99 Cent Only Store
Thursday, January 6, 2011
There are some candies that sound like fantastic concepts. Even new readers to Candy Blog know that I would favor any confection made of caramel, pecans and cinnamon. About five years ago Cinnabon, the little bakers of fresh cinnamon buns in malls, licensed their flavor and name for a line of candies made by Standard Confectionery Company. Standard is known for their GooGoo Clusters, so it’s no surprise that this line features various iterations of the ingredients all in the plopped cluster shape.
Back in 2006 I went to my first candy trade show, the All Candy Expo in Chicago. This was my first experience with “tasting everything”. This was an amazing time where I could keep an open mind and take small bites or samples of items that I probably wouldn’t consider buying for whatever reason. Most was exactly what I expected, but there were some surprises (both good and bad). I learned quickly that even in small bites there were things that demanded to be spit out. While there I spit three things out. The first was the Cinnabon Cinnamon Pecan Caramel Cluster.
What I didn’t know when I ate that sample was the actual description of this item: Rich Makara Cinnamon Caramel Topped with Crunch Glazed Pecans and Toffee Bits, Drenched in Milk Chocolatey Goodness. You already know where this description went awry ... in fact this might have been the item that mobilized me for the fight against anything that referred to mockolate “goodness”. I’d go so far as to call it “evilness.”
Years went by and I tried them again and had a similar reaction to the overly sweet, strangely grainy and waxy confection. Yes, the cinnamon notes were fantastic, but air freshener smells fantastic, that doesn’t make me want to eat it.
The Cinnabon Cinnamon Mousse Pecan Cluster says it’s Rich Makara cinnamon mousse topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in dark chocolatey goodness. My spell checker knows that chocolatey isn’t a word, and I know that it isn’t chocolate.
The packaging is nice, it has an accurate image on the front and I actually liked the little swirly bun designs on the edges of the wrapper. The pieces are 1.5 ounces (about 2.5 inches in diameter), which I think is a nice portion for candy, in this case it clocks in at 180 calories.
My candy had a slight bloom on the top, not bad, just a light haze in some spots. The lumpy shape gave me hope that there were plenty of these glazed pecans.
I don’t know what Makara Cinnamon is. I’ve looked it up and can’t actually find that there is a real thing, it’s just like the Colonel’s 11 Herbs & Spices, a proprietary blend of some sort. Its mystery aside, the cinnamon does smell good. It’s a tantalizing blend of woodsy notes, a sort of heady volatile oil similar to menthol and a warm resin. The patties have a nice bite and texture. The mockolate coating is marginally flavorful, it’s overpowered by the cinnamon but the texture is smooth enough once it melts. The center of the patty is a sort of soft fudge that tastes kind of like the sweet center of a pecan pie, but a little more grainy. The pecans are nicely glazed with a sugary coating that gives them a salty crunch. Other than that hit of salt though, the whole thing is sickly sweet and quickly made my throat sore.
This version comes in a white wrapper and is easy to distinguish from the other versions. It also reminds me that Cinnabon has the flavor that warms the soul.
The description on this one is Rich Makara cinnamon cream topped with crunchy glazed pecans and toffee bits, drenched in white chocolatey goodness. Now, I get how the dark one can claim some sort of “chocolatey goodness” since it does have some cocoa solids in it. This product has not one gram of cocoa content whatsoever. It can’t be like chocolate because there’s nothing that’s even chocolate adjacent about it.
Even the color of the white confection coating is odd, it’s not at all like white chocolate, which has a yellow cast and a translucent quality. It’s opaque, like a primer coat.
It does smell smooth and buttery though, and I loved the way the fake butter smell combined with the Makara cinnamon, in that way that actual Cinnabon kiosks can draw you in.
