Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I’m still on my quest to replace the Krackel bar and have been finding all sorts of chocolate and crisped rice bars that area actually better than I remember the Krackel ever being.
Not to spoil the ending of this review but I’ll say right now that the Ghiaradelli Luxe Milk Crisp bar vaults to the second slot on that list. Not that there are a lot of bars on the list at the moment. (Seeds of Change Isle of Skye is above it, seeing how it’s similarly priced and organic.)
This bar is new, part of Ghirardelli new expanded line of gourmet bars. It comes at a gourmet price though, I paid $2.99 for this 2.81 ounce bar. It is all natural, Kosher and made in the USA.
This rich and creamy milk chocolate made from the finest cocoa beans is perfectly complemented with lightly toasted crisped rice. Take in the heavenly aroma and let the ultimate chocolate pleasure linger.
(Bold emphasis theirs, really!)
The bar certainly does look awesome. It was near perfect, without the scrapes and nicks that many of the bars I pick up have.
What pleased me most at first glance was how many crispies there are in the bar.
So I took a photo of the bar flipped over so you could see it, too. Instead of those little engineered ball bearing sized ones that Nestle uses for their Crunch bar these days, these look like actual crisped rice grains (made with millled rice, sugar, salt and barley malt).
There’s another thing that this photo also shows, how thin the bar is. What I like about the Hershey’s Miniatures and the World’s Finest W.F. Crisp bar was how thick they were, it allowed the rice to be completely enveloped by the chocolate. Here the rice floats almost as a separate layer from the chocolate, not blanketed by it instead just a thin sheet of chocolate.
It smells more like breakfast cereal or toast than chocolate. Kind of like milk or mozzarella and fresh baked bread.
That aside, this crisped rice is insanely crispy and fresh. Rarely do I have a chocolate bar that makes so much noise in my head.
The milk chocolate is exquisitely smooth and creamy with a strong powdered milk flavor (whole milk powder is the only dairy ingredient). It’s hearty and sweet at the same time. Notes of caramel, yeast and malt.
I was all set to give this an 8 out of 10 because of the price, but then I looked it up on the Walgreen’s website and they list it at $2.29 ... which I find much more reasonable. I’d be torn at that price though between eating this and the Ritter Sport Corn Flakes (Knusperflakes) bar. This milk chocolate is better, but I love the malty crisp of the corn flakes. I prefer the thicker bite of the Isle of Skye as well. The other option for the same price is the Wheat Chocolate I found in Little Tokyo. What a happy day to have so many choices!
I do hope that Ghirardelli comes out with these in the little individual squares, since no one else is making a single bite version of a crisped rice & milk chocolate these days.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Way back in the ancient days of the 1920s the Stark Candy Company of Milwaukee (well, Pewaukee to be exact) made an innovative little candy called the Snirkle (photo here). There were a couple of varieties but it was basically a swirled caramel & taffy pop. (They were also sold as individual pieces without the stick.)
Later in the 60s, when the whole world was going day-glow with color TV, Stark came out with the Slap Stix. It was based on the original and popular Snirkle, only this pop was a swirl of vanilla, cherry & banana taffy inside a caramel pop. The Slap Stix are made to this day and come a variety of sizes, a little .7 ounce variety and this attractive 2 ounce version.
Stark, who also made a conversation heart product, sold their company to Necco in 1990. Necco recently closed the Pewaukee Stark Candy Factory but transferred production to their Revere, Mass plant.
The pop is about the size of a business card and doesn’t really make a slapping sound when thwapped against a hard surface. But it does okay when smacked against the palm.
The pop smells sweet and caramelly. The caramel outside is rather firm, like a Milk Maid Caramel but has slightly more “pull” to it. Once bitten there’s a strong banana flavor. I didn’t really notice the cherry layer at first, but later on there’s a slight bitter aftertaste and a slight cherry flavor. The banana and caramel go well together, the chew is substantial and not too sweet. I could use a little hint of salt in there and would probably prefer strawberry to cherry. It’s not a slick & smooth caramel like a fresh Sugar Daddy, more like Laffy Taffy on a stick.
