99 Cent Only Store
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
When I was a kid I loved craft kits. Things like Shrinky Dinks, Spirograph, those looms for making your own rag potholders, and of course lots of improvised crafts with yarn, fabric & items around the house. My brother had similar leanings and in particular he had an insect maker called Creepy Crawlers Bug Making Kit (or something similar from the late seventies era).
I’m sure there were girly versions of this kit where you stuck latexy goo into little molds, let them set and then popped out a squishy temporary toy. Perhaps you could make your own hair jewelry or flair for your My Little Pony or Polly Pocket ... not that I had either of those toys.
You’re probably wondering at this point, when is she going to mention what the candy for review is? Well, I don’t want to. I bought it, I took pictures of it ... but I just can’t seem to bring myself to eat it just yet.
The package says that it contains two 100 calories packs inside. I sigh at this, because I’m concerned about children counting calories, especially when the creatures on the package are no bigger than my hand and couldn’t possibly need more than 100 calories in a day (well, I’m not actually sure of that, since I don’t know about the combination of warm-bloodedness and wings/flight would have on energy demands and google was no help).
But enough about that.
Each little packet had five gummi items in it. Each is about 1.25 to 1.5 inches across.
The color & texture is startling. While I found it appealing, I felt like it was more appropriate for a plastic pin that I’d affix to my rainbow suspenders than something I’d like to eat. (Which brings me back to that molded insect toy maker.) The texture was soft and pliable, much like those sticky octopods that you could buy for a quarter in a vending machine at the grocery store. (Something like this?)
Pink Daisy: Watermelon - soft and chewy, it was perfumy with a slight tangy note to it. Besides the bright pink color, it was much like most other gummis, expect the food coloring gave it a bitter aftertaste for me.
Blue Butterfly: Raspberry - the flavor was mild and pleasant, again with a strong artificial bent like the watermelon, though less weird aftertaste.
Green Flower: Apple - this one was the most artificial of them all and had an unpleasant dank note to it.
In this case the candies looked exactly like they did on the package. I didn’t care for the flavors, but the texture was good. They’re actually more fun, as far as I’m concerned, as toys. They stick pretty nicely on glass (like a mirror or car window) but of course leave a bit of a greasy film.
The actual candies have no affiliation with the Pixies ... they’re not items the Fairies eat, not shaped like characters or even named for anything in particular that relates.
I’d prefer if Disney stopped using these companies that manufactured in China and used so many artificial ingredients without much regard to how the licensed product fit into the image of the characters & story. (I think the Bertie Bott’s/Jelly Belly/Harry Potter is one of the truest tie ins.)
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In case you haven’t been reading along, Nips are a hard caramel, first made by a company called Pearson’s which was later bought out by Nestle. They’re a great summer candy because they don’t melt but have a rich creamy flavor that can satisfy that craving even on the stickiest of days.
Both are variations on previously reviewed Nips, as they’re filled & flavored.
The Chocolate Parfait Nips are made up of a Caramel Nip outside and a chocolate flavored inside.
The caramel is a little salty, creamy and with a silky sweet melt on the tongue. Sometimes it softens up a bit for splitting & bending ... or cementing teeth together.
Inside the bliss of the confection loses track for me. The chocolate center is like an oily Tootsie Roll. The chocolate flavor is weak and the texture is worse than that, a sort of waxy, greasy mess.
I’ve had this box for several months and I’ve eaten all of four of them so far.
The Mocha Nips are a bit darker looking. The rich hardened caramel is coffee flavored, just like the original Coffee Nips. In this case the mocha element comes from the cocoa paste filling.
The creamy, milky coffee outer portion is just like the classic Nip ... a good rounded coffee flavor. The inside though, like the Chocolate Parfait isn’t quite chocolate, it’s more like a frosting.
The bold strength of the coffee flavored outside masks the chocolate deficiencies better than the Chocolate Parfait, so I did end up finishing most of the box.
While I appreciate the attempt to create a few other versions, the chocolate just isn’t good enough to make me chose these over the classic solid flavors.
Friday, April 24, 2009
One of the most confounding stories from last year was not that Hershey’s degraded the recipe of some of their most favored & oldest chocolate bars including the Mr. Goodbar. No, it was the introduction of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts.
Hershey’s spokesman insisted that consumers actually prefer the new formula of the Mr. Goodbar, which has a strong, salty & burnt peanut taste over the earlier Hershey’s tangy milk chocolate flavor combined with fresh roasted peanuts. So, why, if so many people like it would they introduce a new bar that is basically the old bar instead of keeping the old bar the way it was an introducing a new bar that tastes like the old bar’s new formula? (I told you it was confusing.)