Again I liked the glazed pecans - they were small but had a salty crunch. The white coating was sweet and had a less convincing melt than the truly chocolatey one. There are toffee bits advertised in both of these, but I noticed that they’re more like corn flakes (rice flour is listed as an ingredient)
Sweet, strange and unreal. I don’t mind candy that becomes fantasy - but this was just a poor imitation of real things that could be fantastic. Call it the uncanny valley of candy.
If you’re a fan of candles instead of candy, well this is the stuff for you. If you’re looking for something that emulates the fresh baked Cinnabon experience, I’d say stick to your memories of that and wait for the real thing.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Since starting Candy Blog my consumption of ice cream has decreased to nearly nothing. Two reasons: I simply can’t afford the calories given my candy habits and as I get older I’m less and less lactose tolerant (which really takes the enjoyment out of it). That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss it. One of the things I miss is the texture; the other is the flavor combinations. Mint chocolate chip just doesn’t work in the same way in any other format than ice cream.
Baskin-Robbins has a line of ice cream themed candies. I tried the chewy candies a few years ago and decided that they were not for me. But I did see these hard candies at the 99 Cent Only Store. Baskin-Robbins Smooth & Creamy Hard Candy. I decided to try the Pralines ‘n Cream because it sounded like a flavor that could be made into a hard candy well. The ingredients looked pretty good too: sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, salt, natural & artificial flavors, soy lecithin, honey and soybean oil.
The candies are individually wrapped and well marked (in case you buy several varieties and want to mix them in a bowl). Each piece was a combination of two colors, a light milky caramel color and a darker toffee color. They smell sweet, toasty and rather like walking into an actual Baskin-Robbins.
The texture isn’t quite silky smooth, but they’re still quite slick. I prefer to crunch mine and these have a nice cleave to them (though some could also be tough and chewy - that could be that I left them in my car and it got a little hot). The flavor has a good blend of caramelized sugar notes, butterscotch pudding and a liberal dose of salt. They’re quite sweet, but so is Pralines ‘n Cream Ice Cream. I ate most of the bag in one sitting, so after three or four it got a bit throat searing - that’s a lot of sugar.
I was pretty pleased with these. They’re a little different from something like a Werther’s, more milky. The price was pretty good, too. I know the bag only had 3.5 ounces for a dollar, but that’s a decent deal for a very dairy laden candy. I don’t know why the package says “Value Size”, as I don’t know what other package sizes and price points are available. Usually value sizes are large ... I considered this two servings. (Though the package seems to think three is a serving.)
Each piece has 20 calories. They’re not really low calorie candies, just small. At 121 calories per ounce, there’s a fair amount of fat in there for a sugar candy, about 2 grams per ounce.
The hard candies also come in Very Berry Strawberry and Mint Chocolate Chip. I have my doubts about the success of those flavors in this format, so I’ll probably just quite while I’m ahead.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Ah, Mandy’s Old Fashioned Confections. Just look at that charming packaging, how it speaks of artisans stirring a copper kettle of gooey butterscotch with a wooden paddle. Why, I can just picture Mandy herself swooping in to affirm that the mixture was cooked to perfection before it’s dumped onto a generations-old marble slab to cool.
In reality Mandy’s is distributed by ASA Foods, a 16 year old Southern California importer. They also make candy under the brand Fusion Gourmet, their best known candies are the Bali’s Best Coffee and Tea candies. All of their candy (as far as I know) is made in Indonesia ... a place that certainly knows about coffee.
While I may make fun it, the packaging is nice. The Butterscotch Flavored Hard Candy was nicely priced; I picked up this package for a dollar at the 99 Cent Only Store. It says it has 40 individually wrapped pieces and weighs 5 ounces. The ingredients are decent too:
Each piece is individually wrapped. Sealed tight. Yup, no moisture getting in there. They’re a little tricky to get open, but having spent some time in high humidity areas recently I can appreciate how that would make these even more appealing.