It’s a fun and really attractive treat. I found it a bit overpriced at $1.25 at Cost Plus World Market, but I’m sure they’re around for a bit less if you look carefully.
I don’t know why Necco doesn’t make the Snirkle any longer. It’s such a great name.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This is the fourth Scharffen Berger Milk Nibby Bar I’ve gotten a hold of. The first one was a sample from a trade show last year. Unfortunately I stored it next to something minty and it was absorbed into the bar. I didn’t think it was fair to review it that way ... but I ate it and it was tasty enough for me to put it on my list. But I couldn’t find another one!
The second one I bought earlier this year when I was in San Francisco. I needed to get my parking validated at the Ferry Terminal so I figured the Scharffen Berger store there was the perfect place to make my $5 minimum and try this bar again.
And I did! I just, well, ate it, without making any notes.
So then I had to find it yet again. Luckily after my dismal experience with the Krackel bar, I went on the prowl at Cost Plus World Market’s high end chocolate shelves to console myself and grabbed one.
And then I ate it. Remember, I was depressed about the Krackel, grief makes you do strange things.
Now I’m feeling better (3 ounces of real chocolate is one of the lesser known 5 Stages of Grief) and thought I should give it another go.
The Milk Chocolate Nibby Bar is much darker than most milk bars. At 41% cacao, it’s almost as dark as the middling Hershey’s Special Dark (which is 45%). So the color is like coffee with only a dash of milk.
It doesn’t smell particularly sweet. More like wood chips and of course chocolate.
Snapping the bar, it’s pretty solid and crisp. Inside there are the little nibs, not as many as a crisped rice bar, but a great many of them dotting the chocolate base. The chocolate is smooth but still a little rustic. The notes are a strong caramelized flavor, the cocoa and lots more woodsy scents. The nibs are crunchy and buttery, almost like they’ve also been caramelized before adding to the chocolate. The texture is like a macadamia nut and perhaps a little of the soy bean’s malty flavors.
It’s a very dark bar for a milk chocolate product. The tangy bite that I didn’t care for in their straight bar is moderated well by the dark and bitter punch of the nibs.
I’m in love with this bar. I can’t say that it’s a replacement for the Krackel, because, well, it was $3.99. But it sure makes me smile when I eat it and it’s pretty rare for me to go out and keep buying the same bar over and over again when I have so many new ones at home.
The package has full nutritional labeling but also helpfully tells me that the whole 3 ounce bar has 410 calories. A quick calculation also tells me that this bar contains 100% of the my saturated fat for the day. Oops, I guess I’m eating pretty wholesome for the rest of the day. (But also 24% of my daily fiber in the whole bar plus 10 grams of protein!)
UPDATE 4/11/2009: I’ve had two more of these since the review, including comparing it to the new 68% Dark Milk and have bumped this up from the original rating of 9 out of 10 to a perfect 10 out of 10.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
There are literally hundreds of makers of candied almonds, also known as confetti or dragees, around the world. But the candy is pretty much the same everywhere, a single almond coated with a hard sugar shell. Some are colored and tumbled to a bright sheen, still others have a soft and smooth matte surface.
The process is rather simple though time consuming. Nuts are tumbled in a large rotating drum as sugar syrup is slowly added and allowed to dry, then added again until a thick shell is built up.
Sconza started in 1939 in the Bay Area and has been making distinctive panned candies since 1948. The company is expanding rapidly now, poised to take over the former Hershey’s Chocolate facility in Oakdale California later this year.
I was eyeing some of their Jordanettes a while back, but figured they were just Jordan Almonds and everyone pretty much knows what they are. Well, they just came out with their fall version and I simply couldn’t resist. Even though they came in a two pound bag.
The colors and matte shell was just so festive - it says harvest but it wasn’t all dark colors. Instead they’re pretty muted pastels in peach, yellow, green and terra cotta.
They looked pretty big too, but as is often the case with candy coated almonds, I didn’t know if it was that the almonds were big or that the candy shell was thick.
As is often the case with Jordan Almonds, I never know how thick the shell will be and sometimes I secretly suspect that there won’t even be a nut at the center - that it might be a rock.
Happily every single one I’ve eaten so far has had a fresh almond in the middle.
