Monday, May 21, 2007
Hershey’s is offereing a new product line/service on their Hershey’s Gifts site: Fresh from the Factory.
You can now order selected products to be delivered fresh from the factory. If you live within a certain zone (see the map) you’ll actually have it within 96 hours of when it rolls off the production line.
Which leads me to wonder, does fresh candy taste better?
They’re offering Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twizzlers (red & black), Good & Plenty and Payday Bars.
Hershey’s contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if I’d like a taste ... I figured what the heck. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried fresh stuff from Hershey’s. I’m guessing that the candy that I’ve bought at Chocolate World is particularly fresh (especially the special trial items that they give out at the end of the Chocolate World ride), but other than that, I can only say that most of the stuff I eat is only fresh ... not factory fresh.
I’m already known to be a huge fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. So instead of just reviewing them, I thought I would pick up a package from the local grocery store to compare. The grocery store freshness code said 40HLV2 8C which means that the cups were good until March 2008. Sounds pretty fresh, too.
First, the look. The cups from the grocery store are .75 ounces each. The cups in the Fresh from the Factory jug were .55 ounces (not quite a miniature, not quite a full grown ... maybe I’ll call them juniors). The ingredients lists were exactly the same.
Grocery Store RPBC
The store-bought cup was good. The chocolate was cool on the tongue and sweet with a slight coconutty flavor. The peanut butter center was salty and nutty and though it’s not chunky and not creamy peanut butter, it’s slightly crumbly. If I could compare it to anything, it would be peanut butter cookie dough. Definitely a good associaiton.
The FFTF Reese’s smelled overwhelmingly like peanut butter. There was not a trace of chocolate to the smell. The junior sized cups were even looking, and of the half a dozen or so I’ve eaten so far, not one had a physical flaw to it. The cups were completely unmarred by shipping damage.
The bite and snap are good. The chocolate is sweet and fresh, but the real difference here is in the peanut butter center. It feels fluffier. It tastes a little saltier and has a more intense and fresh peanut taste.
Are they that different ... if you put both in front of me and blindfolded me, could I tell the difference? Probaby. Do I prefer one over the other? Not really.
The price here is steep. $20 for 1 lbs 7 ounces. (I could buy the same amount of Reese’s for $6 at the grocery store.) The jar is nice, but made of clear plastic and not terribly special. It does a good job of storing the candies for easy access and opening it does deliver an incredibly mouth-watering aroma.
As a novelty or special occasion treat, I might indulge in this once a year if that’s when the roll around. May is a pretty dicey month to be shipping chocolate to Southern California though ... it was only through their good packaging (with a chill pack) and a respite from otherwise warm weather that kept these safe and tasty.
Of the list of other products on the list, I think the one that interests me most would be the Good & Plenty. I love Good & Plenty and suffer through the leathery chew quite often. I found last year that they now offer Good & Plenty in peg bags (I got mine on the Penna Turnpike on my way to my sister’s wedding). They were so fresh and chewy it was like I was eating a completely different candy.
If you’re a die hard fan of one of these candies, I think it’s definitely worth it for the experience. It also makes a great, inexpensive but special gift for the candy fan in your life. Graduation and Father’s Day are around the corner. Or perhaps a wedding couple you know have registered for it ... or should?
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The dark trend continues. If it can be made dark, it will be made dark. So it is written in the marketing analysis ... so it is done.
Hershey’s brought out the Kissables with a huge marketing blitz in 2005. They’re tasty little hybrids of Hershey’s Kisses and M&Ms. There’s no way they’re ever going to shove a peanut in the center there, but they can easily make them with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate so they have. For a while they were showing off Hershey’s Special Dark Kissables in large bags, they’ve finally made it to the single serve bags, so I thought it was time to give them a try.
The wrapper is a pleasing brick-maroon color that evokes the feel of rich chocolate. The little candies come in four colors: lavender, maroon, dark purple and brown. Not quite as sassy feeling as the Kissables ... not even as many colors. They feel morose, a little depressed.
