« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

September 28, 2006

World’s Largest Ice Cream Social

coldstone.gifTONIGHT (September 28, 2006) Cold Stone Creamery is holding its fifth annual World’s Largest Ice Cream Social, a special fundraising event that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Between 5:00 and 8:00 tonight customers attending the event at any of their locations in the US, Guam, and Puerto Rico will receive a free 3oz Cole’s Creation (chocolate ice cream, yellow cake, chocolate chips, and rainbow sprinkles) and are encouraged to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Chocolate, ice cream, charity – what’s not to love?

Sorry about the short notice, but the press release came out two days ago and I missed it! If I hadn’t been cruising my favorite deals site I wouldn’t have known about it at all.

Press Release

September 27, 2006

Godiva's Golden Friday

godivalogo.gifI love mailing lists. Ok, I love good mailing lists. Chocolate makers and chocolatiers tend to have some nice mailing lists and one of my favorites is Godiva. They aren't my number one choice for chocolate, but they are great at letting you try their new products when they come out. Well, this Friday, September 29th, they are celebrating their "new" Gold Collection and true to form they are giving us a chance to try their new goodies for free.

Last week Lauren Young with Business Week was kind enough to let me know that she had an article up on the reinvention of the Gold Collection. I won't go into the depth she does in her article (which is a good read with some company history, the scoop on the new look and flavors and some amusing reader comments) but what I want to go into is the goodness that they are sharing with us.

First off, if you stop in on Friday or Saturday you can get free samples. On top of that they are having a contest that can win you a year worth of Godiva chocolate. I know that Godiva isn't everybody's favorite, but even those who don't love them aren't likely to turn down that much free chocolate. And the odds aren't nearly as long as you might think. They are giving away a year of chocolate to ten winners - PER BOUTIQUE! I know it sounds crazy but that is what the mailing says (and who knows, it could be wrong). If it is right then I like those odds a lot. And even if you can't get in to a boutique on Friday or Saturday you can enter online. The online sweepstakes looks like it is separate from the one referenced in the mailing and there are only 10 winners so it would seem to thin your odds a LOT compared to the in store odds. But it gives you a shot. And don't worry that you'll miss out on free chocolate if you can't make it in. They are having free samples of the Gold Collection from 9/29 - 10/1, 10/6 - 10/8, and 11/10 - 11/12. That's a lot of opportunities for some free chocolate.

Now the last thing I need to do is nudge people to think about these little mailing lists. Not only do you get the lowdown on the free chocolate events and the news about contests and new products but now and then you get some extra free stuff that only those on the mailing list get. Earlier this year I got a free Chocolixir and this time around I got a little certificate for a free four-piece Gold Collection Ballotin. Some of these mailing lists really pay off.

September 26, 2006

Review: Flippin' Fudge!

For me fudge has always been a special thing that I generally associate with summer. Fudge was something we could only get on vacation or at the fair. As such I tend to consider it synonymous with good times. Fudge and good times go hand in hand so what better to give as a gift than fudge? Well, Tim and Liz Young are ready to help you give that gift with their new Flippin’ Fudge.

Tim contacted me a few weeks ago to introduce me to Flippin’ Fudge and ask if I wouldn’t like to try some. I do try to discourage people from sending me free chocolate (I know – it sounds crazy), but this is one product I decided (somewhat selfishly) that I wasn’t going to refuse. I’m glad I didn’t.

There are a couple of things that set Flippin’ Fudge apart from the traditional fudge and the first one is the packaging. The packaging is bright, colorful and fun. The box it arrives in has the logo on it and when you open it up you find that the fudge itself is swimming in a sea of lovely stringy colorful paper packing material. The colors for some reason remind me of a piñata, but I make strange associations all the time. Anyway, once you get inside the box-within-a-box you find neat little squares of fudge in attractive purple wrapping, all clearly labeled with the logo and the name of the flavor. From start to finish it’s all bright and colorful and, above all, fun.

The next thing that sets Flippin’ Fudge apart is the flavor variety. Some of the flavors are rather traditional fudge flavors (though all with a twist) and some would be perfectly at home in a truffle from a fine chocolatier. Here’s the rundown:

Dark Secret:
This helps to set a theme for the fudge to come. This is a dark chocolate fudge and breaking away from tradition it isn’t the super sweet affair your standard fudge tends to be. This is focused on the chocolate and is nicely dark and very chocolaty. The texture (which is pretty consistent across all the flavors) is thick and smooth. I’m a traditional grainy crumbly fudge person at heart but this is really nice too.

Skippy’s Surprise:
I expected this to be a standard peanut butter fudge and boy was I wrong. This is a big fat fudge sandwich with chocolate fudge as the bread and peanut butter fudge in the middle. I’ve always found peanut butter fudge by itself to be only worth a bite or two (just a question of taste – I don’t do peanut butter pie or ice cream either) but this is the fudge equivalent of a Reece’s Cup. Even better the peanut butter fudge tastes like good peanut butter with a nice hit of salt.

