Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Ritter Sport has introduced seasonal varieties for the past five years or so (or at least that I’ve been able to get a hold of). The newest set for Winter include a new version called Ritter Sport Vanilla Chai Latte.
The description on the English label on the back says that it’s milk chocolate filled with vanilla cream, spices and black tea extract.
The ingredients are actually a little less creamy and a bit more oily:
Like other Ritter Sport cream filled bars, this one clocks in at 164 calories per ounce, which definitely on the high side, especially when it has 9 grams of saturated fat per a 38 gram serving.
It smells a bit like a pumpkin cheesecake. There’s a spice note, which is pleasant but not terribly distinct, just some generic nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. I’ve actually had my fair share of spiced chai over the years, so I know that the spices vary quite a bit. But they’re not that dissimilar to Pumpkin Spice or Gingerbread Spices. What sets it apart here is the black tea extract. Or at least it should.
The milk chocolate bar is very sweet, the chocolate part is milky and creamy but not at all intense, it’s quite overpowered by the spices in the cream. The filling is a little more fudgy and thick, but not at all grainy or oily. The black tea part gives a little tannic note, but mostly the flavors are nutmeg and clove with maybe a little allspice.
It’s an interesting bar because of the warming spices and the cream filling, but I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think that the cream bars that Ritter makes are their strongest item. The flavoring overpowers the chocolate experience, which is usually very good for the price point (much better than Toblerone). I’ll pass on this one if it comes back again next winter.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The Lakerol pastille is a simple, soft lozenge made in Sweden. They were first introduced in 1909 as a combination of eucalyptus and menthol in a gum arabic base. The effect is a slightly chewy drop that’s both soothing and takes a long time to dissolve.
Lakerol lozenges are now made by Cloetta, a large Swedish company with a pretty diverse set of confectionery holdings like Kex, Red Band, Malaco (Swedish Fish) and Xilifresh.
I’ve seen the little boxes of Lakerol at import shops, delis and drug stores all my life. They have a very diverse array of flavors, with licorice and black currant as their most popular. I saw this version, which is not sugar free, in Yuzu Citrus at Cost Plus World Market. I’ve had a bit of a hoarse throat since getting over a cold a few weeks ago, so this is exactly the sort of lozenge I like to pick up.
The box holds about 2 dozen little disks, which is only .88 ounces. The pieces are a little larger than shirt buttons with a starburst pattern and the letter A at the center (for Adolf Ahlgren, who started the company). The package says they’re sugar free, they’re made with a combination of maltitol, sorbitol and stevia, but no artificial sweeteners. (The licorice variety contains acesulfame-K, so I’ve avoided Lakerol for many years.)
The texture is firm, but bendable. They have a good citrus flavor with a light note of menthol. The yuzu is a little like a mix of grapefruit and tangerine, and in this case the ingredients list quite a few citruses: grapefruit, orange, sanginello and yuzu. The dissolve is very smooth but it makes a thick, glycerine sort-of-syrupy coating. This is great for a dry throat, and the citrus flavor is fresh without being cloying or too minty (which can burn my sinuses if I’ve taken a decongestant).
They’re pretty nice, the box is small and easy to carry and each little piece lasts for quite a while. I always enjoy these firm gum lozenges, like Grethers Pastilles or Pine Bros around this time of year. I’m glad that Lakerol has some that aren’t artificially sweetened.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Of course there should be Christmas gummis! And not just red and green gummi bears, they should be fully conceived holiday gummis. So, I was really intrigued with Vidal Gummi Gingerbread Men.
The package has all the holiday icons: ornaments, holly with berries, red background and of course a little gingerbread house for the gingerbread man. The gingerbread man looks extremely happy to be there, too. Like he wants to run and jump in your mouth.
The gummis are cookies n’ creme flavor, which is not quite what I was hoping for, especially since I’m not sure what that flavor actually is, it’s more of a thing with textures.
