99 Cent Only Store
Thursday, March 5, 2015
You can download the file directly: MP3.
Here’s a quick review to go with the podcast.
In preparation for the episode, I picked up the 99 Cent Only Store version of the popular Mars candy bar array. The cross sections are shown in the image above. They’re all packaged by Momentum Brands in Turkey. Though the wrappers said that they were milk chocolate covered candy bars, the milk chocolate actually contained dairy whey, which is considered a filler in the United States and cannot be labeled chocolate here. In general whey is used in place of extra sugar in cheaper milk chocolate. Think about it, if you want to make an inexpensive chocolate, you’re going to use as little of the most expensive ingredient as you can. So the cacao content (not even listed) is probably not more than 20%. Then there’s milk, which is usually milk fat and milk powder (which includes both the milk proteins and milk fats) ...and sugar. Too much sugar and the chocolate is unappealing and too much milk fat and the chocolate won’t set. So, milk protein does nicely as a filler that has a slightly malty flavor but is generally benign.
Choco Coco (Bounty) are like Almond Joy without the almonds. The coconut was very firm, but thankfully not that sweet. The milk chocolate has an odd malty flavor to it and a sort of “vitamin” note. Overall, satisfying for a cheap candy ... there were three little bars in the package for 60 cents.
Choco Duo (Twix) - This was a smaller package instead of the king size versions of the others. The sticks smelled malty and sweet. The biscuit base was very hard with a sort of graham cracker or digestive note to it, instead of the exceptionally bland version in the US Twix. The caramel was quite stiff but ultimately chewy ... much chewier than a Twix. The texture of the whole was more within my preferences than actual Twix. But it still isn’t in my arena of candy bars.
Coco Nut (Snickers) were also a king sized package that had two not-quite-full-sized bars. Mine were bloomed (all others were shiny) and I noticed right away that they’re much flatter than Snickers. The ratios are completely off and the peanuts taste foreign, as if they’re a different variety from the US bars. It’s not very peanutty, the caramel and nougat had the same chew ... it was fine for eating, but did not scratch the same itch that a fresh Snickers does.
Coco Nougat (Milky Way) is not at all like a Milky Way. This is actually more like the Milk Munch (also make in Turkey) that I had years ago. Very malty, a little too stiff and not fluffy enough.
I’ll stick to paying full boat for my Mars family of bars, especially when for a similar price, the 99 Cent Only Store sells those snack package with 6 or 8 little bars for a dollar anyway.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Peeps were originally an Easter treat, a small dollop of marshmallow sanded with colored sugar to look like a chick. Now they come in many shapes and are released for all the major holidays. The new Party Cake Peeps are a year round Peep item from Just Born where you get to select the celebration.
I noticed they’re not birthday cake themed, just party, so they could be used for engagements, housewarmings, baby showers, retirement parties, graduations ... the list is endless.
The package describes them as a way to bring home the best part of the celebration—without the cleanup! Enjoy the delicious flavor of the party in each yummy marshmallow bite!
They’re not just turquoise blue, they’re covered in flecks of candy confetti. The confetti is just little bit of transparent, different-colored candy shavings. They come in a set of two trays with five conjoined Peeps in a set. They’re not individually sealed, so once you open the package, the clock is ticking for staleness (which may be good, depending on how you prefer your Peeps).
They smell like a cross between microwave popcorn and coconut tanning lotion. It’s not overpowering, but definitely noticeably different from regular Peeps.
They’re Peep textured, soft and bouncy, easy to bite. The sugary grain was not too much, so it didn’t make a big mess. The inside of the Peep is just lightly creamy colored, like a cake. The flavor is marshmallowy, more vanilla than butter but with that toasted sugar flavor like an Angel Food Cake.
Overall, I liked them, perhaps better than a traditional Peep, except that the blue coloring had a bitter aftertaste.
It’s nice to see a sort of generic, all year Peep on the rotation. I’d like them more if they had that little dip of chocolate on the base like some others, but I haven’t tried the Vanilla Creme to compare. As for its simulation of cake ... there’s nothing baked about this, nothing that tastes like cake at all. They’re not even shaped like little cupcakes. It’s just a fun name.
The next flavor craze they should do: Frozen Yogurt Peeps ... each Peep would be shaped like a twisted dollop of FroYo and you can sprinkle chocolate chips, Cap’n Crunch or crushed Butterfingers on them.
