Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tunnock’s is a Scottish biscuit company located in Uddingston (outside Glasgow), Scotland. They make a wide variety of baked goods but those in North America are probably most familiar with their teacakes (a digestive biscuit with a marshmallow on top, covered in chocolate) and their Tunnock’s Caramel Bar. I got this bar from my friend Ernesssa, who went to Scotland a few months ago. I liked it a lot so when I saw a package of four at Cost Plus World Market, I thought I’d buy it again so that I could do a complete review and see if the Scottish & American versions were different. (Turns out both are made in Scotland, though Tunnock’s has a factory in Canada.)
The only difference, as far as I could tell, between the American & Scottish was the packaging. The Scottish ones, shown here, are in a simple thick foil wrapper. The package I bought in Cost Plus has a big more substantial wrapper. It was a light mylar sleeve and then the four bars were sealed inside another larger mylar sleeve. The Scottish version was easier to unwrap and reseal, though I don’t think it was nearly as airtight as the American one. I was concerned that my Scottish-purchased one was a little stale.
The bars are large and rather ordinary looking. Each is about four inches long and 1 inch square. The chocolate coating is quite thin and light, the waffle pattern of the wafers can be seen.
It’s five layers of wafers sandwiching four layers of caramel then a thin coating of milk chocolate.
Beefy and substantial looking, it’s an odd mix. The wafers are light and airy, so the bar is much lighter than it looks. But the caramel between the layers is like a glue that keeps it all intact as long as possible, no flakes escape here.
It’s sweet and only slightly milk and cocoa-ish. The chocolate coating is creamy but doesn’t contribute much flavor. The wafers are basically airy and have a lightly malted flavor, but not much else. The caramel filling is kind of like a penuche or clotted cream fudge. It’s not gooey or chewy, but does create a little bit of a softer texture. The wafers aren’t exactly stale, but they’re not dry/crispy like some other wafer bars. At first I thought that was a bad thing, but I found I liked it quite a bit, it was just a little bit more textured than a wafer ice cream cone.
It reminds me of cereal bar - you know, one of those bar cookies that you make at home, more than a candy bar. For something that’s only one ounce, it’s satisfying. So for folks watching their calories, at only 130 per bar, they’re a good option - only 5 grams of fat, which isn’t bad for a chocolate combination bar.
I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to get these again, but I understand why they’re one of the top ten bars in Scotland. They’re different from KitKat, which has more chocolate and less crisp, and the lightly toasted caramel notes add a different dimension from other more caramel-focused bars like Mars (Milky Way). I love the packages and motifs for their whole product design. I don’t think I could resist buying all of Tunnock’s products at this point, just to see how each is done.
Friday, July 23, 2010
I’ve been tempted for the past few months by the Hello Kitty Lucky Stars Candy at Cost Plus World Market. I resisted, I actually did. But then a package turned up from Sweets & Snacks Expo with some samples and this was among them.
The cute tin is shaped like a Chinese food takeout container, complete with little metal carrying handle.
The tin holds 1.5 ounces of red and white compressed dextrose stars.
The base is 2 inches square, the top is about 2.125, so it has slightly tapered sides. It’s about 2 inches tall as well. The top fits nicely and even has little embossing like the flip top would. The red enameled finish and decoration is very nicely done. Everything is well made on the package, no sharp edge while the carrying handle swings easily.
Both the tin and the candy inside is made in China.
The stars are a shiny glazed compressed dextrose, like SweeTarts, but not actually tart at all. They’re about a half an inch across and rather thick. The mold is nicely shaped, they remind me of little sheriff’s badges. I think they’re the same flavor ... possibly some sort of pineapple. Of course the red ones taste like red food coloring, which I suppose is better than the taste of cadmium or lead that probably comes from licking the actual tin.
They’re crunchy and satisfying, like tiny Sprees without the tangy note.