They’re cute little guys, actually they’re pretty big for gummis (but small for cookies). They’re about 2 inches tall and an armspan of about 1.25 inches. Unlike real gingerbread cookies, these are “iced” on the bottom. There’s a foamy white layer base on the pieces and then a tan caramel colored gummi layer for the gingerbread. The actual flavor difference between the layers is negligible, it’s really about textures. The bottom is a little lighter, not quite marshmallow but foamy with a slight creamy touch. The top layer is a little smoother, but about the same flavor.
So, the flavor is, well, not cookies and cream. It’s more like honey sweetened yogurt. It’s sweet but there are no cookie or vanilla notes. There are certainly no spice notes, but it was clear that these aren’t gingerbread flavored. Instead they’re lightly tangy and just bland. I found them absolutely unappealing. The only good thing was that they didn’t smell weird, like some gummis can.
I think that there’s a market out there for non-fruity gummis. There are some licorice types around, but it would be fun to expand the flavors to things like mint and butterscotch or caramel or maybe even peanut butter. As far as these go, though, they’re purely for decoration and non-discriminating people. They are not tasty candy.
Vidal gummis are gluten free. They contain gelatin so they’re not vegetarian or kosher. There’s no statement on the label about soy or nuts, but they do contain coconut oil.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Last year about this time Toblerone introduced a new version of their classic milk chocolate mountain bar: Toblerone Toasted Corn Crunch. Oddly enough, they were available exclusively at that time at duty free shops in Europe. I never thought I’d run across a bar. But I was strolling the candy section at Cost Plus World Market and not only did they have a stack of them, they were also on sale for 99 cents for a 3.52 ounce bar.
The bar features Toblerone’s Swiss milk chocolate with toasted crushed corn, honey and almond nougat.
The bar format is exactly like all the other Toblerones. This comes in the classic cardboard prism box. Inside there’s a foil wrapped bar made of 12 triangular segments.
The bar looks like any other milk chocolate Toblerone from the sides, but the bottom reveals there’s lots of bumpy stuff inside. The scent is sweet and milky along with a really strong corn note. The corn doesn’t smell quite like popcorn, more like, well, corn or maybe polenta. The chocolate is quite sweet, though smooth, it’s very sugary. The corn bits are like corn nuts, very crunchy though not quite hard enough to break any teeth. (Sometimes I feel like I’m chewing on teeth when I eat corn nuts.)
The combination of the lightly malty, cereal flavor and the very mild chocolate is pretty good. There’s a nice boost of salt in there, which also offset the sugary chocolate. But I never really got the nougat and honey flavors that I enjoy so much in a Toblerone. The only good thing is that I felt like it keep me busy a long time, as I was working those corn bits out of my teeth for about 20 minutes.
It’s an interesting bar but I see no need to consider it as a replacement for a Ritter Sport Knusperflakes (Corn Flakes). It’s hard to be harsh on the bar when it’s so much better than a Nestle Crunch Bar which is half the size and the same price. As far as their new bars, I think the Toblerone Salted Almond is worth seeking out.
Toblerone still does not provide consumers with any information about their cacao sourcing with regards to ethics or sustainability. The bar contains eggs, soy, milk, corn and almonds. It’s made in facility that also handles other tree nuts. There’s no gluten statement on the package.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
On an episode of Candyology 101 last year we talked about this new product called PEZ Hedz. The come in two varieties currently, Bearz and Hello Kitty. I picked up the PEZ Hedz Hello Kitty variety because they were strawberry and raspberry flavored ... two winning flavors from the start.
The whole PEZ branding on them was kind of odd, I wouldn’t expect good candy out of them, because PEZ is really a toy company, not a candy company. Their toys just happen to have candy in them. However, PEZ Heds are made by Katjes in Germany. If it didn’t say that on the package, I would have guessed from its origin and the fact that they’re just the cutest little deposit molded faces. Katjes also makes other face-shaped candies like Tappsy and Percy Pig. So, that was a good sign, because Katjes does a great job with their candies.
