99 Cent Only Store
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
In my continuing effort to bring you timely reviews of new products (that’s a joke), I finally found some Darth M&Ms at the 99 Cent Only Store. I picked up collector’s pack 18 of 72. In fact, they were all 18 of 72 at the 99 Cent Only Store. I’m not certain if these are still available, the website is still up.
I was a little confused at how these are considered dark chocolate, as they have milk in them, but that’s probably part of the evil Sith plan. The colors are actually pretty nice. Navy Blue, Maroon, Gray, Black and Lavender. All great colors for a snazzy sweater or scarf.
As long as I’ve brought up the subject of color, this is probably a good time to talk about consumption techniques. There are those people who like to eat M&Ms by color. Eating your candies by color of course makes sense with Skittles where they’re different flavors. But M&Ms are not. Still, when I dump a bunch out on my desk for snacking, I divide them up by color. Plain M&Ms are consumed in lots of three, all the same color and when I get to the end, there are particular pairings of colors that are acceptable. I have no idea why I do this, but I’m guessing it’s a way of taking full advantage of the colors as a feature.
Anyway, these are darker-than-milk chocolate M&Ms. Their colors are bright and shells crunchy but the centers are strangely grainy. Not grainy in the sense of the sugar is not completely dissolved, they’re grainy like someone left some ground up oyster shells in them. They’re slightly less sweet than the regular plain M&Ms and do have a bit more complex, chocolatey flavor. But they somehow lack the punch of a regular M&M. I wouldn’t mind them trying this chocolate on the Almond M&Ms, but I don’t really think they work in this format. Maybe the Peanut ones are better (Writers & Artists Snacking at Work liked them). There’s little benefit here either for Vegans or those with nut allergies as it’s not a suitable candy for either. I also resent dark chocolate being represented as evil. I mean, as candy goes, it’s more pure.
For the record, the colors are: Dooku Blue, Grievous Silver, Emperor Red, Vader Black & Maul Purple.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
These are a classic East Coast candy. Made for years by the Goldenberg candy company, they were purchased by Just Born in 2003, which has been gobbling up other Eastern small-maker candies. Just Born is best known for the Easter favorite, Marshmallow Peeps.
I’ve always referred to these as Goldenbergs ... the one part of the old name that is not retained (I think the company is pushing the name “Chew-Ets”) so now I have to call them just Peanut Chews. But the notable thing about them is that they break one of my rules of good candy. They’re fake. There’s no chocolate there. But what they lack in chocolate they make up for in flavor.
The original Chew-Et is a molasses-based chew embedded with peanuts and then covered in a wax that resembles dark chocolate. (Okay, it’s not wax, it’s just not real chocolate.) The interesting part of the chew is that it’s not a caramel. There’s no milk in the original bar at all, so it can’t be a caramel. It’s just a sugary syrup that’s been boiled down to soft-ball state. Maybe you could call it a “soft brittle”. They’re formed into fingers of candy that are placed in a tray and usually sold in a package of six or so, though I usually bought the King Sized ones. For a while I’ve been able to find them here in California at Rite Aid (probably because Rite Aid is based in Pennsylvania). The molasses and peanuts make a good combination of roasted, musky flavors. The dark chocolate stays out of the way and doesn’t really add anything to the party (except trans fats).
Having just said that the chocolate coating doesn’t much matter, it seems to make more of a difference in the milk version. Molasses is a dark flavor and seems to benefit from the dark, slightly bitter mockolate. While the milk chocolate coating is more successful at replicating the feel of real chocolate, it’s a little sweet, a little sticky feeling in the combo.
I’m glad to see that the Chew-Ets will continue to exist, as they are rather unique. They’re small and easy to share and have a flavor combination not found in any other candy bar on the market in the states. Since it’s not real chocolate, they also seem to weather being in my bag better than chocolate candies, so they’re a better bet as a summer candy. I wish they were made with real chocolate, but I suppose I shouldn’t advocate messing around with such a good bar.
