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:
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.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
You know what surprised me most about this candy? It recognizes that it’s for Easter. There’s only one other product I’ve reviewed (as far as I can tell) in the past two years that actually mentions the Easter holiday on the wrapper. (The bunny is holding a basket that says “Happy Easter”) Strange, isn’t it? Are we all kidding ourselves that all these egg shaped things could easily be for Passover? (Oddly enough, this is Kosher ... though not for Passover since it has corn syrup in it.)
But I guess I digress.
This is the second Cadbury Royal Dark Raspberry Bunny I’ve bought this year. I lost the first one after I took the photo. (So calling out to it does no good ... it’s missing its ears!) It’s probably in the seat cushions in the car or stuck to the bottom of one of my backpacks.
It’s a very pretty bunny. It’s really well made, nice and shiny and with a pleasant chocolate scent. It’s well formed and looks like a bunny, unlike some candies I’ve purchased for Easter. It’s mostly chocolate with only a small reservoir of “Raspberry Creme Center” in it. It’s not very big, so it’s a good chocolate treat that won’t leave you hating yourself.
The only problem is that Raspberry Creme center ... what is it? At first I thought it was a caramel. It’s almost a syrup and certainly not a creme. It’s sticky and drippy and a little tangy. It even tastes a little salty. It doesn’t taste much like raspberry. Smells a little like it, but doesn’t really taste like it.
The chocolate is that Royal Dark chocolate that Cadbury is pushing now (with the Royal Dark Mini Eggs) which is rather palatable. It’s sweet but also has some nice cocoa notes. It lacks a sort of buttery oomph that good dark chocolate can have.
I’m not really that fond of this. It’s fun and of course it’s not terribly big or expensive, so I can’t be that disappointed.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
After the luscious experience of the Snickers Dark, I was pretty determined to find the fabled Snickers Almond Dark.
I couldn’t find it in the regular bar, but did stumbled across this bag of minis called the Snickers Dark Mix which has miniature versions of Snickers, Snickers Dark and Snickers Almond Dark. Frankly, by putting the milk version in there they should have called it a Dark & Milk Mix.
The proportion in the bag, unfortunately, leaned towards the Snickers end of things, but there were enough of Snickers Almond for me to get a good sense of the candy. One of the things I enjoy about the minis, which are much smaller than the snack size, is that you could take them out of their little wrappers and drop them into a fluted candy cup and pretend they’re from a box of chocolates.
The Snickers Almond Dark mini certainly makes a convincing appearance as a fine chocolate. It has a good chocolatey scent mixed with less peanut than the Snickers. Each little mini that I ate had at least one whole almond in it, which gave it a good convincing almond crunch. The peanuts were not as obvious in this version as they are in the large bar but that may be that the dark chocolate goes so well with this iteration.
Like the Snickers Dark, I would definitely opt for this one over the regular milk chocolate version. While Nestle has been introducing dark versions of their regular bars (Crunch, 100 Grand & Raisinets), their chocolate has a waxy feeling on the tongue and no real chocolate taste. The KitKat Bitter shows that Nestle knows what dark chocolate is supposed to be, they just can’t be bothered with actually delivering it in their bars. Mars, on the other hand, did a good job of putting something that tastes like chocolate on their chocolate bar. Are we going to get a 3 Musketeers with dark chocolate soon? Pretty please!
Friday, March 2, 2007
In the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt is lured to her doom by her desire for the Golden Egg (after giving a grand performance with her musical number “I Want it Now!”). In her final flourish she stands on the educated Eggdicator and is judged to be a Bad Egg and sent to the incinerator. This particular scene was not in the book (which instead featured squirrels and their ability to detect bad nuts, which I find far scarier, having been attacked by a squirrel before. Well, I’ve also been attacked by geese, but that’s no really relevant here).
The Wonka Golden Creme Egg is taking full advantage of that famous scene some thirty-six years later. But instead of the solid chocolate egg the size of the Elephant Man’s head, it’s a chocolate egg filled with a firm chocolate filling studded with graham cookie bits and then a slight reservoir of flowing caramel. I take issue with the caramel filling being called “creme” but this candy has bigger problems.
