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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trader Joe’s Holiday Roundup 2012

Every year I look forward to the post-Halloween emergence of holiday sweets at Trader Joe’s. There’s always a bit of a European flair to their selections, with an eye toward traditional confections with the occasional new age/artisanal candy. This year I perused three different stores in two counties to see what the offerings are this year. Here’s my roundup of what you might be able to find at Trader Joe’s to satisfy your (or a gift recipient’s) sweet tooth. (I may have missed something, so please chime in with your observations or reviews.)

New for 2012:

Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Sea Salt Butterscotch CaramelsTrader Joe’s Sea Salt Butterscotch Caramels $3.49 - little nuggets of caramel covered in rich chocolate and more than a hint of sea salt. Gourmet Milk Duds. I picked these up (I’m not sure if they’re seasonal or not) and plan to review them, so you’ll probably be seeing that photo again.

Fruit and Nut Log $3.99 - a nougat center, covered in pistachios and pecans along with dried cranberries and apricots.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Caramallows $2.99 - a layer of marshmallow on top of caramel, covered in dark chocolate. It’s no See’s Scotchmallow, but I suppose it will do in a pinch.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Salted Caramel Truffles $3.99 - I reviewed these already, and though they’re fun, they’re not quite as good as some other seasonal items. (See review - 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Organic Peppermint Starlights $1.99 - yup, organic hard candies. Great if you’re looking for something corn syrup-free.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Truffles $3.99 - kind of like individually wrapped Frangoes, as far as I can tell.

Trader Joe's Brandy Beans

Returning Favorites for 2012

Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel CaramelsTrader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels (wood box) $6.99 (2006 review, still the same packaging. Classic, nicely done but a little pricey for boiled sugar. 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Cranberry Caramel Delights $7.99 - these were called Trader Joe’s Merry Mingle last year - caramel with pecans and cranberries dipped in dark chocolate (read review - 8 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Brandy Beans $2.99 - these have been coming back on and off for years, they tend to sell out really early.

Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate & Dark Chocolate Oranges $2.99 - the price went up 50 cents (Reviewed in 2009 as Florida Tropic Oranges. Good quality & price plus always charming package and dark is vegan 7 out of 10 & 8 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Belgian Chocolate Shoppe $9.99 - I don’t have great luck with these, but they’re a nice hostess gift if you can’t get to See’s.

Trader Joe's French TrufflesTrader Joe’s Cocoa Truffles $2.99 - inexcusable fat bombs imported from France. (see my review - I gave them a 3 out of 10, though I think the ingredients have changed a little bit, they’re still quite thin tasting yet stupidly fatty)

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Liqueur Cherries $5.99 - the price is up on this one, I recall they were $4.99 last year. But dried cherries are insanely expensive, so perhaps their ingredient cost went up.

Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark $9.99 a tin - a great bargain for a very well made product.

Trader Joe’s English Toffee with Nuts (Tall Can) $7.99 (previously in a box like this? It’d call it a step above Almond Roca)

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter CupsTrader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups $.99 - I have a serious problem with these (review from last year). When they’re not sold individually wrapped, they’re in tubs.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Rings with Sprinkle - they’re just little disks of dark chocolate with sprinkles, like giant SnoCaps - $1.99

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cashew Brittle with Sea Salt $2.99

Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Coal - dark chocolate covered candy cane bits - $1.99

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt CaramelsTrader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels $4.99 (2007 review - more of a flowing caramel than the chewy style of the Fleur de Sel - 6 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Minty Mallows $2.99 (2010 review - they’re quite moist and dense 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate After Dinner Mint Thins $2.99 (made in England) - they’re better than After Eight mints.

Also returning are the chocolate covered Peppermint JoJos and a variety box of other chocolate covered flavored Jo Jos. Though I reviewed the JoJo’s before, I can’t really call them candy.

Not Returning (unless you’ve sighted them):

Trader Joe's Classic Holiday Candy MixTrader Joe’s Classic Holiday Candy Mix - classic hard candy straws & pillows made with all natural ingredients. $1.99 (read review - 7 out of 10)

Trader Joe’s Eggnog Almonds - $3.99 (read review - 9 out of 10) These are made by Marich and I did see them at Sprouts in the bulk aisle labeled as Nutmeg White Chocolate Almonds.

