While watching the post Valentine episode of Glee the other day, I was surprised by a reference to Mrs. Sees chocolates. It reminded me that while the show may take place in Lima, Ohio, it is quite obviously filmed in California. Few people in the Midwest would name Mrs. Sees as the heart shaped box of chocolate they gave to their sweeties. Not that you can’t get her* goodies east of say Colorado, but there aren’t boutiques in all of our malls and finding her anywhere but on her website is, well, difficult. In fact, there isn’t a single store in Ohio.
Oddly, despite growing up in Southern California, where it’s hard to walk around the corner and not find one of her shops, it wasn’t until this Christmas that I ever had a box of the chocolates. I guess this isn’t actually so odd considering I was a kid and perfectly happy with a .40 candy bar. Plus, my mom, being a Midwest born had a fondness for Fannie May which was unwavering. I think I had some Mrs. Sees about 8 years ago when I went to visit family in Orange County, but maybe that was just a bite of fudge. Obviously it didn’t make that much of an impression.
So, when my mother-in-law brought me a box of assorted chocolates from Mrs. Sees, I was rather excited. I’ve heard the hype from West coast friends for years. As is true of most over-hyped items, I’m not sure the actual candies lived up to the mythos.
Opening the box, I was excited. There were so many to pick from and there seemed to be very few repeaters.I reached into the box and grabbed out a roundish one covered in nuts. Inside I found a solid chocolate center with even more nuts. It was ok, but the nuts completely overpowered the chocolate. I think I had two moments where I could actually taste the chocolate, which was sad, because it was definitely creamy and I wanted more of it.
Since there was no guide, I decided to check the website before trying anymore pieces. I like to have at least a small head’s up as to what I might be putting in my mouth. I’ve had some pretty nasty concoctions before and if I was about to ingest some sort of bacon peanut butter parsnip piece, I wanted to mentally prepare. Luckily, Mrs. See seems to be old school in her chocolate making, and all the combos are pretty safe and pretty traditional. However, the actual pieces in the box weren’t always identical to the website (and several look very, very similar), so I still manged to get a few surprises.
And speaking of one of those surprises, it was the molasses chip. For some reason, I must not have paid much attention to the website. After the bite was in my mouth and my eyes shot back to the computers, I found this was one of their signature pieces. That made me a little sad since without the guide, I wouldn’t have known it was molasses flavored at all. I guess my years of snacking on Butterfingers at the movie theater fooled me into thinking I was going to get something similar. And, for a brief moment, it was. It was hard like a Butterfinger, only without the buttery taste. It also got stuck in my teeth just like a Butterfinger. Unlike the Butterfinger though, it didn’t get stuck in my heart. I wound up foisting the rest of these off on my husband.
I was kind of 0 for 2 at this moment and feeling more than a little let down by TV and movies. After popping the first nut cluster in my mouth, my outlook didn’t improve. I’m sure it didn’t help that the featured nut was walnut, which I’ve never been fond of. When I perused the site, my heart sank a little as it sees ol’ Mrs. See likes her some walnuts. The chocolate itself was good, but the nuts were just so darn flavorless.
I was sinking into chocolate despair. But then, much to my utter happiness, I picked a rum nougat. This one was pretty good. I really liked all the fruit tastes. Even in childhood when other kids were gorging on Hershey bars and Reese’s Cups, I was begging for Chunky bars. I just loved their nutty, raisiny goodness. This rum nougat was like a teeny tiny Chunky, only it had a nice hint of cherry as well. Chocolate and cherry? PERFECT!
With my spirits edging back up, I grabbed a milk Bordeaux. It was really sugary. I mean, the kind of sugary that makes my teeth hurt just a tad. But, I can’t say I was entirely put off, because much like Mrs. See herself, it was like a bite of history. It was an old-fashioned cream and it reminded me of being with my grandma. I’m not sure if it was the taste or the rush of nostalgia, but I was starting to warm to the old gal and her black and white box o’ treats.
Then, I grabbed what I think might be the Holy Grail of the collection: the apricot delight. From the moment my tongue touched this piece, I was hooked. The chopped apricots were perfectly tart. It blended with the buttercream perfectly and had the sweet and dainty crunch of toasted coconut. It was everything a good piece of candy should be. I wanted an entire box of these puppies.
With my spirits soaring, I grabbed for a California brittle (hard toffee with almonds). At first I was a bit taken back by the saltiness of it. I eat a lot of toffee (my husband makes it from scratch and it is AMAZING) and I generally like my toffee sweeter than her offering. I was thrown by a slightly odd taste I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it settled well and by the end of the bite, I ended up liking it.
I went on to try another nut cluster, this time covered in dark chocolate and to my surprise, I liked it. It was not a bitter dark, which was nice. I also liked the peanut nougat just fine. It was a bit like a harder version of a Snickers, and really, who doesn’t like a Snickers? Crazy people, that’s who.
The divinity piece was extremely creamy. The coconut flecks really helped the texture and amazingly, the walnuts added just a hint of crunch with no icky walnuty after taste, which was nice. While not my favorite (there is no beating that apricot gem), it was quite good.
My last piece was a milk buttercream. The second I bit into it, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. With one tiny bite, I had this flash of buying these gigantic chocolate Easter eggs during a trip to the grocery store. I must have been about 10 and some group had a fundraising table set up just outside the doors (it was California after all, no need to be inside to sell). My mom bought two, one for her and one for me. We couldn’t eat them in one sitting. Heck, we couldn’t even eat them in a couple of sittings. She had to slice them up and give them up and dole them out a little at a time. I’m not sure if the eggs were that big or that rich, or that expensive, but we savored each and every bite. Every Easter afterwards I hoped to find a similar table, but we never did. We had them one year and that was it. I spent a good portion of my adult life looking for those eggs, only to be disappointed at every turn. This little round delight was very creamy and fudgy, just like the memory egg was. It was simple, sweet and just so darn good. Before I even finished the piece, I was emailing my mom to find out if the eggs of my childhood had been bestowed upon us by this wonderful woman. She can’t quite remember. She thought they were from another company, but also didn’t remember getting them at some stand outside the grocery store. I’m not sure which of our memories is more accurate. What I do know is that I will be visiting Mrs. Sees sight around Easter time (I checked and they make this piece in egg form) to order one for the holiday.
While the first few pieces prepared me for a scathing review which I knew would be hated by Mrs. Sees fans everywhere, the second half of the box restored my faith quite a bit. I still think they are a bit over-hyped, but they are pretty darn good. Unlike some of my other favorite companies, they aren’t trying to re-invent chocolate. They don’t want it to come kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Mrs. Sees is cool with old-fashioned and simple. That’s obvious from the packaging to the offerings. It’s also true of the fairly classic tastes.
Price: 7.5/10 ($16.50 for a pound)
*I do realize there is no old granny slaving away over copper kettles making these chocolates, but the chocolates did give me a sort of down home feeling, so I decided to stick to referring to an actual Mrs. See.