Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.
I frequent the following in no particular order:
Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)
CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)
Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.
Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.
Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.
Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).
7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.
Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.
Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.
Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.
The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:
The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.
In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.
There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)
Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.
Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.
India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.
Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).
Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.
Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.
Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.
Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.
Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.
Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)
I bought this package of the new Twizzlers Rainbow Twists as couple of months ago but I just had to wait for the crush of Easter to be over before I could open them up. They are stunning. The colors are vivid and opaque, a little less shiny than the regular Twizzlers.
I’ve always been fond of black licorice and find red licorice passably good. You know, if someone puts one of those tubs on my desk, I’ll eat it. For a while I was obsessed with weird twist flavors. There was a fruit stand I would stop at on the 126 somewhere between Piru and Fillmore that had Root Beer flavored vines.
When I think about it, non-licorice twists are one of the few flour-based candies out there (except for candies like Twix or KitKat that have actual cookies in them).
Each color of the Rainbow is a different flavor.
Grape (magenta) - a little tangy and pretty much tastes like a grape soda.
I was worried that the fake and plastic appearance of the candy reflected a lack of flavor, but they were all pretty punchy. But almost all of them had a weird metallic/bitter aftertaste to me. As a variety pack, I wasn’t fond of all the flavors, but this is pretty much always the way with mixes. I’m just not keen on them. I’m not alone either, the comments on this Slashfood post echo some of my sentiments.
While I had a good time photographing them (check out Sugar-Bliss-Gnome’s cool use of Twizzlers Rainbow Twists for cupcake decorations), I have no desire to finish any of the twists.
Here’s an alternate review that you might want to read (because it’s funny and does not endorse these).
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I’ve seen all the new Kisses, and while I’d love to review them all, I just can’t bring myself to keep buying 10 ounce bags of them. I don’t want that many Kisses that I’m not sure about! Why not a variety bag? Or ... how about a single serving package?
Okay, part of me is cheap, so when I saw that this was $1.09 at the 7-11, I thought, “For another dollar I can have a huge bag of them!” Then I remembered I don’t want a huge bag ... so I ponied up the buck and took home my FIVE Hershey’s Chocolate Truffle Kisses.
Well, color me surprised when I got them home and opened up the package.
Inside the mylar wrapper the Kisses were protected within a piece of folded waxed cardboard. The little triangular tube did a nice job of keeping them from getting smashed while traveling around in my bag. I pulled out the set and found that these guys are HUGE!
I dug around for a regular Kiss just to demonstrate this. They’re obviously a molded chocolate (as all the non-standard Kisses are) and have a substantial base (the classic extruded Kisses have a little curved bit at the base). The standard Kiss has a base diameter of .8125 inches and the Truffle Kiss has a base diameter of 1 inch.
The whole thing is rather milky looking. When I first cut open the Kiss for the photo, I couldn’t tell where the truffle filling was. You can kind of make out the little dome of it in this photo.
It smells rather sweet, a little milky, a little like vanilla. The center is soft and melts easily (courtesy, I’m sure, of all that modified palm oil). There’s a little salty hit to the center as well, just a smidge saltier than the milk chocolate shell. The whole thing is much creamier than the regular Kiss chocolate and lacks that tangy note that many Hershey’s chocolate products have. (I kind of like that flavor, but I know a few Europeans use this information against Americans.) Without that flavor, this doesn’t taste like much. It’s not terribly chocolatey, but reasonably smooth and creamy without being too sticky or sweet.
If you really want a Hershey’s Kiss that doesn’t taste like one, well, here’s your product.
I think I’ll pass on the bags of foil wrapped Truffle Kisses. The one that I am planning to buy in the full bag is the Coconut Creme. Maybe this weekend.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
So I’m reading Technology Marketing magazine last month (okay, not really, I just found the article because it was about candy and it came up on a Google News Alert) and there was an article about Topps and their new products. But what shocked me, seriously shocked me, was the first part of the opening paragraph:
Say what? The Baby Bottle Pop is that popular (I have no idea what holds the number 1 spot in the adults non-chocolate segment ... I’m guessing something from Jelly Belly)?
