Category Archives: International Bar

Friends and friends and candy bars

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Happy new year, everybody! An entire month and change late!

Apologies for the hiatus; life’s been a bit of a whirlwind lately: I left a job, went on a Christmas vacation to the California coast and a New Year’s vacation to the California mountains, found a Lady Bar, worked at a fashion convention and lost a 1-on-1 basketball game for $100.

As I’ve navigated the highs and lows of the past few months, one of the great constants has been the support of my friends, who, in addition to being overall swell people, have also supplied me with more than my fair share of candy bars to sample.

A very genuine thank you to all of those who sent bars my way, including:

The friend who goes to visit a candy factory and knows you like silly hats

Many thanks to Jacki Bar, who not only sent along some delicious treats from her tour of the Hammond Candies factory in Colorado, but also sent this sweet-ass hat, which I immediately put on, because attention:

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Great hat. Why don’t you see more of these nowadays?

Of course, she also sent some sweets:

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Hammonds Whoopie Pie bar was, well, not exactly a whoopie pie facsimile, but, instead a dark chocolate bar with vanilla creme. It was definitely a tasty chocolate bar, but given the whoopie pie billing, I can’t say it completely lived up to my expectation (me and the whoopies go way back).

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Gimme more of dat creme, yo.

More than anything, the bitterness of the dark chocolate overpowered the gentle vanilla in the creme, and anyone who’s had a whoopie pie knows that the creme is paramount. If Hammonds had adjusted the ratio ever so slightly, this would have been a knockout. Continue reading

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Greenland is covered in ice, and Iceland is very nice

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Sometimes, there a distraction. Other times, a fire-in-a-barrel.

Sometimes, there’s a distraction, in a fire-in-a-barrel.

Any questions?

Okay, you probably have lots. But when Tyler Bar, a member of my Game of Thrones crew, mentioned that his girlfriend Leena Bar had just returned from a trip to Iceland and had some candy bars to try, I couldn’t pass up the chance to shoehorn in as many D2: The Mighty Ducks references as I could — lest I get accused of eating ice cream with the enemy.

Leena was kind enough to snag some Pypp bars — a med myntufylling bar, according to its packaging — and some Lakkris bars, which were explicitly recommended to her by a few different Icelanders, an anecdote I am going to use as the basis for my assumption that the Lakkris is Iceland’s favorite treat.

We decided to dive into the Lakkris first. From the packaging (pictured above), we put together that it was either a caramel or light-milk chocolate bar interspersed with some sort of dark matter [Ed. note: Which seemed to be falling from the sky for some reason] made up of coffee beans, rabbit pellets or small cylinders of poison. Leena confirmed it was the last of those. Continue reading

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Your mom sends me candy bars

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[Ed. note: Sorry about the hiatus, loyal readers. Calendar year-end is like tax season in the fundraising game; I’ve been getting decimated. I hope to up the posting regularity now that things have slowed at least a little bit.]

I’ve spoken at length about how awesome moms are.

Really though, that sentiment doesn’t extend only to nuclear mothers. Grandmas, aunts, sisters, dads, coaches, neighbors … there are any number of people who take time to care about you and offer a guiding, stabilizing presence. And sometimes bake you cookies.

I’ve been fortunate to have no fewer than 7 women who have been mothers to me in one way or another. Jacki Bar, otherwise known as “Mrs. Max” [Ed. note: But not actually Mrs. Max, just his mom], is one of them. In the past decade, she’s come to my regattas, attended my college graduation [Ed. note: granted, Max was there too] and made time to see me whenever she’s been in town.

This summer, she went on some worldly travels and picked up a few bars for me to try. Once the weather cooled down to provide for risk-free shipping [Ed. note: Those moms … always thinkin’], she sent them my way to give a try. Big thanks to Jacki, and a big thanks to all the moms out there.

