Sunday, April 6, 2008
Mars has a series of candies coming out with a marketing tie-in to the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie. (Which is set to premiere in the US on May 22nd.) This is rather similar to the stunt last year with Shrek the Third and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie the year before.
The standard Milk Chocolate & Peanut M&Ms got a new skin: a fun shift in their colors and little Indiana Jones inspired icons on some of them. Then, of course, to really excite candy fans they’ve done something completely new, the Limited Edition Mint Crisp M&Ms.
It’s not like they’re completely new though, there were once Crispy M&Ms in the United States (go to Australia if you miss them) and the seasonal Mint M&Ms.
The package is one of the busiest known, rivaled perhaps only Pirate Pearls. There are lots of leaves all over the front, which at first I thought were mint, but turned out to be various palm and jungle-y things (I haven’t the foggiest what’s going on with Indy’s arm and that big palm leaf though). We’re encouraged to “Dig New Mint Crisp M&Ms” in the top left of the package and down in the lower right we’re told to “Get M before they’re Lost”.
The Green M&M wearing a pith helmet is looking admiringly at Indy saying, “Treasure is a girl’s best friend.” At first I thought it was a little creepy that Green has the hots for Indy, then I realized that the Green M&M is actually a year older than Harrison Ford. (M&Ms were introduced in 1941, Harrison Ford in 1942.)
There’s only 1.4 ounces in the bag, but that little bit of air inside each center does wonders to bulk them up.
I was really looking forward to these, though it’s interesting to note that George Lucas has cautioned fans of the Indiana Jones movies not to build up their hopes to unreasonable levels. (And I think I know a bit about how much Lucas can let fans of a franchise down.)
They don’t look so great, some are horribly bumpy and the size variations are pretty extreme, from rather sphere-like ones smaller than a regular M&M all the way up to large ones that could be mistaken for Almond M&Ms.
The little icons are themed shapes that include the letter M. There are pyramids, masks, a compass ordinal and even a hat like Indiana Jones wears. They’re rather irregular as well, but more obvious on the themed Milk Chocolate M&Ms:
But shape and color aside, it’s what’s inside that counts, right?
They’re really easy to keep crunching away at ... a little chocolate, a little mint, a little crisped rice. Kind of like a Girl Scout Thin Mint.
I’d be happy to see these as a seasonal item, though I doubt I’d eat them as often as the Almond M&Ms. I suspect they’ll be a huge hit.
UPDATE: Sera at Candy Addict also has a review now & I have the Snickers Adventure Bar. These are also available as a limited edition in Japan, here’s a photo I found by CindyC81 (you too can share photos in the Candy Blog Flickr Photo Pool).
Friday, March 21, 2008
Here are a few combo candy-toy items for Easter baskets and beyond:
I thought this little M&Ms mini figure was pretty cute. He’s made of some sort of durable hard plastic, not that cheap thin stuff.
The little figure is full of mini M&Ms. They’re regular M&Ms, not the Easter pastel version, but I’m okay with that.
The most vexing thing about this is the little hat that twists/pops off to reveal the candy. It was like a frelling child safety cap without the insane instructions.
There were a few varieties, including Green, Red and Yellow. I liked the Blue because it felt most like Easter pastels even if he did have some sort of a goofy look on his face. I don’t know if the bunny hats are swappable for other non-holiday novelties.
It was expensive for the scant amount of candy involved, $1.99 regular price. But a fun grab next week on sale, perhaps.
When I was a teenager I had a thing for sheep items. (Well, in college we actually had a sheep living at a house I was renting a room at, but he was more of a lawnmower.)
My obsession caused me to rewrite passages of Shakespeare with sheep in mind:
I’ve kind of moved on from the sheep thing (though if I ever have one I get to name, he’ll be called Fleance).
While this little cheap plastic egg with sheep features was only 99 cents, it also only has give Hershey’s Kisses in them. (At least they’re pastel foil.)
Moving up in price, Candyrific recently expanded their toy/candy line with some M&Ms themed items.
They fall more in the realm of toys than candy containers and are pretty fun combinations.
