Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
In the pantheon of candy bars, the simple combination of chocolate and peanuts dominates the most popular candies in the United States. Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are usually jockeying for the top positions with M&Ms. I’m always eager to see what other candy companies are doing with this duo, especially with premium ingredients. Jer’s Chocolates, here in Southern California, makes a line of peanut butter bars from all natural ingredients.
Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars Original IncrediBar is all natural peanut butter mixed with crunch rice crisps covered in milk chocolate while Jer’s Peanut Butter Bars Pretzo Change-O is all natural, peanut butter with salty pretzel bits covered in milk chocolate.
The Original IncrediBar is rather irregular looking, but for the most part about 4.5 inches long and 1.25 inches wide.
The milk chocolate coating is sweet and milky but with a good cocoa note to it. The filling is soft and crumbly, though not quite fudgy. It’s peanutty, like a peanut butter dough, almost. There are bits of crisped rice in it, which gives it a mild crunch and hint of malt, while there are also bits of crushed peanuts that give a heartier crunch. The salt is a nice touch to keep the whole thing from getting too sweet.
The bar is hearty, at only 1.5 ounces, I found it very substantial, as the 5 grams of protein would indicate. It’s not shy on calories either, at 230. The bars are very soft, and in warm temperatures, they turn to goo, as many peanut butter chocolates tend to. I made sure to keep mine stored properly and was pleased with the fresh taste of the peanut center.
The Pretzo Change-O sounds right up my alley, instead of the crispy rice bits of the IncrediBar, this one has pretzel pieces. This was also a milk chocolate bar (Jer’s makes two varieties with dark chocolate, I’ll review those soon) with the same flavorful and smooth coating. I didn’t really notice much of a difference between the two bars, the crunchy bits were a little larger and perhaps the overall effect was less sweet. Both are fine bars. I preferred them over the the Cadbury Wunderbar or Snickers Peanut Butter Squared (which has caramel) which were the closest thing I could think of to these.
One of the thing that vexes me about these is the packaging. The boxes are great at protecting the bars within, but I have a devil of a time opening them. They’re securely glued at both ends, but snug enough that I worry about smashing or poking the bars if I use scissors to open it.
Jer’s Chocolates also makes a mini version called Jer’s Squares of their popular bars. I like these quite a bit, partly because there’s a greater ratio of chocolate and partly because I like smaller pieces of things so I can moderate better. The big issue I have with them is that their list price is twice that of the bars but you don’t get twice the product. The pair of bars is about $4 (3 ounces, so it’s $21.33 a pound) and the gable box of about 10 pieces retails for $8 (4 ounces, so it’s $32 a pound).
Though all the ingredients are natural, there is no statement on the Jer’s Chocolate website about the ethical or sustainability sourcing for the ingredients.
Friday, September 6, 2013
I couple of years ago I found out that Haribo had a Smurfs candy, but it wasn’t sold widely in the United States. I did track them down when I was in Germany, and bought a single one, for half a Euro at a Christmas Market in Schmalkalden (here’s a photo of me buying it). The individual pieces were large, about half an ounce (see photo) and a generic berry flavored jelly candy.
Now that the second Smurfs movie has been released worldwide (and a third planned since the first one has already made a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide) Haribo did decide to release a version to the United States in pouch packaging. I picked this bag up at Cost Plus World Market about a month after the movie came out.
This version has smaller candies in the traditional gelatin-based gummi style. The bag a little more expensive than usual Haribo candies at Cost Plus - not the sticker price, but the fact that the bag holds 4 ounces instead of the usual 5 ounces for products like the Gold Bears or Happy Cola.
The candies are shaped like the Smurfs. They’re predominantly blue with different colors on top. Most are clear on top, to emulate the standard white Smurf Phrygian cap. Papa Smurf has a red hat and Smurfette has blonde (yellow) hair.
The pieces are big, about an inch and half tall.
The blue flavor of the Smurf body is berry. I’d say it might be raspberry and it might be strawberry, it’s hard to tell. It’s jammy and it’s tart and overall, has a good flavor. The colored head coverings are a different flavor though.
The standard clear headed Smurf is pineapple, which I love and think goes great with the berry.
Papa Smurf’s red hat is, well, hard to distinguish. If I had to say, maybe it’s raspberry and the body is strawberry ... maybe they’re the same.
The candies are well done, a little monotonous because of the mostly single flavor but the molding and different shapes are pretty good. If you’re keen on Swedish Fish, this might be a fun treat, though they are a gummi, not a jelly candy so they’re not for vegetarians. They’re flat, not dimensional like the Au’some 3 Dees candies that have also come out with licensing agreements with characters from Nintendo, Monopoly and Kung Fu Panda. Maybe the time has passed when I would have been interested in a Smurf themed candy, but for someone who really likes them, and you’re planning on screening the movie, it’d be a fun themed snack.
