Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I don’t know if this bar is sold at this little candy shop at the Pittsburgh airport because it’s called Sky Bar or because they carry a lot of other hard to find nostalgia candies (they didn’t have Valomilks, but they did have Cow Tales). I’d seen these when I was growing up, but was never really interested in them, as I’d always assumed that they were the candy bar version of Whitman’s Samplers.
It turns out that it’s not far off from that. The bar is undeniably pretty. Four joined pieces of candy, with pretty domed tops, fluting up the sides and the Necco logo on top. Unlike Necco wafers, where you never know what you’ll get in the roll, the Sky Bar is consistent. The far left piece (if you set your bar like the package shows you) is caramel. Not a chewy caramel, it’s a sweet, sticky concoction with a nice salty hint and good carmelized sugar notes. The next one over is by far the least interesting to me, the vanilla cream. Slightly light, very sweet and rather bland, it simply brings out the rather cardboard notes in the milk chocolate. After that is peanut which I think is their masterpiece. This is not a peanut butter, like you’d think, it looks like caramel and is smooth but has the wonderful roasted taste of peanuts and a good hit of salt to balance out all the other sweets. The last section is fudge. Sweet and with that slightly cooling grain to it, the fudge is nice and not too sweet but suffers from the same blandness of the whole bar - too much sugar and not enough chocolate in the chocolate.
I can see how this bar was so successful for so long. Steve Almond talks about the history of the bar in Candy Freak (chapter 2), that it was one of the most popular bars on the east coast and had a prominent billboard in Times Square which was re-lit at the end of WWII. As a bit of nostalgia, it’s fun. But it’s not my nostalgia, I have not particular affinity for it, so it’s merely an experience for me. It’s probably a great bar to share with friends (as long as there actually is something for everyone) and probably speaks to people who really like variety in their candy.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Much like the Cadbury bar, this is a pure milk chocolate bar. It’s hefty and the little bite size chunks that break off are the perfect size for your mouth. The color is pretty and the smell is mostly of vanilla.
It’s very sweet, that’s the first thing I notice. However, the creamy melt is very smooth though a little sticky. The thing that I rejoiced in, though, is that there is no “powdered milk” flavor, which I associate with Cadbury chocolates. It’s too sweet for me, as the sugary notes overwhelm the milk and chocolate flavors, I found it to be very pleasant. It was pretty good with my coffee this morning.
As a solid dark chocolate bar, I was hoping for more chocolate. I didn’t read the package ahead of time so I was surprised to see now that the first ingredient on the label is sugar. Called “The Original Plain Chocolate” on the label, it is rather plain. Since it’s so sweet, the chocolate notes don’t really come out readily.
I was about four chunks into it before I started tasting the notes. It’s a very consistent cocoa flavor, hardly any trace of bitterness but some slight smoky, woodsy notes. The package says 39% cocoa mass, which probably explains my disappointment. I’m not saying it should be 70%, I’m just thinking that a little more cocoa butter and less sugar might make for a smoother bar with more flavor. As a mass market consumer bar it’s on par with the American Hershey’s Special Dark. Nothing fantastic but probably very dependable. Too bad it’s not even vegan, the ingredients list butterfat.
You might wonder why the bar is called Bournville - it’s where Cadbury put their first large production facility in the 1870s.
Ratings - Galaxy - 6 out of 10
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Name: Violet & Scented Gum
I have a vague recollection of some dolls that were popular back in the late sixties/early seventies called Kiddles. They were little dolls with insanely huge heads and long, stylable hair that smelled of violets. To this day the scent of violet makes me think of those dolls. I never owned any (I think my friend down the street, Lisa did though) but I can recall wanting them badly.
Anyway, my stepmother sent these to me a couple of weeks ago and they went into my pile of chocolates, until I took out a candy bar and it tasted like violets. So I sequestered the invasive violets in three layers of paper bags (and promptly forgot about it because it was jammed in three paper bags and looked like trash). Then I came back to the office after the weekend and it smelled like violets, “Oh, I forgot all about them!” Well, now I’ve photographed them and chewed them up and can speak knowlegably about them. I did a little digging to find out more about Choward’s, you can read the history here.
First, I preface this review (actually, it looks like I’ve prefaced the review several times, would you like to just skip to the bottom for the rating?) with the fact that I love herbal/floral flavors. My favorite ice cream flavor at the moment is Orange Blossom and Pistachio. However, probably from the above association with those damn little dolls, I just can’t get behind the little violet mints.
