Friday, June 29, 2007
Sometimes I wonder why candy availability is so screwy. Take the Elvis Reese’s Cups, you can get them in some stores now even though they’re not supposed to be out until
Saturday, July 7 ... but why do some have them now and why not all of them?
A few months ago Wisconsin Candy Dish reviewed the new Hot Tamales Ice, and even mentioned that they’d been around since January. Well, I’ve been lookin’, and lookin’. Finally at the strange RiteAid trip this week I found them (along with the Elvis Reese’s Cups and the Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms).
They were only available in the theater sized box and the ticket on the shelf said $1.29, but it rung up at 99 cents (another reason to think that this RiteAid is screwy).
The candies are rather pretty. They’re kind of translucent, light blue with some white speckles. They’re shaped just like Hot Tamales or Mike and Ike, which is a little rod shape that for some reason is a little bigger on one end than the other.
The little rods are like jelly beans, if you’ve never had Hot Tamales. These are spearmint flavored ... quite strong spearmint. They’re pleasant and refreshing, and rather unlike jelly beans. They remind me a lot of Spearmint Leaves, which are one of those odd candies that I’ve had cravings for all my life. There’s something about hitting a mint spot (a concentration of the mint flavor) that must release endorphins in my brain or something.
Of course I also associate the smell of spearmint with toothpaste, so while they’re tasty to eat, the smell in the car after leaving them there in the sun is rather like a cleaning the bathroom sink of that crust of toothpaste dribbles and beard whiskers when I was in college and shared that one bathroom apartment with four guys for a summer. This might explain why I chose a cinnamon-flavored toothpaste when I bought a new tube.
Have I digressed enough? Well, it’s a big box. I could talk about how silly the name is ... why not just call them Cool Tamales, or Ice Tamales or maybe even Mike and Ice? I like the packaging otherwise, the blue box is certainly easy to spot. I don’t know if they’re an ideal movie candy though, not like Hot Tamales. But certainly less messy than those sugar-sanded jelly Spearmint Leaves.
One Hot Tamale Ice has 7 calories. There’s no statement on the box about gluten or nuts. Previous Hot Tamales review here.
UPDATE 8/1/2007: No wonder I wanted to call them Cool Tamales! There was a product made by Just Born back in the day that was a spearmint jelly rod. They were called Cool Kids (but green instead of blue).
Thursday, June 28, 2007
About six months ago I got to preview the new Chocolate Covered Altoids. They were tasty, but I never found myself gobbling them up.
At the RiteAid the other night I finally found the missing piece to the trio of flavors: Ginger. I don’t know why they were so hard to find, believe me, I looked just about everywhere locally. Now, I’ve heard that the ginger ones are bad. But I like Ginger ... I love Ginger ... do you think I will love Chocolate Dipped Ginger Altoids?
They’re woodsy, spicy and strong. The chocolate flavor only stands up to the ginger for a moment, then backs away and gives the normally chalky candy some texture.
I’ve had them on my desk for about 24 hours and they’re pretty much gone. I’ve gobbled them up. Sure they’re burning me up, but sometimes I just like that in a candy. They’re a little expensive, too expensive for me to have them more than sometimes.
I think I’d like them in Liquorice as well ... but I doubt that’s gonna happen any time soon.
As with other Altoids, these contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The are also manufactured on equipment that processes milk, wheat & nuts (tree & pea).
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A couple of week’s ago I saw a mention on the All Candy Expo website that M&Ms was introducing Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms on July 1st. I couldn’t find anything else about it though ... expect the commercial that’s running for Dark Chocolate M&Ms ... have you seen it? It’s themed on the Addam’s Family.
The curious part is that only Uncle Fester and Pugglsey are regular shaped, the rest of the family is Peanut. The M&Ms website makes no mention of the peanut version as of this date.
I can kind of shrug it off, except for the fact that I actually found them on sale at RiteAid last night. Well, of course I bought them!
Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms were introduced a couple of years ago as a themed promotion for Star Wars and called Darth Mix. I never got to try them (just the plain ones, which were also introduced as a regular version).
First, Peanut M&Ms are not my favorite. They’re kind of in the middle of the pack, I enjoy them but I find that they’re a bit uneven in quality, I really don’t like the Russian Roulette of getting a bad peanut.
A regular Peanut M&M single-serve package contains 1.74 ounces. The Dark Chocolate version contains 1.5 ounces. Do you think that’s exactly the milk content difference? Hardly, there’s plenty of milk in here ... lactose and milkfat are both ingredients, so this isn’t really dark chocolate.