I wanted to post this review after detailing what is and isn’t a gummi candy, just to clear up any confusion. Pez rightfully calls these soft candy chews, as they’re not quite gummis. The ingredients are interesting as they use a base of glucose (wheat syrup that’s gluten free) and sugar that’s thickened with pectin and potato protein. Though the colorings are from all natural sources, the flavors are a mix of natural and artificial.
When I first looked at them through the clear window in the package, they looked a lot like the Katjes Tappsy, which is a foamy gummi. (They’re not quite marshmallows, but a little fluffier than gummis.) There are two colors, the striking white face with the pink bow is the traditional Hello Kitty and is strawberry. The light pink color with the purple bow is raspberry.
The faces are big, about 1.5 inches wide and 1 inch high. They’re smooth to the touch, kind of like a cross between the soft texture of a river pebble and the flexibility of an eraser. Until I ate one, I wasn’t quite sure what the texture was going to be.
The texture is very smooth with a really vibrant flavor.The strawberry has a mostly tangy note at first with good floral and cotton candy scents that waft around when eating it. The pieces are big, kind of two bite portions. The raspberry was much more floral, a little on the soapy side but with a creamy vanilla note towards the end. The bows were actually more dense and sweet versions of the face.
The texture was a little tooth-sticky, like Swedish fish, but ultimately a little cleaner feeling in the end. There were no weird aftertastes (probably because there’s no Red 40 in there), so I found them to be exceptionally pleasant. I found they went really well with some strong black tea in afternoon.
They’re in no way like a vegetarian gummi, they don’t pretend to be. They’re more like Swedish Fish, with a bit of personality.
The package says they’re 99% fat free, gluten free, vegetarian and gelatin free. There’s a bit of beeswax in there, for vegans who were wondering and the package says they may contain traces of milk.
Monday, February 16, 2015
One of their new introductions is the Ritter Sport Fine Extra Dark Chocolate 73% Cocoa (also called Amargo Extrafino).
The bar is much darker than their regular bars at 73% and is made from West Africa and Ecuadorian-sourced cocoa beans. Though the format of this bar is new I’m not sure if the concept really is, I’ve had a very dark bar from Ritter Sport before, though my tasting notes reveal it’s a bit different.
Generally, I love Ritter Sport’s milk chocolate. They make a very creamy product, and actually work with several different recipes for use in different bars. Their dark bars, for the most part, are one of the better at the price point, but I don’t eat the plain dark bars, I go for the bars that have nuts or marzipan. So, the idea of picking up a Ritter Sport over the many other very dark bars out there means that it’s going to need something special to turn my head.
The format for this bar is different from their usual 16 squares. Instead, it’s 36 pieces (a 6 x 6 instead of a 4 x 4 array).
The deep scoring makes the pieces easy to snap off. They’re nearly pyramidic, so a little awkward in shape in the mouth. There’s a fair amount of cocoa butter, so it has an easy and quick melt. For the most part the particle size is small, so it’s smooth ... but there were the odd gritty bits from time to time.
The cocoa flavors are overwhelmingly earthy. There are not fruit notes, except for perhaps a little green banana. The rest was like coffee, brownies and toasted coconut. It’s woodsy and deep. It’s satisfying and not at all bitter, though there’s a dry bite to it, but the cocoa butter covers up at the very end.
When I ran the numbers for the calories per ounce, I was a little shocked that it came out so high, though cacao content also includes cocoa butter for that percentage. So this bar has a lot of cocoa butter, far more than most dark bars.
This feels very much like the texture that Dove lovers might gravitate towards. I might buy it again, but I really want some nuts in it, maybe even a little salt hint somewhere. But if Ritter Sport starts using this chocolate base for other bars, I’d be very interested in going down that road with them.
Friday, January 16, 2015
I was traveling earlier this week. I went to San Francisco to the Fancy Food Show. Though I drove, I still carried some gums with me, as driving over a few of the passes make my ears pop and the drive can be monotonous.
