Monday, June 25, 2007
The first thing I was looking for at the Candy Palace at Disneyland was something unique. Why should I eat something that I can get anywhere? So I scoured the store to find something that was made only for sale at the Disneyland candy stores. Sadly, there really wasn’t anything there like that, so I settled for something that I thought I’d like that had a novel take ... the Dark Chocolate Pretzels in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
They were sold in a couple of different formats, a simple plastic baggie tied with a bow with a stack of four (mostly shopworn though), they had singles in the candy case for $1.25 each and then a nice box with 8 ounces of dark chocolate pretzels for $9.95. The box had all the classic Disney characters on it. Nothing from this century (the most recent characters on there are Beauty & the Beast and The Little Mermaid). The box looked like it protected the contents well (shaking it actually didn’t yield much in the way of sound, which is a good thing).
The pretzels are gorgeous! The dark chocolate is glossy, thick and with cute little scribbles to make it extra dense in spots. They’re in a deep tray, leaning against each other in little slots, eight pretzels total. (So that makes them 1 ounce each.)
Only one was broken.
The pretzels themselves are bigger than I’m used to, at first I thought they were stale but then I realized they were just really crunchy and a bit dense ... which kind of keeps them from being crispy in the way I’m accustomed to. The chocolate is good quality, not too sweet and with a good balance of smoky notes and a dry finish. The pretzel is only lightly salted, so this remains a sweet treat. Unfortunately this “dark” chocolate has milkfat in it, so it’s not for vegans. It is Kosher though (I don’t think anything in the candy case is). 8 out of 10
For the record I also tried a Milk Chocolate Pretzel out of the candy case, which I ate as I left the park. It tasted like, well, candy case. The pretzel was a little stale and the chocolate bland.
The candy case has a huge variety of chocolate treats in it. Nut clusters, caramel patties, peppermint patties, chocolate dipped crisped rice treats, chocolate marshmallow bars on sticks, little cups with white chocolate mixed with cookie bits, milk chocolate with M&Ms, chocolate haystacks, toffee, and of course the chocolate covered pretzels mentioned above.
I was drawn to the Milk Chocolate Caramel Marshmallow Bar. It’s about the size of a Snickers bar, though not quite as dense in hand. I was hoping for something to approach the See’s Scotchmallow.
Inside the bar the caramel and marshmallow are in equal proportions. The caramel is thin, though chewy and smooth (but lacking some deep burnt caramel flavors). The marshmallow is moist and springy and not too sweet. The milk chocolate is okay, sweet and milky and pretty smooth. It’s a sweet bar, but the marshmallow makes it feel both satisfying and light at the same time. $1.95 ... I give it a 7 out of 10.
I had very low expectations for the Small Mickey Turtles. The large ones in the case, though attractive in shape and size were a bit bloomed. The little ones weren’t quite as pretty, but the price was certainly better for someone who was looking for variety.
My expectation for something called a “Turtle” is this: caramel and pecans covered in chocolate. I like my caramel to be soft and chewy, but also flavorful to provide more than a textural counterpoint to the nuts. Pecans are a strongly flavored nut, so a good caramelized caramel is important.
The Mickey Turtle is a huge disappointment. The nuts didn’t taste fresh. The chocolate had more of the flavor of the refrigerator case than of chocolate and the caramel was less like caramel and more like a fudge or pecan praline (a chocolate covered pecan praline would be delightful, too).
Oddly enough the “turtle” pictured here with the white stripes wasn’t a turtle at all. I think it was supposed to be a truffle, but it tasted a bit more like a piece of fudge covered in chocolate. Again, it tasted like refrigerator more than chocolate.
The large (bloomed) Turtles were $3.00 each. The mini versions were 94 cents. Not bad as price goes, but it’s certainly not worth it. I give these (even the accidental “truffle”) a 5 out of 10.
If you’re coming to California and want a special candy treat to take home, go to See’s. The prices are better, the candy fresher and of course it just tastes better. (And I’ll wager you won’t stand in line as long ... most California airports even have a See’s kiosk.)