The candies are cute little disks, they’re just shy of one inch around (about the size of a quarter). They’re smooth and have a satisfying clink when dropped on a hard surface (and an unsatisfying tendency to split into a bajillion pieces when dropped on a hard surface). The package calls them Rich, Creamy and Buttery and I’m inclined to agree. They are wonderfully smooth. The melt is slow and silky, though not sticky. The butter flavor is good, though artificially flavored it doesn’t taste like microwave popcorn. There’s a light note of salt and a milky background to it. They’re like little toffee pieces, easy to crunch. Far to easy to crunch. That’s the way I was eating them, just crunching them up. Sometimes they’d get stuck in my teeth a little bit.
The second flavor I found for Mandy’s Old Fashioned Confections was the Caramel Flavored Hard Candy. This package is largely identical to the Butterscotch. This one describes the candy as Rich, Smooth and Creamy and uses browns as the predominant background color.
The description on the back of the package also says that Mandy’s makes an Orange Soda variety.
The package depicts the candies as dark brown in color, like coffee and cream. But the reality is not quite that way (though really not disappointing either). I put the caramel and butterscotch ones next to each other. See if you can tell the difference:
I don’t remember which is which. The ingredients are pretty much the same, too:
Again, it’s ultra smooth. The lightly salty hard caramel is very satisfying, especially when I crunched them up.
Though the flavorings are supposed to be different, they really don’t taste much different. Buttery smooth, salty, slick and satisfying.
I enjoyed both quite a bit, especially as it’s extraordinary hot this week, I get to enjoy a creamy treat that can take the heat. They’re a good deal, a really nicely sized piece and don’t have artificial colors in them.
There’s no statement about gluten or nuts on the package. They’re not Kosher (nor Halal). The freshness date was “best by May 2012.” They’re pretty diet friendly - even though they have 125 calories per ounce (about the same as toffee or caramel) the little pieces are only 4 grams each and 16 calories each.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I think one of the best comfort confections out there has to be a fresh Pecan Turtle, especially if it’s made with dark chocolate. But when I saw this box of Demet’s Hazelnut Turtles at the 99 Cent Store on Friday I was willing to entertain the notion that hazelnuts would be equally delicious.
I have to say, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen hazelnut turtles before. I’m even more surprised to see them from DeMets, especially since their website makes no mention of their existence at all. The other weird thing about the package is that it doesn’t say “made with Nestle chocolate” on the front. Not that this is a bad thing, I don’t really care much for the chocolate on DeMet’s turtles, so the lack of it brought the possibility that it was better.
The box is huge but clearly says that there are 6 pieces and they weigh 3.5 ounces. Since I purchased them at the 99 Cent Only Store they were only a buck, which I think is a great deal for a real hazelnut and real chocolate confection. The box was shrink-wrapped, so they were definitely fresh though I couldn’t find a freshness date on them. Each little turtle is about 1.5” inches around but sits in a larger slot in the box. They’re just plain over-packaged.
They smell sweet and a little like caramel and fresh oatmeal. Biting into them it was clear that these were mostly caramels and not that studded with nuts at all. The caramel had a nice chew, a good stringy pull and light salty note. The hazelnuts are chopped pretty small but still have a good crunch and grassy/roasted flavor. The chocolate is fair; it’s very sweet and has a strong dairy flavor but not much cocoa really.
I would have loved a good quality, hazelnut rich chew here, but I shouldn’t have expected so much for a buck. Still, it’s better than many candy bars and hazelnuts are pretty hard to find in mainstream confections.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I buy candy a lot of places, but probably the ones that fit best with the original intentions of Candy Blog are the dollar stores. Dollar stores and discounters like Dollar Tree, Family Dollar Store and 99 Cent Only Stores have a mix of closeout products, mainstream candies and then a bunch of weird stuff that you’ve never seen before and may never see again. One of the purposes of Candy Blog was to seek out those fringe candies and demystify them. Here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve picked up:
There’s no reason a couple of handfuls of fresh peanuts and some sugar can’t be dirt cheap and delicious. The good news is that I think Old Dominion has done an excellent job filling that niche. Old Dominion Butter Toffee Peanuts don’t come in the most attractive package ever, but the package has five ounces and boasts only four ingredients: peanuts, sugar, butter and salt. They’re Kosher and American made.
