Monday, March 1, 2010
Morinaga Carre de Chocolat Praline
Back when David Letterman was on NBC hosting their "Late Night" show, one of his regular guests was fitness freak show Richard Simmons. One of the things that Dave and Richard used to do was play out a little gag where Dave was mean to Richard. Mr. Simmons then would act wounded and the audience would feel sorry for him. At that time, I wondered why Richard Simmons subjected himself to Letterman's mean-spirited ribbing, but now I know that it was all an act on both of their parts.
Back in those days, Dave had a lot of "repeater" guests who came along when he couldn't book a bigger ticket interviewee. Tony Randall was his "fill-in" guy when someone bigger canceled. Richard Simmons seemed to be the empty slot fellow. Both of these men appeared on the show quite a lot back in those days because Dave wasn't nearly the icon he is now and the 12:30 talk show slot was more of a dead zone than it is now.
Why am I talking about all of this on a Japanese snack blog? Well, I wanted to offer some background for my readers when I say that the first time I ever heard of a praline was from Richard Simmons. I want you to understand that I was a cool college kid watching David Letterman back when he was edgy and unpredictable, not some bouffant-wearing chubby housewife with a penchant for "Sweatin' to the Oldies." Simmons was telling Letterman a story and said that before he became a fitness guru, he sold pralines in Louisiana. (Jokes aside, I think Simmons has actually helped a lot of people, but his public persona is undeniably goofy.)
At that time, I didn't know what a praline was. Though Richard Simmons explained it, I didn't visualize it well. These days, I'm a bit more familiar with it, though you don't see them often in Japan. This chocolate by Morinaga is made in what I presume to be a more European way than an American one. That is, ground up sugared nuts are used as a component in a smooth result rather than the nuts being visible.
I picked up this 40 gram (1.4 oz.) box at Okashi no Machioka for a mere 69 yen (75 cents). It was discounted and the regular price is closer to about 100 yen ($1.10). It contains 8 flat little discs that are individually wrapped in gold foil. Each is about 3 cm (1.2 in.) square and contains 28 calories. The ingredients include hazelnut and almond paste.
You can't really taste the nuts as individual components, but they mix together with the chocolate to create a rich, complex chocolate flavor which is smooth and sublime. If you've had Nutella, this is akin to that lovely hazelnut paste in flavor. It's super smooth, and melts nicely on your tongue if you hold it in your mouth for awhile. Though these smell like any other Japanese chocolate, the taste is much better. Notably, it lacks that somewhat bittersweet element and the coffee-like aftertaste that comes with mainstream Japanese chocolate bars.
These are a little on the sweeter side, but there's a good balance overall as long as you don't eat too many at once to get a build-up. Personally, I recommend eating two at a time, slowly, and savoring every moment it's on your tongue.