The bag smelled like vanilla pudding. Soft and sweet with just a hint of vanilla (fake vanilla actually).
The dragees are soft and smooth and after in the mouth for a moment they’re pleasantly slippery and fun to chase around with my tongue.
There’s not much flavor, just sugar-sweetness.
After a while I usually crunch. I find the best way to crush the shell is to put the candy between my rear molars and gently bite down on one of flatter sides. If it doesn’t yield, I try do dissolve a bit more and try again.
Jordan Almonds aren’t like M&Ms, unless you have some sort of super-strong teeth and fearless disposition, there’s no popping them in your mouth and chewing. Of course I never see them served that way and I honestly never see people simply eating them. (I know they’re a popular wedding favor, but I never recall getting any at a wedding either.)
The almond on the inside is soft and not as sweet as the sugar-shell, but still pretty sweet (not a crisp toasted almond either, they appear to be raw or merely blanched). These had only a hint of almond flavor. Mostly the whole thing was fresh-tasting.
I can’t say that I’d just buy Jordanettes again for munching, but I do foresee finishing the bag ... and when I say finishing, I mean I’ve already eaten a half a pound. These are certainly a good deal, high quality and beautiful to look at.
Monday, September 01, 2008
While I’m a big fan of excess in the right circumstances, I was puzzled about what could be so great about a giant gummi other than the fact that it weighed over 12 ounces and was four inches tall. One of the great things about gummi bears is the variety and the fact that you can put a whole one in your mouth, or several at a time for flavor combos.
But this had a lot going for it, first, the price wasn’t bad. At $3.99 for 12.3 ounces (350 grams) it was at least what I considered a fair deal. Yeah, it’s made in China (not one of my favorite gummi-producing countries) but the ingredients looked decent enough to get this just for the sheer joy of photographing it.
They come in five flavors: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Grape, Green Apple and Orange. Obviously I chose orange, mostly because I thought it would photograph best but also because I think orange is a good flavor.
The packaging is spare and still great. It’s basically the mold for the bear, a hard clear plastic shell, sealed with cellophane tape all around. When done with the bear, the little plastic box can be re-filled and closed up and even has a little loop hole at the top for hanging.
The nutrition facts are a little odd. They think this package holds only one serving, which is 1120 calories.
He’s a little shiny and filmy on the outside, as many gummis are. (This one has carnauba wax.)
The gummi itself is very soft and pliable, quite bouncy and stretchy.
The big question after opening it was serving suggestions.
I trotted out the giant gummi yesterday when we had friends over for the block party on our street. Ernessa is a huge gummi fan, so she was quite smitten with the idea of a large gummi. Her husband, Christian, is one of my few licorice buddies (though he’s a fan of the salted stuff) ... it’s good to have candy friends.
So I served it up on a paper plate and we debated whether to cut him down the middle (there’s a seam) or across. I decapitated him. (There was talk of just picking him up and taking a bite but that’s the candy-equivalent of double dipping.)
A few slices of the head and we were all enjoying a piece of the gummy. It’s very soft, more like a piece of firm Jell-O than a gummi bear. It smelled great, like fresh orange juice. The texture as very smooth and melted in the mouth better and didn’t require a lot of chewing, it was almost like a piece of intensely flavored Turkish Delight. It had a lot of zesty notes to it, a good tingly tartness and of course a sweet and mellow background flavor.
I was pretty impressed with this bear. I was expecting nothing more than flash and style and no substance. I can say that at least in the orange flavor they delivered a really good gummi bear experience. The ingredients list both pectin and gelatin, which is what I owe the even texture to. I’m not sure how well this would do sitting out of its little clear plastic housing. It sat up well for the photos, but I don’t know how it’d do in humid or really hot conditions.
They’d be a fun hostess gift, a great addition to a gift basket or Christmas stocking or if you could find a good deal in bulk, a party favor (and maybe place card holder). As something for one person to eat, it seems a little silly, but it’s definitely a fun thing to share with others. On the whole I prefer the variety and look of the regular-sized ones.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Back in May I got a fabulous box of goodies from All Candy Expo that included this package of Darrell Lea Soft Eating Liquorice. I dutifully took photos of it.
