delight Kisses will be very similar to the Air Delight bar.

Now, what would really interest me would be a Special Dark Air Delight bar.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
As I said last time, I was caught a little off-guard when I saw Staples setting up their display of back-to-school backpacks several days before the summer solstice. I didn't think I would be seeing anything of that nature anywhere until sometime this week. But when I went by Office Depot a day or so later, I seem to remember seeing the beginnings of their back-to-school displays as well. (Kind of hard to tell with an office supply store, you know?) Again, well before Independence Day, which I came to regard as the start of the back-to-school season.

Well, Independence Day has come and gone. And today, I saw the first sign of another store getting ready to push notebooks, pencils, and the like. I was in Target, and as I walked past the section they reserve for seasonal displays, I discerned that it was rapidly being filled with various school supplies. I haven't been by Wal-Mart recently, but I would not be too surprised that they were engaged in similar activity.

I haven't seen any sign of back-to-school merchandise at Walgreens yet. What surprised me, though, was something that I did see earlier this week. It might have been Independence Day, or perhaps the day before -- the holiday weekend is playing with my perception just a little. In any event, whether it was Sunday or Monday, I walked into one of the local Walgreens, and I had my first sighting of Halloween candy.

Brach's candy corn, to be specific. And now that I think about it, I'm pretty certain it was Sunday.

I must admit, this was more than a little startling. Seeing Halloween candy side by side with school supplies isn't particularly unusual; particularly as the school year is beginning, and the stores are transitioning the seasonal areas from back-to-school to Halloween. But seeing the first sign of Halloween candy before that store has even thought about putting out the school supplies? That's more than a little unusual.

Something is telling me that this Candy Season may be just a little on the strange side.

Or maybe even more than just a little.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
As I have mentioned from time to time, once summer arrives, I start eagerly anticipating the start of the back-to-school sales. One reason, of course, is that I really dislike hot weather, and seeing the various school supplies on the shelves reassures me that it won't be long before autumn arrives. Another reason -- probably the more important one as far as this blog is concerned -- is that the appearance of school supplies means that it's almost time to start the countdown to the start of Candy Season.

In years past, it has usually been at least a few days past Independence Day before I would get my first glimpse of anything resembling a back-to-school display. But I went by Staples earlier this afternoon, and when I walked through the door, I was greeted by quite the surprise. They were already setting up the display for the back-to-school backpacks.

My first thought was, Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish, what the hell is going on here? This was at least three weeks earlier than I would have anticipated seeing this in my wildest dreams.

The display wasn't fully in place yet. Based on what I remember from previous years, I would estimate that it contained somewhere between one third and one half of what it will hold when fully stocked. But still, the summer solstice hasn't even happened yet. It's usually not until somewhere around Independence Day that I see anything resembling a back-to-school display anywhere.

I didn't really notice anything else resembling a setup for back-to-school while I was there. Then again, nothing else is quite as noticeable as the backpack display; at least not in a store like Staples.

Granted, I will be glad to see the start of Candy Season once again, and I am hoping that when we see the Halloween merchandise appearing on the shelves, there will be some new candy products to review. But this is way too early to start the countdown to Candy Season.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
TWIX COCONUT


I think I first read about this limited edition on Candy Blog back in February. At the time, it was still an upcoming release (Cybele had received some advance samples), and I filed the information away under "keep an eye out for these."

It was last month that Twix announced on their Facebook page that the Twix Coconut had been released. For at least the past two or three weeks, I had been looking at all of my usual outlets, but the Twix Coconut was noticeably conspicuous by its absence. I was beginning to think that Louisville would be the last area where the Twix Coconut would be released.

Then this past Monday, I walked into Speedway, and I finally saw the Twix Coconut on one of the displays. Considering that the manager was busy stocking the display with other confectionary products, I was guessing that she had just put the Twix Coconut in place a few minutes earlier. (This was something that the manager confirmed when I asked her about it.) Needless to say, I quickly grabbed a couple of bars for review purposes. (And I have started seeing them elsewhere. Slowly but surely, they are starting to appear on the shelves. Emphasis on the slowly.)

At first glance, this particular Twix variation is not that dissimilar to the original. A vanilla cookie, topped with caramel, and covered in milk chocolate. The variation in this case is that the caramel is coconut flavored. No actual coconut, though; just the flavor.

When I opened the package, the faint aroma I encountered was primarily chocolate. There was a slight bit of a coconut scent, but not much.

I had seen a few other online reviews of the Twix Coconut before I finally found the bars on sale, and two descriptions stood out in my mind. These were comparisons to both German chocolate cake and Samoas -- the Girl Scout cookies -- and I saw both more than once.

The coconut flavor of the caramel is very pronounced. It reminds me a little of the Snickers variation that M&M/Mars produced as tie-in with Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, although the coconut-flavored caramel in the Twix did not have the spice (whatever that spice may have been) flavor that the Snickers did. In fact, I would say that the coconut flavor in the caramel is probably the dominant flavor in this candy bar.

After finally trying a Twix Coconut, I have to say that both comparisons made in those other reviews are fair ones, particularly the comparison to Samoas. It's probably because of the cookie base of the Twix bar; it more closely resembles the crunch of the Girl Scout cookie than the softer texture of a German chocolate cake.

As I just stated, the coconut flavor in the caramel is the dominant one in the Twix Coconut bar. It does not, however, push the other flavors out of the way. It blends well with the flavor of the milk chocolate. Even the vanilla flavor of the cookie can be detected, albeit somewhere in the background. But as is the case with most of the Twix bars, the flavor of the cookie is almost always somewhere in the background.

As I noted at the beginning, this is a limited edition, and as always, the standard disclaimer for limited editions apply. Given that it is just hitting the shelves (at least in my area), it should be around for at least a couple of months. What happens after that is anyone's guess.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Well, Easter has come and gone again. Which is not particularly a good thing for me. The Easter Bunny's annual visit, as always, signals the end of Candy Season.

The leftover Easter candy is quickly disappearing from the shelves, as the stores are quickly replacing them with items for the pool and beach. And I have never really bought into the whole "fun in the sun" idea. I would much rather the temperature stay below 25 degrees Celsius -- or if you prefer the Fahrenheit scale, that would be 77 degrees.

In other words, it's the start of a long dry spell. Other than some specially wrapped Hershey's Kisses or packages of red, white, and blue M&Ms, you don't see much in the way of Independence Day candy. Memorial Day isn't a particularly good holiday for candy consumption, either. As a matter of fact, both of those holidays seem more geared toward cookouts.

Well, I have heard of a few limited editions that should be released in the next few months. (One of them should have already hit the shelves, and I'm a little irritated that I haven't seen it yet.) And I'm hoping that M&M/Mars will have something in the way of a movie tie-in, as they have for the past few years. If they do, I'm really hoping that they will be doing some tie-in promotions with Green Lantern.

Other than that, what I will be looking forward to is the beginning of the back-to-school season. Once the notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils, and paper begin making their way to the shelves, it won't be long before the beginning of another Candy Season.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
PEEPS CHOCOLATE MOUSSE BUNNIES


Okay, Easter may be over, but the reviews may be going on a while. Contrary to what I thought a few days ago, I did find a few things for review when I checked the stores on Monday. I discovered a particular treasure trove at Walgreens, but that's a subject for another entry.

I actually picked these up at Kroger the day before Easter. They weren't discounted yet, of course, but Kroger had them as one of their "10 for $10" specials. It was as good a reason as any to pick up a package.

Strictly speaking, the Chocolate Mousse Bunnies aren't chocolate. There's no cocoa butter in them; only cocoa. (All marshmallows are fat-free. Any fat -- including cocoa butter -- would collapse the whipped egg whites.) They are a light brown color, covered with a sanding of granulated sugar, and decorated with three little dots meant to represent the eyes and nose. There were eight Bunnies in the package I bought, in two sets of four connected Bunnies.

The initial taste that hits your tastebuds is that of the sugar crust. There is no specific flavor there; just an overwhelming sweet sensation. But that eventually fades away, and you can notice the flavor of the marshmallow itself. The chocolate flavor of the marshmallow isn't a strong one; it's a more delicate flavor, but it is noticeable. Eventually. Once you get past that initial sugar buzz. (I'm guessing that most kids won't care about the subtleties in flavor, and that most parents will be more concerned with keeping those kids from bouncing off the walls, ceiling, and any other bounce-producing surface.)

Since Easter is over, it's probably not likely that you can find the Chocolate Mousse Bunnies this year. Not unless you’re extremely lucky, anyway. But Just Born has been producing this particular version of their marshmallow Bunnies for a few years now, so it is popular enough that I feel safe enough to say that you'll see them again next year.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER COCONUT CREAM EGG


I think this is going to be the last Russell Stover Egg I review this year. After all, I will need to have something to review in 2012, won't I? I don't think I'll be stopping by Walgreens or Rite Aid before Easter, so there's a good chance that I won't be finding anything I haven't reviewed among the remainders on Monday. So today, I'm reviewing the Coconut Cream Egg.

The Coconut Cream Egg is dark chocolate, covering a coconut cream filling. (I know I'm stating the obvious, but sometimes it's necessary.) After my review of the Raspberry Whip Egg, I took a moment to see what sort of aroma might be greeting my olfactory receptors this time when I opened the wrapper. The aroma of chocolate -- yes. The aroma of coconut -- unfortunately, not so much.

The coconut cream filling bears some similarity to a nougat. It is light and fluffy, but it also contains bits of real coconut in it as well. The coconut gives the filling an interesting bit of texture, and it may make the filling a little more dense, a little more solid. Unlike some of the other fillings, the coconut filling gives the appearance of being able to stand up on its own if the chocolate weren't present.

The coconut and dark chocolate flavors balance each other quite well. The deeper flavor of the dark chocolate keeps the sweet flavor of the coconut filling from being too sweet. This also makes the chocolate the flavor that stays on your tastebuds longer, although while the two flavors are present, neither one is dominant.

And as I have said many, many times before, the usual holiday disclaimer applies. The Easter Bunny's annual visit is fast approaching, and once he has delivered his bounty of eggs, candy, and other stuff, these will disappear for several months. They will be back, of course, sometime in late February 2012.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER RASPBERRY WHIP EGG


As I think I mentioned a few days ago, I still had a couple of Russell Stover chocolate eggs to review. But let's face it, after four reviews in rapid succession, I think I may have been getting just a little slap-happy. Now that I've had a break for a few days, I need to review a couple of eggs.

