99 Cent Only Store
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It looks good, but it’s always bad.
Why do I keep buying it?
For you, dear readers. It’s a public service that I’m obligated to perform.
The thing about Palmer is that they have so many other things going for them. They have cute designs, usually their packaging is nice, they’re Kosher and of course they’re made in the USA (Pennsylvania for locavores). But it’s like they go out of their way to disappoint once the stuff hits my mouth.
“Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel Oil and/or Palm Oil), Whey, Cocoa, Lactose, Skim Milk, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin, Artificial Colors (Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 & Red #3). May contain Peanuts/Nuts.”
Look how far the cocoa is down on that list, #4 ... I think it’s only in there for coloring!
The rabbit is admirably attractive. It has a nice dark sheen, it’s shiny and has little details like the winsome eyeroll and it’s holding a flower. It took me a while to figure out that the white blob at his belly is a little fluffy white chick ... maybe. It’s also pretty thick. It’s just a little shorter than the Russell Stover one and weighs and extra quarter of an ounce. The walls of the shell are a bit thicker.
But you know, the taste is not that good. It has a cool feeling on the tongue, it’s very sweet and has a fudgy grain to it. It tastes nothing like chocolate, more like milk powder and peanut shells. (Oddly, that’s not really a bad taste, just not chocolate and not as sweet as I’d have thought based on the ingredients.)
The serving size is the whole rabbit, which clocks in at 260 calories, with only 50% of that from fat. Yes, the rest comes from carbs (usually chocolate is a 60/30/10 mix of fat/carbs/protein ... with some room for movement depending on dark or milk varieties - some extreme darks I’ve had are 85% fat).
Sometimes I wonder if Palmer is doing the cocoa industry a service by buying beans that would otherwise be turned into compost or rot in the co-op storehouses. I don’t think I’d mind their products if they were sold as “biodegradable decorations” ... but sadly the appearance of a nutrition label seems to indicate they really do think people want to eat it.
Considering the fact that there are actually good real chocolate bunnies around at similar prices if you keep your eyes open (Russell Stover isn’t quite as cute, but there’s also a Hershey’s version, too), there’s no reason to buy these except for off-label uses: Easter dioramas, photo shoots or just buy them all as a public service to remove them from the shelves so that others may not be faced with similar disappointment.
R. M. Palmer Hollow Milk Chocolate Flavored Bunny ... the Easter equivalent of a lump of coal.
Friday, November 9, 2007
I’ve seen the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter at the stores for over a year now, but only in the super-duper 4.5 ounce slab bars. I didn’t really want that much of a bar and I figured it’d come around to the smaller size at some point. Sure enough I finally found them in the King Size. (I’m guessing they couldn’t quite swing a regular sized bar because of the proportions involved in making a filled bar like this.)
The bar puzzles me. It’s a Hershey’s product, just as Reese’s are, but it’s not branded under the Reese’s name, which is where most peanut butter products go (except for the Peanut Butter Kisses). I just couldn’d figure out what would be better about this bar compared to all the other Reese’s products in their line.
I’m not sure why I was so surprised at how it looked when I took it out of the wrapper. It’s downright unattractive. The five rounded rectangular segments have a “default font” look to them. The bar is long and thick, a little narrower than the traditional Hershey bar and of course triple the thickness to hold the “creamy peanut butter” filling.
As proportions go, this is more about the chocolate than the peanut butter - there’s probably a 2 to 1 ratio of chocolate to peanut butter here. The chocolate on this bar doesn’t quite taste like Hershey’s. There’s no familiar yogurty tang to it, but it does have that sort of soft & fudgy texture. The peanut butter filling isn’t an ultra-smooth cream as I was expecting, but not the dry crumble of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup either. I wouldn’t call it creamy. It didn’t have much of a salty hit to it, though the package did say that it has 140 mg, about half of what you’d find in a Reese’s.
It’s a nice tasting bar, it seems designed for the market of people who don’t want too much peanut butter in their chocolate and seem perfectly happy with a recommended portion of 2.3 ounces and 370 calories (the recommended portion when eating the jumbo bar is more responsibly set at about 1.5 ounces). The other difference between this bar and a Reese’s is that this one contains partially hydrogenated oils ... I’m not saying that’s a selling point.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
These Zip Bomb candies showed up recently in one of the 99 Cent Only stores that I visit. I thought maybe they were a knock-off of Zotz available in little pouches.
Warning: this is another story about how I am pretty much willing to try anything, no matter how much evidence is presented that it’s a bad idea.
All wasn’t sitting well with me long before I opened the package. Part of that was the name Zip Bomb ... that’s a malicious file that’s delivered as a .zip file with a gajillion files inside that will occupy scanning software while worse things go on. Perhaps these candies came along before that, right?
