Denise Dutton Review: Orchard Valley Harvest’s Sweetened Cherries in Dark Chocolate 

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: Dried cherries and dark chocolate. Two great tastes y’all. I’m not a chocolate covered berry kinda gal; the berry ends up mushy and the chocolate ends up damp. It’s a downer no matter how you look at it. But dried fruit covered in chocolate? Sign me up. Especially if we’re talking cherries, heaven on a stem.

These are tart dried cherries, not the Bing that you may find in gourmet groceries sold by the pound. Think of these as slightly larger Rasinets, but with a higher level pedigree. These bits are half the size of their larger counterparts, but have a lovely bite to them that blends well with the dark chocolate. That tart bite hits right in the jawline, tightening up the salivary glands as each bite is chewed.

The chocolate is serviceable, at 64% cacao. It blends so well with the tart of the cherries it’s difficult to distinguish itself as a solo performer. My only issue is the chocolate coating, with tends to crumble if you try to make each cherry a two-bite treat. If the chocolate were a bit thicker, it’d stand to such dental scrutiny and perhaps make its presence known a bit more, but as it is pieces of this coating threaten to fall onto the table more times than not. It’s a little thing – I could just pop ’em whole into my gaping maw – but I do enjoy biting into each piece. Double the satisfaction, right? Right.

Pair these with hot tea, coffee, or a nice wine (sparkling or no) for optimal enjoyment. If you want to take it to the next level, a liqueur or port would go nicely as well.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fan Girl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Ghirardelli Intense Dark – Hazlenut Heaven

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: I’m always game for dark chocolate. Plus, I’m a sucker for hazelnuts (aka filbert, a name I absolutely love) in any form. So hello, combination of the two! Ghirardelli blends their premium chocolate with nicely minced nuts to create a bar that’s going onto my list of favorite candies.

This chocolate is chewy at room temperature. It’s a nice chewiness, without the waxy feel some lesser chocolate bars have. Substantial scattering of diced hazelnuts give each bite a bit of crunch to go along with that chew. (Note: putting the bar in the fridge gives it a snap that makes it easy to parse out equal squares, and gives the nuts extra crispness.) Ghirardelli makes no mention of the percentage of cacao in this bar, but as it’s in their “Intense Dark” line and the chocolate has a lovely deep color, I’d guess it’s over 70%. Could be wrong in that, though.

Each bar gives you eight 1×1″ squares, which makes parceling out individual nibbles very easy. Y’know, if you’re the kind that can stop at one square. The website says this bar is perfect for sharing, but screw that. It’s too yummy; before you know it, it’s gone.

Pairs well with wine, coffee, a nice oolong, or champagne. If you can stand to share, add squares of this bar to a charcuterie board. It’d make incredible s’mores, especially if you swap your graham crackers with shortbread or solid slices of angel food cake. What? With chocolate this good, you’ll want to head for the good stuff just to keep up.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fan Girl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Hu Chocolate Bar – Hazelnut Butter Dark Chocolate

Review by Denise Dutton: I could get used to high-quality chocolate. Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Thousand Dollar Bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m as red-blooded as the next chocoholic. But there’s something absolutely decadent about a Fair Trade bar made with organic ingredients. Something that’s got less than a handful of ingredients, yet tastes like something Big Candy could only dream of creating. Like the stuff that comes from Hu Kitchen. I’ve bitten into their Almond Butter+Puffed Quinoa bar and it was absolutely wonderful. But I wondered; would dark chocolate and hazelnut spread work well together, or would it be chocolate overload?

I needn’t have worried. Hazelnut is just as yummy as its almond predecessor. Instead of a Nutella-esque flavor, think of actual filberts hazelnuts ground up and mixed with a touch of sugar to form paste. I loved the nutty taste of this filling, and I’ll definitely be coming back for more; this ain’t no praline, it’s full nut y’all, and it’s glorious. I love hazelnuts, and while I also enjoy the chocolaty spread made from them, this is much more my speed. The nuts are front and center, in perfect balance with the rich and cocoa-heavy chocolate that surrounds it. Having too sweet a filling would have sent this bar into unappetizing sugar overload, and I applaud Hu for knowing when to say when. 

