Friday, January 17, 2014

Creative Snacks Co

As you know, I love snacks.  I love to munch and crunch.  Generally I go for the sweet options, but sometimes, I also like savory.

When visiting my family in New Hampshire, I discovered Creative Snacks Co. products at the local grocery store.  I was hooked.  They make many products, including both sweet and savory, ranging from snack mixes, to veggie chips, to dried fruits, to gummy candy, assorted nuts and seeds, granolas, etc.  The only products I've tried are the assorted dried veggies, although pretty much everything they make sounds tempting!

I can't get enough of them, and now always demand politely request them when my mom goes grocery shopping in advance of my arrival.  If you see these around, I highly recommend!
Mixed Veggie Chips.
The first product I tried was the mixed vegetable chips.  The mix contains sweet potato (purple and regular), taro, squash, carrots, and green beans.

It didn't take long for me to hone in on my favorites.  Throughout many buckets of this, I easily identified that the taro sticks are my favorite (although sometimes they are a bit too crispy).  They satisfy my desire to crunch on something the best.  I've also always liked the green beans and the carrot coins, as both are super flavorful.  The green beans always surprise me in just how strong the green bean flavor is!  The sweet potatoes and squash are always nice and crunchy, but often seem a little too oily, are not flavorful enough, and are the least remarkable of the bunch.  They are really pretty though, the purple potato in particular adds a lot of color to the assortment.
Carrot Chips..
Luckily for me, my second and third picks, the green beans and carrots, are also sold individually (as is okra, not included in the mix).  My new technique is to get a bin of the mixed veggies, eat mostly just the taro/carrots/green beans, and get extra bins of carrots and green beans.  My little sister likes the sweet potato and squash, so she gobbles up whatever I reject.  Win-win!

I also created my own snack mix, with the carrots chips and Snyder's Honey Mustard Pretzel Nibbles.  This turned into a great creation, I loved the honey mustard and the carrots combined!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Cookie Department

At a product fair, I was recently introduced to cookies from The Cookie Department, a local (Berkeley) based maker of pre-packaged cookes.  They make what they have deemed "functional" cookies.  Each type of cookie has a particular function.  In their words, "TCD bakes "Fully Functional" cookies. By taking classic cookie favorites fortified with innovative ingredients like coffee caffeine, superfoods, probiotics and whey protein, cookie customers receive extra health benefits in every mouthwatering bite."

Hmmm.  I am all for excuses to eat more cookies, but these just weren't that great.
Great Full.
This is a vegan sweet potato, cranberry and oatmeal cookie.

It was dry and crumbly, with a super strange taste.  I couldn't identify what I was tasting at all.  I did not like this.  I didn't know it was vegan until later, which might explain the dryness and crumbliness?
Chocolate Chip Nookie.
Chocolate Chip Nookie is a chocolate chip cookie, with maca, a Peruvian root said to increase vitality.  This one was soft with a good texture, but again, a super strange taste.  Do NOT like.

[ Update review: I again appreciated the soft texture, but there is something just completely off about the taste. ]
Cherry Bomb, Chocolate Chip Nookie.
The Cherry Bomb is a gluten-free chocolate cookie with cherries.  I did not like it either.  It was bitter, had a strange taste, and a funny texture.  I didn't know it was GF until I was writing this up, and that partially explains the texture issues I had at least.

Not pictured is the Tough Cookie.  A peanut butter based protein cookie.  It had ok peanut butter flavor, but it was not all that soft,  and just was not really that good.  I didn't like it.  But I found out later that it had 10g of protein in it.  Sure, compared to regular peanut butter cookies it wasn't good, but compared to say a power bar?  I'd pick it any day as a post-workout snack.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Delivery from Amber Dhara

It has been a while since I've reviewed indian cuisine.  I'm still sorta searching for somewhere I like.

I've tried many places in SF, ranging from fancier places like Dosa on Fillmore, to cheap Lahore Karahi in the Tenderloin, to the awful Aslam's Rosoi, classic Udupi Palace, or goan-style Gajalee in the Mission.  None have really been worth returning to.

