Thursday, April 17, 2008
It’s often puzzled me why there aren’t more organic candy bars out there. For the most part candy bars are made (or can be made) with all natural/organic ingredients pretty easily. Why no one does this is beyond me, so for the most part candy fiends with an eco bent have to eat just chocolate (sometimes flavored) or hard candies or pay for bars to be flown from far away places and pay ridiculous prices for kinky combinations ... in reality all I want is the tried and true candy bar, only made with pure ingredients.
Crispy Cat has a nice line of candy bars that seem to defy that notion that candy bars have to be made with sub-par ingredients. Their bars are also dairy free, gluten free, non GMO and use a large proportion of organic ingredients (70-90% organic, depending on the bar). In fact, their ingredients list only looks long because they put things like “organic” or “made with gmo” all over it.
They come in three varieties: Toasted Almond, Roasted Peanut and Mint Coconut ... all with dark chocolate.
Here’s what Joel, the founder of Crispy Cat has to say:
The Toasted Almond features dark chocolate, crispy rice & toasted almonds.
It has a wonderful dark, woodsy and chocolatey aroma. The bite is a bit stiff, it’s not quite crunchy and certainly not chewy. It’s just lumpy.
Once I got used to the complex center, I was pleased with the combination of flavors and textures. It’s part crisped rice, a little bit of a caramel-like chew to hold it together, a toasted sugar flavor and some pieces of almonds for an added crunch. I would have preferred a lighter crunch to it, something easier to chew (either crispier or softer).
This bar also has a crisped rice center. In this case it’s a bit fluffier and softer than the others, with a light peppermint scent.
Instead of the firm and chewy center, this one was a bit crumblier and has big pieces of naturally sweet coconut in it. It’s an interesting flavor combo, very tropical and fresh, a bit of a grassy note to the whole thing.
I can’t say that I loved this one, in fact it was my least favorite of the three. But I can’t help but be pleased that someone is paying attention to coconut these days. I love the stuff.
The center felt fattier though had the same number of calories as the Toasted Almond at 220 it has 10 grams of fat (TA has only 9).
The dark chocolate is rather bitter but has a decent melty texture. The crunchy rice, peanut butter and peanut chunk center is tasty. It’s dark and nutty, a bit salty and only lightly sweet. This one hits it out of the park as far as a peanut candy bar can go.
It definitely tasted like a candy bar, not one of those nutrition bars.
I was kind of surprised to see that they weighed only 1.75 ounces, it’s actually bigger than a Snickers bar, which gives the perception of a much larger mass of satisfaction.
Overall, these are fun and have very few compromises. And what’s the biggest one? Price. These retail for $2.50 ... that’s three times the price you’d pay for a non-organic bar. Pretty startling. But compared to other premium meal replacement bars, they can hold their own. The two nut varieties have 4 grams of protein (not from soy, though they do use soy lecithin so they’re not soy free) and 2 grams of fiber. They also clock in at 220 calories, which is a decent snack. I’d probably prefer these in a smaller variety though ... they’d make an awesome Halloween Treat if they came in snack size.
The Roasted Peanut bar is the one most likely to appeal to kids but none are too mature to miss with a true candy bar fiend.
I’d also recommend a bit of a change in the design of the package. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to appeal to, but it’s not grabbing me. They call themselves “tree huggin’ treats” and have the image of a couple of arms around a tree on the left size of each wrapper. (I’m not sure where the cat comes in.) The website looks completely different and inconsistent from this (but I’m not keen on the web’s cartoon designs either).
I’m not quite sure about them, they’re definitely on the right track and I’d be most inclined to eat the Roasted Peanut again, but if I were faced with eating one of these or a Lara Bar, I’d probably go for the Lara Bar.
Want to win some? Check out Crispy Cat Chronicles, if you can guess Ann’s new baby’s height, weight & birthdate you can win three cases of the bars of your very own.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I was looking forward to this bar when I heard about it at All Candy Expo last September. It was teased, “Satisfy your taste for adventure! Rich chocolate. Crunchy nuts. And a cliffhanger kick of exotic spice and a hint of sweet coconut flavor.” That description doesn’t sound that gripping, but still a tasty combo.
The bars began showing up on store shelves in the past few weeks, along with the other tie-in items like the new color & icons in the Milk Chocolate M&Ms and Peanut M&Ms as well as the Mint Crisp M&Ms.
Here’s the obligatory and gratuitous cross-section:
It looks like a regular Snickers, it has the same milk chocolate coating and two layers inside. The top layer is caramel studded with peanuts and the bottom is a fluffed nougat.