So why haven’t I had them? It appears that they were introduced in the late 90s, a bit after my candy experimentation stage. But I have a duty to Candy Blog to keep up with the kids, you know. First, I had to find them. This involved stooping down and looking at the bottom racks in the candy aisle at the drug stores and finally at 7-11 where I was able to find the “classic” version in a flavor combo that seemed good to me. I picked up Citrus Craze and Strawberry.
You may be wondering what a Baby Bottle is. It’s a little bottle, about the size of a small baby food jar, filled with a powdered candy topped with a hard candy nipple top. The top unscrews and has a “stem” that allows you to hold onto the top as you lick it to get it sticky and then dip it into the bottle to coat it with the sour, flavorful powder. The nipple pop has a plastic dome to keep it clean when you’re not eating.
I was expecting a grainy powder like Pixy Stix. Instead it’s much finer and more flavorful.
The Citrus Craze powder is quite tart and actually has a lot more flavor than I expected. Instead of just sour, it had some orangey flavors. It still tasted pretty much like Tang. It looks like Tang, too. The pop itself is rather bland and sweet, with a swirl of yellow and orange. The combo of the two is really good! The tangy powder seems more zesty because of the bland background of the sweet pop. Having the dipping pop made of hard candy makes far more sense than the Lik-a-Maid which had a compressed dextrose stick that got soggy pretty quickly.
As you eat the pop and there’s less powder, it gets harder and harder to coat the pop with it. I eventually just dumped the powder onto my tongue. Here’s a tip ... don’t inhale at the same time. Seriously, this is weapons-grade powder and the sour crust in your lungs is not a happy thing. Is there a disease called Pixe Stix Lung?
The Strawberry wasn’t quite as interesting to me, except that I have to say that the clear red nipple pop on top was pretty alluring. (Read into that whatever you like.)
In this version the pop is actually the flavorful sour part and the powder is just sweet and fruity. Not bad, but I preferred the tangy zap of the Citrus Craze. As a grown up I find eating this a little cumbersome but I’m pretty sure this would have been my favorite candy as a tween. As a treat for kids, yeah, it’s a mixed message, but it’s also rather labor intensive to eat and only 120 calories.
For the record, as a kid I didn’t buy Pixy Stix or Lik-a-Maid. I would buy cans of lemonade mix or boxes of Jell-O and just eat that by licking my finger and dipping it in there. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use a lollipop.
Note: this product was made in Thailand.
Monday, February 26, 2007
I’d heard that this Limited Edition Snickers Dark bar was out several months ago, but as usual, it took a while for me to find it. (At the 7-11.) While Hershey’s seems to have a blanket method (“change everything in everything”) for Limited Editions, Mars seems to take a very measured approach to them, sticking to simple little changes. I doubt we’ll see a Wild Cherry Milky Way or Twix Caramel Espresso (though that sound pretty good, come to think of it).
The Limited Edition versions by Mars usually have either changed one ingredient or left one out. The most recent one was the Snickers Xtreme, which had no nougat. This one is just a plain old Snickers with a dark chocolate coating.
I’m a big fan of Snickers, though I rarely buy them. When I do, I find them so substantialicious that I can’t finish it in one sitting. It’s a big bar at 2.07 ounces.
The Dark however, is only 1.83 ounces.
It’s a good bar. I found the dark chocolate tasty, it tastes like actual dark chocolate ... it’s creamy, a little dry a little smoky and is able to hold up to the peanutness of the bar. The darkness of the chocolate is less sweet than the regular bar and actually supports the true peanut flavors much better. However, the dark chocolate does overpower the caramel. The caramel texture still comes through, but the salty sugar notes are completely lost. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
I think this is an excellent change up of the tried and true Snickers and I think I could see myself buying this far more often than the regular Snickers. I really hope they consider making this a permanent part of their repertoire.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Another Limited Edition item from Reese’s and again playing around with similar ingredients. This time they’ve taken the Big Cup with Nuts (which was also a limited edition item - review here) and added some caramel to the bottom of the cup.
I don’t have a cross section of the actual cup because I kind of trashed it taking it out of the package and though it was certainly edible, it was not photogenic. So have a look at the Big Cup with Peanuts (click to get a pop up photo) and imagine a smidge of caramel at the bottom there.
