Friday, December 12, 2008
Years ago there was a candy bar called Peanut Butter Snickers. It was the eighties and peanut butter was all the rage. The bar was simple, some peanut butter studded with peanuts and then the classic Snickers caramel all covered in milk chocolate. Then it was discontinued and people were sad.
Then last year, Santa brought a present to Peanut Butter Snickers lovers in the form of, well, Santa! The Snickers Peanut Butter Santas are an updated, Christmas novelty version.
I was curious if they were like the Limited Edition Snickers Nut & Butter Crunch which was a peanut butter nougat with peanuts in it covered in milk chocolate. This package doesn’t actually have a description, so I had to buy it to find out.
The package came with six little molded milk chocolate Santas, individually wrapped units not for individual sale. (Though I’ve bought the Snickers Caramel Creme Nutcrackers individually before.)
Outside of the brick red wrapper, the Santa is nicely molded. It looks exactly like the image on the over-wrapper, which is a comforting thought. (Though there really aren’t any other “promises” on the wrapper that it needs to live up to besides the fact that they’re supposed to be one ounce.)
Biting into the little fellow, I found that it wasn’t quite the old Snickers Peanut Butter nor the more recent Snickers Nut n’ Butter Crunch.
Instead it’s a hybrid of the two. It’s a peanut butter bottom. On top of that is a layer or thin, gooey caramel with crushed peanuts. (Not the thicker caramel of the classic Snickers.)
The milk chocolate has a nice snap but is very sweet. The caramel inside comes across loud and clear - it’s a bit sticky but also very salty (55 mgs per Santa). The peanut butter base is solid, the ingredients list it as a “peanut butter coating” which is made from sugar, palm oil, peanut flour, nonfat milk solids, peanut oil and some other stuff. It reminds me of those peanut butter baking chips ... or the inside of Reese’s Pieces.
It’s a nice size, not too big. The flatness means there’s a lot more chocolate flavor than a usual Snickers mini. Overall, I thought they were tasty and ate
four of them. They’re not quite as dense and filling as the old Snickers Peanut Butter, but still a tasty holiday treat.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Before Tootsie came out with their seasonal Candy Cane Tootsie Pops fans of peppermint and Tootsie Rolls were relegated to making their own. Though it was relatively simple to jam a Tootsie Roll on a chop stick and then smash a couple of starlight mints onto it, it just didn’t have the same classy, holiday flair as this store-bought version.
Candy Cane Tootsie Pops are a little different than other special flavor editions of Tootsie Pops. But not in remarkable ways. Yet I’ll list them for you anyway. First, the they’re in a clear cellophane wrapper. Second, the wrapper is done in a double twist at both the base of the pop and at the top of the pop. (Remember, the regular wrappers cover the pop and twist only where the stick meets the pop.) Third, the shape is not like the regular Tootsie Pop, which has a band that extends from the base up and around the top. Instead this band goes around the middle, just like a Charms Blow Pop. (Hmm, the wrappers are the same as Blow Pops too ... wouldn’t it be fun if they made mint Blow Pops?)
The wrappers are vexing. They’re sealed at the base, so hard to get off and not as easy to rewrap around the candy if you don’t finish it all at once.
The mint hard candy outside is peppermint. It has a pleasant swirl of red that goes through the white dominant base. It’s very smooth, in fact, smoother than a regular Tootsie Pop, fewer voids. Honestly, it made me wonder why Tootsie Pops aren’t all this smooth.
I’m a cruncher, so it didn’t take long before I was able to dissolve away enough of the hard candy outside to crunch into the Tootsie Roll center. Let me state that’s where this gets disappointing. A Tootsie Roll is just a chocolate flavored taffy. I like them well enough as a durable, all weather candy. But they’re really only good inside Tootsie Pops (orange). Because mint is rather one note (no tartness, just sweetness and cool mint) instead of complex like the fruit flavors (the flavor, the tart, the tangy all combined) the Tootsie Roll scent becomes very obvious. It smells like chocolate scented cardboard.
It smells like the box hot cocoa mixes come in after you take the packets out.
It’s just disappointing.
I think these are a fun idea, but there’s really no way to improve them without fixing the Tootsie Roll. The combo just doesn’t bring out the best that a Tootsie Roll has to offer and hide its shortcomings.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
So I greeted these Disney Happy Holiday Chocolate Figurines in milk and white chocolate with a bit of an eye roll. However, I did look over the package pretty carefully before opting to pay the $1.99 and saw a few things that convinced me that these might be worth the premium royalties to the Disney company.
First, the ingredients are all natural. Second, they’re made in the United Kingdom, not China or Brazil. Third, they list the actual cocoa solid content on the back (30% for the milk chocolate). Fourth, the white chocolate is real, there’s no palm oil or coconut oil in here. Fifth, the product is nut free (and also says it’s suitable for vegetarians).
They’re specific about the lengths that they go to and further, they give actual contact information for the company. Not some silly info email address, an actual person with a real email address and phone number (I didn’t try it though).