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts bar was introduced and sold exclusively at WalMart. I got mine at the 99 Cent Only Store. I don’t know if they’re supposed to be carrying it or these are just WalMart overruns.
So, what’s inside? First, the bar is 1.45 ounces. A standard Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces ... so this nutty Hershey’s is even smaller.
The ingredients are:
The bar has a soft snap, like most Hershey’s chocolate products. It smells like peanuts, but not quite the same soft scent of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. On the tongue the first flavor I get is not chocolate or peanuts but salt. The chocolate is a bit fudgy and grainy, but has a rather smooth dissolve on the tongue. The peanuts don’t taste as dark and charcoal-ish as the new Mr. Goodbar. But the saltiness made it taste like fake butter.
It’s not a bad bar ... and it’s not Mr. Goodbar. It’s just some other new bar that’s not distinct enough to warrant being more than a something in an assortment of miniatures. Which brings me to the fact that this Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts is not even, technically, a new confection from Hershey’s. I first had it when I bought at bag of Hershey’s Nut Lovers Miniatures in January of 2005. (Here’s a photo.)
I feel like the victim of an elaborate shell game where actually finding the ball under the right shell doesn’t actually mean that you get anything satisfying ... like your money’s worth. This new bar is nice enough, but why is it 1.45 ounces (same as the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds) instead of the 1.55 of the Milk Chocolate bar. Did peanuts suddenly become more expensive than chocolate?
Just for the record, here are the iterations of Mr. Goodbar:
Ingredients (as of 2008): Sugar, peanuts, vegetable oil (palm, shea, sunflower and/or safflower oil) chocolate, whey (milk), nonfat milk, contains 2% or less of milk fat, soy lecithin, salt, vanillin. (60 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
In this new mockolate version the bar tastes like it has more peanuts, the peanuts have a darker roast that gives it a slight bitterness that’s moderated by heaps more salt than before and what tastes like some sugary fudge/wax with very little cocoa taste.
Ingredients (circa 2006): Milk Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, nonfat milk, lactose, milk, milk fat, soya lecithin and PGPR as emulsifiers and vanillin, an artificial flavoring) and Peanuts. (20 mg of sodium 1.75 ounces)
If you really missed the classic Mr. Goodbar, the new Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Peanuts will probably make you happier than buying the current mockolate Mr. Goodbar. (Unless you’re on a sodium restricted diet.) I’d like to say that there’s an alternative, but peanuts & chocolate are kind of the domain of Hershey’s & Reese’s ... it’s sad that they don’t have something to offer that’s better.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have been waiting nearly a year to find these! I first read about them last year on Candy Addict’s list of new products coming out from Hershey’s. The release date of December 2008 came and went and I kept my eyes open but still didn’t see them in the stores ... not even on the internet. I thought maybe Hershey’s decided not to put them out.
Then last week I wandered down to the 99 Cent Only Store about a mile from my office to see what was new. I found a box. One box. Just sitting there, mixed in with the Sugar Babies and Care Bears Gummi Bears. I would have bought more, but this was all they had (and this one was a little dinged).
The front of the package was no help. It describes these only as Sweet and Spicy chewy candy. The side of the package pushed me in the direction of Good & Fruity when I looked at the ingredients. The first three are dextrose, sugar & corn syrup. Good & Plenty has wheat flour as part of the licorice.
So now I knew that I was expecting: Lemon, Orange, Apple & Cinnamon jelly rods.
All that confusion aside ... the box design is fabulous. I love the bold colors & graphic style (which is why there are so many photos in this review).
Lemon (Yellow) - bright and translucent, I was more than curious what the combination of lemon and cinnamon would hold. The candy shells on these is rather thin & crunchy. Now, the flavor ... at first it’s a little bitter. The shell is sweet, but the little sweet veneer wears off and I got a slight bitter hit, an organic type of woodsy bitter. I got lemon zest too ... and then cinnamon. At the very end there was a little twang of tartness.
It’s downright bizarre. It’s like eating a candle. Not in a bad way.
Orange (orange) - also starts with a slight bitterness but that moved into a very strong sweetness quickly. The cinnamon here is like an actual cinnamon stick - woodsy with notes of cedar and pine and then a strong snap of tartness then some more bitter at the end. There’s a warm feeling from the cinnamon but not a strong lingering one.