Today's subject is the Raspberry Whip Egg from Russell Stover. This particular egg is dark chocolate on the outside. Inside . . . well, I'm not completely sure how to describe it. The "raspberry whip" is similar to a nougat, but it has a much softer consistency. Quite a bit softer than the nougat in the Raspberry 3 Musketeers, for instance. Like the marshmallow in Russell Stover's Marshmallow Egg, I'm pretty certain that it wouldn't hold its shape without the chocolate covering.

Like most of the Russell Stover chocolate eggs, I have enjoyed the Raspberry Whip Eggs with great regularity every Easter. And there is one thing I notice about it that seems to be unique to this egg from Russell Stover. When I open the wrapper, I get a quick whiff of raspberries greeting my nostrils. At least, I don't recall any similar olfactory sensations from the other eggs when I open them.

Whatever you want to call the center of this egg, it is very sweet -- almost more sweet than raspberry-flavored. But there were a couple of times I encountered what seemed like tiny seeds in the filling. At first, I thought I might have been imagining it, but I encountered them too many times to be mere figments.

The dark chocolate, as always, is wonderfully rich, and the flavors of dark chocolate and raspberry always go well together, no matter what form that pairing might take. The raspberry center does tend to leave the tastebuds quicker, leaving the chocolate to make a final impression on the tongue.

As with the other Easter candy, the usual holiday disclaimer applies. The Raspberry Whip Eggs will be here until the holiday, but after that, the various store owners and shopkeepers will want to clear them from the shelves to make way for all the pool, beach, and other summer merchandise. But they are popular enough that I am sure they will return after Valentine's Day 2012.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
HEAVENLY HASH EGG


As you can see, I thought it was time to take a pause from the rapid succession of Russell Stover chocolate eggs. Oh, I still have at least a couple to review, but it's time for the pitcher to throw a few changeups or curveballs instead of a constant barrage of fastballs.

Or as John Cleese has said on more than one occasion, "And now, for something completely different."

I regularly see the Heavenly Hash Egg from Elmer Chocolate every Easter, and I've bought more than a few. I just discovered the Elmer Chocolate website, though, and it leaves me a little disappointed. I learned that Elmer makes several different chocolate Easter eggs, but it appears that only the Heavenly Hash Eggs make their way to Louisville. At least I don't recall seeing any of the other eggs at Walgreens or Rite Aid.

The Heavenly Hash Egg is about a third larger than the Russell Stover eggs I have been recently reviewing. The wrapper describes it as "Rich Milk Chocolate, Fluffy Marshmallow, And Roasted Almonds."

The milk chocolate on the outside has a richer flavor than say, Hershey's milk chocolate. Of course, by now I'm realizing that just about every other candy maker's milk chocolate is richer than Hershey's. I could make an argument for calling Hershey the least common denominator of milk chocolate, but I think that is a topic for another time.

The Elmer chocolate is probably on the same level as Russell Stover's milk chocolate, in terms of the richness of the chocolate. I can detect slight differences in flavor; for instance, that mystery hint of flavor in the background of Russell Stover's chocolate isn't in Elmer's chocolate. But Elmer's chocolate has the same (or at least similar) degree of richness, which leads me to believe that the two chocolates probably have similar amounts of cocoa solids.

The marshmallow is similar to the marshmallow in other chocolate eggs I've encountered. In other words, it's a little spongier than the marshmallows you buy at the supermarket. This particular marshmallow also seems to be just a little sweeter than both the marshmallows from the supermarket and the marshmallow in other chocolate eggs.

Besides the chocolate and marshmallow, the Heavenly Hash Egg contains whole almonds. The only problem is, there is just not that many of them. There might be three or four of them in an egg at most, and there is plenty of room for more. The almonds seem to be dropped in the marshmallow without a particular regard for anything resembling a regular pattern.

Taken alone, the marshmallow in the Heavenly Hash Egg would come close to being a massive sugar buzz. The flavor of the chocolate takes a little bit of the edge off. So do the nuts, for that matter. If there is any good point in the paucity of almonds in the Heavenly Hash Egg, it's that you can taste the nuts in the candy on the rare occasions you encounter them. Although I strongly suspect that the main reason you can taste the almonds is because the marshmallow is so sweet that it makes the almonds so noticeable by comparison.

This is another holiday release, so the usual holiday disclaimer applies. These will be gone soon after Easter, so grab them while you can.

(And now that I know that Elmer produces more than just this one egg for Easter, I'm hoping that I can find a way to score some of the others in 2012.)


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I went by Godiva yesterday, I was a little disappointed that I was unable to get an Almond Butter Egg as my freebie for the month. I thought about it a little while walking through Mall St. Matthews, then went back before I left. Since I had already selected my freebie for the month, I decided that I might as well go ahead and get an Almond Butter Egg now, since there was an excellent chance that they would be unavailable in a few days.

Like the Coconut Egg -- like all of Godiva's chocolate eggs, as a matter of fact -- the Almond Butter Egg comes wrapped in foil. The foil for the Almond Butter Egg is that particular shade that falls somewhere between lavender and sky blue -- I think periwinkle is the name usually given to this color. It has the same pattern of flowers and upper case Gs, but printed in an orange color.

The chocolate menu describes the Almond Butter Egg as "Creamy almond butter in a milk chocolate." Either the "a" was put there by mistake, or they meant to say "a milk chocolate shell." (Emphasis mine.) I think the former is more likely, given that the Coconut Egg used just "in dark chocolate."

The Almond Butter Egg is the same size as the Coconut Egg; as I said in that mini-review, I estimated it as being about the size of a quail egg. And like the Coconut Egg, there was a pattern of concentric ovals molded into the chocolate.

The milk chocolate is as rich and creamy as always, so this time, my focus was on the almond butter inside. The texture was smooth, but it wasn't precisely what I usually call creamy. My basis for comparison is creamy peanut butter, and there was still a touch of roughness in the almond butter. My feeling is that the almonds weren't processed as completely as the peanuts being turned into peanut butter are. The whole process was stopped just shy of that. There was just the slightest hint of the nuts that had been ground into almond butter.

The flavor of the almond butter was a little on the mild side. There was a certain nuttiness to it, but I feel that it needed to be a little more pronounced.

The flavors of the milk chocolate and the almond butter make a good balance. Dark chocolate would have perhaps been a little overpowering. Pairing the almond butter with the milk chocolate allowed both flavors to make their presence known on the tongue.

And as always, one small chocolate can provide only so much material for analysis, and I have reached that limit again.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I went to Godiva last month to pick up my monthly freebie, my choice was one of the chocolates they had for Easter, the Coconut Egg. At the time, I took a careful look at the other Easter chocolates, with the idea of deciding what would be my choice for this month as well. (Hey, it never hurts to plan ahead!)

Godiva produced three other chocolate eggs for this Easter. Two of them are a solid milk chocolate egg and a solid dark chocolate egg. While I am certain that both are unbelievable, I suspect that my usual mini-review would be somewhat lacking if I chose either of them. The third, however, is an Almond Butter Egg, and that did sound particularly interesting to me.

Seeing as how Easter is only a few days away, I thought it might be a good idea to go ahead and acquire my free chocolate for April before Easter, as I was uncertain as to whether or not I would be able to do so the day after (or later). And so, I made my way to Mall St. Matthews and the Godiva store.

One slight problem. At the moment, Godiva is promoting a line of "Light & Airy Mousse Truffles," and those were the only ones available for selection as the monthly free chocolate. After being told this, I thought about it for a few moments, then decided that I was not interested in a repeat of February. So, I decided on the Chocolate Mousse Truffle.

As usual, I shall turn to Godiva's chocolate menu for the description. The Chocolate Mousse Truffle is described as "Dark chocolate mousse enrobed in rich milk chocolate with chocolate stringing." The chocolate stringing in this case is a quick twirl of dark chocolate placed on the chocolate as a finishing decoration.

I have a feeling that these truffles started by making the outer shells first in a mold, then filling the molded shells once the chocolate had hardened. The shell on this truffle seems to be a little thicker than that of some of Godiva's other truffles. The mousse filling seems to be just a little too soft for the shell to be formed around the filling. And finally, the shell looked just a little too perfectly spherical to not have been formed in a mold.

The shell itself is Godiva's usual milk chocolate. While that is a quite remarkable chocolate, it is the dark chocolate mousse inside that really blows you away. I'm guessing that it's just dark chocolate, and not an extra-dark chocolate, but it is incredible. There's not much sweetness in the mousse, and has just the slightest bitter bite to it. It's also very soft; almost melting the moment it touches your tongue -- which may account for the thicker shell; it's needed to contain the mousse properly. (The mousse reminds me a little of the ganache in the Midnight Swirl I sampled a couple of months ago.)

If the mousse leans more to the bitter than the sweet, it is balanced by the milk chocolate shell. The sweetness of the shell and the bitterness of the mousse perform an intricate tango on your tastebuds. Neither flavor dominates, and there is a hint of both lingering on your tongue even after you have finished the Chocolate Mousse Truffle.

And once again, I think I have extracted an unbelievable amount of analysis from a single piece of chocolate that lasted just a few bites.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER CARAMEL EGG


Today's review is . . . yes, you got it, another chocolate Easter egg from Russell Stover! Okay, maybe I am doing more than a few of these in rapid succession, but as I mentioned a few reviews back, my local Rite Aid had these as one of their weekly specials this past week.

The Caramel Egg is about the same size as the Truffle Egg, and for the same reason -- the caramel and truffle fillings are denser than the nougat or marshmallow centers. If you haven't figured it out already, the center of this egg is caramel, and it is covered in milk chocolate.

In my review of the Truffle Egg, I mentioned that I detected an additional flavor lurking in the background of the truffle filling. I was mistaken; I think that additional flavor is part of the milk chocolate, because I detect the same flavor in the Caramel Egg. I still can't figure out what it is, though.

The caramel in the egg has what I consider to be the right balance of softness and firmness. By that, I mean that it is soft enough to be chewy, but is firm enough to hold its own shape. It doesn't start oozing out of the shell the second you bite into the egg. The closest comparison I can make is to the caramel in the Milky Way Simply Caramel bar. The caramel in the Caramel Egg, though, has a deeper flavor than the Milky Way caramel. I would almost say that it has a hint of brown sugar in its flavor.

The flavors of the caramel and the chocolate blend together on the tongue, but I would have to say that it's the caramel that is the dominant flavor. It's definitely the one that stays on your tongue longer. And of course, no matter who the manufacturer is, the combination of chocolate and caramel is a classic one.

