Thursday, December 18, 2008
If I had to rank my all time ever favorite desserts, right there at the top would be a Pecan Pie I used to get at Larrupin’ Cafe in Trinidad, CA. It was a traditional styled pecan goo, more pecan than caramel but also had a healthy dose of chocolate in there. Then the whole thing was drizzled with a hot rum sauce. (Looks like I’ve mentioned this before!)
I knew going in that these Dove Pecan Pie Caramel Promises in Silky Smooth Chocolate weren’t going to measure up to that, seeing how there was no hot buttered rum sauce and no pecans.
The Promises are wrapped in foil. Because this was a Christmas-themed box, I think some of the missives inside were holiday related, such as Joy toy ... you, Warmth on the inside can melt cold on the outside or Togetherness in itself is a holiday treat.
They have a pleasant pecan aroma that smells a bit like Russian teacakes or shortbread. The milk chocolate shell is smooth and creamy and sweet. The caramel inside is thick and rich, with a strong woodsy pecan flavor ... a little over the top but effective at selling the whole “pecan pie” thing.
I would have loved to have real pecans in here, but as a nutless Dove bite, it’s pretty tasty. Sweet, but with some strong coffee they’re going really quickly.
Since they’re in Christmas packaging, look for these on the after Christmas sale, at 50% off they’ll be a great bargain.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
When I was in Pennsylvania visiting my brother he took me to the Lancaster County Farmers Market as one of the stops on a candy adventure. There I found Nancy’s Candy Corner (not really a corner as it was in a center aisle). This vendor has everything covered in chocolate. Their specialty seemed to be pretzels. Pretzels dipped in chocolate. Pretzels dipped in chocolate and then rolled in things (toffee chips, chocolate chips, Oreo bits, sprinkles). Lots and lots of pretzel options. There were more traditional options like peanut butter straws. I bought a variety including some Milk and Dark chocolate covered German Spice Cookies.
They were fabulous. The cookies were dense and crunchy, the chocolate was sweet and creamy and then they were gone.
This is why I was so pleased to see these at Trader Joe’s, something I could buy locally, even if only temporarily. At 5.99 for the 10 ounce tin, it was one of the pricier confectionery items I’ve bought at Trader Joe’s lately.
The decription on the bottom of the tin makes my mouth water.
Molasses, ginger, cloves and vanilla ... these aromatic ingredients are the hallmark of gingersnap cookies. We’ve taken it one step further by gliding tiny gingersnap cookies with dark chocolate. For a sophisticated treat that mixes the creamy richness of chocolate with crunchy, spicy cookies.
Inside was a cellophane bag of shiny chocolate nuggets:
They smell of cloves, cinnamon and chocolate.
The pieces are irregular, ranging in size from a garbanzo bean to a hazelnut in the shell. The chocolate coating is glossy.
The chocolate is creamy and sweet, really has a silky mouthfeel. The spices of the cookie are overpowering, so the chocolate flavors aren’t as forward, but the texture makes a huge contribution here.
The cookies are fabulous. The woodsy molasses sets the stage for the immediate clove flavor and then the warming spices really kick in. I found they warmed my throat after two or three with both a gingery kick as well as a black pepper burn.
Trader Joe’s doesn’t have clearance sales after the holidays, so there’s no way to get these cheap or regularly. I can only hope they’ll sell them in the little tubs all year round and I don’t have to create a collection of these tins.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A few months ago I saw Creme Drops at the 99 Cent Store, but since it was hot out, I didn’t pick them. Then I saw Robby’s review on Candy Addict of the Necco variety and I thought maybe I’d made the right decision.
But then I saw these on the website for the Vermont Country Store and made a mental note. Well, that mental note didn’t sit there too long because a couple of weeks later VCS wanted me to try some of their candy and I specifically requested their Assorted Cream Drops.
Since it’s finally gotten cool in Los Angeles, chocolate shipping produces less anxiety than the other 8 months of the year. (They’re packaging for shipping was great, too, by the way. Everything arrived in great shape.)
The rest of the description is rather vague. The name they use is Chocolate-Covered Cream Drop Assortment with 6 Luscious Flavors but the box never actually list the flavors by name (but digging around on the description page does yield the list).
And the drops all look exactly the same.
So I set about picking them out of the box and cutting them in half, like it was some sort of logic puzzle like mine sweeper.
After eight of them (three were Lemon and not in a row), I determined that they are randomly loaded into the box. The dividers in the box do a great job of protecting the candies without any fussy papers. (Eventually I found that sniffing them carefully did allow me to pick out orange or maple, but then again, who wants one that I’ve held up to my nose? I think I’m better off poking holes in the bottom.)
Yellow = Lemon: sweet and creamy but a little like a scented candle. The bittersweet chocolate shell set the mellow center off quite nicely. It’s not very zesty, just a light aromatic lemon. All of the pieces had sugar grains in it though, unlike the other flavors. I’m guessing this was just a manufacturing glitch.
Beige = Maple: I could often sniff this one out, the maple flavor was quite pungent. It combined well with the sweet and slightly stringy fondant center.
Orange = Orange: reminded me of a creamsicle. Sweet and with a good mouthfeel and a nice chocolate note that cut that almost-too-sweetness of it.
Pink = Raspberry: this interior was very bright pink, which alerted me that this was probably the one with the Red Dye #40. It was all about the floral and perfumey flavors, not much of the rich tangy berry in there.
