Monday, November 14, 2005
Name: Snickers Cruncher
I thought this was going to be a different bar. I was expecting it to be a regular Snickers bar but instead of just a chocolate enrobing, I thought that it would have crisped rice mixed in with the chocolate. (I didn’t really read the wrapper.) It’s not quite like that, as you can see from the photo.
Instead it’s a completely different bar. It’s crisped rice mixed with crunchy peanuts with a stripe of caramel on the top and then covered in sweet milk chocolate. Think a Hershey’s Whatchamacallit, only with whole peanuts in it.
It’s definitely crunchier and less sweet than a Snickers bar. It has an overall toffee taste to it because of the caramel and the nuts are very good (not gamey tasting like I’ve found in some cheap candy bars from time to time). It’s not as filling as a regular Snickers (you know they’re all about that “satisfying” thing). It felt lighter and left me wanting more (could be that it has 50 fewer calories). In fact, I’m probably more likely to buy this one than a regular Snickers in the future.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Monday, October 31, 2005
I’ve mentioned the See’s Scotchmallow a few times as being the epitome of fine marshmallowyness. So I figured I should probably detail it for folks who have never had one.
First, there are two kinds. There’s the one you can buy pre-packaged like a candy bar, pictured above. It’s 1.5 ounces and clocking in at 113 calories per ounce, for a chocolate treat, it’s pretty low on the calories per ounce. I’ll credit the marshmallow for that. The second kind is the little round one that you can get at the counter by the piece or in the mixed boxes (comes in both the standard mix and the nuts & chews). Not only is it smaller, but it is also cloaked in semi-sweet chocolate, not milk chocolate as the bar is.
Second, See’s makes one of the best caramels available in stores. What is it about them? I think it’s that they actually have carmelized sugar in them. Caramels are rather time consuming and though the ingredients are simple (sugar, corn syrup, milk and butter), they need to be boiled slowly and brought up to temperature. If you don’t boil it long enough or to the right temp, you end up with gooey caramel without much flavor. If you go too long, you get toffee (which is good in its own right). Basically, a good caramel is a chewy toffee. The marshmallow though, is what makes this candy special. And the best thing about the marshmallow is that it has a flavor. It’s not just foamy, gelatinized sugar and egg whites. It has a wonderfully rounded flavor of honey in it which sets off the toasty taste of the caramel and sweet creaminess of the chocolate. Often I’ll eat off the chocolate and caramel and just be left with a honey of a marshmallow heap. Ahhhhh! (I wish the just sold the marshmallows, maybe they have a version of a Peep I should look out for at Easter.)
Third, they’re great quality. They use real ingredients (except for vanillin) and they’re not that expensive. I prefer See’s far and away over Godiva as boxed chocolates from the mall go. Though they’re antiseptic stores, which resemble the school nurse’s office more than a candy shop, they’re a plain old hoot. And when you go into the store, whether you buy something or not, they give you a free sample. (I had a raspberry truffle when I was there on Saturday.)
Stores are found only in the West and Midwest, but you can always mail order.
Rating - 9 out of 10
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Name: Choxie Chocolates
I was planning on making jokes about what Choxie meant, but then I saw a commercial for it and they said it was “Chocolate with Moxie.” Not to be confused with Mockolate. And it’s not Chalk that’s Toxic or as my neighbor pronounces it ... Choke-see. The other weird thing besides the name is that it’s not on the Target website. You search for Choxie and you get some CDs.
At the urging of several readers I went there this past weekend and bought a variety of the new chocolates. A little tub of Warm Spiced Caramels (9.45 oz for $5), a Hot Chocolate Bar (2.5 oz for $1.80) and a small box of the Artisan Truffle Tiles (3.5 oz for $5). There’s lots more variety there with round truffles and other chocolate covered goodies
Warm Spiced Caramels: I’m in love with these little buggers. They’re smooth caramel with a little spicy flavor. No heat to them, just a little bit like a spiced rum or mulled cider. Very fall-like. The chocolate is smooth and not the slightest bit waxy and not to sticky sweet or milky. I think I’d like them with semi-sweet as well.
Artisan Truffle Tiles: The tiles are all the rage, as far as I can tell. They have that retro styling to them, with the painted tops. The flavors in the 3.5 ounce box are: chili limon, jasmine tea, orange mango, key lime, lemon rose, apple pie, cafe latte and cinnamon praline.
I didn't try the truffles, but I can see the truffles having the advantage of a better ratio of chocolate to filling. Here the filling is about 1/4 of the total of the candy. The chocolate is smooth, but because all the flavors are in the same box, there's a weird sort of jumbled infusion in the chocolate shell ... chocolate is an excellent flavor absorber, and in this case it's absorbed all of them. Perhaps the wrapped truffles don't have this issue. The centers are pretty divine though. The flavors aren't quite as robust as I think I've had at some places like Boule, but for a pre-packaged candy it’s rather nice to have the option of something like Lemon Rose or Chili Limon. Some of the other flavors like apple pie and latte were a little ordinary, but the creaminess of the centers is really the star.