Trader Joe’s Minty Melts - it’s peppermint bark for people who don’t like the crushed candy canes in it - $4.99 (read review - 7 out of 10)

What have you picked up that you liked this year? What do you miss from years gone by? I miss the Trader Giotto’s Soft Almond Nougat and the Dark Chocolate Covered Gingersnaps.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:44 pm     CandyTrader Joe'sHighlightShoppingComments (7)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Eat with your Eyes: Michel Cluizel Bille

Michel Cluizel Bille

At the Michel Cluizel shop in Manhattan, I was enchanted by the look of these little chocolate spheres. Inside the chocolate and sparkly ones is dark chocolate and a little bit of crisped rice. The red ones are white chocolate inside. I loved the elegant holiday look.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:05 pm     CandyChristmasMichel CluizelHighlightPhotographyComments (1)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New York City Candy Spree

It’s been over five years since I’ve been to Manhattan, which I consider one of the United States’ great candy shopping cities. Naturally, I visited a lot of candy stores and chocolate shops and have plenty to report.

Saturday

FAO Schweetz

FAO SchweetzFAO Schweetz is found in the flagship FAO Schwartz store on 5th Avenue at Central Park South and occupies at least a third of the first floor. The candy merchandising is done by IT’SUGAR (but less tarted up). They have a good selection of candy, with a special emphasis on large things. Giant things. Things you can probably buy elsewhere but are enchanting in this atmosphere. Like the World’s Largest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the One Pound Snickers Slice ‘n Share, large boxes of Wonka Nerds and some cereal themed packaging of candies (pictured to the right).

The prices are steep, I bought some Christmas Peeps for $3.49 which could have been a buck at Target.

Myzel's Chocolate

Licorice AssortmentMyzel’s Chocolate is a spot I’ve wanted to visit for years, but not for the chocolate, for the licorice. True to their reputation, this tiny little shop does have a huge and well curated variety of fresh licorice. I didn’t pick up a lot as I’ve already either had the varieties they carry or they were the salted licorice types that I don’t enjoy that much. I did get some griotten, skoolkrijt, beehives, Italian rosemary licorice, Copenhagen cats, chocolate licorice twists and Dutch lozenges. 

Michel Cluizel

It’s great to be in New York when there’s a chill in the air, because that means that it’s time for hot chocolate. Though I took a walk through Maison du Chocolate at Rockefeller Center, I opted for my first hot chocolate in Manhattan from Michel Cluizel, who didn’t have a shop when I visited last. I had a dark hot chocolate and a salted caramel macaron. It’s a petite cup of hot chocolate, which is fine with me as I don’t need or want much. The macaron was fresh, flaky and crunchy with a nice salted caramel layer in the middle.

I then walked over to the Upper West Side to check out Fairway Market and Zabar’s (for some soup) along with a stop at a gelato shop called Grom that’s known for their hot chocolate.

Grom Hot Chocolate

The Grom hot chocolate is the closest to the Spanish style I’ve had, appropriate for dipping churros or other baked goods. It’s thick and I’m told, it becomes much thicker like a mousse when refrigerated. (I would have tried that, as I couldn’t finish the 8 ounce portion and wanted to take it back to the hotel, but they didn’t have any lids.)

Sunday

DSC_0719rbThe Man and I headed down to the New Amsterdam Market (because it was Pickle Fest) and visited Liddabit Sweet‘s excellent stand to see their complete line of hand crafted sweets. They have 10 different gourmet candy bars to chose from (and unfortunately had no samples to help me decide) but I did manage to pick out 3 of them: Pecan Pie, Humbug and The Snacker. I also got some of their Beer and Pretzel Caramels and an assortment of their lollipops to soothe my aching throat.

The next series of stops were more nostalgia - we popped into Economy Candy, which was mobbed but happily back up and humming since Superstorm Sandy as well as Yonah Schimmels and we tried to go into Russ and Daughters but the line was out of the door.

Then it was off to Roni-Sue, pretty much the gal who started the whole pig candy craze. I was more interested in the comfort food candies, including her Beer & Pretzel Caramel.

I took a walk through Aji Ichiban and Ham Kam Market in Chinatown, but I didn’t see any Asian treats I can’t find at home, so I didn’t opt to buy anything.

LA Burdick Hot Chocolate (Dark) with Canele

LA Burdick AssortmentThen it was LA Burdick for hot chocolate and a canele. The hot chocolate was not sticky or too thick, but rich and dark. The canele was small but had a custardy center and a caramelized shell with a hint of citrus zest. I also bought an $8 bag of “seconds” at the counter which was literally a grab bag of goodies. There were at least 20 pieces, though LA Burdick pieces are very small, but that resulted in an excellent variety. It really was the best deal of my trip. I put them on a plate in my room and had one or two at my leisure during the week.

My last spot for the day was Eataly, which was jam packed with people, so much that I was overwhelmed and decided to go back again later when it might be calmer.

Monday

Dylan’s Candy Bar is an iconic stop in New York City for candy aficionados. It’s also one of my least favorite places to buy candy and this visit proved no different from my other experiences. The marketing is rarely about the deliciousness of the candy, and the choices they make in their products often show how they value style over substance.