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Nutella B-Ready (Italy)

Once I got past how to enunciate the name of the bar — Be Ready? … Bready? … Be Ready. — there wasn’t much difficult about eating this bar. The outside of the bar was entirely wafer, reminiscent of a compartmentalized, more brittle ladyfinger (the compartments, assumedly, are for breaking off pieces). Each bite was light but not so much so that it was unsatisfying: The Nutella filling brought a needed gravity to the wafer exterior, which had a texture something like the lovechild of a one-night stand between the phyllo in baklava and the inside of a Kit Kat. Thumbs up.

Another bonus: A relatively healthy bar! Only 399 kilojoules!

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Cote d’Or (France)

Some straight-up delicious-ass chocolate with hazelnuts. The chocolate was dark, but not so much that it couldn’t be described as milk chocolate, and the tasty hazelnuts gave a welcome crunch. This wouldn’t be my first choice in the French candy aisle, but I would not be mad if it were the only choice. [Ed. note: Which would call into question why the hell that was how that store decided to stock that candy aisle.]

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Nougat Stick (France) (There’s probably actually a name for it but I don’t speak French and this was tough for me)

This was a revelation: In the States, it’s very rare you see a nougat not a) encased in chocolate or b) with a jelly center in the bulk candy aisle. This was a whole stick! With indiscriminate nuts (which, upon later inspection, were pistachios and almonds)!

The Nougat Stick was very light, much lighter than most US nougats aside from Three Musketeers, but was slightly chewier than you would expect. It almost had the consistency of a packing peanut, but I mean that as a compliment? I’m as bewildered by that sentence as you probably are, but let me just say, I liked this a lot.

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Charles Chocolates Toffee Coffee Bar (California)

I’m a fool for a good toffee bar.

I’m also a fool for a good coffee.

Mix the two together with some dark (but not too dark) chocolate? Dang. This was a good-ass candy bar.

Because of the bitterness of the coffee and dark chocolate, however, it’s not a bar to be eaten in one sitting, more like a break a piece here and there sort of thing. You know, just in case you were thinking otherwise.

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A Taste of Eataly

IMG_4601Over the course of Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to have old friend Brian Bar and new friend Sonia Bar pay me a visit from their current home of Indianapolis. Before we grabbed dinner, caught up and reminisced of college hijinks, Brian and Sonia perused the vast aisles and departments of Eataly, an Italian ubermarket (or would it be supremomarket?) that peddles all sorts of wonderful treats.

Big fans of BOaP, they were kind enough to pass along some fancy-ass Italian candy bars for me to check out.

The first, pictured above, translates roughly to Baratti & Milano White Chocolate with Champagne and Black Currants. I translated that by reading the back of the package after opening the bar, failing to notice the picture on the front and puzzled as to why this candy was not brown-colored.

Oh hey der white chocolate.

Oh hey der white chocolate.

Once I forgave myself for making generalizations about candy bar packages, I broke off a piece and dove in. The white chocolate itself was wonderfully creamy and complemented the strong but pleasant berry/grapey flavor of the black currants. It’s hard to nail down how big of an effect the champagne had; I can’t say I explicitly tasted it in there, but at the same time, I had very little to compare it to, so it might have made a big difference when compared against a bar featuring only white chocolate and black currants.

At the end of the day, it was a very wealthy man’s purple-flavored chocolate bar, and I mean that wholly as the complement that it is and not how it reads.

IMG_4606The second bar they brought was a Rossella dark chocolate and blood orange bar.

I have never understood the fascination that candy companies have with orange and chocolate. The combination to me seems to go together like peanut butter and mint: Sure, they are both tasty things, and if you tell me they are good together I will go about having an adventurous palate and say that I can taste the complexity while really I’m not getting this at all.

But this was blood orange, dammit, and that ups the stakes. I’d give it a shot with an open mind.

And you know what? It was pretty good!

IMG_4609The extra bitterness of the dark chocolate served to squelch a little of the sweetness of the orange zest, and I think the addition of blood really helped the overall flavor combinations. As a nice extra bonus, the bar had a bit of a granular texture from residual sugar crystals, which provided a crunch that really brought things around. While it definitely wasn’t a bar I could eat in one sitting, it was a fun thing to explore.

