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August 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hometown Favorites Customer List Hacked

Hometown Favorites is an internet based candy store with an excellent selection of hard to find candies. They’re one of the few candy stores on the internet that lets you order individual bars instead of full boxes.

However, their customer database has been stolen and now customers are getting phishing emails.

If you don’t know what a phish is, well, it’s an email that pretends to be from a reputable source like ebay or amazon or a bank that prompts you to visit “their” site and asks you to confirm your account details. It might look like the right site, but it’s really some nefarious folks looking to steal your login information, money or even your identity. Don’t fall for it.

If you have gotten one of these Hometown Favorites emails, it would look something like this according to The Internet Patrol:

?To update the credit card infomation details for your order, please select this link:?

When you click the link, it takes you to a very convincing looking page, which is a direct rip-off of the Hometown Favorites.com site, complete with the last four numbers of your credit card number and the expiration date prepopulated on the page. Then it asks you to put in your SSN (social security number) and date of birth.

If you do get such an emaill, you should probably contact your credit card company and cancel that card.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:16 am     NewsComments (1)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Nibs

Equal Exchange has been at the forefront of the fair trade chocolate and coffee movement in the United States for twenty years. But I think they understand that it’s great to give people a living wage and all, but the important thing is to sell something of value to the customer to keep everything in motion.

At their launch, the Equal Exchange chocolate products were rather mundane. Don’t get me wrong, they were nice, but the selection wasn’t very exciting. They’ve remedied that with the introduction of three new bars: Mint Chocolate, Espresso Bean Chocolate and Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs.

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The Organic Chocolate with Espresso Bean is made with a 55% cocoa solid chocolate (the lightest chocolate of the three new bars) with good reason. Coffee is a powerful flavor and needs a good balance in order for both flavors to shine though.

In general I’m not fond of coffee bars that have coffee grounds (or bits, whatever) in them. The chocolate itself is infused with the coffee flavors, which are dark and pungent, a little smoky and acidic. The beans are crunchy and crisp, which is better than some fibery ones that some companies put in their bars. But still, it’s just not my thing. The chocolate was wonderfully buttery but very sweet so that it can stand up to the espresso beans. Of the three bars, this is the one that I still have some left of. (7 out of 10)

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Organic Mint Chocolate. This dark chocolate bar made with 67% cocoa solids was quite a surprise. I fully expected it to be dark, mint flavored chocolate. Instead, it’s a mint crunch bar. It’s not quite like a mint bark that has little pieces or starlight mints in it. Instead it has little sugary grains of mint in it. The grains aren’t large, like big sugar crystals. The chocolate itself is not as sweet as the espresso bar, and has a strong acidic quality to it with a complex chocolate profile. Then as you chew or allow the chocolate to dissolve on your tongue you come across these little crystals of mint. It made the bar much more fun than I expected.

The acidity of the bar still got in the way of the mint, it just wasn’t the ideal match for me. (8 out of 10)

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Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs. Now this is the bar for me! 68% cocoa solids make this a pretty dark bar. The acidity here doesn’t bother me a bit, because it goes right along with the blissfully crunchy and rich cocoa nibs. Every nib was great, no fibery ones, no bad ones. The crunch of the nibs isn’t quite like a nut, they’re not quite as fatty tasting, but crisp and of course flavorful, creating a new texture without interrupting the pure chocolate density of the bar.

If you’re a nib fan, you should really seek out this bar. I’ve tried the Endangered Species bar and the Scharffen Berger and this bar really wowed me. At about $3.50 per bar retail for a 3.5 ounce bar they’re a good value for high-end chocolate. Add in the social responsibility and you’re silly not to at least give this bar a try. (9 out of 10)

I’ve been spotting Equal Exchange at Whole Foods, so keep your eyes open. If you have a favorite store that you shop at that doesn’t carry them, ask. (They don’t know what you want unless you tell them!) You can order on the Equal Exchange website, but only in full boxes of 12 for the bars.