If you’re buying this candy, you’re buying it for the packaging. Which is fine, it’s a cute little tin and it would be great for something like rubber bands, paperclips or those weird scented erasers. The little plastic bag inside only fills up half the tin anyway. It’s easy to refill with anything else.
Friday, July 9, 2010
I was cruising the aisles of Cost Plus World Market looking for a pick me up after Christmas and saw this rather generic looking Sukoka Soft Coffee Candy by Unican on the shelf. It said it was made with real milk and apparently real coffee, so I figured it’d have a little caffeinated kick. So I bought it. Then I ate them all, without reviewing them. So I had to buy another bag.
It seemed a bit on the expensive side, 3.2 ounces was $1.99. But it was also only $2 and it might be great, so why not give it a try.
Mostly the package was focused on the nutritional benefits: With 6% daily value Calcium in each serving, which is 5 pieces. So a little more than 1% per piece. There are 30 pieces in the bag, so at least I know if I went wild, I wouldn’t overdose on calcium.
Each little piece was individually wrapped and sealed. I’ve noticed this is common with candy from Indonesia (also Malaysia and Philippines), I’m guessing it’s because people buy single pieces and that the weather there is very humid so sugar candy needs to be well sealed to keep from getting sticky.
The description on the back of the package goes on to extol more of the virtues of the candy:
But I don’t think that the ingredients are the very best (that that they’re terrible):
I don’t know what condensed filled milk is, I’m guessing it’s sweetened condensed milk.
The pieces are about the size and shape of a cough drop. Just light and creamy brown lozenges. They smell sweet and like black coffee. The flavor is immediately like coffee ice cream: milky and with a soft bitter note of coffee and burnt sugar. The toffee notes are most evident and the coffee has a good mix of bitterness, charcoal and woodsiness. They’re firm but have a give to them that’s more dense and more dairy than a caramel. The chew is smooth but never quite gets grainy or diluted.
The coffee flavor wasn’t intense but it was satisfying and rich. I have no idea if there’s a measurable amount of caffeine in them, I didn’t notice any effects, and I’m rather sensitive to it. I bought this second bag yesterday and it’s already gone, so I must have liked them. I wouldn’t eat them for the health benefits though.
These are a great summer candy. They’re exceptionally durable, even in the heat they might melt a bit, but are still perfectly edible even if they lose their shape and reform. They’re creamy and rich, so it’s kind of like chocolate without the sticky mess. The individual wrapping means you can even tuck them in your pocket.
Unican also makes a milk tea version called Suteka and a mint chocolate one called Mint Choka as well as a whole line of fruity milk candies called Milkita (strawberry & melon). The tea one sounds like it would be very good. These are marked Halal and should be suitable for vegetarians (but not vegans, obviously).
Monday, June 21, 2010
The licorice plant was not native to the area, it was likely brought in and planted sometime after the Crusades, sometime around the year 1000 or perhaps as late as 1090 when the Benedictine monks that came to the town to found their monastery. Licorice root was steeped and used like a syrup to sweeten drinks (or flavor spirits) and the roots were chewed as a treat. Sometime around 500 years ago the locals created a licorice confection known as Pontefract Cakes, which are really more of a little medallion of molasses-based licorice. The disks look rather like a coin or a blob of sealing wax. They don’t grow licorice in the area any longer, but there are still two factories that make the age old sweet: Haribo and Monkhill Confections (originally known as Wilkinson’s).
In fact, true Pontefract cakes were made by hand until the 60s. Rolls of licorice dough were pieced into little blobs and then hand stamped. These Haribo Pontefract Cakes preserve that hand-stamped look.
I was expecting these to be stiff and hard, like the continental European licorice. Instead they’re quite soft and pliable. They have a matte finish and feel like coins made out of silicone. I found that even though I didn’t seal up the bag well, they still didn’t get stale or tacky.
The early cakes had different embossed images in them, it’s said that they were of the Pontefract Castle, but this Haribo one is just a vague rectangle in the center (that might be a castle with a flag) and the Haribo Original name.
