Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

To quote the great Mr. Barry Manilow: "It's Just Another New Years Eve." I won't lie to you guys, I am ready for 2009 to be over and for 2010 to rock on.

As has become my New Year tradition, I just wanted to take a second to thank you guys for reading. Hands down my favorite thing that I get to do is write reviews for this site. As some of you may remember, we lost my stepmother Mary at the beginning of the summer. And I can't tell you how much the emails and comments from around the world meant. Even when the rest of my life wasn't so great, you guys gave me a little chocolate covered outlet where I could take a break from the "real" world...and you will never know how much that has and continues to mean.

Happy New Year to all of you. May 2010 be filled with chocolate, cheese, and of course fuzzy friends.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Broguiere's Farm Vitamin D Whole Milk

There is a reason that I don't do many reviews of just plain milk.

First and most importantly: lactose is NOT my friend. The dairy products I do eat or drink give me only fleeting pleasure (though in most cases, so worth it that I am willing to ignore the aftereffects), and it is not pleasant for me for quite a while after consumption. My cereal habit is fueled by Lactaid brand lactose-free milk...or if I can't get that, Silk brand soy milk.

And beyond that, milk that isn't flavored is...well, boring.

I had actually gone out searching for Broguiere's chocolate milk. Everything I have read about it says it is so good it may cause rainbows and puppies to spontaneously shoot out of your butt. But sadly, my local Vons was sold out.

After reading literally hundreds of positive online mini-reviews of Broguiere's products, it became clear that even the "plain" milk was something to check out. So, although I had to put off getting the chocolate milk, I didn't leave empty-handed.

Broguiere's makes the full range of milk products: whole, skim, etc. Personally, if I am going to suffer, it is going to be for the whole milk variety. All of Broguiere's products are sold in old school glass bottles (and yes, there is a steep CRV on them, but you do get credit for returning the bottles...or, you have a cool bottle should you choose to keep it). Their milk is only minimally processed -- basically, they pasteurize it (to keep the government happy because, y'know, government always, always knows best, right?) but that's about all. And because there are no preservatives added, the shelf life is brief. You have to drink it within a day or two of purchase. The farm has its own store -- a drive-in! -- located in Montebello, near Los Angeles, and their products are also sold in various supermarkets all over Southern California.

I can honestly say I have never had milk like this. Granted, I drink next to no "regular" milk, but this here...just wow.

The texture is more like cream. Heavyish and rich. The milk leaves your mouth coated in that rich fatty film that good ice cream (or heavy cream...errrrmmmm, not that I have ever been known to drink heavy cream...) does.

It's the flavor that you really notice, though. It's almost buttery. Actually, it reminded me a lot of clarified butter. At first that's a bit much...then it gets oddly cravable. (Is that a word? No? Well, it is now.) I won't lie -- I was not pleasant to be around after I drank about half the bottle, but damn if it wasn't worth it. I have never had milk that was practically straight from the cow -- hormone-free cows, at that -- there is a very noticeable difference in the flavor and the consistency. If I could drink dairy without aftereffects, this would be the only milk I would ever drink.

I know that for those of you outside of Southern California, this review may be something of a tease. But you ought to search out local dairies in your own area that sell products like this. The difference between this and the highly processed milk you're probably used to drinking is amazing, and worth whatever it takes to hunt it down.


Vons Supermarket

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trader Joe's Brandy Beans

You may have noticed that I review a lot of liqueur flavored items. That is because I like various spirits, and I really like items flavored with booze. I blame my parents.

As living proof that the Seventies were a very different place to be both a parent and a toddler, let me reveal a tidbit of Gigi family history:

The house I lived in back in Boston was a typical three story house for the area. The bottom floor had living quarters for my grandmothers as well as family room. One corner of said family room was taken up by the same leather-padded bar that every other goombah house in the neighborhood was equipped with, and which looked like Sopranos fan's wet dream. (Everyone in our neighborhood was a goombah. Everyone. Even those who weren't Italian.) Neither of my parents were or are really drinkers -- but again, in that time and place, it seemed everyone had a similar set-up. My parents' bar was stocked mostly with those little "nip" bottles that you get on airlines or on the counter of package/liquor stores. And apparently they had quite a collection going.

