99 Cent Only Store
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 03, 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 05, 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
Thursday, September 01, 2005
The first time I ever saw (or even heard of) a Wonka bar was in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I read the book a few years later). In the movie Charlie wolfs down a husky bar that costs nearly nothing. While this bar might look bulky in the photo, it’s the size of a standard playing card. I think it’s a petite version, as I’ve seen others advertised for sale that are larger than 1.3 ounces. But I couldn’t beat the price of 3 for a dollar at the 99 cent Only Store. Even so, it looks like a Wonka bar should - substantial and slick. I bought two and both came out of the package looking so dang edible.
The bar isn’t even all chocolate. There are graham cracker bits in there and it reminds me of a poor man’s version of those Le Petite Ecolier cookies that are a graham cracker cookie with a molded chocolate top (embossed with a little schoolboy) The cookies smell like graham crackers (vanilla & cinnamon) and chocolate. The graham adds a nice crunch to the bar without too much additional sweetness.
Overall the bar is a little sweet, a little waxy. But cheap and satisfying. There’s something really compelling about the ‘nilla Wafer-like graham.
Interesting fact from package: bar was made in Brazil.
Rating - 6 out of 10
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