Lovely Superfruit Chews

Happy government shutdown! It’s okay, we have plenty to talk about on Foodette. Sometimes I feel like a pet seal- what can I say? I perform better when I have a small treat, and I need lots of little bites of energy to keep me through the day. I’m lucky that I live close enough to school that I don’t have to resort to buying my own lunch, but I like to keep a stash of goodies in my car and briefcase, too, for days when one class goes slightly over the schedule or when I just feel low on energy. Lately, I’ve been eating organic candy chews from Lovely Candy Co- these were sent to me over the summer, but I recently found the pack I’d been saving for school: superfruit!

They come in three flavors- blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry, and come individually wrapped. They are quite the faithful homage to Starburst- same creamy, chewy texture and shape, but are all natural, gluten-free, GMO-free, and fruity as hell, despite being somewhat stickier. I haven’t been able to put them down, and I’m not typically a candy person.
Where these succeed outside of their commercial counterparts is their flavor. They have sizable chunks of freeze-dried fruit, and some of the flavors have herbaceous notes to them. I am unsure if that’s from the fruit itself or an additional flavoring, but it makes for a very good foil to the sweet fruit and sugary base.

The only area where these fall short is packaging- the predictability of Starburst makes them easy to eat and parcel out. Everybody has a favorite flavor. With these, there are more to the package- approximately 30, but the flavor discrepancy was a little ridiculous. In my package, I had 17 blueberry candies, 10 cranberries, and 3 precious raspberries, which happened to be my favorite flavor. A more even adjustment would behoove the brand.

Sugarfina Part I

Sometimes, treats come in that I’d just love to share. Whenever popcorn comes in, I know it’s time to give my Dad a call, and when anything with meat or cheese arrives at the door, the Bedfellow is mysteriously present. Gummies are a tough one, though. Nobody I know really enjoys them like I do, so when they come in, I typically have to eat them myself or coerce a willing participant into enjoying them with me. I swear, the fringe benefits of being my friend are ridiculous, if you’re not a total asshole. 

Recently, Sugarfina sent a gorgeous box filled to the brim with gummy and chocolate candies, sourced from France and Germany. These are unique because they’re impossible to get unless you’ve got ties to the gummy mafia or are in the candy industry yourself, as they’re made for the company under different names. So in a sense, they’re gummy curators. They sent over a very Foodette-ish selection, the bulk of which I’ll present in candy pornalicious fashion here.

The Belgian Ale gummies were my favorite, by far, although from the convincing taste, I’m still not quite sure if they were gluten-free. The flavor was fantastic, with a very fruity, malty bite right at the start, very tangy, with a yeast-flavored edge. I don’t know how they did it, outside of actually infusing the candy with beer. Not only does it taste like a beer, it tastes like a good beer, one I’d actually drink. It only adds points to the fact that each gummy is shaped like a foamy beer stein, with a marshmallow cap at the top. Likely one of the most unique products I’ve had all year.

They sent a boozy chocolate, too, the Absinthe Cordials. The construction of these was interesting. From what I discerned, the absinthe syrup center was coated in a mint sugar candy, surrounded by milk chocolate, and yet another hard, green candy shell. A crispier candy than one might expect, with a very convincing mint flavor, though as a former frequenter of absinthe and its friends in Parisian bars, I’d liken this to more of a pastis flavor, as the licorice doesn’t come out as much as I’d like, but could also argue for the absinthe as it is bright green and does have a grainy crunch reminiscent of a sugar cube in absinthe. So clever.

The final cocktail candy came out a little squished in appearance, but are ridiculously fun to eat. The Cuba Libre gummies are firm and jellied pyramids of alternating cola gummy and rum gummy, with a semi-liquid gel center of rum. The rum renders them piquant, the cola makes them sweet. There’s a spiced tang to them that really evokes drinking a cold, icy cocktail, and each gummy is perfectly bite-sized. I love them. These would be the coolest party favor.