They’re dark, that’s for sure. They crunch the same but the combination of peanut and dark chocolate is quite, well, dark. It’s a bit bitter, it’s a bit smoky, in fact, the whole thing reminded me of peanuts and molasses more of peanuts and chocolate.
The colors are nice and there’s no indication that these are dark on the shell (the plain dark ones have the occasional “dark” stamp on them).
Overall, they were just a little too “dark” for me. It’s not that they weren’t sweet, they were just too bitter.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
One of the things that I was attracted to at the counter of the candy store were these pretty and classic chocolate bars. They came in four varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sugar Free Milk Chocolate (on a different display).
They’re all 1.8 ounces and the ingredients are promisingly short: sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin and vanillin. They were all priced $1.25 each.
The other bar (not pictured) was the Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar (it looked just like the Milk Chocolate bar). It’s similarly sweet and has a wonderful scent of almonds. The almonds are whole, if a little small. Crunchy and a good counterpoint to the very sugary chocolate. The pieces are nice though, easy to break off a third and chomp it whole or maybe three bites.
The Mickey Dark Chocolate Bar was stunning when I took it out of the package. The glossy squares and nicely detailed relief of Mickey’s head definitely has appeal. It smells nice, a little more on the cedar side of woodsy than coffee. The ingredients on this one lists butterfat. It’s pretty smooth but very sweet for a dark chocolate. It’s kind of “watery” on the tongue, reminding me of the Royal Dark Cadbury Mini Eggs that came out this year ... kind of like a pleasant cup of hot chocolate.
The sweetness leads me to believe that some kids may enjoy this, and if they don’t their moms or dads won’t complain about having to eat the leftovers themselves.
I give the whole set of bars a passably good 7 out of 10, good portion control at 1.8 ounces, easy to share, decent price for a branded item and Kosher for those who are looking for that. I appreciate that the candy has the Mickey brand on the inside and the outside.
Much of the candy is rather mainstream fare, and though I couldn’t find any chocolate mint patties or minted chocolate, I did find the Mickey Mouse Creamy Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties. They were a little more than the other pre-packaged candies at $1.50, but they were also 2.7 ounces. The packaging is kind of retro, kind of islandy. The Mickey on the package is the old-fashioned Mickey who is all pupil and has no whites in his eyes.
Inside is a little plastic tray with two chocolate dipped coconut patties in the shape of Mickey’s head.
These are hefty huge patties! Each weighs approximately 1.35 ounces, a good sized portion of candy on its own. The chocolate doesn’t coat the top, but you can’t tell from the photo that it does cover the bottom.
The star here is the soft coconut pattie itself. It’s creamy and soft and of course coconutty. It smells like summer. The coconut is chewy and only slightly fibery, a bit smoother than a Mounds bar, but also a bit sweeter.
The chocolate takes a back seat, which is fine. It’s not great chocolate like that on the Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, but it makes the candy attractive and it’s real, which is always a selling point.
The package does say that they were made in a “nut free environment” (except for those coconuts, which I guess are technically a fruit). Not Kosher. I give them a 7 out of 10.
These little M&M-like candies are called Chocolate Spots and came in a peanut variety as well. I went for the traditional “candy-coated Milk Chocolate”. As I was looking for a package that wasn’t crinkled and sticky, I noticed that all the bags felt like the contents were “grainy” instead of smooth.
I did my best to pick one from the bottom that looked crisp and had the best feeling contents, but when I got home and dumped them out, it was quite apparent that my attempt was not successful.
I know that many small children aren’t particularly choosy about their chocolate, and bless them for that. If I were a child and told I could only pick out one item from this store and this is what I got, I’d be in tears. The chocolate tastes like the wrapper smells, like plastic. The candy shell is crispy, yes, but only masks the burnt flavors of the chocolate. Think of those awful burnt unpopped kernels of popcorn and maybe the filling of a futon that’s been stored in a damp basement for the past few decades. I should have known that they were going to be bad when I read the list of ingredients ... which included PGPR (granted, I still love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which now include PGPR, but it’s certainly in spite of it that they’re good, not because of it).
Honestly, I think I’m going to package these up and send them back to Disney. I might accept such quality from the 99 Cent Only Store at a fifth of the price, but not from a big company that prides itself on the experience of the brand. 1.8 ounces. I’m giving them a 2 out of 10. Not Kosher.
How difficult would it be to simply have a Disney branded M&M? The candies would have little characters on them instead of Ms (like the Pirate Pearls had little skulls and swords). Or ... don’t bother with M&Ms and get some GOOD candy maker to do two different sizes and kids could make their own Mickey heads with large and small candy lentils.
