Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It’s November, there’s a crisp chill in the air (yeah, it was in the fifties last night here in Los Angeles) which usually signals mint & chocolate combinations are in season. Last week I tried Dove’s new Peppermint Bark. This weekend my eye was drawn to this Fannie May Mint Meltaway in with the holiday candy at Walgreen’s.
First of all, I never see Fannie May all the way out here in the West Coast. Second, this was a drug store, someplace I didn’t expect to run across a boxed chocolate brand. I know many readers have been urging me to cover Fannie May, so into my basket they went without complaint.
Fannie May used to be a fine chocolate company, founded in 1920 and based in Chicago. In 2004 they declared bankruptcy and were bought up by Alpine Confections who already owned a similar Midwest confectioner, Harry London of Canton, OH. In 2006 they became part of 1-800-FLOWERS. So they’re not quite the tiny little boxed chocolate company any longer; this is what their website says:
So some of you caught that I said that they used to be fine chocolate. Well, read on and you’ll see where I take issue with including them saying they’re “fine chocolate” when they’re not using the “finest ingredients.”
The Mint Meltaway package is rather refreshing and easy to spot. It’s a rather clinical white with a little pile of the candies isolated in the middle of the wrapper. The top and bottom edges have simple evergreen boughs and pine cone trim. There’s actually only one piece in the package though the image shows three, but at 1.5 ounces, it’s definitely not skimpy. The package describes the meltaway as Rich chocolate mint center drenched in creamy pastel coating. Wow, creamy pastel coating, can you tell how much my
mouth is watering at that? What is creamy pastel coating? Here’s what takes up a portion of the back of the package:
You know what all that adds up to? 1.5 grams of trans fats. Most companies have mucked around with their serving sizes so that they can skirt in under the “you can say there’s no trans fats if you have less than .5 grams in a serving” but Fannie May, well, she’s bold. She’s out there with a huge 240 calorie portion (160 calories per ounce) that contains 49% of my daily value of saturated fats. And those actual trans fats.
The block is two inches square and a half an inch high. The soft, matte & dull green looks like a bar of soap or a vintage fireplace tile. It has a soft peppermint scent, not menthol nasal-passages-clearing-strong.
The white coating is rather smooth and not at all greasy. It’s not minty but also not really much of anything besides a texture and slightly salty. The chocolate center isn’t a soft meltaway, it’s a bit firmer, like a Frango. It melts quickly though, cool and chocolatey with a pleasant peppermint essence to it. After a while it gets a little greasy though, a little thin and watery.
The ingredients don’t warrant the $1.39 price tag when I can get the Dove Peppermint Bark made with real cocoa butter just a little further down the aisle. Or if you don’t mind the mockolate, just eat some Andes Mints.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
One thing that was missing in the Dove chocolate line was white chocolate. Well, Dove’s new Dove Peppermint Bark Promises are the first step to remedy that. This new holiday version of Dove’s foil wrapped bites of chocolate has special holiday tips on the wrappers from Martha Stewart.
I was a little hesitant to pick up this bag when I saw it at RiteAid last weekend. Of course I was excited by a real cocoa butter version of peppermint bark with white chocolate. As mentioned in our forum discussion about new holiday candy, I was hoping these would replace the Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses in my heart, which are no longer made with 100% cocoa butter. And of course I love that Promises are easy to eat and share. But they were priced at $4.99 for an 8.5 ounce bag. That’s pretty steep for drug store chocolate.
When I opened the bag I wasn’t blown away by a minty smell; actually I didn’t catch much of anything as far as scent. But that’s not a bad thing, it means that the foil wrappers are doing their job of not only protecting each piece but also keeping their mint out of other candies that you might throw in the same bowl. Each little foil wrapped piece is cute: silver foil with red and green polka dots. They’re definitely easy to spot in comparison to the existing Promises line.
There’s a dark chocolate base with a white chocolate topper. The white chocolate has bits of red and white peppermint candies mixed in.