Friday, August 30, 2013
I’ve only been to Amsterdam once, so I’m not certain whether the name of this chocolate bar is compelling in its native culture, but I found it a little odd: Droste Cookie Milkchocolate XXL Pastille. It’s also possible that in the year 2013, all the good candy bar names have been taken and now confectioners are just using random word sequence generators based on the elements within the bar.
Luckily the picture on the package does most of the communication. It’s a chocolate bar, made with milk chocolate, in the form of a sectioned circular disk, filled with cookie bits.
The bar is only 50 grams (1.75 ounces) so it’s a generous single serving or two petite portions.
The disk is three inches across, and if my math is sufficient, each section is about 7/16th of an ounce.
The chocolate smells very milky, quite sweet and has a hint of malt to it (my guess is from the cookie). The snap is good and the distribution of the cookie bits looks generous but well balanced with the chocolate.
The melt is nice, silky even. It’s a little sticky but the cookie dust cuts through that. The chocolate tastes a bit salty, which is odd because the sodium content isn’t alarming (55 mg). The cookie bits are like digestives, quite dry and crumbly with a little hint of salt and malt and barely sweet at all. On the whole, it was very munchable and it reminded me how much I loved Droste as a kid. It was the premium chocolate I remember getting the most (the pastilles in the hexagonal box) and helped me to appreciate dark chocolate.
The price as a little steep, $2 for a single serving. The Ritter Sport Biscuit bar, with 100 grams (twice as much) for only 50 cents more at Cost Plus is probably what I’d put in my basket next time.
The bar contains gluten and may have traces of peanuts and tree nuts. There’s no statement about sustainability or ethical sourcing, but the Droste website is mostly in Dutch and the English part isn’t very well written. There are other versions of this bar at Cost Plus World Market, so I might try some as the weather cools off. (The “feels like” temp here in the neighborhood is 119 today.)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Ritter Sport is the brand of German chocolate bars that come in a square format and more than a dozen different varieties. The newest is Ritter Sport Coconut in milk chocolate. The package says it’s with tropical coconut flakes in a coconut and milk filling.
I like how inexpensive Ritter Sport is compared to other consumer brands from Europe, like Cadbury Dairy Milk or Lindt, and balances quality and munchability. No, it’s not exquisitely fine chocolate, but it’s fantastic chocolate candy.
I tried another version of a coconut bar from Ritter Sport a few years ago, a sample bar from their store in Waldenbuch, Germany called the Ritter Sport Kokosmakrone which also had some corn flakes in the coconut cream. The cream center is a common format for Ritter Sport, in fact, a lot of German candy bars like those from Milka also use this style.
The ingredients were a little disappointing. Ingredient #1 is Sugar and ingredient #2 is Palm Oil. This is similar to the Amarena Cherry I had earlier this year, which is also a filled bar. The saturated fat content is 45% of your daily RDA in 6 pieces. The other interesting ingredient, though far down the list, is hazelnut paste.
The milk chocolate is rich, sweet and smooth. The coconut center is interesting, because the coconut is actually crunchy and the filling with it is quite smooth and creamy, unlike the moist and chewy Mounds bar filling. I liked the filling quite a bit, and had no trouble finishing the bar. Coconut is not my favorite of all of their inclusions and I don’t usually like their white cream filled bars either. So I’ll probably stick to the Corn Flakes bar over this one.
Though Ritter Sport has a sustainability pact for their cocoa, there’s no mention of the source of their palm oil.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The Nut Goodie is made by Pearson’s and debuted in 1912, one of the oldest combination candy bars still in production. Though they’re still mostly a local candy in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, they are found at specialty stores around the country. One of the notable things about the Nut Goodies (a maple cream covered with peanuts & chocolate) is that they’re made with real chocolate. There are a lot of regional candy bars that somewhere along the way (or maybe they started out that way) ended up with cheaper “chocolate compound” (basically, mockolate).
Pearson’s is busy celebrating their 100th anniversary with some special events, including the first new spin-off of the Nut Goodie, the Pearson’s Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodies. (I’m not sure why this version of the candy gets a plural on the package.)
The new Sea Salt Caramel Nut Goodie – made with real milk chocolate, Virginia peanuts, sea salt and caramel – marks the first permanent line extension in the Nut Goodie’s 100-year history.
It’s a very simple candy, which makes me wonder why there aren’t more of these on the market. A caramel pattie covered in peanuts and milk chocolate. Dead simple, but not easy to find.