They’re a simple panned nut. A buttery toffee coating on whole peanuts.
They’re buttery, a little salty, crunchy and fresh. Not much more to say except that I wish they sold these in the vending machines in the basement of my office building. (My old office had PNuttles from time to time, which is similar, but a little more “toasty” where these are “buttery”.)
I bought the Zachary Thick Mints at the 99 Cent Only Store because they’re called Thick Mints. I mean, how could I resist. They’re mints and they’re thick.
They’re real chocolate, so they have that going for them. I don’t know much about Zachary as a brand for chocolate, I’ve had their sugar candies around Halloween and found them passable, but I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to sugar ... not so much when it comes to chocolate. The tray is flimsy and insubstantial as a serving piece (it bends and spills out the contents) but it did its job along with the box of protecting the product.
They are as advertised, they’re big and thick. They’re about the same diameter as the mini foil-wrapped York Peppermint Patties (about 1.33 inches across) but they’re at least a half an inch high. The inside is more like a Junior Mint (a flowing mint fondant) than a York Peppermint Pattie (a crumbly and dry fondant). The mint fondant is smooth, with a tiny grain to it but a smooth pull and strong almost alcoholic peppermint flavor. The chocolate is a letdown, not terribly cream and lacking a solid cocoa punch. It still does a good job of containing the minty center.
A couple of months ago I got the notion that I should review the chocolate covered caramel bites that come in Movie Theater boxes. (Yeah, a very specific genre of candy, but there are at least three of them.) This one got as far as the acquisition of the candy, photography and consumption. I just couldn’t think of much of a hook for it. But hey, I can’t let it go to waste.
I found Hershey’s Milk Duds, Tootsie Junior Caramels and Zachary Chocolate Caramels at the Dollar Tree. So they’re all the same price and basically the same thing. But very different.
Zachary Chocolate Caramels are the newest one on the market. The box is rather generic but at least well made. The photo of the baubles of milk chocolate are appetizing and the product within does actually look like that. The box holds 4.8 ounces, not the biggest value of the bunch, but still a lot of candy, especially if it’s real chocolate.
Of the three this was the only one that had a protective bag inside. They’re really big and have a decent milky smell. The milk chocolate is thick but not very flavorful. There are some dairy notes but the melt isn’t smooth. The caramel center is soft and easy to chew. It doesn’t have a strong butter or caramelized sugar flavor, it’s more like a cereal note. Just slightly toasty and sweet, it reminds me of Kraft Caramels.
The Junior Caramels box says that it has 10% more free, which is good because it doesn’t even manage to cram 4 ounces in there. The package says that they’re soft milk caramels in pure chocolate. (Here’s my original review when they were first introduced in 2005.)
The chocolate isn’t as thick as the Zachary ones and they’re not as glossy. They don’t smell like much and don’t taste like caramel or milk chocolate either.
The chew of the center is soft but not grainy. Again it’s lacking in butter, toasted sugar and that stringy pull that I love about caramel.
Milk Duds have been around since the 20s. They’ve gone through many changes in corporate ownership, packaging and formulation. Recently Hershey’s stopped using real milk chocolate to coat these choice little caramel bits which is too bad.
They really live up to their name when it comes to appearance, the caramel centers are rarely spherical, they’re flattened lumps. The caramel centers of Milk Duds are quite firm. The chew though is completely smooth and slick. The flavor is authentically toffee-like with a luxurious milky note. It’s so sad that the cardboard mockolate on the outside trashes the flavor with off notes and waxy cocoa. (I can’t say that the chocolate was great when it was real chocolate, but at least the flavor wasn’t off even if the texture was.)