Or Whoopie Pie Peeps: You’d have a two chocolate Peep disks with another vanilla Peep disk in the center.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
I heard about this new version of Annabelle’s Rocky Road bar last year and I’ve been hoping to find them in stores. It’s called Rocky Road S’Mores bar and the package describes it like this: Handmade Milk Chocolate Coated Marshmallow with Real Graham Cracker and Cashews
It’s absolutely obvious that the Rocky Road line of bars should have a S’Mores variety.
The bar comes in a bronzy mylar wrapper, it’s kind of hard to tell apart from the Dark Chocolate Rocky Road from a distance, so I almost grabbed the wrong one when I went out to find more.
The bar smells nicely of marshmallow (basically vanilla and sugar) with an hint of the cereal quality of graham crackers. The bar bends and pulls apart very easily. The marshmallow is pillowy and sticky and though the chocolate sticks well to it, it’s rather a thin coating.
The chocolate is very sweet, but melts quickly and gives a creamy component to bind the flavors together. The graham center is interesting, it’s more like a hearty digestive biscuit than a traditional grocery store graham cracker. It’s not sweet, though could use a little pop of salt. The marshmallow is soft and easy to bite, sticky but not really flavorful on its own. It’s so airy, it’s almost a meringue.
I wanted the graham cracker to be crunchier, crisper. It kind of hides in there, where I feel like it should have more of a texture contribution. The bars don’t travel well, they’re easily smashed, though really look no different even when pristine. The rocky part of the rocky road, the nuts, are small bits and don’t do much for me either. It’s unheard of for a commercial candy bar to even have cashews, which are expensive. So, I’ll accept that they’re subtle rocks. Overall ... my favorite of the Rocky Road line.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Milka is a popular brand of chocolate confections that originated in Switzerland and is now run by Kraft under their Mondelez snack division. The bars are kid friendly, and marketing with attention to their high milk content. They also have a touch of hazelnut paste, too. The box says that Milka is Europe’s #1 brand of chocolate.
Milka comes in dozens and dozens of varieties. In Europe, they can take up six or eight feet of aisle space with their products (photo) and often retail for less than a Euro for a 100 gram bar (photo).
Milka Milkinis are a milk chocolate confection with creamy filling. The box holds eight slender, foil-wrapped bars and weighs 3.08 ounces.
I’ve seen these at Target for a while, usually for about $2.50 a box, but the 99 Cent Only Store also has them for only a buck.
Of course you get what you pay for. Though it says milk chocolate, that’s used as an adjective, not a noun. It’s a confection made from:
A serving is 4 bars, or about 1.5 ounces, which tallies to 260 calories - a whopping 173 calories per ounce ... a peek at the rest of the nutritional panel reveals that’s 17 grams of fat, 10 of which are saturated and account for 50% of your RDA of saturated fat. (I don’t usually mind as much if it’s cocoa butter, but I do mind palm oil).
The bars are about 3 inches long and about 2/3 of an inch wide. They’re rather flat and have four segments with the Milka cow icon on each.
The chocolate coating is quite thin, as you can see from the cross section. This candy is mostly filling. The filling does have a good milky flavor to it, there’s a light hint of malt or a mellow note of something more minerally (there’s 8% of your daily RDA of calcium). There’s also a bit of salt in there, about 75 mg per serving, which is odd because the ingredients don’t list it. It’s soft and kind of pasty. It’s not like a chocolate bar, not quite like fudge. More like a bar of frosting.
I didn’t love them. They were okay, I can see children enjoying them, they’re attractive and the small portion of the individual bars at least makes it easier to moderate intake. If I wanted this sort of creamy thing, I’d probably opt for the Lindt Lindor truffles, even though they’re more expensive.
Milka contains hazelnuts and dairy products, as well as soy. (It’s confusing that they use both soy and sunflower lecithin, maybe they’re in transition.) They’re made in a facility that also processes wheat and almonds. There’s no statement about peanuts at all. Mondelez is currently buys 50% of their palm oil from certified sustainable sources and should be 100% by the end of 2015 (source). They have no stated plans for their cacao sourcing, though some is sourced through Rainforest Alliance and noted as such on their packages.
Friday, November 15, 2013
I’m not usually a fan of R.M. Palmer candies (I can’t call their the vast majority of their products chocolate with any accuracy) but I do appreciate their packaging and design. I browsed their new Christmas offerings a few weeks ago and was actually excited by just the name of their R.M. Palmer Candy Cane Cups. Luckily at only $1.00 at the 99 Cent Only Store, the risk was low and possible rewards were high.