One autumn, they noticed that these tiny bottles were being drained of their contents...but whoever was doing it wasn't bothering to throw the bottles away, nor even to finish them. Since they knew they weren't the ones doing the drinking, they immediately assumed that it was my grandmother; who was known to like her glass of wine before bed. They told her that they didn't mind her drinking whatever she wanted, but asked that she at least get rid of the bottles afterward. She denied having anything to do with it. And after this went on for a few months, they started to wonder if she didn't have a drinking problem...but they never caught her in the act, so what could they say?

One night they were watching television (old school TV -- no cable! -- analog! -- with only 3 three channels! Can you imagine?!) and they heard the clinking of bottles behind the bar. They thought this odd because they had not seen my grandmother go by, and my other grandmother was long asleep. I was tucked in upstairs. They thought it might have been the cat...but when the noise continued, they were forced to get up and look. And there behind the bar they found three-year-old me pounding shots. Somehow I had managed to not only get down two flights of stairs, but I got those damn little bottles open -- a feat the much older me today has a hard time doing. My grandmother got to let out a big "I told you so!" and I was labeled a booze hound for life.

Yeah, like I said, the Seventies were a much different place...

Fast-forward about 30 years, and that leaves grown-up me sitting here with a box full of boozy chocolates from Trader Joe's. The box even bears the following warning: Sale of this product to persons under the legal age for purchasing alcoholic beverages is unlawful. It further adds that the beans have a maximum alcohol content of 5.2% by weight. Well, that had my tail wagging like Brian Griffin.

Each little bean is nicely molded into a little glossy crescent of semi-sweet chocolate happiness. When you bite into the bean, the liquid center starts to ooze out. I can understand why they aren't sold to kids! There is certainly a kick. But if you are expecting fine brandy, well...yeah. Right.

Yes, it does have the warm burn alcohol brings, but none of the actual flavor. The most redeeming factor the brandy filling brings to the table is the fact that, if you ate enough of them (and I have a feeling "enough" would be at least the entire box), you might, just possibly, get a minor buzz. Well, the same thing can be said about liquid NyQuil -- and I don't want to eat that enrobed in chocolate, either.

The chocolate: It's waxy, it's kinda gritty, and the bottom of the bean is surprisingly thick. It's a semi-sweet. Not light and sweet enough to be milk, yet not dark and brooding enough to be...well...dark. It's somewhere in the middle, and it's a pretty mediocre middle. And the lingering aftertaste could best be called "stale Raisinet." Yeah.

Trader Joe's so seldom lets me down that I am somewhat surprised that these were as "bleeh" as they are. Don't get me wrong, they aren't the worst candy out there. They won't make you die or fact, they won't even make you want to die. But they will make you wonder why the hell you wasted your money on them.


Trader Joe's

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kit Kat: Wasabi (Limited Edition)

As soon as J-List started tweeting that they had wasabi flavored Kit Kats, I had to buy some.

Wasabi is that lump of green stuff that is served next to sushi. It's a type of horseradish that is finely ground and mixed into a paste. It is also extremely most people, anyway. Personally, I can eat wads of it plain.

While most Americans tend to think of it only as a garnish for sushi, I am one of those odd people who think it's good on everything. Seriously. I have used it on sandwiches of all types, I've smeared it on pepperoni pizza. I have made compound butter with it. One of my signature dishes is a grilled (or broiled) wasabi-crusted salmon.

So a wasabi candy? Hell, yeah!