They smell sweet and a little herbal. Since these weren’t American-style licorice pieces (that usually contain wheat), I was expecting something a little smoother but perhaps a bit stronger. Instead I found quite a different flavor profile. First, it’s barely sweet. The sweetness is woodsy and rather delicate. The chew of the cake is soft and not quite gummy but more hearty than a gumdrop. There’s a little hint of salt to it (actually quite a bit 200 mg of sodium per serving) and the charcoal notes of molasses. The nice part about the flavor is that it’s a true licorice, not amped up anise. It’s mild and soothing.
They were a little weak to satisfy my licorice desires. I like a really hearty licorice with a lot of molasses with caramel, toasted sugar and charcoal notes, it seems to moderate the very sweet nature of true licorice. But these are easy to eat and though they stick to my teeth a little bit, the smoothness keeps me coming back for me.
These contain real licorice, so those with heath concerns with licorice extract should avoid it. It’s also made with gelatin, so it’s not for vegetarians or those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Friday, March 19, 2010
The name isn’t so enticing but at least it’s accurate: Real Eggshell filled with Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle. I found mine at Cost Plus World Market, which has a great selection of Easter candy this year. They were a bit expensive at $3.99, so for some folks this might replace the chocolate rabbit if they’re on a budget.
It’s a real eggshell that’s been emptied and filled with a gianduia. The shell is then resealed with a little sticker dot over the hole, painted up and sold. The chocolate resolidifies and when the shell is peeled off, it’s like hard boiled egg made of chocolate.
I thought it might be cute to serve them as a dessert like a soft boiled egg. I didn’t try it myself, but I’m guessing instead of sticking them in the fridge before opening you could pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds or a pan of hot water for a minute to make them soupy. Then it’d be like a rich hazelnut pudding that you’d eat with a spoon.
Even though it’s what I’d consider a novelty product, the ingredients are gourmet: sugar, hazelnuts, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk powder, soy lecithin and vanillin. I didn’t refrigerate either of mine before opening them, so I think as long as it’s not too warm (over 75 degrees) they remain solid enough to peel.
I opened mine two different ways. For the green one above I peeled off the sticker at the bottom. This showed that the painting is added after the filling is added, as the sticker is also painted and the margin under it is still a white chicken egg shell. For the second egg, the yellow one, I just smacked it against the edge of a table and pulled off bits.
Both eggs I had contained a void inside - so thought this one looks like it’s a hollow egg, the vacant space isn’t really that large. It’s kind of like the real air pocket in chicken eggs.
The truffle inside is soft, smooth and creamy. The hazelnut flavors are the best part - grassy, roasted and nutty. The dairy and cocoa butter keep it ultra smooth and the cocoa touch mellows it all out. It’s on the sweet side, not as sweet as Nutella or a Milka bar, but sweeter than the dark chocolate versions of gianduia I’ve had from Caffarel.
The confection is a novelty that lives up to the promise. It’s beautiful, unique and charming though a bit problematic to consume. I thought the best way to eat it was to expose enough truffle filling and then bite it off. Then I misjudged and got a little eggshell ... eating eggshell makes me think I’m eating my own teeth (I know, weird phobia). Finally I ended up taking off all the shell and muddling through with melty fingers.
$3.99 for 1.75 ounces actually isn’t that bad for true European gianduia, but still it seemed expensive because of the effort involved in getting the shell off. My favorite style of egg decoration is the laborious Ukranian style. That would be inappropriate for these because the shell is destroyed to get to the candy (Ukranian Egg Decoration or Pysanka application would also destroy the filling, which is added first). The point is that I didn’t care much for this airbrushed 80s reminiscent dayglo abstract.
Though the package says that the 1.75 ounces are a single portion, I found it too much to eat in one sitting. It’s 290 calories.
