Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Name: Clark Bar
I finally tracked down a Clark bar (they aren’t that easy to find on the West Coast). Clark bars were originally manufactured by the Clark company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania starting in 1917 (WWI) but were bought a few years back by Necco. I remember when I lived in Pittsburgh one of the best things about it was the huge, lit Clark sign on the factory. What I also liked about the Clark company is that they made one of my favorite gums, Teaberry.
The Clark bar is very similar to the Butterfinger and the current 5th Avenue bar. (All of these bars have changed hands over the years, Butterfinger was originally made by Curtis and 5th Avenue was by Ludens.) It’s possible Clark was the original peanut butter honeycomb bar, but even if it wasn’t it was one of the few to survive to the present day. The center of a Clark bar is honeycomb peanut butter crisp covered in a chocolate-like substance (I don’t know if it was ever covered in real chocolate).
Given the choice when it came to peanut crisp bars, I usually opted for the Zagnut, which is a coconut covered peanut crisp bar (now made by Hershey’s). So my recollection of the real Clark bars is a bit dim. But what I can tell you about the one I tried is that it’s very dense. It’s not crispy like a Butterfinger and it lacks the complex toasted flavors of the 5th Avenue. (Look at the photos on the head to head review to see the difference in the centers.) However, the fake chocolate is much better than most, it’s sweet and smooth without being waxy. The crisp ends up becoming rather chewy and finally gives up a little more molasses flavor, but still doesn’t have the pop that 5th Avenue gives me.
Rating - 5 out of 10
UPDATE April 21, 2010: Necco has updated the Clark Bar, it’s now bigger and has a real chocolate coating. They’re also available in dark chocolate. Check out the new reviews as well as a full head-to-head comparison of Butterfinger, 5th Avenue and Clark Bar.
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Name: Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
You’re saying, what the heck is a cacao nib and why cover it in chocolate? (Well, never ask why cover anything in chocolate ... we cover things in chocolate because that’s what sets us apart from animals.)
Cacao (that’s pronounced cuh-COW) nibs are what chocolate are made from. They’re the edible part of the cocoa bean after it’s been harvested, dried, fermented, roasted and hulled (winnowed). Yes, after all those steps (usually invovling at least two continents) you get these unassuming little crumbly brown bits. These are raw chocolate. In order to make a chocolate bar you take a bunch of them and mash them into a paste and then add some more cocoa butter and some sugar and maybe a little lecithin to keep everything smooth and you’ve got a chocolate bar. (The extra cocoa butter is made from taking nibs and expeller pressing them to get out the cocoa butter which leaves behind the cocoa solids which are used to make powdered cocoa.)
You can eat the nibs just as they are. They’re kind of like really roasty tasting nuts. Not quite chocolately, but they have a wonderful butteriness that you don’t find in many nuts. But they’re a little chalkier than a regular nut as well and can be freakishly bitter at times. Apparently using nibs in recipes is all the rage now, especially since Martha Stewart featured them in a recipe recently. By coating the nibs in chocolate they’re a lot more scrumptious.
But enough about the history lesson. This is pure chocolate enjoyment. Seriously. Whew!
The chocolate coating is 62% semi-sweet Scharffen Berger chocolate over the cacao nibs, which are unsweetened. They look kind of like little glossy cocoa krispies. But they taste absolutely divine. There’s an alcoholic aroma to them, an intense bitter start and then this incredible mix of woodsy flavors, acidic elements, astringency and this lingering smoky feeling on the tongue. The vanilla of the chocolate coating also lingers nicely. The nibs, being a rather raw product, are unpredictable. Sometimes they’re crunchy and smooth, sometimes you get one that’s a little fibery or chewy.
What’s also odd is that some of them taste different. I guess they may have been from different trees or harvested a different week or something. Some mouthfuls will be fruity, with intense plum or apricot notes and sometimes it’s oaky or maybe have a touch of maple or even sassafrass to it. What it does is make me want more ... I keep eating them. Which is bad. These are expensive little puppies. (As is all Scharffen Berger.) Of all the Scharffen Berger products I’ve tried (and they’re very well regarded though I’m not particularly fond of them) this is the one that sends me over the moon.
