Archive for January, 2012

Product Description:

Someone once bet us that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Being the worker bees we are, we decided we were up to the challenge, so we cooked and we stirred and we melted and we tasted. And then one day… the honey made it happen, and people have been abuzz ever since.

So put your money on honey and enjoy…

Four salted caramels made with Northern California wildflower honey enrobed in pure dark chocolate and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Learn more about Droga Confections on their website.

What I Think:

I held off on publishing this review since I did recently review the caramel collection from Fran’s Chocolate.  I wanted to have a fresh perspective for these!

And these salted honey caramels from Droga Confections are quite extraordinary.  The caramel is a little harder than a typical caramel, I am not sure if that is because it is made of honey or not.  It is chewy and rich, and the slightly harder texture makes it a chewier, which means that I get more caramel-y flavor in each bite.

And what makes that so important is that this chewier consistency allows me to experience the sweet flavor of the honey.  It is not as pronounced as the caramel-y notes, or even the thin coat of dark chocolate or the fleur de sel, but there are ever so subtle notes of honey in there, and it’s quite nice to have such a pleasant complexity within a caramel.

As I mentioned in previous reviews, I prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and that is especially true when it comes to caramel.  Caramel has such an amazing flavor, but, it is often lost because it is (obviously) incredibly sweet, so it can come off as cloying and the caramel flavor is not enjoyed to it’s fullest.  But the sharper notes of the dark chocolate cut through some of the sweetness, and in this case, the salt also helps to cut through the sweetness.  This allows the dimensions of the caramel to be better enjoyed.

Are these as good as my favored Fran’s Chocolate salted caramels?  No, but, I certainly wouldn’t ever turn these away.  They are really delicious.

My Final Thoughts:

Incredible.  I like that I could taste the subtle notes of the honey in these.  As for a tea pairing, I would suggest something robust to add more contrast to the flavors of these confections, and I think that this Assam Sessa Hajua Estate Tea from Tea Licious is perfect.  The wine-y notes of this unusual Assam bring out the depth of flavor to the chocolate as well as highlight some of the notes of the honey.  Absolutely delicious!

I fell in love with Little Big Burger about a year or so ago, before I had tried Burger Bungalow. I found them on Living Social’s list of 365 Things to do in Portland (a list that is actually longer than 365, but who’s counting?)  By the way, Little Big Burger is #110 on that list:  Best Stand In for In-and-Out.  And, while Burger Bungalow is #1 on my list for burgers, Little Big Burger is #1 on my list for Fries.  They have the best fries EVER.  And I’d take Little Big Burger over In-and-Out any day!

Order:  Cheeseburger with Bleu Cheese and Order of Truffle Oil Fries.

Location:  3747 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR (North Portland location)

What I Think:

I had ordered my Cheeseburger with Bleu Cheese, but, it was Swiss Cheese that adorned my burger.  It was still delicious, but, I really would have been happier with the Bleu Cheese … there is just something amazing when Bleu Cheese and beef come together; it is one of those combinations that just makes me happy, like bacon & chocolate and sea salt & caramel.

As I mentioned above Burger Bungalow makes my favorite local burger, and they have the variety and all kinds of crazy toppings for the burger that will please even the most eccentric burger enthusiast, but when it comes to simple burger pleasure, Little Big Burger is tops.  It is a bun, catsup, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and burger (and of course, cheese if you order a cheese burger).  But it’s the quality of those ingredients that makes this burger so great!

The burger appears smaller than a typical 1/4 pound burger from a typical burger joint.  It actually looks like something between a slider and that typical burger.  But, I actually like the size of it, because it makes for a thicker, juicier burger and you can taste the beef.

The bun from Little Big Burger is my favorite burger bun.  They use brioche buns and they’re lightly grilled so they have a crispy inner surface, and then it’s all fluffy and soft and even a little bit sweet.

And let’s not forget the other ingredients:  local beef (Cascade Natural Beef), fresh veggies, Tillamook cheese and Camden’s catsup. The pickle and the lettuce are the two veggies that stood out most prominently for me because the pickle was crunchy and the lettuce was not wilted.  Usually when I get a burger, I remove the lettuce and discard it because it is wilted and sometimes even slimy.  Gross!  But, not at Little Big Burger.  Everything is fresh and crisp and delicious.

But it’s their fries that put them over the top.  Sure the burger is delicious (and superior, in my opinion, to In-and-Out) but, the fries are sublime!  They are the best fries I’ve yet to taste in the Portand/Vancouver area (and believe me, I’ve been searching for good fries).

These fries are fried crispy and I am not sure if they are then treated to a spritz of Truffle Oil, or if they are cooked in a Truffle Oil blend, but, given how expensive Truffle Oil can be, I suspect that they are instead given some sort of spritz or drizzle of Truffle Oil rather than a cooking in the stuff.  If anyone knows for certain, please feel free to comment and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!  They are salted, and this time, I think they could have gone lighter on the salt, but, they weren’t really too salty.  They were toeing that line between just right and too salty though, and I would have rather it been just a little less salt.