They kind of lost me at the description on the ribbon on the front of the package: Your Two Favorites ... Candy Cane Crunch in a Chocolaty Shell. I happen to know a lot of undiscerning people, but I can’t think of any of them that would call anything “chocolaty” their favorite thing. They might eat it pretty happily ... but most folks prefer the real stuff.
The ingredients include a lot of sugar and partially hydrogenated oils ... I’m not sure what will happen to these if the FDA bans artificial trans fats, though the nutrition panel lists that a serving of 4 cups contains 65% of your RDA of saturated fat, it doesn’t actually show any trans fats (though if it’s less than .5 grams, they can say there’s 0).
The cups are nicely designed. The foil is clean red & white stripes and easy to identify if you were to put them in a candy dish. The cup is a nice size, could be one bit or two small ones. (I always like to look inside.)
They smell quite pepperminty. The chocolate coating is oily but does have a melt-in-your-mouth quality because of all the tropical oils. It has a light cocoa note to it, but it’s barely discernible. The filling is firm but also has a melty but slightly grainy quality. There are little bits of peppermint candy in it that give a slight crunch and texture.
I was prepared to hate these, but it’s a great idea and though not executed with premium ingredients, they’re still passable. Now ... let’s see some real chocolate companies do better.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Sometime about a year ago I picked up some Root Beer Puffs, which were like buttermints but flavored like the soda. A few weeks later I got a note from a company called Red Bird Brand that makes candy puffs in a huge variety of flavors. It took me quite a while to find them, but I did pick up Soft Assorted Puffs at the 99 Cent Only Store that includes 15 different flavors. (Though perhaps not always in the same bag.)
The flavor variety is, well, extraordinary: Peppermint, Cherry, Lemon, Green Apple, Wintergreen, Strawberry, Orange, Grape, Peach, Blueberry, Butterscotch, Watermelon, Cream Penny, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit. There’s a menu guide on the back that shows the key for the combination of colors and stripes. There are about 25 candies in the bag, but the flavors were not distributed evenly.
One of the differences between this style of Puffs and the traditional Buttermint of After Dinner Mint is the size. These are quite large, at about 1 inch across and all of them are individually wrapped. (No more candy dish with the stuck together.)
Cherry was bold and easy to spot. It’s a flavor that’s both heavily scented and with a light tartness to it. It was smooth and had a good melt, but overall, it’s not usually my favorite though at least this didn’t have a lot of red coloring in it.
The flavors not in my bag: Peppermint, Cotton Candy, Passion Fruit and Orange.
For the most part I didn’t like the fruity flavors. The others like butterscotch and wintergreen were more to my liking, even the unflavored Cream Penny were pleasant.
The puffs themselves are quite nice, I liked them more than the variety package. There’s a floral, sort of honey note to them. But they’re also quite cinnamony. I wouldn’t call them hot though, it was a nice heat but they never approached anything like the fire of an Atomic Fireball.
The cinnamon smell is strong, even when they’re in the package, so I had to keep them separated from other candies.
The package for the Assorted Puffs said it was Gluten Free, they’re also Kosher Pareve and appear to be vegan ingredients.
It was strange that I didn’t get the classic Peppermint in the Assorted mix, which is what Red Bird Brand is known for. Overall, the texture was good, they softened up nicely. The package mentions that they’re rather hard when they’re first made, but if you prefer a softer puff, to open the package and wait ... it was true. After a couple of months, mine reached the melt in your mouth texture that I was expecting.
Monday, March 25, 2013
This year was, I felt, the best we’ve had so far this decade for Easter candy diversity. It was a nice mix of classic products, new flavor twists on existing items and then some exciting new diversions. The stores seemed well stocked, better than I saw them two years ago, for example. It’s an encouraging sign for the economy and for our tummies.
Just Born is celebrating 60 years of their iconic Peeps marshmallow candies. They’ve come a long way from the early years when they came in plain yellow. Now they’re available in all the colors of the rainbow and special flavors.
To mark the anniversary, they’ve created a 60th Anniversary version in Vanilla Creme flavor. They’re the individual Peeps (not a conjoined row) and feature little sparkly flecks of multi colored candies, like edible confetti.
I prefer an uncolored Peep, as I think the artificial colorings get in the way of the pure sugary flavor. (Ghost Peeps, for that reason, are the best.)
