Thursday, January 26, 2006
I got the Cookie Joys from Crate and Barrel through their excellent post-Christmas sale. The Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Mint were acquired at Sav-On at a lackluster post-Holiday sale (basically the nuggets were on the sale table heralding they were 50% off, but they didn’t ring up that way and were put there “by mistake”).
Harry London makes the Cookie Joys, but sells them under a few different names, including Botticelli Bites. They also make it in a few different formats, including the Harry London Mint Cookie Bar. A Cookie Joy is minted milk chocolate with chocolate cookie bits. The shape is a little dollop of candy, not really the most attractive or appealing candy shapes, but it gets the job done. I find they’re usually two bites. The bonus in the Crate & Barrel tin is that they were individually wrapped. When I get them in a little tub at Trader Joe’s (it looks like a pint of ice cream) they’re loose and can go stale if not eaten quickly.
A Hershey’s Mint ‘n’ Cookies is also minted milk chocolate with chocolate cookie bits. The chocolate is rather milkier, as you can see in the color difference bewteen these two. The cookie bits are also slightly more regular, like little dots of cookies instead of rather irregular crushed cookie bits.
Now that I have them side by side, I’m able to really compare the two. The Cookie Joy is smooth and not terribly milky, which I like. There are already quite a few flavors going on here, I don’t need some sort of dairy taste intruding. As long as the milk is providing a creamy backdrop I’m happy. The cookie bits give it some crunch and they’re a good dark, toasty flavor (they’re pretty much the cookie part of an Oreo).
The Hershey’s has that familiar Hershey’s milk chocolate tang to it. Think yogurt. It’s not unpleasant, but doesn’t go as well with the mint and cookies. There’s a noticeable grain to the chocolate, but again, it works with the crunchy cookies. The cookie bits seem to be distributed rather unevenly, just on the top of the nugget, but since you’re going to bite it the other way, it probably doesn’t matter much. A Nugget could be eaten whole as well.
In this Head to Head, I’m going to have to go with the Cookie Joys. The chocolate is just better and the even though they look like glossy cow pies, the name Cookie Joys is dead on perfect. They’re joyful little mixes of cookies and minted chocolate. If you like the Girl Scout’s Thin Mints, you may like this chocolatier version, too. There’s no benefit to either in availability either. The Hershey’s are Limited Edition (though they seem to return rather faithfully) and the Harry London’s are only sometimes available at Trader Joe’s and a seasonal item for Crate & Barrel. (Sadly, it seems they are sold out on the C&B website.) The Hershey’s are usually cheaper, but the Crate and Barrel sale puts this one over the edge for me. At 28 cents per ounce for the Cookie Joys versus the 24 cents per ounce on the Nuggets, I’m willing to pay the premium (and I have a tin, too!).
Monday, January 23, 2006
Pesek Zman means “Time Out”, kind of like the tagline for KitKat bars is “Give me a Break”. They are, in fact, a nice little respite from a busy day and like the KitKat, easy to break off a piece and share (if you must). The shape of the bars and packaging is really cool, too.
The Black bar is dark chocolate with crispy wafers with a chocolate nut paste filling (hazelnuts and cashews). This is a pretty sassy bar. It has the light crisp, the nutty flavor of the nuts and the smooth creamy combination of the cream and the smooth dark chocolate. It’s lot of flavors and textures all at once, but very successful. It’s very sweet, but the hazelnut has a strange cooling sensation on the tongue that keeps it from being cloying and sticky.
The Peanut Butter bar is pretty much the same as the Black bar, only it has milk chocolate instead of dark and instead of hazelnut cream, it has peanut butter. It’s a good thing I’m typing this review, because I wouldn’t be able to talk while eating this bar. The peanut butter is very sticky, as in “sticks to the roof of your mouth.” My solution to this was to turn each piece upside down before I ate it, meaning that the peanut butter layer was on my tongue instead of the top of my mouth. It was much more successful that way, but the peanut butter in this bar is quite overwhelming in its texture and flavor dominance.
