Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Easter is the season for foil wrapped chocolate eggs. They can be solid, they can be filled with things. They can be the size of a peanut or a football. The fun part is when they’re actually made with good chocolate.
I was excited to see Ghirardelli Milk & Crisp Chocolate Eggs at Target. Ghirardelli makes very good chocolate for the price, right here in California. I’ve been searching for the ideal crisped rice and milk chocolate combination, so this was the perfect item for me to pick up.
The yellow bag contains about 15 gold foil wrapped eggs. They’re a rich milk chocolate with crisped rice. They also come in a blue foil version that’s solid milk chocolate.
The bag is on the expensive side. The 3.5 ounces is about the same price as a chocolate bar from Ghirardelli, $3.49 ... one dollar an ounce. It’s a bit steep for chocolate that’s not marked as ethically sourced or organic but it is all natural. (The facility also processes tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and eggs. Contains milk and soy.)
The eggs smell dark and smoky, less sweet than many milk chocolates but still with a dairy note to it. The melt is soft and has that same sort of smoky note to it with a strong malt flavor from the crisped rice. There’s a hint of bitterness to it, but not much. Overall, it’s far less sweet than something like a Nestle Crunch chocolate and thought thick, not quite as sticky as Cadbury.
Overall, it was a bit more grown up than a Nestle Crunch NestEgg, but should probably be reserved for adults since the price is so much steeper. I would buy these again, and of course I’d prefer a half pound bag so I could put them out in a dish.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Mars announced some seasonal candies last year, including Sugar Cookie Twix for Christmas 2012. While they never appeared on shelves, what I did see last week that was a surprise and not included in their Easter announcement was the new Twix Egg.
They’re cute, little Twix bars just for Easter. They had different pastel colors on the the front, though they’re all the classic Twix flavor. (I didn’t see any Coconut or PB Twix versions.)
It’s a Twix! Instead of sticks, it’s one globby egg. It’s just a smidge over one ounce.
I’m not a huge Twix fan, which has always confused me because on paper it has everything I like. There’s a crispy, almost-shortbread cookie base, a dose of chewy soft caramel and it’s enrobed in milk chocolate. Of all the Twix that have been created, I preferred the limited edition Java Twix, which was coffee flavored. The Triple Chocolate Twix, that have also appeared a few times, which feature a chocolate cookie, chocolate caramel and dark chocolate enrobing were also good.
The standard Twix, however, usually leaves me disinterested. I do try them occasionally, as I often end up with a sample now and then and they do show up in Halloween miniature assortments. They’re sweet ... the cookie isn’t big enough and the caramel doesn’t have enough caramelized sugar notes.
None of my comments are intended to get Twix to change for me, there are millions of people who like it the way it is, so I’d say don’t mess with it. But like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which can support many different sizes and shapes that rebalance the ratios of elements, the Twix can stand a few seasonal varieties.
This particular Twix doesn’t look enrobed, instead it looks like it’s molded, as it says, Twix right on the top and has a more glossy, smooth sheen to the consistent ripples.
The ratios are definitely different here. It feels like the cookie is more prominent. There’s more crunch, I taste the cookie now, instead of just knowing of its crispness. The caramel is also a distinctive part, instead of being mushed into the chocolate. Though the caramel isn’t as flavorful as I would have liked, it was salty and smooth and had a nice chew when combined with the sandy crunch of the cookie. The sweet milk chocolate is, well, far too sweet overall. The chocolate is much more dense on the ends, and it was on the last bite that I was overcome with the throat-searing sweetness. I’m sure if I balanced it with a strong drink like coffee or black tea, I’d be a little more in love with it.
The size is great, I find a one ounce bar to be just the right amount for a little break. It’s more than an individual stick (which are about .89 ounces) so it’s more substantial. The broad, flat shape also makes it feel like it’s more massive than it actually is. I bought three of them and fully intend to eat the final one that’s still in its package. But not today.
Mars did a great thing making a seasonal version. It’s not just a pastel wrapper on the every day item, it’s a special version just for Easter. (I expect there may be Halloween pumpkin ones, like the Snickers and Milky Way Simply Caramel get.)
Monday, February 25, 2013
The green Skittle, which has always been Lime in the United States (except for a brief replacement in 2001), has been replaced with Green Apple.
I noticed the new packages on shelves last week here in Southern California (but they’re probably rolling out all over the country on different timetables). Haley, a reader, mentioned in the comments on the Darkside Skittles review that Midnight Lime in the Darkside mix is now the new home of the much-maligned citrus.
The Green Apple Skittle is a fine tasting Skittle. It’s a mix of actual apple juice flavor, with that sort of peel note to it and the artificial Jolly Rancher. It has a good mix of tartness and sweetness, but it’s actually less tangy than I would have hoped.
The perfection that was the Original Fruits Skittles is now gone. The best feature of Skittles is their combine-ability. Every flavor went with every other flavor in a surprisingly versatile way.