It’s hard to declare a winner with this motley bunch. I love the center of Milk Duds, but the Zachary really do look the most appealing. I can’t say I want to eat any of them again and will probably dump out the rest of them before I flatten the boxes to be saved in my collection.
Friday, April 9, 2010
It’s so frustrating when I know that there’s a candy out there I want to try but I just can’t get a hold of it. The Pink Grapefruit Tic Tac have been around for a couple of years, but as far as I knew they were sold only as a “big pack” and only at WalMart.
I’ve been scouring eBay and the discount dollar stores ever since, hoping they’d turn up. Thankfully last weekend I found them at the 99 Cent Only Store - and for only 59 cents a package. I bought two, because I knew I’d love them.
The box holds exactly one ounce, which sounds like a single portion to me, the way I eat Tic Tacs. (I eat them like they’re candy.)
They’re a beautiful shade of pink (carmine but at least the ingredients are all natural). They don’t smell like much, but they sound great in the package when I shake it.
They’re soft and smooth, a little slick on the tongue at first. Then they give up the flavor. The grapefruit is a good zesty blast, especially after the pink outside coating comes off. It’s tangy but I wouldn’t call it sour. I usually chew mine, so I was getting a big dose of grapefruit. It’s pretty intense if you eat a lot of them in a row since they use real dry pink grapefruit juice. In fact, after about half the package it was making my tongue vibrate a little bit from the citrus oils. There’s also a little bit of a mentholated after taste, it doesn’t really make them minty, but it does make my breath feel fresher when I inhale.
I would definitely buy these on a regular basis if I can find them reliably.
I saw that Ebidebby found them and Candy for Dinner also The Candy Enthusiast had the Citrus Punch Limited Edition version that included Pink Grapefruit.
Ferrero has changed the packaging just slightly. The old polystyrene that made such a satisfying rattling sound is gone and now they’re using polypropylene which cuts energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course it’s also important to reuse and then recycle the packaging when you’re done. The polypropylene is a little softer so the candy boxes don’t crack as easily as they used to. Do you have any tips on what to do with the boxes when you’re done?
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A weekend trip to the 99.99 Cent Only Store meant a lot of decisions. There’s plenty there that I’m curious to try, and often do, but most of the time it’s my fascination with what may be very bad that gets me to buy something, not the hope that it’s good. (Examples: Beechies Force Chew Candies, Choco-Fudge Mallow Sundae, Skittles Fresh Mint and a roll of LifeSavers that were probably 10 years old.
When I found a little display in the Valentine’s aisle though with some edible body paints and these Decorated Chocolate Shoes I thought that they were actually a good score. The packaging is a little plain, but part of me suspected that these were part of a larger gift package (maybe a basket or box) that were broken up into separate items that could be sold off for a dollar ... and most likely they were from Christmas and still fresh. The expiry date on the shoe was April 2010.
The package is two components: an outer clear plastic box with the label affixed to it with the stretchy silver bow and an inner two part clear plastic “mold” for the shoe. This did a great job of both displaying the candy and protecting it. It was fully taped all around the seam between the two parts, so very well sealed.
There were two things that gave me pause about the purchase. First, it’s made in China. The company that distributes them is called Galerie and is based in Hebron, Kentucky. (They also make gourmet candy corn.) My confidence level in products containing milk from China is admittedly low since the melamine scandal. Second, the ingredients don’t look good. Technically this should not be labeled chocolate, as the milk chocolate contains whey as an ingredient, considered a “filler” by US FDA standards. But I was attracted by the price and size and figured some readers might be as well.
The shoe itself is about four inches long with a 1.75” heel. At 2.7 ounces it’s pretty hefty, so besides that well in the shoe for a foot, it’s solid chocolate. The molding is nice, the chocolate has a good sheen to it and the decorations, though modest at just four pink colored “white chocolate” hearts on each side are precisely painted. (I looked around and didn’t see any other varieties in the store, though I suspect that other versions exist.)
