Tuesday, January 31, 2006
In my continuing effort to bring you timely reviews of new products (that’s a joke), I finally found some Darth M&Ms at the 99 Cent Only Store. I picked up collector’s pack 18 of 72. In fact, they were all 18 of 72 at the 99 Cent Only Store. I’m not certain if these are still available, the website is still up.
I was a little confused at how these are considered dark chocolate, as they have milk in them, but that’s probably part of the evil Sith plan. The colors are actually pretty nice. Navy Blue, Maroon, Gray, Black and Lavender. All great colors for a snazzy sweater or scarf.
As long as I’ve brought up the subject of color, this is probably a good time to talk about consumption techniques. There are those people who like to eat M&Ms by color. Eating your candies by color of course makes sense with Skittles where they’re different flavors. But M&Ms are not. Still, when I dump a bunch out on my desk for snacking, I divide them up by color. Plain M&Ms are consumed in lots of three, all the same color and when I get to the end, there are particular pairings of colors that are acceptable. I have no idea why I do this, but I’m guessing it’s a way of taking full advantage of the colors as a feature.
Anyway, these are darker-than-milk chocolate M&Ms. Their colors are bright and shells crunchy but the centers are strangely grainy. Not grainy in the sense of the sugar is not completely dissolved, they’re grainy like someone left some ground up oyster shells in them. They’re slightly less sweet than the regular plain M&Ms and do have a bit more complex, chocolatey flavor. But they somehow lack the punch of a regular M&M. I wouldn’t mind them trying this chocolate on the Almond M&Ms, but I don’t really think they work in this format. Maybe the Peanut ones are better (Writers & Artists Snacking at Work liked them). There’s little benefit here either for Vegans or those with nut allergies as it’s not a suitable candy for either. I also resent dark chocolate being represented as evil. I mean, as candy goes, it’s more pure.
For the record, the colors are: Dooku Blue, Grievous Silver, Emperor Red, Vader Black & Maul Purple.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
This was another one of the Eastern European sweets that a friend of a friend brought back that I’m just getting around to posting about. What I thought was rather interesting about it is that it’s made by a company owned by Kraft. I suspect that the original company has been around for more than a hundred years in Latvia or Lithuania and was bought by the international food corporation more recently and that the production has not changed markedly. But I am kind of at a loss to figure this one out, as the labels haven’t a bit of English on them ... not even any other languages I’m familiar with such as German, Italian or Spanish.
As far as I can tell, each 100 gram bar is milk chocolate. The Princas is dairy milk, the lighter of the two. It’s very smooth with a slight coconut taste to it. It’s exceptionally sweet with a good milky flavor. The chocolate is neither American style nor Swiss style. It’s less grainy than the American chocolates like Hershey or Mars but still as sweet. Overall it’s just good. Not great, but for mass-market chocolate it’s well packaged, fresh and tasty. It could use some more chocolate complexity but it’s certainly something that I’d pick up while traveling to keep in my purse for a little pick-me-up.
The Karuna was also very sweet, exceptionally smooth and had the same coconut flavor to it. It was a little stickier and with a slight hint of cinnamon-woodsiness to it.
I’m not quite sure what the difference between the two is except that the Kuruna is darker. Of the two I prefer the Karuna but I’d probably be pretty happy with either one. I’d probably munch on it with some pretzels or some other savory or bland salty treat (or maybe some shortbread).
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
It looks like Nestle is finally going to go whole hog into the Limited Edition stuff like Hershey’s and Mars have been doing. I saw a few mentions on Junk Food Blog about new Nestle Limited Edition candies. I immediately ran out to my local 7-11 that seems to carry these things and was lucky enough to find it on my first try.
The 100 Grand with Peanuts is exactly what you’d think. A 100 Grand bar, which is caramel covered in milk chocolate and crisped rice. In this case the peanuts are mixed in with the caramel, not with the milk chocolate.
