Friday, October 21, 2011
So I’ve tried the Zachary Thick Mints and the Zachary Mini Mints. Today I have the Zachary Thin Mints. This is probably where I should have started, as this is the standard set of ratios that all other peppermint fondant and chocolate candies should be judged against.
The Zachary line of candies are very well priced. They’re often sold at dollar stores and other discounters. I happened to find my set of both the mini mints and the Zachary Raspberry Thin Mints. They were on sale for 79 cents for a box that holds 3.5 ounces. That’s the same price as a regular York Peppermint Pattie. Kind of a crazy comparison.
The boxes are small and rather nicely designed. Spare but they provide the essential protection of the stuff inside and have a bunch of information on them that they’re obligated to carry like ingredients, and nutrition facts and include the notation that they’re made in the United States (which York Peppermint Patties can no longer say).
Inside the Thin Mints are in a little tray. It has two sections, kind of misleading about the amount of candy, especially when compared to the similarly priced Haviland Thin Mints that have 5 ounces in a box and all natural ingredients.
There were 12 mints in my packages. Yes, the two sections are uneven. One holds 5 patties and the other 7 patties. I have no idea why it’s formatted that way.
The Peppermint Thin Mints are rather ordinary. They’re small, about 1.25 inches in diameter, like little coins. My mint ones were in good condition with very few scuff marks.
The fondant is soft, almost chewy. It’s like a cross between the gooey center of a Junior Mint and the softer center of the Haviland. They’re not strong, just an all around inoffensive mint. The peppermint is clean and doesn’t really overpower the mild semi-sweet chocolate. It’s like eating a handful of baking chips. It’s not extraordinary chocolate, a little on the gritty side but real.
The second version is the Raspberry Thin Mints which I thought were going to be just raspberry flavored fondant. Nope, there’s mint in there, too.
These were horrid. The raspberry was fake and floral and tasted like the purple coloring. Then there was the slight tangy, jam flavor in there ... all capped off with a refreshing burst of mint. The chocolate coating was mercifully stronger here, perhaps picking up on the woodsy notes of the raspberry. It was just a terrible mix. I don’t think mint goes well with berries or even citrus (I know, Mojitos are a mystery to me).
They’re not for vegans - there’s milk and eggs in there. There’s no gluten statement on the package but no actual wheat ingredients - proceed with caution.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Zachary has distinguished itself in the past few years as the premiere maker of offbeat flavors for Candy Corn (Egg Nog, Tangerine, Gingerbread, Creme Brulee and Cinnamon Fangs to name a few). They also have a line of economical mints, mostly available in discount and dollar stores.
I’ve noticed that their mints come in the after dinner patty variety, the Thick Mint and now I’ve found these Zachary Mini Mints in a theater box. It holds 3.85 ounces and inside the box is a little cellophane bag to keep the mints fresh.
They also make a little Chocolate Coated Caramel too, like Milk Duds, I did a taste comparison with those last year.
The package is functional and distinctive enough that it caught my attention. The background is a flat, medium green with a starburst of a darker green shade behind the logos and product image. It describes the candy as bite-sized cool creamy naturally flavored peppermint covered in real chocolate. This particular box has 10% more free, so my guess is that there are other even plainer looking boxes out there with only 3.5 ounces in them.
The topography isn’t offensive or riotous like the Cookie Dough Bites family of products, so at least they had that going for them. But the quality level of the product feels like it deserves something a little better. The world of design has changed, bad design costs the same amount to print as good design, so the difference in overall price for making something that’s pedestrian is pretty much nominal.
All that aside, it’s about what’s on the inside, after all. The ingredients here are pretty good - like the package said, it’s naturally flavored. It’s real semi-sweet chocolate (with some dairy in it) and a fondant center made of sugar, some gum arabic and egg whites along with some other ingredients including oil of peppermint. There’s a confectioners glaze on the outside to complete the trifecta of animal ingredients to make this off limits to all but those lacto-ovo vegetarians and omnivores.