The melt is great. The dark chocolate (not totally dark, there is some milkfat in there, like most Dove) melts a bit quicker than the white chocolate. It’s a silky and fatty melt, slick and with some decent woodsy cocoa notes, but there’s also a cocoa experience ... a dryness like eating cocoa powder. No worries though the white chocolate layer is sweet, also fatty and of course minty. There’s a slight vanilla note to it and a bit of a dairy milk flavor with a hint of salt. The creaminess offsets the dry bite, as long as you eat the layers together.
The whole effect is a mint meltaway with a really tasty chocolate punch to it. Far and away better than an Andes Mint. The candy bits provide a good crunch (though I don’t necessarily need them, but without them it’s not a very convincing bark product.)
Price aside, these are awesome. They really fit the holiday season with the mint and chocolate combo. It’s also available in an actual bark shape, but I haven’t seen that in stores.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I checked through plenty of stores and found Walgreen’s had the best selection by the time the 75% off discount came around. This is when I jump on items I only eye at full price and then hem and haw over at half off. One was this Ghirardelli Squares Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Assortment. Full price was $8.99, so $2.24 for over nine ounces of chocolate sounded like a great deal even if it was seasonally themed.
The assortment includes Peppermint Bark, Egg Nog and Chocolate Pecan Pie.
Ghirardelli, I think, is known for their Peppermint Bark. It’s one of the few brands that dependably makes the stuff and actually uses cocoa butter for their white chocolate.
The construction of the square is pretty simple. A milk chocolate base layer is covered with a minted white chocolate studded with little crunchies.
The scent isn’t overpoweringly minty, which probably saves the other chocolates in the bag from tasting like mint, too.
The texture of the chocolates is smooth and silky, very sweet but not achingly so. The little crunchies in the white chocolate aren’t crushed candy canes though, they’re corn flake bits (colored red). The crunch is a bit more cereal than hard candy but still puffy.
It’s kind of odd that this sort of confection isn’t available year round, but since Ghirardelli has been bringing it back faithfully each winter, I shouldn’t complain.
Of the three flavors in the bag, this was the one that sold me on it: Egg Nog.
It’s just extra vanilla-y white chocolate (with real cocoa butter) and a visible dash of nutmeg.
I love the flavors of egg nog, but never really cared for sweet or thick drinks so the idea of a solid, melt-in-your-mouth version of it is ideal for me.
The square is a creamy yellow color and smells like nutmeg.
The white confection is sweet but pretty smooth and has the woodsy blast of nutmeg and tastes, like, well, Egg Nog. It could use a little more vanilla and maybe a slight hit of rum.
A real winner, if only because no one else makes a plain old white chocolate with nutmeg bar. Truffles, yeah, but not just a block of white chocolate. Great idea, well done, bring it back next year and I’ll probably buy it before it goes on clearance.
One of the reasons I thought that this review, even at this late date, would still be of value is that the Chocolate Pecan Pie is not a limited edition item. It’s available now as an individual bar or in single-flavor bags of the Squares. (Also, I don’t think Pecan Pie has a season.)
This little milk chocolate square smells wonderful, like maple, hot chocolate and caramel.
The milk chocolate is smooth, though plenty sweet. Mixed in is a light crunch of toffee coated pecan bits. They have a little salty hit and of course the caramelized & buttery crunch of pecans.
(The photos make it look like the chocolate is bloomed, I don’t think it was, I think it was the fatty pecans messing with the sheen of the chocolate. Mmm, fatty pecans.)
Overall, the array is fun and something I feel comfortable eating out of season at the moment. Especially because I love individually wrapped squares. A bonus is that a sandwich of the Egg Nog & Chocolate Pecan Pie actually go pretty well together. (But the Peppermint Bark doesn’t work with either.)
The only thing that really bugged me was that the ingredients weren’t listed separately for each of the squares. I was able to get the ingredients for the Peppermint Bark because it’s sold separately, but I really like to know what’s in items that I’m able to choose from a dish.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I’m buried in mints! So here’s a huge roundup of all the mint items in my queue that I wanted to get through before Christmas.
Like the Trader Joe’s Espresso Pillows I picked up a few months ago, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Mints come in a cute round tin and hold 2.45 ounces. Unlike the Espresso Pillows, these are not a very original product.
