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March 29, 2008

Write Off Another Week

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley" Robert Burns
Well, this week has been quite the mess. I had high hopes of posting and then things... went wrong. I decided to upgrade my pc and ended up with a dead box for a few days. My allergies and a cold both teamed up on me to start making me miserable (you ever had a wire brush taken to your throat and sinus cavity? that's how it felt) and I spent most of Thursday asleep. I only just got sound working on my pc again this evening and the cold and allergies are still giving me problems. And the only thing that got me through it all was my container of Dufflet Crunchy Caramel Crusted Pistachios in Pure Milk Chocolate. Oh, they are snacktastic. Almost all gone, too.

But there's been stuff going on! All sorts of stuff all over the place. Stuff that needs addressed.

First up there is this study that was conducted by the University of Illinois in conjunction with Mars Inc. that shows that the CocoaVia brand chocolates can lower both your cholesterol and blood pressure due to them being fortified with plant sterols. Normally I'd sneer at any study conducted in conjunction with the manufacturer of the product being studied, but I doubt that the U of I is in the business of selling itself out. I've known whether to take the product seriously or not. I tried some (it was free) and found it ok, but I did like the idea that they guarantee a certain level of flavanols. Turns out that those plant sterols might be something special as well.
Medical News Today
Food Production Daily

What would you do with 20 tons of chocolate? That is the question facing the individual or individuals who stole a trailer full of Hershey's products this week. The theives made off with the trailer and ditched the tracking device. The trailer has since been recovered. The chocolate has not. 20 tons is a lot of chocolate. What the heck do you do with that much chocolate? I can't imagine you could sell it all to one buyer. If you did you would have to split it into separate lots and move them separately with appropriately forged paperwork in case the driver is stopped. Hmmm.... how do you move 20 tons of chocolate? I suppose there are a number of people on both sides of the law pondering that question about now. I suppose I'll leave them to it.

Hershey's is launching a new line of chocolate snacks called Hershey's Bliss which comes in three varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Meltaway. They are apparently - and this is entirely the wording from the press release - "targeting female chocolate lovers" and letting them sign up to host one of ten thousand Bliss launch parties nationwide. You can sign up to get in on the free chocolate action by visiting this site. I'm impressed with the way that they're socializing the whole luanch. This is a neat experiment in marketing and social networking as they give you online tools to send invites and share pictures and stuff as well as giving you the snax and some host gifts (so, yeah, you want to be hosting the party). So sign up and give it a shot! Or not if Hershey's isn't your thing.
Press Release
Signup Page
Product Page

A lot of stuff that people send me seems to get caught in the old bulk mail bucket and the bits that don't, well, I'm not as diligent as I should be in answering all of my correspondence or addressing everything that happens across my inbox. One of those things that has floated by recently is Chocolate Expert, a site with a nice selection of reference articles and recipes on chocolate. Seems to be a pretty decent sort of place so I figure they are worth a mention.

Another of those things that showed up and wasn't given quite the interest it deserved was the site The Chocolate Life. It's a community-based site for those with a love for that most perfect of foods. It's one I'm going to have to give a closer look at. I like the community idea thang they have going. And I received a question in a recent email that would be a lovely topic for discussion over there.

I'm hoping that I'll get the M&M's review that I promised a few days ago up tomorrow and a review of the Amano Cuyagua bar if I can find the darn thing. It was on my desk and I was eating it just a few days ago. I can't figure out where the heck it's disappeared to. Of course the last week has been chaotic on my desk with all the computer work so its only natural that it would be a little harder to find. I think it's out on the kitchen table from when I was taking pictures of it. Anyway, I plan on finally reviewing it this week. Really I do! I also plan on talking about my painful experiences with extremely high cacao content chocolates and the potentially difficult combination of chocolate and beer. Assuming this cold goes away and I don't spend any more days in bed.

March 25, 2008

What the heck?

So I'm at the grocery store last night picking up some green leafy stuff for the rabbit and I happen to wander by the promotional aisle where all of the Easter stuff is. Well, I figured it was worth a look to see if there weren't some good post-Easter deals to be had. The deals weren't bad, but what I really got excited about was finally finding the Wildly Cherry M&M's! I didn't have the highest of hopes for them, but figured what the hey, they're new so I might as well try them, right? Imagine my horror when I found myself liking them! I need to go back for a second try, but I'm afraid that I actually like these. For some reason the Razzberry M&M's didn't click that well with me so I sort of expected these to miss as well. But I'm afraid that I might just like these. I'll put up a full review later this week, but right now it's looking pretty positive (not that it isn't subject to change).

March 13, 2008

Review: 3 Musketeers Raspberry with Dark Chocolate

I've made a number of passes through the Easter candy aisle at the grocery store lately and I've generally come up with little or nothing to show for my efforts (aside from a few Peeps). This last trip to the store I finally noticed something different about one of the items that I had previously managed to ignore. One of those items I assumed was simply a holiday re-packaging job turned out to be a little bit more. It seems that they managed to sneak out another Limited Edition Three Musketeers and it had been right in front of my nose for weeks (maybe). Last time it was the Mint Three Musketeers which, frankly, didn't do much for me. This time they go the Raspberry Route which I, for some odd reason, had high hopes for. So into the basket it went (along with a mixed bag for the candy bowl at my desk at work).

