Monday, April 29, 2013
Nestle is continuing their expansion of the confectionery line for Skinny Cow. The dairy dessert brand is now a candy brand as well. They started with wafer bars, which were passable, but contain a poor listing of ingredients.
These single serve packages of Divine Filled Chocolates have only 130 calories, but that’s to be expected because it’s only 1 ounce of candy. The wrapper describes the Peanut Butter Creme variety as velvety milk chocolate and delicious peanut butter creme.
As a treat, they’re lovely. The pieces are well sized and really attractive. If you lined them up on a plate, you’ll really feel like you’re getting a treat. So kudos to Skinny Cow for recognizing that part of candy is the beauty of it.
The ingredients list is long and the filling isn’t really peanut butter, it’s more like a peanut syrup, as it’s a combination of peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, dried milk and palm oil.
They smell sweet and nutty, not that unlike a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The chocolate is soft and has an easy bite. The center of the chocolate has the thinnest possible strip of peanut butter creme in it. The chocolate is very sweet and milky, without much of a distinctive chocolate taste. The peanut butter creme is salty, that’s what I got at first, an intense amount of salt. There’s 80 mg in the package, which is a lot for only one ounce of candy, but really stood out because it was only in the filling. The peanut butter is gooey and melts right away because it’s mostly sugar, not peanuts.
I actually prefer the wafer bars, even though they’re not covered in real chocolate, because they have a lot of texture to them and feel more like a snack. This feels like a tease, it’s pretty but it doesn’t live up to the expectations that it’s going to be decadent or filling. There’s so little peanut butter in there and it’s only one ounce, the package has only 1 gram of protein. For the same calories, you could have three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures (44 calories each, almost 1 gram of protein each).
I really don’t understand paying so much money for so little candy when it’s of poor quality. I’d say get something like the Q.Bel Wafer Bars or just have some Reese’s Miniatures (if you can stand to have the whole bag in the house).
Friday, April 26, 2013
One of my favorite items I picked up for Candy Blog review early on were some chocolate sticks from Japan. I thought their packaging was so clever and chic, I’ve been hoping to find them again. (Mostly I find they package their chocolate in little squares like the US.)
I was excited to see Meiji Dark Rum Milk Chocolate on eBay, so when my friends Robin & Amy were going to Japan, I put it on my wishlist. I got two boxes, which is good, because I ate the whole first box before even doing this review.
The box has a curious design, featuring a cut crystal goblet with rum as the main element below a medallion with the name of the candy. I’m not that familiar with how to serve rum straight, as I usually mix it, but in a goblet or even a more petite appertif size would still not be the way I’d go. (I’d probably serve it in a snifter or a lowball.)
Inside the box, each stick of chocolate is in a little individual wrapper. The box is not really full, they’re loosely packed in there and the whole thing weighs barely more than an ounce, so there’s no way to overindulge here.
Most of the package is in Japanese, so I can’t say for sure what the weight actually is but the figure 2.2% is mentioned on the front, I’m guessing that’s the alcohol content ... and there is real alcohol in here.
The sticks are three inches long and an ideal size (about 3.3 grams) for a very light treat.
One of my favorite candy bars is the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss, which also has real rum in it. This is a bit more pure, as it doesn’t have any fussy nuts or dried fruit in it. The sticks have a soft bite to them, this is not a dense or intense chocolate, though the rum notes are quite apparent when I opened it.
The chocolate has a quick and oily melt, a smooth and slick texture and a strange warm and cold sensation all at once. The oils in the chocolate (I suspect there are some other tropical oils in there) give it a cooling effect on the tongue, but the rum has a sort of warming effect on my throat. The chocolate isn’t very strong, it’s not terribly sweet and has a well rounded woodsy and milky profile.
I like my rum dark, I go for blackstrap because it has more of the smoky and toffee flavors. The rum here was more medicinal, more light, not quite smooth.
It’s not a candy for everyone, I find them pretty indulgent and a little weird, but I also enjoy rum balls.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I saw these Haribo Hot Sticks first on the Candy Gurus site and knew I had to have them.
They’re a strange combination of flavors, at least to the American palate. The package describes them as Fruity-Spicy & Liquorice. They’re sugar crusted gummis in three flavor combinations: Hot Orange + Liquorice, Ginger-Lemon + Liquorice and Raspberry-Jalapeno + Liquorice.
Haribo is a global confectionery brand, but this package is for the German market, with the majority of the package information in German and a smattering in English.
There are three flavors, but I have trouble telling them apart. The raspberry was easy, since it was pink, but the orange and lemon versions were more difficult.
