Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Chocolate eggs full of surprises


Our Taste Team cackles over Easter candies; area and national names savor sweet success

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Chocolate Easter eggs bring out the kid in us.

When we asked our Taste Team to blindly sample chocolate eggs, for instance, they brought bunny ears to wear for their critical nibbling. Yes, they wore long wire ears wrapped in fuzzy pink and blue. They even insisted the person, ahem, bringing them samples of the candy wear the bunny ears at all times.

Once the giggling ended, the panel of eight settled down to serious business. They sampled 24 chocolate eggs, most made in Greater Cincinnati sweet shops, within three categories: milk chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled eggs, dark chocolate-covered opera cream-filled eggs and a nest of "wild card" chocolate eggs stuffed with various fillings.

The team rated the eggs on a 100-point scale, judging them on appearance, taste and texture of chocolate and fillings, and how the chocolate and fillings complemented each other.

THE BEST EGGS
The Taste Team rated chocolate-covered candy eggs in three categories on a 100-point scale. Average scores are in ( ).
Best peanut butter
Reese's (96)
Graeter's (88)
Haute Chocolate (76)
Best opera cream
Esther Price ("buttercream") (92)
Aglamesis Bros. (88)
Graeter's (81)
Best "wild card"
Aglamesis Bros.' "turtle" (98)
Esther Price's "strawberry cream" (89)
Schneider's Homemade Candies' "chocolate-amaretto" (88)
WHERE WE BOUGHT THEM
Most of these candy stores and shops also sell pre-made or custom-made Easter baskets containing chocolate eggs and other candies. Call for prices and to check availability.
Aglamesis Bros., 3046 Madison Road, Oakley (531-5196); 9887 Montgomery Road, Montgomery (791-7082).
Esther Price Fine Chocolates, 7501 Montgomery Road, Kenwood (791-1833).
Fawn Confectionery, 4271 Harrison Ave., Bridgetown (574-9612); Northgate Mall, Bevis (741-1159); Rookwood Pavilion, Norwood (351-4191).
Graeter's (15 Greater Cincinnati locations).
Haute Chocolate, 9823 Montgomery Road, Montgomery (793-9999).
Papas (also labeled Putman's) available at Kroger, other grocery stores and Supreme Nut & Candy Co.
Reese's (most groceries and convenience stores).
Schneider's Homemade Candies, 420 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue (859-431-3545).
Sweet Tooth Candies, 125 W. 11th St., Newport (859-581-6763); 2929 Dixie Highway, Crestview Hills (859-331-0883).

A tally of the scores revealed two surprises and one non-surprise. First, Reese's won the peanut butter egg category. We actually threw in Reese's as a ringer, to see how it would stand up against the more pricey boutique chocolate peanut-butter confections. The Hershey brand defeated second-place Graeter's and third-place Haute Chocolate of Montgomery.

Another upset of sorts: The Taste Team rated the opera cream-filled eggs made by Esther Price as the best of the bunch. This is bound to cause some controversy because Esther Price labels these eggs "Buttercream," but with "Opera Creams" underneath. Esther Price says its buttercream-filled eggs taste like opera creams but with a softer texture.

For some, this rating is heresy because sweet opera creams are a traditional Greater Cincinnati favorite and Esther Price candies are made in Dayton. Perhaps Cincinnati loyalists will be pleased, though, that opera cream-filled eggs made by Aglamesis Bros. and Graeter's finished fairly close behind Esther Price.

Finally, the slightly lumpy "turtle-filled" dark chocolate eggs made by Aglamesis, based in Oakley, won our wild card category. We don't find this result terribly surprising considering most people love the rich caramel and pecan filling commonly called "turtle." Aglamesis scored a near-perfect average score of 98 for its turtle eggs, the highest rating in our taste test.

The dark chocolate strawberry cream-filled eggs made by Esther Price finished second in the wild card category, followed closely by the dark chocolate chocolate-amaretto eggs crafted by Schneider's Homemade Candies in Bellevue.

What was the Taste Team craving in the best chocolate eggs? Comments show the team favored a natural, non-waxy-tasting chocolate "shell," filled with a rich, non-artificial-tasting filling.

Completely reasonable expectations, we think - even from eight people wearing bunny ears.

E-mail cmartin@enquirer.com




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