Once again, it's time for my usual disclaimer. Easter is fast approaching, so if you want to get your hands on a Caramel Egg this year, you should probably hop on down to your local drugstore or supermarket to pick up a few before the Easter Bunny arrives.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER TRUFFLE EGG


This is the third Russell Stover egg that I bought a few days ago. And like the other two I reviewed, I was just a little surprised that I had not reviewed it before now.

[MEMO TO SELF: When the Halloween candy hits the shelves in a few months, I really need to make a list of any interesting candy I see at the stores, then compare it to my archives. If I have been this lax with Easter reviews, it's likely that I've overlooked Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine candy in a similar fashion.]

At first glance, the Truffle Egg appears to be smaller than the previous two eggs I reviewed; the Marshmallow Egg and the Maple Cream egg. But as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. All three eggs are the same weight -- that would be 1 ounce -- but the Truffle Egg's apparent smaller size derives from the fact that it has a denser center than the other two. The outside of the Truffle Egg is milk chocolate, and inside that is, well, a truffle filling.

(Yeah, I know; the appropriate response here would be, "Well, DUH!" If I state the obvious, I do so just to be accurate. If I don't, someone will complain that I didn't mention what was inside.)

The milk chocolate . . . you know, it's kind of hard to come up with something new to write about Russell Stover's milk chocolate that doesn't sound like something I've written before. Very rich, very smooth, very creamy, more so than, say, Hershey . . . done all of those. Let's see . . . silky. Now there's an adjective I haven't used before. I'll have to remember that one for the next couple of Russell Stover reviews.

As I mentioned, the truffle filling is quite dense. It has a slightly deeper chocolate flavor than the chocolate shell. There is also an additional flavor in the background, but it's subtle enough that I can't identify it. And I’m finding that just a little puzzling. (Maybe a hint of cinnamon?)

With this egg, the flavors blend together on your tastebuds, rather than remain distinct. With each bite of the Truffle Egg, there is usually one or two pieces of the shell that are the last to remain on the tongue, and it is the flavor of the shell that leaves a lingering impression.

Okay, the standard holiday disclaimer applies. It will be available through the end of the holiday (Easter, if you haven't been paying attention), and for maybe a few days beyond. After that, you have to wait until February 15 to find these again.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER MAPLE CREAM EGG


This is another Russell Stover chocolate egg that surprised me when I learned that I never reviewed it. I would have to say that it's probably one of my favorite chocolate eggs, and I know that I always buy plenty of them once Easter is over. (Or at least as many as I can, given what may or may not be left.)

The shape of the Maple Cream Egg is more of a flattened oval. Like someone rolled out dough for biscuits or cookies, and used an oval-shaped cutter instead of a round one.

As for the egg itself, the outer shell is dark chocolate. Inside the shell is a maple-flavored filling that resembles a nougat.

You remember the descriptions that I've made about Russell Stover's dark chocolate in prior entries? They still apply. It definitely has a darker brown color, which I might theorize is an indication of a higher percentage of cocoa solids. And it does have a deeper chocolate flavor than most of the dark chocolate products I encounter.

The filling inside resembles the nougat in a 3 Musketeers bar -- light, whipped, fluffy. It does feel a little softer than the 3 Musketeers nougat, though. It has a rich maple flavor, with the slightest hint of a salty taste.

I love the combination of maple and chocolate. The Maple Cream Egg reminds me of chocolate chip pancakes topped with syrup (without all the pancake, of course). Neither flavor really dominates -- it's more a case of the maple flavor being stronger for a second or two, then the chocolate takes its turn being stronger. And the nougat seems to be soft enough that it almost melts on your tongue.

As a seasonal product -- the season in this case being Easter -- the usual seasonal disclaimer is in effect. Look for it through Easter, and maybe a few days after. Then it's another wait until after Valentine's Day 2012.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
RUSSELL STOVER MARSHMALLOW EGG


I was just looking through my archives, and I discovered something a bit surprising. I discovered that I haven't reviewed as many of Russell Stover's Easter candy as I thought I had. What makes this particularly surprising is over the past few years, I have regularly picked up a number of Russell Stover's offerings. Especially the day after Easter, once the candy is discounted.

As it happens, Rite Aid has a special on Russell Stover candy this week. So I made a stop by my local Rite Aid, and picked up a few eggs for review purposes. I closed my eyes, reached into the bag, and the one that I pulled out was the Marshmallow egg.

The Marshmallow Egg is one of those candy eggs that really isn't egg-shaped. It has more of a semi-egg shape. Think of a hard boiled egg sliced in half lengthwise; that should give you a good idea of the shape. Rounded on one side, flat on the other.

The egg itself is marshmallow, covered in milk chocolate. As I have mentioned in previous reviews of Russell Stover products, their milk chocolate has a richer flavor than what you might find in something by Hershey or Nestle.

The marshmallow, like the chocolate, is much the same as I have encountered in other Russell Stover candies. It has a strong vanilla flavor, and has a softer, spongier feel to it than the marshmallows you find in the grocery store. In fact, I would have to say that without the chocolate shell, the marshmallow in the Marshmallow Egg probably would not hold a shape.

When biting into the Marshmallow Egg, the flavors of the marshmallow and the chocolate remain distinctive. The strong vanilla flavor of the marshmallow balance the richness of the milk chocolate. And the marshmallow itself becomes a little gooey; almost melting on the tongue.

Since this is an Easter product, the standard holiday disclaimer applies. The Marshmallow Egg will be around at least until Easter. Maybe a few days longer, depending on how quickly your local retailer wants to get the remainders out of the store.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
GOOD & FIERY


I've seen this particular candy off and on for a couple of years now. I honestly can't tell you if this is a limited edition, a seasonal edition, or if Hershey just has some unusual distribution glitches with this particular product.

Good & Fiery is another variation on the Good & Plenty theme. And while I avoid Good & Plenty like the plague (I've said it before; I can't stand licorice), I was intrigued when I saw the Good & Fiery box. Once I determined that there was no licorice involved, I eagerly snatched up a box. (And several more after that, once I had sampled that initial box.)

The package describes Good & Fiery as "sweet and spicy chewy candy." There are four different flavors in each box: lemon, orange, apple, and cinnamon. Well, that isn't entirely accurate. The first three are combinations of the respective fruit flavors and cinnamon. The fourth, of course, is just straight cinnamon.

The lemon/cinnamon combination is perhaps the one that strikes my tastebuds as being the strangest. I'm not quite sure how to describe the taste. Perhaps the closest I can come is that it tastes like a hot lemonade that has had a cinnamon stick steeping in it.

I think that maybe the orange/cinnamon candy is my favorite of the quartet. When I was a boy (many, many centuries ago), my mother was given a recipe for a hot spiced tea mix. I don't remember what spices were in it, but I do remember that the two main ingredients were instant tea and Tang. (I'm sure she still has the recipe, but I may have to ask her to email me a copy.) The orange Good & Fiery candy reminds me of that spiced tea.

At initial glance, it's a little tricky determining which is the apple and which is the cinnamon. Both are shades of red, with the apple/cinnamon candy being the lighter of the two. The apple Good & Fiery candy tastes like a mug of hot apple cider -- in a slightly chewier form, of course.

And finally, we have the cinnamon Good & Fiery candy -- or if I really want to get silly, the cinnamon/cinnamon combination. This cinnamon candy is pleasantly spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. It has a cinnamon kick, but nothing so potent as, say, Red Hots.

One thing I have noticed with all four flavors of Good & Fiery is that they leave something of an aftertaste on the tongue. It isn't cinnamon, but it isn't any of the other flavors, either. I'm not sure how to describe it, which I find a little frustrating.

As I said at the outset, I'm not completely certain if Good & Fiery is a regular part of the Hershey product line or not. I first saw it on the shelves during the fall a couple of years ago (right around Halloween, as a matter of fact), and I'm fairly certain I've seen on sale each fall since. I've also seen it on sale during the rest of the year, but the sightings are somewhat erratic.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
I realized that I was fast running out of month, and that I had not yet acquired my monthly freebie from Godiva. And so, I made my way to Mall St. Matthews today, to visit my local Godiva store.

As it turns out, it was probably a good thing that I did wait as long as I did this month. By this time, the staff at the store had all of the Easter-themed chocolates on display -- something I don't remember seeing earlier this month. And after some consideration, I selected one of the Easter chocolates. To be precise, I selected the Coconut Egg as my March freebie.

You know, one of these days, I really need to make a list of what chocolates I have and have not tried, for consultation on making my monthly selection. Yes, I fully realize that duplication of my monthly freebies is probably inevitable. I would just prefer to postpone that event for as long as possible. But I digress . . .

Unfortunately, the chocolate menu doesn't have a description for the Coconut Egg, so this time, I'm on my own. The egg comes wrapped in a pink foil with a pattern of flowers and the upper case G printed in yellow. When unwrapped, the egg is dark chocolate, with a pattern of concentric ovals and "GODIVA" molded into the chocolate. The egg itself is about the size of a quail egg.

[EDIT: On a subsequent visit, the chocolate menu contained an insert that described their various Easter chocolates. The description for the Coconut Egg is "Sweet coconut in dark chocolate."]

The dark chocolate shell is thin -- almost as thin as a real eggshell would be. The tiniest first bite (which, as usual, is what I took) was enough to shatter about half of the shell. I have mentioned in previous entries that Godiva's dark chocolate is intense. In fact, some of the other words I have used to describe it are indulgent, smooth, and velvety. All of those words apply to the chocolate in the Coconut Egg equally as well.

Inside the dark chocolate shell is a coconut filling. Now, this is not what you might find inside a Mounds bar. That is almost all coconut, held together with a sticky sweet syrup to give it a solid form. Nor is it the filling you would find in Hershey's Coconut Creme Kisses. That filling reminds me of a slightly denser version of the coconut cream used to make pina coladas more than anything else, with little coconut texture. This filling does have real coconut, but it is much softer than the Mounds filling. It also contains an additional flavor. I'm not completely certain, but I think it might be just the slightest hint of rum flavor. Perhaps with a touch of pineapple as well. Whatever that additional flavor is, it gives the filling a bit of a tropical feel to it.

And as usual, I have tried to squeeze as much analysis as possible from a chocolate that was meant to be two bites at most.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
3 MUSKETEERS MARSHMALLOW


Last year for Easter, Mars released a raspberry version of their 3 Musketeers bar. This year, they took a different approach, and the Easter limited edition is a marshmallow variation on the 3 Musketeers theme.