The texture is soft and bouncy, the sugar crust is fine and adheres well to the candy, so well that there was barely any in the bottom of the bag. Each has a licorice end, and that flavor was consistent across all the pieces. It was very sweet with a mild anise flavor. I’m not usually the keen on Haribo’s licorice, but this gummi version was mild and traditional.
Hot Orange + Liquorice - the orange end had a little tangy citrus note and at first, I had trouble detecting anything else, but soon the warming spice of what I can only guess is hot pepper started. It was really just the heat, there wasn’t much of the vegetable note to it. The licorice combined well with it, mostly evening it all out and providing a more lingering sweetness.
Ginger-Lemon + Liquorice - this was the flavor that drove me to find the Hot Sticks. I love Haribo’s Ginger Lemon gummis, so the addition of licorice sounded great. The earthy flavor of the ginger balanced very well with the herbal notes of the anise-licorice. The tartness of the lemon cut the sugary sweetness of the grainy coating.
Raspberry-Jalapeno + Liquorice - I have to admit that jalapeno is not one of my favorite flavors. The raspberry and jalapeno flavors were well balanced here. The tangy and floral berry notes came right out, but so did the green vegetable flavors of jalapeno along with the very warm notes of the pepper. When I just ate a bite from that flavored end, I found it slightly too hot for me. However, when eating as a whole candy, with the soothing woodsy note of the licorice, it’s interesting ... still, it was a bit chaotic. Of all the flavors here, this one was the least successful. But it could just be that I’d never tried that combination before and it was too jarring for me to appreciate.
Overall, it’s a really fascinating mix. Each bite is different, and because the flavors are separated on different ends, you can kind of control how much of a mix you get. I’ll probably stick with the much more mundane Lemon Ginger, but the addition of licorice, especially this particular version of a gummi licorice, is quite good.
Monday, April 22, 2013
The new Life Savers Gummies Coolers are billed as Your favorite refreshing drink flavors have joined the Life Savers family.
The package has some nice cool pastel tones on it and an odd assortment of flavors. The Cooler name made me think of the Sour Patch Chillerz, which were infused with a little bit of menthol to give a cooling quality in the mouth. But the reality is, they’re just chilled drink flavors ... though not flavors I would readily order (there are no lemonades).
Cherry Limeade is the deep red. It’s an interesting mix of that classic Life Savers cherry and a little hint of citrus zest. I would have preferred more of the lime, but I appreciate that it wasn’t overly sweet and it certainly packed a lot of flavor in there.
Raspberry Iced Tea was the pale pink one. It’s funny to see two raspberry flavors in one bag. This one tasted like raspberry. I didn’t detect any tannins from the tea but there was a well rounded raspberry flavor that got both the floral note, a blush of tartness and a hint of the seeds.
Fruit Punch is probably orange. It tastes like fruit punch. Not much else to say except that I like it when my fruit punch doesn’t have quite so much artificial coloring in it, so at least this version had a little less of that bitter red in it. It didn’t make me like it any more than if it was bitter.
Blue Raspberry Slushy was blue. The raspberry flavor was sweet. That was pretty much it. It was sweet and a little soapy from the floral notes of the berry. There was very little sour to go along with it.
Watermelon Breeze was light green. I think this was just watermelon flavored, as I could detect no other note of breeze in it. The watermelon was definitely on the green side of the flavors, more about the tart note that you get when you eat close to the rind than the sweet and floral flavor of the center of the melon.
The diversity of the flavors was lacking, but then again, all of them were good enough that I’d eat any placed in front of me. The intensity is good and I enjoy the shape quite a bit. But on the whole, the flavor set just didn’t thrill me. Of the Life Savers line of gummis, I prefer the Sours best, mostly because of the transcendent tangerine.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Theo Chocolate is the first organic and certified ethically source chocolate company in the United States. I first tried them when they launched in 2006 and have been pleased with the diversity of confections. They make solid chocolate bars, smaller “candy bars” with inclusions and flavors as well as a line of bonbons and caramels. It’s a great fusion of classic chocolate making with new flavors and social responsibility.
One of their new bars is Theo Chocolate Salted Almond Dark Chocolate (with 70% Cacao). It’s a simple blend of dark chocolate beans and almonds with a touch of sea salt.
Note that the bar packaging has changed in the past few weeks, so the new ones won’t be bright pink, look for these. The bar is organic, vegan, soy and gluten free though it’s manufactured on shared equipment with products containing milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts & other nuts. The cacao and sugar is sourced through Fair for Life (which assures the social responsibility of the sourcing).