I have to say that this is a unique bar. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It reminded me of the Kliks, in that it’s a toasty cookie rolled up, but this one was far more delicate and had some more complex flavors going for it. The center of the bar is a loose, flattened roll of crisp waffle cookie (like a ice cream sugar cone). Then it’s covered with chocolate that can be sectioned off. When you break the sections, you can see right through the middle of the bar, just like the photo shows. The caramelized wafers are crispy and flavorful and there’s a good hint of hazelnut in the chocolate itself. It’s a very tasty bar with no real equal in any other brand I’ve seen. Of the three bars, it’s the one I finished first. The bar is slightly smaller than the others at only 42 grams instead of 45, but I wasn’t missing a thing.
If I were at an airport or international market and saw these, I’d definitely grab a few of the Reds. Even though the center was delicate, the bar traveled extremely well, making it all the way from Israel and then I carried it around in my “tasting bag” for weeks and it still looked factory fresh when I unwrapped it.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
I’ve seen these bars in Cost Plus World Market and other stores that sell UK sweets and it looked like a very complicated bar. Michal, my generous reader who sent me a huge package of candy that I’ve been slowly posting here, was good enough to include this one.
A Lion bar is creme filled wafers, caramel and crisped rice covered in milk chocolate. I don’t know if the photo does it justice (you can click on it for a larger version). It’s a very sweet bar with quite a bit of texture to it. The package exalts that it’s “Dangerously Better” but doesn’t say what’s better about it or what else it might be better than. It reminds me a great deal of the other Nestle bar, the 100 Grand, which doesn’t have the wafers in the center but the same sort of caramel and crisped rice.
It’s quite a tasty bar and because of the variations in textures, the different crisps, the saltiness of the caramel, it’s a really satisfying bar.
I’m glad I’ve had a chance to try it because I figure now it’s an easily identified bar no matter where I may be in Europe when I’m on the metro and need a little candy boost. It’s a solid, middle of the road choice for snacking.
I haven’t the foggiest why it’s called a Lion bar, but there are a lot of incongruously named bars out there and I shouldn’t start picking at them now. The official website for the bar is German, but the bar says that it’s manufactured in France.
Monday, January 16, 2006
I love Pocky. I’ve tried regular Chocolate Pocky and even Green Tea Pocky, but I hadn’t tried this one, called Men’s Pocky. I’m not sure why it’s called Men’s Pocky, but I’ve heard that it’s because it’s not as sweet as regular chocolate Pocky.
What is Pocky? It’s an unsalted pretzel/biscuit stick covered with chocolate. Simple, crunchy, sweet and smooth.
It’s really a simple candy, or perhaps it’s a snack. I don’t care what you call it, it’s good. The pretzel base is crunchy and actually rather bland with has a wonderful consistent crisp to it that stands up to the chocolate. The chocolate is smooth and sweet with a hint of dry bitterness. Unlike the regular Pocky that I tried, this one has far less trans fatty acids (.5 grams for half the box). Of course there’s also 5 grams of protein in each serving.
The snack is a pretty good value as imported candy goes - it’s a 100 gram box and I picked it up at regular price at Mitsuwa for $1.59. In fact, I found it hard to eat a full serving of it. The box has two pouches in it and the box protects the long sticks from getting broken. In fact, this is my fourth box of Pocky and I’ve never had a broken one.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
As I reviewed last week, Nestle is creating some limited edition bars. This tactic seems to encompass adding peanuts to current candy bars.
The Nestle Crunch with Peanuts is simply a Nestle Crunch bar with peanuts mixed in. Think of it as Mr. Goodbar meets Krackel (well, if you were in the Hershey’s universe). It’s a really nice bar and I like how the peanuts moderate the sweetness of the Nestle chocolate. I actually prefer it over the regular Crunch bar which I’ve always found a little too sweet and bland.