This bar easily breaks into eight two-big-bite pieces, and I’d add them to a fruit and cheese tray, or charcuterie board. The not-too-sweet balance of dark chocolate and nuts would play well with soft or hard cheeses, or any meat that isn’t overly peppered. Pop some bubbly to go with it – the cocoa butter richness here almost screams for something bubbly as an accompaniment – and enjoy. But I find that a few squares are perfect; you’ll want to savor this bar, not shove it into your pie-hole like an animal. Are we not men? Well, we’re not on the Island of Doctor Moreau, nor are we Devo (at least I’m not, however much I long for one of those hats), so let us savor. 

Or just hole up in your rattiest sweats and scarf down a couple of pieces with a plain seltzer while binging documentaries on YouTube. Tomato-potato. 


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic FangirlMovie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Carletti’s Jakobsen Coffee Time Chocolate Collection

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: Danish chocolates? Don’t mind if I do!  Especially when the package itself gives me a great excuse to indulge. Coffee time? Yes please! And while these chocolates  would go great with coffee, I had mine with a stout, and then a mug of green tea. I was pleased. 

Rather than doing one long slog as I describe things, let’s do it piece by piece, shall we? 

  • Milk chocolate & toffee = more like a Carmello  with that nice, liquidy filling. Yes, there’s a toffee flavor, but the runny filling is more like a very soft caramel. That’s a good thing.
  • Dark chocolate & mint = wowza that mint is strong! And also very artificial tasting. Blew my wig back y’all. It’s like a melted candy cane, and not in a good way. It’s very oozy, but as much as I love it ooze and the crisp but luscious dark chocolate? I can’t handle that much mint. I let the filling drip out of the second piece, and ate the chocolate. I ain’t ashamed.
  • White chocolate with marzipan & orange filling = this one I dreaded. I don’t typically like white chocolate unless it’s in a cookie, and orange sweets aren’t my bag. However, this turned out to be one of my favorites. The mix of marzipan and orange balance nicely, and the white chocolate takes a back seat to those yummy fillings. (Okay in all honesty, there’s a touch of dark chocolate on the top and bottom of each piece. But that makes no real headway in the flavor profile.)
  • Milk chocolate with nougat and hazelnut = a popular blend, and for good reason. That smooth hazelnut filling plays extremely well with the milk chocolate. The hazelnut is a crispy and gave a great crunch. On to the next piece, or I may find I’ve had my Milk Chocolate Haters Club card revoked.
  • Dark chocolate & ginger flavored toffee = as with the mint and regular toffee, this filing is weepy. Unlike the other two, there’s substantially more chocolate here, and that’s a good thing. Too much ginger filling may have been overkill, as it was with the mint. Instead, there’s a hint of liquid filling in a crunchy chocolate cup, hinting at a nice seasonal gingerbread-esque flavor. Each piece is set into a stiff foil mini-cup, in case things try to leak out of sides. I had no trouble with wannabe escape artists here. And now I know that dark chocolate and gingerbread go well together. Thank you, Jakobsen.
  • Dark chocolate with marzipan and whole almond = okay, this one’s my absolute favorite of the bunch. I may not like amaretto, but I dig a good marzipan. And this one’s good. Topping it off with a macron almond is almost gilding the lily, but the marzipan stands tall. It’s not overly sweet, which for me is a mark of well done marzipan, with nary a whiff of added flavor to ruin things. (Artificial almond flavor is the devil. There, I’ve said it.)

