Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Here’s another candy that has been around for years but I simply have not tried: Cookie Dough Bites. The concept of the candy is pretty simple, soft nuggets of “cookie dough” covered in chocolate. After all, loads of people love to eat cookie dough as they’re making a batch and how many romantic comedies feature the heroine sitting around eating a chub of the pre-made stuff to drown her sorrows in the third act?
I guess the main reason that I’ve never tried them is that they don’t come in a single-serve size, just in these big theater concession boxes. I don’t go to the movies that often and I’ll admit that I stick to my tried-and-true favorites: Junior Mints, Good & Plenty and SweeTarts.
All of the boxes make note that they are EGG FREE. Now, at first I looked at that and I though, what is E.G.G., is this something like Non-GMO? It took me a few moments to realize that they meant, eggs, plain old eggs. It makes sense that when you say cookie dough people might think that there’s raw eggs in there. Not only are there no raw eggs though, there simply aren’t any eggs at all. Of course the allergen alert does go on to mention that they’re made in a facility that also processes eggs (and peanuts, nuts, milk solids, wheat and soy), so it’s not like that note is anything other than an advertisement that there’s no salmonella.
The image on the front shows little bits fo chocolate chip cookie dough being drenched in milk chocolate. However, I bit a lot of these in half and never found any chocolate chips. Or even flecks.
No biggie, the chocolate coating takes up that contribution of chocolate chips quite well.
The center is not quite a moist dough, it’s a little more chalky ... but not quite shortbread territory. It reminds me more of sugar cookie dough than chocolate chip cookie dough, as CCCD has a touch of brown sugar.
They’re suprisingly tasty. The chocolate isn’t at all notable, it smells a bit like chocolate, but isn’t really that creamy or satisfying. The easy chew & pop some more qualities make them an excellent movie snack.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The dark chocolate also isn’t truly dark, it has some milkfat in it, but it’s not like anyone expected these to be vegan otherwise.
The general texture and bite was similar to the milk chocolate, perhaps a little “drier” but still very munchable. I appreciated that they didn’t taste quite as sweet (those paying attention to the nutrition label will see that the dark one actually has more fat and less sugar). The dark chocolate was a little chalky sometimes, but had a dry finish that kept them from being too cloying. The cookie centers have a slight sugary grain to them that works pretty well.
Rating: 5 out of 10
They look just like the original Milk Chocolate Cookie Dough bites, but even after I took them out of the package for the photographs, I could tell them apart with a quick sniff. These smell like peanut butter all the way.
The chocolate seems creamier on this version than the other bites, I’m going to guess that the fattiness of the peanuts helped. The center is softer and not quite as chalky as the others, it seemed to almost melt in the mouth. The peanut butter flavor is light and fresh, but kind of lacks that “fresh roasted flavor” that peanut butter cups have. I could have used just a smidge more salt and perhaps a sugary grain to sell the dough part.
Though they’re not quite the same, fans of Reese’s Bites might enjoy this as a replacement of that discontinued product. (It’s still not quite as peanutty.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
The final variety is Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough Bites. This one had a nice brownie batter consistency for the center with a good sugary grain to it. The cocoa flavors of the center went well with the chocolaty flavor of the coating. They rated a little higher for me than the regular Cookie Dough Bites, but I still think the Peanut Butter ones are the most successful of the array.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The only ones I’ve actually seen in stores are the original at places like Target, Dollar Tree, 99 Cent Only and Walgreen’s, usually for about a buck a box. They’re also sold at movie theater concession stands, probably for about $3 a box.
My other basic complaint with the candy is the packaging. I think the box itself is a bit misleading. First, in order to preserve the freshness, the bites are in a little clear plastic pouch. That’s fine, although it makes it kind of silly to have the box itself, because it’s not like you dispense from the box. The box is 3.5” wide, 6” long and .75” deep. The bag dimensions are technically the same, except that it’s of course flat. It seems that the box could be flatter or maybe the bag be narrower but fuller to be more efficient. Each box has only 3 ounces in it. A similar sized Junior Mints box has 4.75 ounces. Dots have 6.5 ounces. (Granted, Cookie Dough Bites probably aren’t as dense as Dots.)