The first is a set of fans. Candyrific came out with a really good candy novelty a couple of years ago, which is the fan that has little LED lights on it and a candy container in the handle. This new version has the M&Ms characters in various colors holding the fan. The central container at the base of the handle holds .7 ounces of regular M&Ms. (There’s supposedly a version of this for Easter, but I got the year-round version as a sample and haven’t seen the pastel ones with bunny ears in stores.)
The second is a miniature Etch A Sketch that holds a small fun-sized pack of M&Ms.
I have to admit that I enjoy these a lot. I don’t care about the candy inside. I wish that they lit up like the other versions do, but I’m guessing the money they spend on those LEDs in this instance goes to M&MS for the licensing of the characters. But at least they have real M&Ms in there.
They’re well made and even have a real battery compartment that can be opened and replaced for actual lasting play.
I really could have used a few of these last September during that blackout on Labor Day weekend where my house was over 100 degrees inside.
The fan blade is made of a soft foam, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hurt myself with it. Maybe if I stuck it in my eye. (Please don’t try that, or if you do, please don’t blame me.)
The other fun item is this little Etch A Sketch with a couple of M&Ms on there. They come in a few different colors, but they’re pretty much the same. I had an Etch A Sketch as a kid and enjoyed it ... actually got pretty good at drawing on it. This one doesn’t work quite as well, the little stylus draws a very thin line, probably a little too thin on the first pass, so I ended up going over my lines twice.
The biggest drawback is trying to clear the Etch A Sketch, which everyone knows involves turning it over and shaking it wildly. With the M&Ms in the little container part it makes a lotta noise and to clear the EAS properly, I broke some of my M&MS.
There is an easy solution to this of course, just take the lid off (the part that has the EAS on it) and just shake that. Like my problems with getting the hat off of the Easter minis, I’m sure a child would figure this out much quicker than I did.
The last item is a bit of a re-review of one of my favorite candy novelties so far, an Easter version of the Gummy Lightning Bugs.
This version has little gummy rabbits and is called Lightning Bunny Candy by Kandy Kastle. They’re all one flavor, instead of a mix. I was worried when I saw that they’re all red, but it’s cool, they’re strawberry, not cherry.
For only 99 cents there are 9 little gummis and the cute purple light up tongs.
The package said that the tongs were redesigned. Actually, it says “New & Improved Tong Included” so they’re better than before and there’s only one. (Tongs, I’m guessing are like scissors and pants and are always plural.)
The tongs aren’t really improved, if you ask me. They’re just shorter than before, probably easier to grasp for little fingers and they don’t stay on as readily, which probably provides a lot more longevity.
This is the kind of exploratory toy that I think is good for kids. It makes them slow down and really look at everyday things in a different way.
I tried them on some other items, they don’t open as widely as they used to, so anything as large as say, a Spearmint Leaf is too big. But small items like jelly beans (awesome!) and chocolate covered coffee beans (boring) are the right size.
I think adding a little toy in an Easter basket is fun. (I think the best one I ever got was a kite, which me & my brother and sister took out to the field across the street behind the cemetery and promptly got caught in a tree within an hour.)
The Hershey’s one isn’t the best toy in the world, but the design is nice. The filled M&M is also nice and certainly well built, but doesn’t offer much opportunity for interaction. I can see it being collectible though. The fan & Etch A Sketch are the best of the bunch, but a little pricier for “candy” items at $3.99 retail, but still a good value for a small toy.
If parents are looking for a way to still have a bit of bounty in the basket, a novelty item that contains a small amount of candy (especially something that can be refilled on a regular basis) is a good compromise. I mean, I wouldn’t have felt cheated if I got one of these as a kid.
They all get a solid 7 out of 10. The Lightning Bunny was made in China, in all other cases the candy was made in the USA, but the toys were made in China.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I’ll admit that finding a palatable chocolate bunny at the drug store isn’t easy. Lindt has led the way over the past few years, virtually taking over the high-end bunny domain. Instead of depending on novelty, the Lindt Bunny is the same year after year.