There is a faint whiff of coconut, but I’m not getting any chai spices in there.
Still, all I’m getting is a bit saltier nougat and the coconut flavor mixed into the caramel.
It’s not bad, but certainly doesn’t live up to its name. If you’ve always wanted a coconut Snickers (and I know a few people mentioned a love of coconut in the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Ideal Candy Bar question) this might be the bar for you. Of course it may also be a big disappointment for true coconut fans, as there is no actual coconut in there. You might just want to pick up an Almond Joy and smash it on top of a regular Snickers for a better effect (and a true mash up!).
While this may have disappointed me (and the Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road Bar didn’t), I’ve got to give them props for trying some new things instead of just using the same ingredients in different ways (like the Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch) or taking away an element (like the Snickers Xtreme).
The package design is a bit better on this one, I think, than the Mint Crisp M&Ms. Don’t forget to check out the new colors of M&Ms, too.
The Milk Chocolate M&Ms are in a muted color palatte: Red, Brown, Amber and Cream.
They all have assorted new icons on them, integrated with the letter M in some way. I like the one that’s wearing the Indiana Jones hat and the map ordinal. There are also various pyramids and native masks. Some of them feel a bit like a retread of the Pirates of the Caribbean, including the skull. But I guess that’s the genre of movie. The Peanut ones rarely have a legible icon on them as well, but hey, that’s the hazard with using a real peanut center.
All of the Indiana Jones tie in Mars products are available in stores now. I found mine at CVS and Walgreen’s.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Ferrero always does a nice job of packaging their chocolates. They’re best known for their clear plastic boxes, which show off the lovely foil wrappings of their spheres of Rocher, Rondnoir and now the Ferrero Garden.
While most of what you’re paying for in these boxes is the box itself, for drug store or discounter fare, the Ferrero line is dependable and unique enough in its offerings that I’m often drawn to it.
Ferrero sent me a box of one of their special packages for Easter. This one is the Prestige assortment, which includes their trio of favorites weighing 4.8 ounces and shaped like an egg. There are five Rochers, four Rondnoir and four Garden (13 pieces total, I don’t know if that’s a comment on the Last Supper or not ... I’m doubting it).
I’ve reviewed the Rafaello and the Mon Cheri, but not the Garden. Honestly, I thought it was the Rafaello, just thrown inside some silver foil and given a new name. And it pretty much is.
There seems to be a lighter coconut coating, and instead of being completely spherical, these have a little flat bottom. The top has a little dollop & drizzle of a white confection (they call it meringue, but really it’s more like a white chocolate).
Inside is a milky tasting cream and a little sliver of almond. It’s all very sweet but has a nice touch of coconut and the crisp of the wafer cookie sphere balances it all well.
The assortment here has a good balance between the very sweet, mild & nutty and dark intense chocolate. The plastic tray can be popped out and the domed egg container can be reused. (There are no stickers to take off or anything.) The only drawback is that the plastic box doesn’t stay closed very well when tipped up on its side, so it’s more of a display box than a utility one.
They also come in other shapes, like bunnies and a stand-up egg. These should retail for about $5.50. (The non-holiday version of this is $6.99 on the Walgreen’s website for 5.5 ounces.)
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here’s a jolly little set of marshmallows just for Halloween: Frankford Marshmallow Pals. They were pretty affordable, just $1.99 for a package of 18 individually wrapped marshmallows - that’s about 11 cents each. That’s always the tough thing about marshmallows ... you can’t just open a bag of Jet Puffs and toss them in trick-or-treaters’ bags, even though they’re pretty cheap. So the little wrappers help quite a bit on that front.
Shaped marshmallows are certainly nothing new and Just Born with their Peeps line may be the epitome of seasonal marshmallows. But Frankford has definitely come up with something that sets it apart.
There are four different shapes in this mix: Jack O Lantern, Green Dracula, Even Greener Frankenstein Monster and Orange Witch.
Each is decorated with frosting, and may I say they did a really good job. Though some of them were a little smashed inside the package, they puffed back up again pretty well. The sugary coating also kept them from sticking to the wrapper. Each face has little frosting eyes, often hair and an expression on its mouth. They all look slightly different, when I pulled out all the Draculas, some looked slightly Asian, others downright fierce and one a bit cross-eyed with something of a dorky smile.
The color of the face is the same color of the marshmallow through and through. (Unlike Peeps, who are only colored on the outside.)