The outside of the 3 Musketeers Marshmallow is milk chocolate, like the original 3 Musketeers bar. Inside that milk chocolate shell is a marshmallow-flavored nougat. I'm pretty certain that this is the same nougat that Mars used a few years ago for the Rocking Nut Road Snickers bar.

As I mentioned when I wrote my review of the Rocking Nut Road bar, the marshmallow nougat is clearly a nougat. There is none of the sponginess you would normally associate with marshmallow; only the flavor. The nougat also feels a little softer than the nougats I have encountered in other candy bars by Mars, which is why I suspect that this is the same nougat Mars used for the Rocking Nut Road bar. (And part of me is really, really hoping that this might be a sign that Mars may give the Rocking Nut Road bar another release, but I'm getting off the subject.)

This time, the marshmallow nougat is paired with milk chocolate, rather than dark chocolate. Even though I really like dark chocolate, this is a good choice. The flavor of the milk chocolate seems to give the flavor of the marshmallow nougat a chance to stand out a little more. For lack of a better term, the two flavors harmonize well together.

The down side to this is that Mars produced the 3 Musketeers Marshmallow only as Minis. And I think you have heard my thoughts on Mars's Minis before -- they are just a little too mini for my tastes. It seems that every time I encounter a Mars limited edition in Mini form, I find myself wanting a full-size version of the bar, or at the very least a Fun Size bar. I could get a better impression of the bar with a Fun Size bar.

Since this is a seasonal release, of course the standard seasonal disclaimer applies. The 3 Musketeers Marshmallow Minis will be on the shelves through Easter, and maybe -- just maybe -- for a little while after. When and/or if it will appear again depends on the whims of various executives at M&M/Mars.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
KRAFT CHOCOLATE & VANILLA JET-PUFFED SWIRLMALLOWS


A couple of months ago, I wrote about the Caramel & Vanilla SwirlMallows. I mentioned in passing that Kraft also made a Chocolate & Vanilla version, and I had planned to write a review before now.

There's actually a very simple explanation why I haven't. I don't remember seeing them since that initial sighting. Which, to my way of thinking, is probably an indicator that these marshmallows are pretty popular. I do remember picking up another bag of the Caramel & Vanilla SwirlMallows, only to have a quick check of the archives reveal that I had already written a review of them.

In any event, I was at Walmart today. While I was shopping, I saw that they had the Chocolate & Vanilla SwirlMallows on the shelf, and I bought a bag.

Like their caramel/vanilla counterparts, the Chocolate & Vanilla SwirlMallows swirl two flavors in one marshmallow -- this time, chocolate and vanilla. Since marshmallows are fat-free, the chocolate flavor is probably cocoa only. (If I'm remembering what I've read correctly, the presence of any fat, including cocoa butter, would cause the whipped egg whites to completely deflate, collapse, or otherwise go flat.) While the Caramel & Vanilla SwirlMallows had swirls of white and gold/tan, the swirls in the Chocolate & Vanilla SwirlMallows are white and dark brown -- or at least as dark a brown as you can get when mixing with white.

When I popped the first SwirlMallow in my mouth, the vanilla flavor was the dominant one. I had to eat a couple of them before I could really notice the chocolate flavor. I actually think it might have been a case where the first one or two I tried just had more vanilla than chocolate. Both flavors are present in the chocolate/vanilla SwirlMallows, and like their caramel/vanilla counterparts, neither flavor is really dominant most of the time. There is also no clear point at which you can say where the chocolate ends and the vanilla begins.

The bag gives a few recipe suggestions. I would have to have a bag of both to be certain (and I don't at the moment), but they seem to be similar to the suggestions I saw on the caramel/vanilla bag.

The bag for the Chocolate & Vanilla SwirlMallows says "Limited Edition," but different spots on Kraft's website for all of their Jet-Puffed Marshmallows seem to indicate different things. I'm rather hoping that they do stick around for the long haul. And a Chocolate & Caramel version of the SwirlMallows might be an interesting blend, don't you think?


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year, Godiva had a number of chocolates that they brought out for Valentine's Day. My initial plans were to select one of those for my monthly freebie for February. Unfortunately, when I went by the local Godiva store last week, one of the clerks told me that only certain chocolates were available as freebies until after Valentine's Day.

(I probably should have known better than to go by Godiva right before Valentine's Day. The placed was crowded, to say the least.)

Undaunted, I went back to Godiva today. I had my choice firmly in mind -- a Chocolate Souffle Truffle. Once again, though, fortune was not smiling upon me. The store's sales of the Chocolate Souffle Truffles had been good. So good, in fact, that they had completely sold out of that particular chocolate -- and all of the other Valentine's Day-themed chocolates. Which meant, of course, that I had to select another chocolate.

So far, all of my monthly freebies have been various truffles. The only problem is that I am now at the point where I am starting to ask myself every month, "Have I tried that one yet?" I don't want to make a duplicate choice unless it is unavoidable. It shouldn't be that hard to make a reference list just from looking at the entries here at A Chocoholic UnAnonymous, but that thought never occurs to me until just as I am walking into the Godiva store.

This month, I decided to try something other than a truffle. After a quick perusal of the chocolate menu, I selected a Midnight Swirl. The menu describes it as "85% dark chocolate ganache in dark chocolate."

Based upon the description, I must conclude that the chocolate shell is Godiva's regular dark chocolate. It is smooth, velvety, and decadent, but I don't notice anything beyond the norm for Godiva.

The ganache is another matter. It is definitely less sweet, with a slight hint of bitterness, presumably from the extra percentage of cacao solids used in making it. When consumed together, the dark chocolate is the slightly dominant flavor, with the slight bitterness in the ganache providing contrast. The bitter and sweet flavors dance on the tastebuds as the chocolate blankets the tongue oh so briefly with a coating of chocolate decadence.

A greater contrast could have been made if the shell had been milk chocolate rather than dark chocolate. But if the shell had been milk chocolate, the name "Midnight Swirl" would not have fit.

And once again, I have reached the end of the chocolate, after analyzing it as much as I possibly can with only a few brief nibbles.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
KRAFT JET-PUFFED SNOWMANMALLOWS


When I first saw these, I had a memory flashback to either the first or second Christmas after my brother was married. As a stocking stuffer, Patsy (my sister-in-law) had small Ziploc bags filled with full-sized marshmallows. Also inside was a slip of paper, on which was written a bit of humorous verse:

"I heard you were naughty,
So here is the scoop:
All you get this year
is SNOWMAN POOP!"


That's the only time I remember Patsy doing that. I'm kind of surprised, because I'm pretty certain this is the sort of thing my nephew would find hilarious, and probably my niece, too. But I'm getting a little offtrack here, aren't I?

Like the GingerbreadMallows, I suspect that Kraft intended for the Jet-Puffed SnowmanMallows to be a Christmas seasonal release. For some reason, though, I didn't see these at my local Walmart until at least the first weekend in January. Oh well, I suppose snowmen are suitable for the entire winter.

The SnowmanMallows are, as you might expect, shaped like a stylized snowman -- one made of two balls of snow with a hat. They are a light yellow color, which unfortunately brings to mind the old joke about not eating the yellow snow. According to the bag, they are "French Vanilla" flavored.

The bag describes the SnowmanMallows as "mini-marshmallows." I have to disagree with this. Yes, they are slightly smaller than the GingerbreadMallows I reviewed recently. Repeat -- slightly smaller. I would say that they are at least twice the size of most miniature marshmallows.

Now, when I see something being described as having a French vanilla flavor, my first thought is that it is going to be slightly different from your average, run of the mill vanilla. (Not to be confused with Milli Vanilli.) I'm not sure I can say that about these marshmallows. They seem to taste just the same as most of Kraft's other vanilla-flavored marshmallows. (Which, by the way, is the vast majority of their marshmallows, as vanilla is the default flavor.) There may or may not be a slightly different aftertaste, but this might also be a complete figment of my imagination.

As is the case with Kraft's other marshmallows (and especially their holiday-themed marshmallows), there are a couple of different recipes on the bag using the SnowmanMallows. And I think using them to top brownies might be interesting. Especially if you placed them on top of the brownies right after removing the pan from the oven. The melting marshmallows might give the brownies something of a Calvin And Hobbes-ish appearance.

The Jet-Puffed SnowmanMallows may be more of a general winter release as opposed to specifically a Christmas seasonal release. I am pretty certain, though, that these are a seasonal limited edition, so the standard disclaimer applies. I have no idea how long they will stay on the shelves, no do I have any idea whether or not they will appear again.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
KRAFT JET-PUFFED GINGERBREADMALLOWS


I'm more than a little certain that these marshmallows were supposed to be a Christmas seasonal release. For some reason, though, I didn't see them at my local Walmart until the day after Christmas. And I know I went by at least a couple of different Walmarts more than once during the Christmas shopping season.

As the name readily suggests, these marshmallows take more or less the shape of little gingerbread men. They are a light brown -- darker than a tan or beige shade. Not quite the shade of gingerbread, but perhaps just a little lighter.

The GingerbreadMallows definitely have the taste of gingerbread. It's a strong but not overpowering taste of ginger, with possibly a slight undertone of molasses. It's kind of hard to separate the gingerbread flavors from the regular marshmallow flavors, so I'm not completely certain on the last.

The GingerbreadMallows bag comes with several ideas for using them. For the most part, the bag suggests topping different types of cookies with GingerbreadMallows. I think that any type of marshmallows would go well in a mug of hot chocolate, or used to make s'mores, so that is always two good places to start experimenting. I think the GingerbreadMallows would make an interesting middle layer in a batch of my Diabolical Brownies, too.

As I said, I think these were supposed to be a Christmas seasonal release. Given that I didn't see them until after Christmas, and given that I saw them in fairly large quantities then, there is a chance that you might be seeing them for quite a while. And there is a good chance that Kraft will bring them back for Christmas 2011, too.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
SNICKERS PEANUT BUTTER SQUARED


One of my earliest candy bar reviews was of M&M/Mars's first variation on the Snickers bar. Make that variations, plural, because they tried two different variations on the Snickers theme using peanut butter. One was called Snickers Peanut Butter, and the other Peanut Butter Snickers (how shockingly original). And at the moment, I cannot remember which came first. I do remember that one came in a red wrapper, and the other came in a bright yellow wrapper.