This year was the first time I saw a dark chocolate version, so I scooped it up, even at regular retail of $3.49 for a 3.5 ounce bunny. (But then again a 3.5 ounce Lindt Dark Bar is often about $3 anyway).
The elegant gold foil and dark brown bow is part of the appeal of this confection - it feels timeless but not dated.
Lindt uses their 60% dark blend for this bunny which also features no added dairy ingredients like many other so-called “dark” chocolates from big manufacturers these days. However, it’s not all natural, instead the use vanillin, an artificial vanilla flavoring.
Even out of the wrapper the bunny is quite beautiful. The sheen was pleasant and I was fortunate to get one that hadn’t been nicked & dinged up on the shelf.
It may be billed as a hollow bunny, but this is pretty substantial stuff. The ears are nearly solid and the head pretty thick as is the base. Most other rabbits this size would probably weigh 30% less. (And require additional packaging to protect them.)
The chocolate is pleasant. I don’t think the 60% is Lindt’s best, but is creamy and has a nice robust flavor with some coffee & cherry notes. It has a slightly dry & chalky finish, which makes me feel like I’ve just had a cup of cocoa. Seeing how Easter is in March this year, cocoa is quite welcome.
The Reindeer, like the Bunny, is equally handsome and actually sports the Lindt name on the side (the Bunny doesn’t).
Like the Bunny, the Reindeer had nearly solid ears and a thick base.
Since it’s the same size and has the same recipe as the Lindt Gold Bunny, just substitute that mentally. (Besides, you want to be prepared for Christmas, don’t you?)
Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had Lindt Milk Chocolate before this. I’ve had their Lindor Truffles, but this all milk chocolate, all the time and quite a change for me.
It’s very milky but still maintains a robust chocolate flavor and none of the “powdered milk” flavor that I don’t care for in many European milk chocolates. It has more than a hint of malt to it, which of course I gravitate towards. It’s quite silky on the tongue and not so sweet that it makes my throat hurt.
As chocolate animals go, they’re both real winners. The price is a bit steep ... but if you have a mind to start some sort of new tradition of Easter Reindeer, you could get away with buying them after Christmas (this one was good until 5/31/2008).
The German Lindt website lists all sorts of other versions of the iconic Bunny, including 1,000 gram versions (yowza! that’s almost three pounds!), white chocolate and minis.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
I was standing in the drug store last week staring at the candy aisle. There were lots of new things, one that caught my eye was the Werther’s Caramel Coffee hard candies, mostly because I got an email the week before extolling their virtues (thanks for the suggestion .
So I thought, I should pick some up. I didn’t want a lot of them, but luckily they had two sizes. A 3.5 ounce bag, which is a nice size for sampling, reviewing and sharing. And the second bag was 5.5 ounces ... a little more than I wanted to buy. The price? Both were $1.99. Neither were on sale. They were just the same price. So I bought the larger bag (what, am I stupid?).
The little hard candies are like the Werther’s Original, a creamy toffee or buttery hard candy.
They’re attractively packaged, each individually sealed in its own easy to open gold mylar pillow. No, they’re not in the twist wraps like the original Werther’s Original which I really need to cover, but you can check out this review of the classic by Jamie on Candy Addict.
These little disks are exceptionally pretty. They have a pleasant swirl of two different colors (though I can’t really tell the difference in taste between the pieces) that look like black coffee and coffee with cream.
The flavor is, well, very sweet and creamy. The coffee comes out as a little bit of a background hint to the stronger toffee/caramel. It’s missing a bit of the salty hit that I enjoy with Werther’s Original. As coffee hard candies go, these don’t rival the other set that I’ve had from Bali’s Best and United Coffee. But if you’re the type of person who likes their coffee sweet and perhaps enjoys Caramel Macchiatos (I’m sorry, I’ve never had one so I can’t really compare it), this might be a fun little pocket treat.
I enjoy crunching them, they have a wonderful way of cleaving in flakes and shattering. Of course then it kind of becomes a sticky mess in my teeth, but that gives me something to work on later. They’re exceptionally smooth, which makes for a good candy to be patient and dissolve in your mouth. No voids whatsoever, so it’s not going to cut up the roof of your mouth like some candies like butterscotch disks can.
