Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
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.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Lindt is an iconic name in the world of chocolate. Its founder Rodolphe Lindt invented the chocolate conching machine in 1879 and set the standard for “eating chocolate”. Today Lindt & Sprungli chocolate is a behemoth company which makes both solid chocolate bars, their consumer truffle line of Lindor products & their iconic chocolate rabbits but also owns the American chocolate company, Ghirardelli.
They have a multitude of lines of chocolate bars, each with different profiles. The Excellence line is often found at drug stores, grocery chains & even at airport shops. It’s a nice size & excellently designed package. The paperboard sleeve holds a 3.5 ounce chocolate bar - it’s thin but nicely scored into easy to break & eat portions. (Other lines include Classic Recipe, Les Grandes, Creation, Petits Desserts - at least 50 bars.)
Before I started writing Candy Blog I was a pretty died hard Lindt fan. Their darker bars were one of the first on the market that I was exposed to that gave the cacao content. I was pretty happy at 70%.
My experience with Lindt milk chocolate is rather limited, so before vacation I picked up this bar: Lindt Excellence Toffee Crunch.
It is rather thin and I have to preface this review with the fact that I prefer my bars that have inclusions to be a little thicker.
It smells sweet & buttery.
The chocolate has a nice snap, even in the heat we were experiencing in Southern California. Inside each piece it was easy to spot the little toffee bits.
The chocolate is smooth and milky and though the texture isn’t quite as fine as I would have wanted, I’m not sure it would matter because of all the toffee bits.
The toffee was firm & gave a good little bite of salty burnt sugar and butter.
The effect was great, it was filling & satisfying without being too cloyingly sweet. Still, for my personal preference I might want bigger toffee pieces and a darker milk chocolate. But I can see that this would have lasting appeal for some folks and if I ate it with something to offset the sweetness it’d probably be gone by now. Also, I was a bit irritated that there were artificial flavors in there for a product at this price point - good toffee is not that hard to create and it doesn’t need artificial caramel flavor.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The name Toblerone comes from the founders name, Theodor Tobler and the word torrone, which is the name of the almond & honey nougat. There have been a few other sizes & shapes of the bar over the years as well as dark chocolate, white chocolate and layered versions.
This year was the first time I saw the new Toblerone Fruit & Nut in stores. The box is a curious design, half yellow, which is easy to dismiss as the regular variety and the other side is purple with a gradient in of the two colors in the center.
Even though it’s called fruit and nut, the only substantial difference here is the addition of raisins. (I wonder why they’re not currants, which I think would be more exotic and evocative of European mountains than plain old dried grapes.)
The bar smells sweet and milky with perhaps a little hint of malt or honey from the nougat. Breaking the pieces apart it’s easy to see the small raisins in there.
The chocolate is sweet and though it’s milky it’s more on the honey side of the flavors than Swiss dried milk flavors. The texture is smooth, but not quite silky. The little hard nougat bits provide a little difference in texture, but are often sticky & tacky - not quite crunchy or chewy. The actual almonds are hard to find (even on the ingredients list they’re below honey, which means there isn’t much).
I like the size & shape of the bar. It’s easy to portion & then store the rest for later in the box. (Though I did end up replacing the foil wrapping it came in with some more heavy duty kitchen foil because it was destroyed by simply opening it for the photo.)
It’s a pretty bar and certainly a bit of a change from the 100 year old traditional one ... was it worth waiting a hundred and one years for? No. I think if I’m going to go for an inexpensive European bar with raisins in it, I’m going to go for the Ritter Sport Rum Trauben Nuss (though I don’t think you can even get them in the States any longer). But if you’re a Chunky fan and looking for something that’s better quality and more pointy, this might be for you.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese cola candies for a while, and I think I completely forgot about the German cola candies. (I did review the Haribo Fizzy Cola a few years back.)
The great thing about Haribo is that they make an incredible variety with a huge variation of flavors and shapes. The bad thing about Haribo is that the quality varies depending on which factory they’re made in. These were made in Spain.
The bottles are nicely formed, they’re plump and have the shape of a soda bottle. The candy is created using two different colors - a dark amber and a clear, the bottom of the bottle is the darker color and gives the impression of a glass bottle filled with cola. So simple, but so convincing.
These are rather firm but still have a pleasant cola scent when I stick my nose in the bag and inhale. It’s a little lemony citrus and a bit of spice.
The firm bite doesn’t burst forth with much flavor. It’s at first citrusy ... a little tangy. Later I get the cola notes, which is a little woodsy and mellow spice. But it’s very bland. It’s like lemon soda with a splash of cola instead of a cola splashed with lemon.
I want something a little more intense, something that gives me a lot of cola flavor. Maybe I’m spoiled or impatient ... these are still fun though, a great summer vacation candy to munch on while on long drives.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
So this review will contain slightly more photos than normal ... so you get all your candy goodness for the day and I get a little bit of a rest (since I’m writing these reviews in advance).
In Europe folks get to enjoy different versions of the Terry’s Chocolate Orange quite regularly. In the United States we get a novelty version about every two years (I had the white chocolate version before). I heard about the Terry’s Chocolate Toffee Crunch Orange at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year and was hoping that I’d see it in stores in advance of Christmas (which is high season for chocolate made into slices of of fruit & reassembled into a sphere).