Inside the tin is a fluted liner that holds a large handful of soft, white candy-shelled mints. Each is about the size of a kidney bean. The tin says that there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. I think they shy from the “all natural” part because the white shell is created with titanium dioxide.
They reminded me of the classic Dutch Mints and luckily I had some of those around for comparison.
Jelly Belly makes a large variety of Dutch Mints. They come in different colors, these are all hot pink and individually wrapped, though you can also get them in the stark white, pastel mint colors or right now in the Christmas assortment of red, green and white. (And they’re Kosher.)
The Dutch Mint is the size of a garbanzo bean but my guess is the same mass as the TJ’s.
They’re both the same construction, a soft mint fondant with a thin layer or dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
Both are lovely and addictive. The Trader Joe’s retails for $1.22 an ounce. The Jelly Belly can go for anywhere from $.70 an ounce for the small 2.9 ounce bag to $.56 for a one pound tub (check out Cost Plus World Market).
Jelly Belly Dutch Mints get a rating of: 8 out of 10
These also closely resemble the York Mints that also come in a tin.
The previous are great for toting around and especially nice if a restaurant gives you a few with the check. But if you’re entertaining, you might want to provide some other more chocolatey mint morsels.
I’ve always loved After Eight Mints, which are a flowing mint fondant in an ultra thin square. I used to love how they came in individual glassine envelopes, like a little file box of deliciousness.
Of course After Eights are made by Nestle now and not nearly as good as I remember them on top of the controversies that they’re made from questionably sourced chocolate. The Fair Trade movement has been working to bring families and communities out of poverty through fair payment for goods & services.
Divine Chocolate has been doing this since 1998 in the United Kingdom and recently expanded into the United States. Not only do they have tasty bars they also have addition treats like these Divine After Dinner Mints.
The mints are nicely sized for two bites at about 1.5” square. The mild semi-sweet chocolate is crisp and cracks well. The mint fondant center is creamy and minted only slightly so as not to overpower the chocolate. The dark chocolate has some berry and fruity tones that combine well with the cool peppermint flavors.
I’ve seen these at Whole Foods (at an endcap display for hostess giving), so they should be pretty widely available this season.
Divine After Dinner Mints get a rating of 7 out of 10.
Creme de Menthe Altoids have been out for a few months, though it took me a while to find the variety that isn’t covered in chocolate. I realized that I might have seen them before, the green of the package is only slightly lighter than the Spearmint boxes. These were on sale for $1.50 to boot!
Basically the flavor of these is like a Peppermint TicTac. It has a powdery vanilla scent, softer than a harsh peppermint and perhaps just a hint of licorice.
But these are Altoids. Though they might start out mild, they do pack a much stronger kick later on. I like the flavor a bit better than the straight Peppermint if only because of the mix of aromas.
Creme de Menthe Altoids get a rating of 8 out of 10.
Quite a few folks have been lamenting that Trader Joe’s discontinued their English Soft Peppermints. I’m pretty keen on the generic & mild butter mints I find at the drug store, but those were some pretty good mints.
Around this time of year, however, I see a lot of these See’s Peppermint Twists in candy dishes around the office. It took me a while, but I think I found out who makes them. There were two contenders: King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy or Bob’s Sweet Stripes.
I saw this box of King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy at the 99 Cent Only Store and thought I’d give them a whirl. They were a dollar for 3.5 ounces.
I thought they were “butter mints” and read through this to see how I came to that conclusion:
So I was expecting a soft mint. Either crumbly soft or mushy soft.
These were neither. They’re soft as in rounded and smooth, but after that they were not butter mints until I sucked on them for a while. Which is kind of the opposite of “soft from the moment you open the box”. Annoyance aside, they’re peppermint candies. They are airy and dissolve nicely and of course none of those hard candy sharp edges. They’re sweet and a bit less intense than a starlight mint and really pretty to look at. Like those English Soft Peppermints that were really made in the Netherlands, King Leo are made in Mexico. Kosher.
King Leo Soft Peppermint Candy gets a 6 out of 10.
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.
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