And then ate it all. And promptly forgot what it was like so I couldn’t review it.
So today I went out and bought a new bag, just so I could finish up this review. (My office is dangerously close to a Cost Plus World Market now.)
When I opened it up I remember why I didn’t review it.
I cut the bag open and stuck my nose in there to get a good lung-full of the scent and there it was ... it smells like curry. Not in a bad way, by any means, but that’s why I didn’t review the first bag ... I wasn’t sure if that’s the way it was supposed to be.
So here I am with a second bag and I’m gonna have to say, “hey folks, this stuff really smells like and Indian spice shop!” It makes my mouth water, it’s a mix of curry, coriander, anise and black tea.
The pieces are kind of awkward - they’re long fingers. Thick and soft, they’re about three inches long and a matte black.
The flavor is dark and smoky. The molasses is pronounced but has a great mellow licorice mixed with a little hint of those spices I mentioned earlier. The chew is soft without being too sticky like Dots can be. Not too sweet and really munchable but satisfying.
Pretty good overall and certainly distinctive enough that I think I could tell this apart from most of the other Aussie style licorices I’ve had over the years. And I plan on finishing this package pretty soon as well.
Rating: 8 out of 10
There are a lot of different licorice twist flavors out there, but most of them are fruity. So I was pretty excited to find this Soft Eating Ginger Liquorice at Cost Plus World Market (I bought these a couple of days ago and then realized I should review the black stuff, too, and went back.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Australia through candy, it’s that Australians make good licorice and ginger products.
Like the rest of their line, it comes in a kraft paper looking package, mellow and muted and boldly stating that it’s flavored naturally. The ingredients bear that out: Raw sugar, wheat glucose syrup, wheat flour, cane sugar, ginger puree (4%), water, modified food starch, palm oil, natural flavor, mono & di-glycerides, salt, citric acid, malic acid, spinach extract (color), liquorice extract, sodium bicarbonate, beta carotene (color) and sulphur dioxide (preservative).
This one didn’t smell quite as appealing. Like the Buderim Ginger Gummi Bears, I found that this bag smelled a bit like Elmer’s Glue.
But I got over it.
The little fingers in this version are a little shorter at about 2 1/2 inches each but a little bigger around. The texture is different as well, though still soft they’re not as pliable and just a bit drier on the outside. But singly they smell less like wood glue and more like ginger tea.
The bite is a smidge less smooth, but boy howdy is it spicy. Right away there’s the woodsy peppery taste of ginger and then a throat warming burn. It’s not very sweet at all, much less than the other ginger chews that I like so much from Chimes and the Ginger People.
The wheat base of the chew makes it a little starchy in a way, but it also makes them rather filling and I think cuts through what might be a very spicy affair. It would be cool if they actually used molasses in these, they’d be like gingerbread (without the extra spices). But for ginger fans, this is a great new way to enjoy it. It’s a good munching food for movies, especially mixed with something salty like popcorn (I tried it with pretzels and it went well).
Rating: 7 out of 10
Darrell Lea has a pretty big range, I saw the Green Apple and Strawberry versions at Cost Plus as well. There is another version that are chocolate covered smaller nibs but their Australian website shows a much larger range of products (most of which sound fabulous). They’re Kosher and have no artificial colors or flavors.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
About a year ago reader Charlene suggested I try Katjes sour gummis. I couldn’t find those, so I ended up trying Katjes Yoghurt Gums and Tropical Gummis. Though they weren’t my favorite candies ever, I still thought that a different set of flavors would suit me. I was also impressed that they used all natural colors and flavors.
Finally at another visit to Cost Plus World Market I stumbled across Saure Ananas, which are sour pineapple gummis.
The package says (in German) that it’s New! and that it has real pineapple juice in it (reading the ingredients it’s actually 10% pineapple juice, not just a splash of some grape or pear concentrate). Oh, and the obligatory, fat free!
When I was a teen one of my favorite snacks was canned pineapple and cream cheese. Throw some rings of pineapple on a plate, throw little cubes of cream cheese about the size of the hole in the ring and eat a little cream cheese with each bite of pineapple. Simple, delicious. Sometimes I’d spruce it up by rolling the cream cheese in crushed nuts but that seemed like a lot of trouble most of the time.
