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August 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Regal Dynasty European Dark Chocolate

Regal DynastyOn my continuing quest to try off brands of confections to see if saving a little money means sacrificing taste, I came upon this bar at the Walgreen’s, mixed in with the other upscale chocolate bars: Regal Dynasty European Chocolate. This bar was called simply Dark Chocolate. For $1.29 and clocking in at 6.3 ounces, I was more than curious how well it could compare.

The packaging is less than exciting, in fact it looks dated, like some sort packet of cheap stationery from the Office Max circa 1993. The paper is rather flimsy and the foil wrapper inside is similarly thin, though both seem to do their job of protecting the bar well enough. So I can look past that (especially since I’ve had some very expensive bars that I don’t think have very attractive or useful packaging).

The ingredients however are a big old red flag: sugar, cocoa mass, vegetable fat, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, flavor. It states that the cocoa solids are a minimum of 45%. But it never says what those vegetable fats are or if that flavor is natural.

Regal Dynasty

The bar is lovely. It’s well molded and has a crisp snap.

It has a sweet and slightly cinnamon & cereal smell to it. It has a difficult melt though, but as it does soften, it is very sweet but at least not chalky or gritty. But it’s cool on the tongue, which usually means substitute fats or substitute sugars and always makes me a bit uneasy.

The chocolate notes aren’t deep or complex or satisfying. I would probably find this passable in a chocolate croissant, but standing alone as a piece of confection, it tastes watery and empty of nuance.

The simple fact is that it’s not chocolate. I’d hazard that since the vegetable fats come before the cocoa butter on the ingredients list that it wouldn’t even qualify under the laxer rules in Europe that allow veggie fats up to 5%. No, this is a plain old false label. It’s not chocolate. Not even close. But in an odd twist, it doesn’t have any dairy fats so can be considered vegan!

Even though I liked it a bit more than the Carlos V Chocolate Style Bar and it was cheaper, I can’t get past the fact that its downright false label.

Hopefully it will make passable brownies (which is what happens to many of the bars that I can’t bring myself to eat). Oddly enough, I can see myself buying this again though if I need a really nice looking, generic chocolate bar for a photo shoot. But if you’re looking for something you can actually eat that doesn’t cost too much, wait for a sale on something you know you like or just settle for a smaller package.

UPDATE November 3, 2009: Walgreen’s is discontinuing this bar. In it’s place you can buy an even more dreadful bar from R.M. Palmer called 2 Buck Choc, which has awful and unappealing graphics on the wrapper and of course doesn’t taste nearly as good as this (which I didn’t like but at least give it credit).

Related Candies

  1. Bel Chocolatey Bars
  2. Palmer Hollow Chocolate Flavored Bunny
  3. Satisfying Treats for Parents & Kids: All Natural
  4. 99 Cent Goodness (part 2)
Name: Dark Chocolate
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Regal Dynasty (East West Distributing Co.)
Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
Price: $1.29
Size: 6.3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 150
Categories: Mockolate, Poland

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:50 am    

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lemonhead Fruit Snacks

Ferrara Pan Fruit SnacksIn the annals of crazy product extensions, I actually did a double take on this one at the store: Ferrara Pan Fruit Snacks featuring Lemonhead & Friends.

The box is busy and a little confusing. When I hear term fruit snacks, I usually expect some sort of fruit puree candy, like a fruit leather or fruit roll up. But these go on to say that they have a Juicy Center made with Real Fruit Juice & 100% Vitamin C.

The first ingredient actually is fruit juice from concentrate (apple, cherry, grape, lemon) followed by corn syrup, sucrose and gelatin ... then some ascorbic acid and artificial colors later on the list. So really, they’re gummis made with real fruit juice. Which is cool, I love really intensely flavored gummi.

Ferrara Pan Fruit Snacks with Juicy CenterFor a 99 Cent Store product, they stand out. The box is bright & colorful, if a little big considering how many packs are inside.

The little packages also say that they’re only 80 calories. Pretty easy really, considering they’re only .9 ounces and have no fat.

Each packet has seven pieces of candy in it. In my experience opening three of the packages, all were heavy on the green and each had only one. Lemonhead has a lot of friends!  (And to be fair, the lemonhead on the box is singular and friends is plural.)

Ferrara Pan Lemonhead & Friends

Each piece is both colored and shaped like the fruit it’s supposed to taste like:

Purple = Grape - though they may have put real grape juice in there, this tastes like Kool-Aid or grape soda. Tangy, sweet and completely artificial. Not that it’s a bad thing, pretty much like the old Alexander the Grape.

Green = Apple - as the most common one in my assortments, I tried more of these than any other. The apple flavor as really pleasant, kind of like a granny smith. The chew of the gummi part is kind of short and less bouncy than some other gummi, but the flavor center is similarly flavorful and less like a sugar goo.