The pieces are big and slightly ovoid. The tallest were about 3/4 of an inch. The chocolate shell is thick, shiny and nicely tempered. The mint fondant center is firm and mostly dry, though not quite as crumbly as the center of a York Peppermint Pattie is. It’s almost doughy, except that it doesn’t have a flour/cake note to it. The chocolate coating is smooth and creamy, except for the slightly waxy coating. The mint is mild but pretty much perfectly balanced. The chocolate doesn’t taste like mint, it tastes like chocolate. The center tastes like mint and not like cardboard. (I also tried their Old Fashioned Creme Drops a few years ago, which I thought were dreadful, so this is worth noting.)
For a cheap mint, I think Zachary really delivers for a mostly chocolate product. The ingredients are good (though made with soy, milk, eggs and coconut and on shared equipment with everything from peanuts to tree nuts without any statement about wheat/gluten). It’s a good option for movie snacking, certainly a good price. I don’t know if I’d grab them over Junior Mints, but I’m not afraid to keep trying Zachary products.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I found this box of Tootsie Chocolate Covered Raspberry Cremes in with the Valentine’s candy at Walgreen’s, but I don’t see why this is a seasonal item and it doesn’t say that it’s Limited Edition.
The box says that there’s Delight in each bite!. The design is, well, odd and out of place. There’s a little Tootsie logo in the corner, but I never really think of Tootsie when I think of Junior Mints, which is a similar product.
They look just like Junior Mints. They’re same size and shape and have the same deep dark chocolate shell with a glossy shine. They smell, well, like perfume made for fashion dolls. It’s a floral raspberry but has a soft fake vanilla note to it as well.
The chocolate is thin but has a crisp crunch to it and protects the gooey innards very well. The raspberry flavor is all sweetness and floral artificiality. It’s an interesting mix, the chocolate is not very strong, but has a decent cocoa punch. The fondant is sticky and sweet, and a little grainy like a frosting or glazed donut might be.
They were intriguing, but not compelling for me. The raspberry wasn’t overpowering but also didn’t wow me much. I like the idea of other flavored centers for Junior Mints, like orange or chocolate or maybe maple. I’m sure some folks are going to absolutely love these. If I were making them though, I probably would just keep them as a seasonal item.
Raspberry Cremes are made in a peanut free and gluten free facility. (The do contain soy, eggs and dairy.)
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Last week I reviewed the new Haviland Signature Dark Chocolate Thin Mints. As I mentioned then, Haviland makes several other varieties, the Orange and Raspberry. While shopping I also found these Maxfield’s All American Raspberry and Orange Cream Sticks. Since they’re similar prices and similar candies, I thought I’d compare them.
The Haviland are patties and come in a long rectangular box of 21 that weighs 5 ounces. I paid $1.59 for one box and got the second half off. I’m going to hazard that the normal price for Haviland’s is going to be about $1.35. The Maxfield’s are sticks that come in a flat box with 13 sticks and weigh in at 3.15 ounces. I got both boxes for $1 on sale with a coupon. But let’s just say that these are normally about $1.00. So the price per ounce at my “regular” price estimates are 37 cents per ounce for Haviland and 32 cents per ounce for Maxfield’s.
Maxifield’s little book shaped box is just a sleeve. It’s covered in a clear shinkwrapped plastic that seals out moisture. Once that’s off though, the sleeve does a good job of protecting the little tray inside that holds the sticks (because it meets up with the box very well and has wide edges.
The tray holds 13 perfect looking sticks. I wouldn’t say that the flimsy brown tray is great for serving from, except in the most casual company.
I don’t know much about the Maxfield’s All American chocolates. This is the first year I can recall seeing them in stores at Christmas. I saw a lot of boxed chocolates on the shelves most a lower prices than the standard Russell Stover which was in the same aisle. Maxfield’s is based in Utah and is part of Dynamic Confections (which also makes Kencraft candy which creates those fanciful panoramic sugar eggs at Easter).
The Maxfield’s Raspberry Cream Sticks look great. I honestly didn’t expect much for the price and the fact that I hadn’t heard of the company before.
Each is nicely molded, fresh and looked like it just came off of the factory line. Each stick is about 2.75 inches long. They smell lightly of raspberry, like the seedy part of jam or perfume, not so much like the fresh berries.