Before this, I hadn’t heard of Jakobsen chocolates. But then I realized they’re from Carletti, the folks who make Big Ben Licorice. Ah, that I know. And now that I’ve tried these chocolates, I have two favorites from this company. Never a good thing to play favorites; you never know what you’ll miss. I found that out with the delightful white chocolate bits in this box, and now I know there’s more to this brand than packets of pre-wrapped sweets. I feel so educated.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Smashmallow’s Cinnamon Churro Marshmallows

Review by Denise Dutton: ‘Tis the season for warm festive beverages! And for all the things to top ’em. Nutmeg for nog, a cinnamon stick for mulled goodness, and for folk who partake of animal products (ex: gelatin), marshmallows for coffee and chocolate-centric libations. I have a love-hate relationship with marshmallows. I love how they bob on the top of my drink, but hate that most of the time I’m left with a soggy bit of ‘mallow bloof (it’s a word because I just used it) as I empty my mug. However, that’s about to change, thanks to Smashmallow.

Opening the bag there’s a strong cinnamon sugar and vanilla smell that makes me want to stick my head into the bag. The marshmallows themselves are nice and spongy, softer than what you’d get in your usual “put ‘em on a stick for s’mores” mallows. They’re also little cubes, rather than the typical cylindrical bits.

But how do they taste? Yummy. Picking a piece out of the bag, I notice that each one is liberally coated in chunky granules of cinnamon sugar. The sugar is a light beige, but the ‘mallow itself is the usual pure white. These pieces are also a whole lot airier and lighter than the usual stuff, making them almost too easy to eat. Being so light and airy, these ‘mallows melt rather quickly when plopped into hot beverages. I tried one in a piping hot mocha, and the square looked absolutely adorable floating on top…and then boom, before I knew it, it was gone, leaving a nice creamy topping on my drink. Yeah, regular marshmallows melt too, but these ‘mallows go down fast. And I actually dig that; I like to blend in my topping, not just have disappointment dregs oozing around the bottom of a finished cup. 

No disappointment here; in fact a nice hint of cinnamon was added to my drink, along with the added sweetness. (I don’t know if I’d recommend adding these to cocoa, unless you’re seriously down with the sweet. If you are – salut!) I know think of these ‘mallows as Stealth Mallows, because they melt into a drink like a ninja into shadows.

They’re also sneaky. (These ‘mallows, not ninjas; we already know ninjas can be sneaky.) I told myself I was going to limit my Smashmallow consumption to one plain one, and one in my mocha. Then I found myself reaching into the bag for another one, as if my hand had a will of its own. I should probably take these upstairs. But maybe one more. Then I’ll stop. Promise.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Folkmanis Puppets Dragon Wristlet, Pearl

Review by Denise Dutton: The How to Train Your Dragon series of films has a place in my heart. Toothless is such an adorable cutie, I Cannot Even. But let’s not forget the adorable Light Fury that becomes Toothless’ mate. If you wish you could have one of your very own, the time is now; Folkmanis’ Pearl is an absolute delight.

This particular puppet is part of their Wristlet Puppets collection, along with the Phoenix, Sea Nymph, and Midnight Dragon. And while I adore their larger puppets? When I see this wee puppet wrapped around my wrist, there’s something that tugs at my cold, dead heart. Am I succumbing to the sweetness of this little face? It’s gloriously shiny silver wings? That suede-like patch on her torso? Or perhaps the silver hair that runs down the back of her pearlescent body? (Pearlescent. Pearl. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE FOLKMANIS.)

I could simply say that this dragon is beautifully crafted with nary an imperfect stitch. But really? It’s the way I feel like Pern’s Menolly, with a fire lizard of my very own. In fact, the poem that’s attached to Pearl harks to moments at Faire, or within your favorite dragon-centric fantasy tales. I can’t wait to slide her onto my finger, and wrap her tail around my wrist, for Faire season. When I hear that click of magnet meeting magnet, the base of her tail meeting the uppermost part, I know that she’ll stay put.