My favorite indian food in the area is still down in Palo Alto, at Amber India.  I had many great meals there, but as you may recall, the last time I went to the Amber India in SF, I had such an awful experience, I vowed not to return.  But, the Amber chain expanded in SF a year or so ago, opening Amber Dhara on Valencia.  I had a decent meal at the Amber Dhara in Palo Alto, so I was eager to try this new Amber establishment out.

Unfortunately, Ojan isn't able to go out these days, so we decided to order delivery, not something I do often, at all.  I'm too much of a food snob to deal with cold food.  But indian is a cuisine that I know re-heats well, so we gave it a shot.  I was really excited to see Amber Dhara listed as an option for delivery, even though it was far pricier than anywhere else.  And they had an additional delivery fee, which again, no where else did.  And reviews weren't great.  But ... I really wanted to try it.  Who trusts the Yelpers anyway?

I read in many reviews that it takes 3! hours for the delivery to arrive, so we actually ordered in advance on the day before.  I figured this would be the way to ensure it came on time.  I also put in the notes to please try to deliver at our specified time.

And ... it came 45 minutes late.  Sigh.  It was all cold.  

It turns out, I completely agreed with the Yelpers, for once.  The delivery experience was poor - late and cold food.  No cutlery was provided, even though it clearly said to include it on my slip.  There was also no way to specify spice levels when ordering, which I found really strange.  The additional delivery charge made me grumpy, particularly given that it arrived so late and cold.  I'm also realizing that I think I'm going to stop including the tip when I order.  When it comes so late, I'd like to not give a high tip.  And, if it comes fast or the delivery person is particularly friendly, I'd like to give more.  Pre-determining a tip amount seems silly.

Anyway.  The food was ok.  Probably better than most indian delivery.  They do use higher end ingredients.  I'm sure it would have been better at the restaurant.  But the fact that Amber Dhara is priced so much higher then other indian restaurants, adds a delivery fee, and expects a tip, makes it way too pricy in the end for what you get.  $40 for our little meal would easily be <$20 at most other places.  I won't likely order delivery again, but perhaps I'll still check out the restaurant some time.
Cilantro Garlic Naan. $3.
Since this was delivery, and obviously, delayed delivery, it isn't quite fair to evaluate the naan with any expectations.  But, I'll still describe what arrived.

Limp, soggy, cold.  Very moist from condensation in the foil.  Obviously, not good.  I threw it in the toaster oven and it crisped up fine.

From what I could tell, this would have been unremarkable naan even if fresh.  It didn't have a char to it or anything.  There was a small amount of garlic, but again, nothing notable.

At $3, this is slightly more expensive than most naan.
Saag Paneer: Cottage cheese, garlic, spinach and mustard.  Side portion.  $8.
I love paneer, so this was an easy pick for me, particularly as Amber Dhara is known for really using fresh greens and keeping this dish light.

The food was barely lukewarm when it arrived, so I had to warm it back up.  A strike against their delivery service for sure.

The dish was pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.  Chopped up greens that did indeed taste fresh.  Chunks of onion too.  The greens weren't mushy, and really tasted quite bright.  Decently spiced, although, not remotely "spicy".  I would have liked some heat.  There was a generous amount of paneer, small cubes, again, all fresh tasting.  A bit squeaky, but otherwise, well prepared, and I'm guessing house made?  Best saag paneer I've had in recent memory.

I enjoyed this, and would probably order again.  I went for the side portion rather than full entree, so it was only $8, and plenty for me. I really like that they offer all of the vegetarian dishes as sides in addition to entrees, and wish they'd do the same for the non-vegetarian too.  This portion size was really just right (with naan and the other dishes, I actually was easily able to make it last two meals).  Favorite dish we ordered.
Butter Chicken: White meat, tomato sauce and kasoori methi.  $15.50.
Ojan requested the butter chicken.  All of the Amber restaurants are known for their butter chicken, and we've enjoyed it many times in the past, at pretty much each of their branches.  Even though I dislike chicken these days, I knew the sauce to be delicious enough that I went along with this order.

Like the saag, it was barely lukewarm, and needed to be heated up.

