99 Cent Only Store
Friday, July 15, 2005
Name: Butterfinger Crisp
I’ve always been fond of wafer and creme cookies. They’re a pure blast of sugar in a rather bland styrofoamy cookie. I figured this bar was similar to that, only butterfingery.
Essentially there are bland wafers with a butterfinger creme which is a sweet peanut butter flavored concoction. The whole bar is then enrobed in a chocolatey wax and some more crumbled “crunchety” bits.
What I can say, beyond the fact that this bar is a great mix of textures, is that it’s salty. I know that sounds like a weird thing to mention, but there’re 140 mgs of salt in this bar. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the salt is a great complement to the flavors in this bar, but it’s very noticeable.
That aside, the crisp wafers and smooth and strongly peanutty creme is a great combo and if I could just find that as a cookie, I’d be pretty happy. What makes this a candy bar though, is that they dipped the whole thing in some sort of chocolate flavored wax (similar to what they put on Butterfingers). This waxy coating is the reason I don’t enjoy Butterfingers. In fact, if you gave me a Butterfinger, I’d probably scrape the chocolate off and enjoy the great peanut butter crisp center. I couldn’t even find any mention of the chocolately coating in the description of the bar on the Butterfinger site, so they must not think it’s much of a selling point either.
What I should mention is that the bar I tried was manufactured in Venezuela. I don’t know if this is the norm for all bars sold in the states of if it’s how I was able to purchase a normally 75 cent bar for 33 cents. (And it was fresh.)
In general, if I feel like a nutty crisp bar covered in chocolate, I go for a 5th Avenue.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Name: Take Five
If I were to create the perfect candy bar, a great snack bar that would give me energy and taste good, it would contain the following: chocolate, pretzels, caramel and nuts. It’d be a great mix of simple carbs, fat and protein so as not to overwhelm the bloodstream with too much sugar. In my world it’d be a super turtle with a pretzel base, chewy caramel then pecans all covered in semi-sweet chocolate.
On a visit to the Chocolate Homeworld, er, sorry, Chocolate World in Hershey on New Year’s Day, this was the sample they gave us at the end of the ride. I quickly bargained with the other people in our party for theirs.
Hershey’s is dang close with the Take 5 bar. It’s got a pretzel center covered with peanut butter then a layer of caramel, a few chopped peanuts and then it’s all enrobed in milk chocolate. (Maybe I got that order wrong, it’s hard to tell.) The proportions are solid and the pretzel has got a great salty kick. If anything, the milk chocolate is a little sweet, but the salt on the pretzels and the slight saltiness of the peanut butter (which tastes like the center of a Reese’s ... maybe sweeter) balances well. If it only came in dark chocolate I might be in heaven.
The packaging is good, there are two little pieces in a tray and sealed in a the plastic packaging so they stay intact and are easy to slide out. I really wish they could figure out how to make this without hydrogenated oils, though it’s pretty far down on the list of ingredients and doesn’t show up on the nutrition part. For now I’ll keep buying it when I need a little boost during the day. It’s especially good with a morning cup of coffee, as I’m having the second piece right now.
As far as I’m concerned this bar could have lots of versions. A pecan/maple version, a pecan/dark chocolate turtle one, maybe white chocolate and walnuts or macadamias (not really for me, but a solid combo - I know that a white version of this same bar exists but I haven’t seen it yet) then another version with mint cookies and almonds.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (just make a dark version or a pecan one!)
UPDATE 9/2/2008: Sometime when I wasn’t looking (I photographed it last summer again) the Hershey’s Take 5 left the list of chocolate candy bars and joined the growing list of Hershey’s Real Mockolate.
The package now says: made with chocolate & pretzels & caramel & peanuts & peanut butter. That “made with chocolate” part means that the coating may contain chocolate, but it has other additives such as vegetable oils that mean that it’s not pure chocolate. The actual chocolate as an ingredient comes far down on the list as the number 6 item, after vegetable oils and high fructose corn sweetener and before nonfat milk (you can imagine there’s not that much milk in there).
The bars actually still look quite fetching. Little rather rectangular lumps with a pleasant sweet & peanutty scent.
Mine were exceptionally fresh, the pretzel was good and crunchy, a nice salty complement to the sweet coating. The coating didn’t have much flavor but did add a creamy texture.
This one was passably good, but I’ve had others in the past few months (I picked them out of a mix of snack size in a bowl at the office a couple of times) and I didn’t realize why they were kind of empty tasting for what I remembered. I just thought they were stale ... turns out that they’re just not designed to be good any longer.
Hershey’s still has an opportunity to reverse this and make it real chocolate again.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
To follow up on the earlier review of the Cup-O-Gold I figured I’d contrast that with Hershey’s S’mores bar. The S’mores bar is marshmallow on top of a graham cracker crust covered in chocolate. If you recall the S’mores most of us have made, they were a toasted marshmallow (or two), a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate between two graham crackers. What was great about that combo was that you’d freshly toasted the marshmallow so it was retardedly hot in the middle and of cuorse melted the chocolate and the ratio being the dominance of the graham crackers (which also kept your fingers from being burned).
In this bar Hershey’s has the ratios all askew. By far the dominant feature of this bar is the marshmallow center. It’s not a traditional white marshmallow but a slightly tan version that seems a tad nougaty ... perhaps they’re trying to make it taste toasted. Much sweeter than it needed to be and lacked that meringue feeling that a good marshmallow has. There no graham cracker here. Instead the crust seems to be a crisco and cookie bits amalgamation. Then it’s covered in very sweet milk chocolate.