Red = Cherry - he looked kind of like a pumpkin to me, except for the color. The flavor is pretty tangy cherry, very artificial and rather unpleasant for me.

Yellow = Lemon - nicely rounded, it has a lot of zest to it, a nice soft chew and a mellow tangy component.

As a comparison, I tried some Starburst Gummibursts again and found the Ferrara Pan to be moister plus far deeper and more intensely flavored. But of course the flavor assortment is different (cherry and lemon being the only ones in common).

My big beef here is that there’s no orange. Maybe Orangehead and Lemohead aren’t friends any longer. I also wanted more Lemonheads, because they’re my favorite.

As a healthy snack, well, they’re portion controlled and the worst damage you can do is eat the whole box which’d be 480 calories and of course be stocked up with enough vitamin C to last the week (well, if you were able to store Vitamin C for a week in your body ... a better way is to store it in these little candies and portion them out over a longer period of time). There’s nothing else redeeming about them, so I’m happy calling them candy. Really inexpensive candy.

Related Candies

  1. Three Pink Bubble Gums
  2. Chewy Lemonheads & Atomic Fireballs
  3. Lifesaver Gummies
  4. The Lemonhead & Fruit Heads
  5. Narbles
Name: Lemonheads & Friends Fruit Snacks
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Ferrara Pan
Place Purchased: 99 Cent Only Store (Miracle Mile)
Price: $.99
Size: 5.4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 89
Categories: Gummi, United States, Ferrera Pan

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:23 am    

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Coffee Nips

Coffee NipsWhen I was a teenager I discovered Pearson Coffee Nips. Like my other favorite at the time, Andes Mints, they represented a sophisticated taste in an easy to share individually wrapped portion. I’d buy them by the box, usually for about a dollar and they’d last forever.

I wasn’t quite developed enough at the time to drink coffee straight, about all I could stand was coffee floats (hot coffee with vanilla ice cream in it) but I loved the taste of the stuff.

That’s what attracted me to Coffee Nips. They combine the rich coffee taste with a creamy texture and a long lasting hard candy experience. And they were pretty inexpensive.

Pearson Coffee Nips were known simply as Pearson Nips when they were introduced over 70 years ago. But now they’re made in a wide variety of flavors (and some even have flavored goo centers). The Pearson line of Nips was sold to Nestle back in 1989 and looking closely on the package, they’re not even called Pearson any longer.

Coffee Nips

Even though they’ve changed hands, they’re the same as they ever were. A lump of hard caramel, made from a combination of sugar, corn syrups and milk products and a few tropical oils ... boiled down with some real coffee to become a slow dissolving bit of concentrated coffee. It’s almost a toffee, but more of a hard caramel.

They’re smooth and creamy and not too sweet (though far sweeter than I like my liquid coffee). They’re impossible to chew, which makes them last a long time (though I caution you to not try to chew them as they will cement your teeth together).

They’re an excellent summer candy because they travel well but provide a rich creamy experience and mimic a hot drink that many of us eschew on hot days. (Okay, I only eschew hot coffee in the middle of the day, I pretty much always drink hot coffee in the morning.)

Refreshing. Classic. I’ve never tried the other flavors which include Butter Rum, Caramel, Chocolate Parfait, Dulce de Leche, Mocha and Peanut Butter Parfait. The coffee suits me just fine.

Related Candies

  1. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
  2. Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios
  3. Walkers Nonsuch Toffee
  4. Storck Chocolate Riesen
  5. Pocket Coffee
  6. Bali’s Best Coffee & United Coffee Candy
Name: Coffee Nips
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: 99 Cent Only Store (Miracle Mile)
Price: $.99
Size: 4 ounces
Calories per ounce: 121
Categories: Coffee, Caramel, United States, Nestle, Kosher

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:43 am    

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Carlos V: Dark Knight

Nestle Carlos V Dark KnightNestle made a big deal earlier this year with their American launch of their popular Mexican chocolate bar, Carlos V. The bar comes in two varieties, Milk Chocolate Style and Dark Chocolate Style.

I tried the Mexican import some years ago, back when it was just a milk chocolate bar and found it interesting, very milky and quite different from American or UK style chocolate.

What I found alarming about the new bars that Nestle’s is now selling in the US market is this nuevo dark chocolate style bar. Gotta wonder what the style of dark chocolate is. I’ve got to tip my hat to Nestle, dark chocolate style sounds much better than mockolate or chocolatey or chocolate flavored.

It reminds me of the Superfriends characters of Zan and Jayna when I was a kid. They’d activate their Wonder Twin Powers (tm), Zan would take the form of something made with water and Jayna would take the shape of an animal. See, they weren’t actually changing, Zan wouldn’t actually be a huge iceberg, he’d just be the shape of an iceberg with iceberg qualities but remain sentient and with the full power to change back. Same with Jayna, she’d become a sea eagle, but that wouldn’t mean that she’d suddenly lose her senses and eat Gleek.

