Thursday, November 2, 2006
Botticelli is an upscale chocolate brand in Canada that makes nice bars at reasonable prices. I’ve never seen them in stores, but last year my husband brought me one that he got a London Drugs, so they’re pretty easy to find.
Sam, whom I met at All Candy Expo earlier this summer sent me some excellent bars to try in their Signature line. I want to post about all of them, but I have to finish tasting them all. I had to post about this one first because he sent me TWO bars and both are gone now. The listing of quality ingredients on the label alone made my mouth water.
The Cashew Butter Truffle is a milk chocolate bar with a filling of cashew butter. It’s not quite truffle-like in my estimation, more on the nut butter end of things, but that suits me just fine. The smooth and nutty butter has a good salty hit (though it says there’s no added salt) and a true-to-life flavor of cashews that just sends me over the moon.
My only disappointment about the bar was there were some “unfilled” squares on one end of the bar that were just chocolate. I like chocolate and all, but I really wanted more of that cashwey goodness.
Cashews are so rare in consumer branded chocolates it’s so refreshing to not only find a bar, but find it to be good. If you’re a nut fan, this might be the bar for you. If you’ve seen them in stores in Canada, do let me know where they’ve turned up.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
There were people who wanted me to do this. There were readers commenting that I should be covering Halloween goodies. So here goes. I went to the drug stores over the weekend and found all the pumpkins, most of them marshmallowy.
I did a roundup earlier this year of Easter eggs from Russell Stover and I was pleasantly suprised by the taste and quality of them, so it wasn’t hard to purchase these (though they were only on sale for 50 cents each).
This one really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my favorite candies ever, the See’s Scotchmallow (always best in the dark chocolate single pieces, not the milk chocolate “bar” thing). The pumpkin shape out of the package is actually pretty good. It has some shape and definition, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
It smelled sweet and not a bit like chocolate. The caramel is soft and flowing and the marshmallow firm and bouncy but very moist. The combination of all the textures is nice, but the caramel doesn’t quite have that toasted sugar taste and it’s not quite salty enough to balance out all the other sweetness.
I have to say, after staring at the packaging for Russell Stover for the past couple of days, I’ve decided I don’t really like it. It has a sort of faux Peanuts feel to it that I find a little sad. Maybe it’s that the colors are too much like Easter and I feel like Charlie Brown and this might be the equivalent of getting a rock in my Trick or Treat bag.
This was certainly the best looking pumpkin of the whole bunch. It was thick and had a well-defined and easily recognizable shape. The bite was nice, with the soft and fluffy marshmallow center, but it lacked a vanilla punch. It just lacked flavor. The chocolate couldn’t carry it, because it didn’t have much flavor of its own, though it’s not like it was bad, just sweet and without any sort of dairy component to even give it a little kick.
I love the purple package. I really do, but it kind of confused me. Hershey’s is positioning purple as their color for dark chocolate (they use it on the Dark Kisses and those dark jewel tones on the Special Dark packaging). But no, this is milk chocolate.
I figured if I was disappointed with the lack of flavor in the Russell Stover marshmallows, Hershey’s would pick up the slack. After all, Hershey’s is known for their distinctive milk chocolate. This one was packaged nicely, a much bigger package than the Russell Stover even though it was slightly lighter. The marshmallow is nice and lofty and has a more firm latexy quality to it. Dryer and with a distinctive fake vanilla flavor, the marshmallow certainly had some personality. The chocolate on here was not really up to the challenge though. Too grainy, too sweet and just not creamy enough for me. I kinda scraped it off with my teeth so I could have more uninterrupted marshmallow. (This pumpkin was made in Canada.)
Everyone’s well aware of my love of Reese’s but this has to be the ugly duckling of the pumpkin bunch. It barely even looks like a pumpkin, it was difficult to extract from the wrapper and has a plain old greasy appearance and feel.
Now, all that aside, it’s a Reese’s Egg ... and I love Reese’s Eggs. They’re different from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the ratios are different and though they tried to recapture this difference with the Reese’s Limited Edition Bars earlier this year, I think these unattractive lumps offer something compelling enough to warrant making them seasonally. The center is firm and a little crumbly, a mix of salty, grainy and sweet with a thin and sticky milk chocolate coating that adds a little more sweetness to the mix.