Of course this made me wonder what was going to happen when I put it in my mouth. Would it occupy my taste buds while it stole my wallet? Would it swell to the size of a 63 terabyte file with tart foaming sherbet and tasty hard candy and then delete all my photos?
The other thing that struck me as odd is that the website listed on the back of the package, www.zipkidz.com, doesn’t exist. Oh, it might have or might someday, but as I type this, there is no website to visit for fun and games. A search on Archive.org reveals that there was a website at that address back in 2004-05. Hmm, could this code on the wrapper that says 021902 mean that they were made back in 2002?
Yes, these are the things that suddenly fill me with dread when looking at a package of candy.
But you know, I’ve already taken their photo ... what fun would this be if I didn’t go all the way and eat some?
The little individual candies were cute in their wrappers. Sure, the design wasn’t the most sophisticated in the world, but they were bright and colorful and said which flavor was which.
The candies themselves were bigger than Zotz, round instead of oval.
After putting one in my mouth I can tell you that they’re not like Zotz! The hard candy has an intense sour layer on top. Seriously sour ... but it fades away pretty quickly to reveal a simple tart and flavorful hard candy.
At the center of the candy (whether you’re a sucker or a cruncher) is a small reservior of sour powder. I was expecting it to foam, but it didn’t. It was just sour.
The hard candies were nicely flavored, each one distinct. Blue Raspberry was my favorite followed by Strawberry and then Green Apple. Watermelon was odd, probably because I just have a stubborn part of me that thinks that sour watermelon is wrong.
I wanted more of the sour center than I got in the candies, there seemed to be more hard candy than I wanted. They’re fun and something I probably would have enjoyed more as a kid than I do now, but I have to say, that first blast of throat-tingling sour is pretty fun at any age. They were probably much better when they were fresh.
Note: the candies were made in Thailand.
Monday, August 20, 2007
When I was a kid I didn’t like Chunky bars. There was just something about raisins and chocolate that reminded me of those carob covered raisins that were foisted upon me as an alternative to candy (which makes it sound like there was a choice). As I got older I think I appreciated them more, mostly because the texture of such a “thickerer” slab of chocolate offers a different taste experience.
Back when they were first introduced in the 1930s they were larger (of course) and featured Brazil nuts, cashews and raisins. Today they’re made with raisins and peanuts ... I’ve always thought of them as what would happen if you dumped your Goobers and Raisinets into a dish and let them melt & reform into a bar.
The bars were originally made by Philip Silvershein and through a gentleman’s agreement with Wrigley, delivered and marketed along with their gums. Later the company was sold to the Ward-Johnson Division of the Terson Company, which oddly enough also bought up the Blumenthal candy group which made Goobers & Raisinets. Nestle bought the Chunky bar and friends in 1984. They changed it from a single chunk to four segmented chunks, I’m guessing in an effort to promote sharing.
The bar is beefy looking. Even though it’s thick, the sections are truly easy to snap apart (I don’t know how easy it’d be to break up otherwise). It smells rather sweet and more of rum and peanuts than chocolate. The chocolate is okay, it seems creamier than the stuff in Crunch bars. The bar reminds me of a cheap version of the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss. Since it’s a fraction of the price (at 33 cents) I can’t really complain of it not living up to a bar that’s usually three times the price.
For your enjoyment I dug up some old commercials.
This jingle from the early eighties says “you’ve gotta open wide to get a Chunky inside. Open wide for a chunkier bite.” The commercial also reminds me that they were actually one big piece back then instead of the four segmented block.
This one also references that same tagline, open wide.
This commercial is from the mid or late eighties ... and I’m guessing by the content that it’s from around the time that Nestle bought the candy bar. Note that the varieties available is down to two at the end tag. This one also shows the four segments for the first time. See how YouTube has become and candy archaeologist’s best resource?
Links: Retroland, Patti at CandyYumYum has an actual wrapper to prove that there was a Pecan version & JCruelty’s reviews of a variety of enduring candies (strong language)
Friday, August 17, 2007
I was feeling a little restless (and warm) so I went to the 99 Cent Only Store looking for something fun and outside of my normal scope.
I saw a display on the top shelf of the candy aisle of these chocolate truffles from Crown Jewels. They came in three flavors: chocolate, mint and orange.
The box says, Exquisite Milk Chocolate - Individually Wrapped in Beautiful Foil. Wow, real foil? And that’s the biggest selling point, not the flavor or quality ingredients or hand-crafting?