First of all, during the five year period of time when I faithfully adhered to the Nestle boycott, the one bar that I missed was the $100,000 Bar (as it was called at the time). There is no other bar like it; caramel, chocolate and crisps seems like an obvious combination, but Nestle seems to have “unique” as a selling point. (Yes, Steve Almond goes on about some bar called a Caravelle in Candy Freak which was similar but better, but I don’t think I ever had one.)
This new version is interesting. Even though there aren’t a lot of peanuts, because they’re whole and mixed in with the caramel, it really bursts with caramel flavor, but not a lot of actual caramel chew. The salty-ness of the caramel goes nicely with the peanuts but I’m not getting enough sticky caramel to give me the nice contrast with the crispy rice. But, I’m comparing it to the regular 100 Grand. I think a better thing to compare it to is the Snickers Cruncher bar, which it seems I liked much better. Snickers just knows the peanut/chocolate combo much better.
I’ll keep picking up the regular 100 Grand in the future. Unless they bring back the Caravelle, then you can expect a new review.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Happy New Year’s Day! Here’s a special review of an item some of you may be eyeing as part of a resolution to eat healthier.
I’m one of those people who believes that you should eat what you want and try not to compromise on it. If you want chocolate and you’re on a diet, instead of obsessing over what you can or can’t have, have the chocolate, but in moderation. Maybe walk an extra mile or something to make up for the indulgence. But denying yourself just makes you want that thing all the more and of course less satisfied with what you end up with. A chocolate yogurt will never be the same as a chocolate mousse. This is the way I live my life. And you’d think from reading this blog that I weigh over 200 pounds, but I don’t. I actually have a fair bit of self control because I allow myself indulgences and savor them. (I’m also, probably, blessed genetically with a good metabolism and of course I do remain active.)
It’s nice to think that sweets can be nutritious and I’m grateful that good news is coming out about nuts and chocolate not being as evil as once thought. I have no illusions that Pixy Stix will ever be a healthy choice. They can make candy healthier by choosing good ingredients, like eliminating trans fats. What I question is fortifying regular candy with things in order to make them more healthy. Sometimes it works: the grapefruit pastilles I like have vitamin C in them and of course it’s nice to get a boost of fiber from my regular Mounds bar (well, it’s not fortified with it, that’s just the wonder that is coconut). When adding a vitamin or mineral to a treat though, it’s important not to spoil it what we liked in the first place.
Adora is calcium fortified chocolate. It comes in two flavors, Milk and Dark Chocolate. They’re like thick coins of chocolate. They smell nice and are certainly pretty. I bought a bag of the dark chocolate tabs and they gave me a sample with the milk chocolate tabs to try as well. At first it was rather nice, sweet chocolate ... but as it went along it tasted, um, dusty. If you chew it, you can definitely hear the grain on your teeth. This was a dry gritty grain like that stuff the dentist uses to polish your teeth. The weird thing is that I’ve eaten a few of them now and they’re not all like that. The milk chocolate one was very sweet, but no grain at all until the very end. Some are pleasant and the grain is barely noticeable, and other times I have to wash it down with water or a few crackers. If I were to buy these and use them regularly, I’d definitely go for the milk chocolate one, even though it probably has less of the antioxidant benefit, you’re going to be more likely to eat them.
It is generously fortified though:
They recommend at least one tab a day and no more than three as overconsumption of calcium provides no additional benefit.
I have to give Adora credit. They have a good website with lots of information and points to some good resources about bone health and the importance of Vitamin D. The thing is, I think I can eat these every day as a supplement, but I’m never going to feel like it’s a treat. So they would just become an addition to my regular candy consumption, not replace any portion of it. It doesn’t quite rise to the “Calcium the gourmet way,” but I could probably eat one of these every morning or evening. I will, however, finish the bag I have. If they come out with other varieties, I’ll be interested to try them. The good news is that Adora is reforumlating the dark chocolate ones to be less grainy, so if you purchase them now, you’re likely to get a more pleasant product. (I’ll update when I get a hold of the new ones.)
