Friday, July 31, 2009
The matte beige & powder blue wrapper does give it that classic look, though the mylar/plastic packaging made it feel modern (as did the presence of a web address on the back of the package).
It also comes in a raspberry licorice version, which I also bought but was disappointed to find it crumbled to bits (so I’m not reviewing it now).
The bar is attractive and looks like it could easily be an unsalted pretzel rod covered in milk chocolate.
It smells nice, a bit like anise and chocolate cake.
The bite is soft, the chocolate barely flakes, which is a great relief after the red licorice catastrophe.
The licorice at the center is quite soft and has a strong molasses flavor - the chew is almost jelly like, but has the satisfying rib-sticking of a wheat-based confection. The anise and licorice notes are rather mild and more of a generic spice cookie feel. The chocolate is sweet, not terribly chocolatey but seems to seal in all the flavors well.
It’s nice to see an Aussie licorice being sold at American candy prices. It was a nice change up from Twizzlers, Good & Plenty or Crows, which are really the only plain licorice products sold in single serve packages any longer.
My big hesitations are why they put artificial colors in a chocolate covered item. But my guess is that this licorice is available bald.
Aussie readers, do you recognize this bar? (I was thinking it was RJs but those aren’t real chocolate.)
I’m eager to try the raspberry again and see what else Walgreen’s is going to put in their Candy Classics brand.
Note: The calories made no sense on this package. 220 calories for 1.4 ounces is insane for a chocolate covered licorice. It says 2.5 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbs and 2 grams of protein (that makes 120 calories or so) ... I can’t figure where the rest of the calories are coming from. The ingredients are Sugar, Treacle, Wheat Flour, Molasses, Chocolate, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Licorice Extract and then a bunch of less than 2% things.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
It was launched barely more than a year ago with little promotion to support it, no website (just a page on the Starbucks site) and a baffling retail plan where it was sold everywhere except Starbucks.
The line included coffee & tea infused chocolate bars, tasting squares and truffles. The packaging echoed Starbucks strong image, was all natural and made no direct mention of Hershey’s as the manufacturer. For Christmas special flavors were created that echoed the seasonal coffee drinks. However, the new brand was a tad on the expensive side and entered the mass-manufactured upscale chocolate market just terms like staycation entered the vernacular.
So last week as Hershey’s announced huge second quarter profits, it also formally announced that they were discontinuing the Starbucks Chocolate line.
CNN Money summed it up pretty well:
Added to that happy news about their profits (which were the result of cutting manufacturing costs by closing factories in the US, moving to a Mexican facility, raising prices and using cheaper ingredients), Hershey’s also formalized the discontinuation of Cacao Reserve, Hershey’s own branded high end chocolate line. (Hershey’s also closed Joseph Schmidt, a chocolatier line based out of San Francisco earlier this year and moved all production for Scharffen Berger to Illinois.)
The Caramel Macchiato Truffles come in a nicely packaged pair at the ghastly price of $1.39 at the drug store. Honestly, if this sort of truffle pair was available at an actual Starbucks to accompany my plain coffee, I might have gone for it more regularly. With the “startling news” that coffee drinks contain huge amounts of calories which cause cancer, a simple cup of coffee with cream and two truffles would actually be a smaller indulgence than an actual Caramel Macchiato.
I’ve never had a Macchiato (I’ve never actually had anything fancier than a latte or mocha in all my years), so I can’t comment on how well it mimics the frothy creation described thusly by Starbucks:
The milk chocolate shell is nicely molded. It holds a fudgy, smooth cream that tastes a bit like a mocha cheesecake. Sweet, a little tangy with a light coffee taste and maybe, just maybe a hint of toffee (caramel).
It was pretty sweet but with coffee it works ... though the actual coffee overpowers the not-much-coffee-taste.
In the end, I don’t think it was bad timing that sunk this line. I think it was bad merchandising - it should have been available at actual Starbucks. And a year is far too little to decide the success of a new line of chocolate. My view is that Hershey’s is uninterested in building brand loyalty through quality.
