Review: Moon Pie Sea Salt Caramel

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We’ve talked quite a bit here at Shameless Consumer about the origins of flavor combinations, and now it’s time you learned about sea salt and caramel. You see, unlike the Arnold Palmer, which was the loving result of marriage and childbirth, sea salt caramel has its basis in bitter, bitter rivalry with a bit of sea salt sprinkled on top.

In order to fully get the story, we have to go back to 1800 Bologna Italy, home town of the renowned yet unaccredited Saltini family. The Saltinis became rich during the occupation by Napoleon’s forces in 1796, striking a deal with Napoleon himself to retain ownership of local sea salt mining operations on the grounds that the family refuse any deal that would see their salt used to flavor the Roman church’s papal crackers. When Bologna traded hands in 1815, the Saltini family was forced to emigrate out of fear of retribution by Pope Pius VII, making an agreement that allowed the family to continue their control of said mine.

So the family hopped into their 1810 Lamborghini Alfredo and booked it with the intention of heading toward what they thought was Novigrad Croatia. However, since Croatia had suffered numerous changes of hands over the years, confusion, lack of road signs, and a general disinterest by head of house Giovanni Saltini to ask for directions led the family astray and the next thing they knew, their car had run out of gas outside of immigration services in downtown New York City. With their reserves of pasta and olive oil depleted, not to mention Grandma Saltini working her way through the thousandth rendition of E Il Sol Dell’anima, the family set up shop.

Over the next few years, Giovanni Saltini would purchase the land and expand his newly international sea salt empire, promising a fortune for any worker willing to put in a day’s effort and coining the term “worth your salt,” in the process. In 1815, however, the Saltini family goes head first into a property dispute with the owners of a nearby mining operation, a  family of Portugese immigrants who had taken advantage of cheap land prices and abundant natural resources. The disputing family, also known as the Caramelos, owned land right next to the Saltinis and set up shop mining its natural caramel caves. According to a lawsuit filed by the Caramelos in 1816, runoff from the Saltini sea salt mine was contaminating their caramel, resulting in the family having to recall all product.

To their surprise, 98% of customers refuse to acknowledge the recall or return the product, they loved it. It seemed as though the families had inadvertently struck gold, creating the next big sensation. People fell in love with the unconventional matching of sweet and salty. The Caramelo family drops their lawsuit and, in December of 1816, family head Leche Caramelo agrees to meet Giovanni Saltini on the sidewalk outside of the Teamonte Cafe. Unknown to Caramelo, Saltini has no plans on forming a business relationship and upon their meeting, he shoots Caramelo point blank in the chest with a shotgun specially modified to fire pellets of sea salt.

Due to the pellets dissolving in Caramelo’s blood, the police are unable to produce sufficient evidence to prosecute Giovanni Saltini, however the NYPD is forced to acknowledge via a later lawsuit that the mixture of blood and salt had melted the icy sidewalk, thus creating a safe environment for responding officers and offering Giovanni a solid character witness, and in 1818 the city compensated the Saltini family by handing over the deed to the caramel mines plus thirty six cents for a day’s lost wages.

Giovanni, sadly, would not survive to see the fruits of his labor. In 1822, the head of the Saltini family perished in a carriage accident. In respect of their father’s pride, the horses involved in Saltini’s trampling were butchered and served at the wake. Daughter Elsa Saltini took this opportunity to field test the first run of the family’s new product: Salted caramels. The new dessert was a hit, transforming the wake from an event of silence and honor to something more closely resembling a birthday party.

The family business would expand over the next hundred years until great grandson Adolfo Saltini in 1917 witnessed a shooting star and decided to leave town to pursue it. He followed the extraterrestrial object across the country, all the way to its crash site in Chattanooga Tennessee where he found that farmers had mined it clean and used its innards to create what we now know as the Moon Pie. Adolfo approached the head miner and made a business offer and the rest, as they say, was history.

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But that’s enough learning for today, we’re here to talk about food.

The salted caramel Moon Pie is an alternate take on a beautiful American classic, the lesser known flag sewn by Betsy Ross’ equally sexy sister, the pair of teeth that George Washington only used in formal occasions, the Vice President of flavor, the deciding vote when the Senate Foreign Culinary Committee comes to a 50/50 opposition and the guy who will probably grab your ass at a formal dinner party and leave a caramel hand print.

At the very least, it will leave a caramel hand print on your face as you open the packaging. The caramel aroma, much like the freedom that the Moon Pie is based off of, does not like being contained, and will burst out as soon as the plastic opens.