Rating - 10 out of 10
Monday, December 5, 2005
Name: Reese’s Snack Barz
You know this is a cool candy for kidz because there’s that hip Z at the end.
This bar is not really a snack bar in the sense that a power bar or some sort of trail mix bar would be. It’s a candy bar. (I think most bar shaped things that are sweet are considered candy bars whether you stuff some vitamins in there or not.)
This bar is a peanut butter marshmallow crisped rice treat with a base of chocolate. The peanut butter mixed in with the marshmallow cement is smooth and nutty with a good hit of salt. The crisped rice is, well, crispy and it all pulls apart easily without crumbling into bits (as is a problem with some crunchy granola bars). The chocolate base for the whole thing is a really nice sweet complement.
Hershey has a full range of these bars in different flavors including S’mores and Chocolate Cream. They’re apparently fortified with calcium and seven essential vitamins (only 15% of the RDA for them though) and have no saturated fats but 3 grams of protein. There are worse decisions you can make for snack foods and certainly better ones in the candy family, but this is a nice in-between food. It’s certainly satisfying and is a rather large feeling bar. I can see this being a good candy to travel with, a nice little snack on the plane with a watery cup of coffee to wash it down.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Friday, December 2, 2005
My blogging buddy, Lisa, sent this to me. She didn’t pick it up in Japan, she got it in New York, which makes the trip it’s taken extra special.
They look like little incense cones, little hard cones covered in a salty, sour powder. I wasn’t quite sure what they were, as the package is in Japanese, but what I could glean from the package was that these were sour. (I’m not quite sure what the female schmoo thing is on the front, but she sure is cute.)
They smell like cola, which is an odd smell in and of itself, really. The gummy isn’t really gummy either, it’s a hard little piece that’s not quite hard enough to be considered hard candy. Pop one in your mouth and you pucker. There’s no way to not describe these as incredibly sour. The flavor of the sour is a bit lemony but a little salty too. Then that subsides and you get the cola flavor and a little hard gummy bit. Then you want another one. They took a little getting used to, but with a lot of the extreme candies, they’re rather addictive.
They remind me a lot of the So Wonderful Lemon Drops I tried months ago. I think I might pick up the grape ones sometime, but for now, cola is a great choice for a sour treat. I have to say that eating to many will eventually burn the tongue. And give you a tummy ache. But I’ve found that to be true with most foods.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Name: Extra Dark with Cranberries and Macadamias
It took me a long time to actually like Hershey’s milk chocolate. I was never fond of their Special Dark, but I ate it quite a bit when I was younger because it was often the only dark chocolate I could get my hands on easily. Sometimes a girl just needs dark chocolate. Call it medication.
I was curious when I saw this at Target a couple of weeks ago. I know that all the major chocolate companies are into this whole “chocolate as a health food thing” (which by the way, I’ve been saying for about twenty years) so it’s only natural that they start packaging stuff with that sort of market in mind.
If I were to create the ideal fruit and nut bar, I would definitely start with dark chocolate and cranberries are a good choice. I think I’d prefer cashews or pecans over macadamias (especially if we’re going healthy - pecans have a load of good stuff in them). Check out the site I link to up there, they talk about the benefit of antioxidants, which can be found in many fruits (especially dried ones), wine, tea and of course chocolate.
The bar itself was nice. A good woodsy flavor, the nuts were barely perceptible for me as a flavor but added good texture. The cranberries were a good tart, chewy snap. The chocolate was crisp, not bitter with a decent creamy melty quality and good flavor. Not the best chocolate I’ve ever had, but if this were as available as a regular Hershey bar, I’d probably pick it up as a less-sweet snack with 60% cocoa solids. The price is just right as well, a good value for less than $2.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.