As I said, I don't like chicken, but I tried a few pieces to really be able to evaluate it.  All white meat, very generous amount of chicken in here.  But, it was chicken.

I was in it for the sauce.  I remember always using my naan to lap up every last bit of butter chicken sauce, pretty much every single time I've visited, or ordered take out, from any of the other Ambers.  Sadly, that didn't happen this time.

The sauce didn't blow me away like it normally does.  Maybe that is because I saw the oil pooled on top since it had separated out as it cooled down.  Maybe it just isn't as good.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it.  I dunno.  It was creamy, but oily, and the spicing wasn't really there.

At $15.50 it was far more expensive than most indian restaurants in the city, although the meat was quality.  This was a full size portion, which fed Ojan two meals, gave me a bunch of sauce to dip my naan in, and we still had at least another portion left over.  So, generous size, but expensive.  I wouldn't get it again, but Ojan might.
Rice Kheer: Classic rice pudding with nuts.  $6.
And finally, you know I needed my dessert!

Well, like the other food, this was also lukewarm.  But, that is because it was in the bag with the warm other food, with a warm dish on top of it, and on the bottom.  Come on, cold and hot shouldn't be next to each other for transport!

Anyway.  Basic rice pudding.  Creamy sauce.  Some slivered almonds.  Not much spicing.  Way too sweet.  Yes, I said it.  Way too sweet.

Portion was large, and given that Ojan doesn't eat rice pudding, and I didn't like it much, I had a hard time finishing it up.  $6 is fine for a dessert in a restaurant, but for simple rice pudding it was high, especially considering I normally find rice pudding for $2! Wouldn't get again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

O Ya Restaurant, Boston

I recently visited Boston for a business trip.  I was traveling alone, but still wanted great food.  Normally when I'm dining alone, I choose casual places, but this time, I was inspired to try something else.  So on my first night there, I opted to visit a sushi bar.  I've been craving sushi for a while, and sitting at a sushi bar solo seemed like it wouldn't be awkward.

After extensive research, I narrowed my selection down to a handful of sushi restaurants, and finally settled on O Ya, after I read that they took reservations for the sushi bar.

The location seemed a bit sketchy, but perhaps it was just because I was alone, it was dark and raining, and I had stepped off a plane literally moments before, stopping only long enough to throw my bags at the hotel and run a brush through my hair.  It wasn't far off a main street, but the entrance was located a little bit down what seemed like a deserted alley.

Once I stepped inside though, the vibe all changed.  I was greeted cheerfully, my coat was whisked away by a woman who complimented me on it, and I was quickly led to my seat at the sushi bar.
My view.  So many squirt bottles!
I was seated right at the sushi counter, directly in front of one of three sushi chefs.  Each chef had his own workstation, with fish and a huge assortment of squirt bottles.  Seriously, check out the squirt bottles!  All different colors and sizes.  It was clear that I was going to get to see some serious artistry.

I enjoyed my seat at the bar, particularly as I was a solo diner, it gave me something to watch and pay attention to.  There were 18 seats at the bar, each with stool seating, not the most comfortable, but at least they had purse hooks at each slot.  There were also 18 seats at regular tables, mostly tables for two or four.

In addition to the 3 sushi chefs working the counter, there was a back kitchen where cooking was done.  It was partially open, but I didn't spend much time peeking in there.

Unlike most sushi bars I've been to, there was absolutely no interaction with the sushi chefs.  It didn't matter that I was dining at the bar, they never looked my way.  They rarely looked up, didn't once look at me.  This was a bit unfortunate, I always thought that the interaction with a sushi chef is part of the experience.

My interactions were all done through my waiter instead.  I couldn't quite figure him out.  He seemed a bit snooty, but was nice to me.   The woman next to me had some serious drama with him that I never quite figured out, but they were very upset.  Right when I sat, one of them asked him if duck was considered red meat or not.  He said he didn't know.  They couldn't believe that he didn't know, and wrote in huge letters on their menu, "DUCK IS RED MEAT".  But the real drama came later on.  They spent the last 45 minutes of their meal arguing about tipping him.  One of them adamantly did not want to leave him any tip at all, and the other agreed that he should not be tipped well, but really loves O Ya and wanted to be able to return sometime.  They talked to the manager several times.  I still wasn't ever able to grasp what happened, but I think it involved something where the waiter made a comment about one of them trying to steal the little cat shaped chopstick rest.  I felt sad for them, as they honestly sat there for at least 45 minutes after they finished eating, just arguing about how much to tip.