Werther’s Original are a great summer candy. They give you that creamy boost like chocolate but they’re so freakishly durable - you can leave them in a hot car or let them get frozen and you can even dunk a package of these babies in the ocean and they’re gonna come out of the package exactly the same.
Notes from the package: may contain wheat products, definitely contains milk & soy. Each candy is about 20 calories (more than most hard candies because they’re made with cream & butter). Made in Germany. These also come in a sugar free version (that I’ve not tried, but perhaps someone else can weigh in on how they are).
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Chiclets are my absolute favorite gum of all time. I love the classic white gum. It’s not easy to find any longer, I usually pick up six packs at the 99 Cent Only Store. They used to come in a lot of flavors, Spearmint and Fruit and if I’m not crazy, I think there was a Cinnamon at one time. The boxes are clean and feature nicely packed little candy-coated tile-like pieces of gum. Crunchy, flavorful ... easy to share. No messy wrappers.
At one time the Fruit Chiclets were different flavors, but eventually all the colors became the familiar fruit flavor (kind of like JuicyFruit). On rare occasions I also see the Tiny Size Chiclets at the store. Tiny Size are, well, just adorable. They the perfect size to offer to your Barbie doll. You know, if she’s a gum chewer ... maybe trying to break a smoking habit.
I stopped at the CVS to pick up some toothpaste the other day after work and spotted these at the checkout. I couldn’t resist. Sure, I had a six pack of Peppermint at home, but I hadn’t had the Tiny Size in years and that Gold Mine Gum was still pretty fresh in my mind.
While the regular pack boasts 12 pieces, which is pretty much six portions, the Tiny Size is only one half of an ounce.
For me this amounted to about three portions. The chew is satisfyingly crunchy, but not as grainy as the larger Chiclets can be. The fruit flavor is pleasant. A little bland and of course doesn’t last very long.
As cute as these little freaks are, I don’t think I’m going to buy them again, unless I’m working on some sort of candy craft project. The colors are unusual, the package seems to indicate that they’re rather neon tinted, in reality they’re just bright.
Peppermint Chiclets were introduced by the Fleer company in 1906. Fleer was later swallowed up by Warner Lambert in 1962, also the year that the Tiny Size was introduced. Warner Lambert sold their gum concerns to Cadbury Adams in 2000. Chiclets are still made with sugar but are manufactured in Colombia.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I buy the vast majority of the candy I review here right in Los Angeles. Nearly all of it is from the normal places where most people buy their candy: Drug Stores, Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores and a few other specialty spots.
I frequent the following in no particular order:
Walgreen’s: this chain started popping up in Southern California more than six years ago, but didn’t appear in my neighborhood until the Pioneer Market in Echo Park on Sunset Blvd. closed and they took over the spot. They have a nicely organized candy section with a good variety, regular sales and the store is frequented enough that the inventory turns over quickly. I like it after the various candy holidays as their goods go on deeper sale much quicker. (I got Valentine’s candy for 75% off on the 18th and Easter candy the following Saturday.)
CVS: This chain just bought out our old chain called Sav-On. Sav-Ons were on and off of my poop list. I’ve bought expired candy there (before I learned how to read the expiration codes), even bloomed chocolate that was supposed to still be fresh and have found their selection a little lacking. CVS hasn’t been around long enough for me to develop an opinion of them yet, but I like how they don’t treat you like a criminal when you try to enter or exit the store, so points there. (They used to have these gates you had to go through with turnstiles to get in and the only way to get out of the store if you weren’t buying anything was to scoot past people in the checkout line.)
Target: there are several in the area now, each with slightly different layouts and selection. Some of the prices are very good, especially when you find it on sale. They carry their own line of Choxie and can have some incredible after holiday clearances. My favorite one to shop at for candy was in Harbor City and torn down to make way for a newer double-decker model later this year. Holiday clearances can be hit or miss because people make this one of their first stops.