One word of caution, however. This wristlet’s magnets are situated in such a way that folks with wrists bigger than your average 12-year-old’s may not be able to have the two meet. Me? My wrists are bony, so that’s not an issue. But even without the magnets meeting, Pearl will wrap around your wrist. She may not stay, so if you take her on walkabout, be sure that she’s got a nice pocket or pack to peek out of, or else she may stray. And you don’t want that.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now.  She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour.  You can find her at Green Man Review, Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Stork’s Toffifay 

Review by Denise Dutton: I remember being a kid and seeing Toffifay. It looked so elegant, so grown-up. Now this was a classy candy, obviously made for ADULTS, thought Little Me. Naturally, I had to try it. And I loved it. But I seldom wander the candy aisle anymore, so when I got a box in for review, I snapped it up.

Just as luscious as I remember. The chocolate is silky, the hazelnut cream is a lovely blend of nut and and milk, and of course the hazelnut is crispy-crunchy. (Nice work, considering this candy is shelf-stable.) Then there’s the caramel, or what I like to call “the edible bowl that holds everything”. It’s not a stringy caramel, it’s solid. But it still had a nice chew to it. Together, this candy is just as delicious as when I popped that first piece in my mouth all those years ago.  Of course now I try to bite into it, letting the candy last for two bites instead of one. I also like looking at the hazelnut. Don’t judge me.

Don’t pop these in the fridge and eat ’em cold. These are best at room temperature. That way the filling melts in your mouth the moment it hits your tongue, and the caramel is at a nice pliable state. You’ll literally sink your teeth into them when they’re soft. Mmmm, that’s the stuff.

There’s also a whole lot of recipes using Toffifay, including blondie-like bars, brownies, and cookies. But I can never keep this candy around long enough to actually bake with it. Oops. One day I’ll pop some Toffifay bars into the oven.  (Who am I kidding? I can’t wait that long to dig in.)


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now.  She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour.  You can find her at Green Man Review, Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Dutton Review: Folkmanis’ Winged Dragon Puppet

By Denise Dutton: I love dragons, especially poor Viserion, Dany’s green dragon she’d named after her brother. (Shoulda spotted that foreshadowing a mile away, but noooooo.) I’ve always had a soft spot for green dragons; blame it on the Harper Hall series from Anne McCaffrey. Yes, those are technically fire lizards, but when I saw the Folkmanis Winged Dragon Puppet, my thoughts immediately went to Pern.

And okay, Toho. Because while this little guy is a few fingers over one foot tall, he’s definitely got some Kaiju in him. In fact, the little fella looks as if Godzilla and Ghidorah had a baby. (No, don’t Google that. Rule 34 and all.) This puppet has an adorable chubbyness to him that makes me want to just watch him waddle around, though his pretty chiffon-meets-corduroy wings look more than up to the task of keeping him aloft. With some help from you, of course. 

He’s made with the same loving attention to detail that Folkmanis gives to all of their creations, from his beautifully stitched and imminently boopable snoot down to the tip of his slightly upturned tail. His body is softly flocked green velvet that’s been patterned to show “scales”, with a ridge on his back that has sharp points that turn to fuzziness at the touch of fingers. I’m not sure if those ridges are more stable velvet or some other addictively soft flocking, but it’s wonderful. Add in a lightly ridged inner mouth with a deep maroon forked tongue (complete with “sharp” white teeth cut from vinyl cloth) and wee felt “claws” at the ends of his toes/tip of his wings, and you’ve got one impressively powerful – and powerfully cute – fella.

Moving this puppet around is pretty easy, as each leg and wing can accommodate a finger or two for maximum performance. Nimbler folks than I can also work his mouth, as there’s space to move upper and lower mandible if you’re so inclined. I myself can’t operate wings and mouth, but that’s to be expected from my uncooperative fingers. Mouth movements or no, he’s still one adorable little guy, and I plan on taking him to Faire this season. I’m betting he’ll get a whole lot of compliments. I’ve complimented him several times already.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now.  She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour.  You can find her at Green Man Review, Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Denise Kitashima Dutton Reviews Yuengling’s Hershey’s Chocolate Porter

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: What do you get when two great Pennsylvania tastes decide to mix it up? You get a fantastic porter that’s well worth searching out. Yuengling knew what they were doing when they collaborated with Hershey’s. And the brewery definitely let the chocolatier take the wheel. And it’s glorious.