I’ve saved the best for last. Last spring I tried my first Snickers novelty item, it was a Snickers Easter Egg. I actually liked it quite a bit and found it different enough from a regular Snickers bar to put it in the same class as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (ratios and all that). For some reason the Snickers Pumpkin might have a slight edge on the Egg. It might have been because I couldn’t easily re-wrap the pumpkin in its foil wrapper, I had to eat it right away. Well, it might not technically have been eaten ... it might have been gobbled.
There aren’t as many whole peanuts in the pumpkin, but there’s a definite nuttiness to it. The nougat seems moister and flavorful and the soft caramel is smooth and has a little toasted salty hit to it that helps out the whole thing. The chocolate is merely adequate, but smooth enough to support the whole (and of course give it the lovely pumpkin shell).
If you’d like more opinions on the other pumpkin shaped goodies, coincidence has it again that Rebecca has posted on the Hershey’s orange pumpkins and Joanna has both orange flavored ones that I couldn’t bring myself to purchase.
All of the pumpkins I listed were 50 cents each on sale. If you’re looking for stuff to throw into the Trick or Treat bags, stick with the tried and true candies, they’re less expensive (when on sale most fun sized bars can be 10 cents each). If you’re looking for a little treat for yourself, it’s not a bad gamble. Overall I’m giving them all a 4 out of 10. They’re benign ... they’re not the epitome of their genre, but they’re not embarrassments either.
Friday, September 29, 2006
I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do this array of bars, but here it is. Readers write in and ask what sorts of American candy they should take with them as hostess gifts or ship to friends overseas as quintessential American bars. The Milky Way is right up there, as one of the earliest bars that Mars developed (1923).
It’s a bar that I should love, after all, it’s supposed to be a malted milkshake in a bar.
There are several iterations of this bar both here and abroad. I got a hold of the American versions of both the milk chocolate and dark versions and the UK Mars (milk chocolate) and Canadian Mars Dark (dark chocolate).
The bar is called Milky Way in the United States but everywhere else on the planet it’s known as the Mars. (There was once an American Mars bar, but that’s since been renamed Snickers Almond ... there is a bar called Milky Way in the rest of the world too, but that’s like the American 3 Musketeers bar.)
I haven’t had a Milky Way bar in about 10 years. I’ve always thought they were too sweet, but after breaking one open the smell of malt was really compelling, making me doubt the wisdon of my embargo. The nougat here is the highlight, a medium color of fluffy, slightly grainy nougat covered with a stripe of caramel and covered in milk chocolate.
The flavors go nicely together and the caramel has a slight salty note to it that balances out the very sweet and only passably smooth chocolate. The malt is earthy and brings flavor to the bar.
The UK bar known as Mars has a similar cocoa colored and grainy, fluffed nougat covered with a stripe of glossy caramel and then milk chocolate. The caramel here was noticeably smoother, but the maltiness was much more subdued and replaced with a milky flavor.
The American bar is on the left and the British on the right. There was a difference in size, the British slightly larger at 62.5 grams over America’s 58.1 grams. The UK bar as slightly longer and a little taller.
Recently the standard bars started to appear in darker coats. Back in 1936, based on the success of the Milky Way bar, Mars introduced the Forever Yours bar. It remained in the Mars product line until 1979 when it was discontinued. Customers complained and the Milky Way Dark bar was introduced in 1989 and then the name changed to Milky Way Midnight in 2000.
Milky Way Midnight - beautiful dark bar with little folds of chocolate on the top. The dark chocolate has a little reddish tone to it. Inside is a fluffy white (with a yellow tone) nougat and a stripe of caramel. Smells slightly smoky and very sweet. The caramel dominates in this bar and its sweet stickiness isn’t completely offset by the smooth but otherwise flavorless dark chocolate.