Here in the U.S., Kit Kat (made in this country by Hershey) doesn't give us many flavor options. However, our East Asian friends get their Kit Kats (made by Nestlé, as are the rest of the world's) in a rather amazing array of flavors. Yes, the Kit Kat universe in Asia is indeed vast compared to ours. In the case of Japanese Kit Kats, some of the flavors are so specialized that they are only available in certain areas of the country. (For example, this flavor was from Shizuoka.) I wish the U.S. would do more limited edition flavors on products in general. I think it would be really interesting to have regional editions of things here...but, onward...

The box that I got contained twelve individually wrapped packets, each containing two mini Kit Kat fingers. The chocolate is a white chocolate that has been flavored with wasabi. The color of the finger is a light boogerish green. When you sniff the bars, all you really get is the sweet sugary smell of the white chocolate. If there is something hot and spicy hiding in there, it is kind of an olfactory ninja.

Biting into the bar does toss a little throwing star of flavor at you. There is no mistaking that there is wasabi in the bar. Not only is it in the white chocolate, but wasabi also flavors the thin layers of creme sandwiched between the wafers. But rather than being strong and potent, or even a little hot, it tastes like you took the teeny-tiniest little bit of wasabi possible and immediately chugged a glass of milk with it to cover the flavor. The essence of the wasabi is present -- there's no mistaking the flavor -- but what you really taste is the strong milky, sweetness of the chocolate. I didn't get the slightest hint of the heat that I love.

Still, even without the heat, I loved the flavor. It was a different way to have something I am already crazy about. I am glad that Nestlé went with white chocolate (even though I am not a fan as a rule) rather than a dark or a milk. The white chocolate kept its sweetness but allowed the wasabi flavor to come through. I think a darker chocolate might have overwhelmed it. I blew through several of these little packs in a really short time.

Check out Jen's review here from her site Jen Ken's Kit Kat Blog. Jen found the bars to be much hotter then I did. Jen's review is also mentioned on The Impulsive Buy Podcast #10.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet

I know that wine sorbets are not exactly new, but with the lone exception of the Cabernet sorbet from Bennett's Ice Cream at the Los Angeles Farmers Market, I have not had the chance to try any other versions.

Mind you, I've seen the pint containers of Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet in supermarkets for at least a year, and I've kept coming up with reasons not to get it. But I figured, hey -- it's Christmas Eve, and if that isn't as good an excuse to indulge as any, there'll never be a better one. (Well, OK, maybe New Year. But I didn't feel like waiting another week.)

The sorbet is a deep purple. It really does look like frozen Cabernet. It also smells like Cabernet. Yes, I like it when things that are flavored with wine and/or liqueur actually look and taste like the real thing.

So, does it taste like the real thing? YES IT DOES!

The first thing you taste is an explosion of berries. It's very sweet -- kinda like raspberries, cherries, and blueberries had an orgy, followed by the birth of a really purple baby. (I'll otherwise not speculate on what a creature with three biological parents might be like. Suffice to say I live in Southern California, which is entirely weird enough already.)

Just when you start thinking the berries are a little too sweet, the tart, slightly puckering grape emerges.

You know the way good red wine tastes after you've held it in your mouth for a few seconds so that it's warmed slightly from your own body heat, and then you swallow it? That's exactly the flavor that kicks in. If you don't know what that is like, I'm not sure I can do it justice but here goes... It's like slightly sour grapes, there's a little cherry and some currants. It's sort of like a frozen wine cooler -- but I mean that in the best way possible.

Y'know what? Just get some of this!

Vons Supermarket

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chocri Custom Bar: "Gigi's Dream Lemon Bar"

It's the day after Christmas, and we all know what that feels like. All the buildup, all the excitement (all the stress!) is over for another year. And we are now left wondering just how good we have to be to make the "Nice" list next year. (I don't think I will make it there in this lifetime.) There has to be something to brighten up the day...

And there is! How about a custom made candy bar?!

About a month ago, I got an email from the German chocolate makers, Chocri. Chocri has been creating custom bars in Europe for a while, and is now expanding into the United States market. (The official U.S. launch date is January 5th, 2010.) And they offered me the opportunity to create my own bars, with my choice of ingredients. BOOOOYAH! Was I psyched? You better believe it!