It’s important to remember that this is first and foremost a Moon Pie, secondarily a salted caramel treat. The caramel coating, as you would expect, is very thinly layered on top, so thin that you might not even notice it if you wolf down the pie in one mouthful. In this respect, the salted caramel outside is the soft bass carrying the melodic tone of the Moon Pie’s fifth overture, delicately enveloping you in its arms as the soft graham cracker and marshmallow bedding whisk you to a dreamland of serenity, beauty, and presumably an endless stack of Moon Pies.

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There are only two times when it is appropriate for a grown man to cry, and one of those times is when you look upon your Moon Pie with the realization that there is only so much time before both the plastic wrap and your fingers have been sufficiently licked clean of leftover residue. Now that we’ve finished the Moon Pie, I think now it’s been long enough that we can reminisce about it.

The sea salt caramel Moon Pie is soft, gooey, and tastes of deliciously sweet (and salty) caramel. It has exactly the right amount of salt, caramel, graham cracker, and marshmallow. Truly this is culinary inventiveness at its finest.

Verdict – 6/5: The salted caramel Moon Pie isn’t the greatest achievement of man to date, but the first half of this sentence is wrong.

Review: Dark Chocolate & Vanilla Sea Salt Fortune Cookie

It’s collaboration week here on The Shameless Consumer.

Emily’s Dark Chocolate & Vanilla Sea Salt Fortune Cookie fulfills the Shameless Consumer’s two necessary food groups: Food and chocolate coating. It’s a quintessentially American design, taking an existing food product and drowning it in chocolate, then sprinkling it with something else. Take some twenty first century ingenuity and you make the chocolate dark and throw on some sea salt. Voila, it’s healthy, just don’t eat the plastic wrapping.

You see, like many American products, the idea was mostly a spinoff of an existing design. The actual concept of drowning food in chocolate comes from one Howard T. Fondue, a man whose secondary accomplishment was coining the phrase “how do you do?” The origins of fondue are less circulated and a little darker, having begun as a punishment technique for wayward children at Mr. Fondue’s orphanage. Now it’s not what you’re thinking, they’d only dip the kid in up to his neck and let the chocolate harden as something of a twisted, sweet prison. Then the other kids would eat them free.

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As you probably figured out, Mr. Fondue was not a very effective disciplinarian, hence why he eventually transitioned to the confectionery industry.

Now I know what you’re all asking: does the cookie come with an actual fortune, and if so what did ol’ Sha’Meless Consuman’s fortune say?

The Shameless Consumer doesn’t need a fortune cookie to tell his future, one that in the short term contains a forest fire partially started by two sticks of decade old Wrigley’s chewing gum and further out charges for violating the Geneva Convention’s rules pertaining to Olive Garden’s endless bread sticks. What is important about this product is how well said cookie tastes when doused in chocolate and a little bit of sea salt. If I wanted to write about books, I’d have learned how to sign my name to take the job at our competition Literate Consumer Industries, but we all have skeletons in our trunk, and bodies in our fondue pots.

But what the hell, let’s take a look at what my fortune is.

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Charming personality, huh? Well, I guess the cookie has a point. It was my charming personality that got me this job in the first place, perhaps secondary to the fact that I was the only applicant willing to agree to a spinal fluid test as part of the background check process. I think the test was fake, it was conducted at a Popeye’s Chicken. I also managed to avoid that nasty legal process in Alabama by greeting the motorcycle cop with “nice day for a Moon Pie, officer.”

But I’m getting off topic, let’s talk about this cookie.

Fortune cookies are one of those things that you never eat in tandem with something else, it’s like an after dinner mint but without the mint because the Chinese made it, so you have no expectation on how powerful the flavor is when put up against some potentially domineering flavors. We have a pretty good idea how oatmeal merges with various sweeteners and fruits, dark chocolate and sea salt is already a known entity, and I’ve mixed enough bowls of unmarked M&M’s and Skittles as a party gag to be well acquainted being shanked at a Chuck E Cheese Quinceañera party.

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The idea of a dark chocolate sea salt fortune cookie is about as risky as it gets, not considering the possibility of the chocolate making the fortune cookie soggy. Luckily Emily read her Fondue book, and coated the cookie with a thick layer of chocolate that both binds to the cookie and lovingly embraces it.

There is just enough chocolate and fortune cookie to balance out and ensure that neither flavor conquers the other, not unlike an unstoppable force making contact with an unmovable colon. I like the fact that there is an actual fortune in each cookie, its predetermined placement and personalized fortune a grim reminder that free choice is an illusion and the decision of me to buy the cookie was already made long before I finished being sick from that Pork protein bar. On the other hand, that means this review has already written itself and I can go have a slice of pizza.