The chocolate is smoky and pretty mellow, it’s not overly creamy or even sweet. The fondant center is moist and not quite crumbly, it’s softer than a York Peppermint Pattie but on the grainy side like the York. The raspberry flavor is all scent, there’s a light dash of pink food coloring in there.
The flavor was okay, not something I would just sit around eating. They’d be good, I suppose, to add to a plate of cookies or other desserts, but I wouldn’t just eat these without an accompaniment. They’re far too sweet for me without enough of a bonus of texture - the chocolate isn’t good enough and the fondant just lacks an authentic punch.
The Maxfield Orange Cream Sticks were a bit more promising, mostly because I think it’s easier to do a cheap but good orange flavor than it is to pull off rasbperry.
The orange sticks were just as lovely as the raspberry. The orange scent from them was an excellent citrus zest. The fondant was moist and had a gentle chew to it, or I could let it dissolve. The zest wasn’t too strong, not harsh bitter note to it. It overpowered the chocolate completely though, the only thing the chocolate did was give me a break from the throat searing sweetness.
Again, with some very bold coffee or tea, I don’t think I’d mind the sweetness quite as much. Each stick has about 28 calories.
The Haviland patties really do no better in the realm of packaging. The box is nicely designed and the tray certainly does its job of protecting the candy, but I wouldn’t serve from them. It’s also sealed in cellophane.
The patties in my fruity versions were in a little bit better shape than the Peppermint ones I mentioned last week. These had no sign of bloom and even fewer scuffs on the tops from shuffling around in the box. The box boasts that they’re 63% cacao and are all natural.
The Haviland Raspberry Creme Dark Chocolate Thin Mints box shows that the center is pink, but in actuality they were uncolored. That’s fine with me, I could tell them apart by smell alone. The raspberry scent is similar to the Maxfield’s sticks, like a puree that includes the woodsy notes of the seeds.
The patties are beautifully rippled and are about 1.33 inches around. The break is crisp but the filling is slightly flowing and has a little pull to it. The fondant is smooth with a light confectioners sugar sized grain to it The darker chocolate balances out the sweetness. The raspberry flavor is all scent and no tartness or true berry bits. It was a clean flavor and would go best with tea or perhaps some strong hot chocolate. The ingredients mention a touch of peppermint oil, and at first I thought that was a typo, but it’s true, there is a subtle minty finish.
The Haviland Orange Creme Dark Chocolate Thin Mints are strong. Even with my seasonal allergies, I could tell that these were orange. Biting into them it’s even more apparent that they’re too orange. Orange oil can be caustic at high concentrations and I think that may be pretty close here. The zest was overpowering, I got a hint of the chocolate texture and at the very least the change in the sweetness, but the orange oil too over everything else.
Each pattie has about 27 calories.
I like the change up of the standard thin mints or mint stick with these. Fondant is certainly a flexible element for a candy and I certainly support different flavors being combined with dark chocolate. In this case the sticks didn’t have the quality of chocolate that they should have and the fruity thin mints didn’t quite have the same balance of elements that the peppermint version had.
All were good values and in a situation where you just want to have something for folks who aren’t that discerning (perhaps drunk on your spiked wassail or have frostbitten tongues from screaming at a northern bowl game).
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I’ve honestly been curious why I don’t see all natural or organic Candy Corn this time of year. But here’s something pretty close. I found this little container at Whole Foods. They call them Marich Cream Jellybeans but they’re really mellocremes or fondant.
They’re all natural and come in a delightful variety of colors and shapes. There are bats, crescent moons, witches on brooms, owls and cats. I picked out a mix that was as evenly randomized as I could detect. They came in little box like a take out container, only made of a clear polyester-plastic that’s easy to open and close.
The candy was on the expensive side for something that’s all sugar, $5.99 a pound (far less expensive than the other mixes that I’ve picked up). But they were cute and I haven’t bought much for Halloween this year because there have been so few new products.
The pieces are about an inch to an inch and a quarter at their longest. Some were particularly flat, like the Witch and Cat, which means that they were a little dryer and firmer than the thick ones like the Crescent Moon. They all stand up on their sides except for the moon, which naturally wants to be curve side down. (I held that one up with a little piece of sticky clay for the photo.)