The mints themselves really aren’t terribly flavorful. They’re sweet and very hard (like a piece of soft shale) are the color of the putty I used to caulk my shower and smell like something I might use in the shower while I’m there. They don’t really dissolve so much as just slowly deteriorate in your mouth. As a touchstone though, I found the peppermint version of Choward’s pretty good, like a dense pillow butter mint. I don’t know why the violet texture was so much more, um, sturdy, but it wasn’t really appealing.
The gum, however, is pretty cool. The color, let’s face it, is something you just wanna string up on a necklace or something. The flavor is not at all like the mint, it’s got a nice cinnamon/clove twang to it and a little touch of the flowery violet. The chew is a little sticky and not at all like a chicklet, lacking that burst of sugar and cooling mint. Even after spitting out the gum after chewing for about ten minutes, it scented my breath wonderfully for a two hour meeting.
Ratings: Violet Mints - 5 out of 10
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Thanks goodness Ikea’s proclivity for sassy names does not extend to their treats at the food section. I have enough trouble buying candy shaped like rats that looks like the felt pulled out from a highlighter pen that I don’t need it to be further called Bjarf, Puke or Funkis.
Name: Licorice Boats
I gave these to Russ to try the other night and he agreed that, “The licorice in my licorice boat had already set sail.” These are definitely sweet - you just open the bag and the sugary smell permeates the air. But there’s no there there. The jelly center has a bit of a licorice perfume to it, but no bite. I think I’ve come to expect molasses with my licorice as it’s a good anchor for the flavor.
Name: Jelly Rats
They’re rather scary looking, and I’m telling you that’s the actual color - some sort of slightly translucent-neon hazard color. They also have a strong sweet smell infused with violet which didn’t thrill me, but biting into them I found a nice, tart and fruity jelly candy. The flavors aren’t complex or strong, but just nice. If I am planning on having a Swedish jelly candy though, I really want some Swedish fish.
Name: Marabou Milk Chocolate with Nuts
This was the positive find in the whole experience. They’re little chunks of milk chocolate with crushed hazelnuts. Really creamy, very sweet with good nuts. The chocolate is smooth and the toasty taste of the nuts infuses it well.
It’s simple and satisfying. The roll is easy to share and I might make a point to pick these up at the start of my shopping experience at Ikea as a little boost. I ate them all before I finished typing this review.
Ratings: Licorice Boats - 4 out of 10
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I have it on good authority that the translation of this candy is, loosely, Kitten Tongues. I suppose they do kind of look like tongues. Having never eaten a real kitten tongue (or any part of a kitten for that matter), I can’t say that they do or don’t taste like them.
The little tray box slides open to reveal an array of these chocolate tongues in a piece of wax paper. Unfortunately they taste rather like wax paper. They could be stale (after all, they’ve been passed through at least two people before getting to me). But the expiration says they’re good until October ‘05. The chocolate is slightly stale and doesn’t melt quickly. It’s sweet and milky, like most European milk chocolate, but not terribly flavorful otherwise.
It’s too bad too, because the photos of the kittens are as cute as can be (I’ve seen other photos on the ‘net and it seems that there are different kittens for different varieties of the chocolates). I have to say that if I were ever in a position to buy these again, I probably will, if only for the novelty of it. I can’t fathom where I’d be where they’d carry them (besides Prague) but at least now I’ve had them and know what I’d be buying (not like that time I tried to buy saffron in Spain and ended up with a tea for air sickness).
Rating - 5 out of 10.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I think someone needs to start keeping a list of candy bar names that would also make good names for cats.
I posted earlier this month about the Flake bar, which I only kinda liked. I’ve decided that one wasn’t particularly fresh. The Twirl, as near as I can figure it, is just a paired version of Flakes. Only slightly smaller in diameter (about the size of my finger ... I have no idea how big your fingers are) than the Flake, they’re about an inch shorter. Think Twix bars - but with a different center.
Inside are curled flakes of chocolate, then they’re dipped in more milk chocolate to hold it all together. What you end up with is a lot of air, which means that it all melts much quicker and seems to emanate a chocolately aroma. It’s basically more fudgy than creamy.