Mars Dark - a stunning dark bar with glossy dark brown chocolate. Inside is a fluffy white nougat (with a slight yellow tone) and a stripe of caramel. The nougat on this one seemed slightly grainier but still sweet and only slightly less overwhelmed by the caramel. The chocolate, though pretty still doesn’t add much of a flavor counterbalance for the whole bar just a smooth texture.
The wrapper on the Mars Dark bar is a bit of a blunder, if you ask me, as it seems to indicate milk chocolate by its lighter, creamy color over the black package of the Mars bar.
So, you’re wondering what the difference is? The American one is on the left and the Canadian on the right. The Canadian bar is larger, by .1 grams. The ingredients list is virtually identical as well. The only difference on the labeling is that the Canadian one lists the true trans fat content at .1 grams (American food does not have to be labeled if it’s less than .5 grams).
The important thing to note is that the milk chocolate and dark chocolate versions differ in more than their coats. The nougat is markedly different. The dark bars are missing the malt component, and instead have the vanilla nougat (that’s found in the American Snickers Almond bar). The difference between the American and foreign bars isn’t that marked and I think that fans should be happy with either when they’re traveling. I give all bars a 6 out of 10.
Overall, I wish that the Milky Way Midnight or Mars Dark really was just a dark chocolate version of the Milky Way/Mars bar - I think the combo of dark chocolate and malted goodness would be great. But Mars must not believe that (I’m not sure if the Forever Yours had the malted nougat or not ... honestly I think it’s wrong to muck with too many ingredient variations and try to stick the same name on it). I might pick one of these out of a bowl of miniatures, but I’ll stick to the See’s Awesome Nut & Chew Bar as my favorite nougat candy bar for now.
Monday, August 28, 2006
If there were ever a case study for how the internet and fan passion can change marketing policy of a corporation, it has to be Coffee Crisp.
Made by Nestle, the Coffee Crisp is a wafer bar with a coffee flavored cream and chocolate-like coating. They’ve been very popular in Canada for years, but for some reason they were never introduced in the United States. For at least five years a web petition/email/phone campaign was circulating to get them in the States and those efforts have finally come to fruition.
At first Nestle responded by allowing American stores order the Coffee Crisp to carry in their stores, but they made no real effort to advertise or give any special deals (as is very common with other candies). Instead Coffee Crisp were often seen in stores near the Canadian border, large urban markets and on internet stores that catered to the obsessed.
If you want to know where to find your own, check out the fan site called CoffeeCrisp.org - they have a special page called Coffee Crisp Sightings. I still haven’t seen them anywhere (including the places where I used to see them before their official introduction).
You can also find info on their official website: Nestle-coffeecrisp.com
The packaging for the bar was changed a little in the past year (as was much of Nestle’s product line) but the candy bars you’ll find here are still made in Canada. I’d hoped that they’d change the recipe a little bit to get rid of the hydrogenated oils ... the bar carries 1.5 grams of trans fats. Some purists probably celebrate them sticking to tradition.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
There’s a favorite candy here in the United States, it’s called M&Ms ... or maybe they’re called M&Ms, I’m never quite sure about how to make implied plurals singular.
M&Ms are not unique, they have a similar candy product in the UK and other former parts of the crown called Smarties. And of course there are plenty of knock-offs, including Hersheyettes, Jots, Rocklets, Sun Drops and Garfield’s Chocobites. There are quite a few legends about how M&Ms and Smarties were invented, but suffice to say that they exist and that’s the important part.
Milk Chocolate M&Ms
You’re not crazy, they were once called Plain M&Ms, but in 2000 they shifted their name to Milk Chocolate M&Ms.
A little bit of trivia and history. The Ms in M&M stand for Forrest Mars and R. Bruce Murrie. Forrest Mars left his fathers candy company and partnered with Murrie to create the M&M. It took some help, which came from Murrie’s father, who ran the Hershey Chocolate company at the time. The technology behind the manufacture of M&Ms and even the chocolate itself came from Hershey’s factories. In the 60s Mars starting making their own chocolate and no longer needed to order it from Hershey.
Red M&Ms were discontinued in 1976 because of a scare with a food dye called Red Dye #2 (which was not used in M&Ms). At that time the colors in the M&M pack were: Green, Orange, Yellow, Light Brown & Dark Brown. The Red M&M returned in 1985, at first as part of the Holiday color mix then in the regular mix.