Von’s: this is not my favorite grocery store, but they do have a rather good candy selection, especially when it comes to mid-range candies and gourmet bars (Ritter Sport, for one). The layout of the store that I frequent on Sunset Blvd. in Los Feliz happens to have a season candy display right at the entry of the store, so it’s an easy stop for me to make on my way home from work. They also seem to carry a lot of limited edition candies.
Trader Joe’s: this store chain has lots of fans for good reason. Good quality food at great prices. They make you work for it though, with narrow, crowded aisles, difficult parking and long lines. They carry house-brand candies as well as great imported and domestic items at unheard of prices.
Ralph’s: there are a few locations near to me, but I usually go a bit further afield to a location in Glendale (near the Petco and Cost Plus World Market). They usually have a huge selection of holiday candies (and companion clearance) as well as one of the few bulk candy selections I’ve found in SoCal. I don’t use the bulk bins, only the dump feeder bins (that way I know no one else has been putting their greasy paws on the goodies).
7-11: the largest convenience store chain in the US, they’re known not only for a location for a quick drink fix, but also their inventory of single-serving candies but also as one of the best sources for limited edition candies. When choosing a regular store, I look for one that has a candy aisle that does not face the large plate glass windows, which can cause chocolate candies to bloom. Prices are steep but if the store has good foot-traffic they candy is always fresh.
Cost Plus World Market: an import market that features furniture, housewares and food. Their candy selection is excellent, though the freshness is sometimes questionable for the niche candies. Prices can range from reasonable to strangely high. At Christmas they have a wide selection of imported sweeties from all over the world and an equally fun post-holiday sale.
Munchies: In West Los Angeles in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, they have an amazing selection of bulk goods but also a lot of Israeli stuff. Pretty low key place with decent prices. Skip the ordinary stuff here and take a risk on the imported goodies.
Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits: If you’re in the mood for seeing a great selection of high-end chocolate bars & boxed chocolates, check out Mel & Rose’s Wine & Spirits on Melrose Blvd. They also have a huge selection of imported consumer candies from Australia and Europe at decent prices. They’re not far from the Beverly Center and Pacific Design Center just on the border of Beverly Hills.
The Candy Baron: This is a small chain in California, I found them to be pretty good, they carry a lot of regional favorites and of course bulk goods. They’re in Santa Monica. I don’t recommend a special trip for them, but if you’re down by the Promenade/Third Street/The Pier it might be worth it:
The Grove and the Farmers Market is a great option for “one stop shopping” in LA. The Grove is an upscale mall attached to the original LA Farmers Market.
In the Farmers Market there’s a stand called Ultimate Nut & Candy. No great shakes (but they do have good toffee popcorn) but an admirable selection of bulk candies behind the counter along with dipped dried fruits and nostaligic fare.
There’s also a Fudge & Toffee shop called Littlejohns. I’ve had their fudge, which I think is decent, but their pecan pralines & caramel marshmallow kisses are my favorites. (I haven’t tried their toffee yet.)
Tucked inside the south east corner is a place called Mr. Marcels - it’s the upscale grocer for the market and they carry quite a few imported candies. Prices are a bit inflated for imported mass-produced goodies, but a good selection and they seem to have a good turnover of product to keep it fresh.
Also in the compound is Cost Plus World Market (see above) Around the corner from that is a place called Duck Soup that carries regional candy bars and retro favorites.
India Sweets & Spices: this is a small chain of vegetarian India food served cafeteria-style along with a grocery store. I’ve visited the location in Los Feliz and found a decent selection of European (mostly UK) candy bars. For some reason they keep them in the refrigerator case all year round.
Little Tokyo is the ultimate location for candy in Los Angeles not just for Japanese goodies (though that’s the best reason to go there).
Mitsuwa: a grocery chain, found mostly in California but also a New Jersey location. They have all the standard Japanese fare (Pocky, HI-Chew, KitKat, etc.) plus Hawaiian goodies and some Chinese. Excellent prices, especially given that these are imported. (Most times I get regular Pocky for 99 cents a box.) I go to the one on Alameda and 3rd Street.