Apple (red) - I had trouble telling the reds apart when I didn’t have another to compare it to (though usually the cinnamon ones were a bit fatter). This apple is sweet and tangy and has that nice combination of apple juice flavor mixed with that made-in-the-lab note of “green apple flavoring”. The cinnamon is a bit of a background here but makes it taste a bit like a McDonald’s Hot Apple Pie. (Without the “caution filling is hot” label.)
Cinnamon (dark red) - I was expecting the plain cinnamon to be like a Hot Tamale or Sizzling Cinnamon Jelly Belly. Instead this one went in a wholly different direction. The shell on these seemed crispier. The cinnamon flavor on the outside was soft. Then at the edge of the shell and the jelly center there was a burst of flavor - like an all cinnamon chai - it had a burning warmth and some really authentic notes of real cinnamon, not just the cinnamon oils.
This has to be one of the strangest ventures I’ve seen Hersheys’ take in quite a while. It’s like they subcontracted the folks who developed the Dots: Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire & Water) to come up with a brand extension for Good & Fruity. I’m completely puzzled by these though, because I think Hershey’s created a great new product with their Cinnamon Twizzlers Fire. Why couldn’t they have taken those and made a version of that like the true Good & Plenty?
Those who are disappointed by the soulless rebirth of Good & Fruity aren’t going to find any comfort here. Those who enjoy cinnamon with all the variations of the flavor might find some solace.
Joann from Sugar Hi reviewed them a few months ago, at least helping to disambiguate their candy category but didn’t dissuade me from trying them.
Friday, April 3, 2009
For some reason people want Energy. I’m not quite sure why they’re looking for products specifically labeled that way, as my understanding is that all food contains energy. Calories are available energy from food. If it doesn’t have calories, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not food.
But consumers, I believe, have been duped into thinking that stimulants are actually energy. They’re not, they’re just, well, stimulants. Stimulants make you feel like doing stuff, as the general state of humans (if you believe advertising and general laws of physics) is to be inert and bored. Stimulants, though, don’t cure boredom or actually get anything done.
Caffeine is the most common stimulant and is naturally found in a product that masks the bitter and unpleasant taste of it very well: coffee. Caffeine also works as an additive in other products in smaller quantities, usually products with natural alkaloids, like chocolate or perhaps strong fruit flavors.
There are some other compounds which are also grouped into energy products: Taurine and B vitamins (Niacin, B6 and B12). These have their own distinct flavors, often known collectively as the “vitamin burp” taste. (You can read about these at Energy Fiend)
All of this writing, however, is just vamping. After trying my first Beechies Force Chewy Candy, I didn’t want to continue.
Lemon - it looks pretty good and the first crunch of the candy shell was a bright & promising sweet lemon flavor. But chewing it, well, I should probably start posting photos of my facial expressions. The first was something akin to “Wha? Is this really happening? Does this really taste like this?” kind of quizzical look. Then a bitterness set in, which caused me to furrow my brow. Then came a general distasteful look that someone might mistake for “May I spit this out in your hand please? Please! Right now!”
And then I waited for a couple of weeks. I reviewed a bunch of other stuff, even avoided reviewing yesterday by posting a new products announcement list. I carried the bags around with me in my “to review” package. The wrapper does say recharge - refresh - renew so I thought I’d try again.
Green Apple went a little better. The candy shell is tangy and has that comforting artificial apple flavor. Then ... well, it took a turn for the worse. The soft chew of the center, which is rather like a Mentos, had a bit of a bitter tingle. The flavor was that midrange bitterness that reminds me of dirty gym socks. But it was mercifully short
Strawberry was a beautiful red. Much prettier than any Mentos. The shell flavor was soft and sweet. The inner chew was musty and tasted like generic chewable vitamins.
935 mg of Taurine
This combination of chemicals does not give me energy, it gives me angry.
I emailed the company, Richardson Brands, to see if they actually still make these. They never responded. Their website doesn’t list them on a product page but includes them in the ingredients/nutritional section. I found record of them being offered at All Candy Expo in 2006, but under different flavors. The only place I’ve ever seen these for sale is at the 99 Cent Only Store, but I have seen them at multiple stores and the packages appear fresh and current.
The chew itself was odd looking, it’s olive green. Really nicely done olive green, but just not a color I associate with rich, roasted coffee. (But I do associate with unroasted coffee.)