Next, I’ll try some of the prepackaged candy bars!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Sometimes I wonder if these energy bars are really better than plain old candy bars. Back in the depression candy bars were meal replacements. Many were packed with nuts and over two ounces, which made them a pretty cheap source of satisfying calories at a nickle.
Of course the object these days is not the maximum number of calories per ounce, but how good the nutrition profile is.
When I want a little lasting energy & snack, I usually reach for some sort of nutty bar, as they tend to have a good amount of protein. Payday bars are always dependable. But I’m also a fan of Lara Bars, which are basically mashed up almonds and dates with a few spices thrown in. At about twice the price though, I often grab the Payday ... and I don’t feel that bad about it.
This sounded familiar. In fact, it looked familiar ... very familiar. The Take 5 features pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter and milk chocolate. Wow, not much difference there ... even in the ordering of the elements.
Well, Twisted was $1.29 and a Take 5 is $.89 at the 7-11.
I’ve reviewed the Take 5 before and I stand by it. It’s a good bar with a lot of variety of texture in it, not too sweet and because it’s in two pieces, it’s easy to have a little now, have a little later.
The Twisted bar is merely a Tiger’s Milk bar covered in weak chocolate with a pretzel thrown in. It smells like baby formula. It seriously tasted like I was chomping on vitamin leather or something. I often enjoy things that are rather unpalatable, just because I’m fascinated by all the different flavors there are and maybe catty things I can say about it. I didn’t enjoy this, even for the prospect of reviewing it. Luckily the two piece format of the Take 5 meant that I had a palate cleansing second piece at hand.
So you might feel like you’re doing the right thing when you eat this lower calorie version of a Take 5, but you’re certainly not going to enjoy it.
I have to admit that it’s probably unfair to match a candy bar with an energy bar ... but hey, that’s the breaks. They started it by packaging it to look an awful lot like the Take 5.
For some other balanced reviews of snack bars, check out I Ate a Pie’s special roundup from earlier this year.
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.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I tried the Nestle Dark Stixx last year and thought they were pretty good. They’re a little crispy cookie wafer in the form of a tube filled with some cream and covered in chcoolate.
The Butterfinger Stixx were introduced at the same time, but it took a little while for me to find them super-cheap. They were stupidly expensive at $2.29 for a box of 6 when they came out. But at the 99 Cent Only Store this little package of two was a respectable 33 cents and still fresh (expiration July 2007).
What’s great about these is the one thing that you can’t get in a Butterfinger ... real chocolate. Not that the chocolate is great, but you know, if it’s not tasty at least it’s not fake.
The package describes this rather oddly with a little four point diagram:
What I suspect after reading that is that this is more like a Butterfinger Crisp bar (which may be running one of the lamest commercials of the year, sorry, as far as I’m concerned that girl has to be high if she’s enjoying a Butterfinger Crisp and thinks that’s really laugh-out-loud funny).
The little stick has that familiar peanut butter and buttered popcorn scent. The sweet chocolate and bland crunch of the wafer are a nice combo, not too sweet. The creamy center is nothing like a Butterfinger, it’s soft and reminds me of that peanut butter filling that comes inside those cheesy orange peanut butter crackers. The peanut butter flavor is pretty mellow and rather lost. It’s sweet and a little salty, not very creamy and not really notable beyond that.
The little sticks are tasty but not very satisfying. I completely missed the “sprinkle of candy bits”. On the plus side, this didn’t stick to my teeth like the industrial-strength-cement-like Butterfinger filling can. I think if I’m looking for a stick shaped peanut butter candy I’ll stick to Atkinson’s Peanut Butter Bars. (No chocolate, but still tasty.)
Friday, May 25, 2007
I’ve been looking at Crunky for a few years now. It’s not the name that threw me, it just didn’t seem that appealing. Why buy a Japanese or Korean cheap chocolate bar when we have plenty of them here in the States. But I knew I had to give it a try eventually.
Lotte is a huge company, based in both South Korea and Japan, so there are lots of places where you may see these bars in Asia.
Crunky Chocolate - Salted Caramel - the description on JBox said that this was a salted caramel bar. I was expecting, as the picture seems to have, some chocolate and some caramel. Instead it’s some sort of a white chocolate bar with a salty and caramelized flavor. It also has the malted crunchies.