Fuzzy Bubble:
Stepping away from the traditional fudge flavors we come to the Fuzzy Bubble which is a peach champagne fudge. This is a flavor combination I cannot believe I have not seen in a truffle. It’s a natural if you ask me. As a fudge I found it a bit overwhelming. Not bad, but strong. If you love peach then this may be more up your alley, but I’ll tend to try and share this piece of the selection out so I can focus on other flavors.

Island Retreat:
This is a coconut fudge and much more to my liking. You can smell the coconut in it as soon as you peel the wrap. It’s a pretty strong coconut flavor and at first seems almost too strong, but you are left with a mouthful of lovely perfect chocolate and coconut flavor.

Citrus Shot:
This time we get orange and just the right amount. The coconut was a hair strong for me but this was just right as far as my tastes go. I like a nice balance between the chocolate and whatever flavor is in with it and this hits my sweet spot. Your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about citrus in your chocolate.

Wake-Up Call:
Espresso! A pretty nice combination of coffee and chocolate. It’s got a nice deep coffee flavor but doesn’t stike me as being quite as strong as espresso. That said, I sometimes find espresso a little much and this works just fine for me so again, your mileage may vary. Those expecting the strength of espresso might be a little let down, but to me it has a wonderful deep coffee flavor that is nicely balanced to the chocolate.

Toffee Crunch:
This was pretty nice. A nice fudge with sweet and salty toffee running through it. I’m not a huge toffee fan but this works quite nicely for me. Very very nice.

Berry Nuts:
As usual it’s the raspberries that get me. Berry Nuts has raspberry and walnuts in lovely fudge and it’s really nice. Very good. I love walnuts and I love raspberry and I love fudge, especially with nuts in it so this is the no-brainer of the bunch.

If I had to sum up Flippin’ Fudge in a single word that word would be “fun.” Their website and the products are all bright and colorful and dripping with fun. When you get a package from Flippin’ Fudge it is a good and exciting thing. It’s certainly a gift you’ll remember. It’s good stuff and I’m calling it an 8 out of 10.

The bottom line is that they have a good fun product on their hands and hopefully a bright future. Stop by their site and take a look around. Be sure to check out the about page – it’s a good read and gives the story behind the name.



Alternate Takes:
Candy Blog
Candy Yum Yum!

September 18, 2006

Review: Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate With Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts

It’s funny. You would think that when stressed out a chocolate fiend like me would start hitting it hard. But for some reason I’m eating less and less chocolate and what I eat is often whatever I see at the grocery store that catches my eye. Luckily I still grab items like this Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Rum, Raisins & Hazelnuts (wow - long name) and absent-mindedly gnaw away. In the case of this “bar” (it’s hard for me to call Ritter’s neat squares bars) I opened the package and was floored by the strong scent of rum. There was no way to absent-mindedly eat something like this. I did, however, get most of the way through it before I thought to grab a picture. Oops.

First, I love the way Ritter Sport wrap their chocolate. It is so easy to open. There is a really nice seam that’s easy to split and allows you to quickly and neatly access the chocolate goodness sealed within. Yeah, I’m easily amused. As I alluded to earlier the bar smells like rum. Rum and chocolate. It really sort of hits you in the face with the whole rumminess of it all. I checked the ingredients and was surprised to find that rum – not rum flavoring or rum extract or anything like that – is an actual ingredient.

The bar… block… series of blocks?… is well formed as expected and just one look at the underside shows it studded with raisins and hazelnuts. One bite confirms what the bottom hints at: the bar is loaded with raisins and hazelnuts. I’m of the school of thought that if you are going to put things in your chocolate don’t skimp – do it up right and leave no bite lacking. This bar is chock full of the good stuff. And it tastes great too! It’s got a very strong rum flavor to it but it fit my mood to a t. Long story short I call it an 8.75 out of 10.

It should be noted that they have a version of the same…. err… not a bar… product sans the rum. I grabbed one at lunch today and it’s good too!

*EDIT*
Cybele of Candy Blog reviewed this one too! Head on over and check out her review!

September 11, 2006

Peeps Cocoa Cats

Today was pretty Mondayish right up until I went to the store. I needed lights for the kitchen and while I was there I figured I’d look and see if there was anything interesting and chocolaty to be found. Ritter Sport found it’s way into my grubby hands but the true catch of the day was a package of Peeps Cocoa Cats.

Yes, I am one of those sick-headed individuals that actually enjoys Peeps. I’ve loved them all my life and look forward to each of the Peep holidays of the year. I tend to get one package each holiday and usually wait until they are 75% off to buy them and slowly eat them over a few months, but I really really wanted some Cocoa Cats. I’ve had a hard time finding chocolate that I’m excited about lately and this had me excited on the spot.

So just how are these little critters? Well, the rule I’m going to run with is this: if you like Peeps and like instant hot chocolate then give them a shot. It’s a good shot you’ll like them. If you don’t like Peeps then don’t expect these to change your attitude toward them in any way. They smell like a freshly opened packet of instant hot chocolate (not the good real hot chocolate, but the stuff that comes with those crunchy little mini-marshmallows in it). They taste like a Peep with cocoa in it. Really, that’s the best description I can offer. Sorry!