The cup itself is nice and meaty, with lots of room to explore the nuts and peanut butter and a good balance of chocolate. The center is a bit salty which is good because the milk chocolate is a bit sweet and kind of greasy (I know that’s the hazard with chocolate and peanut butter). The caramel blends in well, it has its own salty kick but it doesn’t detract from the crunchy nuts or add too much sweetness. I’d prefer a chewier caramel like you find in a Snickers, but that’s not Hershey’s way.
I actually liked this one a bit better than the Reese’s with Caramel, the caramel was distinctive and the roominess of the peanut butter/peanut stack let it all breathe.
Just to give you a sense, here are the previous Reese’s reviews: Reese’s Bites (soon to be discontinued), Reese’s Cookies, FastBreak, Reese’s Sticks, Nutrageous, Reese’s Snack Barz, Reese’s Pieces Peanut, Reese’s Easter Eggs (two versions), Reese’s Bars for those who don’t like their candy in cups or shaped like trees, and of course the less-than-comprehensive Reese’s Full Line, another Big Cup (with mixed nuts) and their new favorite child, the Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Oh, the Limited Editions ... I’ve been searching for the fabled Elvis Peanut Butter Cups (with banana creme). When I didn’t see those I picked up this new LTD offering called Reese’s Big Cup with Mixed Nuts.
My luck was that it contained lots of nuts and none of them were walnuts. The tall peanut butter cup contains peanuts, pecans, almonds and cashews.
It was just like the Big Cup with Nuts, which isn’t bad on its own. This one was actually improved by the variation in the nuts. I don’t think I ever got a cashew in there, but I did have a few almond and pecan bits. The pecans went especially well as they add their own sort of maple/woodsy essence to the toasted peanut butter taste.
The whole thing was a little greasy, the little fluted paper cup was oily as I removed it for consuming. I suppose I should be glad that the fats were in the cup and not my tummy. It could simply have been that the hot light I use for taking the photo made it a little melty (but I don’t really think that).
The big cup products are also a little smaller than buying the double cup pack and even three grams smaller than the regular Big Cup. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. They’re throwing in more expensive ingredients (premium nuts) ... even Snickers Almond has resorted to padding their product with peanuts instead of just adjusting the portion.
(Yes, I’m aware that three out of five of the reviews were of Hershey products this week, I don’t know what came over me.)
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I saw these new limited edition Reese’s Bars and I grabbed one over the weekend.
The new Reese’s Bar seems to answer the call for the Reese’s Egg to be made year round. But for some strange reason it’s a pale imitation of the Reese’s Egg. I can’t quite figure out why, it is basically an uncupped peanut butter cup.
The bar is a little messier to eat if you take it out of the package. The oiliness of the peanut butter and the softness of the milk chocolate make it especially soft for handling.
The peanut butter center crumbles and melts nicely in the mouth, but the proportion of the chocolate to the peanut butter just isn’t right for me. I think I want a smidge more chocolate or lots more peanut butter.
The other new limited edition addition is this Fudge Reese’s Bar. I was thinking, “Hey, I’d like some peanut butter fudge right now!” But that’s not what I got. In fact, I was wondering if this was ANY different than the Reese’s Bar shown above. The crumbly and cool peanut butter center was just as I remembered eating just a few minutes earlier.
I looked at the labels:
Reese’s Bar...............................Fudge Reese’s Bar
It continues identically to the very end. The difference appears to be within the ingredients of the Milk Chocolate itself. The coating on the Fudge Reese’s Bar is, well, fudgy, instead of chocolatey. The Fudge Bar has more milk in the chocolate enrobing.
While that sounds like it’d be nice, it makes for a mess. It’s not that warm here today (in the high seventies) and it’s rather hard to keep this thing from losing its bar-shaped coherence.
It doesn’t taste as good either, it tastes more like cardboard and less like chocolate.
Whatever the difference, I reject these bars because there’s nothing wrong with the plain old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These give you 1.3 ounces, the regular cups give you 1.5 ounces. They cost the same price ... and because they’re leaving out the little paper cups, I get shafted for .2 ounces? Maybe if you’re on a diet and want to trim those extra, um, 31 calories this would be a good deal. I’m not saying these are bad bars. If Reese’s Peanut Butter cups had never been invented and this was my first introduction, I’d be all for them. But they’re far from an improvement on the existing cups, so they get a poor score and can sink into the dark recesses of Limited Edition history.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.