Dylan's Candy Bar - Jelly Bean Portrait

Down in the lower level, I was pretty much aghast at how filthy it was. Granted, it was later in the day (I think around 5:30) but that doesn’t explain all of it. Near the serve-yourself bulk bins there was candy on the floor. There were at least three sales associates restocking, or maybe just talking with large boxes nearby, yet none of them made any effort to clean up the messes. It wasn’t just in that section, but the bulk areas were most notable. Some candy was broken and ground into the floor. The thing that really turned me off though was the fact that the floor was cleaned inconsistently. At the baseboards it was absolutely filthy. It was obvious that they just slopped down a rag mop and pushed all the dirt into the corners. It wasn’t as noticeable on the colored floors (in the banded colors of the Dylan’s logo) but some floors were white and it was quite apparent that they didn’t regularly clean in those areas.

The store charges a premium price, and for that I expect cleanliness at the very minimum. (My original post on the store his here.)

Tuesday

This was my cultural enrichment day, so I headed up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I was disappointed to find that the Temple of Dendur was closed as well as the Dutch Masters rooms in the European Painting wing. Not that there weren’t other wonderful things to see, such as the special exhibit on Manipulated Photography through the years and Roentgen furniture.

P1080693

I started my day with a stop at Francois Payard in the Food Hall at the Plaza Hotel for a mochaccino and a salted caramel macaron. Both were excellent, just the right touch of chocolate in my espresso (though more milk that I would have liked). The salted caramel filling of the macaron was silky smooth.

I also picked up a couple of marshmallows at Three Tarts Bakery - a vanilla bean and an espresso. I’m still not a big marshmallow person, though these were good. Soft, delicate and well flavored.

P1080695

Then I walked up to Laduree on Madison Ave. and picked up four more macaron, including their Salted Caramel, Citron Vert, Dark Chocolate and Rose. The first I ate while walking to the museum, the other three I saved for my walk back ... which also meant that the got a bit smashed in my bag. 

M&Ms Store - Times Square

Later in the evening I walked down to Times Square and checked out the M&Ms Store. I’ve been to the one in Las Vegas before, so this was no surprise. It’s three stories jam packed with Chinese-made branded merchandise. Some of it is quite charming, but it’s also a bit overwhelming after a while. The actual candy available is rather limited. They have the color walls of the M&Ms available in both the Milk Chocolate and the Milk Chocolate with Peanut. But there were no special buys, no limited edition candy ... not even anything else from Mars.

I’d say the highlight, after listening to blaring dance music was to see the Red M&M dance with some other patrons to Gangham Style.

Hershey's Store - Times Square

Across the street is the Hershey’s Store, which pales in comparison to the Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s just a little store front with lots of shiny lights on the outside advertising the Hershey’s brands, but not much for sale inside. Again, not great prices and very little that’s hard to find. Very little that I didn’t see at any Duane Reade on every corner.

Wednesday

P1080738

The Meadow is one of those fantastic stores that sells an incredible selection of very specific items. In this case they have salt, bitters and chocolate. The chocolate bar selection is very well curated and had just about everything I was looking for, including Canadian bean-to-bar maker, SOMA. They also had all the big hits like Amano, Askinosie, Pralus, Chocolat Bonnat, Olive & Sinclair, Mast Bros, Patric, Dick Taylor and Domori. There are two main sections, the plain chocolate bars (single origin for the most part) and the bars with inclusions plus a few confections.

Another interesting thing to note, nothing will have peanuts in it. The owners have a peanut allergy in the family, so they don’t bring anything into the store that has peanuts (though I’m guessing there could be traces with some products like Patric that does use peanuts but did not have any peanut products in the store).

P1080747

Sockerbit is a Swedish candy store I’ve been looking forward to visiting since I heard that it opened. It’s clean and spare little store with a whole wall of bulk candies. The price is per pound, $12.99 whether you get licorice, chocolate or sour gummis.

It’s a large cross section of Swedish confections. There are fudge and nougat as well as foamy marshmallow, sour gummis and a pretty good selection of salted licorice. I picked up, pretty much, one or two of everything. They have a nice online store, so I can always order from the web for any new favorites.

Kee's ChocolateThere’s really only one reason I go to Kee’s Chocolate, it’s for the Creme Brulee chocolates. They’re large geodesic dome shaped things, about twice the size of a regular chocolate from them. They must be eaten immediately. Inside is a soupy custardy creme brulee. It’s sweet and caramelized and creamy. The chocolate shatters when it hits the mouth, so it must be popped on the tongue whole.

I also got three other chocolates, a blood orange which was okay, a pink peppercorn which had a wonderful earthy, carrot flavor to it (I liked it!) and a dark chocolate. The centers were a little grainy, which I found odd, but not off-putting. Earlier review here.

