Friday, June 17, 2011
I already reviewed the bars, called Heavenly Crisp, and today I’ll tackle their new Dreamy Clusters. The Dreamy Clusters come in dark chocolate and milk chocolate, but since I was buying a full box of these and they were $4.29 each, I only picked up one. (I’ve spent close to $15 on products for review this week, which is a bit steep for me when the average cost of a review item is about a buck.)
The package describes Dreamy Clusters as crunchy crisps and creamy caramel drenched in dark chocolate. That actually sounds fantastic. Kind of like a 100 Grand bar but in dark chocolate.
The box contains more than the wafer bars, there are six packets and each is just shy of one ounce. So the value is a bit better.
The ingredients start off pretty good for candy, but go a little awry after that:
Maltitol & erythritol are sugar alcohols. They are less sweet than glucose, fructose or sucrose but also have a slightly cool effect on the tongue and can have some side effects (such as intestinal gas and a laxative effect). They don’t make up a large portion of the candy itself, but their presence means that the flavor and satisfaction may be affected.
The pieces themselves are quite small. But that’s no big deal if you think of them as tiny chocolates from an elegant box. I got five pieces in my bag, and I opened two bags. So I’m going to guess that’s the norm. (I also felt the other bags in the box and they seem to be the same, maybe I need to invest in a Candy Blog ultrasound machine.)
The packet that holds them is senselessly large - it’s five inches by four inches and each piece is about an inch in diameter. It does protect them, none of them were smashed though all were scuffed up.
The pieces smell great. They’re bumpy and though they vary in size, they’re pretty consistent in their construction. Each piece is made up of a caramel center with a dark chocolate coating studded with a crisped rice product. The caramel has a good pull, though it’s not a large reservoir, it only provides a small amount of chew and a large hit of salt. The dark chocolate coating is quite sweet but of good enough quality that it didn’t seem chalky or overly bitter. The main notes were raisins and a generic woodsy flavor. The crisps were salty, light and crunchy. They were bigger than the strange new things that they put in 100 Grand bars these days, so I found them pretty satisfying as a textural element. They didn’t have much of a malty cereal flavor.
Five pieces was actually satisfying. The portion sounds small (about half the mass of a Snicker or 3 Musketeers) but the fact that there were five pieces and they had a lot going on (especially if you bit them in half instead of popping them in your mouth whole) might make these a decadent little treat.
I’m annoyed by the use of the sugar alcohols and exceedingly long ingredients list. In a chocolate candy, sugar is not what racks up the calories, fat is. However, instead of substituting the inimitable cocoa butter for something else, they left it in, and just added the crisps which are part air and part lower-calorie fiber/carbs. The nutritional panel for these is decent enough - there’s actually 1 gram of protein and it says 3 grams of fiber.
It’s hard to give these a resounding endorsement because of my misgivings about their marketing (emaciated cows are appetizing?) and their ingredients. Also, the price is needlessly precious - you get half as much candy as a 100 Grand, but somehow it costs four times as much? (I’m basing that off of a $1.25 package of 8 fun size bars of 100 Grand which weights about 6 ounces.) However, these are nicely done for a candy marketed to dieters. They do taste good and without knowing that it’s “diet candy” I’d still eat them.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Pocky was one of my first introductions to Japanese candy. It’s a simple construction that has no precise American analogue. It’s a flavorless cookie stick dipped in chocolate or some other creamy chocolate-like confection. Later versions, and there are plenty, have other flavors, stripes and inclusions. It’s been hard to keep up with them all. Once I found the Men’s Pocky, which I loved, I found that all others after that just couldn’t measure up.
The Glico Pocky Cookie Crush caught my eye though, as I’d already picked up the Oreo Bitter Chocolate Bar, I thought maybe this Japanese trend of crushed cookies was onto something.
The construction of the sticks is simple. The bland, dense and dry cookie stick is mostly dipped into a milk chocolate studded with chocolate cookie bits. It’s all very mellow. It’s quite crunchy, so there are a lot of textures going on, with the crisp low sweetness of the stick, then the sandy cocoa of the cookie bits and then the creamy chocolate coating that binds it all together.
Better, darker chocolate would probably throw these into the realm of perfection.
I have to say that the concept of a partially dipped crunchy stick is also genius. You can pick it up without getting messy fingers and nibble away at it or pop the whole thing in your mouth.