If I were decorating a cake or something, these could be a great, edible addition.
Hot Chocolate Bar: The last, and probably most cost effective pure chocolate candy I found were the bars (the caramels are cheaper by the ounce but not all chocolate). At 2.5 ounces, it’s not a bad deal as candy bars go. If you’ve ever had a Frango, the “truffle” center of this is very similar. Rather firm, but a good instant melt. The flavor is rich with a lot of cinnamon with a little heat from both ginger and chipotle. I wish there were more fire to it and less spice graininess.
Overall, as a hostess gift the packaging is super cute and the quality is good. As fine candy goes, I think I’d still stick with See’s Candies, as they’re quite a bit cheaper though lack those trendy flavors (but their key lime truffle is pretty awesome).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Note: I have a sneaking suspicion that Trader Joe’s ‘Slate of Bliss’ is made by the same people who make Choxie, so I’m digging for more info on that ... maybe I’ll have something later this week.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I’d never seen these before, but the package seemed happy so I bought it. Unfortunately the import label that was applied to it covered up half of the original label but I took it off and founds that it says “Share me Munchies.” Okay.
Munchies are a little ball of biscuit (cookie) surrounded by flowing caramel and covered in chocolate, shaped like a little cube (okay, not totally cubular, a little shorter than wide).
They’re completely poppable, about the same size as a Rolo and like a tiny little Twix bar. The ratio of chocolate seems greater than a Twix, so if chocolate is your thing and not the cookie so much, this might be a good alternative candy.
They’re cute and very sweet but a little lacking in flavor for me. The biscuit isn’t really crunchy, just crumbly and the caramel is sweet but lacks the carmelized sugar hit that I enjoy.
Rating - 5 out of 10
Monday, October 3, 2005
Some folks have written or commented that I try other candies and ask why some haven’t been covered here. With only a few exceptions this blog contains candies that are new to me. But I recognize that not only is the world a finite place but that I’m also excluding a lot of fine candies that you may not be familiar with on the blog.
So, I’ll try to catch up with some tried and true candies or just new iterations of old favorites with this new feature: Short & Sweet. Just a brief on the candy and my rating and hopefully a photo.
After the recent introduction of the Nestle Crunch with Caramel and the Hershey’s with Caramel, someone suggested this bar. I hadn’t had one in years, so it was back to the store. The bar is a European style milk chocolate with four creamy caramel filled sections. The chocolate is very sweet and milky and the caramel has a good burn sugar/salty taste to it. Not a true chewy caramel, it’s a good balance for the sweet chocolate.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Name: Mega M&Ms
Just a larger sized morsel of chocolate, the Mega M&M also sports a different range of colored shells. The oddest part about these candies is that the colors reminded me of 1986. I don’t know why, I’m not sure that they were fashionable colors then or not, but they remind me of college. My college colors (they were Green & Gold) aren’t even among these, so it doesn’t even make sense.
Aside from that they’re just big M&Ms. Imagine a Peanut M&M without the peanut and you’ll have a mega. The thing I miss in these megas is the ability to cleave the shell off with my eye teeth. Maybe I just need more practice.
Rating - 8 out of 10
Name: Orange Cream Kisses
These are quite the little cuties and fill a niche that I’ve not really seen before in mass-consumer candies. You know, flavored white chocolate. The only other flavored white chocolate candy I can think of are those pastel misty mints. They smell a bit like aspergum (I’m sorry, I compare a lot of orange flavored things to aspergum, I blame my mother for giving me the dastardly stuff when I was a kid), but have a good approximation of a creamsicle - creamy white chocolate with a hint of orange essence.
I think they’d be fun to eat with cookies or within a mix of other Kisses, but I can’t imagine eating a whole bag of them.
Rating - 6 out of 10
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Both Hershey and Nestle recently introduced their standard chocolate bars now stuffed with a caramel center. If they could stuff two different candies into one, I can stuff two bars into one review.
Hershey seems to have changed their chocolate recipe. Maybe it’s like the New Coke. Many of their products, including their limited edition line are sporting something they call “Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate” but here it’s called simply “Creamy Milk Chocolate.” It’s definitely different than the chocolate I’m accustomed to in my Kisses.
This is a four segment bar with a little filling of soft, flowing caramel. The chocolate is very sweet and doesn’t really smell like much, but the caramel has a nice toasty scent to it. It’s rather runny, so instead of biting each segment in half, I’d recommend stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. It’s got a little salty tang to it, but mostly it’s a very sweet bar.
(After writing all of this I realized I should probably pick up some Rolos and find out how different this bar is from them.)