P1080755

Max Brenner is a chocolate themed eatery in Union Square featuring “Chocolate by the Bald Man.” I’ve had some of Max Brenner’s chocolate selections before his move in the US market about 5 years ago. It’s a large beautifully designed, if you like a steampunk chocolate maker meets Sizzler steakhouse.

P1080762

Since it was after lunch in the middle of the week, it was no trouble to take a table just to have a dark hot chocolate. It was good, rich, but not the best hot chocolate I’d had all week. I think it would have been better with something else on the menu, or as a dessert to a light lunch.

Eataly - Venchi

Eataly is a high end food mall with restaurants, coffee bars and of course a huge selection of groceries from Italy. They have a well curated section of Italian candy, of course, featuring Venchi. Other brands included Caffarel, Domori, Amarelli licorice, Perugina and Leone.

The prices were steep, I picked up my favorite Sassolini from Amarelli, it was $5.80 for a mere 1.4 ounces. The biggest thrill though is the sheer amount of torrone (nougat) they had, in both the soft style and the hard version. They’re opening on in Los Angeles, so I hear, so I’ll wait until they’re local and pick up new candies as needed.

Addresses for all locations are available on this map. Plus some spots that I wasn’t able to visit. Previous New York experiences are tagged with NYC.


View New York City in a larger map

POSTED BY Cybele AT 2:56 pm     CandyCANDY BLOGNew York CityHighlightShoppingComments (11)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Snack Mix for Traveling

When I’m traveling I’m usually still writing reviews, so I travel with a little packet of the candies in my queue.

But I also like to snacks, so I create trail mixes for myself. I’m on the road again and this time around I made the following mix:

Trail Mix

Pretzels (I prefer Spelt pretzels as they have more protein so are more filling)
Sugar Babies (the sweetness balances the salty pretzels)
Clark Bites (chocolate covered crispy peanut butter)
Raw Almonds

Trail Mix

The best ratio for the mix, for my tastes, is about 1/2 Pretzels, 1/4 Raw Almonds and the remaining equal parts Sugar Babies and Clark Bites. I don’t need that much sweet in my snacks and the protein of the almonds is very filling. Each element combines well, so I can eat a pretzel with an almond, or a Sugar Baby with an almond ... it’s all interchangeable.

Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds

Other things I have included in the past:

Marich Dark Chocolate Cacao Nib Toffee (I don’t know if these are discontinued, I can’t find them any longer, but the Sconza Toffee Chocolate Almonds shown above are fantastic as well)
Dark Chocolate Almonds (I prefer the Trader Joe’s variety because they’re high quality and good value)
Dried Figs (provide just the right sweetness, a leathery chew and smoky note)
Chocolate Covered Cranberries (raisins or uncoated fruit can make the pretzels stale)
Pretzel M&Ms (kind of a trail mix in one candy)
Powerberries or Brookside Pomegranate Chocolate

It could use a tangy & fruity element to it, like chocolate covered raisins or cranberries. (Straight raisins get very sticky and make my pretzels stale.)

Other Planes/Trains & Auto Snacks:
Good and PlentyGood & Plenty - again, great for travel because they’re clean and easy to portion and share.
Whole Grain Cheddar Goldfish - cute, easy to share and just the right amount of salt (don’t overdo salt on a plane, it just dehydrates you).
Goetze’s Caramel Creams - very filling and the long chew can help unstuff ears.
Hot Tamales - the zesty cinnamon is especially good if I have to drive and want to stay alert.
Peppermint Chiclets - sweet and minty, great to refresh after too much coffee breath and to stabilize ear pressure.

I like to package my mixes in sturdy zipper plastic bags, I prefer the ones with the little slider on it. Unlike some of the individually wrapped candies I also travel with, the mixes don’t make any trash. The flexible packaging is easy to stuff into my carry on bag and often I’ll toss an extra one into my checked luggage if it’s a long trip.

M&Ms Snack Mix - Salty & SweetIn a pinch though you can buy pre-made mixes. M&Ms is making some now that come in zipper bags. Of course you’re stuck with their idea of a good ratio and you might not like all the elements in there.

Chex also makes Chex Mixes, including a few sweet & salty versions like Chex Mix Chocolate Turtle which includes caramel-coated corn Chex, cocoa-seasoned corn Chex, pretzels, nuts, caramel-coated popcorn and chocolaty candies. (Note the use of the word chocolaty, that’s pretty much what’s been keeping me from trying them.)