Bacon white chocolate pretzel bites were next, which I did admittedly eat despite the better judgment of my stomach. It wasn’t worth the headache, unfortunately. While white chocolate is a unique base for a bacon-based treat, it was the predominant flavor and lent a dysfunctional sweetness to the candy that even the salty bacon couldn’t balance out. 
The sugar peach sweethearts were next, and were the perfect treat to eat while studying intentional infliction of emotional distress and celebrating the end of summer. They mimicked everything fun about a ripe peach- a little fizzy fuzziness in the sour sugar coating and center, and a very perfumy, floral, yet honeyed flavor. Cybele at CandyBlog reviewed these, and said they were like “little miracle pieces” in how deftly they encapsulated the fruit, which I found quite apt.

I only had enough in me to try these five, but I still have five more to go through! I’m all sugared out. More tomorrow!

Liddabit Sweets Dorie Bar

I just joined a new fitness club in town. It’s pretty tony, with warm towel service, and private showers and changing rooms, and not a single meathead or college student in sight. That’s the most impressive part- or at least it was, until I saw the cat video. In addition to individual televisions, the gym also has a communal one with a slightly creepy, Big Brother-esque set of rotating messages like, ‘stretch before you exercise!’ ‘drink lots of water!’, and the ever-popular, ‘Planet Fitness is the enemy! Down with Planet Fitness! Glory to Supreme New York Sports Club!’ Sometimes they show videos or tips for women’s fitness, but today was something special. They showed a music video that looked more akin to something you’d see on Buzzfeed’s list of 28 Cat-Related Exercise Videos You Must See In Your Twenties- a fake advertisement slash music video for cat exercises, like the ab cruncher and paw extensions. It was mesmerizing, and absolutely nobody but me made any notice of it.

In other news, this is a candy bar I tried a while ago, back before the gluten sensitivity bullshit kicked in. This stuck out like a delicious sore thumb at the Fancy Food Show, with one of the more fascinating flavor combinations and packages that I’d seen. Liddabit Sweets has been around for a while, famous for their gourmet takes on classic candy bars. The Dorie, their newest bar, features a dark cocoa cookie base with a salted caramel ganache topping and chunks of sauteed dried apricots with black pepper, surrounded by milk chocolate. As I expected, the flavors were extremely ambitious, but not nearly as cohesive as I wanted them to be. The black pepper and interestingly, cardamom, are front and present, followed by jammy dried apricots and chocolate last. The cookies, salt, and caramel get lost in the more strong, spicy flavors.

I can’t say this is entirely surprising, but like the popcorn with brown butter, the overarching need to balance the richer, desserty flavors of chocolate and caramel with citrus and fruit elements leads to an imbalance in favor of the more acidic ingredients. It tastes like a piece of fruit cake, with the softness of the cookie acting as somewhat of a pastry. It’s much messier than I expected, which makes it difficult to share. Not bad, but lacking the distinction the ingredients lead me to believe it would have to set it apart from your average Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar.

Dove Mint Chocolate Promises

I’m totally a celebrity. My UPS guy thinks I’m a legend, to the point where I have to give him my autograph every time I get a package. Geez, stalker much? My sexuality is mystical, my Levis are unwashed so the denim stays pure, or at least until the washing machine in my unit is fixed. And I get plenty of exciting packages in the mail, circulars notwithstanding. Recently, Dove sent me a package that wouldn’t have been out of place at the Oscars, or at the very least, the Outstanding Performance in Telemundo Series Awards. Candles! Lip balm! Doublemint! Hand soap! It’s perfect for both the mint lover and the obsessive compulsive cleaner in you. And thankfully, I have both. 

They’ve recently introduced Dove Mint Chocolate Promises, now 150% more reliable than the promises your parents made you when you were seven. I mean, did you really get that pony? Now, you can self-soothe and self-medicate with chocolate. I’m not typically a fan of chocolate and mint, but in this case, the mint is swirled with white chocolate so the herbaceous flavor is far less intense. The Promises have a very mild flavor, heavy on the cocoa butter and vanilla, almost like butter mints coated in chocolate. The dark chocolate is not very nuanced as far as dark chocolates go, but I liked how it blended with the mint without being too overpowering. They’re tasty as a snack and have a cool melt on the tongue.  
If you ignore the vaguely ominous messages printed on the inside of the label that seems almost tailored to speak to your frail self-esteem – “Chocolate won’t let you down!” they’re the perfect snack. I’m surprised that I haven’t tried these before, as they make a nice treat to put out for guests with coffee after dinner. Or serve to the paparazzi outside my house. I mean, that frat guy with the camera who stares at my back door is definitely with the press. Right?
So, just remember, the only certainty in life is smooth chocolate. And, y’know, the sweet, tasty embrace of death.Delicious mint chocolates! Suck it, Thomas Jefferson! Dove for life! Also, don’t they make soap?  
This post has been brought to you by My New Bathroom Ceiling (patent pending) courtesy of George, the handyman who didn’t bat an eye at my creepy paintings. Thanks, George.