The first of these variations replaced the peanut-studded caramel layer of the Snickers bar with peanut butter -- in other words, peanut butter and peanut butter nougat covered in milk chocolate. I wasn't particularly impressed with this version, because as I recall, it was somewhat dry. (More than somewhat, actually.) The second version came out about a year later, and tried the opposite approach; replacing the nougat with peanut butter. I thought this was a much better combination, but it too lasted only about a year or so. Keep in mind that this was a few years before the idea of any of the candy companies thought of doing limited edition variations of any of their candy bars.

[NOTE: And when I say this was one of my earliest reviews, this was in the print era, before I set up A Chocoholic UnAnonymous. I do know that it ran in FOSFAX, and if I can find that particular issue, I will post it here for your amusement. Call it a retro-review.]

The reason I'm mentioning this blast from the past is that Mars is trying yet another Snickers variation with peanut butter. This variation, Snickers Peanut Butter Squared, does not have a peanut butter layer instead of the nougat or the caramel. It has the peanut butter in addition to the nougat and caramel.

A cross-section of the Peanut Butter Squared bar reveals the caramel layer on top, with the peanut butter in the middle, and finally the nougat on the bottom. This triple layer of peanutty goodness is then covered in milk chocolate.

When you bite into a Peanut Butter Squared bar, the first taste you encounter, naturally, is the milk chocolate outer coating. This is followed by the flavor of the caramel (and the crunchy texture of the peanuts imbedded in that layer), then the peanut butter. Unfortunately, that is where the flavors seem to stop. There is very little difference in the flavor of the peanut butter and that of the nougat. Either that, or the flavor of the peanut butter completely overwhelms that of the nougat. (I strongly suspect that the latter is the case.) The overall effect is that of a Snickers bar with a stronger peanut butter flavor presence, rather than three different taste variations blending with the chocolate.

(Incidentally, I don't really remember much of a flavor contrast in the first of the earlier variations. That may have been another reason I didn’t particularly care for it, and preferred the second variation instead.)

The one complaint I have with the Peanut Butter Squared bar is the presentation. Instead of a single bar, Mars has for some unknown reason packaged the bar as two smaller sections, much as they did with the 3 Musketeers Mint bar. The wrapper suggests, "Save one for later," but honestly, who is going to pay attention to that idea? I would prefer having a full size bar. Much more satisfying, not to mention easier to handle while eating it. But I would have to say that this is the only major complaint I have against the Peanut Butter Squared bar.

Now, for the good news: From what I can tell, this is not a limited edition. To the best of my knowledge, this is a regular part of the M&M/Mars product line. It is still hit or miss trying to find it, as not all of the stores that carry Mars products are carrying the Peanut Butter Squared bar yet. So you may have to do a little searching to find it.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
SKYBAR


I first heard about this candy bar when I was reading Candyfreak. I remember being intrigued by Steve Almond's description of a candy bar with four different fillings. I also remember thinking, Why have I never seen this candy bar?

Not too long ago, I spotted the Skybar in the front candy display at a local Rite Aid. Seeing the bars on the counter triggered a Candyfreak flashback, and I picked up a couple of Skybars right away.

As both Almond and the wrapper state, the Skybar has four different fillings in a milk chocolate bar -- caramel, vanilla, peanut, and fudge. There are four sections to each bar, each containing a different filling.

Each section has "Necco" molded into the top. I placed the bar so that "Necco" was right side up, and started sampling the sections from the top down. As it happens, trying it that way meant that I encountered the sections in the reverse of the way they are listed on the wrapper.

The first filling I encountered was the fudge section. It had a slightly richer chocolate flavor than that of the milk chocolate (more on that later). While the fudge filling had a smooth, creamy texture, it didn't have quite the chewiness I normally associate with fudge.

The second section contained the peanut filling. I was expecting something along the lines of a peanut butter-type filling. Instead, it was more of a caramel with just a little bit of peanut flavoring. I found it to be the most disappointing of the sections, because the peanut flavor just wasn't strong enough.

The third section contained the vanilla filling. This was probably the most distinctive of all four flavors. It had a strong vanilla flavor, able to stand out against the flavor of the chocolate shell more than any of the other fillings.

And the fourth and final section had the caramel filling. The filling is somewhat similar to the caramel in a Caramello bar. Soft, but not fluid, with a strong brown sugar flavor to it.

As I have already noted, each section is covered in milk chocolate. Necco uses a slightly richer milk chocolate than Hershey or Nestle. It's sweeter, and it has notes of honey in it. (I checked the ingredients list, though, and honey is not listed.) It has a firm snap to it when you break apart the sections.

From what I've read, Skybar makes the claim that it is the only candy bar that has four different fillings in the same bar. Sampling one was rather like a miniature box of chocolates in one bar (and that's something else used in their advertising). I think I may be trying them again if this is something that Rite Aid will be carrying on a regular basis.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
KRAFT JET-PUFFED GHOSTMALLOWS


This was something I spotted during a post-Halloween prowl of one of my local supermarkets. Like most of the other Halloween products, it was now discounted 50%, so I thought it was worth purchasing a bag.

The GhostMallows are marshmallows that are roughly ghost-shaped. Although, if you turn them upside down, and they were colored red and green, you could also make the argument that they are Christmas tree-shaped. (I may have to pay close attention during the next couple of months to see if Kraft actually does this.)

The GhostMallows come are colored brown, orange, and white. My initial thought was that the white ones would be the vanilla flavor that your plain, everyday marshmallows have, and that the brown and orange ones would have a chocolate and orange flavor, respectively.

I was in for something of a disappointment.

The white GhostMallows were indeed vanilla flavored. So were the brown and orange GhostMallows. It was one of those moments when you quickly realized that Kraft could have done something more with these seasonal marshmallows . . . and didn't. (It wasn't until I was almost finished with the bag that I spotted the note at the corner of the bag that stated that they were all vanilla flavored. Oops.)

Well, maybe next time.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
KRAFT CARAMEL & VANILLA JET-PUFFED SWIRLMALLOWS


I saw these while I was at Wal-Mart (or is that Walmart?) yesterday. I was sufficiently intrigued to buy the last (at the time) bag on the shelf. Oh, who am I kidding? It's a new product; of course I'm going to give it a try.

As the name might suggest, SwirlMallows have two flavors swirled together in one marshmallow -- in this case, caramel and vanilla. (There's also a Chocolate & Vanilla SwirlMallow, but that's a subject for another review.) There are swirls of white and varying shades of tan throughout the marshmallows, with no particular rhyme or reason to the design.

The caramel and vanilla flavors are both present when you bite into one of the SwirlMallows. Neither flavor is dominant over the other, and there isn't any point where you taste the caramel flavor first, then the vanilla. Both flavors coexist, side by side, in harmony.

There were a couple of recipe suggestions on the bag. One of them was a variation on s'mores, which I may have to try (assuming that there are any marshmallows left once I finish writing this review). I also want to try one of these SwirlMallows in a mug of hot chocolate.

The bag says "NEW," so I'm guessing that Kraft plans to keep these around for a while. Considering that there was only one bag on the shelf when I walked by, I would say that they are already pretty popular.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
The day after a holiday is always an interesting one when you visit a store. Particularly and especially when you walk through the seasonal aisle. The store is frantically trying to move the remaining merchandise from the holiday just celebrated out of the way and into a clearance area, while at the same time moving the next batch of seasonal merchandise on to the sales floor.

That was the case today. I went by Target, mainly to get some Halloween candy that I knew would now be discounted. (Sometimes, it's just easier to wait for the candy to go on sale to acquire research material.)

I was both surprised and impressed by how much Christmas merchandise Target had out. Target must have had a crew working overnight to get everything out that they did. I would say that at least half of what had been the Halloween section was now the Christmas section, and I am fairly certain that if I were to return there tomorrow, even more of the section will be converted.

I haven't gone by any of my usual stops today, but I think it's safe to say that they are in a similar state of conversion. I can wait a day or two to see if there will be any new selections in the Christmas candy.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
WILD BLUEBERRY MAPLE ICE MINTS


I saw two varieties of Maple Ice Mints when I went by World Market a couple of days ago. And yes, I picked up a tin of each. Then I took them to the register, and paid for them.

[INSERT RIMSHOT]

Okay, enough with the standup routine. Time to get serious.

I had much the same experience when I opened the tin of Wild Blueberry Maple Ice Mints earlier today that I did when I opened the Original Maple Ice Mints yesterday. In this case, though, the wonderful aroma that tickled my nostrils was a blend of maple and blueberry. Not quite as wonderful as smelling a stack of blueberry pancakes hot off the griddle, but it was pretty damn close. Really damn close, as a matter of fact.

I was just a little disappointed when I opened the tin. I suppose I was expecting the Blueberry mints to have the faintest bluish-purple color to them -- reflecting the blueberry in the mints. Instead, they are the same tan color with darker tan flecks that the Original mints do.

When I popped one in my mouth, the blueberry pancakes theme continued. The flavor reminds me of the blueberry topping and maple syrup that's left on your plate once you've finished eating the pancakes. Of course, I think that's the best part of blueberry pancakes. Especially scooping up as much as you can of that blended topping.

These are breath mints, and as with the Original version, I could detect a faint presence of mint. If anything, I think it might have been just a little more pronounced in the Blueberry mints.

After trying both versions of Maple Ice Mints, I find myself thinking two things. First, I really hope that World Market keeps these in stock on a regular basis. Second, I wonder if Big Sky Brands has any other versions that they may be planning to release.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
ORIGINAL MAPLE ICE MINTS


I went by World Market yesterday, and I came across these while perusing the candy section. Just the name alone was intriguing enough that I knew I had to buy a tin.

I didn't open the tin right away. For a number of reasons, I put the bag with the tin in my jacket, and I get back to it until this afternoon. Before I even opened the tin -- as I was removing the plastic wrap, to be precise -- this wonderful aroma of maple wafted toward my nostrils, and I already knew that this would be something wonderful.

Maple Ice Mints are a Canadian product, produced by Big Sky Brands. To quote a line from the tin, they are made with real maple sugar. The mints are a very pale tan, speckled with flecks of a darker tan. They are roughly the same size as an Altoids mint, and they have a maple leaf stamped on one side.

If I thought the smell of original Maple Ice Mints were wonderful, I was in for an even greater treat when I placed one on my tongue. These are supposed to be breath mints, and I could detect the faintest hint of mint in my mouth. Honestly, though, this candy is all about the maple. It's like a drop of maple syrup in solid form (which, come to think of it, is precisely what maple sugar is).