The only thing that makes sense about this is the statement on the side of the box:
Watching Cadbury & Mars move more and more towards ethically traded and sustainably grown & harvested cacao, I’m not seeing much for Hershey’s except from their Daboga arm. I can see where this Starbucks line is just a liability for profits. Hershey’s has shown itself to be more concerned with profits (and high profits, not just tidy ones) than the quality of its products and place within the economies it locates itself.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The new Hershey’s Special Dark with Almonds joins Hershey’s standard Special Dark bar as the companion with nuts.
Hershey’s dark chocolate isn’t daringly dark, it’s just 45% cacao content, which these days isn’t even as chocolatey as some milk chocolates. It’s nice to finally have the option of a dark bar with almonds at the convenience mart or drug store ... though it’s a little late to enter the game as Dove beat them there and even Lindt, Ritter and Ghirardelli are available pretty widely now.
The bar is lovely, it’s molded just like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar.
It’s not a huge bar, but still a nice portion, clocking in at 1.45 ounces and 190 calories if you’re counting.
Ingredients: Sugar, chocolate, almonds (roasted in cocoa butter and/or sunflower oil), cocoa butter, cocoa processed with alkali, milkfat, lactose, soy lecithin, PGPR, vanillin and milk.
My first reaction is that it’s sweet. My second reaction is that it tastes like cocoa. The almonds have a good crunch and were fresh. Because of the almonds, for the most part I chewed the bar instead of letting it just melt on my tongue. But for the purposes of this review I found some pieces without almonds just for tasting the chocolate.
It’s sugary and a bit grainy, there’s a distinct chalkiness that isn’t that “this is really dark chocolate dryness” instead it’s more like the chocolate’s not fully combined with the sugar. The cocoa butter isn’t really supporting the chocolate, it’s standing next to it so everything just kind of falls apart.
It’s not terrible, but it’s like eating a bunch of chocolate chips. Chocolate chips are meant to stand up to baking and are almost always used in combination with other elements. Here the almonds just can’t cover up the lackluster flavors & texture.
If you’re desperate for a non-milk chocolate bar (that actually has milk products in it) and nothing else is around, this is certainly more palatable than the straight Special Dark. I found it filling, but not satisfying.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In 1973 Toffifee was introduced in [then West] Germany. The candy was unlike anything else on the mass-produced market and capitalized on Germany’s fondness for hazelnut and chocolate. The candy was such a huge success in Europe, it was introduced in North America as Toffifay in the late 1970s with a large marketing campaign that still sticks in my head.
The tagline “Toffifay, it’s too good for kids” is gone but the rest of their description of the candy and marketing line of All Your Favorites in One are still used.
Though I doubt this is actually how they make them, this is what they say: We spin chewy caramel into a little cup, drop in a whole hazelnut, cover it in chocolate hazelnut filling and top it with a drop of delicious chocolate.
The international Toffifee website lists the components with precision:
I loved Toffifay when it was first introduced, though in my penny pinching days of college/grad school I could scarcely afford oatmeal & eggs and wasn’t about to pay candy bar prices for something half the weight.
Then when I did start working regularly I found the partially hydrogenated oil content to be a little disturbing. So I was happy to see that the ingredients have now shifted to naturally bad for you tropical oils like palm. The individual serving four-pack is pretty hard to find, but I picked up the 15 piece tray at the local KMart. Even though the expiry was nigh (August 31, 2009) they looked pristine & glossy.
There are a few ways to eat the candy: I usually bite it in half, as I have a well-documented fascination with what bisected confections look like and of course my own tooth prints.
But sometimes I like to scrape the chocolate disk off and then attempt to peel the caramel cup apart to have a really intense hazelnut & buttery choco experience.
They smell quite divine - a little buttery and a lot hazelnutty. The little chocolate disc is mediocre chocolate. It’s very sweet and a little grainy, but holds its own against the even sweeter hazelnut paste inside the cup. Of course what gives the candy its true punch is the whole hazelnut at the core. The caramel cup is a cross between the flavor of a good caramel (nice salty mix of toasted sugar and butter) and the soft & yielding chew of a Kraft caramel.
