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September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brach’s Chocolate Candy Corn & Halloween Mix

Brach's Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy CornFirst thing I have to say about Brach’s Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn is that the name is too long. If the name takes up three lines, it’s too long. These are tiny little pieces of candy ... the name should not weigh more than the candy itself.

I knew this candy existed, but I was having trouble finding it. I was delighted not only to find it at Walgreen’s, but also in this 7 ounce bag (instead of the 9.5 ounce Caramel Apple Candy Corn a few weeks ago and the mondo 22 ounce bag I got of the the Caramel Candy Corn last year).

The package says that it’s made with real cocoa and real milk. I’d never really thought about candy corn being a dairy product. (Makes me think about creamed corn.)

Brach's Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy CornThe pieces are attractive. A medium brown bottom, a darker brown middle and a white tip.

My bag was exceptionally sloppy. There weren’t many well-formed pieces, some were missing a color but mostly they were just irregular. Part of the fun is the attractiveness of candy corn. This didn’t quite measure up.

The base flavor is the caramel. It’s a bit salty and has that fake butter flavor to it that I can handle in tiny doses. The middle section has a light cocoa flavor and the white top is, of course, unadulterated sweetness. They taste a bit richer than the typical orange & yellow candy corn, but I found the fake butter a little too artificial to keep me eating these.

It makes me wish they sold these in 1 ounce bags. That would have been enough to satisfy my curiosity.

The ingredients list salt above the actual milk in here. There’s also gelatin, so no good for vegetarians and it’s not Kosher.

This was the first Brach’s package I’ve seen so far that makes note of the new Farley’s & Sathers ownership.

Brach's Assorted Halloween MellowcremesI was rather excited to see the Brach’s Assorted Halloween Mellowcremes on the same shelf. I thought they discontinued or perhaps only available in bulk.

The package joyfully tells me it’s America’s #1! (It’s also made in Mexico.)

Honestly it’s been so long since I had the Brach’s Mellowcremes, I didn’t remember whether they were flavored or not. (The Autumn Mix is not distinctly flavored.)

These little fondant nuggets come in four colors and eight shapes: crescent moon, black cat, pumpkin, jug, jack o’lantern, bat, corn cob and sheaf of wheat.

Brach's Assorted Halloween Mellowcremes

The flavors are determined by the color of the Mellowcreme.

  • Yellow = Banana - either you love fake banana or you don’t. As strong as my aversion is to fake butter flavor, my affection for artificial banana matches it. The flavor is mellow, with a touch of honey and salt. It’s soft and slightly grainy but melts easily.

  • Tan = Maple - this was the surprise of the package. I fully expected these to be the caramel flavor. Instead they have a nice woodsy/toasted taste to them, like a hunk of brown sugar.

  • Dark Brown = Cocoa - far more cocoa flavored than any Indian Corn I’ve ever had. But not really that good either, terribly empty and cardboard tasting, like a Tootsie Roll that’s been freeze dried, pulverized and smashed into a bat shape.

  • Orange = Candy Corn - the pumpkins are faithful to the Brach’s Candy Corn flavor. Sweet, bland and with a slight touch of honey. (Though there’s no honey in here.)
  • The package I picked has more yellow and tan ones, so I think I did well here as those are the ones I’m picking out to eat anyway.

    The salt really helps these out. There’s 110 mg of Sodium in every serving, which is quite a lot for a candy (but an excellent stat if this was a canned soup). Consider it a boost to your electrolytes, maybe athletes will start carrying Mellowcremes as a recovery supplement.

    I think the bragging rights are earned here. I now think that Mellowcremes are worth the search. (These also contain gelatin.) 7 out of 10

    Related Candies

    1. Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses
    2. Zachary Candy Corn & Jelly Pumpkins
    3. Candy Corn Kisses
    4. Jelly Belly Deluxe Easter Mix
    5. Gourmet Goodies Candy Corn
    6. The Great Pumpkin Roundup
    Name: Milk Maid Chocolate Caramel Candy Corn & Assorted Halloween Mellowcremes
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Brach's
    Place Purchased: Walgreen's (Echo Park)
    Price: $1.39
    Size: 9.5 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 99
    Categories: Caramel, Fondant, United States, Mexico, Brach's, Halloween

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:09 am    

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows

    Trader Joe's Espresso PillowsI spotted this harvest colored tin at the check out area at Trader Joe’s over the weekend. They’re called Espresso Pillows.

    The tin describes them as crunchy toffeed espresso bits covered in dark chocolate.