The chocolate smells a bit woodsy, sweet and milky. It’s pretty tough to bite, kind of like eating an Easter rabbit. The texture though is rather smooth. I was pleased with the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet (adding whey actually makes this possible - it helps maintain the texture without adding expensive cocoa butter or cocoa but not sweetness of sugar - in very small amounts it doesn’t influence the flavor).
As a molded novelty item for this price, I’d say it’s excellent. My interest in milk chocolate in the shape of a high-heeled shoe with hearts on it is extremely low, so I can’t say that this is a great gift for me. If you’re looking for a party favor or a little gift where the visual impact is more important than the actual chocolate, this is perfect. Out of the package it can be used for decoration, and as I showed above for scale, filled with M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses or even a few small chocolate covered strawberries it’s great.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I spied these at the check out aisle of the 99 Cent Store and figured they were Dubble Bubble ... and they know gum. The Chewola Bubble Gum box looks like it holds a small set of crayons like you’d get in a favor bag at a party or at a restaurant with your “shut up and let the parents enjoy food they didn’t cook” meal.
The problem with the package right at the start is that they look even more generic than Prang. Ever get generic crayons? They’re filled with pebbles, floor sweepings and smell like rendered road kill. (Non-toxic? Maybe, but not even the weirdest kids would eat those.) Happily these smelled like powdered sugar.
First real issue: they’re not fully styled as crayons (as the box depicts). I mean, what sort of twisted & cruel adult would give kids unsharpened crayons? 90% of the fun of a pristine box of crayons is the fresh point. How many of us eschew the colors that have the tips broken off before you even opened the box?
Instead they look an awful lot like candy cigarettes. They even have that satisfying “smoke blow” when you puff against one end to get the waft of corn starch through the wrapper.
Two of the crayons were red. That means 40% of the package is one color. How would you like it if you opened your box of 264 Crayolas and 105 of them were the same shade of red? How creative would you feel? Especially when you did those drawings for the nice talking doctor that your parents sent you to, don’t you think he’d be inclined to think you were abnormally angry because you used so much red in your drawings? Do you think he’d understand that it’s not your fault, that you can only use the tools you’re provided ... and if you’re given angry colors, then well, you’re going to make angry looking drawings? (But look at the box, it has happy kids that say happy things in red like “A TIME TO LOVE.”)
So packaging & childhood traumas aside (not my traumas ... those were for hilarious effect, right, you get that, right?) they’re just rods of gum.
Purple is an extremely mild grape. A kind of stiff chew at first with a vague fake grape flavor. It was sweet, very very sweet. So sweet that I reread the ingredients because this couldn’t possibly be just sugar. But it was.
A single crayon makes for a good sized piece for bubble blowing. It took a while to chew away enough sugar. The gum wasn’t grainy like many gums, so it was hard to know quite when it was ready without some trials. The final bubbles were decent, not huge but satisfying.
The gum didn’t stick to my dental work, so that was a plus.
Red is cherry. Again, very sweet but at least a bit stronger in flavor.
Orange was orange. It was really chalky and messy with all the corn starch on it, but after that it was pretty flavorful ... it reminded me of Froot Loops. Mmm, why didn’t they ever make a Froot Loops gum ... the little pieces could be shaped like little Froot Loops.
Green was a surprise. I thought it’d be lime or green apple, instead it’s wintergreen. Rather pleasant, the best of the set of flavors.
The gum was decent, the theming was pretty good. (Ultimately I think putting two reds in there is probably a good plan, especially when kids are supposed to share and then there are no fights.) I wish it was a bit fresher, but I bought it at the 99 Cent Store, so I give a little bit more leeway. They would make a nice themed favor or decoration at a party. There’s also a lot of gum in the box for the price.
Special Bonus: because it’s a tuck-flap box, when emptied it works spectacularly as a noisemaker.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:09 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.