The caramel portion is soft and chewy, almost the point of flowing. When they said sea salt, they weren’t kidding though. This 1.75 ounce candy has 220 mg, which is about twice as much as necessary. The nuts, as promised, are fresh and crunch and actually have that distinctive “Virginia” flavor which is a little more earthy and less green than other varieties. The chocolate is sweet but much richer with a stronger cocoa flavor than I expected. It was a welcome component to the piece. Really, my only issue with this is the too-salty caramel. I recognize that my low-salt lifestyle has made me much more sensitive to this, but I still think that the level, for a non-savory item, is just too high.
I liked the package, I liked the concept. I hope that Pearson’s considers a regular caramel instead or at least in addition to this.
Monday, March 25, 2013
This year was, I felt, the best we’ve had so far this decade for Easter candy diversity. It was a nice mix of classic products, new flavor twists on existing items and then some exciting new diversions. The stores seemed well stocked, better than I saw them two years ago, for example. It’s an encouraging sign for the economy and for our tummies.
Just Born is celebrating 60 years of their iconic Peeps marshmallow candies. They’ve come a long way from the early years when they came in plain yellow. Now they’re available in all the colors of the rainbow and special flavors.
To mark the anniversary, they’ve created a 60th Anniversary version in Vanilla Creme flavor. They’re the individual Peeps (not a conjoined row) and feature little sparkly flecks of multi colored candies, like edible confetti.
I prefer an uncolored Peep, as I think the artificial colorings get in the way of the pure sugary flavor. (Ghost Peeps, for that reason, are the best.)
The Vanilla Creme is a soft flavor, artificial and lacking in the complexity of a nice Tahitian vanilla pod, but still it has a soft and comforting flavor that cuts a bit of the sugary sweetness. They’re bouncy and fluffy and grainy. The little confetti add a little bit of a crunch, but mostly they dissolve quickly on the tongue.
These would be a fun version available all year round. I also heard that they’re releasing Birthday Cake Peeps which are a turquoise blue and yellow cake flavored. (Which is also a great idea for a year-round Peep.)
Rating: 7 out of 10
They’re just egg shaped gumballs.
Smarties Bubble Gum Eggs are made by Ford Gum in the USA with real sugar, there are no artificial sweeteners in there. I bought them for $1.49 at Cost Plus World Market, but then I saw them at the 99 Cent Only Store for a dollar.
They’re passably good. They come in different colors, but I really didn’t get a sense that they were different flavors, all vaguely and pleasantly fruity. They were soft enough to bite but have a satisfyingly crunchy shell. Each piece is a good size for chewing, two make for a little too much. The sugar takes a while to be dissolved, so there’s no bubble blowing right away. Even after the sugar is gone, they’re a little too stiff and snappy to blow a good bubble with.
At other times of the year, they’re also available as plain old gumballs. I bought them before and feel the same way about them. They’re okay. Mostly I like them because they’re pretty. I just chew the sugar out, spit out the gum and start up with a new piece.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The concept is that the bunny is flat instead of dimensional, and pre-sectioned to break apart easily. The version I purchased, for a buck, is 2 ounces, or about the size of a King Size bar. It comes apart into five pieces. Each is a good size for dipping into peanut butter, which was always my favorite way to eat my Easter Rabbit.
This is one of those products that solves a problem you didn’t know you had. I’m sure if this were sold on infomercials, the first part would demonstrate all the frustrating things about a sumptuous solid chocolate bunny and how hard it is to eat, how children fight over it and what it should be named.
I don’t have much to say except that it’s a rabbit shaped Hershey’s bar. It’s made from Hershey’s marginally satisfying chocolate, the same stuff in Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Miniatures and those addictive little Hershey’s Candy Coated Eggs. While I don’t think Hershey’s Milk Chocolate is good chocolate, it’s mighty fine candy. It’s fudgy, grainy and tangy and comforting.
It’s also made in Mexico. (The Candy Professor had a bit of a rant about Snapsy.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Monday, March 18, 2013
Here are a few Easter candies I bought but I’m not going to get around to doing a full review.
I was actually out at CVS looking for the Cadbury Hollow Bunny that I noted in my roundup of products for 2013. (I was hoping it was on sale, because the first time I saw them, they were $4.79 for a 3.5 ounce bunny and I didn’t really want to fork that over for Cadbury chocolate.) While looking though I spotted this bag, which reader Kate mentioned was available last year.