Overwhelmingly consistent in size, which is a credit to M&Ms production line choosing peanuts that are all the same size. The crunchy candy shell and slightly smoky tasting nuts combine well but overshadow the chocolate a smidge. But the chocolate provides a mellow sweetness and a creaminess during the final stages of chewing. I do get a bad peanut every once in a while, but usually not one every bag.
M&Ms were not a blazing success when they were launched, though they were well received. The trick for Mars was to figure out how to reach both their intended consumers (children) and the decision makers (parents). M&Ms were initially sold to the military during WWII, but Mars thought they were the perfect kids candy. Kids loved them, they just couldn’t convince their parents to buy them. It wasn’t until they hit upon their slogan, “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” that parents caught on that it was a less messy chocolate candy for kids. The rest is history.
Really, this is the perfect M&M, as far as I’m concerned. They almonds might not be top notch as they’re often small, but they’re fresh and crunchy and provide a good backdrop to the very sweet and slightly grainy chocolate.
Peanut Butter M&Ms
These are very nice and satisfying, but I find them a little greasy and smoky tasting.
One of the interesting bits of trivia about M&Ms Peanut Butter is that there was a large lawsuit between Hershey & Mars when they first came out. Hershey accused Mars of trying to make them look like Reese’s Pieces - the packaging was the same color, the format of the bag, the type was in brown, etc. Now you’ll notice that the color is slightly shifted away from the Reese’s Orange (tm) to a reddish color.
The look of these is terribly inconsistent, which strikes me as a little odd since you’d think they’d have more control over how big the crisp centers are than peanuts. The colors also weren’t quite the same, the green was a little light and the red was a little thin looking. I wasn’t able to find the American Crispy M&Ms, so I bought some Canadian ones. So the chocolate on these is slightly more milky tasting, which is an interesting, malty complement to the crispy center. A little sweet, a little bland.
Dovetailing with the earlier issue with Reese’s & Peanut Butter M&Ms, you’ll notice that the Crispy M&Ms are positioned to rival the Nestle Crunch Bar, which is really all they are, a little Crunch bar in a shell. The light blue and use of the Red M&M echoes the Nestle Crunch colors.
Dark Chocolate M&Ms
These have a smoky and darker flavor than the milk M&Ms, but also a little note of coconut. The ingredients also list skim milk, milkfat and lactose, so I’m not sure how they’re considered “dark chocolate.” They’re gorgeously shiny and consistent, so consider me tempted when they’re sitting in front of me. There’s currently an additional reward of 2 million Dark M&Ms being offered for the return of The Scream.
White Chocolate M&Ms “Pirate Pearls” (Limited Edition)
Yup, white chocolate in a candy shell. They’re nice enough, but just too sweet for me. They’re okay when you eat them in combination with other M&Ms (especially the Dark ones), but I’m not sure I’ll buy these again and I won’t protest if they don’t end up as a permanent item.
Other versions of M&Ms over the years: Dulce de Leche (2001), Mega (still around), Minis (still around), Spec-tacular Eggs (seasonal), Mint (seasonal) and of course many color promotions and movie tie ins. Then there are other M’azing things done with them that I’ve never gotten on board with.
There has never been an M&Ms gum ... but I’m not saying it won’t happen.
Have you had enough of M&Ms? If not, check out these scans of knock-offs, Brad Kent’s wrapper collection (you’ll have to search for M&Ms to find them all), how they’re made, some more history, Candy Critic’s M&M Destruction Project, a Century of Candy Bars (there are pictures of M&Ms wrappers through the years) and if you’re still obsessed, join the M&M Collectors Club (they collect the merchandise, not the actual candies).
The product line gets a 9 out of 10. I might not like every variety, but they’re a great product and really do make snacking fun.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Jolly Rancher Double Blasts are billed as “flavor-infused powder filled candy.” Each little bag contains a mix of two flavor combos, Chorange (Cherry outside and Orange inside) and Raspilime (Blue Raspberry outside and Lime inside).