So, yeah, they’re good and Peep-elicious and all, but there is more to the humble Peep than just a painfully sweet sugar coated marshmallow critter. There is potential. Over the past couple of years we have seen a number of recipes for Peeps the most popular of them being Peeps Brûlée. The proper way to do Peeps Brûlée is to let the Peeps air cure for a week or two and get good and stale and then kill on an open flame. Me, I’m impatient. And I can’t do the open flame thing in my apartment (the rabbit is afraid of smoke and my smoke detector is supernaturally powerful and unbelievably LOUD). But I refuse to allow that to ruin my fun! I set the back burner on high and impaled a Peep on a dipping fork and let the poor little critter burn!


Impaled!

Without an open flame you get some very…. scary results. But the important thing is how they are to eat! The inside is like marshmallow foam - cocoa flavored marshmallow foam. The inside is great. The outside is moderately caramelized but super sweet and chewy and doesn’t do it for me like the insides.


What have I done?!

Ok, not perfect Brûlée but pretty tasty stuff. I'm going to let the extras sit and stale for a few days and see if I can't get my hands on a proper crème brûlée torch and try it again. Yes, I will make this sacrifice for you, my dear readers.

After two rounds of brûlée and one raw I had one spare Peep. Rather than allowing it to escape unscathed I decided to see what happens when you put one of them in the microwave (I've seen pictures on the great and powerful internet so I had a good idea what would happen). I wish I could get a good picture of the monstrosity in my microwave because a nuclear Peep at the height of it’s power is a sight to behold. It grows HUGE – like six times it’s normal volume or more. I pulled it from the nuke-o-matic and tried to capture the majestic mutation, but it deflates pretty quickly and becomes a horrible puddle of inedible (yes, I tried to eat it) goo.


Inedible Goo!

Okay, bottom line of the whole Cocoa Cat experience is as I stated before: If you like Peeps then give them a shot. If you don’t like Peeps then it’s pretty safe to say you won’t be enjoying these a whole lot.

September 4, 2006

Review: Valrhona Guanaja

guanaja.jpgToday I’m going to be tasting Valrhona’s Guanaja, a bar of chocolate that frightens and intimidates me in a horrible way. This is a far cry from the Chocolove that got me eating bars of chocolate again and light years from the chocolate I grew up with. It’s a chocolate so fine that I doubt my ability to properly appreciate it. I’m normally anything but shy about inflicting my ignorance on the world (with sledgehammer subtlety no less), but I generally don’t feel at all qualified to even discuss something as good as Valrhona. Today, though, I’m not going to let that stop me.

This is the first of Valrhona’s Grands Crus that I’ve tried. Previously I’ve had some of their more normal offerings (normal being a very relative term) and found them to be excellent and they left me eager to try what Valrhona considers a cut above. The Guanaja is a 70% cocoa dark chocolate made with Criollos and Trinitarios beans (85% of chocolate is made with Forastero beans which are considered somewhat inferior). The chocolate is, as expected, well formed with a nice light gloss, no imperfections, and no bubbles that I can discern. The aroma, to me, is nice with a both a subtle fruity note and a slightly sour burnt coffee note. The mouth feel is fabulous. It melts beautifully, isn’t astringent, and is very very smooth. The taste opens brightly with strong fruit notes – I’m tasting some kind of berries and melon maybe. The fruit note just gets stronger in the middle and is joined by some darker notes of molasses, coffee, and tobacco as well as some acidity, more fruits (raspberry and cherry?), and a sour note (sour cream or cream cheese? – strange, but I stand by it – that is what I taste). Lurking behind it all from the first taste is a very subtle floral note that really shines in the finish. The taste lingers forever and the floral and fruit notes are the last to fade.

I almost feel like I’m cheating by reviewing this bar. It is well known for the intensity of it’s flavors and that makes it ideal for somebody like me who often has trouble nailing down the flavor notes in a chocolate. In Guanaja Valrhona have built a bar that has amazingly intense flavors that all play together. Some are subtle, but none are overpowered and even with all of its intensity it doesn’t come across as heavy-handed at all. I would like to kid myself and think that my tastes are developing, but I think that the art involved in this bar just made things easy for me.

In the end I found this to be a wonderfully complex and balanced bar (which is amazing considering the incredible range of flavors present) that lives up to reputation and expectations alike. This is unlike anything I’ve enjoyed before and makes it very clear to me why Valrhona have the amazing reputation they do. I’d like to give it a 10, but I’ve been led to believe that Valrhona have even better and I’ve yet to try any Amedei so I have to leave at least some space for true perfection. So I’m giving it a 9.9 out of 10. This is an absolutely fantastic chocolate that has supplanted Scharffen Berger’s Jamaica á l'ancienne as my new favorite.

Oh, and sorry the picture is awful. I can't seem to get a good shot of the box and eventually just gave up. I may try again later, but for now that's as good as it gets.