Snap Infusion Mel Naturally Designed Supercandy

My life is so busy. I am such a busy, important person. What does someone with such a jam-packed, watch-checking life need? A new candy! A new candy because I am perpetually bored with life, filled to the brim with existential ennui as my special, paper-free Generation Next smartphone-delivered horoscope would have me believe. Right now, or at least, until the next popular Buzzfeed article, that candy is Snap Infusions, a naturally designed supercandy that appeals to my busy and important life because it is also moving too quickly to do silly things like type out the word “caramel,” choosing instead to label it “MEL.” We’ll come back to that. The package is covered in more holographic noise than your favorite sweat-stained Pokemon card, and even features jizz-like blobs on the surface. It’s also filled to the brim with keywords like “energize,” “protect,” and “balance,” making it the confectionary equivalent of NeuroPassion.

MEL is small and turd-like in appearance, and tastes like poorly made Milk Duds. The chocolate coating is scuffed and has a crumbly, cheap flavor to it. The caramel would be inoffensive if each penny-sized piece wasn’t packed with more additives than a Flintstones vitamin. I can almost smell the freshly ground B12. The pleasantly salty nugget quickly transforms into a bitter-flavored chew, making each bite like eating a protein bar, torturous piece by piece.

Snap Infusions employs four catchy IM-style titles for its products that range from asininely short to all-caps words bordering on Inception. Reading the descriptions for GUM made me wonder if GUM was an automatic replacement for another, non-GenNext sanctioned activity. “I use GUM day and night. GUM gives me the energy I need. I like to take GUM the old-fashioned way, with a rolled-up BFranxxx and AmEx card. Amirite? Amirite? GUM, ladies and gentlemen!” It sounds like an old Robin Williams sketch.

Speaking of things you take up the nose, ounce for ounce, MEL may cost more than cocaine in a glam-packed neighborhood. $2 for ten candies puts them at 20 cents apiece, a steep price for boiled sugar and the hopes and dreams of innocent athletes. Then again, Snap Infusion’s website would argue that it’s a small price to pay for not “ending up a dried-out shell of [your] former self.” As someone who may or may not have modeled for the “before” side of weight-loss scamvertisements, I take liberty in quoting from the late Roget Ebert (Houston, I sense a trend) in saying that someday, I may be thin, but Snap Infusions will forever be known for creating this awful candy.

Cafe-Tasse Cafe et Speculoos Bar

Last week at SIAL, I caught eye of this small chocolate company, sandwiched between a large-scale red bean distributor and an enthusiastic basmati-hawking salesman. And yes, the first thing that caught my eye was their speculoos bar. That, and their impressive selection of tea-infused chocolate bars. Flavored Belgian chocolate is new, for me, at least. Perusing the selection at SIAL, it seemed that the most common varieties were various slabs of milk, dark, and white, with some almond-chunked versions thrown in for fun. I was curious to see how Cafe-Tasse would treat not only the time-honored beauty of speculoos, but how they would infuse that with coffee in an attempt to recreate one of the world’s most satisfying sensations, outside of applying flavored body cream to a partner or leaping into a kiddy pool full of puppies: dipping cookies into coffee.