Each little candy rod is about the same diameter as a pencil. The color and shape makes them look more like little pegs that you’d use with Tinkertoys than candy, but that didn’t keep me from putting them in my mouth (or from them marking them as a choking hazard for young children). The hard candy outside is nice, it’s tangy and flavorful but not at all like the traditional Jolly Rancher hard candies that have a pliable stickiness to them. Pretty soon, as the candy dissolves, especially around the seams, you start getting a little jolt of the powdered center. The center is the second flavor and is not that strong, but the texture and effect is pretty stunning.
They’re pretty addictive in the sense that each time I ate one, I was trying to either crack them open with my teeth to get to the super-cooled center or suck on the candy so that as much of it as possible had dissolved by the time I got to the powder. In the sense that the flavor combos are tasty, well, I could take them or leave them. I was surprised at how much I liked the Chorange, seeing how the bulk of it is Cherry and the Raspilime was just kind of boring (and my assortment had twice as many Choranges).
I’m hoping they’ll do some other flavor combos, but I’m most interested in the other version of these called Sour Bolt Blasts, which might be more like Zotz and have one flavor through and through.
Of course they still make Zotz, so I could just go find some of those.
These candies were made in Canada.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I’ve mentioned before of my love of French nougat and Torrones. Part of it nostalgia and part of it is that they’re a really terrific candy. While I was at the All Candy Expo, I was intent on finding a year-round supply of affordable Italian/French-style nougats.
Golden Bonbon is made in Canada with an Italian family recipe (I even met Mr. Mazzucco). They make both soft and crunchy nougats, but I concentrated my tasting efforts on the soft ones because that’s what I prefer. Golden Bonbon boasts of their family’s long experience (three generations) making nougats and use traditional copper bowls and say that half the weight of the nougat is just almonds. Let me tell you, those were some tasty almonds, too.
Almond - nice delicate almond scent and plentiful almonds both whole and pieces in the mix. Only a light touch of honey but very smooth and a slight hint of amaretto.
Orange - I can see the orange bits in the mix and it certainly smells orangey. The orange flavor brings out the honey notes, but the orange rind pieces can be a little tough. But the flavor combinations including the bold orange oils of the zest is really nice.
Cranberry - like the orange, you can see the large pieces of cranberry in here. It has a wonderful dark fruity aroma. The nougat is soft as are the cranberry bits. They add a nice floral, fruity and sour bite to the nougat, but I’m not that wild about it compared to the others.
Maple - the nougat on this one was slightly darker than the stark white of the others and smelled a lot like maple. Sure enough it tastes like maple, with its dark smoky tones and rich sweetness. It goes nicely with the almond and is certainly tasty, but it’s not really what I want in my nougat.
The company says that they have wide distribution in both the USA and Canada and I think I’ve seen them at Cost Plus World Market ... now I need to look closer. I don’t know about the pricing, but if I can find them for less than $20 per pound, I think I may have a new favorite. I would probably stick to the regular almond ... possibly the orange, but I’m kind of curious about the coffee flavor they have too that I didn’t get to sample.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
One of the seminars I attended at the All Candy Expo was about the cardiovascular benefits of chocolate. It was very promising (and I’ll try to have more about that when the study is actually published), and it’s clear that chocolate can be added to a healthy diet. What’s a little strange is the boosting of chocolate to nutritional supplement. Some companies are going with extra dark chocolates and Mars/Dove has their proprietary line of CocoaVia chocolate products.
I’ve already covered that with the Adora Calcium tablets, but Botticelli is going far and above that with their new Choco-Omeg line.
The Choco-Omeg line is built around the linchpin of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids that are found in high concentrations in fish and flax seed. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are used for the body in maintaining healthy tissues. There is some evidence (both supporting and contradictory) that Omega-3s in higher quantities can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce inflammation.
Even if you take the Omega-3 boost out of these chocolate bites, you’ve got a super-nutritious snack because of the addition of trace minerals and vitamins to the bars.
Choco-Omeg - Calcium Formula - Belgian milk chocolate with cookie bits. Label: Excellent source of magnesium, calcium and vitamin D - supports strong bones & teeth. 50 mg of Omega-3 plus 400 mg of Calcium. (I don’t have the full nutrition label on this one.)