I picked out a smashed box in my haste, but was happy to see that it didn’t matter to the product inside, which was well protected with a plastic form.
Inside the plastic form, inside the box, is a plastic wrapped sphere that includes directions: WHACK & UNWRAP.
I’ve been around enough to know that’s a bad idea. Either that or I whack to hard and end up with a big handful of crumbles. Instead I just open the package and insert a knife and pull out a few slices.
This particular orange was very nice looking. The slices inside were glossy & had a good snap.
What surprised me was the orange scent. Honestly, I thought the “orange” part on this particular orange was just going to be the shape, not the flavor. For some reason I didn’t think they’d do toffee and orange.
It smells like orange frosting ... very sweet.
The first ingredient on the list is sugar, the second is milk ... so this is a very sweet & milky product.
The texture of the chocolate is smooth, but a little on the fudgy grain side. The milk was a bit overshadowed by the orange flavoring. Within the chocolate were little salty toffee chips. The texture combination is great - the chips were crispy and crunchy. However, the whole thing was just throat searingly sweet. I liked it, but after two slices my throat just ached. Better with some black tea or in combination with something like pretzels or nuts.
Since I picked this up in the off season (though it was very fresh), it was pretty expensive for what’s otherwise rather cheap chocolate. The novelty of the shape is great, and really helps with the portion when sharing, but of course a big 3 or 5 ounce bar is a much better deal. In this case the flavor combination was the unique selling proposition. For gifting chocolate, these are great ... for eating on an every day basis I think I’ll stick to a Scharffen Berger Milk Nibby or for a toffee chip experience I’ll review a new Lindt bar soon.
(Okay, so this review didn’t end up being as short as I thought it was going to be.)
Friday, June 26, 2009
There are scents that I regard as pleasant and summery and strawberry-banana is pretty high up there. It’s light, fruity & floral but has a sweet kick to it that I can almost taste when I smell it.
Yogen Fruz is a high-concept frozen yogurt & smoothie chain that began in Toronto and now has over 1,000 stores in 20 countries. In this case it’s the smoothies that have been turned into a line of little candies.
The little tin I picked up of the Yogen Fruz Smoothies Strawberry Banana smelled very strong. Even before I took off the plastic overwrap, I had to keep it in a ziploc bag.
Aside from the blastingly strong scent, the ingredients are pretty positive: pure cane sugar, yogurt, tartaric acid, malic acid, natural strawberry and banana flavors, ascorbic acid and natural color.
Though they’re made with nice ingredients, they’re basically a “tablet candy”, much like a SweeTart though not dextrose-based. They come in a tin, the same one, as far as I can tell, that Godiva uses for their Chocoiste Pearls but in this case I had no trouble with opening & closing it.
The little tablets have the umlauted U on them (that conveniently looks like a very big smile) with a light pink speckling. They’re immediately tangy on the tongue and dissolve a little unevenly. It’s both lightly sour and has that yogurt twang.
I thought the taste was vibrant and even a bit unique. If you’re looking for an all-natural SweeTart-like product then this is a nice idea though certainly quite expensive.
These are made in Canada by Big Sky Brands, who also make the Jones Soda candies.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
There are a lot of confections I call traveling candies. They’re candies that both deliver that sweet boost as well as some other function. I often use hot cinnamon for long car rides to keep me focused and of course coffee items like Nips or Coffee Rio are great for a teensy caffeine boost without fluids.
I also tend to get motion sickness, so ginger candies are a great way to feed my sweet tooth and soothe my tummy.
Here’s a candy from The Ginger People that combines both the soothing spice of ginger and the kick of coffee: Hot Coffee Ginger Chews.
The chews are just like the other ubiquitous Ginger Chews that are available unbranded at Asian markets or from The Ginger People or Chimes. (They’re all made in Indonesia.)
The soft little translucent chew is coated with a tapioca starch & sugar mixture. They still stick to the wrapper and don’t really look like much when pulled out. Sometimes I can find one that’s still block shaped, but most are smashed.
The scent is rather bland. Just sweet and maybe a little woodsy. But I popped one my mouth and the immediate sweetness gave way to quite a few flavors. There’s a strong root & earth component from the ginger then a very strong spicy warm feeling. The coffee kind of kicks in from the background - it’s rather weak coffee note but not tamed by any milk here like so many coffee candies do. It’s a brewed black coffee flavor.
It makes me wonder why I don’t throw sliced ginger into my coffee. It’s a really nice combination - the sugar is sweet but more like barley sugar with a mellow malty or toasted flavor to it.
The cumulative effect of these after a half a dozen is a strong and lingering warm sensation. (And a few little bits stuck in my teeth.)
The drawbacks to these are, first, that they’re vexing to get out of their wrappers. The plastic/mylar stuff is hard to tear open, and never quite opens the whole way. Not exactly easy to open yourself when driving. (This is what navigators were invented for ... not directing you where to go, but to unwrap & hand you your candy.)
Each piece has about 20 calories and no fat. If there’s caffeine in it, it’s not enough for them to note on the package (it’s a coffee extract so it’s not like some candies where you consume the whole bean). Their website says they’re gluten free (but the package doesn’t). They’re made in a facility that processes peanuts. Should be considered vegan, there’s no Kosher or Halal certification.
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