Maybe I’m getting too snooty or expected too much after Brian at Candy Addict rates the Milk Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites as Awesomely Addictive (tm). But hey, everyone has slightly different tastes, which is why it’s so great there are so many different review sites. Here’s a roundup of other opinions: Taquitos.net has Fudge Brownie, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip and Review Busters.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me. I like science fiction. I like good scifi and bad scifi, doesn’t matter. I can quote passages from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I know what a Tasp is, I have a complete set of the original Stainless Steel Rat comic book adaptation ... I even read the novelization of Star Wars when I was 10. All that’s missing is actually writing science fiction novels. Oh, and I’ve seen every episode of Star Treks ... all the Star Treks (TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY & ENT).
So when I got a lovely box of chocolates from my co-workers for my birthday, my first thought when I saw them was, “My stars! They look like different foreheads of aliens on Star Trek. Seriously, look ... a Klingon ridge! Ferengi ear! Cardassian neck skin! (I know, it must be very hard to give me gifts.)
It’s not just the textures, it’s the dusting of food-safe iridescent powder that make me think of fantastic humanoid creatures from other planets. Perhaps they’re missing out on a marketing angle ... mm, Denobulan Spiced Chocolate!
The chocolates actually are lovely and tasty. They’re from Boule, who I go back and forth about. I love their Kalamansi fruit jellies and their ice cream. But sometimes the chocolates are a little, I don’t know, off to my tastes. Mostly I’m unhappy with their little button ones, which are molded. I seem to be happier with enrobed or dipped chocolates, which is happily what these were. Plus they’re expensive. But the best kind of fine chocolates you can get are fine chocolates as a gift.
(I think what might have pushed me to be so flippant with them was that there was no key for the chocolates. They were hand-picked, so we had the list that Patrice in my office made, but no guide as to which was which. So Patrice ended up calling them back and making them describe each and every one. I’m not sure if Boule has noticed, but they have a website and it wouldn’t be too difficult to put some little photos and descriptions up there.)
The fun part was that after photographing them, I shared them and I didn’t look at what they should have been or were supposed to be. I just ate them.
There you go, no review. I just ate some chocolates. And enjoyed them.
The aliens in clockwise order from upper left to lower right are (click the numbers to see the original images):
Hmm, did I miss any? Or do you disagree with my associations? (Okay, I also probably had way too much fun making my first Candy Blog Animated gif.)
Thursday, January 3, 2008
First is the Nestle KitKat Peanut Butter from Canada. The format on this bar is the single chunky finger. This is actually larger at 1.76 ounces than the American single finger bar which is 1.59 ounces. I found this bar at Mel & Rose’s Wine & Liquors on Melrose Ave a month ago.
The bar is thick and chunky but follows the standard KitKat formula.
There are wafers with cream filling then a thick stripe of peanut butter all covered in milk chocolate.
The package smelled strongly of raw peanuts when I opened it. Roasted peanuts have a deep and smoky tone to them, this was that higher octave scent, like freshly snapped peas mixed with peanuts.
The crunch of the bar was good, but there’s definitely a lot of chocolate in operation here. The peanut butter stripe is great. It’s very flavorful despite being so thin. It’s not sweetened at all, in fact it’s pretty salty. I preferred eating this bar like I eat most KitKats. I nibble off both ends of chocolate, then all the chocolate off the sides. Then I eat the less-chocolatey remains.
It was really good and I think I’d buy this if I could find it at my local store. Far more satisfying than a regular KitKat (4 grams of protein - one more than a regular) and not nearly as sweet.
Rating: 7 out of 10
She sent me Ginger & Pistachio which I already reviewed and loved last spring. The new-to-me flavor was Cafe Cortado. It’s a vanilla caramel with coffee.
Unfortunately I’m not keen on coffee beans in my food. It might be that I have a problem with caffeine or it might be that I don’t care for the texture, but these just didn’t do it for me. I tried a few, but I was very aware that I needed to eat them before noon (as I don’t drink coffee after that) which always made me feel pressured.
The great news though is that the wrapping of the caramels has been changed to a heavier waxed paper. They no longer stick to the paper and are far easier to keep popping in your mouth. The box looks deceptively small but holds a quarter of a pound of rich, boiled sugar & butter. You can order direct on their website for about $6.99 a box (less if you order more).
Rating: 8 out of 10
They’re not a transparent gummi, instead they’re opaque and matte. They’re still very soft and bouncy. They have a distinct bite, not a rubbery as a German gummi. The thing that was most clear was that this is a real fruit product. The texture feels a bit like pear, there’s a slight grain to it. Then there were a few bits of zest in there.