Equal Exchange bars are not only organic but Fair Trade certified ingredients are used whenever possible, including the sugar. I think the only part that isn’t fair trade is the organic vanilla bean.

William at Chocolate Obsession has a large review. Siel at GreenLAGirl had a tasting party, so you can see lots more opinions on the bars there. If you’re interested in anything that has to do with incorporating fair trade, social responsibility and environmentalism into your everyday life, she’s your girl.

Name: Equal Exchange: Espresso, Mint & Cocoa Nibs
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Equal Exchange
Place Purchased: samples from Equal Exchange (thanks!)
Price: retail $3.50 each
Size: 3.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 154
Categories: Chocolate, Coffee, Mint, Cocoa Nibs, Switzerland, Equal Exchange, Organic, Fair Trade, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:57 am     Comments (3)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Choxies in Boxies

I picked up a couple of little Choxie items at Target over the weekend while I was getting my new bike tuned up.

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The first one was an impulse buy, the lines were very long and I was scouring all the checkout areas for limited edition items when my husband pointed out this bar. It doesn’t have a very sexy name: Choxie Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar, but the package was certainly cute and all the elements were compelling.

It’s like a combination of a peanut butter meltaway and a chocolate covered pretzel.

The bar is thick and has an ultrasmooth peanut butter filling. Mixed into that are pretzel bits and peanuts. The whole thing is cloaked in milk chocolate.

The pretzels and nuts are unevely mixed and the first two squares I ate didn’t have anything in them but peanut butter. The peanut butter filling is nice and as far as I can tell from reading the ingredients label it’s so freakin’ smooth and sweet because it’s blended with white chocolate.

The real distraction here are the pretzels. They’re stale. They’re not crispy, they don’t add a satisfying crunch. Color me disappointed.

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I don’t have much to say about these Choxie Caramel Pecan Nesters. They’re basically milk chocolate turtles: pecans, caramel and chocolate. They came in a little box and there were only two of them, each individually wrapped.

I took the photo and I gobbled both of them up!

High praise, I’m usually the model of restraint. It’s not that they were so divinely delicious, but they smelled awesome, that sweet pecan smell and chocolate, I wish I could bottle it. Though the caramel wasn’t anything more than sweet and the chocolate was just ordinary, the pecans were fresh and tasty.

Even on clearance (are they discontinuing them?) they were $1.40 for this wee box that had only two in them (one ounce). If you’re looking to torture yourself with a very small portion, this might be the way to go. At the regular price of $2 a box, pass this up and go straight to See’s.

Name: Peanut Butter Pretzel Bar & Caramel Pecan Nesters
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Choxie
Place Purchased: Target (Eagle Rock)
Price: $2.00 & $1.40
Size: 2.5 ounces & 1 ounce
Calories per ounce: 168 & 154
Categories: Chocolate, Peanuts, Cookie, Nuts, Caramel, United States, Choxie

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:08 am     Comments (10)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

M&Ms Line

There’s a favorite candy here in the United States, it’s called M&Ms ... or maybe they’re called M&Ms, I’m never quite sure about how to make implied plurals singular.

M&Ms are not unique, they have a similar candy product in the UK and other former parts of the crown called Smarties. And of course there are plenty of knock-offs, including Hersheyettes, Jots, Rocklets, Sun Drops and Garfield’s Chocobites. There are quite a few legends about how M&Ms and Smarties were invented, but suffice to say that they exist and that’s the important part.

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Milk Chocolate M&Ms
imageYear Introduced: 1940
Mascot: smart-mouthed Red one (once voiced by Jon Lovitz, now Billy West)
What is it: milk chocolate center covered with a thin candy shell with a lower case “m” mark

You’re not crazy, they were once called Plain M&Ms, but in 2000 they shifted their name to Milk Chocolate M&Ms.