The combination of textures, sugar & fat work extremely well for me. I think the packaging is excessive (a plastic tray inside a paperboard tray sealed in cellophane inside a paperboard sleeve) but then again it was fresh and unmarred. Sometimes the little cups satisfy me in a way that few other candies can. But I’m always hesitant to pick them up simply because they’re over $25 a pound and when I think about what sort of candy I can get for that price, I usually hold out for the higher quality stuff.
I’ve always found it a bit odd that no other versions of Toffifay ever emerged. No Marzipan, no Peanut Butter, No Caramel Macchiato, no Rum Raisin.
Lance at Candy Addict declared them Awesomely Addictive and Esquire magazine actually gives them an endorsement (though the text indicates it’s against their better judgment), Candy Monster pronounces them Freakin’ Adorable and Rosa of ZOMG Candy eats hers by placing the chocolate side on her tongue.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I popped into See’s yesterday to see what was new for the summer. The Root Beer Lollipops are back in stock (through mid-August), so if you were a fan of those (mini review here), then pop by for your fix.
I realized that I’ve never reviewed the See’s Lollipops in their classic array. The nice thing about them is that they’re summer-proof but also that they’re pretty cheap.
On top of that, they’re creamy and satisfying, last really long but only 70 calories each. They come in four regular flavors that are available singly (don’t forget your free sample!) or by the box: Vanilla, Chocolate, Butterscotch & Cafe Latte.
Vanilla looks like a block of nothing. The color is a creamy white, the texture & tint of glossy trim paint.
It smells sweet and vaguely like French vanilla ice cream. The flavor is like a toasted marshmallow - a sweet vanilla with a little hint of bourbon and butter.
It’s a smooth pop with a slightly oily dissolve, which only supports that feeling that I’m eating solid ice cream. It’s sweet, but doesn’t feel cloying or sticky. The pop lasts a long time, too.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The chocolate pop doesn’t look like much. It’s not quite shiny ... it’s not really matte either.
It smells like brownie batter.
The texture starts smooth but quickly degrades to an oddly rich but chalky experience. It’s like the mud at the bottom of the cup of hot chocolate. Not that I don’t love that mud, but in this case the texture is rather rough like a cat tongue.
It’s rich, and does deliver quite a bit of the chocolatey experience without melting. But the chalky/sand paper never quite thrills me.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The color is lovely, like a rich caramel.
The immediate flavor on my tongue was salt. It was very salty to me, but perhaps that was because I was eating the vanilla one right before that.
The texture is ultra smooth, and has the same creamy & buttery melt. The caramelized sugar notes were good but the strongest flavor by far was salty butter.
I liked how smooth the block is, though this is one that I noticed how awkward the pops are in the mouth. It takes a while to smooth away the corners. Over the years this has been my favorite pop mostly because of its simple & true flavor but also the super-slick texture.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This was the “softest” pop of the bunch. It was a little sticky from the humidity, which gave it a caramel consistency on the outermost layer.
The scent is like dark roast coffee or espresso, but the flavor is like coffee with lots of milk and some sugar in it. There’s a slight coffee bitterness to it, but for the most part it’s like a Coffee Nip with a stick in it.
I appreciated the silky texture and the stick prevented me from gluing my teeth shut as I often do with Nips or Coffee Rio.
Rating: 7 out of 10
A mixed box is a great addition to a vacation when you need a little pick me up, or something to keep you occupied at the office when wrangling endless spreadsheets of metadata.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I spied these at the check out aisle of the 99 Cent Store and figured they were Dubble Bubble ... and they know gum. The Chewola Bubble Gum box looks like it holds a small set of crayons like you’d get in a favor bag at a party or at a restaurant with your “shut up and let the parents enjoy food they didn’t cook” meal.