The wrapper isn’t in English so I’m at a loss to read the rest of the description, but as far as I’m concerned, this is not chocolate. It doesn’t taste like chocolate, it doesn’t look like chocolate. It might be shaped like chocolate, but it’s not. Perhaps it’s off-white chocolate.
My feelings of betrayal aside ... it’s nice, and I actually grew rather fond of the not-so-sweet taste. The slightly burnt flavor was also nice as were the crunchies with their malty hit. But the texture of the chocolate itself wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t creamy, it didn’t melt in my mouth. It got soft, it was rather smooth, but it felt more fudgy than chocolatey.
Crunky Chocolate - my feelings for the first bar I tried were set aside for this experience. It looks rather traditional, like a Krackle or Nestle Crunch bar, but the chocolate is definitely lighter. It’s certainly well packaged. The easy to open
box reveals a large flat bar (well, mine got a little bent in transit from Japan) wrapped in a light matte foil.
The chocolate is a little waxy, but very smooth. The flavor is more milky and perhaps a little burnt tasting as several people have mentioned to me. The quality is no better than Hershey’s or Nestle’s standard consumer fare, but perhaps a bit different. I liked the format of the bar, I’ve always found Crunch bars a little too flat, I want the crispies to be really surrounded (I rather prefer the Easter egg versions).
Neither of these set my world on fire. Every country has to have a crispy chocolate bar. I like the name, it has a good onomatopoeiaic sense to it. If I were in Japan or South Korea I would probably pick these up as a “safe” choice, but I don’t know if I’d mail order them again. (But they could probably sucker me with some limited edition variety ... because I’m a sucker like that.)
Friday, May 18, 2007
Back in January at the Fancy Food Show I picked up a few candies I like to put in the category of “comfort foods.” Asher’s is one of those companies, like See’s that I associate with traditional sweeties.
Asher’s is in Souderton, PA and though they’re pretty big, I don’t see their candies very often on the West Coast. Then one day I was at Loehmann’s and saw a stack of big boxes of Asher’s Chocolate Covered Pretzels and I decided I should finally review these items. Because I’d want to know whether or not something is good before I go buying it at Loehmann’s.
The Chocolate Smothered Pretzel, as far as I’m concerned, is the epitome of Pennsylvania Candy Cuisine. After all, they make lots of chocolate in Pennsylvania and they certainly are known for their pretzels. As a kid I would make my own chocolate frosting (equal parts butter, powdered sugar and cocoa) and then dip pretzel rods into it. Later as I began making my own candies I dipped pretzels when I ended up with leftover melted chocolate.
Asher’s milk chocolate is smooth and creamy. Very sweet, but the pretzel is salty and crunchy, so it goes well together. I prefer the tiny pretzels to the big ones, because you can fit the whole thing in your mouth at once instead of risking chocolate loss to flaking. (They make a variety of sizes.)
Milk Chocolate Smothered Graham Cracker - a chocolate covered graham cracker is kind of wholesome, right? This reminded me of a Twix bar without the caramel. The chocolate was creamy and the graham was crisp and fresh. It’s not my favorite of the three, but I’m sure folks who enjoy graham crackers will also like this.
I think a little bit saltier cracker would help, but then again maybe it’s the bland and slightly malty sweet cracker that’s the highlight here. Now, I see that Asher’s makes their own chocolate covered marshmallows and I’m wondering why a S’More isn’t an option on their site.
The Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookie was fun. When I was in college I worked in a bakery/chocolate shop and one of my duties was to make chocolate dipped cookies. Back then Oreo made a HUGE version of their cookie, the size of my palm. They were a bear to dip, but the proportion of chocolate to cookie usually turned out well because the proportion of chocolate to cookie was just right.
The Asher sandwich cookie is covered in real milk chocolate (as are all of the above). Again, it’s sweet but the dark and slightly salty note of the cookie set it off nicely. One cookie is plenty, it’s very filling. (If you want a really good version of these, check out the Best Regards version as well, which is more expensive but come in other flavors.)