The marshmallows themselves as firm but moist. They have a latexy quality that gives them a very long chew. The flavor is lightly coconut, which I found pleasant and summery. Honestly, I prefer my marshmallows to taste like something. The frosting added a little crunch and it was a relief to find out that it wasn’t waxy like the eyeballs on Peeps.
Though I’m not really keen on eating marshmallows alone, the flavor helped. The really cute attention to details and vibrant colors swayed me. As an indulgence, they’re quite low in calories (being mostly air and having no fat): 38 calories per Pal. They contain gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians. The package does not mention gluten or nuts though there appears to be no wheat/nut products in the ingredients.
These were made in China.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
No, it’s not German candy week ... it’s purely a coincidence that I bought those Katjes and then my husband picked up this cool box of Ritter Sport Schockowurfel on a recent trip to New York City.
Instead of the regular sized bars, these miniatures are about the size of a regular Ritter Sport “section” ... and they’re filled as well! Kind of like little truffles. The variety is called in 6 pralingen Sorten ... which I’m guessing means an assortment of six pralines.
The bottom of the box is folded in such a way that when I removed the top the bottom expands to make more of a bowl ... which makes it easier to rifle through the assortment to see what they all are. Luckily there was also an inventory with images on the side of the box to guide me through them all.
The wrappers are all distinctive enough in color combos that I got good at telling what they were at a glance.
Creme Coco isn’t something chocolatey ... nope, it’s milk chocolate with a coconut center. The coconut is certainly sweet, as is the milk chocolate, but the small size makes it pretty agreeable. It reminded me a little bit of the limited edition Hershey’s Coconut Creme Kisses, in a good way. This coconut was a little firmer, a little crispier.
Cappuccino & Amarettini was not one I was looking forward to, since I assumed it was going to be heavy on the amaretto (as the marzipan bar is), but it was much more focused on the coffee notes. Very sweet, so sweet it made my throat burn for a bit.
Tiramisu on the other hand had that amaretto flavor, but distinctive marscapone note.
Caramel Crisp was kind of odd ... the filling was light in color but reminded more of the yogurt Ritter Sports. There were some dark caramelized sugar flavors in there and some light crispies that kind of redeemed the cloying sweetness.
Crocant reminds me of the great Knusperflakes that Ritter makes, though I think it’s actually crisped rice ... the little crispy bits are inside a softer cocoa cream center. Simple, fun, tasty.
The assortment had some nice variation and is a pleasant change from the monotony of buying a whole bar and being force to consume it before you can move on to another flavor (okay, maybe no one forces me). It’s easy to share them and they look pretty sassy in their simple little wrappers. I’d love it if some were dark chocolate though, as I think Ritter is making great strides in the dark department for a mass-consumer chocolate company. I have no idea how much my husband paid for this ... I can’t even find it on the Ritter website. I did see that they have another morsel-sized chocolate simply called Rum; if it’s anything like the Rum Trauben Nuss, I’m sold.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Here’s a little fun for the Summer. Some white and some dark.
Ferrero makes quite few different little two bite confections besides their Rocher and Mon Cheri. The one that I’ve kind of avoided all these years is the Ferrero Raffaello. Why? It looks kind of like a snowball, and I was afraid there’d be some marshmallow in there. But a kind reader set me straight.
Each package contains three little coconut covered spheres. Unlike everything else in the Ferrero line, these are not individually wrapped ... unless coconut flakes count as wrapping.
I rather admire Ferrero. They really seem to understand their marketing segment. An upscale chocolate in sophisticated wrappings that you can buy at the drug store or grocer. Not terribly expensive, decent quality and in flavor/texture combinations you just don’t get in other American chocolates.
I bought a single serving package, which is a small tray with three little candies in it, each in a little white fluted cup. They’re a little messy, with a lot of dislodged coconut coming out of the package along with them.
They smell like summer: like coconut and a sweet hit of sugar.
They’re not terribly big, at about a third of an ounce each they don’t feel very dense. I guessed at what they’d be like inside from the ingredients, that there would be a wafer sphere with a cream filling.
Sure enough, I got it right. The coconut gave way to a crisp but bland wheat wafer shell and a milky flavored cream inside (think buttercream frosting). That must be a lot of dairy in there, it contains 6% of your RDA of Calcium!
The cream had some strong dairy flavors and a pretty smooth texture. It wasn’t as sweet as I’d expected. In the very center was a little nut that at first I thought was a hazelnut but then found out was an almond when I read the description on the back of the package that called these: Almond Coconut Treat.
It was a nice little refreshing treat, but I didn’t find them very satisfying on their own. As part of a mix, they’d be nice as a little change of pace, but I don’t see myself sitting down with a package.