The bar is simple, just a series of long segments, there’s no splashy custom molded design here. From flipping the bar over, I can see that the almonds in pieces, not whole (which is fine with me).
The scent of the chocolate is deep and woodsy with notes of coffee. The snap is good and the molding is excellent without any bubbles or voids (which can be an issue with inclusions).
The flavor of the chocolate is strong, it’s a little acidic and has strong coffee notes along with some smoke. The sugars are forward (along with a little of the salt note) and the chocolate has a slightly dry and olive finish. The almond bits are well distributed, fresh and crunchy with a nicely roasted flavor.
Overall, an extremely satisfying bar. The cocoa profile was a little dryer than I like, not quite as buttery as I prefer my texture, but the nuts and just the right hint of salt make this exceptionally easy to eat for a 70% bar.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I haven’t tallied up all the figures, but I estimate that at least 3,000 products have been featured and at least 1,700 full reviews. I’ve posted nearly 8,000 candy photos (not to mention candy shopping photos and pictures from trade shows and factory tours).
I work by myself. I take my own photos and write my own reviews. So you can imagine, I’ve eaten a lot over the years, but what’s more staggering is how much I haven’t eaten. Only about 25% of what I buy or receive ends up on the blog. Most of the candy I buy, though some is directly from the candy companies and I do pick up samples at trade shows. I have a company that does my blog maintenance, and my husband helps out as my publisher to take inquiries from advertisers (I have one, so it’s not a lot of inquiries).
When I started the blog, there wasn’t much like it on the internet. I figured if people could review music or movies or hotels, I could review candy in the same way. The only websites out there at the time were Candy Critic (which is Canadian and had taken a hiatus at that time) and Writers and Artists Snacking at Work, which also didn’t update often.
I wanted to fill a hole, be the database of candy that I wanted to read. I wanted someone to open up the candy package and show me what’s inside. When I started this blog, I didn’t embrace new things easily. I liked the tried and true favorites I’d always had and rarely felt the need to go outside of that list.
So, the early reviews were of candies that I’d never tried before, new products or existing products, it didn’t matter. After a while, I realized I needed to cover the things that everyone already knew, because we kept referring to them and needed that static reference point of a post.
It turned out that other folks like to read about candy as well. I haven’t tracked my readership from the beginning, but I’ve had at least 20 million page loads since I did start tracking in 2006. Thanks for visiting! While there were few sites that talked exclusively about candy back in 2005, I was joined by quite a few others. Candy Addict (no longer updating) came along, as a group blog, covering a wider range of consumer items and local candy favorites. Sugar Savvy (also now defunct) covered a large swath of the confectionery world (including a review of every single piece of See’s candy). Individuals have come and gone as well, currently we have Rosa at ZOMG! Candy, The Candy Gurus, and hopefully we’ll see Sera at The Candy Enthusiast back soon. The big media companies are into it as well, you can find candy reviews on Serious Eats and Huffington Post and even the morning shows run segments around the candy holidays. (Check out the blog roll for more sweetness from around the world.)
I’m often asked what my favorite candy is or what the worst thing I ever ate was. I, frankly, don’t remember all the awful things I’ve eaten. I don’t actually have a favorite candy, and the candies that I do love aren’t necessarily the best. Lately I’ve been eating Good & Plenty, Goetze’s Caramel Creams and Trader Joe’s Powerberries in addition to the candies in rotation for review.
What I do appreciate most is that Candy Blog has introduced me to new, wonderful things. Like this Ongotoh (Juntsuyu) pictured above. It’s just a boiled sugar candy, but it’s so delicate and delicious.
Candy has also changed as I’ve been writing about it. It could be that I’m better at finding the good stuff, but I think consumers have also gravitated towards newer concepts like fair trade, bean to bar, organic or all natural and world fusion flavors. (Pictured above, Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews.)
The experience of photographing, researching and reviewing has prompted me to be more mindful about what I eat. That doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s all healthy, but I tend to notice what I’m eating and enjoy it more. I try not to eat foods that either aren’t nutritious or won’t bring me pleasure. (Some might say that’s made me a picky eater.)
It’s not all serious though, I have enjoyed novelties that have come along and some fascinating new products. The chocolate LEGO blocks above were from Legoland, and are made by Chuao out of actually good chocolate (El Rey).
One of the oddest things I reviewed were the Topp’s Wazoo bars. Above is the Blue Razz version, which was launched with a huge ad blitz on children’s programming. There were production difficulties which meant that people couldn’t find them in stores. As part of the blog readers have been witness to marketing mis-steps by major candy companies, like Necco changing the ancient Necco Wafers to all natural and eliminating the lime disk only to revert to the classic artificial version within a year due to customer demand. Similar things have happened with Mars changing the 3 Musketeers and we’ll see what happens with Wrigley’s swapping the Lime Skittle for Green Apple.