Strawberry & Lime was a daiquiri. Lemon & Lime was a soda. Grape & Lime was a great fruit punch. Orange & Lime was a citrus cooler.
As nice as Green Apple is, it doesn’t play well with others. It’s too head strong. Green Apple and Grape is a wreck. Green Apple and Lemon is passable, but only because Lemon is making up for Apple’s failings. Green Apple and Strawberry is a battle in my mouth, the floral notes of the berry are quite strong, but the plastic note of the Green Apple just steamrolls it. Green Apple and Orange is, well, just fine.
Reaction on Facebook, since I’ve been glancing at the page, isn’t generally positive. More than half of the new messages posted there are negative about the Green Apple (the other posts are general comments with only one I saw that was positive about the flavor).
I’m not sure if this is a publicity stunt and Wrigley’s is planning for a backlash and then will, with much fanfare, return Lime ... or if it’s really a sign of the times, that Lime has had its day, that it’s a 20th century fruit living in a 21st century candy bag. This was mostly an American phenomenon, anyway, Australia went Green Apple more than 10 years ago.
For me, this ruins Skittles perfection. I liked every single flavor in the package. I would eat them all, sure I would rank them but I didn’t pick around a certain flavor. (I give the cherry Starburst away instead of eating them myself.) I still like Skittles ... but I’m far less likely to buy them with the new flavor swap.
Note: The Easter Pastel Skittles still have Lime for 2013.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Trader Joe’s rarely takes a breather in their new product introductions. If I don’t go in for a few weeks, I might miss its appearance on the New at Trader Joe’s shelves only to stumble on it in the regular rotation. This was the case with the new Trader Joe’s PB&J Milk Chocolate Bar . The bar is found at the check out stands, in my case, mixed in with the Speculoos Bars.
The bar is simply a milk chocolate bar with creamy peanut butter and tart raspberry jelly.
The bar is about 5 inches long and 1.25 inches wide. It’s a nicely sized portion, at 1.75 ounces though the calorie count is a bit high since it’s so fatty - 230 calories for the bar or if you’d like to compare it to others I’ve reviewed, it’s 160 calories per ounce.
There’s no statement about the origin or sourcing of the chocolate, but some of the ingredients are organic like the palm oil in the peanut butter filling and some of the sugar.
The bar looks very simple. There are six segments, each filled with a base of peanut butter and topped with a syrupy raspberry jelly.
The milk chocolate is quite dark and has a smoky flavor to it. It’s smooth and has an excellent silky melt and strong flavor of its own, however, the overriding scent of the bar is peanut butter. Once I bit into a segment, though, the raspberry flavors were far more evident. The whole thing really was like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The peanut butter is smooth, it has a dark roasted flavor with a hint of bitterness to it. There’s also a fair bit of salt, 60 mg for the whole bar, considering how much actual peanut butter is in there, I feel like it’s a lot but not over-salted.The jelly itself is a little runny. The best effect for the bar is to bite the segments, to get the smell of the berries, but that just makes the goo run. The raspberry is smooth, not at all grainy, it’s sweet but has a tartness to it. There are no seeds, but the flavor of the seeds, that woodsy green note is there.
For a buck, it’s a great bar. It’s different from anything else you can get in this price range and the ingredients are top of the line. The profile is less sweet than most other candy bars, which is refreshing.
There are no preservatives or artificial colors/flavors. It contains milk, soy and peanuts and may contain traces of wheat, eggs and/or tree nuts. It’s Kosher and made in Canada.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Pictured are Beer Chocolates & Caramels from Ethel M. The company is the boxed chocolate division of Mars, they’re made in Henderson, Nevada and sold at their stores in Las Veagas. (You can also order on the internet.)
I visited their factory store years ago when I was in Las Vegas, which also features an amazing cactus garden adjacent. I recommend getting a hot chocolate and walking around (weather permitting ... otherwise some sort of cold drink).
Monday, February 18, 2013
Annabelle’s, the California company that now makes Abba-Zabas came out with a new flavor last year, the Abba-Zaba Strawberry & Peanut Butter. The little starburst on the side of the package says “PB&J with real peanut butter.”
The color of the package is extraordinary. The regular flavor is taxi-cab yellow and black ... for strawberry they went magenta and black. It looks like nothing else on the shelves.
I’m not a huge consumer of Abba-Zaba, I’m more of a Look or Big Hunk fan, as the Annabelle’s bars go. The concept is strong, but the flavor profiles & textures are just a little off for my tastes.
