Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
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.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
My office is now next door to a Cost Plus World Market. Which means that I browse there about once a week ... and try to resist buying more than twice a month. It took three trips before I succumbed to this one kilo (2.2 pound) bag of Sweet Moments Chocolate Eggs (Ovetti) made by Laica. Priced at $9.99 it wasn’t that it would cost me a Hamilton, it was that it was more than two pounds of foil covered chocolate eggs. That’s a lotta candy!
The description on the front says milk chocolate eggs with hazelnuts cream and cereals filling. There’s also a little logo in the top right that says puro cioccolato.
The light blue has an angry chick, the green has a white duck, the tan has a decidedly unhappy sheep and the yellow features emotionless butterflies and flowers.
The eggs are about 1.25 inches long with little lines on the widest part. They smell sweet and a little like roasted nuts and hot chocolate.
The bite is soft and easy. The chocolate shell melts easily, it’s real chocolate and in the European milky style.
The center is creamy with dots of little cereal pieces. They’re like crisped rice, only spherical and according to the ingredients made of a mix of corn, rice, wheat and barley. They’re crispy and provide a nice malty crunch. The creamy paste in the center is sweet and sticky with a hint of hazelnut flavor - not as much as I’d hoped. The ingredients show that the center is sugar, fractionated oils, the cereal bits and then 8% hazelnut paste followed by cocoa & milk plus some other stuff.
Overall, they’re quite easy to eat. They don’t satisfy in the sense that after three I don’t want any more, instead I keep eating them. Though they’re more expensive than some other American made chocolate confections available for Easter, they edge out on the quality front and they certainly taste good. And they’re cute.
Last year Easter came much earlier (March 23, 2008), so I think there were far more after holiday deals to be found because of the compressed selling period between Valentine’s and Easter. One of them I was eager to take advantage of was this set of Caffarel Eggs being sold at Williams-Sonoma (they’re back this year). At regular price, they’re pretty expensive at $24 for 10 ounces (19 eggs). But I ordered them on clearance after Easter for $6.99 a bag. I also got the candy shell version which didn’t return this year.
Each little egg had a collar and label: mandorla (almond), torroncino (nougat), gianduja (hazelnut & chocolate paste).
Sadly my clearance deal netted me two bags of bloomed chocolate. I ate most of the first bag, and though the bloom wasn’t too bad, it did make the outside of the eggs rather oily and difficult to remove the clingy thin foil.
The chocolate is smooth and silky (other than the bloom issue), the center was rich and thick, much like the other Caffarel gianduia products I’ve had. The nougat one had little crunchy bits in it. The almond one had an amaretto flavor to it that I didn’t care for at all ... so about a third of the bag was a flavor I didn’t care for (but luckily others I know do).
The quality of the ingredients is top notch and the hazelnut flavor (or almond, in the case of the mandorla) is rich and decadent. The packaging is exceptional, each one is a little gift (though also makes a lot of little bits of paper for cleanup). I’m not going to give them a rating because of the bloom though.
They’re a wonderful little treat, but very expensive when there are other products around like the Ovetti or even the Moser Roth Truffles my mother sent me from Aldi. However, I do see them sold singly from time to time, usually for a dollar at fine delis ... so it’s definitely worth it to have a little treat now and then.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This tray of Limited Edition Easter Mallows is huge. Even though it only weighs 5.29 ounces, the large tray made it look like there was a lot of candy in here.
The clear tray holds the 10 chocolate covered marshmallow domes. They’re cradled well, and though a few of mine were cracked (could have been me treating the package roughly), none of them were leaking.
The candy construction is simple. A round cookie (biscuit) base with a dollop of Jaffa orange jam, then a heap of marshmallow, all covered in Cadbury milk chocolate.
They’re about 1.75 inches in diameter and about .75 inches high. The bite is soft and the chocolate shell is crisp and adheres pretty well to the marshmallow.
They smell like dairy milk chocolate before biting, but after biting through to the jam center, it’s definitely orange. The flavor of the jam is rather like marmalade, with a strong zest component along with some sweet syrup and tangy juice to it. The cookie base is soft and crumbly, like a graham cracker. The marshmallow, though soft and passable didn’t do much for me one way or the other. The milk chocolate coating is very sweet and has a dried milk flavor to it.
On the whole, these are very appealing. I really liked the flavorful punch of the center much better than the filled marshmallows I’ve had from Asia.
They were expensive though, at $2.99 for the tray (but I felt like I’ve been leaving my UK reader friends out lately). I’m not quite sure what makes them an Easter candy (maybe if they were egg shaped) or if there’s a non-Easter version that these are based on. The Cadbury site was no help. (But I did find out that these are sold at Aldi in the UK.)
Each Easter Mallow has 65 calories.