The ingredients didn’t scare me away: Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate Liquor, Whey, Whole Milk Powder, Chocolate, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla, Coconut Oil and Orange Oil. Sure it’s not a truffle made with heavy cream, but at least there weren’t a lot of hydrogenated oils in there. The ingredients list for Frangos was far longer. The foil wasn’t quite as beautiful as promised, but a simple orange mylar pouch. (I was figuring they’d be twisted or something like the Dove Jewels are.)
I was expecting them to be like a Frango, and they are at least in size and shape. But they’re much softer. Not in a creamy sort of way, just in a “how can they be melted at 75 degrees” kind of way. They smell much like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
The chocolate is a little on the fudgy side, not deeply flavored with a slight milky flavor to it. The orange truffle center is soft and melts quickly and even feels a little cool on the tongue. The orange flavor is balanced pretty well except for the candy being so darned sweet.
As a purchase for 99 cents, it’s not disappointing at all. I wouldn’t say that I’m going to buy the rest of the flavors, but they didn’t overpromise or underdeliver. As something to buy and keep in a candy dish, they’re a great alternative to regular mass-produced miniatures. But beware, they don’t do well in even moderate heat conditions (over 85 degrees). The box contains about eight individually wrapped pieces and is made in Salt Lake City, UT.
Taquitos.net liked the Mint variety.
I just noticed going through the archives at my best 99 Cent Store finds that they’ve all been orange flavored items ... hmmm: Terry’s Chocolate Orange Confection and Queen Anne Chocolate Covered Orange.
This post is dedicated to Meg at the now defunct SickCandy.com. She used to write little posts every once in a while with her finds from the 99 Cent Only Store (underwear, coffee drinks, etc.) and it actually made me want to visit one of their stores to see if there was anything there that was edible. I’ve been happy to report that they do have good finds.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Bit-O-Honey is one of those candies that I’m always surprised (and pleased) to see that they still make. And why wouldn’t they? There’s nothing else like it out there.
Bit-O-Honey was introduced in 1924 by a company called Schutter-Johnson Company in Chicago, Ill. Schutter and Johnson later split (Johnson went on to invent the PowerHouse bar which became a Peter Paul product, a nougat, peanuts and caramel product covered with chocolate, something I’ll have to write about further later).
Schutter’s made a nice variety of chewy goods including the Bit-O-Choc and the Bit-O-Coconut and a chocolate bar called Old Nick that featured milk chocolate over fudge and nuts.
In the 1960s Schutter’s sold out to the Chunky folks who discontinued the Old Nick citing that it competed with their much more popular Oh Henry! Then in 1984 Nestle bought Chunky and the now orphaned Bit-O-Honey. (There may have been some intermediate companies in there for a while too, candy history is mighty confusing!)
Nestle has kept the bar largely the same as when it was first introduced. They even still make the six segment bar with the wax wrapper dividers. This is an interesting way to sell the candy and solves one of the enduring problems for taffy bars ... how do you eat it? Many taffy bars are easy to smack on the corner of the table and break into pieces (but who knows how those pieces will be sized?). The assortment of bars from Annabelle’s and items like Laffy Taffy suffer from this (though Laffy Taffy also makes the ropes, which I think are probably the best format for a large quantity of taffy).
The Bit-O-Honey segments break apart pretty easily, though I always end up with a little smidge of paper on the back side of each piece where the candy has folded over the waxed paper. (It’s not the end of the world if it ends up in your mouth though ... not like the foil on a Hershey’s Kiss if you have fillings.)
As long as the candy is fresh and soft, it’s a pleasant and surprisingly long-lasting chew. There are notes of honey as you would expect, as well as a smooth and creamy flavor of almonds. The chew is consistent to the very end, instead of descending into some grainy mess as many caramels do. There’s a little egg white in there, which is part of what give it the smooth chew (a little different timing on the cooking and it could be nougat).
Bit-O-Honey are also sold individually wrapped, but I’ve never liked those as much (they’re a little boxier in shape). They tend to be firmer (or rock hard). There’s something about the bar that I’ve always loved.
I don’t buy them very often, for fear of pulling out fillings (though I’ve never actually lost a filling on candy ... I lost a filling once on scrambled eggs and cracked a tooth on a rock in a bean salad once). It was nice to see them on shelves again at the 99 Cent Only Store and even better to find the product virtually unchanged.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Atomic Fireballs were invented in 1954 by Nello Ferrara, the son of the founder of Ferrara Pan. The spicy flavor and the exceptionally long lasting candy was instantly popular (coupled with the pop culture obsession with all things atomic at the time).
Atomic Fireballs are made in a process called hot panning, where layers of sugar syrup and flavor are deposited on a single sugar grain core. The pans are hot as they tumble the developing candies through this long process. It takes two weeks and at least a hundred layers to make the familiar spicy jawbreaker. You can see the process here at the Ferrara Pan website. Ferrara Pan sells over 15,000,000 every week!