They have the nice light crunch of the Kissables and a good creamy dark chocolate center. They’re a little chalky tasting, only a slight bitter hint towards the end, but generally very sweet.
I decided I was obligated to compare them to the Dark Chocolate M&Ms.
M&Ms come in more colors but the dark chocolate inside is just as sweet, but a little mellower overall. The Special Dark Kissables seem a bit crunchier, a bit more chocolatey. Neither wows me with their complex chocolate taste. They remind me of Sno-Caps, but with less mess and more color (not that it would matter in a dark theater).
Both dark chocolates contain milkfat and lactose, so are not appropriate for those who shun dairy. The M&Ms give you 1.69 ounces per package, Kissables only 1.5. The Kissables bag is plasticized, the M&Ms are only a glossy paper.
After sitting here with both in front of me, I found myself reaching for the Kissables more often. They just felt creamier, less chalky and a little richer, so they get one point higher than the Dark Chocolate M&Ms did.
Monday, May 14, 2007
It’s summer movie season. I’m not much of a movie-goer, mostly because I don’t like to go out (I have this same problem with vacations), but I do enjoy movie cuisine of the sweets variety. (Nachos and hot dogs do not belong at the movies ... those are ballpark foods.) Today I have three classics.
Sno-Caps were introduced in the twenties by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. These are just tiny chocolate chips with a coating of white nonpareils. The combination of the mellow semi-sweet chocolate with the sweet crunchy white dots makes them ideal for munching for two hours. The box encourages me to “Mix it Up! with Popcorn” but I’m kind of a sweets purist at the movies ... just candy, thanks!
The semi-sweet chocolate isn’t terribly smooth, but it has a good chocolate flavor to it and a little dry and bitter hit towards the end. Of course the sweet little sugar spheres mellow that out pretty quick. The crunchies encourage me to chew these instead of letting them melt. But sometimes I like to let them all melt in my mouth so I’m left with a mess-o-nonpareils for some real crunching.
At the very end things can get a little messy with the orphaned nonpareils at the bottom of the box ... or the bottom of my purse if the box isn’t sealed completely. A quick tip of the box and I have some good crunching. If I miss my mouth, well, luckily they’re rather inert.
(Note: Sno-Caps semi-sweet chocolate now contains milkfat, so is not suitable for vegans.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Goobers came along in 1925, though the idea of chocolate covered nuts had already been around for centuries (though not very affordable until the turn of the century). To me Goober was a character on The Andy Griffith Show. It wasn’t until years later I found out that goober is actually slang for peanuts. (That was about the time that I started seeing Goober from Smuckers on the store shelves (peanut butter and jelly in the same jar).
Goobers are one of those easy to eat candies that don’t get you all hopped up. There’s a lot of protein in there from the nuts, so they don’t get my blood sugar all in a tizzy. The chocolate is very sweet and not terribly smooth, but with the crunch of the nuts in there I rarely suck the chocolate off, so it’s not very noticeable. My only complaint with Goobers is that sometimes the peanuts aren’t very good. It could be that I’m getting an old box or the peanuts quality control isn’t that good. A bad peanut is, well, bad.
There was a jingle for Goobers & Raisinets which has always stuck in my head (probably from around the same time as the Mounds & Almond Joy song).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Raisinets were the third part of the movie candy puzzle, they were introduced in 1927. The idea of Raisinets had been around for years, often sold as part of a mix of panned nuts and dried fruits known as “Bridge Mix”.
These are nicely sized raisins, soft and chewy, sweet and tangy. The chocolate, on the other hand, is super sweet, slightly grain and rather bland. As a kid I pretty much detested Raisinets. I eat them far more often now, but unless the chocolate is really good, I’d rather eat raisins.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nestle has a strange website to promote these candies, called Nestle Classics which emphasizes them as good movie candy. It’s kind of odd, since the only candy in their “Classic” lineup that they originated is the Nestle bar. All the other bars and candies in the array were acquired from other companies (Chunky & Oh Henry).
So, what are you eating at the movies this summer?
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I tried the Theo Chocolate BonBons earlier this year and have had the bars sitting around for a while. I’m feeling quite pressured to eat them all (though they need to be savored) before Los Angeles gets so hot it bursts into flames (oops, we’re already on fire).