For the base chocolate you can choose between milk, dark, or white. Then you can add up to five additional items -- and there are over 80 toppings to choose from! I kid you not when I say I spent over an hour designing my bars. And you even get to name your bar if you want to.

I am going to rate this a little differently than I normally would. Because I selected the flavors that went into the bar, I can't really base the rating on the final taste (for good or for bad) of the bar as a whole. After all, the individual ingredients could be great on their own -- but what if I chose a combination that turned out not to work very well? I certainly couldn't ding Chocri for my own poor decision. Therefore, I am going to base the rating, as much as possible, upon the individual ingredients by themselves.

I named this bar Gigi's Dream Lemon Bar. And I included ingredients I have always wanted to have combined in one chocolate lemon bar. Those ingredients were:
* Dark chocolate
* Lemon Chocolate Drops
* Multicolored Pepper
* Organic Cane Sugar
* Real Gold Flakes
Now how could that possibly go wrong? It couldn't, and it didn't!

The dark chocolate is a 64% cacao. It has a fantastic snap and is super smooth. It's got a nice coffee flavor.

The lemon chocolate drops are made of white chocolate, flavored with lemon. Yes, we all know how I feel about white chocolate -- but in this case, the lemon taste is really zesty and just makes for a rich citrus burst of flavor.

The multicolored pepper consists of small whole peppercorns (green, black, red). I really like peppercorns mixed with the lemon. They add just a little heat, but they don't overwhelm the bar.

The organic cane sugar: Very good. None of that all-too-common HFCS nonsense; this is real, old school sugar. You can taste the difference. And the grains of sugar on the top of the bar look pretty nice.

The gold flakes -- well, I just think they're cool, and I wanted this bar to look spiffy. Silly perhaps, but hey, it's my bar! And yes, it is perfectly safe to ingest gold in small amounts. (Surely you've seen at least one of the several popular liqueurs with gold flakes floating in them.)

All of the ingredients on their own were of excellent quality. The quantities were generous, but not one of the flavors overpowered the others. It was obvious to me that the good folks in Germany who actually combine the ingredients you choose have an excellent sense of proportion.

If I do say so myself, I designed a pretty good bar! The pepper adds spice, the cane sugar keeps the dark chocolate and the pepper from being too bitter...but at the same time there is not enough sugar that it gets too sweet. (Again, they nailed the proportions perfectly!) And the lemon drops add a fun, bright flavor to the bar. So yeah, it really did turn out to be my dream lemon bar. (OK, I would have liked some candied lemon zest...but Chocri said that they are still in the process of adding that to the options.)

When you receive your chocolates, you'll notice that the packaging is very simple, very Spartan in appearance (see the first picture). It does what it has to do, namely protect the chocolate it contains, and that's it. It looks nothing like the fancy, artistic packaging that high-end chocolates often come in...but do not be deceived by appearances! After all, even diamonds come out of hard lumps of rock and coal...and believe me, these basic, functional boxes contain some true diamonds of the chocolate world.

Remember the U.S. site: launches on Jan 5th, 2010. Once it's up, you can create your own bar. And if you like your custom bar so much that you want to reorder the same one later on, just keep the code that will be printed on the label -- that way, you don't need to remember all the specific ingredients you chose. (If you want to try a bar exactly like I made it, you can use the Reorder option -- which is shown directly below the choices of base chocolate -- and use code: ijoaq7)

Y'know what? Chocolate really doesn't come any more fun than this!


Sample From Company

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

It's a little known fact that while a certain man in a red suit may get all the credit for dropping off presents on Christmas Eve, it is in fact George and Doofy Dog who travel the world in a magic flying cat bed to deliver treats, toys & catnip to all the cats of the world (humans and dogs can go talk to the fat guy).

George and Doofy made me promise to say a special Merry Christmas from them to all of their many fans. While they may not have brought you fuzzy mice or an official Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time -- maybe, just maybe, if you are really good next year, they will try expanding to include humans.