The flavor is predominantly tangerine with a little dollop of grapefruit & lemon in there for good measure. Completely addictive, I ordered two bags and ate both. They’re small bags though at only 35 grams each. I can’t remember how much I paid for them and of course JBox doesn’t have them on their site right now. (Here’s the official webpage.) See Sera’s review.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Traditional Halva bars from Sultan’s Finest Foods are little .71 ounce bits of plain halva. They’re smooth and creamy with a strong sesame flavor to them.
It’s the perfect portion size, if only I can find them somewhere. These are made in Tunisia, and may be the first Tunisian candy mentioned on the blog! They’re imported by Agora International and come in a sugar free version as well. I think these sorts of sesame snacks are ideal, especially for hot weather. It’s creamy and filling, not too sweet and of course does better in hot weather than chocolate.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I’ve seen the Sencha Green Tea Mints at stores for years. I just couldn’t get my brain around them for the longest time. I like a mint that has some zazz to it, and the idea of green tea in a mint seemed to defeat the purpose.
These were sample packages that I picked up at ExpoWest which is for natural products. They’re usually sold in little maroon or dark colored tins with a clear top. These compressed candies are made from xylitol & sorbitol, which are natural sugar alcohols. They have a cool feeling on the tongue (and shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities because of some digestive troubles they can cause) and a subtle flavor.
The three flavors I got were: Delicate Pear, which is just slightly fruity and sweet. Green Tea was subtle and while fresh tasting, didn’t leave that minty burn.
The tea ingredients are fair trade and xylitol is supposed to be a pretty good base for gum & mints (not bad for your teeth, but bad for dogs). It’s hard to find sugar free mints that don’t have artificial sweeteners in them, so if you’re looking for something that fits that niche, these might be for you.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I’m very late with my write up on Stained Glass Candy. I ordered it online about a year ago. I expected it to be pretty little hexagonal disks of candy (about the size of a quarter), but the photography on their website didn’t prepare me at all for how lovely this stuff was.
Though it’s expensive for hard candy at $12.95 a pound (when you order 2 pounds), I figured I’d give it a try. The cool thing is that you can custom design your flavor mix, so I chose one pound of herbs & spices: cinnamon, hot cinnamon, wintergreen and anise. The second pound I did as fruits: banana, orange, lemon and pineapple.
Each piece came sealed in a little clear plastic sleeve with the name of the flavor printed on it. This was helpful as I’d ordered both cinnamon and hot cinnamon (definitely a difference!). The shapes were lovely, the colors clear (except for banana), distinctive and tasty. I loved the pineapple and anise especially.
The downside is that they’re a little softer than some hard candies, so they either need to be stored in a fridge to keep them from losing their shape eventually or just eaten quickly. The softness also means that they stick to teeth and can’t be crunched. But I kind of like slowly shaping them to the roof of my mouth.
I probably wouldn’t order these again unless I had a special need for them like a party or something. They’d make nice wedding favors or for a shower or something. But at five times the price of regular hard candy, it’d have to be a very special occasion or a very special flavor.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Somewhere between the candy bar and the fine boxed chocolates is a strange no-man’s land known as the gourmet candy bar. Austria’s Zotter is one of those companies occupying that niche. They not only make innovative flavor combinations, but their products are also organic and Fair Trade certified.
I love the idea of Fair Trade. Everyone should get a living wage (or more!) for making candy. No one needs candy, so if we’re going to spend money on it, we certainly shouldn’t be contributing to sweat shops or slavery. That said, these are very expensive at $8 a bar, so it’s nice to know that the wealth I’m imparting to Zotter is being spread around.
The packaging is simple. The bars are wrapped in foil and have a nicely designed sleeve. Each bar has its own distinctive artwork. On top of that there are a lot of different bars. At any given moment there could be 60 listed on their website. I found these at Fog City News in San Francisco, but have also seen them in the Bay Area at The Candy Store, Miette Confisiere and Bittersweet Cafe in Oakland. (Each store had a slightly different selection.)
The bars are absolutely gorgeous. I was afraid mine would be dented or nicked from the trip, but right out of the package they were pristine and fresh.
They’re rather flat and the chocolate enrobing is very thin (but glossy). The proportions of the filling and the chocolate is ideal ... these bars are about the filling not the chocolate.