Made in Belgium. Rating: 6 out of 10
The item I was really interested in was something that I saw announced on the All Candy Expo website several weeks ago. Ferrero Rondnoir which sounded like a it would be a dark chocolate Ferrero Rocher. Well, they’re not quite that, but still quite a nice extension of the Rocher line.
I didn’t expect to see these until the ACE next month, so imagine my surprise at finding them at the RiteAid (the same RiteAid that seemed to have the Elvis Cups out three weeks early).
The trio of candies are wrapped in an elegant bronze/brown foil with a little sticker on top that confirms that they are the Rondnoir (in case you get them in a mixed box). They’re further packaged in little brown fluted cups ... perhaps packaging overkill, but they’re a little wafer sphere in a skimpy little paperboard tray ... they probably need the protection.
Again, I’m bad at reading directions or press releases, so all I knew was that these were dark chocolate. I fully expected them to be just like the Rocher.
They’re not at all like Rochers. First, the outer coating is a chocolate crumble - think really rich Oreo cookie bits. Inside that is the wafer shell. Inside that is the dark chocolate cream. It’s light and buttery with some nice but not overwhelming chocolate flavors. Think hot chocolate, not quite rich ganache.
Then at the center is not a nut but a little sphere of super buttery dark chocolate. In fact, it tastes very little like chocolate, but it is like a little ball of cocoa butter (or perhaps something worse that I prefer not to think about). Eaten alone, it’s a little too slippery. Eaten with the whole sphere at once, it’s the perfect little creamy burst.
I’m rather fond of this new Ferrero product and I plan to stuff my sample bag with them at All Candy Expo next month and even consider buying them in the future. The small package makes portion control pretty easy and it’s hard to just rush right through them, considering all the packaging (hey, my city takes aluminum foil in the recycling bin!). At 1 ounce it’s 160 calories, so yes, it’s calorie rich for its size, but then again, if you only bought one package you’re safe.
They remind me of the Lindt Lindor Truffles ... which is a good thing.
This variety is made in Germany. Rating: 8 out of 10
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
One of the things that I was attracted to at the counter of the candy store were these pretty and classic chocolate bars. They came in four varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Almonds and Sugar Free Milk Chocolate (on a different display).
They’re all 1.8 ounces and the ingredients are promisingly short: sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, soy lecithin and vanillin. They were all priced $1.25 each.
The other bar (not pictured) was the Milk Chocolate with Almonds bar (it looked just like the Milk Chocolate bar). It’s similarly sweet and has a wonderful scent of almonds. The almonds are whole, if a little small. Crunchy and a good counterpoint to the very sugary chocolate. The pieces are nice though, easy to break off a third and chomp it whole or maybe three bites.
The Mickey Dark Chocolate Bar was stunning when I took it out of the package. The glossy squares and nicely detailed relief of Mickey’s head definitely has appeal. It smells nice, a little more on the cedar side of woodsy than coffee. The ingredients on this one lists butterfat. It’s pretty smooth but very sweet for a dark chocolate. It’s kind of “watery” on the tongue, reminding me of the Royal Dark Cadbury Mini Eggs that came out this year ... kind of like a pleasant cup of hot chocolate.
The sweetness leads me to believe that some kids may enjoy this, and if they don’t their moms or dads won’t complain about having to eat the leftovers themselves.
I give the whole set of bars a passably good 7 out of 10, good portion control at 1.8 ounces, easy to share, decent price for a branded item and Kosher for those who are looking for that. I appreciate that the candy has the Mickey brand on the inside and the outside.
Much of the candy is rather mainstream fare, and though I couldn’t find any chocolate mint patties or minted chocolate, I did find the Mickey Mouse Creamy Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties. They were a little more than the other pre-packaged candies at $1.50, but they were also 2.7 ounces. The packaging is kind of retro, kind of islandy. The Mickey on the package is the old-fashioned Mickey who is all pupil and has no whites in his eyes.
Inside is a little plastic tray with two chocolate dipped coconut patties in the shape of Mickey’s head.
These are hefty huge patties! Each weighs approximately 1.35 ounces, a good sized portion of candy on its own. The chocolate doesn’t coat the top, but you can’t tell from the photo that it does cover the bottom.
The star here is the soft coconut pattie itself. It’s creamy and soft and of course coconutty. It smells like summer. The coconut is chewy and only slightly fibery, a bit smoother than a Mounds bar, but also a bit sweeter.
