Tag Archives: product review

Product Review: Kaka’Wa Cocoa Beans, Round II

4 Sep
Here are the Cocoa Puro Kaka'Wa Cocoa Beans in all their glory.

Here are the Cocoa Puro Kaka'Wa Cocoa Beans in all their glory.

Please read my inital review here.  Let me tell you about the customer service and commitment to product integrity over at Cocoa Puro.  After I posted my review, Tom Pedersen from Cocoa Puro emailed, saying he was extremely embarrassed that my sample of Kaka’Wa Cocoa Beans were melted.  I emailed back and basically said, “No worries.”  After all, they were very tasty, and they were Free.  In the next email, he said he was sending another sample, because he wanted me to taste the product as they are meant to be tasted:  whole and unmelted.  He shipped them with a large cold pack, and they arrived in perfect shape.  So, I am adding this codicil, along with some pictures of the new shipment, to let you know more about Kaka’Wa Cocoa Beans and the folks over at Cocoa Puro.

Before I add to my description of the candy itself, I must tell you how impressed I am with Tom and the gang over at Cocoa Puro.  Of course Tom wants his product to be reviewed in the best light possible, but more than that, he wanted to be sure that I was able to taste his chocolate covered cocoa beans at their best.  He absolutely did not have to send me another sample.  After all, I had loved them and my review was positive.  Regardless, he wanted to send them, and he took this little melting episode as a learning opportunity.  Now, he knows that he needs to use a large cold pack to ship samples.  So, thank you Tom, both for your commitment to your product and for sending out a second shipment.

kakawa2And now, on to the Tasting.  Although the melted and re-cooled beans were good, the texture was off on the chocolate since it was out of temper.  In the new shipment, the chocolate was firm and creamy.  I was also able to enjoy the bitter dusting of cocoa powder on the outside of each bean–a nice contrast that was lacking in the melted shipment.  I tasted the new batch of beans in several different ways.  Because I love you.  First, I just put one in my mouth and chewed it up.  Then, I ate half of one.  Then, I let the layers of chocolate melt in my mouth before chewing.  I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on these little guys now.

Chocolate to the 5th power.

Chocolate to the 5th power.

I don’t know what brand of couverture Tom uses to dip the cocoa beans, but it is of high quality.  As I let the candy melt, I was able to distinguish all three chocolates, like Violet Beauregard was able to in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Except I didn’t turn into a blueberry at the end.  First up was the dusting of bitter cocoa powder.  The dark chocolate is smooth and well-rounded.  I didn’t detect any serious fruitiness or deep coffee or tobacco flavors–just rich chocolate.  The milk chocolate is incredibly creamy.  While I generally don’t choose milk chocolate for eating out of hand, this particular one was also well-rounded, milky and rich.  The white chocolate lives closest to the bean, which is lovely, since its sweetness contrasts nicely with the unsweetened bean.  The white chocolate tastes like milk and cocoa butter, without that artificial flavor that many white candy coatings have.  The bean itself tastes of coffee tinged chocolate, but is in no way bitter, at least not to my palate.  And speaking of the bean, I paid special attention (for Marc) to the way it crunched.  I would say that the crunch is the sharp crunch of an almond as opposed to the creamy crunch of a walnut.  The bean does crumble when you chew, but it’s not gritty, especially if you start chewing before all the chocolates have melted away.

Try the melting method once, but these candies are meant to be eaten all at once, so all the chocolates can blend together into one incredibly complex and satisfying chocolate bite.

These snacks are pricey–$28 for 12 ounces, not including shipping.  They are also pure chocolate indulgence.  I suggest you find a reason to treat yourself and then make your stash last as long as you can.

To recap, highest marks go to Kaka’Wa Cocoa Beans and to Cocoa Puro for great customer service.

Product Review: Oh! Nuts

18 Mar
Dried fruits and nuts?  Don't mind if I do!

Dried fruits and nuts? Don't mind if I do!

The Oh! Nuts (the exclamation point is part of their name) folks contacted me and wanted to know if I would like to try some of their products.  Dried fruits and nuts?  Why, yes, thankyouverymuch!  They told me to go to their site and pick what I wanted, but when I went over there, I was met with such a vast array of choices–over 2000, according to their site–that I kind of seized up.  Did you guys see Moscow on the Hudson with Robin Williams?  He defects from the then-Soviet Union and ends up in New York.  The first time he goes to the store to buy coffee, he is met with the Wall o’ Coffee.  He stands there, staring, “Folgers (he says it with a hard g)… Maxwell House…Nescafe….coffee, coffee, coffee.”  And then, he passes out.  Well, that was me at the Oh! Nuts website.  So, a bit dazed in a happy way, I asked them to choose what they would send.