Back to the service.  It was all very polite, efficient.  Plates were delivered to diners as soon as they were ready.  Cleaned up as soon as they were empty.  Everyone seemed nice enough on the surface, with polite but reserved smiles.  But there was an air of pretentiousness that made it not feel quite comfortable.  Again, everyone was nice enough, but, it didn't feel quite right.  I never felt like I connected with my server in any way, but at the same time, I'm not really sure if the "mistakes" that were made in my favor later on were truly mistakes, or if he was just hooking me up.

Speaking of hooking me up.  I knew from looking at the menu online beforehand that O Ya was a pricey place.  I also knew that nigiri all come in pairs, sashimi usually in 3-5 pieces.  Since I was dining alone, this meant that I'd only be able to select maybe 3 dishes total, in order to limit not only price, but also portions.  When I double checked with my server about the sizes of the dishes, he let me know that they could do anything in a single portion instead, and they'd price it accordingly.  This was great news!  What I really wanted was an assortment of dishes, and just one piece of each.  So, I ordered everything as singles, but as you'll see below, I sometimes got more than that.

The server could also tell that I was the type who was going to want to take notes, and told me I could feel free to write all over my menu, and even brought me a pen to mark it up.  Very much appreciated.  I guess they do this for most people, as the women next to me had their menu and pen as well, hence the whole DUCK IS RED MEAT message.

The vibe of the restaurant was good.  Everything looked amazing, and given my vantage point at the bar, I got to see a lot of sushi go by.  Patrons, with the exception of the women next to me, were very happy.  The music was lively, almost a bit strange to have at a fairly upscale sushi bar, but I enjoyed it.  I didn't really notice it until Macklemore's Thrift Shop came on, and I started bobbing my head in my seat.

As for the food, it was some of the best sushi I've had in the past few years, and I'd certainly return.  Quality fish, thought-out pairings, interesting flavors.  However, I did have even better sushi the next night (stay tuned!), so I'd return there before I'd return to O Ya.

The nigiri was all a good size.  You would not feel that they were skimpy with the portion, yet the pieces weren't too large to easily eat as a single bite.  Really, just perfectly sized.  I particularly liked that there wasn't too much rice, just enough to accent the fish, and not overwhelm it.  The sushi was all modern style, where every piece was carefully constructed with sauces built-in, you weren't ever to add soy sauce.
Hamachi Nigiri: Spicy banana pepper mousse. $14 (pair).
I like hamachi, but I don't love it.  In my list of sushi picks, it certainly falls after salmon, char, tuna, uni, butterfish, and probably others.  But when I asked my server if he had any top picks, this was his number one.  So, I tried it.

The first thing that struck me was the serving plate.  My OCD was a bit driven crazy by the fact that the hamachi had visible grain to it, and it wasn't lined up with the visible lines in the plate.  Ahh!  But the plate was a unique shape and pattern, and did add to the dining experience.

This was one of the better pieces of hamachi sushi I've had.  The fish was slightly torched, which gave it a smoked flavor, which I loved.  On top was the banana pepper "mousse", which was more of a chunky puree, with some kick to it.  I also tasted truffle, although it wasn't listed on the menu.  When I asked the server, he told me it did indeed have truffle oil.

Overall, this had a lot of flavor, and the spicy banana pepper mousse was a flavor that lingered, in an enjoyable way.  My third pick of the night, mostly just because I don't ever love hamachi.  I probably wouldn't get again.

Price for a pair was $14, which is obviously on the higher end, but right for this calibre of sushi restaurant.
Salmon Tataki Nigiri: Torched tomato, smoked salt, onion aioli. $12.
Salmon on the other hand, is usually a favorite of mine.  This was no exception.  As with the hamachi, I ordered a single piece, but the server forgot to order it that way, so I got the full pair.  It turns out that I was quite happy with this mistake!