May your day be full of fun, candy, and furry friends.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First Blush: Cabernet Juice

I have tried First Blush juice before (somewhere in the archives is a review of the Chardonnay juice) and I liked it. But sadly, they are only sold at one store in my area -- and wouldn't you know, it is not a store I go to very often. And unless First Blush is on sale, I'd rather get a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" from Trader Joe's that's actually wine, instead of spending $2.99 for an 11.5-ounce bottle of grape juice.

But every now and then, they do go on sale...and I snapped a couple up.

First Blush juices are made from the juice of wine varietal grapes. Hence the juice contains some of the same qualities that the wine of the same name would have -- but with no alcohol. They also are caffeine and gluten free. They have no added sugar, no artificial colors or flavors. And there's a ton of antioxidants as well.

But how does it taste?

Well, the juice smells more like regular old grape juice than it does a glass of Cabernet wine. The color is dead-on identical to the wine -- but it forms that little foam around the rim of the glass that juice does and wine doesn't.

It doesn't taste like your kid's grape juice. It's very smooth and sweet. But it's a natural sweetness, rather than that slap-you-in-the-face HFCS sweet that many commercial grape juices have.

The best way I can describe the flavor is to say that it tastes like raisin juice. Yes, I fully realize that raisins are grape mummies -- but still, raisins taste different than grapes do. Just imagine that someone somehow juiced some raisins and made a drink out of it. I know that doesn't sound too appealing, but it actually does taste good. It's like a super concentrated grape flavor. It's very smooth and there's no acid burn. The aftertaste is kinda like black cherry and molasses.

Honestly, if I didn't know that this juice was made from wine grapes, I wouldn't have put the two together. But it is seriously good juice in any case.


Vons Supermarket

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Harry & David Blueberry Chocolates

I am one of those people that will eat blueberries on everything (or made into everything). I absolutely love them!

I was doing some Christmas shopping when I came across these. Looking at the packaging, I wasn't sure if the little candies contained whole blueberries, or if they were simply blueberry flavored -- maybe with blueberry pulp or something. "Real fruit inside," as the label proclaims, can be interpreted rather broadly.

WOOHOO! I need not have worried. These are indeed whole blueberries encased in chocolate.

The shiny blue-purple orbs include a good quarter-inch of milk chocolate enrobing the blueberries. The colored outer layer seems infused with blueberry flavoring. It's not the strongest flavor, but it's noticeable.

The milk chocolate is sweet, but it is quite creamy and smooth. You can taste the milk notes. It's not an outstanding chocolate in any way, but it does pair nicely with the blueberries.

The blueberries were fairly large and the texture varied from one piece to another. Some of the blueberries were very plump and juicy. Others were more like a blueberry raisin. I prefer the plump berries, but the contrast in the texture keeps things interesting.

This is one of those candies that you start off eating one or two, and then before you know it, half the bag is gone.

Ooops, I stand corrected: The whole bag is now gone!


Barnes & Noble

Monday, December 21, 2009

O.N.E. Coconut Water: with a splash of Pink Guava

Yes folks, I am well aware that on many an occasion I have repeatedly stated my hatred of coconut. And I really don't like the stuff. But I do sometimes like coconut flavored drinks. (Yeah, it's girly, but I admit to liking Malibu Rum on occasion.)

I also have a best friend who is from the Caribbean islands (St. Croix) and he has been known to wax poetic about how great coconut water is. However, when he had it, it was directly from a coconut that had just been plucked off the tree. And he may or may not have drunk it body shot style off a hot island girl. How could that not be good, even if you don't like coconut?

Now, in case you are wondering, there is a difference between coconut water and coconut milk. Coconut water is sort of like coconut primordial ooze. It's collected from inside the shell of the coconut before the fruit matures, and before the "meat" of the fruit has even had a chance to form. If you have ever shaken a coconut at the grocery store and heard water swishing around, that is coconut water -- kind of the senior citizen version -- because by that point, the fruit has ripened and the meat is formed...but you get the point. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is actually made from the meat of the coconut being grated, soaked in warm water, and then squeezed through cheesecloth.