Yes, naysayers be damned, this is yet another example of how awesome speculoos is as an ingredient. This particular bar is a thick, molded bar filled with a speculoos and coffee cookie dough. I didn’t know that this was cookie dough in advance, but in retrospect, the textures are one and the same: very gritty, sweet, and creamy, with chunks of crispy cookie. The pieces are a little large, but are very satisfying with the milk chocolate, a fantastic example of Belgian expertise. It has a creamy, cool melt and coffee-infused flavor. Very well-executed, and most importantly, well-balanced with the filling so that neither overwhelmed the other. (Note: This was accidentally packaged in the “Lait and Speculoos” wrapper but a label on the back indicated that it was “Cafe et Speculoos”. Either that, or this is an elaborately-enduced placebo effect that I’m not yet aware of.)

Most of the speculoos-themed desserts have fared well in my book, but this is my favorite so far due to its ingenious usage of combinations in a single chocolate bar. It reminds me of a better-executed version of the Trader Joe’s speculoos bar. The construction of this leads me to believe that Cafe-Tasse may also be the distributor for their plain version as well, though personally, I find this to have a better, less greasy texture.

Haribo Orangina Pik

Everything here is cute because I am in the stage of what’s commonly known to sociologists as the “honeymoon phase” of complete and utter culture shock. The dogs belonging to the homeless people (I mean nomads!) are cute. The pigeons (I mean doves!)  on the streets are cute. Even the overpriced (I mean high-quality!) groceries are cute and wonderful and amazing. And so far, the cutest thing of them all has undoubtedly been these gummies, the result of six subway stops worth of hunting for the one vending machine that I vaguely recall having them. This is what’s known as a “compulsion.” Anyhow, screw that. Haribo has partnered with Orangina to create a gummy, the Haribo Orangina Pik and that’s all you need to know.

Orangina, still reeling from (and hawking) their successful man-beast hybrid sex campaign (look it up, it’s real) has made the absolute best career move of their entire life. Haribo makes the best gummies in the world. It’s a very natural, perfect pairing. And the gummies are shaped like little Orangina bottles. If I ever type a more perfect sentence, I won’t know it because I’ll have had an aneurysm from the cuteness flooding to my brain. There are two types of gummies to correspond with two Orangina flavors. Presumably, these were orange and blood orange, but looking at the Orangina website, they could be Orangina Indien or Orangina Geisha for all I know. The website is a little traumatizing.

The gummies, however, forgive all. They’re very bright both in color and flavor, with a forward, bitter zestiness and distinct sour, sweet fruitiness. The Haribo chew is like nothing else- dense and fleshy, with the most satisfying bite. The gummies are very firm and hold their shape well, and despite their thick coating of sour sugar crystals, shed none of them in the poking/photography process. I adored these. It’s fairly obvious that I loved them, but I especially loved them because they were so different in flavor. I even went out and bought Orangina to compare them to, and they were identical.

The Orangina Rouge was sweeter than the regular one, with a juicy, slightly sour flavor and lemon-heavy base, and the regular Orangina was a little more bitter, more reminiscent of the oil of orange rinds rather than the actual fruit. Delicious, idiosyncratic, and- dare I say it? Damned sweet.

3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow

France, I love you, but you’re not exactly known for your strange candies and treats. While green tea pastries and a menagerie of macarons can be found almost anywhere, they lack spin-offs of classic American products a la Japan (with the ignoble exception of the Croque MacDo) and such, find me longing for Twix’s sugar cookie and caramel apple releases this fall.
Luckily, after reaching out to Mars, they sent an early release of their 3 Musketeers Hot Cocoa with Marshmallow minis, an exciting addition to their 2012 winter line. It’s definitely a candy I’ll be stocking up on before I’m surrounded by Haribo and Nestle Lion bars! And hopefully, gummy Eiffel Towers, too, if sixth grade memory serves me correctly.

The chilly confection comes in 25-calorie minis and will later be released in a regular sized 2.13 oz. bar as well. This tastes more like cocoa with marshmallows than you’d expect- the milk chocolate enhances the bittersweet flavors in the nougat, a puffier, airier example than the regular bar. In appearance, nothing differentiates it from the regular 3 Musketeers bar. I would have liked to see some marshmallow pieces or a stronger visual cue toward the wintry theme. The texture is squashy with a firmness and bounce to it suggestive of a marshmallow, but has a density more akin to marshmallow fluff. The flavor is creamy and satisfying, and even incorporates some of the powdery cornstarch and sugar notes of marshmallows melting into a mild bittersweet cocoa flavoring. One or two bites was really satisfying.

