Cost Plus World Market is an American chain of stores with a specialty area of imported and domestic candies.
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
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
They were on sale for $9.99, but going further into the store to the Christmas displays (yes, already out) they had several Christmas mixes that weren’t on sale ... for the same price.
The bag is big, as this is hollow chocolate, and holds 14.1 ounces of actual confection. Not a bad deal for 30% cacao milk chocolate, if it’s good quality.
There were two shapes and seven designs.
Each piece is rather light, weighing approximately 12 grams (about the same as a tasting square).
The designs are cute, the little figures come in ghost, witch, monster and jack-o-lantern ghost. The spheres are just different varieties of jack-o-lanterns.
The figures look like of like board game pieces, little pegs with flat bottoms (though much bigger, about the size of a meaty thumb). The spheres are about the size of a golf ball.
The chocolate itself is glossy and well molded. It smells, well, a little like parmesan cheese and caramel. Not entirely sweet or chocolatey. I’m guessing this is the high milk content (14% minimum) that comes from dried whole milk.
It takes a little getting used to, it’s rich and creamy, rather smooth but still has a strong dairy component that is less confectionery tasting and more like something I’d expect in a bechamel.
The foils are very pretty and nicely done. They’re a bit thin and I had to pick my package carefully as it’s easy to break these (I’m guessing some thumbs poked through two of mine before I got it home).
The ingredients include PGPR and whey (not allowed in the American definition of real chocolate) but also natural vanilla. But the package was fresh, which I think makes a big difference. (Expiration is July 2009.)
They’re well worth it on sale after Halloween if you can find them, but I think that the Christmas ones are a bit nicer. There’s more variety to the shapes, the balls come with little strings so that you can hang them as edible ornaments and I found the Santa to be quite attractive and would make a great centerpiece accent. But I wouldn’t buy a bar of this chocolate.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Since I knew I was going to be traveling, I thought I’d pick up some easy to carry chocolate for my trip a few weeks ago. I know that I’m guilty of ignoring Godiva here on the blog, even though it’s a major upscale brand of chocolate here in the United States, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to give some of their chocolate a go.
Godiva introduced their Chocoiste line which features all sorts of fun goodies that are convenient to carry for a little pick-me-up and sold at lots of stores, not just their outlets.
I chose the Godiva Chocoiste Dark Chocolate Pearls as a way to experience their dark chocolate without any of the muss of fuss of their fancy boxes.
The tin is lovely, tall and narrow with an elegant simplicity and holds 1.5 ounces.
I ran into trouble quickly though. I couldn’t and still can’t get the frelling thing open. Once I did get it open, my thumbtips were sore and this experience repeated each bowb-bowb time I wanted to try a little more. (I even thought it’d losen up, but after three weeks with this frakking thing, I feel like I’m demonstrating my inability to learn from my ficky-fick mistakes and I should just dump them into a ziploc.)
Each of the little pearls are the size of garden peas. Glossy and dark, they are attractive and ready to prove they’re spherical by rolling around the airplane tray table. (Yes, I put down a napkin first, I do have some standards of sanitation.) Luckily they also sit easily on my keyboard near lesser used keys.
The dark chocolate isn’t particularly dark (and contains dairy products like butteroil and milk) but is mellow and rich with a smooth melt. It’s certainly a step up from M&Ms, but at this price ($3.95 a tin) it’s hardly worth it. I would enjoy the tin if it weren’t so expletively frustrating.
Though I tried the dark chocolate first, I spent more time with the Godiva Chocoiste Dark Chocolate Pearls with Mint simply because the tin worked. It opened easily but stayed snapped shut firmly during all my travels.
The pearls looked exactly the same as the plain dark chocolate ones. They smelled like freshly crushed peppermint and spearmint leaves. The chocolate was smooth and had a cool touch of mint that tasted absolutely fresh and authentic.
Both pearl varieties use a resinous glaze, so are unsuitable for strict vegetarians.
Godiva also makes a Mandarin Orange version of the Dark Chocolate that I think I would like very much. Their other versions include Milk Chocolate Pearls, White Chocolate Pearls and Milk Chocolate Caffe Latte Pearls. Other items in the Chocoiste line include chocolate panned nuts & fruits, and solid chocolate bars.
I can see these being a nice gift item or stocking stuffer and the tins are wonderfully shaped and reusable (you could stuff your iPod earbuds in there or just refill with some other treat of your choice). As an everyday item, in this economy and most others I’ve experienced, I’d have to pass.
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.
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