Cocoa Brown - I hesitate to actually call this chocolate flavored because it doesn’t taste at all like chocolate, but cocoa is listed on the ingredients so that appears to be the intention. It’s a little woodsy and less sweet than the others. There are notes of honey, toffee, rum and coconut. This flavor also seemed moister than the others, no matter what shape it was, not sticky just not as dry.
Orange - a creamsicle sort of orange flavor, mostly zest but not intense at all. The color and the flavor wasn’t that different from the yellow.
Yellow - lemon in the softest and sweetest way possible. Just a hint of lemon peel and maybe a little note of honey.
White - was unflavored, I’d call them a light vanilla. They taste a bit like marshmallows, pretty clean overall but of course sweet.
The texture was a little firmer than Candy Corn, but very smooth with a fast dissolve. They have a strong sheen on them, some more than others. There’s a glaze on them (confectioners glaze plus beeswax and carnauba wax) which means that they don’t stick together but also don’t dissolve immediately.
The owl reminds me of those macrame owls from the seventies.
It’s expensive for sugar candy, as I mentioned, but for a small bowl of candy matched to a Halloween or even harvest theme, they’re a great choice.
They remind me of carved alabaster or soapstone figures. I can see that these are more sophisticated than brightly colored, strongly flavored kids fare ... but I can also imagine that there are kids out there would would love to play with these like edible chess pieces.
I’ve complained before that Marich’s excessive food colorings in their Easter Mix get in the way of my enjoyment of their holiday novelty candies, so it’s great to see that these are not only less expensive than those but also truer in their flavor profile. I’m in love with Marich’s all natural and organic lines. I’d still like these to have more intense flavors and maybe more variation (like maple, honey and better cocoa) but I could still pick up the Brach’s Halloween Mix for that.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Last year I picked up the Marich Select Easter Mix. While I thought it was a beautiful assortment what I really wanted for that price was something equally cute but with more chocolate. I’ve been so pleased with Marich’s expansion of their line of all natural and organic panned items, it’s also nice to see them doing products more in the novelty area that still fit with that line.
So not only are these new All Natural Holland Mints just the right combo of mint and chocolate, they’re also all natural. So my previous complaint about the artificial flavors and their aftertaste messing with the overall experience is gone completely.
Holland Mints go by a few names, depending on who makes them including Dutch Mints and Wedding Mints. They’re a simple minty fondant ball covered in dark chocolate then a crisp candy shell.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have known that these were all natural if someone didn’t tell me. The colors are cool and muted but still vibrant and appealing: magenta, pale blue, pale yellow and white.
The version I had last year had a polished shell, these are a matte version which I actually prefer. They’re smooth and cool on the tongue at first. I’ve mentioned before that these were what I thought the York Pieces should be like. It leaves me to wonder why I’m trying to make something from Hershey’s into something else when there’s already a product that fits the bill for me (and is priced far better than the York Mints that come in the tins).
I can eat them several ways. Sometimes I let the shell dissolve, then getting a smooth hit of the bittersweet chocolate then a powerful blast of the mint fondant. Other times I cleave the shell off to crunch it up and get to the chocolate quicker. Then there are days where I just feel like chewing the whole morsel up for a crunchy, sweet, chocolately and minty combo.
Marich’s All Natural Chocolate Jordan Almonds are what I’ve always wanted Almond M&Ms to be.
They’re a premium nonpareil almond at the center, fresh and perfectly roasted. Then it’s covered in truly rich dark chocolate then a crispy candy shell.
They’re huge, sometimes twice the size of the Almond M&Ms. They’re also beautifully panned and consistent (something that M&Ms haven’t been in the past 10 years or so).
Instead of the matte shell of the Holland Mints, these are a polished and shiny shell. The colors seem more intense though they’re the same: magenta, yellow, light blue and white. I usually steer away from pink or red candies because of the foul bitter aftertaste of Red Dye #40, but these are all natural so all I taste are almonds, sugar and chocolate.
The chocolate is what stands out here, while it’s not a thick layer, it’s creamy and smooth without a trace of graininess or chalkiness. Yes these are more expensive than M&Ms, but they’re just so much better. I hope these are a year round item from Marich.