Now I like to get fresh pineapple and eat it until my tongue is fully tenderized. (Though the new low acid ones mean I can eat more pineapple with less tongue damage.)
So I was especially pleased at the appearance of these little gems, which look just like little pineapple pieces cut right from the ring.
Opening the package they smelled more like canned pineapple than the fresh stuff, but as I mentioned above, I quite love that stuff even though I prefer fresh. They have a sugar coating which protects the soft pieces from sticking together. They’re a stunning light yellow, slightly opaque but dead ringers for pineapple chunks.
The sugary coating isn’t flavored so after putting them in the mouth I’d either dissolve the sugar or start chewing to release the flavor.
They’re tart, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them full on sours. But the pineapple flavor is deep and complex with the high tangy notes and the deep fragrance and mid-level sweetness.
Dang tasty. I’m glad I finally found them. Katjes is a huge confectionery company in Germany and I hope to come across more of their products (I really need to try their licorice line). Cost Plus World Market carries a lot of the line as does the online store, GermanDeli.com. While at Cost Plus, Sera (formerly of Candy Addict and now out on her own with The Candy Enthusiast) picked up Katjes fruit jellies, so look forward to her notes on those soon.
Next on my hitlist is to track down their mixed pack called Saure Heringe that includes lemon, lime and blackcurrant and has a sour coating along with the soft flavorful gummi.
Monday, August 27, 2007
As German candy makers go, in my mind Haribo is most associated with Gummi Bears and Katjes is most associated with Licorice.
So here are some Katjes products that are gummis ... I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them, mostly since I’ve never felt the need to stray from my favorite brand (except of course in service of Candy Blog). But back at the beginning of the year I got an email though, from a reader name Charlene who suggested the Katjes Saure Ananas (Sour Pineapple) ... which sounds just like something I’d dig. Though GermanDeli.com carries them I usually just wanna hold the package in my hand, so I went off to Cost Plus after browsing their online ad and seeing that they had Katjes on sale at two packages for $4.00. While I never found the Saure line, I did find a few other items.
Tropen Fruchte sounded just my speed in the gummi department - based on the cognates and pictures on the wrapper, I decided these are Tropical Fruit. (Okay, okay, the back of the package had an English sticker that said Tropical Fruit Gummis.) What appealed to me most was the supposed grapefruit gummi that was to appear inside.
I’ve gotta give them credit, there’s no need to ponder what the flavor are (once you translate them) ... they’re molded into each and every one: Grapefruit, Tropika, Exotic, Mango, Kiwi and Passion Frucht.
Regardless of what the candies actually said, they all tasted rather the same. Oh sure, the tropika tasted a little more like pineapple than the exotic, which tasted a bit more like passion fruit, but I felt the passion and intensity lacking in all of them.
And of course the grapefruit could not rival my other best pal, the Haribo Pink Grapefruit Slice. Katjes was more of a mellow lemon with a little grapefruit zest in it.
The other item I picked up was the Katjes Yogurt Gums. I have no idea what I was thinking. It’s completely unlike me to ever get anything “yogurty.” As a dairy product, I think yogurt is fine but I don’t like it in other things or even the flavor of it in other things. It’s just a personal thing.
The flavors sounded interesting: Himbeere, Erdbeere, Birne, Heidelbeere, Zitrone and Kirsche.
When I first tried these I detested them. They were soft and felt rather like something for a baby.
However, after letting them sit in the bottom of my desk drawer, then being retired to “maybe someday when I’m feeling too lazy to take new photos I’ll review these” box I tried them again. No longer as soft, but oddly grainy like a pear is, I kind of dug them.
The flavor wasn’t terribly tangy in the “dairy gone bad” way, more in the natural tangy fruit way. The gums have real apple pulp in them, which is probably why the pear (birne) one tasted and felt so authentically pear-ish.
I can’t say that I feel like buying either of these again, but I’m pleased that they use no artificial colors and often have fruit pulp, natural flavors and fruit juices in the candies. But for now, I’m going to stick to their licorice or pounce on their sours when I finally find them.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.