And this is what I got:  1 pound each of Roasted Unsalted Filberts, Dried Blueberries, Cranberry Pecans and Dry Roasted Whole Almonds.

Clockwise from the top:  dried blueberries, cranberry pecans, dry roasted almonds, roasted unsalted filberts

Clockwise from the top: dried blueberries, cranberry pecans, dry roasted almonds, roasted unsalted filberts

Let me tell you about them:  the filberts (hazelnuts) are almost completely skinless and roasted to a perfect golden brown.  This makes them a huge convenience.  For anyone who has had to try and get those papery skins off of filberts and has wanted to throw them across the kitchen, these little guys are for you.  I actually love that they are unsalted.  Not so great for eating out of hand, but perfect for adding to a recipe along with your idea of the perfect amount of salt.  I did eat a couple “straight up,” and they are very fresh and have a pleasing crunch.

The dried blueberries are very plump and blueberry-y.  I compared them to some leftover dried blueberries that The Beloved had leftover from his fruitcake extravaganza over the holidays, and the ones from Oh! Nuts are definitely bigger and plumper (is that a word?).  Dried blueberries have a pretty mellow flavor, and these were no exception.  They are a little moist, a little chewy and taste like mysterious unsweetened blueberry jam.  I mean this in a good way.

The dry roasted almonds have thier little papery skins on, and they are salted.  I must confess, I am not a huge almond fan.  I find them a little bland and a little too crunchy for my taste, so I made The Beloved try them.  He loved them and immediately put them in a container to take to work for snacks.  I should have eaten one so I could tell you about them, but you can trust The Beloved.  Believe me, if he didn’t like them, he wouldn’t have squirreled them away for himself.

I am saving the cranberry pecans for last.  They appear to be made like regular stirred candied nuts, like the ones you can get at the mall, but the similarity stops there.  The pecan halves are some of the biggest I’ve ever seen, and they smell like cranberry bread.  They are perfectly fresh and have that crunchy/creamy thing going on that I appreciate in pecans and walnuts.  The sugar coating is just the right thickness, so you can taste both the coating and the nut inside.  My only complaint is that I think they need a pinch more salt.  I’ve been eating them like Wheat Thins–one after the other–and after the 87th one, they can be a little cloying.  Otherwise, these guys are perfect.  I can totally see chopping them up and using them in muffins or coffee cake or pound cake.  They’d be great in a batter but also in streusel topping.  I am mystified about how the cranberry flavor gets into them.  Oh, about that cranberry flavor, it is fruity, cranberry-y and just the slightest bit tangy.   I looked on their website to see if I could find an ingredient list, and I could not, so I’m not sure if they are artificially flavored or if they freeze dry and powder cranberries and use that in the mix.  I really hope they are naturally flavored, because I really like them.  I am eating one (of 87)  right this very second, actually.

If you read yesterday’s post about pie, you may have noted that I used three of the four products in the pie.  I ground the hazelnuts for use in the dacquoise, I threw some dried blueberries into the filling and then I garnished (made a pi symbol) with the pecans.   I was pleased with how they performed in the pie, and I am pleased with how they taste just by themselves and in my face.

All the Oh! Nuts products are kosher certified, and they will also make serious gift baskets for holiday celebrations and corporate gifts.   Oh, and a really nice part about their website is that you can go and write a reveiw of the products you buy.  They actually send you an email reminder.  I love this–for one, I doubt they would solicit reviews if they weren’t proud of their products.  Also, giving the consumer the option to review gives him/her quite a bit of power.  If you’re on Twitter, you can even follow them there.

Go check out their website; I think you’ll be impressed.

Product Review: Tanka Bars–Serious Native American Snacks

20 Feb
The Tanka Bar  70 calories and 7 grams of protein.  Good job, Native American Natural Foods!

The Tanka Bar 70 calories and 7 grams of protein. Good job, Native American Natural Foods!