It’s truly Willy Wonka beer, because even though it has a beautifully dark porter look, it tastes like chocolate milk in the glass. You know, the good kind, with extra syrup. No wonder the brewery sold out the moment it hit taps. (Don’t worry though. They made more.)

Belly up to the glass and get a clean nose, with a whiff of clear water. Then the chocolate hits you. No, not the cocoa. The CHOCOLATE. Cocoa nib? Never heard of her. There’s more syrup and chocolate on the tongue, with the tart nib barely getting through past all the beautiful Hershey’s sauciness. This is pure chocolate decadence, and it slides down the throat.

The head is a lovely dark cream, full of bubbles and froth. But it quickly becomes all but nonexistent, settling down the minute your glass hits the table. Perhaps the infusion of chocolate makes the beverage a bit heartier, the head a bit lesser. But who cares, as this is one helluva brew. I had to triple check the ABV on this one, because I’m not used to such a rich flavor profile in such a low alcohol beer. If this is how Y&H work together, here’s to many more collaborations. Can we get a Reese’s next, please?

Pairing this one with anything chocolate – perhaps a Hershey’s Special Dark – is a no-brainer. But a spicy-sweet barbecue, smoked cheese, or slow-roasted veg wouldn’t be bad choice either. Or just go all out and plop in a scoop or three of your favorite frozen creamy stuff straight into the glass. (I’m thinking butter pecan ice cream, or vanilla Soy Delicious…)

Okay, now I’m hungry.

Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter
Style: Dark Brewed Porter
ABV: (alcohol by volume): 4.7%
IBUs (international bitterness units): unknown/not given

Denise Kitashima Dutton Reviews “Diana Malouf’s Ococoa”

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: Every so often an unexpected, and very welcome, treat shows up in my mailbox, courtesy of Cat, who’s constantly on the lookout for new chocolate-related review opportunities. This time around it was a box of bonbons from Diana Malouf’s Ococoa – candy that is both beautiful to look at and a pleasure to eat.

Made of largely vegan-friendly ingredients (honey is the lone exception), the chocolates are shot-glass shaped, and larger than most popularly known peanut butter cup candies.  Each cup is a thin shell of dark chocolate, which has a mild flavor and silky mouth feel, around a unique filling. The top of each cup is beautifully decorated with a simple, thin slice of nut or fruit, or a delicate painted design such as bees or cherry blossom. And inside each cup . . . well, these are definitely not your run of the mill flavors! Included in the 9-piece box are one each of the following:  Classic Peanut Butter, Pistachio Date, Sesame Fig, Hazelnut Chocolate, Almond Cherry, Cashew Apricot, Marzipan Truffle, Macadamia Guava, and Sunflower Honey.

Across the board, these are some of the most unique and flavorful filled chocolates I’ve had the good fortune to taste.  Each cup incorporates a very delicate balance of sweet and savory in each bite, successfully playing the boldness of the fruit or honey against the more subtle flavor of the nut butter. There’s also a harmony of textures, creamy nut butter or ganache against jelly or jam, set off by the chocolate shell. All in all, a delicious treat to be savored.

A full list of the flavors, along with pictures of each cup, formerly could be found on the Ococoa website, however, the business is now closed. (A wide variety of pictures can still be seen on Instagram.) My personal favorites are the Sesame Fig, Sunflower Honey and the salty goodness of the traditional Classic Peanut Butter (truly, the addition of Fleur del Del and sea salt to the cup itself is a perfect addition to the creamy peanut butter). I would have heartily recommended this collection to anyone who likes exotic flavors, or wanted a little something out of the ordinary: there was sure to be something here to tempt them.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now.  She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour.  You can find her at Green Man Review, Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.