Much appreciation to Sonia and Brian for their generosity, and apologies to Brian for telling Sonia about that time he dressed up as Princess Zelda for the midnight release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

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Tops, Twirl and the United Arab Emirates

IMG_4437Full forewarning: This is going to be one of my longer posts. It’s going to end with me hunched over a public granite sittin’ place, grateful for my life, blowing on a toy and realizing there is a very attractive woman in a pantsuit observing me as though I was a science project.

If that is not your cup of ginger ale, you might as well stop reading here.

The story begins, well shoot, probably back in college, where I met two women who would end up having a profound impact on the person I’ve become today. One of those, Marin Bar, had as much to do with me sticking on the Missouri club rowing team as anyone short of my coach and my doofus partner-in-crime; that team grew me right up and taught me the meaning of dedication, camaraderie and responsibility … all things I learned through osmosis trying to follow Marin’s lead. The other, McBarsney? She only stuck her neck out and taught me the basic job functions and knowledge base to successfully attain an open position at her newspaper — a position for which I was woefully underqualified and a position upon which I was able to build a middling career.

Because the universe has a fun way of connecting talented and wonderful people, both Marin and McBarsney ended up half a world away in Abu Dhabi, UAE, dropping their brand of bop all upside the Middle Eastern media scene. True Breakers Off of Pieces [Ed. note: There has to be a better name for BOaP fans. It might just be “readers”.], the two of them were kind enough to send a first-care-package-from-Mom-freshman-year-of-college-sized parcel of regional Gift Bars my way featuring a number of the fun sweets they come across on a daily basis in the UAE.

Thank you, gals, for everything. Here are my thoughts on the sweets you encounter on a daily basis:

IMG_4362Twirl

Sometimes you just gotta twirl. A Cadbury product, the Twirl is very similar to a Flake, only instead of having its thin, rippled chocolate exposed to the dangers of the world, it’s encased in another layer of chocolate, which lends to a less-messy eating experience. Thumbs up on that one.

Also, somehow, the entire bar tasted very similar to a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll. Obviously without the cake and the creme and the little white cardboard tray underneath, but a Swiss Cake Roll nonetheless. Top marks. Continue reading

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I refuse to title this post ‘It’s all Greek to me!’

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The word “turmoil” gets thrown around a lot these days when people talk about Greece.

Which is too bad, because it’s got a lot of other, non-turmoily stuff going on that’s pretty cool: Hercules, the Parthenon, lamb roasted on a spit, sweet characters unpronouncable to the lay American speaker, a plus-level flag, Giannis Antetokounmpo, that one typeface that doesn’t have any curves, culture, beautiful islands.

Due on large account to those last couple items, I’ve had a few friends venture thataway, and because they are wonderful, they sent me some Gift Bars. Much love to Katie Bar and Rebecca Bar for the always appreciated gifts! Here’s what I tried:

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Homemade Almond Sweets from Hydra (my best attempt at pronunciation: Yapeka Topeka)

I was scared about the Yapeka sweets, on account of the Lokumi sweets that I’d tried earlier and you’ll read about later. [Ed. note: Yes, this is chronologically out of order. If you are upset then you can go ahead and start your own candy bar blog that is chronologically taut.] My cousin Rebecca Bar went to great lengths to ensure that these bad boys made the voyage from little Greek sweets shop to my tummy, and I’d hate it if I hated them.

My fears were misguided; these were damn tasty. Somewhat-gelatinous almond pastry cubes covered in powdered sugar, the Yapeka itself reminded me of the inside of an almond danish, only if the almond weren’t so finely pressed and instead had a more earthy taste. They were lightly sweet and a very welcome treat on the palate.

That’s a tough description to get through, but it’s a tough treat to describe: I’ve never had an American treat remotely like it. Continue reading

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How Swede It Is

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The international tour continues! [Ed. note: Really sorry about these country puns, guys.]

Nate Bar, my esteemed and cardiovascularly optimized colleague, recently dropped a little bop all over Sweden, romping around at the World Triathlon Championships and spreading positivity and goodwill to all whom he encountered.

He brought that positivity and goodwill back to the office in the form of a monster variety pack of miniatures of Swedish candy bars, pictured above.