I’d kind of hoped, as with the Disney Spots, that this Pecan-Caramel Cluster would have a cutesy name, like Lion King Paws or Chewy Manes ... But clarity is always a good thing. In fact, besides the image on the package of Simba and Nala, it doesn’t say a single thing about The Lion King. I guess in a few years these could be branded for a more popular Princess or perhaps some tie in with Ratatouille.
The package says they’re “Crisp Pecans drenched in Creamy Caramel, smothered in delicious Milk Chocolate.”
And so they are.
These were far better than the Nestle Pecan Turtles I had earlier this year. Fresh nuts, the right texture for the caramel. The chocolate wasn’t the best in the world, but at least it didn’t detract. A winner.
2 pecan clusters, 1.5 ounces total. Not Kosher. $1.25 9 out of 10
Overall, the packaged stuff was pleasant and by theme-park standards, a good value. Just stay away from the Chocolate Spots.
These are cute but certainly expensive, useless and probably bad for the environment.
What’s worse? I bought two.
The come in a gajillion different versions: Eeyore, Piglet, Tiggr, Pluto and Mickey were the ones I saw. They’re called Candy Keepers, and as far as I’m concerned, they can keep the candy.
Each little pod comes in a snug little clear plastic box along with a packet of candies (about the same amount as a packet of sugar). They’re all pastels. I thought for a while there might be primary colored ones in there and rooted around in the display. The pastel really doesn’t make much sense, unless you’re a Piglet fan.
The little pastel candies are dreadful. I thought they were going to be like Tart n Tiny ... little sugar shelled SweeTarts or something. Instead the candies are slightly floral/raspberry flavored ... completely sweet except for the awful bitter aftertastes (is that the artificial coloring?).
How much, you’re wondering? $2.50 each. The included candy aside, they’re still going to be fun to keep on my desk and put other actual candies that I like inside. (This week it’ll probably be Good & Plenty.) If it were just a little toy, I think I’d be okay (if it were less than $2, come on, how much was it to make these things ...). With the candy, these fall out of my good graces and I give them a 5 out of 10. If you’re trying to moderate your child’s candy intake and have only given them a $2.50 budget for sweets and Disneyland, well, this is the treat for you! (It makes me feel silly for complaining about paying over a dollar for those Gummy Fishies.)
There are a lot of lollipops for sale at Disneyland. My guess is there is at least one per child available in stores at all times. They’re a silly candy, really. A very, very big piece of bright hard candy. You could get a kid interested in hard candy if you paid them ... unless it’s flat, comes with a handle and has some sort of Princess on the wrapper.
I was pretty pleased to see these Mickey Mouse Bundled Pops at the stores. They’re fun to look at and it appears that a kid might actually be able to eat one of these while waiting in one of those long lines for a ride ... and still have some for later.
The bundle has five thick Mickey Ear pops in it: Cherry, Orange, Banana, Cotton Candy and Watermelon each on a 7” paper stick.
I left the red on my brother’s windshield ... so the kids would think there was a lollipop fairy at Disneyland!
Each pop weighs about .66 ounces each. They feel substantial and are dense, without any noticeable voids. They’re opaque due to the addition of titanium dioxide, which means they’ll make effective but small sunblocks if necessary.
The flavors aren’t as bright as the colors though. For Banana and Cotton Candy, the flavor was mild and sweet. For the Orange and Watermelon, the flavor just didn’t have any zazz. It was all sweet and no tang. I suppose some children prefer sweet over tart, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for a candy that won’t overpower them.
They are very attractive and one of the few candies that continues the Mickey Mouse theme all the way until you bite their ears off. At $3.95 for the bundle of five, well that’s a bit steep. I give them a 6 out of 10.
Neither of these treats was marked Kosher.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
I went to Disneyland last week with my family. This was my niece and nephew’s first visit there and my third (though I never got to go as a child). They had their priorities (meeting the Princesses and Jedi Academy, respectively) and I had mine.
Before going to the park I did some reading about what’s there. I found out that there is a candy store on Main Street called the Candy Palace that has been there since the park first opened fifty years ago. (There are very few candy stores in southern California that can say the same.) They actually make their own candy on site (fudge, chocolate cups, dipped apples, etc.). Of course I fully expected everything to be expensive and I wasn’t disappointed on that front.
So, what can you expect to find at Disneyland?
The store is themed like an older arcade. The center section of the store features those machines that you put a penny and two quarters into to make a souvenir and pick a stamp to smash into the penny. There were also some old fashioned fortune telling games and nickelodeons. And of course fudge. Lots and lots of fudge.