The problem with the package right at the start is that they look even more generic than Prang. Ever get generic crayons? They’re filled with pebbles, floor sweepings and smell like rendered road kill. (Non-toxic? Maybe, but not even the weirdest kids would eat those.) Happily these smelled like powdered sugar.
First real issue: they’re not fully styled as crayons (as the box depicts). I mean, what sort of twisted & cruel adult would give kids unsharpened crayons? 90% of the fun of a pristine box of crayons is the fresh point. How many of us eschew the colors that have the tips broken off before you even opened the box?
Instead they look an awful lot like candy cigarettes. They even have that satisfying “smoke blow” when you puff against one end to get the waft of corn starch through the wrapper.
Two of the crayons were red. That means 40% of the package is one color. How would you like it if you opened your box of 264 Crayolas and 105 of them were the same shade of red? How creative would you feel? Especially when you did those drawings for the nice talking doctor that your parents sent you to, don’t you think he’d be inclined to think you were abnormally angry because you used so much red in your drawings? Do you think he’d understand that it’s not your fault, that you can only use the tools you’re provided ... and if you’re given angry colors, then well, you’re going to make angry looking drawings? (But look at the box, it has happy kids that say happy things in red like “A TIME TO LOVE.”)
So packaging & childhood traumas aside (not my traumas ... those were for hilarious effect, right, you get that, right?) they’re just rods of gum.
Purple is an extremely mild grape. A kind of stiff chew at first with a vague fake grape flavor. It was sweet, very very sweet. So sweet that I reread the ingredients because this couldn’t possibly be just sugar. But it was.
A single crayon makes for a good sized piece for bubble blowing. It took a while to chew away enough sugar. The gum wasn’t grainy like many gums, so it was hard to know quite when it was ready without some trials. The final bubbles were decent, not huge but satisfying.
The gum didn’t stick to my dental work, so that was a plus.
Red is cherry. Again, very sweet but at least a bit stronger in flavor.
Orange was orange. It was really chalky and messy with all the corn starch on it, but after that it was pretty flavorful ... it reminded me of Froot Loops. Mmm, why didn’t they ever make a Froot Loops gum ... the little pieces could be shaped like little Froot Loops.
Green was a surprise. I thought it’d be lime or green apple, instead it’s wintergreen. Rather pleasant, the best of the set of flavors.
The gum was decent, the theming was pretty good. (Ultimately I think putting two reds in there is probably a good plan, especially when kids are supposed to share and then there are no fights.) I wish it was a bit fresher, but I bought it at the 99 Cent Store, so I give a little bit more leeway. They would make a nice themed favor or decoration at a party. There’s also a lot of gum in the box for the price.
Special Bonus: because it’s a tuck-flap box, when emptied it works spectacularly as a noisemaker.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:09 am
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Instead salted licorice seems to produce awkward faces ... though not always an unpleasant reaction, I’m usually ready to eat more, but I’m not sure if I have that “oh I must gobble this and then find a source in bulk” reaction.
Perhaps it’s that most other salted sweets use either plain sodium chloride (table salt) or sea salt. But salted licorice usually employs other metallic salts such as aluminum chloride and ammonium chloride.
In an effort to give it all another try, I made sure to check out the licorice selections while I was in Solvang a few weeks ago. Solvang is a Danish-themed town near Santa Barbara which happily has many candy & chocolate shops. I picked out this mixed bag from Venco called Drop Toppers Salmiak & Mint. It was appealing, even though it was $8.25, because it had at least one tried and true favorite of mine: Schoolchalk.
The assortment is an attractive mix of black and white pieces in a variety of textures and combinations of salt, sugar, licorice and mint.
Schoolkrijt - I’ve reviewed before but I’ll recap it here. It’s a tube of mellow & rich licorice filled with a cream. Then the whole thing is coated in a crunchy, thin minty shell. I love them, I’m addicted. I buy them when I can and I pretty much pulled them all out of this mix and finished them within days.
Instead they were like a dense brown sugar & salt combination infused with licorice encased in a crunchy mint shell.
The salt is quite strong, but less metallic than many others I’ve had. The brown sugar & molasses notes helped me to overcome that electrical pop and of course enjoy the licorice.