Related Candies

  1. Clark Bites
  2. Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Covered Joe’s O’s
  3. Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate
  4. Pretzel M&Ms
  5. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Powerberries
  6. Marich Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews
  7. Sconza 70% Dark Chocolate Toffee Almonds
  8. Sugar Babies

POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:44 am     CandyHighlightFun StuffComments (3)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat 2012

What are you giving out to Trick or Treaters this year?

Halloween 2012

The kids in my neighborhood seem to like Airheads, so this will be the third year I’m giving those out. As a change this year I’m also giving out Unreal Candy, since it’s sustainably sourced and has no artificial ingredients. I have their peanut nougat bars and the peanut butter cups. We’ll see how that goes over. Judging by the density of Priuses on my block, it should be well received. In all, I have over 80 pieces of candy for what I expect will be about 35 kids ... so maybe I need a little more.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:17 am     All NaturalCandyHighlightFun StuffComments (14)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Candy Spotting 2012

Halloween is the first Holiday in Candy Season. The variety of candy is not quite as remarkable as Easter or Christmas, because most candy is just smaller sizes of single serve products for easy distribution for Halloween trick or treaters. It’s interesting to see what the new and returning products are each year. 

The big trend seems to be seasonal flavor combinations. The notable ones are Candy Corn (now in jelly bean, gum drop, chocolate covered & novelty flavors) and Caramel Apple (lollipops, Milky Way bars, Werther’s hard candies, Sugar Babies).

I haven’t seen much that’s new this year, but I did visit most of the stores in my area to see what’s on the shelves, here’s my hitlist of the highlights:

Brach's Assorted Halloween Mellowcremes

HERSHEY’S
Hershey’s decided to use more neutral fall leaves theming on their packages this year instead of Halloween specific graphics. So don’t expect to find them on the sale shelves after Halloween, as they expect merchants to simply move them on to themed displays for Thanksgiving.

  • Pumpkin Spice Kisses (review)
  • KIT KAT Orange Wafer Bars
  • Reese’s Pumpkins - now in a new orange package instead of purple (review)
  • Cadbury Screme Egg Candy is a green yolk flowing fondant egg.
  • M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn

    MARS
    Milky Way Caramel Apple Minis (review)
    Snickers Pumpkin (review)
    Candy Corn White Chocolate M&Ms (review)

    Peanut Butter Kisses

    NECCO

  • Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses (review)
  • Clark Wicked Mix (review)
  • Mellocreme Zombies (I still haven’t found these)
  • Candy Corn

    FARLEY’S & SATHERS (BRACH’S)

  • Brach’s Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn (review)
  • Brach’s Autumn Mix (review)
  • Brach’s Halloween Mix (flavored mellocreams in holiday shapes) (review)
  • Brach’s Indian Corn
  • Brach’s Mellocreme Pumpkins
  • Bat Dots

    TOOTSIE

  • Blood Orange Dots (Bats) (review)
  • Ghost Dots (Clear)  (review)
  • Candy Corn Dots (Vanilla)  (review)
  • Orchard Mix Caramel Apple Pops (review)
  • Vanilla Tootsie Rolls
  • Caramel Apple Sugar Babies
  • (review) Now available in snack packs for Trick or Treat

    JUST BORN

  • Peeps Chocolate Pumpkins (review)
  • Peeps Ghosts & Pumpkins (I like the ghosts because they’re the only Peeps that aren’t artificially colored.)
  • Mike and Ike Mummy Mix
  • Nestle Butterfinger Pumpkin

    NESTLE & WONKA

  • Butterfinger Pumpkins
  • Spooky Nerds
  • Whitman's Candy Corn Marshmallow
    (They don’t actually make the Whitman’s Marshmallow Candy Corn any longer, but I like the photo too much to not use it this year.)

    RUSSELL STOVER

  • Russell Stover Peanut Butter Candy Pumpkins
  • Russell Stover Coconut Dream Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Dark Chocolate covered Marshmallow Pumpkin (review)
  • Russell Stover Strawberry Cream Pumpkin
  • Russell Stover Marshmallow Pumpkin (milk chocolate) (review)
  • Jelly Belly Candy Corn Jelly Bean

    JELLY BELLY

  • Jelly Belly Deluxe Halloween Mix (review)
  • Jelly Belly Candy Corn Jelly Beans (review)
  • Jelly Belly Giant Candy Corn
  • Jelly Belly Sour Gummi Pumpkins
  • Jelly Belly Fall Festival Mix

  • NOT RETURNING:

  • Hershey’s Candy Corn Kisses (review)
  • Hershey’s Caramel Apple Kisses (review)
  • Mary Jane Wicked Mix (review)
  • Brach’s Gummy Candy Corn (review)
  • So what have you seen that’s new or what’s missing that you’ve been looking forward to?

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:04 pm     CandyHalloweenHighlightShoppingComments (8)

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Candy Tease: October 2012

    The big announcements for new candies came out earlier this year, but there are still some new products hitting shelves and on the horizon.