So that brings us to the present. I don’t have plans for the blog beyond continuing what I’ve been doing, except maybe a little design or layout refresh. You’ve probably noticed I don’t keep up the pace I used to. There was a time there when I posted eight times a week. Now it’s about three reviews a week, sadly, I am running out of candy to review, unless I get hyper-local or cover more foreign candy. I can’t imagine now having the blog, not amassing candy and not taking picture of it all the time. It’s become such a part of me, I don’t know if I would know what to do with my time.
There may be a book in the future, or perhaps several.
Please celebrate with me, raise a Pixie Stix to toast to eight sweet years on the internet. I wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t come and read regularly, so for you I am grateful. It’s good to know we’re not alone in our love of candy.
Monday, April 15, 2013
A couple of years ago Russell Stover came out with the Giant S’Mores Bar. It combined one of the best products Russell Stover makes, the chocolate covered marshmallow. I could only find it via web order at the time.
Here were are, two years later and I spotted them, now named Russell Stover Big Bite S’Mores at CVS. They come in a dark chocolate and milk chocolate version, so I picked up a couple of the Russell Stover Big Bite Dark Chocolate S’Mores.
The package is simple and fits into the Russell Stover design scheme well. I wouldn’t call it enticing or delectable, but mostly informative and easy to spot.
The construction is simple. Two square graham crackers (about 2.5” on each side) hold a dark chocolate covered marshmallow square.
The graham crackers hold together pretty well, though I noticed my other piece (I bought two) had more broken corners on it. Biting into the whole thing, it holds together passably well, so that all of the flavors and textures are included in just about every bite. However, the graham cracker makes a lot of crumbs. The marshmallow is moist and bouncy with a generic vanilla flavor though not overly sweet. The dark chocolate coating is thin but provides a good semi-sweet counterpoint to the fluffed sugar of the marshmallow. The graham cracker is nicely crunchy but still soft and crumbly with a cereal and grain flavor to it.
I feel like Russell Stover could do something to mitigate the crumb creation from the graham cracker, I was thinking a very thin coating of dark chocolate on the marshmallow facing side might do quite a bit to hold everything in place (and add more chocolate). As it is, it’s a rather “lean” confection, even though it’s 2 ounces, it’s only 230 calories. The cracker and the marshmallow keep it from having as high of a fat load as many other chocolate candies. But it still feels very filling.
I liked this version much better than the milk chocolate version and hope that it does make a strong appearance in stores. It is easy to eat and I expect rather easy to pop in the microwave or toaster oven (I didn’t try that). If you don’t have access to the seasonal Trader Joe’s Smashing S’Mores, these might be a good substitute.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The Nut Goodie is made by Pearson’s and debuted in 1912, one of the oldest combination candy bars still in production. Though they’re still mostly a local candy in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, they are found at specialty stores around the country. One of the notable things about the Nut Goodies (a maple cream covered with peanuts & chocolate) is that they’re made with real chocolate. There are a lot of regional candy bars that somewhere along the way (or maybe they started out that way) ended up with cheaper “chocolate compound” (basically, mockolate).
Pearson’s is busy celebrating their 100th anniversary with some special events, including the first new spin-off of the Nut Goodie, the Pearson’s Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodies. (I’m not sure why this version of the candy gets a plural on the package.)
The new Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodie – made with real milk chocolate, Virginia peanuts, sea salt and caramel – marks the first permanent line extension in the Nut Goodie’s 100-year history.
It’s a very simple candy, which makes me wonder why there aren’t more of these on the market. A caramel pattie covered in peanuts and milk chocolate. Dead simple, but not easy to find.
The caramel portion is soft and chewy, almost the point of flowing. When they said sea salt, they weren’t kidding though. This 1.75 ounce candy has 220 mg, which is about twice as much as necessary. The nuts, as promised, are fresh and crunch and actually have that distinctive “Virginia” flavor which is a little more earthy and less green than other varieties. The chocolate is sweet but much richer with a stronger cocoa flavor than I expected. It was a welcome component to the piece. Really, my only issue with this is the too-salty caramel. I recognize that my low-salt lifestyle has made me much more sensitive to this, but I still think that the level, for a non-savory item, is just too high.
I liked the package, I liked the concept. I hope that Pearson’s considers a regular caramel instead or at least in addition to this.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.