The box and little molded chocolate shapes reminded me of Advent calendars. When I browsed through the annoying but pretty complete Kinnerton website I found that they do make Advent calendars and most of their products are marketing tie ins with branded characters like The Simpsons, Barbie, Spiderman and Disney.
The chocolate pieces came in three different designs:
Winnie the Pooh sits there looking kind of rolly polly. Eeyore with his little bow-tied tail looped over his leg with one paw up, he seemed kind of happy. And Piglet was holding a jar of huny.
The milk chocolate is smooth and tastes a lot like powdered milk. It’s super sweet but also has almost no grain to it, even though it’s pretty sticky it has an excellent mouthfeel and melt.
The white chocolate tastes like Easter, through and through. A bit on the grainier side, there’s a strong milk and fake vanilla flavor. The cocoa butter background does a good job of allowing the flavors (such as they are) to come through.
Overall, a little on the pricey side. However if you have a kid with food allergies, these have no other compromises. They’re cute, the piece size is excellent for little ones and the design of the tray & pieces is well done. However, the little icons aren’t exactly holiday themed, just the box that they come in.
The packaging also had Walgreen’s information on them, so I’m guessing these are packaged for sale in the US just for their chain. The Kinnerton website mentions Aldi as well as Toys R Us as distributors.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Long ago there were LifeSavers Sweet Story Books. They were just a folded box that looked like a book that had a bunch of LifeSavers rolls inside. They still make them, every few years the graphics and the rolls included inside change with fashion.
Trader Joe’s has their own house-branded version of this, called Trader Joe’s Sweet Story. There are six no-artificial-anything, vegan, kosher and gluten-free hard candy rolls inside.
The package design is pretty straight forward, it’s a box with a front flap that reveals a “story” on the inside, which is a little poem about the candies. (Probably not so fun for kids.)
The box is well constructed (and is even printed on the inside). The rolls aren’t revealed inside the box flap though, you have to open it at the top to reveal them, all sealed together inside a cellophane bag.
Each roll is about the size of a LifeSavers product, 1.1 ounces. The rolls themselves are a bit more demure, a color-coded monochrome array.
Opening them was a disappointment and exercise in frustration.
Though it was not humid on Sunday when I bought these and photographed them, the paper-lined foil was stuck to the candies.
I resorted to picking the bits of foil off the candies before consuming (though still got a fair bit of paper in my mouth). Some rolls were better than others, but all had some degree of issues.
Cherry - Sucrets. Without the throat numbing properties.
Orange - really zesty, to the point of being slightly bitter at times. Sweet and tangy.
Pineapple - mild, more like those “low acid” pineapples these days that have a nice floral and strawberry cotton candy flavor but not that tart.
Raspberry - pretty much tasted like raspberry flavoring. A lot of sweet floral “flavor” and some tangy berry notes.
Pomegranate - a combination of raspberry and those winterberry scented candles. It’s trying too hard.
The package was $1.99, which breaks down to 33 cents a roll. Not really a bad price. And the flavor assortment was better than the current LifeSavers array. For those who need something that’s gluten free or all-natural, yeah, it’s a nice way to go. But I sure hope yours aren’t stuck to the wrapping like mine were, because that completely ruined it for me. And bumped my fiber intake.
Other remembrances of the LifeSavers Storybook: The Joy Of ..., Jason Liebig has an actual photo of an old one with the rolls still in it, Candy Critic, and of course The Imaginary World has some (I like this one).
Friday, December 05, 2008
One of M&Ms Holiday Mixes isn’t just a color shift in the regular offering. It’s the Mint Chocolate M&Ms, which aren’t available during any of the other special editions for other holidays like Easter or Halloween.
I haven’t had these in years, as I used to find them to be dangerously addictive and for the past few years I’ve tried to concentrate on candies that were new to me.
But this year I was happy to hear that they were back and thought it was high time that I had some again and of course document there here so fans could squee with delight. (Also, they were on sale, so I bought this bag and a bag of the Holiday Mix Almond M&Ms, which I ate in two days.)
The lentils come in three colors: White, Green and Red.
I pulled out a few regular M&Ms as a comparison (on the left) for the photo because I thought the green and red were actually a different shade. And so they are!
It’s tempting to think that these are just minted Milk Chocolate M&Ms, but they’re a little different in several ways.
Yeah, they’re really good. I love mint & chocolate and though the milk chocolate of M&Ms isn’t spectacular, it’s certainly fun to put away.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
For years Sugar Babies were just plain old Sugar Babies.
Tiny little caramels panned with a sugar shell like a jelly bean.
Perfect just the way they are.
But Tootsie, like so many other companies, needed to expand the brand. So they covered them in chocolate and then some bitter green ogre skin (oh, wait, that was green apple flavor). Those were interesting extensions, because they actually built on the unique caramel of Sugar Babies and then added something else.
Now Tootsie has given us Sugar Babies Holiday Edition.
What’s different about these?
They’re white, red and green. That’s it.
I went out and bought a box of regular Sugar Babies just to be sure.