Coconut water is one of the most popular drinks in South America (and the Caribbean). My friend has tried several types commercially available here in the States, but none of them have passed his tests. He says they all taste like chemicals.

According to O.N.E., their coconut water is not artificially sweetened, only flavored with real fruit juice, and contains 15 times more potassium than sports drinks (possibly from Kazakhstan, maybe mined by members of the Sagdiyev family?) . It's also full of antioxidants, and might be able to make you fly. OK, I made that last part up. All of that is great, but what I really care about is...what does it tastes like? And will it pass the BFF test?

The water is packaged in Tetra Paks (which have all sorts of spiffy qualities -- it helps preserve the product without added chemicals). I just liked it because it was like drinking a from a giant grown up juice box.

So, for the tasting: I made said best friend from St. Croix try it first. And I have to say he was pretty damn impressed! He said that while it doesn't taste exactly right off the tree, it is pretty darn close. He was happy to see that they even left the little bits of coconut pulp that normally get strained out in other bottled versions.

Did I like it?

I did. It tastes like coconut -- only not. I know that sounds weird, but it's hard to describe. It's sweet, and a little salty. The flavor that we think of as being quintessentially coconut is there, but it's really subtle. The guava adds sort of a fruit punch note to the mix. It was super refreshing. I was afraid I'd have to slog through, it but I gulped my share down. Basically, think of the most refreshing Hawaiian Punch ever, and you pretty much have it.

I'll be buying this one again.


Albertsons Supermarket

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vosges Holiday Bonbon Collection

Let me say a big thank you to Vosges Haut Chocolate for ignoring the fact that I rank rather high up on the Naughty List, and for treating me to an early Christmas present by sending me this collection of holiday-inspired truffles.

There are four different truffles in the collection:

* Mascarpone & Ceylon Cinnamon Snap
* Holiday Plum Pudding
* Candy Cane Peppermint
* Eggnog & Jamican Rum

And just try tell me they aren't beautiful to look at, I dare you! Anyway, for this review, I will start with...

Mascarpone & Ceylon Cinnamon Snap:

I love mascarpone cheese so much that I have been known to eat it plain, straight from the container. Mascarpone, should you not know, is a type of super-rich cream cheese that can be eaten on its own -- or mixed into anything and everything. In my family, we make cannoli filling with it. (Should you want to try my family's version pick, up a copy of Henry Hill's The Wiseguy Cookbook. The cannoli recipe on pages 86-88 is actually my mother's.)

And keeping with the Goodfellas theme, Ceylon cinnamon is basically the Godfather of the cinnamon world. All other cinnamon-type products, while still members of the family, are various levels of underbosses, capos, and plain old soldiers. The cinnamon is sprinkled generously atop the 45% deep milk chocolate shell. Inside is the mascarpone. This truffle also contains organic sour cream.

Giving the truffle a sniff from the top, it's the deep woodsy spice of the cinnamon that you notice. Once you get into the center of the truffle (normally I would just bite and dig in, but for the sake of pretty pictures we sliced the truffles first), what immediately stands out is the rich dairy smell of the cheese.

When I bit into this truffle, for a split second I swear all I saw was blinding white light and unicorns! There might have been a rainbow or two, and Barry Manilow was in the background singing a soaring crescendo. Yeah, this truffle is just that good. You start with a little heat from the cinnamon on top, then when you break through the deep milk chocolate shell, the cool silky filling flows into your mouth. It's sort of like an extra creamy chocolate mousse, mixed with a healthy dose of my beloved mascarpone cheese. The deep milk chocolate was the perfect choice. It's creamy enough that it didn't get lost in the strong dairy of the cheese, and yet not dark enough that it was bitter or upstaged the cinnamon. If I didn't know the sour cream was in there I wouldn't have noticed it -- but you know what? I don't care! If you only try one Vosges truffle in your lifetime, make it this one!