Theo makes chocolate from bean to bar (actually roasting their own beans on site) using fair trade and organic ingredients. Don’t let all that squishy-hippy stuff fool you, this is quality stuff without compromise.
Even the wrappers are sassy and fun (designed by KittenChops) instead of making you feel like you did a good deed. Come on! Half the fun is feeling that your chocolate bar is an indulgence ... a wrapper that tells you how many lives you may have saved, how many species will continue to exist because of your support ... all the wonderful skin-clarifying, artery-blasting ingredients that are contained within might be nice (and might get you to buy it) but they aren’t going to get your salivary glands going.
The dark bars contain 65% cocoa solids, so these are dark, but not too intense.
The Theo Chocolate bars are actually called 3400 Phinney Bars, named after the address of the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle. Not only are they not afraid of you knowing where they are, they actually welcome visitors and offer tours with tastings, of course, as well as a factory store. I’m hoping to get up there next fall to really dive into their complete chocolate experience.
The Milk Chocolate bars boast 40% cacao content, so they’re pretty rich.
All the bars a welcome change from the ordinary candy bar. The two I would find myself munching on regularly would be the Nib Brittle and Chai Milk Chocolate. They are expensive though, so only for special occasions. I could see tucking these into a special picnic at Pt. Dume or going to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert, but I just can’t buy them every day ... but knowing that the cocoa is grown responsibly (socially & environmentally) would help me pony up the dough.
You can find the bars online at Theo, Chocosphere and at stores like Whole Foods. The bars are
now Kosher (as of March 2008).
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
I’m a licorice fan, so it’s hard to do it wrong. I’ll eat it as a hard candy, a chewy rope or classic pastille. What I thought was great about this Black Ace Licorice is that it fits into that niche of licorice products that just about everyone can enjoy. Until I saw this package it didn’t occur to me that so many gluten/wheat sensitive folks were missing out on some great chewy licorice goodness.
This licorice has no wheat flour in it, as most laces, twists and ropes do. Most mass-produced licorice products in the United States don’t even contain real licorice any longer, they use anise flavoring instead. Black Ace is all natural and contains real licorice (which is a good thing and a bad thing, I’ll get to that in a moment.) Licorice has been used for centuries in teas and medicinals. The extract is extremely sweet and has been used an alternative sweetener. It’s a natural expectorant as well, so it’s often found in cough remedies. Some of the effects of too much licorice can be welcome (laxative effect), unpleasant (green stool), or downright dangerous (high blood pressure & edema). Again ... that’d be too much licorice. What’s too much? More than six servings a day.
Black Ace are little dots of licorice. They’re soft and chewy, pretty much melting away in the mouth smoothly as you chew or dissolve them. They have corn starch in them, which I guess might make them a jelly product. They’re very sweet, but have a mellow peppery, woodsy taste to them. They’re sweetened with corn syrup and sugar, not molasses, so I miss some of the more earthy flavors. There’s also a little hit of salt in here that tones down the high sweet flavors of the licorice itself.
Black Ace also does a Red version, which also has a similarly pleasant, smooth and soft chew. The flavor is a good fruity/floral mix, something like raspberry. I’m not a big fan of Red in general, mostly because it reminds me I could be having black licorice. But these were definitely nice.
I enjoyed them quite a bit but would probably prefer a molasses & wheat based candy. But if you’re a fan of licorice and can’t have wheat and don’t want boring old hard candies, this might be a solution. Since they’re all natural, you can expect to find them places like Whole Foods as well as Beverages & More, Oakville Grocery or Bristol Farms and possibly TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
Note: though this is all natural, fat free, wheat and gluten free, the package states that they were made in a facility that processes peanuts & other nuts.
Monday, May 7, 2007
This bag of Limited Edition Carnival Flavor Skittles absolutely smells like a carnival midway: a combination of waffle cones, cotton candy and freshly shaken lemonade.
I was a little peeved that I couldn’t find these in a single-serve bag, but at least they were on sale. While many chocolate based products in large bags are only 11-14 ounces, Skittles still come in a full pound bag.