A little bit of trivia and history. The Ms in M&M stand for Forrest Mars and R. Bruce Murrie. Forrest Mars left his fathers candy company and partnered with Murrie to create the M&M. It took some help, which came from Murrie’s father, who ran the Hershey Chocolate company at the time. The technology behind the manufacture of M&Ms and even the chocolate itself came from Hershey’s factories. In the 60s Mars starting making their own chocolate and no longer needed to order it from Hershey.

Red M&Ms were discontinued in 1976 because of a scare with a food dye called Red Dye #2 (which was not used in M&Ms). At that time the colors in the M&M pack were: Green, Orange, Yellow, Light Brown & Dark Brown. The Red M&M returned in 1985, at first as part of the Holiday color mix then in the regular mix.

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Peanut M&Ms
imageYear Introduced: 1954
Mascot: the dim-witted Yellow one (once voiced by John Goodman now J.K. Simmons)
What is it: A whole peanut center, a layer of chocolate and a thin candy shell with a lower case “m” mark

Overwhelmingly consistent in size, which is a credit to M&Ms production line choosing peanuts that are all the same size. The crunchy candy shell and slightly smoky tasting nuts combine well but overshadow the chocolate a smidge. But the chocolate provides a mellow sweetness and a creaminess during the final stages of chewing. I do get a bad peanut every once in a while, but usually not one every bag.

M&Ms were not a blazing success when they were launched, though they were well received. The trick for Mars was to figure out how to reach both their intended consumers (children) and the decision makers (parents). M&Ms were initially sold to the military during WWII, but Mars thought they were the perfect kids candy. Kids loved them, they just couldn’t convince their parents to buy them. It wasn’t until they hit upon their slogan, “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” that parents caught on that it was a less messy chocolate candy for kids. The rest is history.

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Almond M&Ms
imageYear Introduced: 1988 (seasonal) 1992 (permanent)
Mascot: Blue (who looks about as dim as Yellow)
What is it: A whole almond covered in milk chocolate then a thin candy shell with a lower case “m” mark

Really, this is the perfect M&M, as far as I’m concerned. They almonds might not be top notch as they’re often small, but they’re fresh and crunchy and provide a good backdrop to the very sweet and slightly grainy chocolate.

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Peanut Butter M&Ms
imageYear Introduced: 1990
Mascot: Green (those boots are made for walkin’ )
What is it: a little sphere of peanut butter inside a shell of milk chocolate and then a thin crunchy candy shell with a lower case “m” mark

These are very nice and satisfying, but I find them a little greasy and smoky tasting.

One of the interesting bits of trivia about M&Ms Peanut Butter is that there was a large lawsuit between Hershey & Mars when they first came out. Hershey accused Mars of trying to make them look like Reese’s Pieces - the packaging was the same color, the format of the bag, the type was in brown, etc. Now you’ll notice that the color is slightly shifted away from the Reese’s Orange (tm) to a reddish color.

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Crispy M&Ms
imageYear introduced: 1998
Mascot: Red and Orange
What is it: a rice-based crisp center covered in milk chocolate and a thin candy shell with a lower case “m” mark

The look of these is terribly inconsistent, which strikes me as a little odd since you’d think they’d have more control over how big the crisp centers are than peanuts. The colors also weren’t quite the same, the green was a little light and the red was a little thin looking. I wasn’t able to find the American Crispy M&Ms, so I bought some Canadian ones. So the chocolate on these is slightly more milky tasting, which is an interesting, malty complement to the crispy center. A little sweet, a little bland.

Dovetailing with the earlier issue with Reese’s & Peanut Butter M&Ms, you’ll notice that the Crispy M&Ms are positioned to rival the Nestle Crunch Bar, which is really all they are, a little Crunch bar in a shell. The light blue and use of the Red M&M echoes the Nestle Crunch colors.

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Dark Chocolate M&Ms
imageYear Introduced: 2006
Mascot: Green (voiced by Cree Summer in commercials - she’s reclining in this package)
What is it: darker chocolate center covered in a thin candy shell with lowercase “m” mark and sometimes “m dark”

These have a smoky and darker flavor than the milk M&Ms, but also a little note of coconut. The ingredients also list skim milk, milkfat and lactose, so I’m not sure how they’re considered “dark chocolate.” They’re gorgeously shiny and consistent, so consider me tempted when they’re sitting in front of me. There’s currently an additional reward of 2 million Dark M&Ms being offered for the return of The Scream.