Don’t mind me, folks.

So it turns out that fate didn’t want me having that pizza, as there was a disgusting animal in my kitchen eating the last slice. My misfortune for having left the door open coming home from golfing, but my luck that my clubs were within arm’s reach. I’ll have to call my neighbor to come pick him up, maybe explain that he should be kept on a leash until he graduates elementary school.

Anyway, Emily’s dark chocolate sea salt fortune cookie is a surprisingly satisfying blend of three flavors that really can’t be improved upon in any way. They cost $1 each, each cookie only has like 7g of sugar, and to top it off you get a nice message. I can also appreciate the fact that the salt is sprinkled on top rather than just mixed into the chocolate.

It’s a small, cheap touch, but one that a lot of crappy chocolate companies still miss. It’s like being proud of yourself for calling your mother on her birthday rather than the day after, even though you didn’t send her anything.

Verdict – 5/5: I predicted this cookie would receive a 5/5, but I already scored it. I am a fortune teller of the past.

Review: Gold Emblem Salt With A Touch Of Dark Chocolate

Pictured: A bar of GE Belgian Chocolate.
Pictured: A bar of GE Belgian Chocolate.

If I die after this review, someone tell my wife I never paid the electric bill. You’ll easily recognize her, she’s usually wearing a Chuck E Cheese costume at Comic Con. Gold Emblem is the official brand of CVS, and I just so happened to come across a product that violates one of my highest rules against buying food: Never buy a product that is individually (not X for $Y or bundled) on sale for more than 60% off that is not on a clearance rack. In fact, avoid unknown products even if they are on the clearance rack. But no, I saw Gold Emblem Dark Chocolate with a touch of Sea Salt on sale for less than a dollar, from its original $2.57, and my brain thought “I’d better buy it.” Then again, this is the Shameless Consumer, where we buy bad foods so you don’t have to.

Gold Emblem embolizes the back of the package with “celebrate the exceptional in every day. Gold Emblem Select uses premium ingredients, artisanal techniques, and distinctive flavors to help make any day a special occasion. We’re Gold Emblem. Our standard is delicious.” I need a drink. Of water. I’d love to give an in-depth analysis of the balancing act between sweet and bitter with the chocolate, or talk about the melding flavors of the chocolate and sea salt, but I can’t. What I can talk about is how the bar doesn’t break along the square lines, which is a mixture of annoying and pointless, if ultimately just another fault in the product.

This product shouldn’t even be special enough to write about, even considering the craze that is dark chocolate and sea salt, but here it is. The single, major, deal-breaking fault with this product is that it is sickeningly over-salted. If you have ever added too much salt to corn on the cob, or to your soup, or anything at all, you know exactly what the taste I’m describing is. That overwhelmingly bitter sensation that dries your mouth, starts the acids churning in your stomach, and sets off every alarm in your body that you are ingesting poison. As I write this review after managing to force one half of a bar, I can feel the salt shriveling my digestive tract into something more closely resembling a human prune. This chocolate bar is so salty that it takes any hints of dark chocolate that might be lingering, clubs it over the head with a tire iron, and leaves it for dead in a dumpster.

This snack isn’t so much a bar of chocolate with a touch of sea salt as it is a bar of sea salt with a touch of dark chocolate, which makes the relatively low sodium count all the more baffling. One bar of chocolate contains 260mg of sodium, a statement to which I call bull. According to our good friends over at the Mayo Clinic, 260mg of sodium is about a medium sized pinch of salt, or 650 milligrams of salt, which sounds impossible considering that over the course of eating half of the bar, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for chocolate with the mass of sea salt. If you are one of those people who salt everything, and I mean everything: Your soup, corn, potatoes, coffee, cereal, mail, the cat, then by god you have found your dream bar.

Now I love just about any combination of dark chocolate, sea salt, and caramel, which apart from the price was the only drive that fueled this purchase. Should I have heeded the price warning? Yes. Should I have bought the bar? No. Should I have bought all four bars? Absolutely not. Am I exaggerating the health effects of this candy for comedic effect? Yes. The Gold Emblem Belgian Dark Chocolate with a hint of Sea Salt might not hurt you with its approximately 10% daily value in sodium, but the overwhelming taste of salt does make this the baked ham of the chocolate world. I know there’s something wrong when I’m actually missing Jack Link’s.

Don’t buy this.