This came plated on a totally different style of plate.  As I would quickly discover, each dish would come on a unique plate, each beautiful, but not even really in the same style as the last.  This helped mirror the feel of the restaurant, each dish was elegant and upscale, but the mismatched serving ware created a more relaxed atmosphere.

Like the hamachi, the salmon was a quality piece of fish, a good size, and was also slightly torched.  It would have been good as classic nigiri I'm sure, but the pairings it was presented with took it over the top.

On top of the salmon was a torched tomato slice.  This thing was amazing.  It was incredibly juicy, flavorful, and very smoky.  Smoked salt sprinkled over it all amped up that smoky flavor further.  On top of the tomato was a dollop of onion aioli, which added creaminess, and went perfectly with the tomato.  And then crisp chive sprouts for even more intense onion-y, almost garlic-like flavor.  Even apart from the sushi, the torched tomato and onion aioli would have been a magnificent bite! Along with the salmon, it was even better.

I don't know how to make this sound like a compliment, but I mean it to be one: it reminded me of a BLT.  The tomato was obviously the tomato, the chive sprouts the lettuce, and the salmon and smokey components replaced the bacon.  I know that doesn't sound quite right, but, a BLT is a classic for a reason, and those elements work together very well.

Like the hamachi, this piece also had a flavor that lingered, in this case, it was the strong onion flavor.  Not quite as enjoyable as the banana pepper mousse, but I did like how you didn't just eat a piece and forget it.

My favorite of the night, and I was very glad to accidentally receive two of these.  I could have eaten even more.  I'd get this again.  $12 for the pair seemed reasonable, given the type of restaurant O Ya is.
Bluefin Maguro Nigiri: Caramelized onion, foie gras ponzu, crunchy gobo. $16 (pair).
Next up came the one I was most excited for, the bluefin.  I do like tuna, but that isn't why I was excited.  You see, I had just flown in from California, and this was going to be my first taste of foie gras in quite some time.

As for the maguro, I honestly can't evaluate it.  There were too many other things going on in this bite to taste it or understand it at all.

The fish was covered in foie gras ponzu.  As part of the bite, I couldn't really taste that either, but when I tasted the little bit of ponzu alone that had dripped onto the plate, I was able to taste the foie, and it did have good flavor.  Unfortunately, it was just lost as part of the composed piece.

Whatever was on top was crispy, I guess that was caramelized onion, but I really didn't taste that much onion flavor.  Perhaps my taste buds were just unable of tasting onion after the more intense onion in the previous piece.

I never found the gobo, I am not sure where it was supposed to be.  Maybe that was the crispy bits, and I was just missing the caramelized onion?  I'm not sure.

What I did taste, very distinctively, was pink peppercorn.  Not listed on the menu, but obviously there.  The peppercorn balls added a fun crunch, and being pink peppercorn were more mild, and thus possible to eat like this.

Overall, things didn't work very well here.  The flavors did not compliment each other, but instead cancelled each out other.  I wasn't able to enjoy the maguro or the foie gras.  And like the others, there was a dominant flavor that lingered, the pink peppercorn.

The highest priced nigiri I got, which is sad, because it was also the weakest.  My fourth favorite of the night, and I wouldn't get it again.
Arctic Char Sashimi: Yuzu cured, smoked sesame brittle, cumin aioli, cilantro. $21.
Next I moved on to the sashimi portion of the menu.  I was told that these dishes generally come in 3-5 pieces, and that they are smaller individually, so for this one, the waiter said he'd order me two pieces.

I took this photo after the smoked cleared, literally. What was delivered to me was a bamboo steam basket, filled with hickory smoke.  The lid was removed to let all of the smoke escape.  The aroma was incredible.  Major presentation points here.

The overall dish took on some of that smoky flavor as well.  Smoke seems to be a major theme here, or at least it was in most of the dishes I ordered.  The char was again quality fish, expertly sliced.  I did not taste the yuzu cure.  The smoked sesame brittle wasn't what I expected.  At first, I didn't see it at all, but it was there, tiny little pieces, providing a bit of a crunch.  I wouldn't have known what it was, but I appreciated the crunch, and the slight sweetness it brought to the dish.