This was the the first time I had seen Maple Ice Mints anywhere in Louisville. I usually make a swing by Louisville's World Market at least once a week, so I'm certain this was a recent arrival. I'm just hoping that they will stay around. If I see that World Market is out of something, I never know when -- or if -- I'll see it again or not.

I hope I see more Maple Ice Mints. I will be wanting more.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
A few entries back, I mentioned a positive dearth of new Halloween candies. As a matter of fact, the only items on the candy shelves which even come close to being new are the chocolate-covered Peeps pumpkins. And those are for all intents and purposes the same as the chocolate-covered Peeps that I reviewed back before Easter.

As I discovered, though, I'm not the only one who has noticed this deplorable state of affairs.

One of the blogs I read regularly is the appropriately-named Candyblog. and a little over a week ago, Cybele May, the proprietress of that corner of cyberspace, mentioned that she couldn't find anything on the shelves that she hadn't reviewed previously. She said that this was the sixth Halloween she had covered, and she posted links to her reviews from previous years.

(Incidentally, a check of Cybele's main page shows that she has been doing Candyblog since April 2005. Her first entry is dated April 10, 2005. Which means that she has been posting reviews online a little over a year before I began A Chocoholic UnAnonymous. I've still been writing candy reviews longer than she has, though. My first review for FOSFAX was sometime in the late 1990s.)

It's still just a little annoying when you can't find anything new for what is probably the biggest candy holiday. (Halloween or Easter -- which do you think is the bigger candy holiday?) You would think the various candy producers would use this season to bring out new and different products.

Okay, so Halloween 2010 is something of a wash as far as new products are concerned. Maybe I can take that as a sign that the candy producers are hard at work developing something new and wonderful for Halloween 2011.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
All right, tomorrow is the first day of fall -- or is it the day after tomorrow? Either way, the autumnal equinox is upon us, and it is utterly ridiculous that the temperature should still hovering around the 90s.

In other words, it's still a problem getting chocolate home without it becoming something of a gooey blob. In spite of that, I went to Godiva this afternoon to get my monthly freebie.

Actually, I had a plan in mind. I would pick up the chocolate, and enjoy it at a nearby table. I would take notes, and then those notes into an entry later. (Writing the entry at the mall ws not feasible, because as far as I know, the only part of Mall St. Matthews that has Wi-Fi available is near Starbucks, and that is at the other end of the mall from the Godiva store. I just didn't feel like making the trek to Starbucks just for get connected. Pen and paper would suffice quite nicely, thank you very much.

With the change of the season, Godiva has a new selection of seasonal chocolates. After all due consideration, I decided upon the Maple Walnut truffle. The new Chocolate Menu describes it as "Maple walnut in white chocolate."

[NOTE: When I was making my selection, the girl behind the counter mentioned that she didn't normally care for maple, but she liked this truffle. She also mentioned that she really liked the walnut flavor. I filed that particular trivium for reference while I was taking notes.]

The top of the Maple Walnut Truffle is dusted with a light brown powder. At first glance, I thought it might be cocoa, but upon closer inspection, it looks (and tastes) more like brown sugar. Possible maple sugar, reflecting the filling.

After I took that first tiny bite, I noticed that the the description in the Chocolate menu wasn't totally accurate. It looks as though the ganache was dipped in chocolate twice. The first time was in milk chocolate, and then it was dipped in white chocolate.

The ganache blends the maple and walnut flavors together until they almost become a third flavor. Both elements are still clearly discernible, yet the fusion brings out something . . . well, different.

The two chocolate shells seem to be present more as a containment vessel for the ganache. Their flavor is more noticeable when you take tiny bites -- like the kind of bites I take when I do one of these fast and dirty reviews. (I think I managed to get 10 bites out of just one little truffle.) The combination of the milk and white chocolates blend well with the ganache, and i think either alone would have worked equally as well. I think a dark chocolate shell would have more than likely overwhelmed the flavor of the ganache.

I don't indulge in walnuts all that often, so for me, the walnut flavor in the ganache was more of something that registered as "not maple" on my tongue. Unlike the girl behind the counter, I do enjoy the flavor of maple, and here it is a rich, strong maple flavor. When you take a bite, the flavor of the ganache is what first dominates your tastebuds.

The chocolate, on the other hand, is the last flavor to linger on the tongue. While the the maple/walnut flavor combination is dominant most of the time a bite is in your mouth, it is the chocolates that are the last ones to take their bows.

And once again, I have squeezed about as much analysis as I can from just one truffle.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
I think the title of this entry summarizes things quite nicely. At the moment, I'm rather disappointed with the Halloween candy offerings this year.

Oh, they are as plentiful as ever. That isn't the problem. What is the problem is that, as far as I can tell, it's the same stuff I see year after year. I haven't seen anything new this year.

Well, I did see chocolate-covered Peeps pumpkins -- both milk chocolate and dark chocolate varieties. But as far as I can tell, they are virtually the same as the chocolate-covered Peeps I reviewed back during the Easter season. Other than noting their existence (which, if you haven't been paying attention, I am doing at this very moment), there is no sense in doing another review.

Halloween is still a month away, though. I am going to keep looking, because I am hoping to find something new this year.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
This entry is a first for A Chocoholic UnAnonymous. This is the first entry that I am posting to both LiveJournal and Xanga at the same time. No, I have not completed migrating all of the entries over to Xanga . . . at least not yet. (Far from it, as a matter of fact.) But this time, I decided that I wanted to share this recipe with both sets of readers right away.

Yes, I have been doing some experimenting in the kitchen again.

That sound you may be hearing is probably my closest friends screaming in horror.

Okay, now that my friends have finished screaming, let's continue.

This time, the recipe was inspired by Anne Byrn's Chocolate From The Cake Mix Doctor. Great cookbook. In fact, all of her "Cake Mix Doctor" cookbooks are great reading. Byrn shows you how to take your average cake mix, and with just a few additions, turn it into something spectacular.

I had checked out Chocolate From The Cake Mix Doctor from my local library recently, and during the time I had it, I saw one or two things that I wanted to try with brownies. (I'm more of a brownie person than a cake person.) And then I began using my particular talent for putting together a recipe, and completely visualizing it before I ever set foot in the kitchen. (It's a rare occurrence when the final product doesn't match the visualization. There might need to be a little tweaking involved in a subsequent attempt, but I almost never have anything result in a disaster.)

I already had most of the ingredients. I just needed to make one final purchase at Kroger, and I was ready to enter the laboratory . . . er, kitchen.



CPC BROWNIES
(I need a better name; maybe someone will suggest one.)


INGREDIENTS:

1 box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Brownie mix
1 tub Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 pkg. (12 oz.) Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips


PROCEDURE:

1. Preheat oven according to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9" baking pan.
2. Prepare the brownie mix according to directions. (This involves the addition of egg, oil, and water, and blending thoroughly.)
3. Add the frosting to the batter, and stir until thoroughly blended.
4. Add the chocolate chips, and blend.
5. Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

The brownies came out great -- or at least, I thought they did. And they tasted just the way I thought they would. The bottom of the brownies was still a little on the gooey side, even after adding some additional baking time. My co-worker Nate suggested that I may have been a little too generous with the cooking spray when I greased the pan. I will have to give the pan less of a hit with the spray when I try the recipe again.

But no matter how good I may think the brownies are, I needed some more useful feedback. I had described the brownies to my friend Angel. She thought they sounded good, until I mentioned the coconut pecan frosting in them. It seems she has a bit of a problem with coconut. Actually, I think the words she used were "anaphylactic shock," so she wouldn't be a good test subject.

As I have mentioned before, my friends tend to get just a little twitchy when I ask them to be test subjects. From the way they react, you would think I was handing them a live hand grenade, and pulling the pin just as I walk away. So, I needed a new group of victims . . . er, test subjects.

I decided to use my co-workers, and I took some of the brownies to work with me. I left a note essentially saying, "Help yourself," and asked for feedback. Keeping in mind what Angel had said to me, I said in the note, "If you have a problem with coconut or nuts, you might want to stay away from these. And if you have a problem with chocolate, what the hell are you doing within anywhere near me?"

The co-workers loved them, although I didn't get much in the way of detailed feedback. The best response was from Nate. He told me that he was glad he read the note first, because he has an allergy to coconut. He decided to brave the odds anyway, took a Benadryl, and then tried one of the brownies.

I'm going to have to try another attempt at these soon. I need to see if Nate was right about overgreasing the pan . . .


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Season has definitely begun.

I mentioned that one Halloween store would be opening August 27. Well, it has, along with at least one or two other costume stores. And as I was going by a few different Walgreens over the past week, I noticed that the back to school merchandise has been occupying less and less of the seasonal aisle, and more and more Halloween merchandise has been appearing in that same aisle.

As a matter of fact, when I went to at least one Walgreens store, it was all Halloween. I haven't been by Wal-Mart or Target for a few days, but I strongly suspect that I would see similar displays in their seasonal sections. More than likely, I will see full Halloween displays when I stop by either within a day or so.

Most of the candy I have seen so far has been the usual bags of candy for the trick or treaters. Unfortunately, most of it has also been the same stuff I have seen before. I haven’t seen anything new -- nothing new, or nothing that I haven't reviewed before.

I'm hoping that this will change soon. I want to see something new.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
This week is the start of school in the Louisville area. Last Friday or Saturday, I asked a friend at Walgreens how soon it would be before the back to school merchandise gets put in the clearance section.

There's a very good reason I asked that. Once the back to school stuff is moved out of the way, the seasonal aisle starts filling up with the Halloween merchandise. And that signals the official beginning of Candy Season.

Right now, it's sort of the calm before the storm. You know it's going to happen; it's all a matter of when.

Personally, I have something of a definite date when it will start. One of those seasonal Halloween stores -- the ones that sell costumes, accessories, and the like -- will be opening just a few doors away from where I work, in what was a furniture store. When I was on my way to work one day last week, I stopped by and asked when they would be opening. One of the people inside told me that they plan to open August 27.

So, I've decided that I will declare August 27 as the official start of the Halloween season, and Candy season in general. And I have noticed that slowly but surely, more and more Halloween merchandise is creeping into the seasonal aisles at Walgreens, Target, and everywhere else that has a seasonal merchandise section.

It's just a matter of time.

It's like waiting for the starter's pistol at the beginning of a race.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
This has not been a pleasant June.