So while I get that this is a bar that walks like a chocolate bar and talks like a chocolate bar, that doesn’t make it a chocolate bar.

Nestle Carlos V Dark Knight

The Nestle Carlos V Dark Knight is nicely packaged. The new version is full sized, 1.41 ounces instead of the old 3/4 of an ounce version. The bar is nicely domed and segmented.

The color is good though the snap is a bit soft.

As a chocolate style bar, it has a good amount of chocolate in it, the ingredients go like this:

Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, vegetable oils (palm, shea and/or illpe), lactose, milkfat and less than 1% soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors.

So it’s not even vegan friendly (also it is made in a facility that processes peanuts and wheat products).

It smells like cocoa, sweet and kind of empty.

The taste is, well, similarly empty. It’s chocolatey, in the sense that it’s the flavor, but not much else qualifies it as such. It’s not creamy, it doesn’t really melt well though it is rather smooth once chewed up. But later there’s an aftertaste ... of vitamins. You know, those tasty large horsepills with a high B vitamin content. Oh, the aftertaste, kind of bitter and musty.

It has very little style, chocolate or otherwise, and it’s sad. The traditional Carlos V bar has also become milk chocolate style, Candy Snob reviewed the new version recently.

(No, I’m not even going to go into how cheesy I think naming the bar Dark Knight is.)

Related Candies

  1. Kissables (Reformulated)
  2. Bubu Lubu
  3. Reese Hazelnut Creme
  4. Palmer Hollow Chocolate Flavored Bunny
  5. Sixlets & Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Flavored Sixlets
  6. Peruvian Candies
Name: Carlos V Dark Knight
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Nestle
Place Purchased: that new grocery store next to Walgreen's in Echo Park
Price: $.33
Size: 1.41 ounces
Calories per ounce: 136
Categories: Mockolate, Mexico, Nestle

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:38 am    

Monday, August 11, 2008

Perugina Nero Sfoglie Arancia

Perugina Nero Orange ChocolateI was wandering the candy aisle at Gelsons, an upscale grocery chain in Southern California, on Saturday night and happened upon a new chocolate product I’d not seen before.

Called Perugina Nero, it looks like a pretty direct import, as the package was all in Italian except for a sticker on the back with the ingredients & nutrition facts in English. The sticker covered up the native descriptions though, so all I could glean was that they were thin tablets that appeared to be a little smaller than business cards made of chocolate.

The chocolate leaves come in three varieties: 70% Cacao, 85% Cacao and Gusto Arancia (Orange Flavor). I went for the Arancia because I really love the touch of orange essence combined with dark chocolate.

Perugina Nero Dark Chocolate OrangeThe box is pretty big but holds only 3.38 ounces. The price was right though, at $2.99 on sale, it’s about the same as an imported chocolate bar.

Inside the box is a tray sealed in cellophane. Four little compartments hold stacks of three little chocolate cards. It feels like a bit of overkill on the packaging, but I have to admit that it did a nice job, all my cards were pristine.

The pieces are 2.75” by 1.75”. Each piece is far thinner than a regular chocolate bar as well, even the tasting squares that I’ve picked up before, each is only 8 grams (most tasting squares are 7-12 grams but only 1” square at most).

Perugina Nero Dark Chocolate Orange

The little leaves are quite pretty, with the stylized Pegasus emblem on each.

They smell of woodsy, smoky chocolate and quite strongly of orange.

Biting into a piece, it sits on the tongue and melts right away, releasing its flavors quickly. I got a rush of rich chocolate, bitter tones, woodsy flavors that combine bark, coffee and Popsicle sticks along with the bright notes of orange essence and then a low bitterness that echoes the orange zest and dark chocolate.

Even though the chocolate itself isn’t particularly buttery, the quick melt because of the format gives it a creamy component I often find difficult to tease out of big chunks of chocolate without chewing it a bit.

Since the box is essentially the equivalent of the large 100 gram tablet bar, this is a great solution to sharing. It’s a great option for serving with coffee or tea or even an aperitif. The pieces are lovely to look at, though serving right from the tray isn’t quite elegant, neither is cracking up a regular bar and flattening out the foil wrapper.

For those who are watching their calories, each leaf has 42 calories. The impression of a large portion if you were to eat two leaves would still only deliver 84 calories, a decadent treat without busting your diet. (Though they’re not individually wrapped or anything, so nothing to stop you from eating the whole box.)

Related Candies

  1. Ghirardelli Intense Dark
  2. Vanilla Beans KitKat & Bitter Orange Aero
  3. Voisin Papillotes
  4. Baci Bar
  5. Jacques Torres
Name: Nero Sfoglie Arancia
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Perugina (Nestle)
Place Purchased: Gelson's (Laguna Beach)
Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 3.38 ounces
Calories per ounce: 149
Categories: Chocolate, Italy, Nestle

POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:29 am    

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