The cumin aioli was very different.  I'm pretty certain that I've never had cumin with my sushi before.  A very unique pairing.  It was subtle, but cumin is pretty unmistakable.  I didn't exactly like it, but I really appreciated the idea behind it.  My second pick of the night, but I probably wouldn't get it again.
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin: Uni mousse, kuidashi gelee, tonka bean. $23.
And finally, the uni, something I always order when it is on a menu.  I was tempted to not order it this evening actually, since it was Santa Barbara uni, and it seemed silly to order that when in Boston.  And there were so many other great sounding dishes on the menu.  But ... they had me at "uni mousse".  I'm a sucker for any sort of savory uni like custard/pudding/etc.

Presentation-wise, this was ugly yet stunning at the same time.  I loved how the shredded nori resembled the spikes on a real urchin.  Not sure if that was intentional, but it really worked for me.

I'm not sure what size portion of this one I wound up with.  I was expecting a single lobe of uni, perhaps topped with a dollop of uni mousse.  Or maybe no full piece at all, just a mousse with toppings.  Instead, I got a large bowl of mousse, topped with tons of uni. I think this was the full serving, I can't imagine that it wasn't, given how much uni there was.  My guess is that they didn't really have a way to create a single serve of it.

So, let me describe.  Underneath the shredded nori was an insane amount of uni.  There were at least 4 full lobes, I think actually 6.  It was decent uni, but not particularly remarkable.  So, good in that it didn't taste off, which uni often can, but it also wasn't striking.  Since I was eating this all myself, it actually turned out to be too much uni.  I know that sounds a bit crazy, but near the end, I was sorta just wishing it was gone.  Or maybe that I had something else to pair it with.  Just eating that much pure uni turned out to be too much.  Who knew?

Anyway, alongside the lobes of uni was = kuidashi gelee.  I didn't love it, the consistency was a bit strange.  A little slimy, a flavor I couldn't quite decide if I liked.  I think I didn't like it, but I wanted something with the uni, so I kept going back for more.  I never found any tonka bean.

But, under all of that, was the amazing part.  The uni mousse!  It was creamy.  It had an uni flavor that wasn't too strong, but also was pronounced enough that it was clear you weren't just eating a plain pudding.  It was, in short, everything I ever want any uni mousse/custard/etc to be.  One of the best I've had.

And it was nice to have a spoonful of the super creamy mousse, and top it with some of the additional uni, really accenting the flavor.  But, I would have exchanged more mousse for less uni.  Silly girl I am.

At $24, this was really a good value given how very much uni there was.  It wound up being my last pick of the night, only because I just got sick of it.  If it was smaller, or just the mousse, I would have rated it higher.
Housemade Chocolates: Yuzu Hazelnut, Salted Caramel with Hojicha. 
Before my check was presented to me, I was brought two final tasty treats, housemade chocolates, made fresh daily.  Since I can't have caffeine in the evenings, I put them in my purse, to enjoy the next morning with my coffee.

When I pulled them out the next day, I had already forgotten what flavors they were supposed to be, and I decided it would be more fun to taste test them without consulting my notes.

I started with the one that turned out to be the yuzu hazelnut.  I detected the hint of citrus, but thought it might be orange?  Apparently that was yuzu.  There also seemed to be a tiny bit of heat to it.  I did not taste hazelnut.  The filling was creamy, the outer shell a smooth decent chocolate.  Overall, enjoyable.

Then I moved on to the salted caramel.  This filling was more runny that the first one, but not entirely liquid.  It had an amazing flavor, classic salted caramel, perfect salt level.  There was a hint of something else that I couldn't place at all, which I'm guessing was the hojicha.  Again, decent chocolate shell.  I liked this even more.

These were good chocolates, better than most chocolates I purchase even at specialty chocolate stores, and would be the perfect end to a meal (or, in my case, the perfect start to the next day!)
O Ya on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Russell Stover Chocolates

Not the calibre of chocolate I normally review, but I received a ton of Russell Stover for Christmas, so I at least tried them.

