Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Peanut Festival Continues - Peanut Bars

As I promised - the peanut roll continues!!!

I went through my extensive candy stash and found another couple chocolate covered peanut brittles.  The first one is Jer's Toffee Break - peanut brittle bites covered in dark chocolate:

There's a little bloom here - see the white "dust?"  These must have gotten hot somewhere in my travels and the cocoa butter rose to the surface.  Doesn't impact the taste, they just look a little yucky.

Jer's throws the word toffee in here.  According to The Nibble:
this might be buttercrunch, but it ain't toffee.  I'm calling everything that involves the peanut, and is labeled peanut brittle, peanut brittle.  We'll get to toffee someday.

These weren't that hot.  I like milk chocolate better than dark with peanut brittle, and Jer's brittle had a funky aftertaste.  It's almost a smokey taste.  Didn't like it.

I got these at Candy Expo - chocolate covered peanut brittle:

The peanut brittle was overpowered by waxy, crappy chocolate.  Warrell must be another distributor of cheap, crappy candy.  Good idea, but Feridies does it like 1,000,000,000 times better.

The people at The Peanut Patch (aka Feridies storefront) told me they changed their peanut brittle to make it crunchier (thus the name - Peanut Brittle Crunch).  It used to be called Peanut Squares and just wasn't as good.  Don't get me wrong, it was good and tasted like peanuts, but this has a more buttery flavor and is better.

I met the folks from Old Dominion at Candy Expo.  Their stuff is at Walgreen's, and I'm starting to see it in other places too.  Both of these are their bar, just in different packages.  I like the top one better.  Looks much classier:

This one reminds me of the circus:

See?  Same bars.

I think this is an Old Dominion bar too:

Why do I think that?  The ingredients are exactly the same - peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt (no butter like in Feridies crunch).  And all say they have 286 calories.  They are all good, but Feridies crunch blows them away.

Mars Munch bar also has a buttery taste and indeed, butter is added to the ingredient list above:

I like Feridies WAY better than the Munch bar.  I even like the other peanut bars better.  The butter taste is a little yucky in the Munch, overpowering the peanuts.  I say Boo!!

Now this bar looks and tastes burned:

Seriously!  What happened?  It's made by  the Golden Grove Candy Company in Warsaw NC, so I really wanted to like it (rooting for the home state and all).  But I can't recommend it - it's overcooked!  I may grab another sometime just to see if this was a bad batch. 

This is a sample I got at Candy Expo from Taylor's Candy:
It was supposed to be coconut peanut brittle.  It was the worst of the lot!
I mean - can you see how few peanuts are involved?  And coconut?  It tasted weird, but not necessarily coconutty.  If you go to their website it looks like they just do cheap, crappy candy and this certainly fits.  Bleech.

Atkinson's (maker of the Chick-o-Stick) makes Peco Coconut Peanut Brittle.  Now Peco means Sin in Spanish.  I'm not quite sure what to say about that:

I can't taste any coconut here either.  Maybe my taste buds are just shot.  This peanut brittle is a bit chewier than the others (which I like) but some of the peanuts taste way over cooked like in the Carolina Crisp bar.  It's also darker in color like that bar.  But the chewiness keeps me eating it and it has lots of peanuts, so I can't totally diss it.  There's something about it that I like.  Maybe it's the Sin factor.  So it's better than Munch, but not as good as Old Dominion.  Now if Old Dominion could get a little chewier - well - SNAP!

This Peanut Crunch is just squares of peanut bars:

It's also from The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg and I think it's the same Old Dominion bars.  Ingredients the same, looks the same, I'm sure it is the same.  The best one?  Feridies Peanut Brittle Crunch - hands down.  In fact, I'd say it's a ten and the others are a three at best in comparison.  Smack down!


The more I learn, the less I know.  Who knew all this about brittle and toffee?  That peanuts could be so different?  That peco means sin?

As usual, you can't judge a book by it's cover!  Here we have the same stuff in four different packages.  It's the inside that counts.