I was worried that the center would be stiff and grainy, instead it has a creamy snap to it with a slight semolina grain to it. The citrus is tangy and not very zesty. The chocolate coating is 70% and provides a good bittersweet counterpoint to the center.
The second bar I picked out was Banana Curry. The banana notes were strong and tasted like a fresh mash of super-ripe bananas. It was sweet and rich and almost like a pudding or creme brulee, but a little thicker with a slight chew. I never did get much of a curry note from the whole thing but I honestly didn’t miss it. Yes, I was promised curry, but what I got was pretty yummy in its own right.
If you’re looking for adventurous and inventive flavor combinations with your politically correct candy, well Zotter might be for you. At $8 for a 2.5 ounce bar (over $50 a pound), it’s like buying a couple of fine upscale chocolates from Recchiuti, Vosges, Charles Chocolates, CocoaVino, Chuao or Kee’s. They’re not easy to find in person but they do have a huge variety of flavors. I’m glad I gave them a try, but perhaps I’m more cheap than socially responsible, I just can’t spend that much on a candy bar without rationalizing it as being “for the blog.”
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I’ve been cleaning up my studio space and going through all my unreviewed items. Let me say that there are a lot of them so I’m going to devote the rest of the week to clearing them out of the queue.
I don’t know where they came from. My neighbor Robin gave them to me from one of her friends at work who travels a lot. The back of the package has a translation on it, unfortunately into another Asian language. The only thing in English on the package besides the calorie info is the words “Half Cut Chocolate.”
These lovely little hemispheres look just like itty bitty cantaloupes. They each come individually wrapped in cellophane. Even though they’re wrapped, the bag smells of a light melon flavor. Once opened, they do smell a lot like cantaloupe. The white confection base is sweet and a good complement for the flavor. They’re a little bland, but so incredibly cute and of course so unusual.
I was rather unsure of how melon would go with chocolate, but it’s a perfectly natural combo for white chocolate.
Rating: 5 out of 10
I’m not a big fan of sesame flavored things. I enjoy sesame snaps (basically, sesame brittle) and the odd seed on a bun ... well, I also like halvah. Okay, I might just love sesame!
I was kind of on the fence about these. They tasted a lot like toasted sesame oil used in Japanese cooking, which always tastes a little burnt to me. But they were very smooth and creamy and after chewing for a minute or so they become very rich. But the smell put me off each and every time.
I ordered this box from JList.
(I realize now that I carelessly photographed this package upside down. Even though I don’t read Japanese, it’s not like I couldn’t have figured out that the little angel went at the top.)
Rating: 6 out of 10
I had high hopes for the red bean flavored caramels. They package was easy to spot, pretty much kidney bean red.
The Morinaga caramels have always had a slight grain (kind of a short caramel or dry caramel). This worked particularly well with the red bean flavor, which of course I always expect a little bean mealiness. It’s so smooth though and has such a consistent texture, it really works. It reminded me a lot of adzuki ice cream in that it got that creamy texture, but it’s much less sweet and more flavorful.
I really liked this and was looking forward to buying more, but I haven’t seen them again. I got this box in Little Tokyo after lunch one day when I was on jury duty.
Rating: 7 out of 10
This was one of the products I was looking forward to at the All Candy Expo. I didn’t make it over to their booth until the last day and all they had left was their original flavor. Their Creamy Pralines also come in Bananas Foster, Chocolate and Cafe au Lait but all they had left was the original.
Aunt Sally’s makes two different kinds of Pralines (pronounced PRAH-leens), this Creamy kind and a Creole kind.
The Creamy Pralines are a nice size, 3/4 of an ounce, like a small chocolate chip cookie. The nuts are abundant and smell fresh and kind of like maple. The sugary praline base is soft and kind of chewy like a fudge, but not quite caramel. It’s very smooth with only a slight grain to it.
I’m much more fond of either the straight chewy pralines or the sandier version (I think that’s Creole), but these were still very nice. I’m still curious to try the Bananas Foster version. At $2 each on the website, they’re a little pricey. I get one that’s almost triple the size at Littlejohn’s Toffee at the Farmers Market for $2.50 (it’s the sandy style).
I still haven’t been able to find them in person anywhere, SugarHog.net found them at the Albanese Candy Factory store.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, December 31, 2007
I’ve seen these at the Walgreen’s since this summer but didn’t really feel like paying $3.50 for a bag of something that I can’t quite get my head around. I was hoping to try them at the All Candy Expo, but the Necco booth doesn’t really “do” samples of anything other than their most common products.
