99 Cent Only Store
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The bars were originally made by Philip Silvershein and through a gentleman’s agreement with Wrigley, delivered and marketed along with their gums.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 07, 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!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Summertime is about long trips in the car with whiny, sweaty children. One of the options to appease the little ones, of course, is candy. But I know a lot of parents want to do better by their kids so they opt for fruit snacks, items that are ultra-portable, don’t spoil and can take the heat of a parked car.
So while on a trip to the 99 Cent Only store I decided to pick up a couple of brands that seemed to be positioning themselves for kids but not made by candy companies. I found the Betty Crocker Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks and the Kellogg’s Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks. Both say they have 100% of the RDA of Vitamin C and have six flavors (naturally and artificially flavored).
The Hello Kitty snacks come in one large bag (3.8 ounces) while the Scooby-Doo ones come in four pouches of .9 ounces each (3.6 ounces total weight for the box). The portion control of the Scooby-Doo ones is a nice feature, since it’s only 80 calories for a pack. (And if you have kids who can’t share from a single bag, that might be a good option.)
Just a note, when I looked online for these products I did see that the Hello Kitty ones come in boxes with individual packed portions as well, so you can have it either way.
I used to watch Scooby-Doo when I was a kid so I can tell you that I didn’t have to go looking up anyone’s name (like I tried for Hello Kitty). My packages (I’ve only eaten two of the four so far) were slight on Velma, which is too bad because I like orange best. Shaggy was grape and tasted like magic markers and the Mystery Machine was green and tasted like floor wax. Daphne is red and cherry ... which fits because she was always my least favorite character.
They were soft and fresh. Not bouncy like a gummi, but not as chewy as Swedish Fish either.
The Hello Kitty ones are so cute I could cry. Look ... a bow! Look ... a star! Of course my favorite is the little pink bunny winking at me (someone help me out with a name there).
The pieces are soft and chewy, but not sticky. Firm, but not hard. The flavor is good, it’s easy to tell them apart (pink is cherry and red is strawberry). They’re not super-tangy, but do have a little tart kick to them. It may just be my imagination, but these have a little coconut background flavor to them. I know that the ingredients mention coconut oil which is way down on the list and I’m guessing is something they use to keep them from sticking together.
The only real difference so far between these snacks is the shape of the candies and that one comes in individual portions. So I turned the packages over to study the nutrition (the same) and ingredients. I found this part rather interesting, so I’ll share what’s inside each:
Scooby Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks
Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks
So when I first looked at these I thought, Scooby Doo wins ... the first ingredient is fruit juice! But upon looking closer, Scooby Doo has lumped apple & pear juice together as a single ingredient, while Hello Kitty breaks them out into two separate ingredients, which makes them fall, by proportion, lower on the list.
Both products are made by cereal companies (Betty Crocker is run by General Mills). While they both have fruit juice as an ingredient, let’s be realistic here, Apple and Pear juices aren’t known for high antioxidant properties or their nutrition profile. (There’s a reason why applesauce makes such good cake, after all.) The packages call these “snacks” but these products are candy plain and simple and the 99 Cent Only store rightfully put them in the candy aisle. (I don’t know where they keep them at the grocery store, but I don’t see them in the candy aisle.)
As portion controlled candy, hey, they’re fun. They’re small, they don’t have a lot of calories because there’s no fat, but then again, they don’t have any fiber or protein in there either. If your kids want some candy and they like these, then hey, give them to them as a sometime snack. If you think that these are part of a balanced breakfast, well, do some more reading and maybe buy some fresh fruit instead. There are other candies that have a similar nutrition profile (jelly beans) so don’t be afraid of looking at some labels to find a good compromise between treat and indulgence. (There’s an article in the Detroit Free Press today that lists 10 great healthy snacks for kids.) If you’re actually looking for a candy that’s free of artificial colors and flavors, try the Organic Surf Sweets.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I tried the Nestle Dark Stixx last year and thought they were pretty good. They’re a little crispy cookie wafer in the form of a tube filled with some cream and covered in chcoolate.
The Butterfinger Stixx were introduced at the same time, but it took a little while for me to find them super-cheap. They were stupidly expensive at $2.29 for a box of 6 when they came out. But at the 99 Cent Only Store this little package of two was a respectable 33 cents and still fresh (expiration July 2007).