Monday, March 15, 2010
How about a little spot of sweet espresso and some dark chocolate to get your going?
I picked up these little Espresso Filled Dark Chocolate nuggets at Cost Plus World Market. I think they’re made by Mieszko, a Polish candy company. I was hoping they’d be like the Ferrero Pocket Coffee that are so hard to get here in the United States.
The packaging was nicely done. The stand up pouch has a zipper lock for re-sealing. Each individual piece is wrapped in a paper-backed foil and then a thin cellophane over that to seal it up tight. Often I worry that filled chocolates will be cracked or oozy, but every one was perfect.
The little domed rectangular nuggets are about one inch long, 3/4 of an inch wide and about the same high. The dark chocolate isn’t particularly dark, the package says that it’s at least 40%. It smells rich and dark, but that’s about as good as it got on that front.
The chocolate shell was nicely tempered and thick enough to be a strong container for the liquid center. The chocolate is smooth but far too sweet and lacking in bold chocolate punch. The espresso goo inside is a smooth and syrupy texture. It smells nicely of coffee but is sticky sweet. I liked the sweet roasted barley notes to it, but it wasn’t what I’d call espresso at all, I’d call it a Postum syrup.
It’s too bad, the price was decent and the fact that they’re pretty easy to find if you have a Cost Plus World Market nearby would make them a great item for coffee lovers. But these aren’t for coffee lovers, they’re for people who heap spoonfuls of sugar into their espresso and call themselves coffee lovers. In reality they’re for sugar lovers who like coffee flavor ... nothing wrong with that and here’s a candy to go with that. (I know, I said at the top of the review this might be the caffeinated pop to get you going after the time change, I was wrong.)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I was surprised and pleased when I ran into the bars at the nearby Cost Plus World Market.
There are three varieties with a bold package design that keeps in tune with the Swiss Army style of the red shield with a white cross. The bars are larger than most American single-serve chocolate bars, about half the size of the typical 3.5 ounce (100 gram) tablet.
The wrapper calls them Survival Portions though the rest of the package is rather vague about how these help you survive, or what exactly the challenge is that needs a portion for survival.
I think the design on the wrapper is great. The bold design of the logo caught my eye immediately and the nice placement of the description & statement that it contains caffeine from guarana is easy to see.
It’s billed as Swiss Army Energy Bar Chocolate - Skimmed Milk Chocolate with Cornflakes and Guarana.
Guarana is an Amazonian vine related to the maple tree that produces a little fruit with seeds high in caffeine. In its purest form I understand the roasted fruits/seeds are a bit like cocoa powder, a bit astringent and bitter but also with some pleasant cocoa & coffee flavors. In this instance it’s just a guarana extract and it only makes up 1/2% of the total bar.
It’s quite a nice looking bar - shiny and nicely molded with scored pieces for easy portioning.
Once I broke the bar it was easy to see the little cornflake bits. It smells rather sweet but also slightly malty, which I attributed to the cornflakes.
The texture is quite smooth, though not quite silky because of the cereal bits. It’s sweet but the slightly salty, mildly malty cornflakes plus the dairy notes of the milk made it all work. I only got the slightest hint of caffeine bitterness that lingered high and light at the finish.
After the creamy experience with the milk chocolate version, I was thinking perhaps this one would be nice but probably sweet. I was happy to see that the first ingredient is cacao mass and the second sugar then cocoa butter ... so this was going to be pretty chocolatey.
It has the same 1/2% guarana extract content, which amounts to about 42 mgs of caffeine per bar.
The scent isn’t very complex, just sweet with a woodsy roasted note. The texture is smooth and has a good immediate melt. It’s a bit bitter with an overall fruity and berry note to the chocolate flavors and a little hint of smoke towards the end. I got a similar bitterness at the end as well that was different from the initial bitterness.
The white bar is a bit different, first because it has coconut instead of cornflakes. It’s made with real cocoa butter, and quite a lot of it (the second item on the list of ingredients, right after sugar and followed by skimmed milk powder).