Okay, as many of you know, I’m on Twitter (I’d love it if you’d follow me–there’s a wee bird icon in my sidebar).  There is no shortage of Cool People on Twitter, and many of them are there, at least in part, to help raise awareness about a new product.  And that’s how I met @TankaBar We began to chat, as folks are wont to do on Twitter, and I found out that they were developing a snack/energy bar based on Native American pemmican and wasna.  They were calling their product “Tanka Bar” and launching it as the first in a line of brands from their parent company, Native American Natural Foods.  When they asked if anyone was interested in participating in a taste test, I tweeted something along the lines of “heck, yeah–send me some snacks!”

One of the hazards of reviewing products is being seen as somewhat less-than-unbaised in the review.  After all, they sent the snacks, so maybe I need to be Extra Special Nice about the review, right?  I can understand that, and I wanted the Tanka Bar folks to know that I would be very honest in my review.  I sent them a link to my review of some blood orange juice that I did awhile back, so they would know what my style is and that I would talk about the good and the not-s0-good as honestly and fairly as possible.  I have an obligation to my readers to be honest and truthful (I realize that’s redundant–that’s how much I mean it), and I wanted the Tanka Bar folks to know that I wasn’t going to break trust with my readers over some free snacks (and some temporary tattoos).  They were very gracious and said that they wanted my honest feedback, and they also emailed me a questionnaire to fill out and send back to them after my tasting.  And then, the Tanka Bars arrived in the mail.

I received samples of three Tanka Bar products, all of which are based on the daring duo of buffalo and cranberry:  their Tanka Bar, Tanka Bites Hot & Spicy and Tanka Wild Sticks.  All three are similar in flavor, although I would certainly be able to tell the three apart in a blind tasting.  The Tanka Wild Sticks contain wild rice as well as buffalo and cranberry, so their flavor has a slight “cereal” edge.

I shared my snacks with a friend who happened to be in town and The Beloved.  All three of us tried all three snacks, and all of us liked them Very Much.  Each of us had a favorite.  I really liked the Tanka Bites Hot & Spicy, The Beloved’s favorite was the Tanka Wild Stick, and Celeste’s choice was the original Tanka Bar.  So, now, I guess I’d better describe the flavor.

The cool Tanka Bar logo

The cool Tanka Bar logo

For all three products, think savory beef jerky (but healthier, because it’s buffalo) combined with just the right amount of moist, tart dried cranberries.  While straight up jerky can be very dry and splintery, the cranberry in the Tanka Bar keeps the texture nice and moist, so all the products are a little chewy but not tough.  There is no having to wrench your head around while pulling away with your hand in order to tear off a piece of beef bark.  These have an easy bite but a nice chew.  The Hot&Spicy Tanka Bites have some jalapeno and habanero blended into the mix.  But don’t let that scare you.  While they do deliver a very slow chile burn, they are by no means too hot to handle.  I will say that, while the flavor of these little guys was my favorite, the texture was a bit uneven–I guess because of the peppers, which can feel a little slippery in the mouth.

You guys know how terrible I am at remembering to take pictures, and I apologize for my inadequacies, but I will now attempt to paint a picture with words.  While jerky usually comes in thin, scary shards, the Tanka Bar and the Tanka Bites are about 1/4″-1/3″ thick.  The Tanka Bar is roughly the size of a small granola bar, and the bites come in 3/4″ squares.  The Tanka Wild Sticks look very similar to other thin meat stick products.  Since we’re talking meat products here, don’t expect a brightly colored bar.  Tanka Bars are dark, a little lumpy and none-too-attractive, but they have a great smoky/spicy/sweet aroma.  Plus, they really taste quite good.

We are not a huge jerky-buying family.  I think the last time that I bought jerky was a year or so ago, and I’m not sure that I would necessarily buy these if I hadn’t tried them beforehand.  My initial thought on the buffalo/cranberry pairing was “Huh.  Interesting.” not “Let me at ’em.”  The flavors really do work together nicely–the sweet-tart of the cranberry is a wonderful foil to the spicy-smoky of the buffalo.

They sent some keen temporary tattoos, too.

They sent some keen temporary tattoos, too.

On a completely non taste-related note, I love that Native American Natural Foods is poised to break out and away from the reservation and out into mainstream America.  On a personal level, I wish them the best, and as a consumer, I have to say that, if I see a Tanka Bar staring at me from the shelf at my grocery store, I would probably buy one or two.  Or some Tanka Bites.

And some Wild Sticks for The Beloved.

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