They’re pretty and feature good quality milk chocolate. These were a little softer in texture and had a silky melt. The coconut mixed into the chocolate is crispy, though it does become chewy after a while. It’s a nice combination of textures and flavors. I found the coconut a little too, I don’t know, difficult to get out of my teeth. Still, I manged to finish the bag within 24 hours, so I must have liked them. I’ll still go for the Milk Crisp version over this.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I found Ferrero Tic Tac Bunny Burst at Target with all the other little Easter Basket stuffers. I didn’t see a press release on this, so I didn’t know it was coming out. Further, there’s no listing on the package or anywhere I can find on the internet that says what flavors are actually in the Bunny Burst.
The green is pretty easy to figure out. It was green apple. They’re sweet and tangy, with a very sweet, odd aftertaste. I didn’t care much for it and was hoping for better in the lilac colored ones.
The soft purple is a bit of a mystery flavor. The ingredients list dried apple, dried grape, dried acerola (West Indian Cherry) and dried lychee. So I’m going to call this one tropical. It has a light green grape note, I also tasted violets along with a floral melon and vague medicinal cherry note. At one point did think about lychees, as well. It’s interesting and unique. Not really what I’d call good or refreshing, but I didn’t notice the weird sweet and metallic aftertaste with this one.
They’re made in Canada and contain carmine, so they’re not suitable for vegetarians.
Rating: 6 out of 10
I bought this pair of Cemoi Classic Creamy Egg (Milk Chocolate) at Cost Plus World Market. I was actually hoping to find a dark chocolate version, perhaps more upscale, of the classic Cadbury Creme Egg.
This is not that. I can’t give it a full review because I didn’t actually eat it. Both were sticky and oozy under the foil wrap, though I made my choices from the box at the store very carefully. I opened both and found overly sweet, grainy fondant. The chocolate was marginal, it was all just very sweet and unappealing. So into the trash they went.
Rating: 3 out of 10
I reviewed the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared before when they came out. The Snickers Peanut Butter Egg is the same construction, only in hemispherical ovoid shape. It’s a little different because it’s molded instead of being enrobed. Of course the domed shape also means different bites have different ratios. But overall I noticed more caramel in it. The chocolate and caramel and peanut with peanut butter is a nice combination. The salty peanut butter keeps it from being too sweet. I enjoyed it more than the Square thing. I also reviewed the Santa version of this which also has different proportions because of the shape of the mold.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Monday, March 4, 2013
Elmer Chocolate has been making candy since 1855. They’re based in Louisiana, but I usually only see their candy in California around Valentine’s Day as they have some very popular boxed chocolate assortments that are sold at drug stores and discounters all over the counter. However, they do make some insanely popular Easter products that seem much harder to find: Heavenly Hash Eggs and Gold Brick Eggs.
I was surprised to see these Cotton Candy Marshmallow Eggs at Cost Plus World Market instead of those more well known eggs, but at $1.49 and for something that was a little different from the traditional Easter fare, I was willing to take the plunge.
The packaging is simple, a very light plastic try has four sections to hold the domed marshmallow eggs. It does its job, as they were all pretty much flawless right out of the wrapper.
Each piece is rather small, they’re .45 ounces each. They’re about 2 inches long. They smell sweet, a little like cherry and milky chocolate. They’re a “light” candy, in that they’re not caloricly dense, so you can eat the whole package and it’s only 190 calories (105 per ounce).
I can’t really put my finger on what went wrong with these. The chocolate is passable, thought sweet is does a nice job of sealing in the soft, moist marshmallow. The marshmallow itself, well, it’s filled with bad air. It’s probably one of those flavors that not everyone can detect (like the fact that Red 40 tastes bitter to me and very few other people). It tastes like molten plastic. Styrofoam. It tastes like new Crocs. It’s not the marshmallow itself, as far as I can tell, it’s not the packaging ... it’s the stuff that was whipped into it.
It’s a great idea, to have a softly strawberry flavored marshmallow center. But in this case, I can’t recommend it. Everything I saw at the Cost Plus looks like it’s from the same case so would probably have the same issue. I haven’t seen them at any other store. I did try their Toasted Marshmallow Eggs a few years ago and didn’t note this issue.
My big question to you, readers, is this: Do you taste this kind of stuff? I notice similar problems at times with whipped items, like meringues or marshmallows. But other candies that have delicate flavors can also take on this plastic note (especially ones without a strong flavor of their own).
Does anyone else notice this from time to time? Do you know what it is? (Is it dangerous?)
UPDATE: As some here have noted and an inside source in the confectionery industry as also pointed out, it is likely from the packaging. The tray is likely polystyrene and it outgasses ... delicate and airy confections like marshmallows can easily absorb that “flavor”. Styrene is not a healthy item to consume, though in a seasonal treat in this small quantity is likely to be trivial. But it still doesn’t taste good.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.