Peanut butter and jelly tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Virginia Peanut Festival

This Saturday, the Patron Saint of Single Women, my buddy Larry, and I went to the Virginia Peanut Festival in the metropolis of Emporia, Virginia.  Why do I give Larry Patron Saint status?  After my last dating disaster Larry took me to lunch and reminded me that there was nothing wrong with me.  And as if that wasn't enough, when I suggested we go to the random Peanut Festival, Larry didn't hesitate.  Even when the temperature was pushing 100. See?  Patron Saint.

In fact, I've found that the Peanut Festival is a great screener for dating.  This weekend two guys called me.  When they asked what I had done this weekend, I told them both in an excited voice, "I went to the Virginia Peanut Festival!"  One immediately went on to tell a long and boring story about some relatives he had who used to live in Emporia.  He then proceeded to give me a lecture on vitamin intake.  Told me that you pee most of the vitamins in supplements out.  (As if I don't know this and who the hell cares?  Did he think I was fascinated?  That I was hoping he'd ask me out so I could hear more about urination?)  I could have put the phone down and come back 10 minutes later.  He wouldn't have missed me.  I lied and said I had to go.  When he asked if he could call back I said I was really, really busy.  Forever.

When I told the second man, "I went to the Virginia Peanut Festival!"  He said, "Why?"  Clearly he is not the man for me.  He's a computer guy.  Another one.  Raleigh is infested with them.

The man for me would either - laugh; say he was jealous; or ask what I had to eat at the festival.  If he asked if I saw Mr. Peanut I would propose.

Let's get back to the festival.

Now I've been to the Blueberry Festival in Burgaw, NC where there was blueberry ice cream, blueberry muffins, blueberry bread, and lots and lots of blueberries.  Silly me, I expected the same thing at the Peanut Festival.  Instead it was just.......well, scary.

The opening parade was rolling by when we got there.  There were a lot of Jesus floats - churches with signs about sin and abortion and murder and greed.  I expected to catch on fire at any second.  One group was handing out brochures that asked THE QUESTION.

I had no idea what THE QUESTION was.  But Larry knew.  THE QUESTION is "When I die, will I go to Heaven or TO HELL?"  I'm pretty sure I'm going to Hell with all my other rowdy friends, so I don't worry too much about this.  I really just wanted some peanuts.  I'll get redemption some other time.  Maybe

There was a car show (by the church):

At least this person involved the peanut:

There was a 1949 peanut picker and that brown mound of vegetation in front of the picker is peanut plants:

These were in front of the courthouse:

The was also a weird flea market/vendor area, a Civil War camp reenactment,  (How boring to reenact camping), and a cheesy carnival like you see in the parking lot of Walmart.  What was missing?  PEANUTS!!!!  No peanut foods.  Funnel cakes and all that crap.  Domino's pizza.  I was sweating like I already was in Hell and there were no peanuts in sight.  Bastards. 

I say THE QUESTION is "Where the hell are the peanuts?"

I did get a bag of Planter's Peanuts throw off of one of the floats.  And the Virginia Peanut Growers Association had a booth where I got some peanuts.  Wow - I could barely carry this huge peanut haul!  Good thing I dragged Larry all the way to Emporia, Virginia!  Which I have to tell you, might be the armpit of the state.  YIKES!

Now, this is WHY I went to the Virginia Peanut Festival.  I sampled some Virginia Peanuts at the Fancy Food show and they rock!  They are way bigger than Planters and taste so much better.  The difference really is surprising.  I had no idea what I'd been missing:

Planters on the left, Virginia's Finest on the right.  It's really hard to describe the nuances of peanut flavor, but the Virgina peanuts are so much better.  Less oily, more peanutty.  If you like peanuts, I think you'll love these.  I won't waste my time with Planter's anymore.  Sorry Mr. Peanut, Virginia's Finest are WAY better.

Other than the Virginia Peanut Grower's Association (who seemed less than excited when I said we had come all the way from Raleigh and I loved Virginia peanuts!), there was one lone peanut booth.  I mean there were rubber ducky races and a whole bunch of other crap - two stages with bands, a freakin' car show and the Civil War weirdness, but no peanut booths at the PEANUT festival.  Go figure.

This was The Good Earth Peanut Company:

I bought some of their peanuts and tried to get them excited too.  Told them about the blog!  I'm not sure they have Internet access in Emporia.  Or maybe they just didn't know what a blog was.  Or maybe they were all just stunned by the heat.  Or maybe they could tell I was the spawn of Satan from the Big City who didn't know what THE QUESTION really was.