The gelatin is made from pork, so these are definitely not Halal, Kosher or vegetarian.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Jelly Belly has had their own take on the ubiquitous Valentine’s Conversation Hearts for several years (introduced, I believe, in 2003). They’re called Conversation Beans.
They include the Sour assortment: Sour Apple, Sour Blueberry, Sour Cherry, Sour Grape, Sour Lemon, Sour Orange, Sour Peach, Sour Raspberry, Sour Strawberry & Sour Watermelon.
The sour family of flavors come in rather vivid, opaque hues, without any speckling. So they’re easy to tell apart as long as you can remember that raspberries are darker than cherries and apple is lighter than watermelon.
What’s special about these is that they’re sporting teensy printing on them.
I’d hazard the visibility of this printing is similar to that noise that only children & teenagers can hear. It’s quite small and rather faint on the lighter color beans (and nonexistent on others).
The words range from mildly flirty to downright benign. Think of it like a very limited version of magnetic poetry. Here are some three bean masterpieces:
Hi, like joy?
Overall, they’re fun. If you like Sour Jelly Belly or more importantly, if you can’t stand Necco Conversation Hearts but want to spend three times as much to make a sweet connection, this is the candy for you.
I liked most of the flavors. I picked out the Sour Peach ones, which tasted like they had Dr. Pepper added to them, and the Sour Cherry and was pleased with the rest of them. (Eventually I forgot I was supposed to be reading the words ... which I do with Conversation Hearts, too.) The highlight flavors for me were orange, lemon and grape (which was completely fun and artificial) while the blueberry and raspberry were much better than expected. As far as sour goes, well, they’re zappy compared to most regular Jelly Belly.
If puckering isn’t quite your speed for Valentine’s Day, a new item that Jelly Belly sent me to sample a few weeks ago is their Jelly Belly Love Potion. It’s a little re-closeable plastic bottle that holds an assortment of five flavors of Jelly Belly. (They use this same package for their Soda Pop Shoppe assortment.)
There’s no special printing on the beans besides the Jelly Belly logo.
The pink, red and white mix is rather attractive and might make a nice little offering in a gift basket. (Though if you really love someone with a sweet tooth, back up this little package with a big bag! Then they can refill it.)
The flavors are Strawberry Cheesecake, Bubble Gum, Coconut, Cotton Candy and Very Cherry. All the flavors went together pretty well (though I could have used a pink grapefruit instead of cherry) and the color combination is pleasing if a little feminine.
I don’t know the retail price on these, but the Soda Pop Shoppe bottles sell for about $1.50 to $2.00 retail.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
One of the earlier reviews I did when I started Candy Blog was of Dr. Doolilttle’s Grapefruit & Blackcurrant Pastilles. I liked them quite a bit, even though they were expensive and hard to find.
After a few years, though, Trader Joe’s stopped carrying them and the comments for that post filled up with folks trying to figure out how to order them or even import them by the case.
Flash forward to last Friday, I was returning from a failed sock-shopping trip when I stopped in at Cost Plus World Market. Dr. Doolittle’s Pastilles have returned!
They have completely new and distinctive tins (that I might have mistaken for soap if they were on the wrong shelf) and even come in new flavors.
I picked up all three, even though they’re now $2.99 for a tin that holds only 2 ounces (instead of the Trader Joe’s ones that were $1.99 and held 2.5 ounces).
The other difference is also the actual candy pieces. They no longer have the little silhouette of Dr. Doolittle molded into them. Not that I don’t like the smooth surface, it was just a little plainer than I expected.
Soft Fruit Drops Lemon (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Citron) - these sparkling little gummis boast that they have soothing qualities. They are a gummi with gelatin, but have glycerine in addition to vitamin C.
They are firm, like a Haribo (versus a Trolli or Black Forest bear). But the flavor is much more intense than a gummi bear. The lemon is a marmalade or boiled taste - tangy, sweet and a little zesty but more on the jammy side of things than freshly squeezed. They dissolve slowly for the patient among us. But I like to speed it along by kind of chewing them, by folding and pressing them against the roof of my mouth and teeth.
Soft Fruit Drops Pink Grapefruit (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Pamplemousse Rose) - this is the one that I was most interested in, of course, since Pamplemousse is always a huge favorite.
The pastilles are orange, not pink (the ingredients simply say “natural coloring”).
They have a very intense zesty flavor, much moreso than the lemon. Tangy and with that slight bitter flavor of the grapefruit peel. These were definitely the first to disappear. The oily zest essence persists for quite a while after it’s dissolved, too. Not something that goes well with coffee, but I didn’t mind it with afternoon tea.
Soft Fruit Drops Wild Berry (Tendres Pastilles Aux Fruits Baies Sauvages) - this flavor smelled wonderful. A bit like roses, cotton candy and crushed raspberries.