    Hershey Kandy KakesName: Kandy Bar Kake:S’mores, Peanut Butter & Peppermint
    Brand: Tastykake
    Description: Tastykake Baking Co. is joining forces with The Hershey Co. to introduce Kandy Bar Kakes, a blend of cake and candy featuring Hershey’s most popular flavors. Kandy Bar Kake varieties include S’mores Kandy Bar Kake made with Hershey’s Cocoa, Peanut Butter Kandy Bar Kake made with Reese’s Peanut Butter and Peppermint Kandy Bar Kake made with York Peppermint Flavor.
    Introduction Date: October 2012
    Notes: I was just in Philadelphia and did pick up some Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes ... and I actually did meet with a rep from Hershey’s but I had no idea these were coming out. Unfortunately they are a regional, limited edition item and not available on the Tastykake.com webstore.   

    Jelly Belly TabascoName: TABASCO Jelly Belly Jelly Beans
    Brand: Jelly Belly Candy Company
    Description: Hot sauce enthusiasts will immediately recognize the pungent taste of red peppers, Avery Island salt and distilled vinegar, coupled with a subtle sweetness – but not too sweet – undertone from the jelly bean itself.
    Introduction Date: October 2012 in bulk - December 2012 in packages
    Notes: According to John Pola, the VP of specialty sales for Jelly Belly,  “Hot is the new licorice.” I really don’t know what that means ... that hot is the new polarizing flavor that only some people will like? Hot candy actually is a pretty hot trend the past 5 years, and Tabasco already has a chocolate, so a jelly bean makes sense.

    Milky Way BitesName: Milky Way Bites
    Brand: Mars
    Description: These unwrapped, pop ‘em-in-your-mouth, bite-sized cubes are a convenient and easier-to-eat format of consumers’ favorite candy bar brands.  MILKY WAY Bites are available in two convenient sizes: 2.83-ounce sharing size and 7.0-ounce and 8.0-ounce resealable stand-up pouches.
    Introduction Date: May 2013
    Notes: The promo info didn’t mention the actual size of these pieces and it’s unclear if they’re a molded item (like the Reese’s Minis are) or if they’re teensy little enrobed nuggets.

    Snickers BitesName: Snickers Bites
    Brand: Mars
    Description: These unwrapped, pop ‘em-in-your-mouth, bite-sized cubes are a convenient and easier-to-eat format of consumers’ favorite candy bar brands. Bites are available in two convenient sizes: 2.83-ounce sharing size and 7.0-ounce and 8.0-ounce resealable stand-up pouches.
    Introduction Date: May 2013
    Notes: I’m actually eager to try these, as I often find a full Snickers bar a little too much, and as they description mentions, they’re easier to eat, especially in situations like snacking at movies or perhaps making a trail mix with nuts and pretzels.

    Dove Mint SwirlName: Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl
    Brand: Dove Chocolate (Mars)
    Description: Dark chocolate lovers will adore the flavor sensations in the new Dove Brand Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl. Combining Dove Brand rich, silky smooth dark chocolate with the sensation of cool, fresh mint, this new item delivers an irresistible flavor duo.
    Introduction Date: May 2013
    Notes: I really like the Dove Peppermint Bar, this sounds similar but without any crunchy bits and hopefully available year round.

    Valrhona DulceyName: Dulcey
    Brand: Valrhona
    Description: Dulcey has a blond color and a smooth, enveloping texture. Its lightly sweetened biscuity flavor gives way to lush notes of shortbread with a hint of salt.
    Introduction Date: September 2012 in UK, Early 2013 for North America
    Notes: The bar contains 32% cacao content (cocoa butter) and is packaged for eating as well as ingredient use (sold in bulk as callets). It’s like a toasted white chocolate, less sweet - a caramel chocolate. An early review from Chocablog gives it high marks for quality, but not necessarily something for all chocolate lovers.

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:14 pm     CandyNew Product AnnouncementHighlightFeatured NewsComments (7)

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Hershey’s Chocolate World - CreateYour Own Chocolate Bar

    Hershey's Chocolate WorldLast month I visited Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania, as I often do when I’m in the area. The themed space is open year around and adjacent to Hersheypark. It’s free to visit and is mostly a Hershey themed mall with a food court and a ride the includes the story of how Hershey’s makes their chocolate.

    One of the new attractions at Chocolate World is Create Your Own Candy Bar. It’s a real, mini candy factory where you can customize a single, large candy bar from an array of options. It’s $14.95, so it’s not cheap, but it is an engaging way to spend 30 to 45 minutes, especially if you love to watch machines.