I got these half pound samples from The Natural Candy Store but I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods in the candy case. I haven’t seen them in the stand up boxes yet. Though they’re all natural there are no statements about other allergens like Wheat/Gluten and they’re not Kosher.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 10:06 am
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
So far I’ve enjoyed my latest bundle of Aldi confections that my mother sent to me from Ohio. Two of the heftier items in the package are the long boxes of Choceur After Dinner Mints. I quite liked the Choceur items I’ve picked up before, especially since they’re nicely packaged into individual servings. (Each mint is 45 calories.)
The “mints” come in two flavors: Orange and Peppermint with the boxes handily color-coded in orange and green respectively.
I liked the orange box because it captures the holiday vibe without resorting to red and green. It’s just an orange box with brown accents and a variety of white & brown snowflakes around the edges.
Inside the box it’s rather like every other box of after dinner mints I’ve had, such as After Eight and the Divine After Dinner Mints (which was fair trade and also had a nice design). The Orange After Dinner Mnits box weighs a hefty 10.5 ounces, kind of like a narrow brick. Each piece is tucked into an open brown glassine sleeve. Each sleeve reminds me that it is the Finest Quality, as if there could be some little folders that didn’t have that notation that contained sub-standard quality candies.
They’re two inches long and one and a quarter inches wide. They’re have a nicely rippled top and a decent chocolate scent with a touch of orange. However, once I bit into it the orange flavor is overwhelming. The dark chocolate has a thin layer of soft & smooth fondant inside. It’s a “whole orange” flavor with both juice and zest notes and reminds me more of the Jaffa orange candies I’ve had from the United Kingdom. The chocolate texture is creamy has a touch of cocoa bittersweetness, but mostly the flavor here is orange and a pure blast of sugar.
It’s a welcome change from the traditional mint and the orange does leave a clean and refreshed feeling. I liked them better in memory, not in practice though. I felt better about them after I was done while the zest was still kind of lingering, not while I was eating them.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The ingredients are pretty clean: Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Glucose Syrup, Cocoa Butter, Invertase, Soy Lecithin and Peppermint Oil. (However, this is also exactly what the Orange ones say, right down to the peppermint oil.) They’re made in Germany and feature the Aldi “Double Quality Guarantee” which means that if you don’t like it, they’ll give you your money back and another of the item. (You know, just so you can make sure you didn’t like it.) Honestly I had no issues with the quality of any of their items ... it’s often that they’re just not to my tastes.
While I found the Orange ones far too orangey, the mint ones were just right. I felt like I could taste the chocolate, which was dark and roasty as well as the clear peppermint flavor. The texture of the fondant was light and crisp. It was like they were flattened Junior Mints. With more chocolate by proportion than a Junior Mint but packing all the minty power.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Though I liked the design of the box from a graphics standpoint, it wasn’t actually substantial enough for something that holds so much candy. When the package is full and the stabilizing force of the shrink-wrap is gone, it was clear that the paperboard wasn’t built well enough. The single flap of the top and the simple folded over edges meant that the box had to be picked up carefully, best with two hands when full, or else the top would fold open and the candies spill out. Serving from it is good but putting them out in a large quantity inside their little sleeves is kind of problematic as they’re slippery.
Both are great hostess gifts and a really inexpensive item to include in a coffee when having friends over or easy thing to bring to an office to-do. (Note, I say they’re inexpensive but I don’t have the price info, so I can only guess that these are less than $4.00 for a box.)
These are not Kosher but are vegetarian and should be considered vegan (invertase is listed on the ingredients, which is an enzyme produced by bees, but for industrial food purposes is almost always made via yeast for cost savings).
Monday, November 30, 2009
Russell Stover has a large assortment of holiday treats in Santa-themed packaging. What’s nice about them is that they’re always fresh and moderately priced (often on dramatic sale for three for a dollar but usually about 50 cents a piece). I picked up every variety I could find this year:
What I noticed first was that the packaging is inconsistent in its design. Sure they’re all a mylar wrapper, but beyond that the Santas are different drawing styles with the Maple Cream, Strawberry Cream & Coconut Cream sporting the same Santa holding a gift aloft as he sits in a chimney. But The Peanut Butter Santa is more streamlined, the Marshmallow Santa has some freaky bright red cheeks and insanely short arms and finally the Marshmallow & Caramel Santa is in the style of the European Saint Nicolas complete with staff.