Each packet has only four sticks in it but still a nice portion of about 71 calories. The box was expensive, as far as I was concerned. It’s six packets but only 2.82 ounces for $4.75. It made me feel like they were precious and decadent, when in reality they were just pricey.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I don’t follow ice cream much, I can’t eat that much dairy and if I’m going to have some I’ll make it cheese. But I have seen a line of low calorie ice cream products called Skinny Cow (this concoction used to be called ice milk, which was an accurate description, but the FDA later caved and allowed it to be called low fat ice cream). Personally I’m put off by the appearance of emaciated & bony cows. It reminds me of images of drought and famine; it’s never something I would think any farmer would cultivate nor something I would associate with a healthy choice. The frozen dairy line is made by Dreyer’s, which is owned by Nestle.
The natural extension of removing calories and virtually all of the actual cream from a product that contains the word cream within its name would be to tackle chocolate. The Skinny Cow confectionery line was introduced a couple of months ago with four products. I’ll tackle their Heavenly Crisp bars today. They look and sound like they might be chocolate, but do not in fact contain any of the stuff. They come in two flavors, Milk Chocolate Flavor and Peanut Butter Flavor. I was given a sample of the milk chocolate version a few months back was honestly wasn’t that interested based on the packaging. But then I saw the whole line at the grocery store last weekend, especially the Peanut Butter Flavor and thought I’d give it a try.
The Skinny Cow Heavenly Crisp Peanut Butter looks more like a nutrition bar than a candy bar (though there isn’t much nutrition in there either). The package itself is small, thin and light. The bar is only .77 ounces and the package says that it’s only 110 calories. There’s an accurate depiction of a cross section of the bar and lots of female friendly swoops and curves along with pink accents.
The bar is 4.5” long and 1” wide. It’s also quite thin, at less than a half an inch.
The bar smells good, like peanut butter and sugar, a little like the center of a Butterfinger bar. The bite is crisp and crunchy, the wafers are flavorless, but light and dissolve quickly. The cream between the layers is a salty and smooth peanut butter concoction. The chocolate coating, well, that’s a chocolate flavored coating along with a few ribbons of something yellow that I’m guessing is actually made with peanut butter. The coating melts quickly and has very little flavor that’s able to shine above the peanut butter. It’s sweeter than the peanut butter center, and of course the lighter, creamy texture provides a nice blanket to the rest of the elements.
The combination is quite tasty. There’s a lot of texture and the thinness of the bar means that there are lots of bites to it. For 110 calories, it feels like there’s more to it than a single finger of a Twix which is about the same calories. But let’s not kid ourselves, there’s not much to this, it’s mostly air. The calories per ounce are on par with any other chocolate candy out there, including most actual chocolate candies like Snickers bars, Twix or just plain chocolate.
The Skinny Cow Milk Chocolate Flavor Heavenly Crisp package looks similar to the peanut butter, naturally. I only had one bar of this to try, as it was a sample that I received before they were on store shelves.
The package describes it as delicate wafers layered with delicious milk chocolate creme. It makes no mention of the outer coating, and why would it, it’s mockolate. The ingredients for this bar are dismal for a diet food:
The chocolate coating is a little cool on the tongue and very quick to melt. In fact, the melting was such as problem that it was hard to photograph and even hold in order to eat without becoming a sticky mess. The flavor is like a chocolate pudding, more on the milky side, but still with enough of a cocoa punch to be discernible.
It was less satisfying than the Peanut Butter Flavor for some reason. It might have been that it was more sweet or that it has half of the protein.
I really resent portion control sold for premium prices, especially when the ingredients here are so convoluted from actual wholesome and tasty real ones. There’s really no reason not to use real chocolate here if overall health is the goal. Even though there’s added fiber in these bars (that’s the chicory root fiber that’s also called inulin sometimes), there’s only 1 gram per portion. A portion of 70% dark chocolate with the same number of calories has about the same amount of fiber anyway. And real chocolate is usually only four ingredients and usually half the price of this stuff per pound.
So here’s my suggestion. Eat stuff with better ingredients. Try the Q.Bel Wafer Rolls (they’re actually a little lower in calories per ounce plus all natural, about the same price and actually taste better). Trader Joe’s has some great portion control chocolate (the little Belgian Bars or even a 100 calorie Chocolate bar). Or just buy mini KitKats or Pretzel M&Ms.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
In the world of new candies, I think that names are important. They should either be descriptive of the product experience or novel enough creation that it arouses curiosity and the ability to associate that product forever with that name. Last year I tried something called Powerberries at Trader Joe’s. The name certainly doesn’t say much about what the product is, but is evocative enough that I could glean attributes, especially when I got to see the package. I bring this up because I’m now faced with a similar product that doesn’t quite have the naming mojo. They’re called Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate.