Additional Reading: Check out Steve Almond’s Candy Freak which has a whole chapter devoted to his visit to the Goldenberg factory (while it was still Goldenberg’s) in Philadelphia. You can even read a couple of pages on Amazon if you like. Here’s something interesting I learned from the book, Goldenbergs were first developed as ration bar for the Army in WWI and after the war the GIs kept buying them.
Edit: I found this in Mike’s Candy Wrappers, the original wrapper.
UPDATE 8/1/2012: The original name of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews has been restored on the packages, and an updated but still classic looking package is back on store shelves.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Name: Frolic Bears
I picked these up at the 99 Cent Only Store a while back and was rather scared of them. I don’t know why I’d pick up candy I was afraid of, maybe it’s a way of facing demons. I’m not afraid of Manischewitz products in general (except for their sweet wines) and of course I love lollies. Maybe it was the name Frolic Bears. Maybe I don’t want my candy to be active and enjoying itself before I chow down on it.
After opening the package I figured out why they were at the 99 Cent Only Store at a fraction of their grocery store price. The bears were missing their ears. You can see from the photo above that the lollies are made by pouring the molten chocolate directly into the trays and inserting the sticks. This tray was a little short on chocolate and some of my bears were deformed.
Once I got over their appearance I decided to eat a few. First, the sticks are a little short for adults. Maybe they’re not made for adults. Okay, they’re not made for adults. The chocolate itself was very sweet and the rather American style of being creamy without milky. It was kind of crunchy at first (it’s kinda cold today and my office isn’t heated at night so it may as well have been refrigerated) but melted easily after that. They don’t have a lot of flavor other than that, no chocolate nuances. The vanilla isn’t real, so that note is a little lost too. However, this is certainly something I’d be happy to give to a kid. They’re Kosher and of course are meant for Passover. The price is great, but I just can’t get over the bland chocolate. If I had kids coming over to the house I might be slightly more inclined to purchase them again.
Rating - 4 out of 10
Friday, November 11, 2005
Name: Coconut Slice
I’ve seen this a few times while in the 99 Cent Only store. My neighbor, Robin, won $99 worth of gift certificates to the store, so on our recent shopping trip I was a lot more adventurous with my choices (cuz it was really free).
This candy is basically a coconut slab, kind of like a fruit rollup ... call it coconut leather. The different colored strips might actually be flavored. I detected a little bit of raspberry in the red stripe, but really couldn’t tell the difference between the yellow one and the white one.
The coconut is chewy and not too sweet. If you like coconut and don’t want to bother with all that other stuff like nuts and chocolate, this is the stuff for you. Two grams of fiber in each bar but it does contain about 5 grams of saturated fat (that’s the coconut oil).
Tom’s isn’t really known for their candies, more for their nuts and snacks. They seem like rather a niche company (based in Georgia) and I don’t often see their products here on the West Coast except for the nuts, and those are usually at convenience stores on the highway.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Name: Whistle Pops
If you ever saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you’ll know exactly what this is. It’s a candy, it’s a musical instrument! Though the whistle pops tooted by Dick Van Dyke were more like little recorders (ala a piccolo), these are slide whistles.
Chupa Chups, I must say, are awesome lollipops. First, they’re very flavorful. They’re well packaged (nothing worse than a damp piece of hard candy) and have the added bonus of a plastic stick. Why is this good? Well, I’m a drooler and don’t like the pasty mess that a paper stick becomes when I’m eating something like a Charms or Tootsie Pop.
There were four flavors in this package: Green Apple (unwrapped in the photo), Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Strawberry. Basically, some of my least favorite hard candy flavors (my favorite Chupa Chups are the coffee ones). The texture of the candy is a little different, a little less clear and sparkly. This might be a manufacturing thing so that they can operate as whistles or might be the fact that I bought them at the 99 Cent Store.