Of course all that fat amps up the calorie count here, this bar is 290 calories versus the 260 for the previous two bars. The other confusing aspect of the nutrition label is that it lists salt as an ingredient but says that there is no sodium in it.
The bar is a light yellow, buttery looking block. The little white flecks of coconut are quite small. The overwhelming scent of the bar is coconut.
The bar melts readily and has a smooth texture, except for the soft & chewy coconut flakes. It’s sweet and milky but also has a fair bit of a salty note which keeps it from seeming too sticky like some white chocolates can. I might have preferred it with the cornflakes, but it’s still a fun bar. I didn’t sense any bitter aftertaste here, which may have just been the chocolate and not the guarana in the previous bars.
What sets these bars apart, besides the Swiss Army branding is the caffeine content. It’s not that much at only 46 mg per bar, the same caffeine content as 1 ounce of espresso or a 4 ounce cup of coffee. And as I mentioned, the portions are quite generous for what is basically an “all chocolate” bar with only a few small inclusions.
They’re well priced for what they are, a quasi-novelty item but also a decent chocolate bar with a unique set of attributes. They’ll probably be very popular stocking stuffers this holiday season.
They have an odd website, it looks great, but feels a little off because of what appears to be a machine translation of the text. The wrappers say Imported into the USA by Cost Plus, Inc. so I’m guessing they’re the exclusive retailer for these here.
Friday, September 18, 2009
And they’re also licorice. Actually, the completely unattractive sticker on the front of the bag informs me in English (the rest of the package is in German) that it’s Licorice Foam Candy.
They’re shaped like panda faces and I have to say that they’re fraktacularlary cute. So cute I just wanted to eat them up. And the name? Tappsy! How could you not like something called Tappsy? (It reminded me of Stampy.)
What was also fun was the fact that they’re a European candy, so they don’t use any artificial colorings and seem to have all natural flavorings. (I don’t know if ammonium chloride is consider natural or not ... I mean, it’s a mineral.)
The light & flexible disk are shaped like cartoon panda faces. They’re about 1.5 inches across at the ears. They come in two varieties - licorice faced and foam faced. (Panda’s don’t actually look like that, they have white faces with black eyes and ears.) The white faced ones had little noses made of a berry flavored jelly. (Real pandas also have berry flavored noses, but couldn’t find any verification of this, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and of course make mention of it in conversation until someone starts sending around emails and Snopes investigates.)
The little faces have a kind of cock-eyed smile that reminded me of Wybie from Coraline.
The licorice parts are quite mellow - a light anise flavor and not overtly sweet and a good caramel & molasses undertone. The texture is more like a chewy licorice than the foamy stuff - not the wheat based chew of the US/Australia and not quite a jelly or gummi. The foam white part is rather like a marshmallow - but smashed, just a bit more dense and not at all sticky.
I loved the licorice parts and ate the licorice-faced ones first (sadly they didn’t make up half the bag). Licorice-eared ones were just a little bland, so towards the end, I just ate their ears and tossed the face ... it’s the candy equivalent of shark finning.
I would definitely buy them again, though I would like to find them in bulk bins so I can pull out a better proportion of licorice. (They also come in a fruity version.) I looked on the Katje’s website and think there may be some other products that are more balanced to my liking like the Domino Delicious (which appears to be the first same-sex-marriage-marketed candy I’ve seen - well, besides the Rainbow Mentos).
Finally, here’s a commercial for Tappsy starring Heidi Klum:
I don’t know what’s going on in that commercial except that it’s a pretty accurate depiction of my Saturday mornings in my breezy white-clad bed, rolling around with my candy.
Finally, just a note about the calories: each piece has only 28 calories. And a whole ounce clocks in at 97 calories. So this is definitely a candy you can use a a little low-calorie treat that looks like a high calorie one.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.