Since the Crunch bar is the centerpiece of the American Nestle brand, it only makes sense that they’d put caramel inside of it eventually. This bar has three beefy segments. The bottom layer of chocolate is very thick, about half the height of this bar and contains a good amount of crisped-rice crunchies. The rest of the chocolate coating does not have crisps in it.
This caramel center is less runny than the Hershey’s but is immediately saltier. I checked the label and it has twice the sodium content of the Hershey’s. The salt is actually a nice counterpoint to the exceptionally sweet Nestle chocolate. The crisps really aren’t as dense as you’d find in a regular Crunch bar, which is kind of disappointing. This bar had a bit more of a cardboard flavor to the chocolate and it was so sweet that it made my throat hurt. Though I love Nestle’s European chocolate, I really don’t care much for the American stuff because of the lack of chocolatey flavor to it.
If I could, I’d put the caramel from the Nestle version in the Hershey version and call it a great bar. As it is now, both are good bars but nothing mind-blowing for me. The Five Star bar holds my heart right now for caramel bars.
Ratings - Hershey with Caramel - 7 out of 10
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I’ve always been a huge fan of Goetze’s Caramel Creams (often referred to as Bulls-eyes), not really because of the caramel, but because of the incredible cream.
The cream in the center of a caramel cream really isn’t creamy, it’s intensely sweet but very light and has this intense cooling effect in the mouth. I don’t see Goetze’s very often in Los Angeles but I do pick them up a couple times a year when I do.
Cow Tales (I don’t know why they’re Tales and not Tails ... though the website does tell part of the history) are very similar to the famous Caramel Creams. The main difference is the shape. Imagine a very long (about 7 1/2”) rope of caramel that’s actually a tube filled with the famous caramel cream. It doesn’t look like much when you take it out the wrapper. It’s soft and bendy and has a light dusting of corn starch to keep it from sticking.
The most interesting thing about Goetze’s caramel is that it’s nothing like any other caramel I’ve ever had. In fact, I hesitate to call it true caramel as the first ingredient is not sugar, butter or cream or even corn syrup, but WHEAT FLOUR. So really, the caramel is more like a cookie dough, which is a pretty cool flavor. It has a good chew without any stickiness. It’s sweet, but also pretty mellow. There are not carmelized sugar notes to it, just a consistent floury vanilla taste.
My favorite way to eat Caramel Creams is to turn them inside out onto my tongue so that I can eat the cream first and then I follow it with the caramel husk. The Cow Tales make that a bit harder, so I just ate it as the good candy-maker intended, biting off pieces and chewing. The combination of the mellow caramel and the sweet center is really nice.
Given a choice, I’m going to stick with the familiar caramel creams. They’re easier to share and it’s easier to choose how to eat each caramel. On the west coast I can usually find Goetze’s products at Rite Aid (which is based in Camp Hill, PA, only about one hour from the Goetze’s factory). On a slightly related note, Rite Aid usually carries Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, too.
Rating - 6 out of 10 (for the record, Caramel Creams are an 8 out of 10)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I don’t know if this bar is sold at this little candy shop at the Pittsburgh airport because it’s called Sky Bar or because they carry a lot of other hard to find nostalgia candies (they didn’t have Valomilks, but they did have Cow Tales). I’d seen these when I was growing up, but was never really interested in them, as I’d always assumed that they were the candy bar version of Whitman’s Samplers.
It turns out that it’s not far off from that. The bar is undeniably pretty. Four joined pieces of candy, with pretty domed tops, fluting up the sides and the Necco logo on top. Unlike Necco wafers, where you never know what you’ll get in the roll, the Sky Bar is consistent. The far left piece (if you set your bar like the package shows you) is caramel. Not a chewy caramel, it’s a sweet, sticky concoction with a nice salty hint and good carmelized sugar notes. The next one over is by far the least interesting to me, the vanilla cream. Slightly light, very sweet and rather bland, it simply brings out the rather cardboard notes in the milk chocolate. After that is peanut which I think is their masterpiece. This is not a peanut butter, like you’d think, it looks like caramel and is smooth but has the wonderful roasted taste of peanuts and a good hit of salt to balance out all the other sweets. The last section is fudge. Sweet and with that slightly cooling grain to it, the fudge is nice and not too sweet but suffers from the same blandness of the whole bar - too much sugar and not enough chocolate in the chocolate.
I can see how this bar was so successful for so long. Steve Almond talks about the history of the bar in Candy Freak (chapter 2), that it was one of the most popular bars on the east coast and had a prominent billboard in Times Square which was re-lit at the end of WWII. As a bit of nostalgia, it’s fun. But it’s not my nostalgia, I have not particular affinity for it, so it’s merely an experience for me. It’s probably a great bar to share with friends (as long as there actually is something for everyone) and probably speaks to people who really like variety in their candy.
Rating - 5 out of 10
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