Taste - the milk chocolate here is rather bland and sweet and since it has no additional flavor boost like the others do, it’s kind of ordinary. The cookie bits are nice and I always enjoy a little crunchy texture. I suspect these are here to cover the graininess added by the mega-calcium. The milk chocolate in both varieties is rather American tasting, none of that European dairy flavor.
Choco-Omeg - Memory Formula - Belgian milk chocolate with orange flavor. Label: Source of antioxidants - 50 mg of Omega-3 - Excellent source of 15 essential vitamins & minerals. 55 mg of Choline (essential for brain function, possibly aids in weight loss because of its role in metabolism), 25% of the following: Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, C, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Zinc and 30% of Riboflavin, Magnesium & Iron. 40% RDA of Calcium.
Taste - really nice orange scent and real orange peel in there. It’s sweet and looks and tastes a little grainy. The flavor isn’t bad. The orange is very strong and doesn’t leave much room for chocolateyness. This one also has a pretty high boost of calcium too, with 40% of your daily value, but without the grit I’ve had in other supplements.
Choco-Omeg - Cardio Formula - Belgian bittersweet chocolate with raspberries. Label: Source of heart healthy B vitamins, lycopene & co-enzyme Q10. 400 mg of Omega-3. Also contains 5 grams of fiber and 10% of the following: B6, B12, Vitamin C, Iron and Folic Acid. A serving is either a 1.27 ounce bar or three of the nuggets shown above.
Taste - it’s different, I’ll tell you that. It smells really raspberry-ish. And upon biting into it, you can see the little flecks of freeze dried raspberries. The chocolate isn’t too sweet and the berries pack a good tart punch to boost the flavor. Of course to pack that much Omega-3 in there, they’ve put in whole flax seeds. If you don’t think too much about it, they’re kind of like raspberry seeds. Lots and lots of raspberry seeds. At first I wasn’t keen on them, but after the fifth or sixth one I got used to them and found the texture and sort of nutty flavor an interesting addition.
Of the three, I think the one that I could see myself eating regularly is the orange Memory formula one with the Cardio second and the Calcium last. I could see myself alternating them, but I know that I would never be able to eat three nuggets a day forever and ever. It’s a large calorie commitment at 180-200 calories, but there’s plenty of nutrition in there, especially if you’re a person on the go and don’t always eat right.
They’re not for sale in the States yet, but they are available in Canada right now (where they’re made). American distribution is expected in the next couple of months, with the price points set at $1.99 each for the bars and $11.99 for the tub of nuggets (30 pieces, 10 servings). It’s a bit steep for candy but on par with most nutrient boosted foods. You’ll find them at drug stores in the nutrition aisle, not with the candy. The Omega-3 blend that they use comes in part from fish, so these are not appropriate for vegetarians.
This is the kind of product where you have to know yourself really well. Are you disciplined enough to eat some candy every day as a supplement, or will you get bored? Or are you just looking for a sometime treat that has a few nutritional boosters in it? The candy chefs have gotten much better at removing the compromises - these do taste pretty good and it’s not just a little extra vitamin C in there, there are some substantial nutrients added. I can see myself picking one of these up for a plane ride instead of a chocolate bar, but not eating the little nuggets every day. It is nice that they offer the different sizes so that you can just try a bar before investing in a whole hex box of nuggets.
It took me a while to decide on the rating for these. I find that I’m eating them, which is a good sign considering how many candies I have to choose from at the moment. But I don’t feel like I’m going to restock when I run out except for the odd bar that I may pick up now and again. They’re a bit tastier than the Adora, but the portion size is larger and of course the calorie tally. I ended up giving them an 8 out of 10. Feel free to argue with me because I think I could go with a 7 out of 10 just as easily.
Finally - if you’re interested in seeing more about this (and probably some other All Candy Expo products) check out the Today show tomorrow morning. Sam, from Botticelli, says that they’re doing a piece on new candy products!
(Wow, this was a really long review.)
POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:30 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.