It’s only slightly smaller (1.1 ounces) than a Cadbury Creme Egg (1.2 ounces). The outside the egg has no Wonka branding on it, instead some squiggly lines and the Nestle logo on both sides. It makes me wonder if this is sold under different names in different places.
The chocolate creme inside isn’t very different than plain old milk chocolate, a little softer, kind of like a ganache only not as buttery smooth. The whole thing is very sweet - throat-burningly sweet. The chocolate itself isn’t particularly smooth or creamy. I have to admit that I’ve been very disappointed with Nestle chocolate lately and this Wonka sub-brand is no different. I’m not getting those CHOCOLATE flavors here. The crumbly crunches of the graham bits are nice (rather like the little Wonka bars) but the caramel is the only thing that saves these eggs - it’s smooth and salty, with just enough of it to cut through the rest of the sweet mess.
If you’re a Cadbury Creme Egg fan and used to very sweet egg-shaped chocolate products, you may do okay with this. But the chocolate is just substandard.
Rebecca at SugarHog.net also reviewed these and gave them a smidge higher rating that I did (but had them before the Cadbury Eggs).
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Last year I tried the first expansion in the Cadbury Creme Egg line, the Cadbury Caramel Egg. That one made perfect sense, as Cadbury is known far and wide for their Caramello bar. This year they’ve introduced the Cadbury Orange Creme Egg.
The egg looks the same on the outside, with its classic egg shape and simple star design on the shell. It smells like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Sweet and a little orangy ... but nothing like chocolate.
I was pretty pleased how it looked when I opened it. Both of the eggs I bought had some leakage/gap issues. The one pictured here had a small cavity that made a little portion of the fondant more crumbly than smooth and flowing (you can see it on the larger part of the egg to the left of the yolk. The second egg had a leak in it and was pasted to the foil. I was very careful when picking my eggs at the store, I got them out of the still full display box towards the back of the shelf instead of the one at the edge of the shelf and I made sure the package wasn’t at all sticky or bumpy.
The chocolate is ordinary American Cadbury milk chocolate. A little milky tasting (like powdered milk), very sweet and with a slight grain. The interior looked like the Cadbury Creme Egg is supposed to look in the center - a bright white fondant with a yellow yolk. The fondant has a pleasant light orange taste to it, a little like a Creamsicle - all sweetness and no tang but lacking the zestier elements that orange oils can bring.
Overall, this was more to my liking than the regular Cadbury Creme Egg, but I don’t see myself buying and eating these again. I’m curious to hear what the CCE fans have to say about it though.
See SugarHog.net’s take on the egg as well, she’s a bigger fan than I of the CCEs as a whole.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I’ve been more pleased with Russell Stover over the years. It could be that my tastes have mellowed or it may be that Russell Stover is making better quality product, but they’re still not a go-to brand for me. What really surprised me is their move into organics. So I picked up their Organic Pecan Delights just before Valentine’s Day. They come in a peg bag that’s all green and matte looking with a little burst of rich gold for the “organic” banner. It’s also heralded as “gluten free” which I would love to hear if I were someone who was hunting in the candy aisle for something I could eat.
Pecan Delights are a pecan cluster with caramel covered in milk chocolate. All ingredients are organic, except maybe the sea salt and it’s unclear if the soy lecithin is.
These are upside down. The caramel is on the bottom, the nuts (in pieces, not halves) are on the top and the whole thing is covered in chocolate. Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a faux pax as candy constructions go.
They’re a little small but a nice barely two bite piece of candy. The nuts are fresh and the caramel is decent. It’s chewy and not too soft or sweet. The chocolate on the outside is a little odd, it’s not quite the European powdered milk taste, but close, with a slight gamey quality to it. (It reminds me of the Thompson’s Organic Milk Chocolate.)
Overall they’re not my favorite pecan caramel cluster I’ve had, but I did finish the bag (it was only 3 ounces total), which is a testament to their freshness. The ingredients label is much more comforting than some other Russell Stover goodies, so there is that consolation. I wish they came in dark chocolate, but for a first step into organics they’re no-compromise. They also have their rather good coconut bar available in their organic line (also only in milk chocolate). If price is the object and not the organic status, stick with See’s.
On a completely side note, Russell Stover is having a big clearance sale on their Valentine’s candies on their website. So if you’re ga-ga over their Coconut or Strawberry Hearts, this might be the time to stock up.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.