Nijiya Market: a small grocer in the Japanese Village Plaza with an excellent selection of take-away meals, snacks and candies. Good prices, fresh inventory and great location in the heart of the pedestrian area.
Marukai: clean and bright, excellent selection and location in Weller Court. They also carry a large selection of American consumer candies.
Fugetsu-Do: Los Angeles’ oldest purveyor of fresh-made Wagashi and Mochi. Red bean, white bean, soy and even peanut butter. They also have a moderate selection of Japanese candy standards.
Chinatown is also an excellent source of sweets, I’ve not fully explored it though I’ve made plenty of visits.
Okay, if you live in Los Angeles or have visited, where is a good place to get candy? (I’m still looking for a good store to get bulk candies at a decent price.)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
So last night on the way home from work I stopped at Walgreen’s and CVS to see what was still around. Both had 50% off sales. Now, this may sound like a good deal, but this is off of the “regular” price, which they don’t usually sell stuff for anyway. (At least I don’t buy stuff at regular price.)
Here’s what I got:
1 large package of Peeps Yellow Bunnies (I might do more mashups)
2 Snickers Creme Eggs (I didn’t try these before and didn’t realize they’re different from the Snickers Eggs I tried last year)
2 Bags of (7 ounces) SweeTart Chicks, Ducks & Bunnies
1 Bag of 8.5 ounces) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Eggs (still PGPR free!)
There isn’t much in online sale land. Godiva hasn’t put their stuff on sale yet, there are a few things at Lake Champlain and See’s never seems to have sales. Pop a note here if you see a great deal though.
Deeper discounts come as more time elapses, but then the selection decreases. The trick, I’ve found, is to shop at a store where people don’t usually stock up on candy. I’m not going to tell you where that is until I’ve plundered their selection yet! (I love you, sweet readers, but not that much!) I’m actually looking for stuff like the Lindt bunnies and Easter truffle assortments I saw a few weeks ago, but no luck yet.
I’m going to do a little deeper digging later this week (I have a bunch of deadlines right now and can’t quite devote as much time to candy acquisitions as I’d like). What have you found so far?
Monday, April 9, 2007
I saved this review for after Easter. They package makes them look like an Easter product, but after having those Godiva eggs (even if they were freaktacularlly expensive), there was just no way that they were going to compare well. Now that they’re a distant memory, I feel that I can give the Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses my undivided attention.
I have to say that I loved the blue wave design on the foil. It was tropical and also different enough from the other foils out there that I could guess that this was coconut.
Inside the foil was a molded Kiss with a soft creme filling of coconut.
The shell of the Kisses were rather greasy. This wasn’t as noticeable when I chilled the Kisses (thanks for the suggestion!), but the chocolate outside still felt a little weird on the tongue, no matter the temperature. A little cool, a little less crumbly that the regular Kiss chocolate and of course it tasted like coconut before you got to the center.
The filling was interesting. The creme part was actually more like creme and less like fondant than the Cherry Cordial Creme I tried before. This actually seemed a bit buttery. There were also crisp little flecks of coconut in there.
It’s not at all like an Almond Joy center.
I enjoyed them, but I don’t think I’m a fan. The greasiness is just offputting. It makes the little flags translucent and of course makes my fingers oily if I linger too long while unwrapping. I enjoyed the nutty taste, but I know some other people didn’t like them. I found the lighter flavor of coconut like munching on some chocolate and suntan lotion. Like a summer at the pool. (Okay, maybe that’s not an appealing image, but it’s been so gloomy and overcast here in Los Angeles lately, maybe I’m just looking for something ‘sunny’.)
Note: These are limited edition, but it’s unclear if they are an Easter item. Some stores will put all the Limited Edition stuff on sale with the Easter goodies (that’s how I got my KitKat Mini Dark Mint), so keep a look out ... when in doubt just ask!
UPDATE April 12, 2009: Coconut Kisses returned again for srping 2009. Since some folks have noted it in the comments, I did taste this years version and agree, they’re not greasy. Perhaps Hershey’s rectified the ingredient/production issue that was making them that way.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.