What else can you say when you have to put your chocolate in the refrigerator (or freezer) for a few hours before you can unwrap a solid candy bar, and not a molten blob?

Louisville has been experiencing a rather nasty heat wave this month, and that heat wave is the main reason it took me so long to get to Godiva to pick up my monthly freebie. Time was another consideration. I've been to Mall St. Matthews several times this month, but most of the time it was a quick stop at Subway in the food court -- with rarely enough time to make the trek to Godiva on the other end of the mall.

Yesterday, though, I made the time to bike around to the rear of the mall. (Quicker access to Godiva.) I had already made my selection for this month during last month's visit, so it was just a matter of showing them my card, and acquiring my monthly freebie.

This month, my choice was the Peach Truffle. It's one of the seasonal truffles for summer. More importantly, it's milk chocolate -- something I promised myself I would get this time around.

The chocolate menu describes the Peach Truffle as "sweet peach in milk chocolate." Hmmmmmm. You know, that doesn't help me all that much.

The milk chocolate shell is covered with a faint dusting of granulated sugar. It's more decorative than anything else. It does give the truffle a nice sparkly appearance.

The milk chocolate seems to make a thicker, firmer shell than some of the other truffles I have sampled.(Of course, this could be just a variation in batches of truffles.) As I expected, the chocolate itself has a deeper, richer flavor than most milk chocolates I have tasted. I would definitely say that it contains more cocoa solids, but at the moment, I have no way of knowing how much more. (Hey, there is only so much information that I can get from using my tongue alone.)

Inside the shell was a peach ganache. It too seemed to be firmer than some of Godiva's other ganaches. Of course, since I went from the store directly to a nearby table to indulge myself in the truffle, it stayed nice and cool, and didn't have a chance to soften in the outside heat. (Remember the whole molten blob thing? It applies even more to truffles.) The color and flavor was just like biting into a freshly picked peach -- minus all the pulp.

I don't think I have ever encountered the flavor combination of peach and chocolate before. I already had an idea that it would be good; chocolate goes well with just about any fruit. (At least, I don't think I have found a fruit that doesn't go well with chocolate yet.) With the Peach Truffle, the flavors remain distinct, but there is just the slightest bit of an agreeable blending near the end of the bite.

As always, I am trying to squeeze as much analysis as I can in to only two or three bites. (And I am taking very small bites, to make last as long as possible.) Of course, that is part of the fun of analyzing these monthly freebies -- getting as much analysis from an oh so brief impression.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
It was about this time last year when I was wondering when I might start seeing the back to school displays in stores. Now, this is no idle musing. The back to school displays are something of a precursor to the Halloween displays -- the first phase of Candy Season. If the back to school displays are up, the start of Candy Season can't be too far behind.

Last year, I saw the first back to school displays during the last few days of June -- at least a couple of weeks earlier than I thought I would be seeing them. So this year, it really wasn't a matter of wondering when I would start seeing them. It was more a matter of where I would see the first display.

Yesterday, I got my answer. I saw the first hint of a display. And it wasn't at Rite Aid, or Walgreens, or Target. It was at Staples.

It wasn't complete, but Staples was in the process of setting up the backpacks display -- a display that they normally have in place only during the back to school season. I think I may have also seen the display of notebooks (paper, not computers) being erected as well. And I'm pretty certain that if I were to go to Office Depot, they would probably doing something similar.

It's only a matter of time before the department stores and pharmacies begin moving the school supplies to the seasonal aisles of their stores. Now the question becomes, how soon before Labor Day does the Halloween merchandise go up?

When do we see the start of Candy Season?


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
MARS BAR


A few years ago, Mars decided to rename the Mars Bar (or Mars Almond Bar, to use the full name) the Snickers Almond Bar, for reasons I have only vaguely understood. Same bar, same taste -- just a name change. (Well, they did put peanuts in it for a while, but they're gone.) As I remember, when I wrote my review of the Snickers Almond Bar, I invoked Shakespeare's "by any other name" line from Romeo And Juliet.

A day or two ago, I was in Wal-Mart. At the checkout lanes, I perused the selection of candy bars, and one of them caught my eye. The Mars Bar. Well, this time, the full name is "Mars Chocolate Almond Bar."

I think I will steer clear of referencing Mr. Shakespeare this time. While his line is certainly applicable once again, there are lines from a couple of songs (or slightly mangled versions thereof) that might work a little better this time:

"Mars Bar swings like a pendulum do . . . "

or

"Everything old is new again."

For reasons that are probably as incomprehensible as they were a few years ago, Mars has to decided to change the name of the candy bar once again. This time, Mars is bringing back the older name.

And make no mistake, it is the same candy bar. A box of Mars Bars and a box of Snickers Almond Bars sat next to each other on the shelf. I picked up one of each for comparison purposes.

Inside, both bars have the same composition -- vanilla nougat, caramel, and almonds. Both bars are covered in milk chocolate. And both bars taste the same.

I suppose you could say that I did that test the old-fashioned way. I took a bit from the Mars Bar, chewed, and swallowed -- thoroughly enjoying every single moment of the process. (What would be the point of these reviews if I didn't enjoy the research process?) Then, after a quick swallow of water to clear the tastebuds, I did the same with the Snickers Almond Bar. Trust me, whatever the name, this is the smae candy bar, irrespective of what name is on the wrapper.

As I have mentioned, I have no clear idea of why Mars made this name change. (I don't even have any theories at the moment.) But I am more than a little certain of one thing. While I did see Mars Bars and Snickers Almond Bars side by side on the shelves a day or two ago, you won't be seeing them sharing shelf space for too long. I'm guessing that Mars is in the process of phasing out the Snickers Almond Bar (at least the name and wrapper), and you will gradually see them disappearing from the shelves.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
I don't know how this happened, but I almost let the merry month of May slip away without picking up my monthly free chocolate at Godiva. Note that I said almost. A day or two ago, I realized that the end of the month was fast apporaching, and as it turns out, today was probably going to be the best chance for me to pick up my freebie.

As always, when I walked into the Godiva store, the overwhelming thought was, "Okay, what do I want to try this time?" They had a new chocolate menu for summer, so I quickly looked through it, and decided upon the Key Lime Truffle. As described in the menu, it is "Key lime ganache in dark chocolate."

[SIDEBAR: I really need to remember to try something in milk chocolate for June. I'm not intentionally choosing dark chocolate truffles everytime; it's just turning out that way.]

The key lime ganache seemed to be a little firmer than the fillings of some of the other truffles I sampled. Of course, this time, I found a table near the store, sat down, took out my notepad, and began jotting down notes as I bit into the truffle. The ganache is delightfully tart. It isn't mouth-puckeringly sour, but it also isn't too sweet. I guess I'm going to borrow a line from Goldilocks, and say that it's "just right."

The dark chocolate, of course, is the same dark chocolate that I have been encountering in several other Godiva products over the past few months. I'm not sure that there is too much else that I can add at this point.

When you bite into the Key Lime Truffle, the two flavors don't blend together. Instead, they stay quite distinct the entire time it stays on your tongue. The tartness of the key lime ganache takes the initial dominance over your tastebuds. Slowly, though, the tartness slowly fades away, leaving the rich smoothness of the dark chocolate coating your tastebuds.

And there is something of an interplay between the two flavors as they roll over your tongue. They play off one another, each contrasting the other.

As usual, I can only squeeze only so much analysis from one little truffle. But I will have to try a few more truffles during the next couple of months. More than a few of Godiva's summer-themed truffles have caught my eye. And I think I want them to catch my tongue as well.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
GODIVA DARK CHOCOLATE PEARLS WITH MANDARIN ORANGE


Last week, I was at the Hallmark store getting a Mother's Day card for my mom. While I was there, I decided to get something for myself as well, and I settled on another tin of Godiva chocolate pearls. My choice this time was the Dark Chocolate pearls with mandarin orange.

These pearls are similar in size to the Dark Chocolate Pearls I reviewed not too long ago. And as is the case with most of Godiva's products, the name itself is pretty descriptive of the product. These dark chocolate pearls have been infused with mandarin orange flavor.

I noticed that the mandarin orange flavor was more prevalent when I first opened the tin. I've taken my time going through the tin (trying to make them last as long as possible), and I realized that the orange flavor isn't as strong today as it was when I cracked open the tin a few days ago. But the mandarin orange flavor compliments the dark chocolate quite well.

The chocolate, of course, is smooth, rich, and velvety. When you let it melt on your tongue, it coats your tastebuds with a wonderfully dark blanket of flavor.

I think I would like this version better if the orange flavor were stronger -- or if it didn't dissipate once the tin was opened.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Bar Review
KIT KAT DARK


Steve Almond must be happy.

No, I take that back. He must be ecstatic.

If you have read some of my past entries, you know that in his book Candyfreak, Almond obsesses over the long-departed, much lamented (at least by him) Caravelle bar. But that was not the only bar over which he obsessed. There was one other to which Almond devoted an equal amount of obsession. That one was the Dark Chocolate Kit Kat bar. This was one of the first Kit Kat variations that Hershey produced. Mr. Almond rhapsodized over the bar in the pages of Candyfreak, and he searched high and low for more, because it was a limited edition. He managed to acquire 14 cases of this treasure before it became unavailable.

I'll have to admit, I had not been a particular fan of Kit Kat bars until I read Candyfreak. But when I read the passage where Almond first tries the Dark Chocolate Kit Kat, then sets out on a quest to obtain as many of the bars as he could while they were still available, I knew I had to try it for myself. Fortunately for me, I found them at several Dollar Tree stores here in the Louisville area.

Over the past few years, I have seen bags of the mini version of the Dark Chocolate Kit Kats for sale, both by themselves, and as part of a triple Kit Kat mini bag, which also included the milk chocolate and white chocolate versions of the Kit Kat bar in miniature. They were good, but there was just one little problem. I had to eat about four or five to get the same satisfaction as I would from a full-size bar. Sometimes, size does matter.

Finally, at long last, Hershey has brought back the Dark Chocolate Kit Kat bar -- or as they are calling it now, the Kit Kat Dark bar. And this time, it is not a limited edition.

Now that I think about it, "ecstatic" is probably far too mild a description for what Steve Almond is probably feeling.

By now, I think you have probably deduced that the Kit Kat Dark differs from the original Kit Kat bar in that it is covered in dark chocolate instead of the usual milk chocolate.