I got a crash course in the bars of Sweden. Here are my thoughts:

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Kinder Mini

A delicious, small, Kit Katty-type bar with breakable pieces, a crème filling and puffed rice/oat to add crunch. The puffed whatever-it-was was different than that of a Crunch bar, with a wheatiness to it reminiscent of Smacks. Which was great, because man, I haven’t thought about Smacks in at least a decade.

[Ed. note: What do you think the Smacks Frog is up to these days? He’s definitely not getting into the same clubs as the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and Tony the Tiger are getting into. I bet you he’s one of Snap, Crackle and Pop’s toadies lackeys.]

Twist Caramel

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Essentially a single cell of a Caramello-type bar, with the runny caramel that tasted like it had juuuuust a tad bit of rum in there. A little bit darker of a chocolate than your typical Euro CDM-style.

Not a bad bar at all.

Twist Golden Toffee

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While the name and wrapper might imply that you’re going to be receiving something similar to a Werther’s Original here, it’s in fact a chocolate-covered caramel nougat bar. Good, if not slightly deceptive.

Twist Chocolate Toffee

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See above, only chocolate caramel nougat. Not mad about it, bro. This reminded me a lot of a Riesen.

Daim

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More like, “Daim, that’s some good-ass toffee!” This one’s a Heath Bar as thin as a Skor. I’m a fool for toffee, so I liked this one a lot, but I’ve also had significantly better toffee. Continue reading

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C’mon, give it a Thai: Candy bars from the Far East

IMG_4237One of the perks of this little adventure I’ve gone on is that my friends seem to love sending me candy bars, especially when they encounter them outside of the borders of the United States of America, be it on a vacation or during a longer-term residence.

One of these friends, Kelly Bar, took a journey to Thailand and sent me a care package with all sorts of fun weird candy, along with an accompanying letter explaining the treasure I had just come upon. Kelly, a comrade from a rival team I raced against during my illustrious collegiate rowing career, is currently working her way through her own food-related adventure (a taco-based endeavor she’s dubbed Tacopalooza2015) and is doing a significantly better job than I am, gaining traction by means of actual, legitimate news outlets.

With these bars, as well as two weird Gift Bars from the first couple of BOaP, Alex and Abby Bar, I figured I’d take a culinary trip to the Orient. Here’s what I tried, with Kelly’s descriptions in italics:

United Almond (pictured above)
“I’m guessing Thai people like nuts incorporated in their chocolate because it’s hard to find any plain chocolate bars. This one also looked fancy.

The United Almond is pretty standard: A Thai version of a Hershey’s with Almonds. In terms of mouthfeel, the chocolate is a little waxier than I’m used to, perhaps underscored by its packaged description of “almond coated with chocolate flavour”, flavour being the operative word. Still, though, a pretty tasty bar.

Green Tea Kit Kat

IMG_4223One of the Alex and Abby gift bars, the Green Tea Kit Kat is from Japan. Upon opening the seemingly standard-sized package, I discovered three fun-sized bars inside. I’m not sure whether this is standard-issue packaging for these bars, and I couldn’t get any clues from the packaging because I can’t read Japanese.

Gimme a break ... gimme a break ... break me off a piece and then do it two more times and then wrap them up and package them together as one greater Kit Kat bar.

Gimme a break … gimme a break … break me off a piece and then do it two more times and then wrap them up and package them together as one greater Kit Kat bar.

As far as how it tasted, the Green Tea Kit Kat very much tasted like eating a Kit Kat made out of sweet plants. I wanted to like it. But I didn’t.

Continue reading

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A Candy Bar Superstructed, Deconstructed

IMG_4193It’s been a pretty good week. I mean, look at that fking thing.

That’s a Milka Oreo, i.e. an Oreo turned inside-out and stuffed the fk into a delicious European chocolate bar.

I have been basking in its glory for the past week and a half, ever since my friend Katie Bar brought it back from her jaunt through the Mediterranean.

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Really though just look at it you can’t turn away can you nope.