Revisiting the Flake, this version is filled with white chocolate curls coated in milk chocolate. I’m so glad it wasn’t coated in more white chocolate. Upon opening it I could definitely smell the sweet white chocolate and then a hint of the milk chocolate. It all had a dried milk tinge to it. The bar was much fresher than the one I got from Cost Plus, so that’s a plus. But it was sweet enough to make my throat hurt. It wasn’t really chalky, but it wasn’t really smooth. For some reason the Twirl bar was much more creamy. This one was definitely not old and the store kept them in the fridge ... so I’m guessing that this bar is just like this.
Ratings - Twirl - 7 out of 10
Friday, August 12, 2005
You may recall a while back I got an order from Japan of candies. The last thing I wanted to share with you that came in that box are the two gums from Lotte.
The first is No Time, which is a little gray, dusty cube of gum. It’s got a light mint flavor and is advertised as a replacement for brushing your teeth when you have no time. Handy, eh?
There are quite a few “whitening” gums on the market in the States, most have baking soda in them, so they end up tasting rather salty and soapy. No Time does not have that burning mint flavor that some freshing gums have and though it says it has some sort of scrubbers in it, it’s quite smooth. The chew is a little tough, the flavor slightly medicinal. I’m not a big gum chewer, and though I found this pleasant, it’s not something I would seek.
Many Americans are familiar with Black Black - especially if you frequent truck stops or college campuses. Black Black may be the original caffienated gum. “Hi Technical - Excellent Taste and Flavor.”
They come in the traditional foil wrapped stick. The color is not black, but rather dark. It looks like it should taste like licorice, like a large chewable sen sen. But, it’s actually flavored quite differently. It tastes like cough drops. Hall’s Menthol cough drops. I don’t know if that helps with the caffiene delivery or not.
Though the taste isn’t necessarily enticing, the charge is definitely there. I couldn’t find any info on how much caffiene is in a stick, but I can tell you from experience that I had a terrible headache about two weeks ago. I tried aspirin, then ibuprofen and finally chewed a stick of black black ... whew, sweet relief. Of course I had trouble sleeping later that night (next time, I’ll try the black black first!).
It’s a good thing to keep in your arsenal. Much better than drinking caffienated drinks when driving, if you ask me, because you don’t need as many bathroom breaks.
Ratings - No Time - 5 out of 10
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Name: Chocolates made with Icewine
Name: Maple Chocolate Truffles
My husband recently went to Vancouver and picked up these Canadian themed candies. The truffles are maple flavored and the Icewine chocolates are in the shape of maple leaves.
First, as far as I’m concerned a chocolate truffle is defined as the following: a soft chocolate made by combining good quality chocolate with cream and butter. It melts at a lower temperature than chocolate and is therefore extremely fatty and tasty. Chocolate truffles are usually covered in chocolate, so as to contain the melty insides (some places will just roll them in cocoa, but then they’re prone to melting and sticking together).
It’s hot right now in Los Angeles and at eighty degrees inside the house, the innards of these truffles should have been more yielding. As it was, they were more the solid consistency of say, a frango. Basically just another flavored and rather solid chocolate inside a chocolate shell.
That said, I think maple is a great flavor. It’s woodsy and sweet and reminds me of, well, maple. There’s not much else like maple. These were very mapley and extremely sweet. I think if I were inventing these I’d keep the center throat-searingly sweet but coat them in dark chocolate as a little respite. The chocolate was good quality but not excellent. As a gift from Canada, I think they were great, but it’s not something I’ll seek out next time I go up north.
Next up was a long box of chocolates with a tray of little maple leaf-shaped molded chocoaltes with a filling flavored with Icewine. I didn’t know what icewine was so out to the internet I go (and by the way, the website listed on the box is um, bad). Turns out icewine is made from grapes left on the vine through the winter (so maybe it’s really raisin wine?).
The idea of a cream center flavored with this sweet white wine is great. The chocolate shell was nice, a crisp milky chocolate. The center was not too large (sometimes a large center that’s really sweet kind of ruins the ratio of chocolate to filling) and smelled vaguely of fruit. However, there was something a little off. I tasted the fruity wine notes distinctly, but I also tasted plastic. I’m not sure if it was the tray that they were packaged in or what, but they were a little off. I ate them anyway, but didn’t find it a good combo.
Ratings - Chocolates made with Icewine - 5 out of 10
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