I wanted to test the integrity of the marshmallow filling, so I popped a few into the microwave to see if the texture was more than just the power of suggestion. Whoa! Within fifteen seconds in the microwave, one of my candies was obliterated and working its way down the side of the bowl. I’ve seen videos of the regular bars having similar results, but in these, the toasted marshmallow flavor was even more intense after it melted. It hardened up into a very crispy treat! I think this is a successful snack, even if it doesn’t radically reinvent the wheel, and offers a seasonal twist far better than differently colored packaging or the ubiquitous winter mint flavoring.

Justin’s Nut Butter Peanut Candy Bar

According to my fantastic, made-up demographics, some of you like pie with your coffee, some of you like coffee with your pie, but you don’t like coffee-flavored pie. Likewise, some of you like romance novels, and some of you like food blogging, but some of you also don’t like erotic food-blogging. In the interest of satisfying the tastes all of my dear readers, I have elected to cut down Fifty Shades of Chocolate to a one-week serial. Rest assured, fans, Jessica McLovin’ McDesire McDestiny’s Child McWunderbar will find a partner to call her own. Haters, I’m modifying the chocolate week posts to have the rating before the story. SFW for all and if you want to read it, you can, and if you don’t, you don’t have to.

Today we’re trying Justin’s Nut Butter Candy Bars, a playful counterpart to their take on peanut butter cups. Now they’re getting into Snickers bars, too, and in a pretty decent way. I first tried these at the Fancy Food Show and am now tasting them again. The nice folks at Justin’s gave me a sample of their Milk Chocolate Peanut bar to review, the one I thought would be best as a comparative taster. The bar is advertised as having 25% less sugar, 25% more protein, and 100% more fiber than the leading bar and it tastes that way on all counts. 

The bar itself has a less indulgent mouthfeel, but a wholesome, tasty set of ingredients. The marshmallow nougat holds the bar together well but there seems to be a lack of proportion between the caramel and nougat. It has a crumbly texture with a more solid, chewy caramel base. I’m also confused as to where the peanuts come in. The ingredients list both peanut butter and peanuts, but neither showed up very well within the bar’s flavor. It was just sort of bland. For a company whose nut butter is notoriously indulgent, delicious, and savory, I was surprised that this was formulated with such a restrained flavor. It’s straightforward, but unfortunately, crumbles beneath the competition. Perhaps a little more eclectic usage of ingredients would save this one.

“No! Not the FCC requirements and giveaway runoff!” I screamed, running down the hall of infinite darkness. “I don’t want to use stock photos!” As I ran, a large figure came before me, stopping the mommy bloggers and social networking affiliates in their tracks. Was he wearing Timberlands and carrying a Camelbak? Who was this hiking-garbed savior of mine, this creature of light and Luna bars?

I woke up. It was just a dream! After my night with P, it would seem that I was descending into madness. P was dark…perhaps a little too dark. I needed something to refresh myself, a break from all of this sin and desire. Although, I thought to myself, it had been a long time since I’d felt the satisfaction of such a bar. P and I had made plans to see their friend Porcini tomorrow night, an experience I was told I wouldn’t soon forget.

I shivered at the thought. Shortly after we’d consummated our appetites, P had made me sign a contract, a nondisclosure agreement stating that I would never eat another non-organic candy bar, or eat empty calories when I could be pleasuring and receiving pleasure from a delicious, organic, all-natural piece of chocolate. It was all so new and scary to me. I needed a break, a walk in the fresh air.

Walking along the hallways of my local Whole Foods, I breathed in the heady aroma of roasted chicken, salad bars, and hippie musk. It was so perfect here, and the last place I knew P would find me. Turning a corner, I collided with a buff, stout bar, nearly knocking it off the shelf. Taking a glance at its ingredients, I jerked my hand back, as though burnt. Snickers. The child-labor ambiguity, the fairtrade contracts…it was forbidden on the contract, the chocolate sauce signature fresh in my mind on the piece of luxurious paper. Sadly, I turned, walking to brighter pastures of quinoa and Puffin cereal.