The dark chocolate is clearly the dominant flavor in this bar. I know that the wafers inside the bar have something of vanilla flavor to them, but it isn't as noticeable here as it is with the original Kit Kat. But as is the case with all Kit Kat variations, the wafers are noticeable by their crisp texture, which provides a sharp contrast with the rich smoothness of the dark chocolate.

If I'm remembering correctly, the original limited edition of the Kit Kat Dark came out sometime in 2003. I just want to know one thing -- why did it take Hershey some seven years to realize that this would be great as a regular part of their product line?

Seriously, it took them long enough.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
HERSHEY'S DOUBLE CHOCOLATE NUGGETS


This particular candy has me thinking of Miley Cyrus at the moment.

Okay, that probably got your attention. I'm guessing that your initial reaction is something along the lines of, "WHAT?"

It's not as crazy as you may think. The theme song for Ms. Cyrus's TV series Hannah Montana is "The Best Of Both Worlds." And that song kind of fits in with this particular version of Hershey's Nuggets. It doesn't hurt that the phrase "the best of both worlds" is mentioned on the bag.

As the name suggests, the Double Chocolate Nuggets bring two different types of chocolate together. Specifically, they join Hershey's Special Dark chocolate with Hershey's Extra Creamy milk chocolate.

The two types of chocolate are layered in this particular Nugget, with the dark chocolate on the bottom, and the milk chocolate on top. It isn't a 50/50 split, though. It's more like the Double Chocolate Nugget is roughly 2/3 milk chocolate, 1/3 dark chocolate. Well, it may be closer to a 60/40 split, but it's still in favor of the milk chocolate.

At first glance, I was just a little upset at the division between milk and dark chocolate. I would have preferred an equitable 50/50 split. But after I bit into a Double Chocolate Nugget, I realized that it actually works better with there being more milk chocolate than dark chocolate. Having more milk chocolate actually creates more of an even balance between the flavors. The dark chocolate is still probably the more prominent flavor, but it doesn't overwhelm the milk chocolate.

In fact, the two chocolates blend well, together, particularly if you let the Nugget melt slowly on your tongue. Both the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate retain their distinctiveness, and somehow manage to not meld into a single flavor somewhere between the two.

Getting back to the Hannah Montana connection, I played around with a fragment of the show's theme song, and I came up with a good description of Hershey's Double Chocolate Nuggets:

"You get the best of both worlds,
Both the dark and the milk,
Ultra-smooth, just like silk . . . "

Somehow, though, I don't think I'll be hearing Miley Cyrus singing that particuloar version anytime soon.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
BRACH'S JUBE JEL CHERRY HEARTS


This was another candy that I picked up right after Valentine's Day, along with the Cinnamon Jelly Hearts. I managed to misplace this bag, just as I did the bag of Cinnamon Jelly Hearts. In fact, I managed to do a much better job of misplacing this bag. (And once again, I want to write and post a review before they get possibly get misplaced yet again.)

I would call the Jube Jel Cherry Hearts something of a half-sibling to the Cinnamon Jelly Hearts. They both have the same gumdrop-like consistency. But the Cherry Hearts lack the dusting of granulated sugar that their cinnamon counterparts have.

The bag says that the Cherry Hearts are "artificially flavored," and that becomes more than obvious when you take your first bite. The flavor is almost, but not quite, cherry-like. The first two or three have more of a cherry flavor to them. After that, it trails off to a generic sweet flavor.

Just as the Cinnamon Jelly Hearts were, the Jube Jel Cherry Hearts were a Valentine's Day product. They have been gone from the shelves for a couple of months now, but I am quite certain that they will reappear sometime after Christmas for the 2011 Valentine's Day season.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Easter was a week ago. By now, all of the remaining Easter candy has been moved to smaller and smaller sections of the clearance shelves. When I went by Walgreens a day or two ago, the seasonal aisle was now filled with items for the beach or pool. That's depressing.

No candy at all. That's even more depressing.

It's the start of what I refer to as non-candy season. And as Brian Hyland sang in the song "Sealed With A Kiss," it's going to be a long, lonely summer.

Well, maybe not too lonely. I'm sure that the candy companies will be releasing some new products between now and the start of the Halloween shopping season. There has to be at least a couple of limited editions (I hope, I hope).

And it might not be that long, either. I remember being more than a little surprised when I started seeing some Halloween merchandise at Walgreens before Independence Day last year. If the same thing happens again this year, I won't be as surprised.

I suppose what is really depressing is that there isn't any holiday that calls for candy between now and Halloween.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
GODIVA DARK CHOCOLATE PEARLS


While I was at Mall St. Matthews yesterday getting a new Godiva Chocolate Rewards card, I also went by the Hallmark store to get a new Gold Crown card. When I called Hallmark's customer service line earlier yesterday morning, I discovered that it apparently had been long enough since I last used my Gold Crown card that all my information had been purged from Hallmark's database. So, getting a completely new card was on the agenda.

The customer service rep had suggested that when I picked up my new card, I should go ahead and buy something, so that my new number and assorted other information would definitely be in the database. I was making a quick scan of the store when I noticed that the Hallmark store offered a number of products by Godiva. I found this more than just a little amusing, considering that the Godiva store is probably less than 20 meters away from the Hallmark store. I can walk from one store to the other in 15 seconds or less.

In case you haven't already figured it out, I decided to purchase some chocolate. And after due careful consideration, I chose a tin of Godiva's Dark Chocolate Pearls.

The Dark Chocolate Pearls are one of several varieties of chocolate pearls offered by Godiva. Assuming the tin I purchased is typical, the small spheroids of chocolate, roughly between 5-7 mm in diameter. They are coated in a confectioners glaze similar to what is used on Sugar Babies caramels.

From what I can tell, the glaze is present to keep the pearls from melting and clumping together, and to help them keep their (roughly) spherical shape. It also gives the pearls a glossy, shiny appearance.

The chocolate is the same dark chocolate I have encountered in several of Godiva's other products, this time in its simplest form. Yes, this is incredibly good chocolate. When you bite into one of the pearls, it immediately spreads out over your tongue, coating every tastebud with an amazingly dark, velvety sensation.

The Dark Chocolate Pearls come packaged in metal tins. Not quite the same as the tins in which Altoids are packaged, but similar enough in concept. I have a feeling that I will eventually have a collection of these tins to match the multitude of Altoids tins squirreled away in my condo. (I'm certain that I will find a use for them. Besides, they look too cute to throw away.)


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
About a week ago, I somehow managed to lose a small pouch. Now, this pouch didn't contain anything like money or credit cards. Nothing that would be called valuable by most people. What it did contain was my Borders Reward card, my Books A Million Millionaires Club card, my Kroger Plus card, my . . . well, I think you get the idea.

Included amongst those cards I lost was my Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club card. Today, I went to the local Godiva store, and I explained what had happened to the cashier. She told me, "No problem," and after verifying a few bits of information, she gave me a new card. (I had called Godiva's customer service line earlier, and they told me that I would need to get a new card.)

She also asked me if I wanted to go ahead and get my free chocolate for the month. It made sense, and after a minute or two of careful consideration, I decided upon the Rum Truffle.

According to Godiva's Chocolate Menu, the Rum Truffle is "milk chocolate ganache and rum in dark chocolate with milk chocolate shavings." And it would appear that it is real rum, and not just a rum flavoring, because it and a couple of other truffles are marked with an asterisk, directing the reader to a footnote that states that liquor truffles are only available in select states. (I wonder if you have to be over 21 to buy them.)

You can also tell that Godiva uses real rum when you take that first bite. There is a definite presence of ethanol in the ganache. You probably couldn't eat enough of them to get drunk. I have no idea which brand of rum was used, but I am thinking that they use a pretty potent rum.

The rum is definitely the dominant flavor here. Yes, you can tell that there is some good chocolate acting as a carrier for that rum flavor, but I really couldn't get more of that from just one truffle. I think I would have to try a few more rum truffles to really get a good idea of how the flavors interact, and that might be a little more than I want to pay.

I would have picked up something at Godiva sometime this month, of course. But getting this particular truffle today almost made up for all the annoyance I have been going through the past week or so replacing all those cards.

Almost.


-jc-
 
 
 
 
 
 
Candy Review
CADBURY EASTER MALLOWS


I'm not completely certain that "Candy Review" is the right term to use here, because there is a bit of cookie involved here. Then again, Twix candy bars have a cookie base, and I always use the term "candy bar" when referring to them, so I guess calling this review a candy review is all right.

I first saw Cadbury Easter Mallows last year at my local World Market store. I had intended to write a review of them then, but before I could acquire the necessary research material, World Market was sold out. This year, it appears that they received more, because there were still plenty on the shelves when I stopped by the store earlier today. Needless to say, this time, I didn't leave the store without purchasing a couple of packages.

Easter Mallows are an import from Cadbury's British unit. The package describes them as "mallow teacakes with Jaffa orange flavoured jam filling covered with milk chocolate." You can almost hear the British accent when you read that description, can't you?

Each Easter Mallow is dome-shaped. The "teacake" base resembles a graham cracker in texture and flavor. The orange filling seems to be placed directly on the cookie base, which is them topped with the marshmallow. And of course, all of this is then covered in Cadbury's milk chocolate.

The orange filling reminds me of orange marmalade, only without the orange peel. I was just a little disappointed, because there in my opinion, there wasn't enough of it. There was just barely enough to get a taste of it. I wanted it to have more orange flavor blending with the chocolate and marshmallow. But what little there is does have an intense flavor, so it makes its presence known quite well.

As I mentioned, the cookie base resembles a graham cracker, and I think it may even be a chocolate graham cracker. The texture is on the soft side. I suspect that, like the graham crackers in a Moon Pie, the cookie in the Easter Mallows absorbs moisture from the marshmallow. And possibly the orange filling as well.

The marshmallow isn't overly spongy, like the marshmallow I have encountered in some candies with a holiday theme. But it also isn't like what I would call the normal marshmallow feel of Jet-Puffed or similar marshmallows from the store. The feel is . . . somewhere in between. There is probably a better description, but that's the best I can do at the moment.

The milk chocolate's function is primarily to hold everything together. It's thinner than I thought it would be. It still manages to make itself known on your tastebuds, although not overwhelmingly so. In fact, all of the flavors manage to blend together without one overwhelming any of the others.

As the name suggests, this is an Easter product. After today, you probably won't be finding it at World Market or anywhere else for a while. But I am fairly certain that this is an annual production for Cadbury's UK unit, so I' sure I will see it again sometime after Valentine's Day 2011.


-jc-