What’s great about these is the one thing that you can’t get in a Butterfinger ... real chocolate. Not that the chocolate is great, but you know, if it’s not tasty at least it’s not fake.
The package describes this rather oddly with a little four point diagram:
A Splurge of Rich Nestle Milk Chocolate
A Sprinkle of Butterfinger Candy Bits
A Spree of Light & Crispy Wafer
A Whirl of Smooth Butterfinger Candy Creme
What I suspect after reading that is that this is more like a Butterfinger Crisp bar (which may be running one of the lamest commercials of the year, sorry, as far as I’m concerned that girl has to be high if she’s enjoying a Butterfinger Crisp and thinks that’s really laugh-out-loud funny).
The little stick has that familiar peanut butter and buttered popcorn scent. The sweet chocolate and bland crunch of the wafer are a nice combo, not too sweet. The creamy center is nothing like a Butterfinger, it’s soft and reminds me of that peanut butter filling that comes inside those cheesy orange peanut butter crackers. The peanut butter flavor is pretty mellow and rather lost. It’s sweet and a little salty, not very creamy and not really notable beyond that.
The little sticks are tasty but not very satisfying. I completely missed the “sprinkle of candy bits”. On the plus side, this didn’t stick to my teeth like the industrial-strength-cement-like Butterfinger filling can. I think if I’m looking for a stick shaped peanut butter candy I’ll stick to Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars. (No chocolate, but still tasty.)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
As a kid the best caramels I ever had were the ones that my grandmother would make every holiday season. They were large, two bite caramels usually studded with nuts. She’d make them fresh in large batches and give our family a large tin of them. They were the size of my thumb (my adult thumb, not my child-sized one) and wrapped in twisted wax paper.
Dense, firm and chewy they were the perfect combination of sugar and butter. Later, for my sixteenth birthday my grandmother gave me the recipe (along with a candy thermometer, which I still have). A simple concoction of sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk and butter, it was the careful boiling that made all the difference. I’ve made a lot of caramels since then. No two batches are the same (though hers were always consistent).
For years I looked for a mass-manufactured version that would satisfy that desire for some chewy burnt sugar and dairy fat. The closest thing I ever found were See’s caramels, but those weren’t easy to come by when I lived in the far recesses of Northern California. Kraft caramels, while interesting don’t have that chewy pull and a rather bland flavor. Marathons were long gone, Rolos are too runny and don’t even get me started on the sauce bar known as Caramello.
Enter the Storck Chocolate Riesen, a popular candy in Germany and later covered in chocolate and introduced in the United States. Sure Grandma’s caramels were plain and these were chocolate, but the essential texture was there. I found them for the first time at the Canned Foods Warehouse in Eureka, CA. Those were the days where I was on a limited budget but still found some discretionary cash for such indulgences. Riesen put me over the moon when they had them in stock.
The caramels are individually wrapped, a dark and chocoatey caramel covered in dark chocolate.
They smell luxurious, like sweet chocolate. One bite and there’s a soft and slow chew as the chocolate melts and the dark burnt flavors the caramel start to burst through. The caramel is smooth and rich and not even terribly sweet.
Riesen are still made by Storck in Germany, who also make the indulgent Toffifay, creamy Werther’s, sassy Mambas and elusive Merci. In case you’re wondering, Riesen means “giant” in German. I wonder if they also make a plain caramel, I’d love to try it.
If you’re someone with a real chocolate jones but on a limited diet, this might make a good indulgence. The candies are individually wrapped, so it’s easy to parcel them out for portion control. Yes, three of them have 170 calories, but only 6 grams of fat that belie the deep and satisfying chocolate experience. Instead of gnawing on something that just leaves you unsatisfied, why not have a long-lasting creamy chew?
They should really make these in single stack-packs like they do with Mambas. I would probably buy these much more often if I could find them with the other candy bars instead of the peg bags at the grocery/drug stores. The caramel is above and beyond anything that you’d get in a Milk Dud (and these have real chocolate on them) or Snickers bar.
These caramels do have whey in them (and other dairy products) so I’m not sure if it’s processed in a vegetarian manner. Yes, I bought these at the 99 Cent Only store, but they have an expiration date of 2/2008 on them ... they were definitely fresh.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.