Even the original have artificial colors in them (why?) but the only addition to the list of ingredients for the Holiday Edition is titanium dioxide. (Mmm, like licking a lifeguard’s nose.)
Frankly, these Holiday Edition ones are downright ugly. They look like leftover nubs of erasers. The colors are dull but not muted enough to look like it’s on purpose. (And of course I can tell which ones are red by the bitter aftertaste that I get from Red 40.)
The other funky thing about these is the package design. I actually liked the blue and plain clip art style snowman. But I was extremely irritated by the little “snowflake” type decorative elements. Why? Because they have eight points.
Instead Holiday Edition Sugar Babies boxes are decorated with asterisks. And you know what asterisks make me think of?
If you have a Sugar Babies lover in your life and want to give them a little treat, make it a fresh box of the classic ones. The only reason to buy these is because you love Kurt Vonnegut.
Monday, December 01, 2008
The Hershey’s & Starbucks marriage has moved quietly out of the honeymoon stage. I see the products around quite a bit, though I haven’t been tempted to buy any again since I tried their launch line of items.
Then I saw their new holiday truffles. They have three new variesties that I spotted at both Rite Aid and Target.
The new truffles are: Peppermint Mocha Truffles, Gingerbread Latte Truffles and Eggnog Latte Flavored Truffles.
I stared and stared at the two packages for Gingerbread and Eggnog and I couldn’t figure out the difference. Gingerbread was going to be a little more on the cinnamon side and eggnog was going to be more on the nutmeg side. Both are milk chocolate.
Even though they were on sale, I opted for just the Eggnog ones. I think nutmeg is a hugely underrated spice and I love the combination of milk chocolate and nutmeg. (Frances bought all of them though.)
First let me say that I’ve never had a Starbucks coffee drink before. I’ve had straight lattes and cappuccinos and tried their Chantico hot chocolate before, but I’ve never had any of their flavored drinks. Like my aversion to sodas, I just don’t care much for sweet drinks. So I can’t compare the experience of this truffle to one of their actual hot Eggnog Lattes.
The narrow domed pieces are very attractive. Nicely molded and aromatic. I got an immediate whiff of chocolate and nutmeg with a little hint of rum flavoring.
The chocolate shell is shiny and nicely tempered. The chocolate is sweet but has a slight pop of coffee flavors. The sugar, cream and palm oil ganache center is creamy with a few little bits of spice in it. There’s a very slight hint of coffee from time to time, but for the most part this is a chocolate piece about the egg nog flavors, not espresso.
Overall, as I’ve found with egg nog in the past, this is pretty sweet stuff. The piece is nice, but as I’ve noticed with the other truffle boxes, I kind of want a variety. I did see a gift box at Target that had a mix of Mocha, Peppermint Mocha and Gingerbread Latte Truffles, but at $10 for less than 6 ounces it was a worse deal ounce for ounce than the stand up boxes. So I think I’m just going to keep my eye on it and hope it’s still there after Christmas. Or go to a real chocolatier and get something that’ll really roll my eyes back in my head.
As drug store chocolates go, they are all natural and Starbucks makes a point of saying that their coffee and chocolate are sourced ethically and grown sustainably (doesn’t say anything about the palm oil though). They’re certainly better than most other mass-produced boxed chocolates in that respect. Kosher.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Here’s another attractive little treat I picked up at Harry & David. Like the Fall Leaves Fruit Gels, these are not found on their website, just in the stores. The Belgian Chocolate Hazelnut Pinecones are simply too adorable to resist.
Actually, I did resist. I saw them on a recent trip to the Bay Area and didn’t buy them, then went back to the store before I left town, even though $12.95 seemed a bit steep for 7 ounces of not-Caffarel gianduia.
They’re little pine cone shaped chocolates, some milk chocolate and some white chocolate with a filling of hazelnut paste.
They’re about the size of a walnut in its shell, a full dozen packed into the tall bag.
They come in three different varieties:
The dark green one has a milk chocolate shell with a smooth hazelnut & chocolate paste filling. They smell like sweet black walnut flavoring. (My hope was that I’m not actually sensitive to walnut flavor, just actual walnuts.)
It’s rather sweet but the nutty flavors blend nicely with the milky smooth shell and filling.
The white chocolate shell with brown speckles has a filling of hazelnut paste with little rice crunchies. The nutty flavors weren’t as apparent, but the crisps gave a nice salty & cereal texture boost.
The orange white chocolate with the reddish airbrushing has a smooth nut paste with a stronger dairy note to it and less of a cocoa flavor.
I preferred the milk chocolate one far and away, the others, while interesting combinations of textures and flavors were just too sweet. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded if the pieces were smaller.
The biggest selling point is that they are so well crafted. The size, shape, molding and airbrushing of the shadows makes these irresistible as a seasonal treat. I can say that because I was unable to resist buying them, but I’ve been able to subsequently resist eating them. Still, if I’m looking for a hit of hazelnut I’d probably prefer Caffarel, Perugina Baci or Ferrero Rocher (in descending order of price) especially since I’ve been able to get Caffarel for about the same price of $1.00 per piece.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.