The Strawberry Abba-Zaba has a fruity taffy outside. It’s sweet, though not sickeningly. The bar is best if you smack it on the edge of a table before you open it to break it into easy to eat pieces. The taffy is flavored only with the scent of strawberries, it’s not a tangy taffy. So the idea of getting the flavor of a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich is a little off ... because it doesn’t taste like jam. It’s more like a strawberry cake - all sweetness and not tart. The chew is good, not too tough, it’s soft and combines well with the peanut butter center. The peanut butter is smooth and creamy, but lacking a big salty punch or enough texture to differentiate it well from the taffy when it’s chewed together. I like the graininess of peanut butter in candies like Mary Janes.
Overall, it’s not my thing. It’s different ... but I’d be more inclined to go for a honey taffy or maybe even Banana if it was just going to be sweet.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brach’s Ice Cream Conversation Hearts provide a conceptually different choice in the area of conversation candies. They’re flavored like ice cream, which is to say that they’re more mainstream than the original spice inspired flavors that Necco used to produce.
When I go to the store and browse ice cream flavors, the tops on my list of consideration go something like this (not necessarily in order): chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, peanut butter cup and then maybe vanilla. I can’t remember the last time I bought strawberry ice cream (though I buy strawberry sorbet rather often) and orange sherbet is so far off my list of viable flavors, I can’t even recall seeing it in stores.
Strawberry (pink) was bitter and only a vague floral hint of berry. Mostly bitter from the food coloring.
Cherry (same shade of pink) was bitter and sweet with only a faint cherry flavoring note. Not tartness, just sweet. I’m still not convinced that there was any difference, except strawberry seemed even more bitter.
I had to take a break at this point because of the bitterness. A bit of water. Some crackers. I don’t know why I started with pink.
Vanilla (white) was expected to be flavorless, but actually does have a pleasant vanilla note to it. It’s like a marshmallow flavor. Really the only one I picked through assortment to eat. But it was really that I was actively avoiding nearly every other piece.
Chocolate was just horrible. Worse than the pink candies, because it was so lacking in chocolate and ended up tasting like a musty basement. You can tell just by looking at it that it can’t taste like chocolate, it’s not brown.
Orange was mild and did remind me of orange sherbet, except for the fact that it was missing that juice tartness. So it was more like an orange chapstick.
Now that I’ve tried their take on the classic ice cream flavors, I have no interest in their take on something more complex like butter pecan or mint chocolate chip. It’s best they failed at the easy stuff so I don’t get my hopes up.
Brach’s also has Heartlines Classic Conversation Hearts (I reviewed them when they were called small conversation hearts) on the shelves again this year. They’re better than the classic Necco (which are achingly hard to find) but still, not quite right.
Taken as a non-toxic and cheap decoration, there’s little better than conversation hearts. I paid only $2.50 for a full pound. Even if no one eats them from this cute jar on my desk, it was an inexpensive way to look like I’m observing the holiday. If you’re not eating them, it doesn’t matter which version you pick up. Choose based on the color combos, the sayings on them, or where they’re made. (These are made in Argentina.) There’s little point in choosing based on flavor.
Monday, February 11, 2013
I went to Hawaii. I brought back some candy and chocolate while I was there.Yes, they grow chocolate in Hawaii, even a little on the garden isle of Kauai. But today I’ll review something that’s a little more mainstream, Hershey’s Kisses with Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts.
The special Hershey’s Kisses are studded with Mauna Loa macadamia nuts. They’re sold only in Hawaii (and a few other spots, I believe I saw them at Hershey’s Chocolate World) alongside other “local flavor” items like Coconut M&Ms.
The bags are small, only 8 ounces, and Island Expensive as they’re imported. The bag was $4.49 at the grocery store called Big Save. They also sold them at Hilo Hattie.
Macadamia nuts have the most monounsaturated fats of all nuts and are low in protein. They’re also extremely high in calories, coming in at 210-215 calories per ounce. (Almonds are about 165 calories per ounce and walnuts are about 185 calories per ounce, for comparison.) Though they were once very expensive, macadamia nuts are more widely grown and more affordable. They’ve found their way into American diets as a nut inclusion for baked goods, a cooking oil and in island inspired cuisine (like macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi).
They’re a molded Kiss, like the Almond Kisses. The chocolate is smooth and though the package said that January 2013 was their best buy date, they were in great shape. Smooth, glossy and creamy. There were a lot of macadamia pieces in most. In some it seemed like the center was all nuts and others seemed to only have a few chips.
On the whole, macadamias aren’t my favorite nut. They’re a bit on the coconut side and don’t fill me up in the same way, could be that the protein is missing or that they veer a little too close to Brazil Nut flavor territory. I liked their crispness and fatty chew, and I have to say that they go really well with Hershey’s chocolate. Sometimes I really love the stuff, I know it’s not good chocolate, it’s just candy, but I enjoy it. So I no trouble eating much of this bag by myself.
When it comes to a little taste of the tropics... the macadamia inclusions really do it for me. Of course the jet lag has worn off and I miss the warm ocean breeze instead of this walking the dog thing at sunrise in 48 degree weather ... so it could just be the vacation glow.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.