If you see these at the discount stores, they’re certainly worth picking up at less than $10.00 a pound, I’m not sure they’re worth more than that seeing how there’s a lot of filler in there and they’re not that labor intensive. The pretzels are certainly better than the bagged versions available in the candy aisle from Hershey’s and Nestle. I have to admit that the Chocolate Smothered Potato Chips also sound good and have to be better than those mockolate chips I had earlier this year.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
I tried the Theo Chocolate BonBons earlier this year and have had the bars sitting around for a while. I’m feeling quite pressured to eat them all (though they need to be savored) before Los Angeles gets so hot it bursts into flames (oops, we’re already on fire).
Theo makes chocolate from bean to bar (actually roasting their own beans on site) using fair trade and organic ingredients. Don’t let all that squishy-hippy stuff fool you, this is quality stuff without compromise.
Even the wrappers are sassy and fun (designed by KittenChops) instead of making you feel like you did a good deed. Come on! Half the fun is feeling that your chocolate bar is an indulgence ... a wrapper that tells you how many lives you may have saved, how many species will continue to exist because of your support ... all the wonderful skin-clarifying, artery-blasting ingredients that are contained within might be nice (and might get you to buy it) but they aren’t going to get your salivary glands going.
The dark bars contain 65% cocoa solids, so these are dark, but not too intense.
The Theo Chocolate bars are actually called 3400 Phinney Bars, named after the address of the Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle. Not only are they not afraid of you knowing where they are, they actually welcome visitors and offer tours with tastings, of course, as well as a factory store. I’m hoping to get up there next fall to really dive into their complete chocolate experience.
The Milk Chocolate bars boast 40% cacao content, so they’re pretty rich.
All the bars a welcome change from the ordinary candy bar. The two I would find myself munching on regularly would be the Nib Brittle and Chai Milk Chocolate. They are expensive though, so only for special occasions. I could see tucking these into a special picnic at Pt. Dume or going to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert, but I just can’t buy them every day ... but knowing that the cocoa is grown responsibly (socially & environmentally) would help me pony up the dough.
You can find the bars online at Theo, Chocosphere and at stores like Whole Foods. The bars are
now Kosher (as of March 2008).
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The brand Gandour heralds they have the ingredients for happiness. Those ingredients include shea butter. Okee dokee.
The chocolate filling is rather firm, a little salty and pretty creamy. It’s not very chocolatey, more on the fudgy side. The crisp wafers are fun, though a little dry. The whole thing reminded me of the Happy Hippo, though there’s no hazelnut in this creme paste filling.
6 out of 10 (Halal)
This one is sporting a sassy jungle green wraper and woodsy font. Inside is a stack of wafers and creme then some caramel and crunchies with a mockolate coating.
It’s a big old jumble not jungle inside the package. The lumpy crispies and mockolate don’t quite get a good grip on the caramel and wafer center. It just doesn’t work for me. There’s too much mockolate and not enough caramel.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
M&M knock-offs made with mockolate. These were kind of a hybrid in size between Smarties and M&Ms. They’re bigger than M&Ms but thicker than Smarties. The colors were vivid. Though the package showed red, blue, yellow, green and orange, I only had orange, red and green in my bag (which held 17 morsels). The mockolate was less milky than the other products and passably good. It actually tasted better than Garfield’s Chocobites. Kind of smoky and rounded, though not quite the smooth mouthfeel of cocoa butter chocolate. For a treat for little kids, I guess these would be just fine, but I could probably only bring myself to decorate a cake with them.
4 out of 10 (Halal)
This is one that I had no clue about judging from the name. But the description and image on the wrapper seemed pretty agreeable. A biscuit bar with caramel and a chocolate flavored coating. So it’s like a Twix! The bar was just a little flatter and a little shorter than a Twix, but it’s kind of fun that they sell these smaller portions. It looked pretty good, with the same rippled appearance on the coating.
The inside was a lot different from a Twix. Instead of being a very dry shortbread, this one was a little salty and reminded me of a dense Ritz Cracker plank. The caramel was not chewy or gooey here, just a sweeter texture between the cookie and mockolate (and not always there either). The whole thing had a rather strong “butter flavor” to it.
5 out of 10 (Halal)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.