What I also found out is that the definition of “Santa Shaped” is pretty loose in Russell Stover’s world. It’s not quite as egg shaped, and maybe the tapering ends can be a feet/boots and a head. But really, it’d be best to just call these Christmas Lumps or Snow Clods.
The Peanut Butter Santa is pure simplicity: a peanut butter bar covered in milk chocolate. The shape of it is kind of figure-like. It’s the smallest of the pack as well, clocking in at only .75 ounces. It smells nutty and sugary and a little bit like peanut butter cookies. The milk chocolate is quite slick and melts easily, it has a light cocoa flavor to it. Most of all the salty peanut butter center is grassy-tasting. It’s a strange green flavor more like edamame than roasted peanuts.
It was tasty enough for me to finish it easily, but being small didn’t hurt either. The center is moister and a bit oilier than the center of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree (or Egg or Cup). This wasn’t a bad feature, just different.
Rating: 7 out of 10
I thought perhaps I’d tried these before and looked up to find that I reviewed the Maple Cream Egg way back in 2006. But the Russell Stover Maple Cream Santa is actually different. While the Easter version is coated in dark chocolate, the Christmas version is Milk Chocolate.
The amorphous lump didn’t remind me of Santa’s silhouette in the slightest but the maple cream flavor is a bit more Christmassy than Easterish so kudos for that, Russell Stover.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the dark chocolate version so I’ll spare us all comparisons. What I can say is that this is ludicrously sweet. The milk chocolate is sugary and not terribly creamy and the center while moist and fluffy is also throat searingly cloying and sticky. The maple flavor was simply a flavor, not something that felt natural or integrated into the candy itself.
Rating: 5 out of 10
While the Strawberry Cream Santa is also milk chocolate like the Cream Egg, this one lacks the pretty little swirls and curls on the top. It does smell a little like berries, but mostly it smells like milky chocolate. It’s quite sweet and has only a faint hint of strawberry and is rather similar to a Nestle Strawberry Qwik shake. I know it was really sweet, but I like the texture of the cream center that Russell Stover uses for both this one and the Maple Cream. It’s rather like a marshmallow cream, quite smooth and fluffy and moist without being runny.
Rating: 5 out of 10
The Coconut Cream Santa is also unlike the Cream Egg in that it’s milk chocolate, not dark chocolate. In this case as well, I think the sugar-laden milk chocolate is simply over the top. I like the coconut flake texture of the cream filling and the nice size of the piece, but the sugary quality of the chocolate with its grainy and fudgy melt is just too much. It’s amazing what a difference dark chocolate can make, but it does.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Things were looking up when I found the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa. I didn’t really expect this to be terribly different from the Easter Rabbit version, except that one was huge at two ounces and only in milk chocolate where I shopped.
This one was by far the most attractive of my Santa set, a nicely detailed figure of Santa Claus scratching his head. Unfortunately I smashed him somewhere along the way and his face was a little worse for it (or maybe he wasn’t scratching his head, maybe he was holding his hand over his nose and cursing me).
The marshmallow is latexy and has a chewy pull. Not too sweet and with a faint whiff of vanilla flavoring.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Of course this one looks like it could be a Mummy or Generic Figure for Unisex Bathroom Door.
It’s smaller in dimensions from the Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Santa, yet it’s actually heavier, it’s the same 1.25 ounces as the Cream Santas. I’ve had the Caramel and Marshmallow Pumpkin before and found it interesting.
This one seems to be more evenly balanced between the caramel and the marshmallow. It’s dense for a marshmallow product, the marshmallow is fluffy and has a light hint of vanilla to it with a smooth and velvety melt. The caramel isn’t runny nor quite chewy but has a good stringy pull to it.
It’s lacking a punch like the See’s Scotchmallow, but for 50 cents and in the shape of a clothes pin, well, I don’t want to sound too ungrateful for a decent piece of candy especially since this one seems to have the proportions just right. I wish the caramel was a little more chewy, a little more salty, but still a fun piece.
Rating: 7 out of 10
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