The outer shell is sweet and has a mellow coffee flavor. The inner chew is rather promising. It’s sweet and has a latte taste - both creamy and with some good brewed coffee flavors. The bitterness is there, but rather believable because of the coffee flavor.
I still had the aftertaste of bitter B vitamins, but it didn’t feel as strange because there was no tangy fruit flavor component. I wouldn’t call these great, but compared to the fruit ones, they’re actually edible. They reminded me of the Chewy Coffee Rio.
The other trick I found is to actually chew it all up. When I ate my second Java, I left the candy shell dissolve. Bad idea, because that’s where the extra sugar was. The center chew is not as sweet, but if you let it dissolve like a hard candy, it’s not a bad either. They do end with coffee breath though, so have some real mint Mentos on hand for that (as a side note, there is a caffeinated version of Mentos available in Europe).
An 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee (yes, I actually drink just an 8 ounce cup) contains about 100 mg of caffeine but no calories. Each bag contains two servings (140 calories)... and for only a buck, it’s a pretty good price for an easily metered amount of caffeine. I suppose you can swallow them whole.
I can see these having their place. For travelers, especially those who don’t want to take in a lot of liquids, it’s a nice alternative to coffee or energy drinks. They’re extremely portable (although 14 of them do take up a bit of space).
The package says a serving is 14 pieces, but it holds on 25 ... so it’s just shy of two actual servings. They’re made in
Colombia, which knows a lot about coffee. I’m keeping the Java (4 out of 10) ones on hand for medicinal purposes but I’m throwing out the fruit ones (1 out of 10).
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I was a little confused that this package says “new” since I saw them on sale last year, but the freshness date says best by 06/2010. I was also confused when I tried to find these via the Just Born website and it said they were carried by a handful of Albertson’s markets in Southern California ... but then I stumbled across them at the 99 Cent Only Store near my office. They also had the all-cinnamon Hot Tamales Jelly Beans and the Hot Tamales Spice Jelly Beans.
Before gourmet jelly beans came along, the only jelly bean I knew of that was sold as a single flavor was licorice. (It ranks among Jelly Belly’s top sellers.) I often felt like the beans were being segregated, like they didn’t belong in the regular mix of beans. I certainly had friends and family members that would sort them out of their mixes (and give them to me). But in this case, the Hot Tamales Spice Beans don’t actually include licorice, they are definitely sold separately.
The packaging is rather unusual. Though as far as I can tell the Hot Tamales beans are only sold around Easter, but they’re packaged as if they’re an all-year round item. No pastels, eggs, bunnies or baby animals on this package. It’s black and gray with the red Hot Tamales logo & fireball mascot.
The beans are attractive and very black. They’re rather tall and narrow - the same length & width of a Jelly Belly but much taller and boxier.
The bag smells a bit like licorice spice tea, but mostly like sweet beeswax (not unpleasant).
The beans are soft, they can easily be squished between my fingers (Jelly Belly tend to be firmer). The shell isn’t very thick so there’s not much grain to these beans.
The licorice notes are high on the anise side with a clean and sweet lingering aftertaste. It’s missing a lot of the darker woodsy notes that a licorice whip has but they’re definitely beans that I have no trouble eating, no sickly feeling of consuming too much sugar like those Bunny Basket Eggs can do.
Though the ingredients list pectin, they’re not a true pectin bean - they utilize modified food starch as the primary thickener. That said, it is a smooth flavor that’s not too sweet.
There’s a fair bit of food coloring in here, which meant that after a handful my tongue was greenish/blue. Licorice twists tend to be black because of the molasses ... it seems to me that licorice jelly beans sold separately could simply be uncolored and we could skip all that Red 40, Yellow 5 and Blue 1.
These may be Kosher, it’s hard to tell. It’s not mentioned on the package, but the Just Born website says that only their Peeps products are not Kosher. They are gluten free! (And made in the USA.)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I faithfully photographed the first package, but then ate them.
The second one, well, that was a King Sized version that I didn’t photograph, but then ate and realized that the proportions were different.
Then yesterday I was browsing my local 99 Cent Stores (yes, two of them, as they are less than a block apart and carry different stuff), I saw boxes and boxes of these. Since the expiration says 9K (November 2009), I figured they were well worth the 39 cents just so I could get these off my chest.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups made with crunchy peanut butter are not new. I remember them from the 90s and found this wrapper on Brad Kent’s site. Apparently they were also available in Canada, according to this wrapper on Mike’s Candy Bar Wrappers. This version is not to be confused with the Limited Edition Reese’s Big Cup with Nuts, which had whole nuts, not crushed ones.