Too sweet, not enough toasty flavor and the graham cracker thing was just plain wrong. Move along, nothing to taste here.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Okay, I’ll admit I bought this in an effort to diversify my offerings on the site. I like the idea of supporting some smaller candy companies, and this one is made right here in Los Angeles. I didn’t think I’d like it. I’m not that keen on marshmallow as a rule. I love toasted marshmallows, but for some reason I don’t think of those as candy. Most other marshmallow candies are just to sticky sweet. The only one to date that I like (and buy regularly) is See’s Scotchmallow - which is a marshmallow top on a disc of caramel covered in chocolate. Their mallow has a bit of a honey note to it, which complements the caramel well.
Anyway, this little delightful cup is made with milk chocolate with bits of coconut mixed in and crushed of almonds. Inside that is an incredibly light and foamy marshmallow creamy filling. I also liked the package. The graphics are bold and smooth and appealing.
The complex flavors really blend together well. The bits in the chocolate offset the sweetness of the chocolate and the foamy center gives a smooth texture and lightness to it all. The thing is, I’m still not sure if I’ll buy these again. Maybe if I get a jones for a scotchmallow and I’m not in the mall.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Name: United Coffee Candy
Two different kinds of coffee hard candy. United Coffee Candy is from Thailand and the candies are little, flat rectangles and the Bali’s Best are from Indonesia (Bali) and are circular. Both have similar ingredients - leading with Sugar, then Glucose Syrup with Bali’s Best adding a little dried milk and then both round it out with coffee powder and oil. Pretty simple, and both get it absolutey right.
Each of them are crisp and densely rich. Sweet but with a robust and full sweet coffee flavor. Bali’s is just a little creamier because of the milk powder, but it also has a little more of a bitter twang to it.
Though the shapes are different, each are individually wrapped in sealed pouches.
Both are definitely keepers, something I’ll keep in the car or my purse or even the desk drawer. Easy to share and since I’m the type who likes to crunch her hard candies, these are very satisfying with a toffee consistency.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
Monday, May 9, 2005
Name: Neon Lasers
I had high hopes for these, though I’ve steered clear of pixie stix and smarties for some years. I love the pure sugar rush, but of course hate the crash. I consider pixie sticks and smarties to pretty much be candy cocaine.
Pixie stix are notoriously expensive, which baffles me. They’re sugar and some sour stuff, probably citric acid or malic acid. That’s it. Maybe they’re hard to produce, stuffing them into those little paper tubes.
These Neon Lasers are in plastic tubes and are they ever tough to open. If you’re lucky, you get one that opens when you crack the seal at one end by pressing the little seal the opposite direction that it’s flattened. Otherwise, just keep some scissors handy.
Upon pouring about a third of a laser into my mouth, I found that it was not power, but little grains, well, really large grains. A cross between sea salt and kosher salt. The crunchy part is just sugar and the little grit around it is the flavor. Will seemed only slightly more pleased with them than I was, but given the opportunity to take them home, he declined. I’d venture that meant a low rating from him too.
I’m wholly unpressed. It’s not really that they taste bad, they just aren’t worth the trouble.
Rating: 3 out of 10.
Friday, May 6, 2005
Name: Reese’s Swoops
Did you ever say to yourself, “I love Pringles. I wish they were made out of chocolate.” Well, Hershey’s has gone and made a whole line of candy called Swoops. They come in oodles of flavors but the basic idea is that they are little chocolate chips flavored in some way. Think Cool Ranch Pringles, then think Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips.
I probably shouldn’t be buying candy for evaluation at the 99 cent store, because the reason it’s there (as I’ve found out) is probably because it’s past its prime. But I’ve been curious about Swoops but not willing to put in the two bucks they usually cost. Here’s a word to the wise, if you want to actually like what you’re buying, buy fresh. And that usually costs money. Now buying hard candy isn’t much of an issue, but chocolate products demand freshness.
Swoops appear to be more of a hydrogenated oil product than a chocolate product and even if they were fresh, I reckon I’d find them waxy. It’s the same issue I have with Reese’s pieces.
What I think is cool is the packaging, they come in a stack of three small tubs, each as about 6 chips in it. They look very inviting, but you can’t actually hold onto them for very long without them melting in your fingers, so don’t pick one up unless you’re ready to eat it.
The novelty is nice, but there are other better value shapes of chocolate candies that would suit me better.
Rating: 5 out of 10.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Name: Hot Rings
I know last week I said that we shouldn’t be afraid of strange candy. I might have done something stupid.
I found these Lifesavers at the 99 cent store. Branded with a little Sega Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m thinking that there’s another Sonic game coming out. I bought it, thinking it was cinnamon. And we all know that Lifesavers don’t come in cinnamon. They should. Reeds come in cinnamon, and I love those.
Upon starting my little photo shoot I look at the package and see this:
Since you can’t see all of it, they’re running a contest and if you have the right wrapper, you can win a variety of prizes. All prizes must be claimed by MARCH 1995!
This roll of Lifesavers is more than 10 YEARS OLD! And cost 25 cents!
I’m not sure if Lifesavers spoil. What’s a better question is if these were ever any good. I unwrapped them and found milky yellow Lifesavers with red specs. They smelled a bit like mint. Again, I was expecting cinnamon. I put one in my mouth and it’s more like pineapple with a hit of chili to it. Really.
All I can say is that I’m mystified. Here’s an ad from the mid-nineties with this Lifesavers/SEGA cross-promotion.
Rating: 4 out of 10 (yes, I might try another one)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.