    Frankly, I was confused by them. They didn’t look big enough to be espresso beans covered in toffee and then chocolate, which is what the description made me think. And the word “pillows”? They’re the size of dried beans ... and they don’t sound like pillows. Pillows are soft and fluffy. These are pellets.

    But I don’t think I’d buy something called Espresso Pellets.

    Trader Joe's Espresso Pillows

    The tin is awesome. The colors are compelling and reinforce the elements advertised: chocolate, toffee and coffee.

    The little window let me see what was inside.

    Most importantly, it was easy to open and snaps shut securely.

    Trader Joe's Espresso Pillows

    They smell sweet and chocolatey and a little woodsy, like cedar.

    They vary greatly in size and shape. Some are the size and shape of a coffee bean, others are teensy little ball bearings (with nothing inside).

    At first bite my confusion about what these actually are is completely diffused.

    Inside of the panned chocolate shell is a little nugget of rich coffee toffee. Think Coffee Rio, only crispy and crunchy.

    The center is rich, a little bitter, buttery smooth and barely sweet. The semi-sweet chocolate coating adds more flavor and makes the whole thing creamier.

    This is one of those products I’ve been dreaming about. A really intense coffee candy that doesn’t have grainy little bits of coffee grounds in it.

    The price is a little steep for the amount of product. I’d probably want to buy a whole tub of these and just refill my little tin. But then again, it helps with portion control. I can eat the whole tin and it’d only be about 350 calories.

    Some of mine had little light colored spots on them, not full blown “chocolate bloom” but more like they got speckled with water or moisture somewhere along the way. All the ones on the shelf looked like that. It doesn’t seem to detract from the flavor or texture though.

    This is not only all natural, with no preservatives, it’s also Kosher. However, it’s not vegetarian-safe for those who won’t eat confectioner’s glaze.

    Related Candies

    1. Coffee Nips
    2. M&Ms Premiums
    3. Caffe Acapella - Coffee Confections
    4. Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios
    5. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
    6. Trader Joe’s Espresso Chocolate
    7. Pocket Coffee
    Name: Espresso Pillows
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Trader Joe's
    Place Purchased: Trader Joe's (Laguna Niguel)
    Price: $2.99
    Size: 2.75 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 132
    Categories: Chocolate, Toffee, Coffee, United States, Trader Joe's, Kosher, All Natural

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:57 am    

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Goldie’s Premium Carob Bar

    Carob BarLong before I was aware of official FDA definitions for things like chocolate, I was aware that there were chocolate pretenders.

    When I was a kid chocolate was regarded as something completely lacking in any merit nutritionally. As an alternative there were carob products. Usually things like carob drops for oatmeal cookies and carob covered milk balls as treats.

    Even though I don’t think I had much of a sophisticated palate as a child (I ate Jell-O powder straight from the box), I still knew the difference and preferred real chocolate products.

    But now I’m an adult with an awareness of my ability to set aside childhood traumas of being given this supposed treat of carob raisins instead of actual chocolate. (And I certainly question why anyone without allergies would replace chocolate with carob in our modern and well-informed world.) So I picked up what I thought might be a representation of good carob.

    Carob BarCarob is an evergreen legume that puts out little pods which are harvested and turned into carob powder. (If you’ve seen Locust Bean tree, they’re closely related and look like that.) It’s been used by humans for at least 4,000 years throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Early sugar was made from these pods.

    Carob contains both sugar-sweetness and a roasted flavor that is reminiscent of chocolate in some ways but because it contains no substantial oils or fats of its own, it’s usually consumed as a powder (often called St. John’s bread) in drinks or baked goods. When combined with some fats it can be made into a pasty block somewhat like chocolate.

    The simple paper wrapper for Goldie’s Premium Carob Bar says, “no refined sugar, no preservatives, no chocolate, cocoa or caffeine.” Wow, there’s a lot that’s not in there. And I love every one of those things save one.

    The ingredients don’t sound too bad to me: Barley malt, fractionated palm kernel oil, carob powder, soy lecithin and milk. (I don’t feel great about fractionated palm kernel oil - I don’t know what it is.) But I love barley malt and milk!

    Opening it up, it looks like a milk chocolate bar, but the back of it looks more like freshly poured brownie batter. I recognize that comparing this to chocolate is unfair, so I won’t for the rest of this.

    Carob Bar

    The snap is kind of soft, but the product is solid, not gooey or melted at all.