I couldn’t really chow down on them like the Schoolkrijt, but I still found a way to appreciate these.
Drop Tikkel - looked like jelly beans. They were quite mellow and as far as weirdness factory, they were a little musty tasting, but otherwise not very salty. The licorice flavors were also rather muted.
The texture of the jelly bean center was more like a soft gummy than a jelly, so it had a nice chewy quality too.
Salmiakrondo - I avoided these for a while, because I figured if I could take a small amount of salted licorice, I probably couldn’t handle this much. The nuggets are about as big around as nickels. I didn’t know what was in there, so I carefully cleaved one apart for the photo with my teeth.
I found it’s pretty soft, happily. The black portion is rather smooth, kind of like a solidified taffy. The center is a softer, crumbly version of the Zwartwitjes. Still, it was salty ... and with no candy shell or minty backdrop to wash it away.
They’re also kind of bitter. But the salt wasn’t so strong or metallic that it turned me off. Still, not something I just wanted to shovel into my mouth mindlessly.
I like to dip my toe in the water sometimes when it comes to adventurous or exotic candies, so a mix like this is a nice way to ease into it. But it was pretty pricey ... but at least the package had some names & explanations for me to post here to guide others. The problem now is that I’ve eaten all the Schoolkrijt and my desire to eat the others since the review is over has evaporated. Luckily, I have a salted licorice friend.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
When I was a kid I loved craft kits. Things like Shrinky Dinks, Spirograph, those looms for making your own rag potholders, and of course lots of improvised crafts with yarn, fabric & items around the house. My brother had similar leanings and in particular he had an insect maker called Creepy Crawlers Bug Making Kit (or something similar from the late seventies era).
I’m sure there were girly versions of this kit where you stuck latexy goo into little molds, let them set and then popped out a squishy temporary toy. Perhaps you could make your own hair jewelry or flair for your My Little Pony or Polly Pocket ... not that I had either of those toys.
You’re probably wondering at this point, when is she going to mention what the candy for review is? Well, I don’t want to. I bought it, I took pictures of it ... but I just can’t seem to bring myself to eat it just yet.
The package says that it contains two 100 calories packs inside. I sigh at this, because I’m concerned about children counting calories, especially when the creatures on the package are no bigger than my hand and couldn’t possibly need more than 100 calories in a day (well, I’m not actually sure of that, since I don’t know about the combination of warm-bloodedness and wings/flight would have on energy demands and google was no help).
But enough about that.
Each little packet had five gummi items in it. Each is about 1.25 to 1.5 inches across.
The color & texture is startling. While I found it appealing, I felt like it was more appropriate for a plastic pin that I’d affix to my rainbow suspenders than something I’d like to eat. (Which brings me back to that molded insect toy maker.) The texture was soft and pliable, much like those sticky octopods that you could buy for a quarter in a vending machine at the grocery store. (Something like this?)
Pink Daisy: Watermelon - soft and chewy, it was perfumy with a slight tangy note to it. Besides the bright pink color, it was much like most other gummis, expect the food coloring gave it a bitter aftertaste for me.
Blue Butterfly: Raspberry - the flavor was mild and pleasant, again with a strong artificial bent like the watermelon, though less weird aftertaste.
Green Flower: Apple - this one was the most artificial of them all and had an unpleasant dank note to it.
In this case the candies looked exactly like they did on the package. I didn’t care for the flavors, but the texture was good. They’re actually more fun, as far as I’m concerned, as toys. They stick pretty nicely on glass (like a mirror or car window) but of course leave a bit of a greasy film.
The actual candies have no affiliation with the Pixies ... they’re not items the Fairies eat, not shaped like characters or even named for anything in particular that relates.
I’d prefer if Disney stopped using these companies that manufactured in China and used so many artificial ingredients without much regard to how the licensed product fit into the image of the characters & story. (I think the Bertie Bott’s/Jelly Belly/Harry Potter is one of the truest tie ins.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.