They’re immediately tangy, sweet and jammy. The flavors of the berries are definitely on the blackberry side of things. A bit like a wine gum, there’s a slightly fermented quality to the dark berry tones and maybe a little blackcurrant note.
All the flavors are winners, again, my only complaint here is price. But they are soothing, full of flavor and even have a little dose of vitamin C. The new tins are really pretty and distinctive, though the tops are curved it means I can’t stack them. But I do plan on reusing them as they’re a great shape, easy to open and stay closed in a bag.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
It’s a simple bar, described on the wrapper as dark chocolate with peppermint filling. I fully expected it to be like a molded York Peppermint Pattie.
Where this is different from the York Peppermint Pattie is fat. While a York is marketed as a lowfat food, it clocks in with a smidge from the dark chocolate coating, about 2.5 g per 39 g serving.
Ritter Sport Peppermint, on the other hand, has a liberal amount of fat in it, about 11 g per 38 g serving. At first I thought it was because there is more chocolate, ratio-wise, in the Ritter Sport. But looking at the ingredients, it lists palm kernel oil in there (which I’m guessing isn’t in the chocolate, since it does say it’s chocolate and not a chocolate flavored shell).
Some would find that disconcerting, or perhaps even a reason to eschew it. I, on the other hand, have often wondered what a fattier York Peppermint Pattie would be like.
The bar was lovely to look at. Glossy and dark, though not as dark as some dark chocolates. It smells mostly of peppermint, delicate and refreshing with a little acidic twang.
The snap of the chocolate was good. It broke along the segments easily and there was no sticky goo emerging from the margins. Biting into an invididual segment though, that was a very nice feeling. The chocolate shell keeps its shape well, not shattering into a bazillion flakes.
The mint filling is silky smooth, whatever fat is in there is doing a wonderful job of keeping it from becoming a fudgy blob or a crystallized chunk. Instead it’s almost like a white chocolate truffle - sweet and minty but not watery or milky. The chocolate is buttery smooth as well, and melts readily but without any sort of greasy tastelessness. It’s a little bitter, a little dry and the perfect balance for the sweet center.
I don’t know why Ritter Sport hasn’t sent this to the States before, it’s definitely not like other chocolate & mint fondant options here, so it’s allowed to occupy its own niche. I hope it’s not seasonal, because I think this is a perfect item for a crisp fall picnic. (I give these suggestions as if I live this sort of life, which I don’t, but go ahead and imagine it.)
Jim’s Chocolate Mission has been doing an awesome job documenting far more Ritter Sport than I’ve been able to. (Of interest to me are the Trauben Cashew, Neapolitan Waffle and the Voll Erdnuss.)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
A few months ago I reviewed Darrell Lea Soft Eating Liquorice from Australia. I enjoyed it quite a bit and now that the weather should be turning chillier (though we’ve had our ups and downs in Los Angeles lately), I was keen to try more chocolate covered licorice varieties.
The Kookaburra variety I tried used milk chocolate, the Darrell Lea Dark Chocolate Covered Liquorice is made with dark chocolate. (Well, it’s not vegan, as it does have butterfat in it.)
Anise and chocolate are a natural pairing, quite common in Italian and Greek confections but pretty rare here in the United States.
There are not a chocolate covered version of the Soft Eating variety I reviewed before. Instead these have artificial colors in them, which makes even less sense since it’s covered in chocolate. They’re also a bit thicker and have a twisted band to the shape.
The scent is nice, a mix of the woodsy and coffee notes of the chocolate and the mellow molasses and anise of the licorice.
The bite is soft and the chocolate melts easily. The overwhelming flavors are of molasses with those hints of sweet licorice, fennel and some cedar and spice notes. It’s not at all like the Indian curry and coriander I noticed with the Soft Eating variety.
Overall, even though these have the senseless addition of my nemesis Red 40 food coloring, it’s satisfying stuff. The price difference for the addition of chocolate is substantial. The regular bags are $2.99, the chocolate variety at Cost Plus World Market are $4.99.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I also like the packages. They’re simple, but the striped color coding makes it pretty easy at a glance to tell which is which (and this is the fifth package of Darrell Lea I’ve had).
Like the Licorice, this strawberry variety is also not all-natural like the Soft Eating variety. But it’s still a generous 7 ounce bag with a clear expiration date, which I always appreciate.
I found these much more attractive than the black licorice counterparts. The pieces are slightly smaller, just narrower, but still have the little twist in them. The chocolate was glossier, but that could simply be attributed to handling.
The bag smelled like bubble gum and chocolate. Sweet and summery. The strawberry flavor of the licorice is mild with a good combination of the floral notes and the light tangy berry flavor. The chew is a bit stickier than the black variety, leading to some glops stuck to the sides of my molars.
The chocolate sets off the sweet elements well and melts smoothly to a creamy syrup to go with the strawberry chew. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.
Rating: 7 out of 10
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