The Milka Oreo (though likely a baren’t, according to the established definition) is a dessert with a higher percentage of dessert than most [Ed. note: 127% dessert, to be exact]. And that extra dessert pays off: The embedded cookie takes the bar to spectacular heights … so much so that it’s vaguely off-putting? It’s so good that it’s almost unnatural, like if Frankenstein’s monster were to enter an arm-wrestling contest — of course it’s going Over The Top, it’s been specifically engineered to.

Tasting note-wise, its white creme layers — tuxedoed stripes of friendship and delight — consist of less the type of creme found in an Oreo cookie and more the vanilla-ey ganache found in this Lindt from a month or so ago. This is important to note, as they keep the bar texture uniform so the crispiness of the bitter chocolate cookie can illuminate the candy bar experience like everyone wants it to.

In this case, an augmentation of an already-damn-good dessert takes the candy bar experience to a different level. So too, though, can a reduction.

I was #blessed to encounter the latter on a recent dinner visit to The Dawson [Ed. note: Go. Get an Irish coffee regardless of your company, mood and the temperature outside, and thank me.] with the aforementioned Katie Bar and the previously ne’ermentioned Andi Bar.

When our charming bartender/server placed her employer’s dessert menu on the barrel that served as our table, I was full and fixin’ for an express ride to pajamatown, content to take a pass on sweets. I can’t say what got me to scan the menu [Ed. note: Current power rankings: 1. Dessert; 2. An excuse to continue talking with charming bartender/server; 3. The prospect of having to move], but it didn’t take long to sell me.

IMG_4189Did you see it?

IMG_4195Sweet Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, would you look at that. We ordered the hell out of it.

[Ed. note: Yeah, this one doesn’t get past the register either. Whoops. It has “candy bar” in its name, at least.]

IMG_4190As wonderful as the Milka Oreo was on account of its superstruction, so too was the Salted Candy Bar on account of its deconstruction: By choosing what parts to eat when, I became more engaged with the taste and appreciate its different elements. The nougat, presented as interspersed crumbles instead of the uniform layer found in traditional bars, danced differently with the ganache than it did the cake, and it was a great time exploring to see where it was most effective. [Ed. note: The conclusion to that exploration: Everywhere, actually. Outside of that pretentious-ass sentence.] The mousse/panna cotta section at its center was a lot of fun. There were pretzelstuffs.

It was so good. Surely more than the sum of its parts (At least, I think, so long as my understanding of what a “croquant” is is accurate). Both this and the Milka Oreo come with my highest recommendation.

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I can’t Belize I couldn’t think of a better headline

IMG_3848When I wasn’t getting my head shaved, riding around in a ridiculous Camaro and being a robot during the Las Vegas/Los Angeles jaunt I recently took, I was visiting one of my best friends, Sara Bar.

She had recently returned from a wedding in Belize (of two very nice people who were unfortunate casualties of the Great Bike Adventure Debacle of 2015), and when not taking Max Bar and I to Ross Dress For Less because one of us split our pants, she showered me with chocolate bars she had procured out there.

It was a pretty tasty adventure getting through them all; I opened the last one this morning. While they all had fun little eccentricities, they pretty consistently featured the bitter notes of the cacao bean at the front of each bite, to fade away into varying degrees of sweetness as it melted in my mouth. I don’t know if that’s a trait inherent to Belizian chocolate or a byproduct of its organicness and/or freshness, but it was apparent.

My thoughts:

Cocoa Nib Crunch (pictured)
– So, I might be revealing my lack of formal candy bar education, but what the fk is a cocoa nib?
– Like, is it a part of the plant? I’m assuming?
– If they’re what I’m assuming they are out of context, the nibs served as fine, bitter crunchies interspersed within the milk chocolate, adding texture and an almost soft-serve-twist-cone commingling of flavors.

IMG_3902GOSS White with Vanilla Bean
– Never have I ever had white chocolate that tasted like it was actually chocolate. Usually it is creamy and waxy and probably just yogurt.
– Until I ate this bad boy.
– It was very much still white chocolate, but with a more natural, gently bitter flavor. Top marks. Continue reading

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