They look, pretty much, like regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fresh and nutty smelling, the tops were pristine on my most recent purchase (no oily puddles).
The chocolate is sweet and cool on the tongue, the peanut butter is immediately salty. The texture is the same as the regular cups except there are some big chunks of peanuts mixed in.
Most peanut butters are offered as either smooth or chunky, so it’s a natural evolution that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would come that way as well.
I liked these, I think they should be a regular item, but at the moment, if you have a 99 Cent Only Store the price is pretty darn good for fresh product. When those are gone, we can just wait for yet another limited edition or seasonal introduction. (I am kind of curious to try this crunchy style with the Easter favorite, the Egg.)
Side note: I saw a oodles of the now hard-to-find Reese’s Bars at the Fairfax & 6th 99 Cent Store.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It’s also fun to carry around a little candy in your pocket that emulates that feeling.
I’ve been eating Coffee Rio since I can remember developing a taste for coffee sometime around the age of ten or so.
I think the first time I had one, I thought they were coffee flavored Tootsie Rolls and was a little startled to find a hard caramel (much like Pearson’s Coffee Nips).
Coffee Rio are made by Adams & Brooks, which is based right here in my home city, Los Angeles, California. While they may be hard to find elsewhere in the country, I see them just about everywhere around here.
The candy is pretty simple. A hardened caramel flavored with real coffee. Though it contains quite a bit of milk products, it tastes more like black coffee with a bit of sugar than coffee & cream (which is what Pearson’s Nips are like - but they’re also Kosher and Coffee Rio isn’t).
The little rods are wrapped in a simple twisted mylar. I got this jumbo bag at Trader Joe’s for $2.69 for the bag, which I thought was a pretty good deal. They boast on the package that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. (But there is some lightly hydrogenated soybean oil rather low on the list of ingredients.)
The texture is very smooth. They dissolve nicely and soften a bit as well (yes, you can chew them at some point, but also risk cementing your teeth together). The flavor is rich and like a mellow mocha java. At the start sometimes there’s a hint or charcoal and bitterness, but that fades away as the other woodsy coffee flavors come in.
Rating: 8 out of 10
I have been to the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island) and toured some of the Kona Coast’s coffee roasters. The stuff was fabulous, but you know drinking a cup of coffee from beans that were just roasted is bound to be better than the stuff you get at home.
One of the things I noticed about Kona coffee was its extreme dark acidic punch, even when not given the Italian roast treatment.
As Kona coffee is extremely expensive, most is sold as a blend. In the case of the Kona Blend Coffee Rio it’s only 10% Kona coffee.
These seems to capture that molasses & tangy bite really well. It’s not as sweet but no more bitter than the original Coffee Rio.
I also noticed that these were a bit softer, so much so that I was able to chew them after warming them. I love that! Even better, I got the bag at the 99 Cent Only store for a buck.
Rating: 9 out of 10
There’s pillowy cloud on the front of the package that reinforces that these are soft.
The ingredients, oddly enough, are identical to the other Coffee Rio, so it must be all in the process to create this softer version.
The package outside looks similar, but once I dumped out the pieces I realized that these are a bit different.
First, they’re bigger. They’re the same length, but have a greater girth than their hard brethren.
Second, they’re wrapped in foiled paper. I’m guessing this is to keep them well sealed from moisture.
They have a wonderful sweet & woodsy scent, less milky than the others.
The chew is very soft, softer than a Tootsie Roll, more like a chewy fudge. It’s a little bit grainy and I realized that this is a “short caramel” instead of being a “wet caramel.” Short caramel is slightly grainy, crystals have been allowed to form. It keeps its shape really well and provides an easy “bite”. A wet caramel is stringy and smooth and lacks the crystallization and can be very sticky and possibly runny.
I’d hoped this was a slightly softer Kona Blend.
The chew is soft and pleasant, but the light grain to it interrupted the creamy notes from the milk products. The coffee flavor was slightly acidic and tangy and lacking the coffee punch of the other hard varieties. I give it a pass.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Now I realize that I’d really like Tootsie to make Coffee Sugar Babies with chewy centers like the Kona Blend Coffee Rio.
I don’t know if these have caffeine in them or how much, but I suspect so, since they used to offer a decaf version. I can’t imagine it’s very much though. I sent an email to Adams-Brooks asking about it and I’ll update if I find out.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.