The chocolate takes a back seat, which is fine. It’s not great chocolate like that on the Chocolate Dipped Pretzels, but it makes the candy attractive and it’s real, which is always a selling point.
The package does say that they were made in a “nut free environment” (except for those coconuts, which I guess are technically a fruit). Not Kosher. I give them a 7 out of 10.
These little M&M-like candies are called Chocolate Spots and came in a peanut variety as well. I went for the traditional “candy-coated Milk Chocolate”. As I was looking for a package that wasn’t crinkled and sticky, I noticed that all the bags felt like the contents were “grainy” instead of smooth.
I did my best to pick one from the bottom that looked crisp and had the best feeling contents, but when I got home and dumped them out, it was quite apparent that my attempt was not successful.
I know that many small children aren’t particularly choosy about their chocolate, and bless them for that. If I were a child and told I could only pick out one item from this store and this is what I got, I’d be in tears. The chocolate tastes like the wrapper smells, like plastic. The candy shell is crispy, yes, but only masks the burnt flavors of the chocolate. Think of those awful burnt unpopped kernels of popcorn and maybe the filling of a futon that’s been stored in a damp basement for the past few decades. I should have known that they were going to be bad when I read the list of ingredients ... which included PGPR (granted, I still love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which now include PGPR, but it’s certainly in spite of it that they’re good, not because of it).
Honestly, I think I’m going to package these up and send them back to Disney. I might accept such quality from the 99 Cent Only Store at a fifth of the price, but not from a big company that prides itself on the experience of the brand. 1.8 ounces. I’m giving them a 2 out of 10. Not Kosher.
How difficult would it be to simply have a Disney branded M&M? The candies would have little characters on them instead of Ms (like the Pirate Pearls had little skulls and swords). Or ... don’t bother with M&Ms and get some GOOD candy maker to do two different sizes and kids could make their own Mickey heads with large and small candy lentils.
I’d kind of hoped, as with the Disney Spots, that this Pecan-Caramel Cluster would have a cutesy name, like Lion King Paws or Chewy Manes ... But clarity is always a good thing. In fact, besides the image on the package of Simba and Nala, it doesn’t say a single thing about The Lion King. I guess in a few years these could be branded for a more popular Princess or perhaps some tie in with Ratatouille.
The package says they’re “Crisp Pecans drenched in Creamy Caramel, smothered in delicious Milk Chocolate.”
And so they are.
These were far better than the Nestle Pecan Turtles I had earlier this year. Fresh nuts, the right texture for the caramel. The chocolate wasn’t the best in the world, but at least it didn’t detract. A winner.
2 pecan clusters, 1.5 ounces total. Not Kosher. $1.25 9 out of 10
Overall, the packaged stuff was pleasant and by theme-park standards, a good value. Just stay away from the Chocolate Spots.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Australia has not been left out of the KitKat craze, but they’re a little harder to get a hold of. One of my co-workers happens to be married to an Aussie, so on his last trip to visit family I gave him some bucks and asked for anything that caught his fancy (knowing me of course). Some I just ate, but these I thought I’d at least share a little about.
KitKat Temptations: Coconut Eclair: The big dome over the narrow little pair of wafers is filled with a sweet and mildly coconutty cream. The cream is kind of a cross between the inside of a York Peppermint Pattie and a truffle. Not quite smooth, not quite buttery, but not as crumbly as the fondant of a York.
The cookies don’t even take a back seat here, they’re on a trailer being towed behind. One of those shocks that would greet you as you were looking to change lanes and saw that the Coconut Eclair had passed you and you were trying to get out from behind some mollasses Slo-Poke and didn’t realize that they had that wafer cookie trailer bouncing along behind, without lights or any of those red dangly flags. Then you slow down and smack your own forhead and say, DUH! It’s a KitKat!
KitKat Temptations: Hazelnut Praline: This one smelled kind of like maple, but perhaps pecan, if we’re talking about nuts. I know Australia is a half a world away, but I also know they grow hazelnuts, so I can’t quite figure out the lame taste on this one. It’s all very sweet. The nutty cream center is rather like Nutella, but lacks that nutty punch. Instead it’s flavored like nuts, but doesn’t taste like them ... ya know? There are a few little crushed nuts in there (as there should be, the picture on the wrapper illustrates them) but they just didn’t strike me as hazelnuts. They could have been almonds.
Yeah, I’m just not getting the KitKat vibe here. KitKats are all about the wafers, grainy cream and chocolate. Anything added is great, but don’t muck with the basics.
You may have tempted me once, but you’ll not snare me again.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.