The crunches come from both the crisped rice and the roasted peanuts - so there’s variation in texture and taste. I certainly prefer it to the Crunch with Caramel they did a while back. It also seems to be more innovative than the White Chocolate and Dark Chocolate versions from last year. I’m not likely to buy these, but if there were an assortment of Nestle miniatures with them in it, they’d certainly be one of the first I’d pick out.
The other thing I like about adding nuts to chocolate and other sweets is that it gives a little protein/fat punch to the sugar. I know it sounds odd to be talking about things like glycemic load when talking about candy, but I like to feel good while eating candy and an hour later, instead of having a severe sugar crash and getting the shakes.
Friday, January 06, 2006
This candy bar irritated me from the moment I picked it up. First was the rich mustard color of the wrapper. A compelling “look at me!” color, but not one that makes me think of peanuts in a fond way. (In fact, it makes me think of a peanut butter and mustard sandwich, which probably has some fans out there, but I can’t count myself as one of them.) The second thing that rubbed me that wrong way when I read the package was the description, “pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter & peanut butter candy.” What the heck is “peanut butter candy” and how is that different than the whole thing being considered a “peanut butter candy?”
What I thought the peanut butter candy part meant was something like the inside of a Butterfinger bar (or a 5th Avenue if we’re sticking to Hershey’s products). And that actually sounds kind of interesting, have a layer of peanut crisp in there somewhere. What I didn’t realize is that this bar has no chocolate (poor reading comprehension on my part) ... and that’s what the peanut butter candy replaces. It’s basically a peanut butter-white chocolate. Like the insides of Reese’s Pieces! Of course this means partially hydrogenated oils. Bah! I don’t want partially hydrogenated oils in my candy!
Anyway, you get two bars in each package (which has a nice cardboard tray to keep them from getting crushed). The outside is a little odd looking as you can see the grains of peanut butter, but I got over that. It smells peanutty and is smooth, crunchy and has a nice hit of salt in it. I got no sense of the caramel at all. There was no chewiness to this bar at all, in the caramel sense. I suspect that the fats from the various peanut incarnations invaded the caramel and de-chewified it. If you’re a big peanut fan and are not satisfied with the bazillion other Reese’s branded bars, you can pick this up and argue with me about the glory that is a Peanut Butter Take 5.
Instead of mucking around with adding more peanuts to the Take 5 line, they need to start making my version with extra dark chocolate and pecans!
Interesting things: Take 5 bars are called Max 5 in Canada. The peanut butter version of the bar contains 2 more grams of saturated fat over the regular chocolate one, but twice the fiber. This is not a limited edition bar. Other Take 5 versions: Take 5 Chocolate (9/10) & White Chocolate Take 5 (6/10).
There are two things that are great about tasting international candies (well, more than two, but two that I’m going to point out here). The first one is finding new and exciting candy with combinations or ingredients I’ve never had before. The second one is finding the same thing that we have available here in the States. And you wonder why I find the latter a great thing? It’s because it’s a confirmation of the universality of candy. Whether it’s the same megaglobalcorp making it elsewhere or a spontaneous expression of convergent evolution, it’s all a reminder to me that candy is the Great Uniter.
These fun little popables are kind of like those Pirouline cookie sticks. They’re a little wafer cookie tube covered with chocolate. There are little holes in either end (most of the time) that makes them look like chocolate macaroni that you could string up and wear (and eat!). This is one of those rare instances where the candy shown on the package looked exactly like what was inside. They were glossy milk chocolate that smelled like sweet, milky chocolate. They’re also very light since they’re crunchy, hollow cookies. That amount of air in there is actually, I think, a good thing as it makes you feel like you’re eating more and also allows the flavors and aroma to mix. The chocolate is very sweet but really smooth and a little sticky with a hint of the European style of milk chocolate. The crispy cookie center is airy and with a hint ofcaramelized sugar to give it a little contrast to the vanilla sweetness of the chocolate.
It’s easy to just keep eating these. It’s such a simple idea, it makes me wonder why we don’t have something like this in the States. There’s a huge variety in theKlik line, including chocolate corn flakes, which reminds me of the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes.