Holiday Plum Pudding:

I don't have much base of reference for plum pudding. About all I really know is that the Cratchits (the family from Dicken's "A Christmas Carol") seemed to think it would not be Christmas without it. Oh, and that the traditional version is a type of steamed pudding made with different dried fruits, liquors, nuts, and is often topped with hard sauce. But I can't say I've actually had one.

The Vosges version contains plums, Armagnac (a type of brandy), and marzipan, and is covered with 65% dark chocolate.

The truffle is topped with a pretty little piece of edible silver foil. What made this one stand out was the texture. The center, rather than being completely smooth, is layered. The top portion of the filling is the same silky creme as the others. Then right below that is a layer of what looks like finely chopped plums, and on the bottom of that is the grainy marzipan layer.

I loved the overall flavor. It was lightly boozy, and the plums were plump and sweet. The dark chocolate takes the edge off of the sweetness and melts nicely. I hate to say that what ruined this truffle for me actually was my beloved marzipan. Mind you, the flavor of the marzipan was good: almonds with mild cherry notes. It was the texture I didn't like. It was like a very loose, grainy fondant. Had it been smoother or firmer, I would have really loved it as is...did I mention that the plums were really sweet?

Candy Cane Peppermint:

It's hard to get more simple than all natural candy cane pieces, peppermint, and 65% dark chocolate. And simplicity is often a virtue.

I liked the fact that the top is where the crunchy bits of candy live. It gives a little contrast in texture, and the red bits look like shards of stained glass. The outer 65% dark chocolate shell is a really deep woodsy, earthy chocolate. There's some coffee flavor. On its own it would be a bit too bitter for me -- but paired with the sweetness of the smooth mint center, it's perfect.

The center is very cool on the tongue and the texture is almost like pudding. The chocolate is so smooth and rich I could practically drink it. The peppermint is brisk. It's very natural, not mediciny or artificial. Overall it worked beautifully.

Eggnog & Jamaican Rum:

WOOHOO! Eggnog! Eggnog with RUM! As I have said before, in honor of my best friend who is from St. Croix, I am partial to Cruzan rum. But Vosges didn't get that memo and instead they opted to use Appleton Estate rum. Appleton has been distilling rum since 1749 and is the oldest distillery in Jamaica -- so it's safe to say that they know a thing or two about making rum. The truffle also contains nutmeg and ginger, and it is all wrapped up in white chocolate from the Dominican Republic.

I went into this truffle excited because it's eggnog and rum, but also a little worried, because it's a white chocolate truffle and I am just not a fan. But if anyone could make white chocolate doable for me it would be Vosges, so...

The truffle smelled sort of like rum and steamed milk. I didn't get the eggnog or the ginger at first. But the truffle center is like the best eggnog ever. It's creamy, it's rich, it's custardy. The nutmeg is there. The rum is strong enough that its presence is known, but it doesn't over power the other flavors. The ginger is represented by little soft bits of ginger that go unnoticed until they explode in your mouth. Yum! The white chocolate... OK, again let's remember that I don't like white chocolate. I did find that the outer shell seemed dry -- and that was not the case of the dark or the milks. It was creamy tasting, and there were good vanilla notes. If you are a fan of white chocolate, I expect you will love the shell. I loved the filling...oh, the bad things I would do for large quantities of that filling...

Overall, even with the couple of (minor) qualities I didn't care for, this remains a truly stellar collection. The Mascarpone/Ceylon Cinnamon Snap alone is so good that no matter how the other three flavors had turned out, I still would have been happy.

Absolutely outstanding.


Sample From Company

Let me remind those of you who are still shopping for the perfect gift for the old friends and loved one (or for yourself) that Vosges Haut Chocolate is offering my readers 10% off orders placed by December 31st. Just be sure to use the special code BLGF09 when checking out.