    When buying the ticket, you’re asked for your first and last name plus your zip code. I didn’t realize that this was how the bar was customized as you go through the factory experience (though you’re only addressed by your first name and last initial, in case you’re visiting with your AA group). If I knew this, I could have given my name as CandyBlog as you’ll see later.

    The tickets are for sale in the main lobby, patrons are given a ticket with a scheduled start time. Folks line up and are given hair nets and aprons, asked to remove all visible jewelry (rings and watches) and hopefully washed their hands. (You don’t actually come into contact with any of the equipment or ingredients.) I don’t know what the limit for a group is, but I would guess about 15-18 people.

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    The event starts with a quick video which shows you how each stage of the process will work. The basic steps are: choosing your formula, the production of the bar, the cooling of the bar, creating a custom wrapper and then the boxing of the bar.

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    The customizations are:
    Choose your chocolate base: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate
    Choose up to three inclusions: butter toffee chips, raspberry bits, chocolate chips, almonds, pretzel pieces, butterscotch chips
    Choose sprinkles or no sprinkles

    You simply scan your ticket’s bar code at the screen and make your selections.

    Through a set of swinging doors, the set up is a real mini factory line with a continuous conveyer through a series of stainless steel machines. It extends along a long exterior wall, so it’s well lit and you can view it from the outside (though a real candy factory wouldn’t allow so much sunlight directly on the process). You can follow along and witness every step of the manufacture. Everything is well within view just behind a plexiglass divider and well marked with what’s going on at each step. 

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    The process starts with a chocolate base. It’s like a little, short walled box of a bar. I chose dark chocolate and the suction arms picked one up and dropped it onto the conveyer to start. Along the conveyer are the six possible inclusions, when the bar arrived at an inclusion for your bar, the hopper or screw feeder opens up and drops in your items.

    At each station, the items are marked and a little bit about the reasons for the type of dispensing is explained. Screw feeders work well for items that might be sticky, like toffee bits and gravity feeders are for dry items like nuts and pretzels.

    Once my inclusions, pretzel bits, almonds and butter toffee bits, were inside the little chocolate box, the bar proceeded towards the enrober. All bars were coated in milk chocolate. No choice. My bar, though, was filled unevenly. The corners had nothing in them and the center had a too-high mound. I would have preferred that my bar go over some sort of vibrating bar that would level things before the enrober.

    The enrober is a thick curtain of chocolate on an open mesh conveyer. The video above is short, but gives you an idea of the process. The chocolate that isn’t used gets filtered and recycled back into the system. (So do not eat these bars if you’re sensitive to gluten, tree nuts or peanuts, even if you didn’t pick those items.)

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    After enrobing, bars that get sprinkles will. I didn’t select those. Then the bars go into a cooling tunnel. The cooling process takes about 8 minutes, so it’s off to waste time in the design and marketing department.

    Just off the “factory floor” is a room with more touch screens. Waving the little bar code on my ticket got a new series of options. First, I could design my wrapper. (Well, it’s actually a sleeve, it’s not well explained before you get in there that the chocolate bar comes in a box, which is then inside a tin which gets a customized sleeve.) The design options are not extraordinary. You can choose your background as either a solid or gradient of color or a pattern. Then there are the added items - Hershey Logos, Your Name and some icons (mostly Autumnal and Halloween). I made what struck me as a pretty ugly design and pressed print.

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    After that the screens give you marketing data about your candy bar. All sorts of different graphs that say how popular or common things are and what other people have done.

    That process took me about three minutes, and I tried to rush through it since there were only five screens and plenty of people (including some kids which probably wanted more time on the design). Then it was back to watching the cooling tunnel ... which is a tunnel and only had a few little windows to check on the progress of the bars.

     

    Once the bars came out of the cooling tunnel they were loaded into little slots and dumped into boxes. The boxes got a little laser printing on the end with everyone’s name, then went down to the wrapping stations. This was the only part of the process that was hands-on with any of the factory workers. They had already printed our labels and were waiting for the bars to come out. They popped the bars into a tin, closed the tin and put on the sleeve wrapper.

    P1080370The factory experience gives people the ability to walk through with their own bar, but also enough time to go back and really look at the equipment if they desire. I don’t know how large the groups can get, but it appears that Hershey’s keeps the manageable so that you have enough room to move around and see everything. Photography is permitted. Children are welcome though everyone has to have a ticket (except toddlers under 2) and everyone makes their own bar. They are ADA compliant, and I saw no reason that folks in wheelchairs wouldn’t be able to get the full experience. (Chocolate World as a whole seemed to be very accessible and actually well attended by folks of all abilities.)

    It’s extremely clean, as you’d hope. It’s very well run and each person you meet on the Hershey’s staff is eager and seem knowledgeable. (Especially once you get in the factory room.)