Glee Gum is made with natural chicle and natural colorings, quite rare on the market these days.
The chew is soft, the candy shell has a crispness that doesn’t last long. It’s not a thick shell that makes little crunchies in the gum, it dissolves quickly. The flavor is sweet with a mild but indistinct citrus note to it. It’s kind of like a lemon chamomile tea. The sweetness fades quickly, though it is rather cool on the tongue for a while, as most xylitol candies and gums are. The zest continues, and gets a little more intense after about 4 or 5 minutes ... then I think the gum is done as far as the flavor goes. The chew is still good, in fact, I prefer the chew of the sugarless Glee to the sugared kind ... it’s slightly stiffer and doesn’t stick as much.
After chewing the gum, about a half an hour later, I thought my mouth was still rather fresh feeling. Not a lingering mint, but just a sort of jasmine tea freshness. The citrus doesn’t go well with coffee, but for getting rid of coffee breath, it’s pretty good. Xylitol, as a sweetener, is actually good for dental health, so I’m trying to get into the habit of chewing in the afternoon to freshen up my mouth.
Spearmint is a largely underutilized flavor in the confectionery world. Peppermint is the default, though as herbs go, spearmint is far more ubiquitous and easier to grow. The dark green pieces are naturally colored and quite appealing. They don’t smell like much, it’s not like sticking your nose in a half-emptied packet of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, which always smelled so fresh.
The shell on the sugary variety is a little crunchier, though not by much. The flavor of the spearmint is mild and pleasant, but not overt like an Altoid. The chew is soft, though it stiffens up and gets a little bit sticky at times as the minutes pass. I was able to manage some moderate bubbles at time, though I was much better at cracking my gum with this version.
The sugar faded away within minutes, though the herbal and grassy spearmint notes hung around for quite a while after. After discarding the gum, the minty freshness dissipated within about 5 minutes.
When I first tried Glee Gum years ago, I didn’t care much for it. It’s certainly grown on me and it’s become my go-to gum for traveling. Partly because of the natural ingredients and partly because I like the chiclet style and simplicity of the boxes.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Combining spirits with chocolate is pretty common. There’s a new genre, though, the combination of brewed drinks added to chocolate. I picked up the Guinness Luxury Milk Chocolate Caramel Bar at an after Christmas sale, when it was only $1.49 for the Ireland-made bar.
I’m not a beer drinker, as I don’t care for very bitter things, so Guinness has long been on my list of things that I don’t drink. Guinness is a dry stout introduced in Ireland in 1759. It’s quite dark and has a very distinctive look and long history.
Flowing caramel skilfully handcrafted in small batches, flavoured with GUINNESS and set in a creamy milk chocolate shell to create a unique bitter sweet chocolate experience.
So, as is the case with most alcohol-infused chocolates, the stout is mixed with the caramel, not the chocolate itself.
The bar is nicely crafted. It’s a long bar, with domed segments. The indentations between the segments are pretty thin, so my bar was broken in several places, but along those margins. The good news is that the caramel does not enter those segment breaks, so it didn’t become an oozy mess.
It smells distinctly of beer and milk, which really isn’t a pleasant smell in itself, only by association with pleasant experience with actual beer products. The yeasty notes reminded me more of bread, which is a nice combination with chocolate. The milk chocolate is quite sweet, though smooth and a bit on the fudgy side. The caramel filling dominated the flavors, though.
There’s not a lot of caramel in there, but certainly flavorful stuff. It’s the flowing kind, with bready, malty flavors and a definite bitter hop note that wasn’t too distracting. There’s a smidge of salt, but not a lot of toffee or toasted sugar.
I’m curious to try their Guinness Fudge, if it’s done with a lot of butter, because I think the yeasty flavors might go well. I’ll pass on the beer, caramel and chocolate here, though. It’s just too sweet, which is exactly what I wouldn’t want with beer.
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