This sounds like an unlikely bar: Extrafine Milk Chocolate with Cookies and Crunchy Wheat Germ. Let’s face it, most of us grow up thinking things like wheat germ are yucky. But think of it like Grape Nuts. In fact, why isn’t there a chocolate bar with Grape Nuts? These cookie and wheat germ aren’t as big as Grape Nuts but they’re very tasty and add more than texture to the bar. The wheat germ has a wonderful malty quality that gives the bar a nutty punch and moderates some of the sweetness. The chocolate here is also the same very sweet but exceptionally smooth milk chocolate.
It’s also a really pretty bar. When I opened it up I was pleased to see that it’s molded in the shape of a bunch of bubbles. It makes it easy to break off pieces, but they’re not little squares, instead they’re nice little domes which means more room for crunch.
Even though I don’t read/speak Hebrew, I was easily able to pick out the Klik items from the box from Michal. I credit this to the vibrant design and packaging. I know I’m not going to run across these again, but I know I’ll recognize them if it does happen.
Note: Israeli Kliks are nothing like the American Kliks which are a candy dispenser similar to Pez but they dispense Smarties ... the American Smarties, not the UK ones ... sigh, it’s tough being global.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Name: Max Brenner Chocolates: Dark Chicao, Waffle & Milk Chocolate Cubes
Here’s a little Hanukkah treat for everyone, some Israeli chocolates! The Max Brenner package says “Creating a New Chocolate Culture” and I’m inclined to hop on board this philosophy. Michal, a candyblog.net reader, sent me these wonderful treats and I’m very impressed by the combination of flavors, textures, the simplicity of ingredients and most of all, the playfulness of the packages and formats.
Dark Chicao: Dark chocolate thins with Ecuadorian cocoa bits. These are rather similar to the Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs I tried and loved recently. I was a little scared when I took them out of the tin because they looked a little chalky, but we can chalk that up to their trip half way around the planet to get to me. They were a little bruised but tasted phenomenal. Dark, dark chocolate with crunchy nibs. The chocolate is buttery with a strong woodsy essence and a slight dry finish. Because there’s so much cacao in there and not much sugar they don’t get me hyped up the same way a chocolate bar does. At 75% cacao though, they’re probably giving me some sort of theobromine high.
Waffle: Crispy Belgian waffle in milk chocolate praline. I’ve had many bars like this and they’ve usually ended up being too much cookie and not enough chocolate or too waxy or greasy. Here’s a wonderful balance of chocolate, soft flavors and crispy waffle with a hint of hazelnut. The box is fun (the size of a pencil box with a tray/sleeve to pull out and reveal the candies) and the size of the little drops is just right, two bites for me. The Max Brenner milk chocolate is very rich, with 52% cacao, it’s darker than many consumer dark chocolates.
Milk Chocolate Cubes: Michal was good enough to translate the boxes for these. They’re minitruffles I’m guessing, one set is “Milk Chocolate Cubes filled with Hazelnut Praline and Caramelized Pecan Bits” and the other is Milk Chocolate Cubes filled with “Caramel Hazelnut Praline and Roasted coconut” (well, those are not really cubes, more like spheroids). The hazelnut/pecan one is sweet and toasty, like a hit of toffee only in a milk chocolate with just a few flakes of crispy to it. They’re very rich and sticky and should probably be consumed with some strong coffee. (Or the Dark Chicaos!). The coconuts were amazing fun. Instead of soft coconut like you’d find in a Mounds of Bounty bar, this is crispy coconut that adds a bit of crunch and chew to the sweet milk chocolate. The boxes are cool because they’re designed to be a greeting card or favor of sorts. You can write a little message on the back like those Valentines boxes of candy that we used to exchange in junior high.
I’m digging Mr. Brenner’s new chocolate culture. Their packaging is interesting and not overdone. The little mylar packs kept everything fresh and the design on them is really inventive, slightly self-deprecating and sets it apart from a lot of other candy that I’ve seen that positions itself in this part of the upscale market.
Rating - 9 out of 10 (now I just need to find a source in the States)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.