    I was at the front of the line and ended up being the first bar (I already scoped what I wanted and was ready at the bar selection process). For me it was about 35 minutes, but if you’re slower or at the back of the line, this might be 45 minutes or more. So allow ample time, as well as the fact that once you get there and they issue the ticket, your start time may be more than a half an hour away.

    Hershey's Make Your Own Chocolate BarSo there’s my lackluster wrapper. Under the stiff printed sleeve, the chocolate bar is inside an embossed tin with the Hershey’s logo on it. It’s a nice tin, one that I can see myself keeping and using for storing small items.

    The tin is 7.5” by 4.5” and 1.25” high with rounded corners. There’s a plastic tray inside that holds the boxed chocolate bar with the generic packaging.

    Hershey's Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

    The bar is pretty big. It’s 5 inches long and 2.75 inches wide and maybe 2/3 of an inch high. I don’t have an approximate weight on it, but it’s well over 6 ounces.

    As I noted from the production line while watching it being made, the base is dark chocolate and though the chocolate tray had room, the inclusions didn’t make it into the corners. So it takes a while of biting to get to the interesting part of the bar.

    Hershey's Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

    I broke my bar open and just as I suspected, the contents spilled out. What’s more, I felt like I was missing the actual inclusiveness ... then enrobing didn’t actually cover my center. So I had my filling adjacent to chocolate, but not actually covered.

    Hershey's Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

    Aside from the physical mess, I didn’t like the taste. The fillings were dry and even though it was only a week later that I ate it, it was stale. The pretzel pieces weren’t crisp and were really small so had less crunch to them and were more of a grainy texture. The almonds were nice, small pieces but still fresh and crunchy. But what I was really disappointed about was the butter toffee bits. I was hoping for little Heath toffee chips. Instead I got some sort of artificial butter flavored thing that just stunk up the bar.

    Though I chose a dark chocolate base, the majority of the chocolate in the bar is still the milk chocolate. It’s rich and sweet, but does have that Hershey’s tang to it. (Some don’t like it, but if you don’t ... why are you at Hershey’s Chocolate World?) The dark chocolate notes came in a bit, especially when I was eating the sides, but really didn’t nothing in the middle.

    On the whole, I give myself 5 out of 10. I blame my inexperience and ingredients.

    Hershey's Create Your Own Candy Bar

    The problem with my fillings is that they’re dry. What I would suggest is either squirting a little chocolate in the base first and then putting the inclusions into it, or putting layers of chocolate into the center between the dispensing of the inclusions. Then do a little jiggling to get it all evened out and get the air out. This solves two problems.

    The other thing I might suggest is that the “candy makers” get to try the inclusions first. There should be a little tasting table, maybe after you’ve bought your ticket before you get the “orientation” portion. That way we can really get a sense of what we’re putting in there instead of $15 experiments. The other thing I’d like to see is the ability to go through the process just accompanying someone who bought a ticket. I can see this being a huge expense for a family with many kids. It would be nice if the parents weren’t obligated to also get a ticket and bar.

    Hershey's Simple PleasuresChocolate World is fun, and though it’s billed as free, there are some interesting attractions making this a good rainy-day destination for family, friends and couples who live nearby or are traveling through the area.

    The stores there carry a huge array of branded merchandise and candy. The candy selection, though there’s a great quantity, isn’t really that diverse. For Hershey’s Dagoba and Scharffen Berger line they carry only three or four items. The prices are about what you’d pay at the drug store or grocery store when the items aren’t on sale, which is too bad. I heard more than one person lamenting that they could do better and not have to haul the stuff home if they just stop by Target or Costco. So I’d suggest focusing on the hats, tee shirts, playing cards, keychains and mugs.

    What I would want from a “factory store” is a section where you can get special preview items, items out of season and of course super discounts on factory seconds. Something that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I’d also want better prices, after all, you’re buying direct so if there are no middle men, why are the prices so high? The only item I saw that rose to that level of specialness were green & red Hershey-ets.

    Reese's Ice Cream BowlHershey’s Chocolate World
    251 Park Boulevard
    Hershey, PA 17033
    (717) 534-4900

    Free parking, free admission. Fees for most special activities. Wheelchair accessible. Their hours vary wildly, so call or check their website. Open every day (except Christmas).

    More photos from PennLive of the Create Your Own Chocolate Bar.

    Hershey’s Chocolate World gets a 7 out of 10 from me as an adult, I think kids would rank it higher.

    My ticket for this experience was comped by Hershey’s. I have not done any of the other classes or movies at Chocolate World, only the free ride and shopped at the stores.

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    POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:08 pm     Hershey'sChocolateCookieNutsToffee5-Pleasant7-Worth ItHighlightShoppingComments (7)

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