Instead of just being a one note whistle, these have a hollow straw for the stick and there is a little sliding plunger that allows you to change the pitch of your whistling. They really work and they sound pretty good. However, as soon as you bite off the top or dissolve enough of the top, the whistling effect is gone. The flavor is nice, tart and highly scented. All change the color of your tongue. (Made in Spain.)
Rating - 7 out of 10
Thursday, October 20, 2005
These have always scared me. I think because they’re called Chick-o-Sticks and look like they could be chicken legs. Not something I’d consider to be a sweet treat. And let’s face it, the orange color is pretty freaky. The Atkinson site doesn’t really say why they’re called that except that that’s what they’ve always been called.
What they really are is a peanut butter toffee crisp covered in coconut. Pretty simple. A lot like the inside of a Butterfinger bar, but a bit more solid (as you can see in the close up if you click on the photo).
The taste is good, sweet with a nice hit of salt and a really good roasted peanut butter flavor. Even though the coconut looks pretty minimal, the taste is pretty significant. Unlike some of the other crisped peanut butter candies, this one contains no trans fats, in fact the only fat in it comes from the peanut butter itself. They’re much easier to carry around than some chocolate candies because it doesn’t melt, so I can see this being a good treat for hiking or shipping long distances (the Atkinson website mentions shipping them to Iraq).
I know, I need to get a hold of a Clark bar and Zagnut to round out my tour of peanut crisp.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Friday, October 14, 2005
I got an instant message from a former colleague the other day about these. I hadn’t seen them, but sure enough they were just waiting for me at the 99 Cent store last week.
The Inside Outs are a white chocolate shell with a dark chocolate minted cream filling. They’re not at all like Junior Mints, except for the fact that they’re junior sized and minty. Where a regular Junior Mint has semi-sweet chocolate and an oozy mint filling, the Inside Outs have no real chocolate taste. Where Junior Mints are rather low in fat (for a chocolate candy), the Inside Outs don’t have that much more fat but their second ingredient (after sugar) is Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil ... yes, the dreaded trans fats.
Even the description on the box is a little uninspiring “Dark Chocolatey Mints in a Smooth White Coating.” Mmm, don’t you just love white coating? And the word “chocolatey” screams “I have no real chocolate in me!”
If you dig Junior Mints, stick to Junior Mints ... they can hardly be improved. They’re usually a good value (the standard single serve box is 1.84 ounces) and pretty easily understood ingredients. There are real white chocolate mint candies out there and I advise seeking them out - real white chocolate uses cocoa butter which is not only a monosaturated fat it’s just smoother. The Inside Outs are a limited edition, so if you want to give them a try, you’d better hurry.
Rating - 4 out of 10
Monday, September 5, 2005
Name: European Supreme Dark Chocolate
Yeah, I know, you think I’m all about the expensive stuff. I’m really not. Some of my favorite candies are easily accessible and pretty cheap. I swallowed my “brand pride” and picked up this bar at the 99 Cent Only Store, just out of curiosity. I figured for 7 ounces of chocolate to be only 99 cents, it had to be bad, full of fillers.
It’s definitely sweet for dark chocolate (sugar is the first ingredient) without many dark chocolate notes (no bitterness, no smokey quality, no roasted notes). It smells good, like vanilla and chocolate, but the taste is a little bland. Though rather smooth, there are ocassional odd things, like lumps, as if it wasn’t conched long enough or was mixed wtih other less-conched chocolate. The bar was fresh and the chocolate had a lovely sheen.
I have to admit that I wanted to say that this was a fantastic bar and we should drop our pretenses that good chocolate has to be expensive. But good chocolate has to be consistent and have more chocolate in it. It might be good for something though, I can see it being good for cooking, maybe melting it and using it for those pretty zig-zags on some cookies or as shavings for the top of a cake.
Rating - 4 out of 10
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