Spoiler: they are not good.  My favorite part of tasting these chocolates was the quotes from my co-tasters, and I've included some highlights below.

Side note: A few years ago, when I was at my local chocolate shop, they actually had us do a side-by-side comparison of some of their products with Russell Stover to show how different the chocolates could be.  It was incredibly striking then, and after trying a whole box of these things, I understand why!

Truffles, Whips, and Creams

Otherwise known as "soft centers".  These are usually round.
  • Milk Chocolate Maple Nut Cream: "A maple nut cream filling with walnuts covered in rich milk chocolate." Tasting notes: The milk chocolate is even worse than the dark chocolate, offering nothing particularly chocolatey. This had a few bits of nuts for a crunch, and a slight maple sweetness, but otherwise, very MEH.
  • Milk Chocolate Truffle: "A rich chocolate center covered in sweet milk chocolate."  Tasting notes: Waxy, bitter, and horrible.
  • Dark Chocolate Coconut Cream: "A creamy coconut filling covered in deep, dark chocolate."  Tasting notes: I laugh at their “dark” chocolate, as this didn’t have any flavor of dark chocolate at all. The coconut didn’t really taste like coconut, more just like sweet, with texture from coconut. Very disappointing.
  • Dark Chocolate Maple Nut Cream: "A maple nut cream filling with walnuts covered in rich dark chocolate." Tasting notes: One of the better ones in the box, but still not good. The nut and maple flavors were good, and the dark chocolate was much better than the milk.
  • Dark Chocolate Raspberry Parfait: "Light and fluffy, our Parfaits have a whipped raspberry center covered in a thick layer of rich dark chocolate."  Tasting notes: Again, the dark chocolate aspect of this was a joke, but the filling was a pleasant enough whipped berry flavored thing.  I wouldn’t get another, but I was at least willing to finish it.

Butter Fudge

Usually oval.
  • Dark Chocolate Butter Cream Caramel: "Smooth and delicious butter cream caramel layered in deep, dark chocolate." Tasting notes:  Didn't really detect any caramel.  One taster said:  "There is a hint of dark chocolate in that at least." 
  • Milk Chocolate Butter Cream Caramel: "Smooth and delicious butter cream caramel covered in creamy milk chocolate." Tasting notes:   Again, caramel?  Didn't really taste it.
  • Milk Chocolate Maple Nut Butter: Tasting notes: Another bitter, waxy, horrible one. I gave up on trying any more of their milk chocolate after this. 

Nut Clusters

Usually round with a chunky surface.
  • Milk Chocolate Coconut Cluster: "Toasted coconut drenched in rich milk chocolate." Tasting notes: Nasty milk chocolate, even more nasty coconut. Really dried out flakes. Not good at all. Another taster said: "I like coconut but I don't like that one at all". [ Their very crappy milk chocolate, loaded up with shredded coconut. Coconut reminded me of sawdust. Not good at all. ]
  • Pecan Delight: "Candymakers drizzle melted caramel over chopped pecans and top each candy with a quartet of pecan halves. Then comes the chocolate: our special recipe milk chocolate, drizzled over everything and topped with another pecan half."  Tasting notes: mostly caramel, which makes the name of this kinda funny.  Caramel was smooth, soft, and sweet.  Very buttery and actually kinda nice.  The milk chocolate was very creamy and inoffensive.  Pecans seemed slightly caramelized or glazed and paired very nicely with the caramel filling.  Overall, I was very surprised by this, it was decent.  Pretty much the only thing I have tried by Russell Stover that I'd remotely consider eating again, and not part of their classic boxes.


Usually rectangular
  • Dark Chocolate with Walnuts and some kind of nougat. Tasting notes: We didn't know what this one was.  Gritty, kinda awful feeling. We think it had walnuts, although we were not entirely sure what type of nuts they were. Quote from fellow taster: "With all the oil taste, I couldn't tell it was too sweet". Another identified the strongest flavor it in: "Petroleum!" 


  • Butter Nut Crunch: "Almond toffee rolled in milk chocolate and covered in crunched almonds."  Tasting notes: Slightly chewy hard toffee, slight bitterness, crappy milk chocolate coating. Not horrible, but not good either.