“I’m not a Snickers, you know,” I whirled around, looking at the bar beneath me. “I’m made by Justin’s Nut Butter. They call me Peanut…I’m similar to a Snickers, but without all that junk.” I gasped. It was the bar from my dreams last night! “You’re…organic?” I whispered, not daring to believe what I saw in front of me. “I’m organic, ethically sourced, and I’m really delicious, too. Plus, I have 25% more protein than the leading bar,” it said, lowering its tone. “For more energy where it counts.” I almost swooned. It was too good to be true. Surely P wouldn’t mind or notice?

“There’s a loading elevator in the back, near the goat cheese and salted butter. Let’s go. We don’t have long.” I grabbed Peanut, feeling the weight and warmth in my hands, as we descended the aisle to the elevator. It smelled like air freshener and patchouli, but it didn’t matter. Unsheathing Peanut from its white hemp wrapper, I raised it to my lips. Peanut yielded quickly, but it was too late. “You’re…where are your peanuts?” I couldn’t seem to find the huge, globular roasted pieces of peanut I knew and loved. Peanut snarled at me, rearing back and crinkling the wrapper over its chocolate shell. “What do you mean, where are the peanuts? Not all chocolate bars have huge nuts, you know. Haven’t you ever had a Butterfinger? It’s about the flavor. Whatever.” I reared back. Peanut had an attitude. “Well, your caramel is crumbly and you’re not sweet at all!” I shouted, but it was gone, back to the freezer aisle, yelling behind it, “I’m going back to Nutella…they know how to treat nuts!”

I knew that straying from P was the wrong thing to do, and that they would find out in short notice. I couldn’t let that cloud my judgment, though, and I walked out of the Whole Foods, brushing chocolate off my hands and lips. Only P could satisfy me now, and I would have to trust them to deliver. I shivered to myself, thinking about Porcini. What would become of me in their Brown Room of Confection?

To be continued…

2012 Summer Fancy Food Show, Day 1

We’re back in DC again! It’s our third year (WHAT) at the NASFT Summer Fancy Food Show and boy, have we got a lot of things to show you. We arrived in DC bright and early yesterday, and after an ass-kicking molecular gastronomy dinner with Junk Food Guy at RJ Cooper’s Rogue24, here we are at the convention center.

We tackled the show this morning, starting in the larger of the two convention halls. There we met vendors old and new, sweet and savory, and all delicious. 

Starting with this year’s Taste of the Union: predicted trends for the 2012-2013 cycle include aloe drinks, using ice cream as a flavor carrier and base, dessert-flavored desserts, and desserts utilizing different types of flour (rye, rice, etc.) Sauces have also made a comeback- we definitely saw more this year than in the past two, many of them with celebrity endorsement or variations from well-loved companies.

I was also pleased to discover that there seemed to be an increase in the number of small business distributors and stores at the show. It was very crowded, but it’s a sure sign of the times that things are turning around for small businesses if they’re this interested and involved in the specialty food industry once more. 

Guy Fieri’s sauce (/doubletake), surprisingly neither as offensive or eye-rolling as we’d expected. Clean, tangy flavors.

We ate many sweet treats…

And plenty of meat treats. 

2012 Fancy Food Show by the Numbers:

Food trucks and food buses: 4

Total whole ham legs: 16

Banana-encrusted people: 3

Gorgeously terrifying (terrifyingly gorgeous?) mushroom displays: 3

Carved fruit displays: 2

Duff Goldman cakes: 3

Duff Goldmans: 0

Atari-playing soda machines: 1

Turtle bread: 2

Today was an awesome kick-off to the convention, thanks to Chuao, Honest Tea, Madecasse, Hagensborg, First Field Ketchup, Sauces ‘n’ Love, Chozen, Gagne Foods, the guy who screamed, “yuh don’t need no scotch no more, brother,” at the iChill representative, and of course, the NASFT press team.
Tomorrow we’ll be seeing some of our favorite companies- Vosges, Cypress Grove, Bissinger’s, and Taza, I’m talking to you! And we’ll be hanging out at some awesome after-show media events.

Until then, eat well!