There are three counters. The center one by the door sells fudge and salt water taffy. Behind that is a short wall of jelly beans (Jelly Belly, I’ll wager). At $12 a pound, they’re pretty pricey, but you can buy a quarter pound, which I suppose isn’t so bad if you’re getting exactly the flavors you want.
At the side counter, by the candy kitchen that faces the street, they sell peanut brittle and dipped apples (candy, chocolate and caramel) along with some other things.
Then in the back the store opens up and there’s a large center counter with a refrigerated case that sold all sorts of chocolate treats (most made on site). This ranged from chocolate dipped strawberries to chocolate dipped pretzels, caramel cups, rocky road, a few different varieties of turtles and nut rolls and even some sugar free items.
The rest of the store is devoted to prepackaged items in different themed “brands”. There were the Goofy items which are all non-chocolate like taffy, red licorice, gummi and compressed dextrose. Most were in character shapes. Goofy also had a Pucker Powder dispenser (one of two in the park that I found). Other items were tins of chocolates (truffles, nut clusters and chocolate covered pretzels). There were items for Pirates of the Caribbean (swords filled with tart candy “treasure”) and Princess items (pastel tarts and lollipop).
Mickey Mouse has his own line of chocolate bars (milk, dark and milk with almonds) and lollipops. Prepackaged can be good if all you want is a little pick-me up. You won’t find any other candy in the park ... no Snickers, no Hershey bars, it’s all Disneyland branded sweets.
Prices were pretty clearly marked on most items, which is always a relief. Some were rather reasonable like the chocolate bars at only $1.25 each. Others seemed absurd, such as $4.00 for a little clear 2” plastic cube with some gummi bears in it for $4.00.
The clerks were super-friendly and patient, as you’d expect at Disney, but it’s worth noting. They were also knowledgeable about the products ... except the woman who ended up ringing me up couldn’t find the little SKU to ring in some of my items from the cooler case ... but we found it! Around the corner in the same building is a little ice cream shop as well, and outside of that a small plaza with tables to consume your sweets. I had a $2.69 bottle of water for the day and snacked on a soft pretzels (shaped like Mickey, natch). Mary Poppins and Bert came by for a while and danced to the ragtime piano music and signed autographs (we suspect that the Mary Poppins was the same cast member we met earlier as Princess Belle).
Other stores ...
Pooh Corner is over in Critter Country tucked away in a corner and themed the Huny Spot. The store was nearly deserted when I went in there the first time, it was after lunch and I guess everyone was back on the rides. They have a smaller candy counter that has the same chocolate dipped goodies as well as a selection of cookies. There was a large display of Goofy Candy, the sour, Pucker Powder dispenser, and of course the lollies.
I liked the Pooh Corner shop a bit better, even though the selection wasn’t as wide. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t as mobbed, or maybe it’s just because I like Pooh (and the Tao of Pooh).
Now, those are just the two actual candy stores. Don’t get the impression that’s the only place you can find the stuff! Just about every store I went into had some version of the lollipop display. They offered the unicorn style twisted pops, swirly pops with Mickey or the Princesses on them and some large sour pops in the Goofy brand. There were also some Mickey Head shaped pops that came in little bundles that I picked up.
There are also cotton candy vendors everywhere (though none to be found at 9:30 in the morning, I guess Walt Disney doesn’t think it’s appropriate breakfast fare). Cotton Candy is $3 and sold in bags. I never found a cotton candy maker. Though the stuff sold in these little carts was certainly fresh, half the fun is watching them twist it all up and that wonderful burnt sugar smell.
Later, I’ll have a roundup of reviews of some actual candy ... how good is something that costs twice the price of stuff found outside of the park? I spent $35 ... how much do you think I got and how much of it was any good? As for the stores, I give them an 8 out of 10, for the variety, perky sales staff and cleanliness.
Here’s the list of reviews:
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Posting was a little light this week as I have visitors in town.
I Heart Candy is over at YumSugar and the list of of sweets lovin’ posts is extensive! Have a look. I heart these posts: Bertie Bott’s Jelly Bean Roulette (a fun game for summer camp) and the pure simplicity of Pretzels + Kisses + M&Ms.
Here’s the recap of Candy Blog reviews this week:
Monday: Skittles from the UK (8 out of 10)
Tuesday: Good & Plenty Fresh from the Factory (9 out of 10)
Wednesday: Twisted Energy Bar versus Take 5 (2 out of 10 & 9 out of 10)
Friday: Tootsie Pop - Regular & Supersized (9 out of 10 & 7 out of 10)
Weekly Average: 7.33 ... 33% chocolate content.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.