Now there’s lots to love about that name if you happen to like a pastoral name like Brookside and the two elements of dark chocolate and pomegranate are also favorites of mine. (But I’m not so keen on eating actual pomegranate seeds, I know they do sell those, but that’s not what these are.) So while it didn’t have the sexy punch of Powerberries, I did actually buy this package.
It’s a stand up pouch that holds 7 ounces of smooth dark chocolate surrounding a sweetened real fruit juice piece made from a blend of pomegranate juice and other select fruit juices. The image on the front actually looks a heck of a lot like the one I shot below. Hooray for accuracy!
The bag certainly smells fragrant, like a bowl of dried fruit. There are notes of blueberry, raspberry and apricots. The pieces are mostly spherical and glossy dark chocolate. Some were more like disks, about the size of an M&M.
Inside each piece were one or two little pods of this fruit juice pieces. It’s a grainy little “not quite jelly” bit. They’re quite fruity, to the point where some actually had a slight bitter note to them, like the membrane of a pomegranate can impart. The chocolate is smooth and has a good woodsy cocoa note that stands up well to the fruit.
As I mentioned in my original review of the Powerberries, these are a little strange but quite compelling. Though the actual name isn’t quite as exciting and the price is slightly higher than Trader Joe’s, they’re still a fun change of pace for chocolate. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re a health food, though the package stresses that there are 100 mg of flavanol antioxidants in each 42 gram serving (20% of your vitamin C as well), I’d say eat them because you like them. There are certainly more nutrients in here than the standard M&Ms, but the key is always to practice moderation.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The Dove White and Milk Chocolate Swirl bar is no different, as the copy on the package indicates: bites of chocolate relaxation that create beautifully swirled partings of luscious flavors which taste as amazing as they look.
The bar is a large, narrow tablet (3.5” wide and 5.5” tall). It’s 3.3 ounces, so a little lighter than the standard 3.5 ounces (100 grams). It still has that pesky portion problem that large bars have. The package says that a single serving (230 calories & 42 grams) is 9 pieces. But the whole bar is 20 squares ... so there are two bonus squares. Why not just be honest that a portion is an absolute half of the package (1.65 ounces and 256 calories)?
The swirls are very consistent and make it appear that the blocks are half and half white chocolate and milk chocolate (though the ingredients say that milk chocolate dominates since it’s listed first).
The pieces are nicely formed and rather thick, which presents a wonderful bite. The bar smells sweet and slightly milky, like a vanilla pudding. The texture is like most other Dove chocolate products, a smooth and silky melt. This one has a bit more sticky sugar to it though, it’s also quite strong in the dairy flavors along with some caramel and toffee. The chocolate notes are subdued, it’s like this bar isn’t at all about the chocolate flavors, just the chocolate texture.
If you’re the kind of person who never cared much for white chocolate, this probably won’t change your mind. For me it was far too sweet on its own, but paired with some pretzels or almonds, it took the throat searing pain away.
Dove pretty much sticks to tried and true flavor combinations. While this new swirl line marks a departure for them, veering off into the previously uncharted territory of white chocolate, raspberry is a common flavor in their repertoire. The Dove Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Swirl bar is also a white chocolate bar, with the twist here that it’s colored pink and flavored with artificial raspberry.
Like all of the American Dove and Mars chocolate products, the back of the package has the Mars Real Chocolate seal on it. It’s refreshing to see a big confectionery corp keeping their ingredients transparent like this, especially since cocoa butter can be so expensive. But while they do use real cocoa butter for both the dark and white chocolate, there’s also a bit of PGPR in there (which is an additional emulsifier often used in lower quality chocolate, made from castor beans). There’s also a smidge of artificial colors with Red 40 and Blue 2, which seems unnecessary considering what they’re doing with natural colors these days.
The appearance of the unwrapped bar is impressive and lovely. However, I didn’t feel like it looked like food. It looked like some sort of plastic stuff that might make nice bangle bracelets or earrings or maybe be carved into a chess set.
The dark chocolate is the same silky smooth texture and cocoa rich taste. The raspberry scent is quite strong at first, but the flavor of it doesn’t overpower the chocolate, which is refreshing. I didn’t taste a lot of the milky notes I detected in the white & milk combo bar. It was sweet, but not cloying or sticky. The raspberry flavor was floral with a strong woodsy note of seeds.
It’s not my favorite bar, it didn’t have the flavor balance that I like, but I do have to say that the texture, melt and smoothness was excellent. I just wish their chocolate flavor was actually nuanced enough to swirl around in that.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.