The only strange thing about all of the flavors is that the candy shell was every so slightly tangy when first placed on the tongue. While that’s fine for Red Vines and Slushie, it didn’t really belong on the Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy. I’m wondering if that sour bite is the ascorbic acid that gives each serving of Skittles its 45% RDA level of Vitamin C.
I didn’t care much for the extended flavors I reviewed last week, but I found myself happily munching away on this bag of Skittles without picking out particular flavors. Also, the flavor combinations pretty much all work with each other. Perhaps Slushy and Candy Apple are my least favorite combo but Cotton Candy and Bubble Gum are quite a nice mix. The other fun thing is that there’s not strange Skittles Breath after eating them. Often with the fruity Skittles I find coffee unpalatable. Though they’re not really coffee compatible, they don’t spoil the experience for me.
Friday, May 4, 2007
I thought I would give you some real-world info about what it’s like to order from some of the webstores I’ve mentioned before.
Economy Candy’s site is pretty well organized. The photos are good the descriptions are decent, except when it comes to the bulk stuff. I visited their brick & mortar store when I was in New York last year, so I knew that they were for real. The site does not have everything that’s in the store. However, I get the feeling that you could probably call them and have them throw in some ad hoc items. (Perhaps someone can confirm that.)
I went there specifically for the chocolate covered halvah, and I figured as long as I was there and paying the shipping I’d throw in some other stuff.
I put in an order at Economy Candy and purchased the following:
The order tracking was a little frustrating. I kept visiting the site and their order tracking page but it never said that my order had shipped. But the candy showed up within a week. So go figure.
The package was well organized and everything was fresh and in tact. My Halvah came in a little white box and the rest of the contents just wrapped nicely in bubble wrap.
I would definitely use them again for future purchases of items I’m not able to get elsewhere. They allow purchases of single candy bars, though the shipping is a little high, if you’re getting a variety the shipping isn’t that bad.
Pros: Good selection, good prices, fresh product.
Cons: Frustrating website & order tracking, they don’t always give a lot of information about the bulk items. Shipping and handling a bit expensive (but candy is kind of heavy).
I give the whole experience a 7 out of 10.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Quetzalcoatl is one of the gods of the Aztec pantheon with a serpent head and feathers. He was the morning star, the giver of agriculture and creator of books & calendars. Most importantly, the legends say that he gave cacao to the Aztecs. (Truly making it a food of the gods, as the botanical name for the plant implies Theobroma cacao.)
The traditional chocolate of the time was made by taking whole beans and crushing them/grinding them on a metate (also used for corn). The resulting paste (what we now call cocoa liquor) was combined with milk or water and spices to make their chocolate. Xocoatl, the early name for chocolate actually means “foamy water.”
Gary Guittard created this bar using whole cacao beans and no added cocoa butter. So the ingredients are just about the shortest you’re going to see on a chocolate bar: Cacao Beans, Pure Cane Sugar, Soya Lecithin, Vanilla Beans.
The package characterizes the bar thusly:
This bar is dark and roasty with strong woodsy flavors in the cedar family along with smoke and tobacco. There are a few dried fruit flavors in there as well, with some raisin and cherry notes. It has a dry finish and is very filling. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of high-cocoa butter chocolate bars, as I think the butter buoys the flavors so that they can roll around on the tongue a little longer and you can tease out more of the intricacies. I was really missing the extra fat here.
This isn’t a bar I’d eat all the time, but I like it as an educational piece of chocolate.
As part of the effort to Keep it Real, I asked Guittard if they’d be willing to donate something to the cause that I could give away. So after I pledged my $100 Chocosphere gift certificate to the lovely chocolateactivists who took the challenge, I also got a package of a dozen of Guittard’s bars (a $38 value) plus this extra bar for my own enjoyment, of course. I did a second drawing yesterday using all those people who entered with the “raffle ticket” that commented to the FDA (to kind of even the playing field). The winner was reader desertwind! Congratulations ... I hope you enjoy the array of fine (and real) bars.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.