Brown = Chocolate: this is the mellowest of the bunch. It’s not so much chocolatey as just less sweet and slightly creamier. The filling is not quite silky, but the gooeyness is more than pleasant.
White = Vanilla: tastes exactly like a Junior Mint without the mint. The fondant center is wonderfully smooth, the chocolate becomes the star. It melts easily though admittedly the whole thing is very sweet. I would recommend eating these with strong black coffee or black tea.
These are a quality product. The consistency of the fondant center was fresh and glossy, the chocolate was good. They’re not really something that I would eat on a regular basis, when I have a box of mixed chocolates, I usually leave the creams for last so actually buying a box of creams isn’t something I’m likely to do. I prefer the slightly fattier creams that Fannie Mae (we had a box of those at the office recently) or See’s make. But if you’ve always wished that Junior Mints came in other flavors or perhaps want a less chocolatey or dark chocolate version of a Cadbury Creme Egg, then this might be for you.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The description on the package says: Creme Filled Center with Smooth Chocolate Flavored Coating!. So yeah, it’s mockolate. (But at least their snowflakes have six points.)
I had hopes though, since it’s also a full 12 ounces ... for only a dollar? That’s quite a value there. A one pound box of sugar is about $1.19 at my local grocery store.
Because they’re bagged and not in a box with little partitions, they are a little more scuffed than the Vermont Country Store variety. (But again, the price difference is absurd - VCS are $1.25 an ounce and Zachary’s are 8.3 cents an ounce.)
They also only come in one flavor, plain. (Or perhaps I should call it vanilla, but there is no vanilla or vanilla flavor listed on the ingredients.)
The shell is mockolate but has a dark, toasted scent.
The bite of the Zachary candy (left) is vastly different from the soft and glossy VCS variety (right). This is a solid fondant, similar to the center of a York Peppermint Pattie.
The texture is smooth, but crumbly, kind of like an albino fudge.
I rather liked the center but the mockolate coating ruined it for me. It was sweet and had that stale Easter essence. It’s rather sad, I’d gladly take 1/3 of the quantity at twice the price if they were real chocolate because the centers are pretty good.
I can recommend these for people who already love them (and I shouldn’t quibble with folks who like what they like). I can recommend these for placing as a decoration on a tray of cookies or perhaps adding to a dessert plate when you’re really in a crunch and don’t like your guests (or know that they all have colds and would simply appreciate the fondant texture).
Rating: 3 out of 10
I kind of wish both varieties came in mint.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I first had Trader Joe’s Peppermint Joe Joe’s last year and thought they were tasty - a chocolate cookie sandwich with a mint cream filling, but like Hydrox. I had a bit of trouble with the fact that the cookie part wasn’t quite as good as the Oreo.
The regular Joe Joe’s come in a one pound package, which is pretty dangerous in my house. Though I’m not a cake or baked goods fan in general, I do have a cookie problem. (If Candy Blog were to ever expand, it’d be into cookie reviews.)
The cute tray was sealed in cellophane and protected every single cookie from any damage in transit.
There are ten in all. Each is dusted with a bit of crushed mint candies.
They smell very minty, to the exclusion of all other flavors, such as chocolate.
They’re also pretty hefty, clocking in at about one ounce each. (And 150 calories.)
The cookie is crumbly and has a dark toasted cocoa flavor. The chocolate is creamy and perhaps a little sweet. The cream filling is where this doesn’t go as well, it’s grainy, which is fine, but it’s also a bit greasy. If I eat it all as a sandwich together, it’s great. Eating just the filling is a disappointment.
The ingredients list was pretty clear. Real chocolate, no artificial flavors or colors ... the only item that gives some folks pause is palm oil. (But some of the sugar is actually organic evaporated cane juice.)
Overall, it’s super tasty and should be enjoyed like a candy and not a cookie. (If you’re wondering what the difference is, I’d say that a serving of cookies like Oreos is three, but for these, the serving size is one.)
Rating: 8 out of 10.
I had Nabisco’s Pure Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo Sandwich Cookies earlier this year. I found them in a little package at a drug store in Santa Monica while picking up some items for a beach picnic. I ate them in the car on the way there. It wasn’t until I was shopping at Target last week that I found them in a larger package.
This is a dangerous thing. I like them a bit too much.
The Oreos come in a tray with individual slots. There are 12 cookies in the box instead of 10 in the Joe Joe’s (but this box weighs only 7.5 ounces instead of 9.4). I don’t know the regular price on these, they were $2.50 on sale so were less per ounce than the Joe Joe’s.
As I expected the ingredients list wasn’t quite as wholesome, but I’ve got to give credit to Nabisco for not coloring the cream centers pink or green. The chocolate is real, but there’s palm oil in there and way down on the list is a bit of high fructose corn sweetener. All the other ingredients are pretty much the usual stuff.
The tray protected the individual cookies well, each one was glossy and had wonderful little ripples of milk chocolate on top.
These also smelled strongly of peppermint, and a little bit of milk.
The cookie crumble of the Oreo is spectacular. It’s a little sandy and releases immediate salty and smoky cocoa notes. The soft crunch is punctuated by the smooth milk chocolate, which isn’t as sweet as I would have expected (especially after having the Joe Joe’s). The cream center is grainy, lightly minted but without any greasiness to the fatty cream.
Each cookie is 90 calories and weighs about .65 ounces.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
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 9, 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).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.