I’m also going to get some to try the new formulation and will report back.
UPDATED UPDATE: I got the new samples! (Thanks Ed, that was fast!). I have to commend them for smoothing out the chocolate, especially on the dark ones. There’s still a trace of grainyness, but the overt gritty feeling is gone completely. I’m still not going to mistake these for a piece of candy, but the aroma is really pleasing and of course the boost of calcium for my aging bones (yes, my birthday is in a week). They are MUCH better tasting than the Viactiv chews I’ve tried (both the calcium ones in chocolate and the vitamin ones in fruit), so if taste is something that will help you keep up with taking a supplement, this might be the way to go. I’ve upgraded the rating from 6 out of 10 to 8 out of 10.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
It took me a long time to figure out what a chocolate donut has to do with Wonka (the books or movies), but after mulling it a bit it came to me that there’s a line in Veruca Salt’s song “I Want It Now” in the 1972 version of the movie:
Yeah, that’s a stretch, but there you have it, the donut Veruca was insisting on.
It’s okay, the Wonka Donutz has as little to do with the bakery donuts as they do the movie. They’re donut shaped. There’s no bready, fried dough in there at all. It’s chocolate, through and through except for the fun little colored nonpareils. But whew, these are chocolatey.
The Donutz is a plump, milk chocolate hoop with a firm, creamy chocolate truffle-like center. The outside chocolate is mild and sweet, like that found in a Nestle Crunch bar. A little on the grainy side, but pleasant. The inside of the candy is a sweet and melty filling of chocolate with a slight rum aroma to it. The sprinkles (half of which are guaranteed to not make it into your mouth) provide a fun little crunch.
I wasn’t really that interseted in this candy until Alexander, a reader, sent me his own review. Overall I was expecting something fudgier and sweeter (which would have been a bad thing). Instead it was just very mildly chocolatey and mildly sweet with some textures to mix it up a bit. I would probably eat it if you put it in front of me, but I don’t see myself buying them unless I’m going for a Wonka theme thing. This candy bar was made in Brazil.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
My site designers/programmers Susie & Travis (from Hop Studios) sent me a bag o’ treats a few months ago from their trip to Singapore. I don’t really have any specs on the candies since it was a mix, so here’s a sample of what they looked like:
It took me a while too steel myself for trying so many mysterious things, but I’ve finally plowed through most of the treats. Some were just variations on the candies we have available here, different kinds of mints (chewy, hard, soft), coffee hard toffees, ginger chews (made in Indonesia) and of course fruit hard candies. Some were rather normal, based on the ubiquitous citrus fruits but a good number were curious.
Durian and Tamarind top the list of scary candies. I’ve heard horror stories of Durian, which is rather common throughout Southeast Asia. It’s a sizeable and formidable looking fruit and I’m told an acquired taste for outsiders (and some who’ve grown up there have never been fond of it). It’s a divisive fruit, actually, as so many people can’t stand it because of its rather pungent odor, it’s not allowed on public transportation in many large cities.
The durian hard candy is probably just as much an acquired taste and not one I’m likely to accomplish. This hard candy tastes okay at first, a little sweet, a little tart and then rather like boiled shallots. Yes, onions or garlic or perhaps a little like Slim Jims.
The Tamarind, which I’ve never had and is surprising as I live in Los Angeles and it’s all over the place, was actually nice. It’s a little toasty, rather ordinary after all being so worked up about trying that.
The most curious one was the Creamy Corn. It tasted just like it sounds. Like creamed corn. Only in a hard toffee instead of running on my plate into my fried chicken. I have to say that it was very faithful to the name, and I ate the whole thing and was fascinated by it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s rather like eating the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Bellies. It’s a novelty, not a pleasure. At least not for me.