    It smells like roasted grains. It reminds me a lot of Postum (a drink made from, well, roasted grains).

    The texture is rather like eating unbaked pie crust or shortbread dough. It’s thick and rather hearty but with really no melt-in-your mouth-qualities.

    I could dissolve it, but it was always a bit waxy. Chewing it resulted in a bit more of a creamy puddle in my mouth as long as I kept it circulating, though it still had a bit of a peanut butter stickiness to it.

    I liked the roasted flavors and that it wasn’t very sweet. But the flavor never really popped for me. I’m a big fan of barley. My favorite tea lately is Mugi Cha, which is Japanese roasted barley steeped just like tea (which I was introduced to as a latte at a little place in Hollywood about four years ago). I love barley sugar candy, barley flour in baked goods, especially just barley in soups, pilafs and stews and of course malted milk balls.

    I found Goldie’s Carob Bar rib-sticking and substantial but sadly lacking in satisfaction. I could see being happier with it as an ingredient in a combination bar of some sort, maybe with nuts, caramel or wafers/pretzels of some sort. A dash of salty cashews might be a nice complement.

    I don’t think carob is a bad thing, I just think it got a bad reputation back in the 70s. This is good quality stuff with a really intriguing flavor (kind of reminds me of halvah in a way) but just not for me.

    The nutritional profile of carob is actually not as good as chocolate - no minerals, no calcium or fiber but some protein and virtually the same fat and calories per ounce.

    Related Candies

    1. Palmer Hollow Chocolate Flavored Bunny
    2. Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks
    3. Dark Raisinets
    4. Malted Crisped Rice Squares
    5. Jelly Belly Chocolate Malt Balls
    Name: Goldie's Premium Carob Bar (Plain)
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Goldie's Premium distributed by Complete Nutrition
    Place Purchased: Erewhon (Beverly Blvd.)
    Price: $3.19
    Size: 3 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 155
    Categories: Mockolate, United States, All Natural

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:49 am    

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Harry & David Fall Leaves Fruit Gels

    Fall Leaves Fruit GelsHarry & David are known for their fresh fruit boxes & baskets. They also have a pretty good selection of candies, especially seasonal varieties. Like Trader Joe’s, some are made especially for Harry & David and others are just repackaged with their brand name on them.

    When looking through their selections I like to spot the items that they carry that I don’t see anywhere else and saw quite a few a couple of weeks ago in their fall selection. Many items aren’t even mentioned on their website. (If you go into the store they’re always sampling things, too.)

    Fruit jellies in general are a ho-hum candy. The kind of thing most of us will eat if it’s around but rarely buy. I’m a huge fan of gourmet pate de fruits which are more intense distillations of real fruits and I was hoping that these Harry & David Fall Leaves Fruit Gels were more like that than Brach’s Fruit Slices. Mostly, I bought them because they were pretty.

    Fall Leaves Fruit Gels

    Each little “hand” is about 1.75” across at the widest. The colors are all vibrant and though they’re rather thick, still translucent. The sugar coating adheres nicely so they’re not at all messy.

    imagePear (chartreuse)

    This color was a little disturbing to me, kind of like antifreeze. Happily it tasted like a crisp pear-flavored jelly. Tart and with that strange melon note that pears always seem to have. The grainy sugar coating even mimics those little gritty bits in pear flesh.

    imageLime (green)

    Very much the epitome of a lime jelly. It has a strong zest to it, even a little bitter at times, a little tangy bite and an overall LifeSavers flavor (you know, back when LifeSavers made lime).

    imageStrawberry (red)

    Biting into it, it has a bit more tartness than many fruit jellies, more like a strawberry-lemonade than straight strawberry. But the scent is wonderfully summery - that sweet mix of flowers and cotton candy.

    imageRaspberry (darker red)

    It has a nice berry fragrance and an immediate jammy flavor of raspberries. But something went weird toward the end, there’s a strange very sweet aftertaste, as if it has some sort of artificial sweetener in it (but of course it’s not on the ingredients list, which is what has me mystified). I couldn’t really investigate this anomaly as there was only one raspberry leaf in the bag.

    imageTangerine (orange)

    Not as vibrant looking as the other colors, this was a little paler, I’m guessing because it’s tangerine and not orange. The flavor isn’t as intense as I’d like. Mellow and citrusy, but not tart or zesty.

    imageLemon (yellow)

    I picked out a package with a lot of lemon because I assumed that I’d like them. The lemon zest was strong and reminded me of fresh lemon balm that my grandmother grew by her back door. As we’d leave her house after a visit we’d all grab a little sprig and rub it in our hands. The smell reminds me of long car rides on farm-lined country roads in Ohio. It’s only slightly tangy and quite smooth.