Atomic Fireballs come in two sizes, a little pea sized one in boxes similar in format to the Lemonhead and the more popular full-sized, individually-wrapped jawbreaker. (Ferrera Pan still makes Red Hots, which are cinnamon imperials and though they’re nice they’re NOT the same thing.) I haven’t seen the little ones in years, but a quick search on the internet indicates that they’re still around. (Here’s a great shot of their old packaging.)
It’s still easy to find Atomic Fireballs individually wrapped, usually for a nickel or dime each at checkout stands at convenience stores or liquor stores.
All that history and nostalgia aside, how are they?
The outside is rather mild. The shiny ball is smooth and takes a moment to release a strong blast of cinnamon (and a little bitterness too for those who can taste Red 40). Either I’ve become extremely resilient over the years (and judging from my inability to eat my husband’s chili, I’d say not) or they’ve decreased the hotness of this product.
The cinnamon was definitely tingly and spicy but didn’t really gain any momentum until the second “major” layer. I recall not being able to hold one in my mouth for very long as a kid ... it’s no issue at all now.
I also think the texture has changed slightly. It feels a bit lighter, a little more chalky now. It loses flavor after that second internal layer. I had no problem crunching one open for the cross section with some nutcrackers ... something that was extremely difficult years ago because of the density (and possibly they were larger back in the olden days). The best way when I was a kid to break them open was to drop them onto concrete. This was more fun with the old full-sized Everlasting Gobstoppers because they had colored layers.
Fireballs were one of those candies I enjoyed eating while reading and later on long car trips where I found the hotness kept me alert while driving. I’m a cruncher, but the sphere has to be dissolved down to at least a third of its original size before I can crack it open with my teeth. I wish they were as strong as I remember them, they’d get a full on 9 out of 10 if they did. But this watered down version is still a fun 7 out of 10.
Other fun things I found out while researching this:
This package was made in Mexico, I’ll try to find out if they still make them in the United States.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:37 am
Friday, July 20, 2007
Charms Blow Pops are a classic lollipop. Like their Tootsie Pop cousin, they’re a hard candy pop with another candy inside, in this case it’s bubble gum. However, Tootsie Pops and Charms Blow Pops are related only by marriage. Tootsie bought the Charms Company in 1988, making Tootsie the world’s largest lollipop producer.
I was especially fond of Charms pops as a kid and the little Charms hard candies in a roll. In the case of the Charms Blow Pop, it was always grape for me. The current flavor range is Cherry, Watermelon, Sour Apple, Strawberry and that Grape.
Blow Pops are pretty big, they’re not Dum Dums. Of course if you’re going to put a decent sized piece of bubble gum at the core, the lollipop has to be bigger (unless you’ve somehow invented the candy-equivalent of the TARDIS or bag of ultimate holding ... depending on what sort of geek you are).
The hard candy is passably good. It’s flavorful but usually has a lot of bubbles and voids in it and because of the size it means that there’s a very good chance I’m going to tear up the inside of my mouth at some point. That’s okay, bubble gum has soothing properties, right?
My preferred method for eating is to suck on the lolly until I’ve gotten down to a spot that’s close enough to the bubble gum center that I could start biting and crunching.
It’s okay to get some candy in your bubble gum.
The bubble gum center is usually soft enough to chew easily, though I’ve had bad ones that were rock hard. The gum has a lot of sugar in it, so it takes a while to get it to a consistency that supports bubble blowing. The cool thing about Blow Pops is that they’re usually available as individual items. Usually about 25 cents ... so you can buy a few of them or just add it to your impulse purchases at the check out.
As lollipops that I’d eat as a child the order of preference went something like this:
The Charms line at Tootsie also added the Zip-a-Dee Mini Pops assortment to their line of candies recently. They’re smaller round pops, kind of like miniature Blow Pops in format, except for the lack of a gum center.
I though the flavor assortment sounded good and I was actually really pleased by the packaging on these. If you’re a fan of the smaller format of Dum Dums, this might be a nice change. They’re slightly longer than Dum Dums and perhaps a little zazzier.
The little wrappers are pretty solids with a white printed design for each flavor. I thought they were so charming, I’d recommend these to folks who are looking for a nice, inexpensive candy to include in a Candy Buffet (they’re popular at weddings and showers these days). I got this half pound bag for $1, so filling up some pretty glass jars or vases with these would be a snap for those on a budget but still want to look elegant.
Lollipops are just a way to dress up hard candy, but it does solve the essential problem of wanting to take the candy out of your mouth and not touch it with your fingers. Genius!
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.