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White Chocolate M&Ms “Pirate Pearls” (Limited Edition)
imageYear Introduced: 2006 (limited edition)
Mascot: Green (with black boots)
What is it: white chocolate covered in a thin candy shell with a lower case “m” mark and sometimes a little pictogram worked into it (cannon, crossed swords, ship, spyglass, skull and hook) that come in special colors (white, aqua, light yellow, cream)

Yup, white chocolate in a candy shell. They’re nice enough, but just too sweet for me. They’re okay when you eat them in combination with other M&Ms (especially the Dark ones), but I’m not sure I’ll buy these again and I won’t protest if they don’t end up as a permanent item.

Other versions of M&Ms over the years: Dulce de Leche (2001), Mega (still around), Minis (still around), Spec-tacular Eggs (seasonal), Mint (seasonal) and of course many color promotions and movie tie ins. Then there are other M’azing things done with them that I’ve never gotten on board with.

There has never been an M&Ms gum ... but I’m not saying it won’t happen.

Have you had enough of M&Ms? If not, check out these scans of knock-offs, Brad Kent’s wrapper collection (you’ll have to search for M&Ms to find them all), how they’re made, some more history, Candy Critic’s M&M Destruction Project, a Century of Candy Bars (there are pictures of M&Ms wrappers through the years) and if you’re still obsessed, join the M&M Collectors Club (they collect the merchandise, not the actual candies).

The product line gets a 9 out of 10. I might not like every variety, but they’re a great product and really do make snacking fun.

Related Candies

  1. Mint Crisp M&Ms (Indiana Jones)
  2. Skittles Chocolate Mix
  3. M&Ms Razzberry - Limited Edition
  4. Cherry Almondine M&Ms
  5. M&M Pirate Pearls
  6. Darth M&Ms

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:26 am     CandyReviewMarsChocolateCookieLimited EditionM&MsNutsPeanutsWhite Chocolate9-YummyCanadaUnited StatesComments (81)

Dark M&Ms Offer Reward

imageI hesitate to call this a new contest, but M&Ms is running a promotion for the new Dark M&Ms. On the second anniversary of the theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” from Oslo, M&Ms announced their commitment to finding the painting by adding to the current reward of $2 million. Now the reward has an additional bonus of 2 million M&Ms.

In case you were wondering how many M&Ms that is, well, it’s a lot. 2.2 tons. So if you’ve got that Scream painting sitting around taking up room in your house, just know that by returning it you’re going to have to make a lot more room for 40,000 packages of Dark M&Ms. Of course if you’re the one returning it, you’re gonna go to prison. But fret not! You can make your very own art with M&Ms.

Here’s the press release on the subject that includes information about consumer attitudes towards dark chocolate.

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Guggenheim Museum, NY, NY: To herald the arrival of M&M’s Dark Chocolate, George Morrisey of Masterfoods, unveils a painting, which brings a bit of fun to a well known dark subject, Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The original painting was stolen on August 22, 2004 from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. M&M’s is offering 2 million of the new dark chocolate M&M’S as a reward for the return of the painting.

UPDATE: Holy Moly! The Scream and Madonna (also stolen at the same time) were found! They were found by the police who have been systematically looking for the paintings ... no word yet if M&Ms is gonna send those couple of tons of candy to the cops.

UPDATED UPDATE: M&Ms has responded!

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:56 am     MarsM&MsFun StuffNewsComments (4)

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Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.

 

 

 

 

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Choose one or more:

  •   Halloween
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ON DECK

These candies will be reviewed shortly:

• Theo Chocolate Nutcracker Brittle

• Orgran Molasses Licorice

• Rogue Chocolatier

• Godiva Chef Inspirations

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