    The price was steep for jellies that aren’t actually real fruit ($8.95) and I’m not likely to buy these again. But if I had a very specific need for an edible decoration such as cupcakes or as an accent on a dessert tray, these more than satisfy. If I’m going for inexpensive fruit taste, I’ll probably keep going for Sunkist Fruit Gems (only in the larger bags that include grapefruit, of course).

    These are vegan (no gelatin and all artificial colors) but not Kosher.

    Related Candies

    1. Loukoumi Artisan Confections
    2. Organic Zootons
    3. Sunkist Fruit Gems
    4. Fruit Parfaits
    5. Chuckles
    6. Boule Chocolates and Fruit Pate
    Name: Fall Leaves Fruit Gels
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Harry & David
    Place Purchased: Harry & David (Emeryville, CA)
    Price: $8.95
    Size: 12 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 94
    Categories: Jelly, United States

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:44 am    

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Nestle Treasures 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Truffle

    Nestle Treasures 50% Cacao with NibsNestle Treasures is a line of little chocolate indulgences, a little more upscale than their more commonly found Nestle’s Crunch. I picked up Nestle Treasures 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Truffle

    Most of the marketing looks directed towards women with a tagline of a sweet break from life. This is probably why I’ve ignored them up until now. I don’t want chocolate that’s a break from life, I want chocolate that’s with me every moment of my life. I want a partner. But hey, it’s not like I’m a normal demographic and I think anyone who markets specifically towards people like me (obsessive candy bloggers) is gonna get fired for incompetence.

    Nestle Treasures Dark ChocolateI stood in the aisle at Ralph’s debating whether or not to get these.

    This particular version of the Nestle Treasures is also called Renew with Dark Chocolate (though it doesn’t really say that on the package, except on the other side panel. The back, near the flap says Say “I Do” to a whole New You. Really? A whole new me just from a truffle?

    The box is a polyethylene terephthalate (PETE - coded 1 for recycling) stand up “bag”. It’s actually rather nicely done. The translucent bronzy brown plastic let me see that it was only half full (there were 14 pieces when I dumped them out and counted). The package could be at least a third shorter and still have lots of breathing room and probably save on material, space & shipping. (At least I can recycle it curbside in my blue bin.)

    Nestle Treasures Dark Chocolate

    Inside the little pieces are individually wrapped in orange-gold mylar. They’re nicely molded, every one I opened was perfect and shiny.

    They smelled deep and smoky and mostly of peanuts. Yes, roasted peanuts.

    The shell is 50% cacao chocolate, so it’s middle of the road semi-sweet. (A little chart on the back reminds me that dark chocolate has naturally ocurring antioxidants which help to maintain health.)

    It’s quite smooth and buttery. The “ganache” center is made from chocolate and palm oil and maybe more cocoa butter. It’s not quite the same as a real truffle made with butter or cream, but has a great slippery meltaway texture (not as slippery as a Lindt Lindor Truffle though). It also features a little sprinkling of cacao nibs. Not big bits, more like coffee grounds. They provide a nice crunch but not much flavor. But the peanut notes at the top are distracting for me. (The ingredients list both natural and artificial hazelnut & peanut flavors.)

    They also come in two other varieties: Relax (milk chocolate & caramel) and Revive (milk chocolate & cappuccino).

    There are lots of things I liked about these and I find myself continuing to eat them. But they don’t satisfy my desire for truffles, just my desire for something chocolate ... and not quite that either. Still, much better than the Hershey’s Bliss I tried recently (though not a one to one comparison as they didn’t really have a dark chocolate meltaway). They’re also quite different from the Dove Promises offerings as well, especially if you’re looking for something with nibs in it.

    Related Candies

    1. Askinosie Chocolate
    2. Scharffen Berger Milk Nibby Bar
    3. Nestle Noir
    4. Nestle Crunch Cappuccino Stixx
    5. Endangered Species: Eco-Rounds
    6. The Real Nestle Swiss
    Name: Nestle Treasures 50% Cacao Dark Chocolate Truffle
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Nestle
    Place Purchased: Ralph's (Glendale)
    Price: $2.99
    Size: 4 ounces
    Calories per ounce: 150
    Categories: Chocolate, Nibs, United States, Nestle

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:17 am    

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