Well, I turned to Larry after scarfing down a really good pumpkin cupcake from a vendor.  (Home made and AMAZING!  But not peanut!!)  And said, "I have a back-up plan.  Are you willing to drive another 30 miles?"  The Patron Saint of Single Women was in.  I'm kind of hard to resist when pumpkin muffin crumbs are sticking to my sweat.
Feridies Peanut Patch  is what got me started on Virginia peanuts.  I had a speaking engagement in Suffolk, Virgina and on the way back, I saw it and just pulled in.  (I live on the edge like that.) It's everything the peanut festival should have been.  And it's just east of Hell - I mean Emporia. 

Look at this great peanut box!

They have some great peanut flavors - I love the regular salted - I also got Hickory Smoked, chocolate covered peanut brittle and peanut brittle crunch.  But they have loads of stuff - trail mix, other nuts, more peanut flavors (like Scorned Woman and Jamaician Jerk) and you can sample them all!  They even have peanut candy!  See those cuties?

The peanut patch even had peanut shaped erasers and a peanut Christmas ornament!  Woohoo!!  Peanut Heaven!

I thought I'd show you the Good Earth peanuts (on the left) and the Feridies peanuts (on the right):

The Good Earth peanuts are better than Planters, but not as good as Feridies.  Feridies just have a cleaner taste.  A bit less greasy, a bit less salty.  And their overall peanut quality is better - larger and more well formed peanuts.  Look, I've never thought about all this before, but someone had to have a Peanut Festival!
They even had peanut butter pound cake!

I'm glad I found it and tried it, but I was disappointed.  Bland.  A little dry.  Needs more peanut butter!!

I love peanut brittle and this was a time when adding chocolate really worked:

Completely addictive and totally delicious!  This is clearly the work of Satan!!  And I am SO in!!!


Not all peanuts are created equal.  Did you know?  I sure didn't. I've grown up with Planters - they are everywhere.  But they are actually lame.  Just because something is readily available doesn't mean it's the best.  The best takes a little more work to find. 

It's not about the destination - it's about the journey.  Larry and I had a great time - we melted, but we laughed a LOT.  And he was a great sport.  We had an adventure - you have to make those happen.  It's too easy to beg off and just run errands or laze around the house.  Emerson said we're always getting ready to live and never living. 

Now you know what THE QUESTION is.  But I still don't agree.  I don't think THE QUESTION is "What will happen to you after you die?"  I think THE QUESTION is "Will you really LIVE?"

Tomorrow wer're going to talk about peanut brittle without chocolate!  Hey, we're on a roll here!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Final Goodbye to Summer Cookies

It's been insanely hot down here in North Cakalacky - this weekend the high was close to 100.  I almost melted at the Peanut Festival (but that's the next post!).  So it might as well still be summer.  The perfect time to finish up the summer treats.

Flathau's Fine Foods has more flavors of gourmet shortbread cookies.  Here is lemon:

Again, maybe a tad overcooked - see the darker brown at the base?  I so want to like these, but I find them a little bit dry and not that flavorful.  Sorry guys!  I really, really liked the folks from Flathau's so I hate to not love these. 

Another flavor is Key Lime:

The verdict is the same - just not that great.  I want them to be a little less dry - maybe undercooked?  And to have a little more sweetness and flavor.  I like the candy bits, but overall - these just don't do it for me.

I keep trying to like Dancing Deer cookies.  The packaging is cute, they use all natural ingredients.  They get a little too kumbayah with all their mindfulness (They say on the label "we think it's better to share a cookie than gobble one".  Whatever.) and community project stuff, but I do want to like them.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I'm disappointed.

These are adorable Lemon Daisy cookies:

And while not horrible, they sure aren't anything special.  Cute, but completely boring.

If you want a lemon flavor and a great shortbread - this is the cookie for you!  Walkers pure butter Shortbread Lemon Thins:

Nice design, buttery delicious taste, and a hint of lemon.  Walker's recommends serving with a tart lemon mousse and fresh cream. (They don't say anything about sharing or homelessness.)  I think they might work great with a raspberry something.  Or a blueberry something.  Or just handfuls out of the box.  Gobble, gobble.