Sadly, I can’t think of too much to say about these. They’re moderately unremarkable and that, I guess, is their biggest strength. The texture of the Mint Three Musketeers really bothered me. If the whippy fluff stuff isn’t properly whippy and fluffy then it shouldn’t say Three Musketeers on the package. The Mint was like that. The texture just felt wrong. It didn’t help that I didn’t find them that tasty either. These little Raspberry critters have a much better texture and the flavor isn’t bad either. There isn’t a whole lot of chocolate flavor to it, but that isn’t much of a surprise when you consider that there is a lot more of the fluff than there is chocolate. The raspberry fluff is really pretty decent. It does taste sort of artificial, but not to the point of being bad. The hint of chocolate and not-offensively-artificial raspberry flavor work together nicely.

So this turned out to click with me a lot better than the Mint variety did last year. It isn’t as good as a normal Three Musketeers, but better than the mint so I’m giving it a 7.5 out of 10, a score that sits it right between the two reference bars. It’s really not bad at all, but it’s also really not amazing. If you like raspberry candy these might go over well and I would say they’re worth a try, but I haven’t seen anything but Minis in this flavor and I know that I’m going to have to work to give away the rest of the bag I bought unless I find somebody who really likes them a lot.

March 6, 2008

Starbucks Chocolate

Well, now. I just don’t quite know what to think about this. Starbucks is stepping into the world of chocolate delivering tea and coffee flavored chocolates with the aid of (drum roll please)…. Hershey! Yeah, I’m being intentionally misleading. I can’t see Starbucks using anything as pedestrian as normal everyday Hershey chocolate (or Special Dark). Instead they are using an unspecified chocolate from the Hershey Artisan Confections collection of companies. And it appears to be one that is associated with bean-to-bar chocolate making. By my interpretation that would make it Sharffen Berger. Dagoba would also be possible, but if they were going organic I’m sure they would trumpet it. I’d guess they want quality without the additional cost that organic chocolate generally carries.

The flavors sound like they’ll be interesting. From the press release:

The collection includes: signature dark, mocha and milk chocolate bars and tasting squares; Tazo® Chai, Passion and Citron tea-infused chocolate tasting squares; Caffè Mocha, Chai, Espresso, Caramel Macchiato and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Truffles; and Milk Chocolate Covered Caffè Verona® Coffee Beans.

The most interesting thing about their whole foray into the world of chocolate is the fact that it will be available in grocery stores, drug stores, and the like, but it will not be available in Starbucks stores. I would be forced to wonder if this is because they’re using Hershey’s distribution channel and Starbucks stores aren’t a part of it. Whatever the reason, they’re supposed to be in stores now.

I’m curious to try some of what they are offering. I’m enjoying the whole tea and chocolate combination lately and I’ve always liked a little coffee with my chocolate so it should all be worth a taste. There is a link to the press release below and there is some neat stuff on it with product pictures and videos of chocolate tastings so check it out.

Press Release

March 3, 2008

Review: Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses

A lot of what I've been eating lately, in terms of chocolate at least, has been the stuff I was finding at the grocery store. Whatever bars they happened to have (more often than not it was just the Lindt Excellence bars) and whenever I saw something in the candy aisle that caught my eye I would make sure to take it along with me as well. And I really haven't eaten a lot at all.

But recently I was motivated and excited to dig through the Easter selection at the grocery store. I ended up rather disappointed. There was a lot of the sort of items that change their general shape and wrapping for each holiday and the same old stuff in a different wrap just isn't all that exciting to me. I did find one thing I was interested in, though. They had Hershey's Vanilla Creme Kisses and that seemed like something I couldn't pass up.

So the kisses come sitting flat in this triangular sleeve package which is a nice design. The kisses themselves are larger than the kisses I'm familiar with, but since they're filled this is a good thing. You get a better balance between the amount of chocolate shell and flavored stuff. The shell is standard Hershey's Kiss. Nothing all that special. It's the stuff inside that had me interested. The vanilla creme is thick stuff but softer than the shell. I suppose I expected it to be sweeter than I found it to be and was pleasantly surprised. The vanilla creme isn't overly sweet or overly strong and is a nice companion to the chocolate. They are good and don't have that aftertaste that I disliked so much with the Cherry Cordial Kisses (and it started so well, too).

So while I think that the kisses look a little strange compared to the normal ones, I do find them to be a tasty diversion. Not the sort of thing I'm going after on a normal basis (being more into the dark chocolate and less into the candy and milk chocolate), but it's pretty good stuff. I'm going to call it a 7.5 out of 10. It's some tasty snacky stuff.