The Vanilla Creme is a soft flavor, artificial and lacking in the complexity of a nice Tahitian vanilla pod, but still it has a soft and comforting flavor that cuts a bit of the sugary sweetness. They’re bouncy and fluffy and grainy. The little confetti add a little bit of a crunch, but mostly they dissolve quickly on the tongue.
These would be a fun version available all year round. I also heard that they’re releasing Birthday Cake Peeps which are a turquoise blue and yellow cake flavored. (Which is also a great idea for a year-round Peep.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
They’re just egg shaped gumballs.
Smarties Bubble Gum Eggs are made by Ford Gum in the USA with real sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in there. I bought them for $1.49 at Cost Plus World Market, but then I saw them at the 99 Cent Only Store for a dollar.
They’re passably good. They come in different colors, but I really didn’t get a sense that they were different flavors, all vaguely and pleasantly fruity. They were soft enough to bite but have a satisfyingly crunchy shell. Each piece is a good size for chewing, two make for a little too much. The sugar takes a while to be dissolved, so there’s no bubble blowing right away. Even after the sugar is gone, they’re a little too stiff and snappy to blow a good bubble with.
At other times of the year, they’re also available as plain old gumballs. I bought them before and feel the same way about them. They’re okay. Mostly I like them because they’re pretty. I just chew the sugar out, spit out the gum and start up with a new piece.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The concept is that the bunny is flat instead of dimensional, and pre-sectioned to break apart easily. The version I purchased, for a buck, is 2 ounces, or about the size of a King Size bar. It comes apart into five pieces. Each is a good size for dipping into peanut butter, which was always my favorite way to eat my Easter Rabbit.
This is one of those products that solves a problem you didn’t know you had. I’m sure if this were sold on infomercials, the first part would demonstrate all the frustrating things about a sumptuous solid chocolate bunny and how hard it is to eat, how children fight over it and what it should be named.
I don’t have much to say except that it’s a rabbit shaped Hershey’s bar. It’s made from Hershey’s marginally satisfying chocolate, the same stuff in Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Miniatures and those addictive little Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs. While I don’t think Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is good chocolate, it’s mighty fine candy. It’s fudgy, grainy and tangy and comforting.
It’s also made in Mexico. (The Candy Professor had a bit of a rant about Snapsy.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
There’s rarely anything new to report in the world of chocolate rabbits for Easter. There’s plenty of variation: They come in flat styles and three dimensional. Sitting and standing poses. Hollow and solid. Milk, white or dark chocolate (and sometimes flavored solid confection). The chocolate can also have some inclusions. Until recently this was rather rare, and mostly crispy rice. This year Russell Stover, which already makes a white confection Cookies ‘n’ Creme version, came out with the Russell Stover Kris P. Pretzel Bunny.
I learned of the existence of this tasty sounding bunny on Rebekah’s Obsessive Sweets blog. I did find it at CVS but it was a full 7 ounces and four dollars, I just wanted to taste it. So off to the Russell Stover’s website I go and found out that there’s a 1.5 ounce version out there, so I checked out the 99 Cent Only Store. Success ... and only a buck. (Though the large version is a better value.)
The bunny, at only 1.5 ounces, is not particularly large, but compact. It’s quite thick through the middle, and if it were solid (without the pretzel bits), it would probably be more difficult to bite.
Suspended within the milk chocolate are little bits of pretzel. They’re not chunks, they really are teensy bits. My guess is that they have to be in order to get the molding process to work.
The bite is wonderfully grainy, there are a lot of little bits in there. They don’t create the dry crunch that a whole pretzel piece would. Instead there’s more the malty and salty flavors in there and of course the slight grit of a pretzel dust. The chocolate is creamy and sweet, with a light smoky note. Sadly, it’s very salty. There are 240 mg of salt in there, which the package says is 10% of your RDA, but I think, for me, it’s more like 25% since I eat so little salt. So it could easily be cut in half and I think most people would find it still has that zap.
I liked it and would probably buy this variety again. It’d be nice if it came in a dark variety, but the chocolate here was sufficiently strong enough to stand up for itself with the pretzel flavors and textures.
The packaging is excessive. It’s not a large rabbit, but the box is big and has a useless tray inside. I understand needing to box up hollow bunnies, but the solid variety shouldn’t need more than some foil and/or a box, not the tray as well.
Since this has pretzels in it, it’s not gluten free. The bunnies contain soy and dairy. It’s also made on shared equipment with peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. There’s no statement on the package or on Russell Stover’s website about the sourcing of their chocolate or other ingredients except that their chocolate sourcing partners are members of the World Cocoa Foundation.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.