Not to be left out, Harry and David is in the mix!  With their Tangy Citrus Shortbread:

There's lemon, orange and lime - all three in one box!  And let me tell you - you gotta love citrus to love these.  The flavor to me was overpowering - way too lemony, way too limey and even way too orangey.  More like a Starburst than a cookie.  The worst of the lot!  Harry and David - what the hell?

But, there's hope!  Check out these babies!!

Creme filled (and you can see - they aren't kidding around - look at all that filling!) shortbread in lemon, lime, orange and strawberry.  These are all good - the cookies are great - buttery and delish and the filling is - well, can you really go wrong with frosting?  Strawberry was by far my favorite - orange had a funky aftertaste.  Lemon and lime were both good.  But in all honesty, I like the fruit filling of the galettes better.  Those things are just so damn good!

And look at these - are they not the most adorable cookies evah??  (Snagged them on sale!  Of course, since the Halloween cookies are out now):

They are simple frosted sugar cookies, but I love the sugar cookie!  These are great, not rock hard - just perfect!  And the perfect size.  What a perfect end to summer.  Here's to fall!!!!  And the Peanut Festival!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Fruit and Chocolate

Let's get back to chocolate!  But still fruit!!  As you all know, I am not a big drinker.  But when I saw these, I wanted to try them.  That's part of my problem - I see a new chocolate candy (or cookie or cake or ice cream or frosting) I want to try it.

These are chocolate-covered wine grapes by Bissingers:

The verdict?  If you like wine, you'll like these.  I think I was hoping for something a little more grapey and a little less winey.  But wine lovers will love these and Bissinger's does chocolate right.  They're also unique - I've never seen them anywhere else.  And I love unique!

Bissinger's also makes these Fig Truffles:

They look pretty good, (white chocolate drizzle is a nice touch) but they reminded me of fruitcake.  Not chocolately enough.  They also have cognac in them - ugh.   Where's an alcohol-loving boyfriend when you need one? 

Lindt has a so delicious raspberry truffle:

You just can't go wrong with Lindt.  So creamy, so delicious and this has just the right amount of raspberry and chocolate - LOVE them!!

These little treats are AMAZING!!!  This one is Wildberry Yogurt Eisdessert - a mix of blueberries, raspberry and blackberry filling over yogurt covered in smooth milk chocolate (Eisdessert means ice cream dessert - Lindt suggests you slightly chill these):

This is raspberry:

These are sooooo good - they taste like little fruit and chocolate cheesecakes!  I'm telling you - get to a Lindt store and buy a few - soooo worth it!

This is dark chocolate covered strawberry:

While WAY better than orange, after the awesome baby cheesecakes, why bother with these?  I actually thought the dark chocolate overpowered the strawberry.

Ghirardelli has a dark chocolate square with raspberry filling:

It was okay.  Nothing earth shattering.  Lindt truffles kick Ghirardelli butt.

Lindt also has a raspberry bar:

Lindt's bar has a liquid center sealed in that amazing creamy milk chocolate.  It has a good flavor, but I don't really love the liquid center.  I'd rather have a raspberry cream  filling.

Perugina has a raspberry bar:

It has an interesting center - almost like a raspberry jelly.  I liked it better than the liquid, but I don't love the jellyness.  But what I really like is a creamy raspberry filling (like the filling in the strawberry Lindt above).  So I can't really suggest you run out and get any of these bars.  Get the yogurt/cheesecake eisdessert!!!  Do it, do it!!

One of the big flavors at Candy Expo was black currant (some kind of weird berry).  Lindt has a dark bar in their Excellence line with it:

The bar also has almonds (yum!).  When you open it, all you smell are the weird black currants - a grapey, berryish smell.  I'm not big on blackcurrent (as you heard with the purple bear cookies).  Too bitter.  Don't like it.

This one I got at the Anthon Berg booth at Candy Expo - most of their chocolates are infused with alcohol:

This one was super sweet with just a hint of the blackcurrant bitterness.  While not bad, I don't really want to eat another one.  Not really a rousing endorsement, huh?

Go with the amazing, awesome cheesecake (yogurt, whatever) eisdesserts!  They are fabulous!!!!!  Oh - and if you need some motivation - keep a couple in the fridge!  Yay!!