My Final Thoughts:

Sure, the burger is delicious, but, its the fries that will keep me going back to Little Big Burger again and again, because, well, Burger Bungalow is not quite as far a drive.  I’ve tried both locations of Little Big Burger (the Pearl District and the North Portland locations – there are two new locations expected to open some time this year as well), and I’ve not been disappointed by either location, although, if I were to choose one, I’d go with the North Portland location, just because of it’s proximity to The Meadow (YUM!  Chocolate!)  … but then again, The Pearl District location is right down the street from Cupcake Jones.  What to do?

Little Big Burger (N Mississippi) on Urbanspoon

Learn more about p.o.p. candy on their website.

Product Description:

Enjoy slabs of our all natural single-nut butter crunches—Almond, Pecan, and Pistachio—in one package. People love this choice when they’re new to p.o.p.’s hand-made butter crunch or they just can’t decide on one excellent flavor.  It’s a GREAT sampler gift for someone you love or just for yourself cuz you deserve it!

What I Think:

When I first started munching on this delightful candy from p.o.p. candy, I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of toffee I was eating.  It seemed that with every piece the nuts tasted different.  At one point, I knew I was tasting pecans, and with the next piece, I thought I was eating pistachio, and at least one piece tasted like almonds.  I thought that maybe someone had made a mistake and mixed it up, but, then I read the little card insert and realized I had a classic trio pack.

The “butter crunch” toffee is incredible.  Not quite as “brittle” as a brittle, it is crispy but there is a little more softness and chewiness to the texture than in a traditional brittle.  It is sweet and buttery, and rather addictive.

The variety of nuts taste fresh and add a nice crunch to the toffee.  When I first saw that this was toffee and not brittle, my immediate thought was “why isn’t it coated in chocolate?”  But as I’ve mentioned several times, I’m a chocoholic, and I can’t seem to help myself from such thoughts.

But, I didn’t miss the chocolate for long.  After the first bite, I forgot all about the fact that it wasn’t coated in chocolate and just savored the delicious buttery flavor.  This little bag is full of wonderful!  My only complaint?  It disappeared too fast.

My Final Thoughts:

Completely and utterly YUM.  MUST get more!

In my Stocking Stuffer Tasting Box, I received four different Sun Cups:  a milk chocolate sunflower butter, a dark chocolate sunflower butter, a caramel cup and a mint cup.  I tried each of these at different times and took notes of each tasting so that I could compose one review for all four Sun Cups. 

Product Description:

Imagine a luscious, nut-free, organic chocolate cup filled with roasted sunflower butter or mint cream or caramel. That’s a Sun Cup!

To Learn More about Sun Cups and Seth Ellis Chocolatier, visit the website.

What I Think:

I started with the milk chocolate sunflower butter cup, and it is delicious.  The sunflower butter is creamy and satisfying and nutty, tasting like… well, sunflower seeds.  No big surprise there.  The milk chocolate was quite sweet and even though I’ve a sweet tooth, as I finished the cup I found myself wanting something to help cut through the sweet, cloying taste that had developed on the back of my palate. Delicious (incredibly so!) … but sweet.

Which is why I found the dark chocolate sunflower butter cup much more to my liking.  With the first bite, I noticed that the more assertive flavor of the dark chocolate did mute out some of the softer flavors of the sunflower butter cup at the start, but, as I took my second bite, I noticed the flavor of the sunflower butter coming through.  The aftertaste is bittersweet from the chocolate.  This is really lip-smacking good!

The Mint Cup is really good.  Much better than I was anticipating.  I figured, “oh okay, this will kind of be like a peppermint patty” but, it is so much better.  The dark chocolate is thicker than in the typical peppermint patty, so it presents a stronger flavor.  It is a rich, dark chocolate, and what I like is the creamy mint filling, because it doesn’t taste overly sweet.  Sure, it’s sweet, but, it doesn’t have that cloyingly sweet flavor of the average peppermint patty.  It compliments the dark chocolate of this cup well.

I saved what I thought would be my favorite of the quartet for last:  the Caramel Cup.  Before even opening the package, I found myself wishing that it had been made with dark chocolate.  My thoughts here did not change as I ate the cup, I think I would have preferred a dark chocolate caramel cup.

That being said, this is still one seriously delicious piece of candy.  The caramel is rich and smooth and creamy – I love the texture of the caramel.  It isn’t a viscid/solid kind of caramel; it is liquid, but, not a thin, runny caramel, it is thick enough and has enough body to it to stay inside the cup as I eat it.  In other words:  gooey, but, not oohey-gooey.

The milk chocolate is sweet and delicious.  One Caramel Cup is more than sufficient even for this sweet-toothed chocoholic, because the combination of caramel and milk chocolate was incredibly sweet.  As I said before, I found myself wishing it was a dark chocolate cup, or at the very least, it had been adorned with a sprinkling of sea salt to help offset some of the sweetness.  It is still delicious, but I think it could have been even better.

My Final Thoughts:

These Sun Cups were amazing.  YUMMY!  As for a tea recommendation, I had these four cups at different times (yes they were yummy, but, they were incredibly rich and I really couldn’t handle more than one at a time)… but I found one variable that remained steadfast, and that was a choice of tea:  I chose an Assam tea to drink with these confections.  I found that the hint of bitter undertone to the Assam was a pleasant contrast to the sweetness of the candy, and there were no extraneous flavors to compete with the flavorful fillings of the Sun Cups.  My current favorite Assam (my favorite does change from time to time!):  Golden Tips Assam from The Tao of Tea.