Instead I found them last week on sale along with the Christmas items for 50% off. So at $1.75 for 10 ounces, I felt like a fool not buying them.
I believe the product is called Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios but there’s so much going on with the package. Things like “Made with Real Coffee!” and “Espresso - Cappuccino - Latte” and then the disclaimer, “Naturally & Artificially Flavored Crunchy Coffee Centers in Rich Chocolate.”
This is one of those occasions where I think my photos look better than the one on the package.
Basically, they’re malted milk balls, only with a coffee flavored center instead of malt. The center is amber colored with an even aerated crisp. There were perhaps two or three “duds” in the whole package (ones that had deflated or weren’t ideally sized, which is really good quality control in my opinion.
Espresso - a dark chocolate shell and a coffee crunch center. The chocolate shell isn’t very dark or rich, but beyond the “shellac” on the outside, it’s creamy and not grainy or chalky. The crunchy center is a little salty and less like a malted milk “cereal puff” and more like a sponge candy or center of a Cadbury Crunchie. The coffee flavor is mild, but since it’s not very sweet the coffee flavors come through.
Cappuccino - the milk chocolate makes this a little sweeter than the espresso one, but I can’t detect any difference with the crunchy center. I prefer the dark ones.
Latte - these are kind of freaky looking. The color is less “creamy” than I think they intend, it looks more like a rock than some foamed milk. However, they tasted richer than the cappuccino ones. These were my second favorite, but also the rarest in this mix.
Overall, I was really pleased with these. I know there are better upscale versions from Koppers & Marich, but for something I found at the drug store (and at half off), I found them really tasty and a great change of pace. I’ve been hungering for a coffee candy lately, and this just might be it.
Necco makes another variety called Cafe Select Chai Tea Trios, which also sound kind of interesting (but strangely named) but I haven’t run across them yet.
In other news, Necco was purchased by a consortium of investors and it sounds like the company will continue to make candy (I can see where folks might think their assets are more valuable than their products). Here’s a press release with more financials in it and an easier to understand article.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
If I bought a product that was simply named Snickers Nutcracker and given no other information, I would assume that it was a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker. And what would I think a Snickers bar is? Nougat covered with a stripe of caramel with embedded whole peanuts and then covered in milk chocolate.
Of course I did buy a product name Snickers Nutcracker and I did not get a Snickers bar in the shape of a nutcracker.
Instead I got a nutcracker chocolate shell filled with caramel creme with crushed peanuts.
This is in stark contrast to the Snickers Egg I had back in March 2006, which was pretty much a Snickers bar in elongated hemispherical form.
But expectations and disappointments aside, this product is a little one ounce bar shaped like a squat nutcracker soldier. Inside is a caramel creme with crushed peanuts in it.
The center caramel is salty and tastes strongly of peanuts, not like peanut butter, but actual roasted peanuts. It’s not quite chewy, instead it’s a bit more flowing but still pretty smooth. The milk chocolate is sweet and contains the caramel well (no broken oozes in any of the nutcrackers I’ve had so far) and in good proportion.
It doesn’t have that “satisfaction” element to it that the heavy nut-ratio a Snickers bar has. I thought it was kind of fun, after all, how many gooey peanut caramel products are there? But I was really hoping for a Snickers.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This is one of those times where I missed the boat when photographing a selection of chocolates. This eentsy-weentsy box holds 1.76 ounces of chocolate. The box itself is about 3 1/2 inches square. There are nine pieces of molded Belgian chocolates.
So for the same calorie count that you’re used to with a candy bar, you can indulge in these cute little bon bons. They’re a perfect little stocking stuffer, especially when you see that the price is $1.99.
There’s even a little guide to each of the pieces (I’ll go kinda clockwise starting at the top with the biggest piece):
Though you could just pop each piece into your mouth whole, I bit each in half while eating them, so there are 18 bites total ... a nice way to slow down and enjoy such a small portion.
The selection is a little sweet and hazelnut-focused for an assortment for me. I wanted a bit more dark chocolate (and the dark ones were good). As a change from the normal Toblerone or tube of Droste as a stocking stuffer, party favor or office gift, these are pretty spectacular. As something I’d grab to satisfy me, they don’t quite make it.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.