Mango was actually really nice, better than any other mango candy I’ve had, probably because they did more than make it taste like peaches. There were a few mango flavored ones, but the best overall were the ones branded Lot100 (the Blackcurrant was good, too). It had a nice pine essence to it, which is one of the things that I find so interesting about real mangoes, they have a woodsy flavor to them.
The best one was called Great Monster and I think was simply an orange hard candy. Simple, tart and zesty.
I had high hopes for those labeled barley sugar candies, but they didn’t really taste like the barley sugar I know of here in the states. They were nice, especially the lime torrone one (which was not at all like an Italian Torrone).
There are still a few I haven’t tried, but give me a few more days to get my courage back.
Rating - 6 out of 10 overall (some higher some lower ... it’s an average)
Friday, December 16, 2005
Name: Ribbon Candy
When I was a kid I used to buy ribbon candy for my mother for Christmas. It was pretty stuff but I never remembered it being very good. I think part of the problem is that most people put it in a dish or some sort of display for the holidays and it gets all sticky.
Ribbon Candy is simply hard candy flattened out into long ribbons and then folded up like little puffs and twists. They’re usually pretty colors and often flavored according to those colors. This box contains a mix of minty and fruity flavors. The box also has a beautiful photo of the candy on it. The stuff inside doesn’t look quite like that.
First, the ribbons are not uniform. The doubling of the candy strips to form the loops was rather inconsistent and the ribbons weren’t flat, so I’d set them out to photograph and they’d rock. Second, they were not glossy and luminous like the box. I know that they have been in the past. I know the stuff I used to get for my mother looked like it was spun glass. I don’t know if it’s because this is a bad batch or that it’s just not as good anymore, but mine looked milky and dull. Only one was broken, so I was pleased that the poor box wasn’t handled poorly.
The candy itself is kind of neat to eat. Messy, but pretty interesting. You can’t just break off a little loop, it seems for each loop that you want the other half is pulverized into shards as you break it off. We’re all used to the dense sugar of the hard candy, but the wafer thin ribbons rather melt on your tongue. The flavors are ordinary and sweet, no tartness in the citrus flavors. The plain white one was cool because it was vanilla. There aren’t that many vanilla hard candies out there. The oddest thing was that the red and green striped one was some sort of strange mint. A toothpaste mint, which I’m guessing is a blend of spearmint and peppermint but tastes a little too much like toothbrush for me.
You can read more about F.B. Washburn and Sevigny’s at their home page. But here’s the part I liked best:
Did you know that there’s a “ribbon candy business” and that it was so consolidated now?
The other interesting thing is how low in calories these are. A full ribbon, which is a little over an ounce and looks huge is only about 60 calories. So if you’re looking for a little holiday indulgence that won’t fatten you up so fast, a couple of ribbons instead of a piece of pie ala mode might save you about 300 calories. It’s actually kind of nice to have with a little tea and the calories probably end up being lower consider that much of it shatters into microscopic shards that you’re more likely to inhale than consume.
Rating - 6 out of 10.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Name: Coconut Slice
I’ve seen this a few times while in the 99 Cent Only store. My neighbor, Robin, won $99 worth of gift certificates to the store, so on our recent shopping trip I was a lot more adventurous with my choices (cuz it was really free).
This candy is basically a coconut slab, kind of like a fruit rollup ... call it coconut leather. The different colored strips might actually be flavored. I detected a little bit of raspberry in the red stripe, but really couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow one and the white one.
The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. If you like coconut and don’t want to bother with all that other stuff like nuts and chocolate, this is the stuff for you. Two grams of fiber in each bar but it does contain about 5 grams of saturated fat (that’s the coconut oil).
Tom’s isn’t really known for their candies, more for their nuts and snacks. They seem like rather a niche company (based in Georgia) and I don’t often see their products here on the West Coast except for the nuts, and those are usually at convenience stores on the highway.
Rating: 6 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.