Friday, February 22, 2013
Trader Joe’s rarely takes a breather in their new product introductions. If I don’t go in for a few weeks, I might miss its appearance on the New at Trader Joe’s shelves only to stumble on it in the regular rotation. This was the case with the new Trader Joe’s PB&J Milk Chocolate Bar . The bar is found at the check out stands, in my case, mixed in with the Speculoos Bars.
The bar is simply a milk chocolate bar with creamy peanut butter and tart raspberry jelly.
The bar is about 5 inches long and 1.25 inches wide. It’s a nicely sized portion, at 1.75 ounces though the calorie count is a bit high since it’s so fatty - 230 calories for the bar or if you’d like to compare it to others I’ve reviewed, it’s 160 calories per ounce.
There’s no statement about the origin or sourcing of the chocolate, but some of the ingredients are organic like the palm oil in the peanut butter filling and some of the sugar.
The bar looks very simple. There are six segments, each filled with a base of peanut butter and topped with a syrupy raspberry jelly.
The milk chocolate is quite dark and has a smoky flavor to it. It’s smooth and has an excellent silky melt and strong flavor of its own, however, the overriding scent of the bar is peanut butter. Once I bit into a segment, though, the raspberry flavors were far more evident. The whole thing really was like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The peanut butter is smooth, it has a dark roasted flavor with a hint of bitterness to it. There’s also a fair bit of salt, 60 mg for the whole bar, considering how much actual peanut butter is in there, I feel like it’s a lot but not over-salted.The jelly itself is a little runny. The best effect for the bar is to bite the segments, to get the smell of the berries, but that just makes the goo run. The raspberry is smooth, not at all grainy, it’s sweet but has a tartness to it. There are no seeds, but the flavor of the seeds, that woodsy green note is there.
For a buck, it’s a great bar. It’s different from anything else you can get in this price range and the ingredients are top of the line. The profile is less sweet than most other candy bars, which is refreshing.
There are no preservatives or artificial colors/flavors. It contains milk, soy and peanuts and may contain traces of wheat, eggs and/or tree nuts. It’s Kosher and made in Canada.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Annabelle’s, the California company that now makes Abba-Zabas came out with a new flavor last year, the Abba-Zaba Strawberry & Peanut Butter. The little starburst on the side of the package says “PB&J with real peanut butter.”
The color of the package is extraordinary. The regular flavor is taxi-cab yellow and black ... for strawberry they went magenta and black. It looks like nothing else on the shelves.
I’m not a huge consumer of Abba-Zaba, I’m more of a Look or Big Hunk fan, as the Annabelle’s bars go. The concept is strong, but the flavor profiles & textures are just a little off for my tastes.
The Strawberry Abba-Zaba has a fruity taffy outside. It’s sweet, though not sickeningly. The bar is best if you smack it on the edge of a table before you open it to break it into easy to eat pieces. The taffy is flavored only with the scent of strawberries, it’s not a tangy taffy. So the idea of getting the flavor of a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich is a little off ... because it doesn’t taste like jam. It’s more like a strawberry cake - all sweetness and not tart. The chew is good, not too tough, it’s soft and combines well with the peanut butter center. The peanut butter is smooth and creamy, but lacking a big salty punch or enough texture to differentiate it well from the taffy when it’s chewed together. I like the graininess of peanut butter in candies like Mary Janes.
Overall, it’s not my thing. It’s different ... but I’d be more inclined to go for a honey taffy or maybe even Banana if it was just going to be sweet.
Monday, February 11, 2013
I went to Hawaii. I brought back some candy and chocolate while I was there.Yes, they grow chocolate in Hawaii, even a little on the garden isle of Kauai. But today I’ll review something that’s a little more mainstream, Hershey’s Kisses with Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts.
The special Hershey’s Kisses are studded with Mauna Loa macadamia nuts. They’re sold only in Hawaii (and a few other spots, I believe I saw them at Hershey’s Chocolate World) alongside other “local flavor” items like Coconut M&Ms.
The bags are small, only 8 ounces, and Island Expensive as they’re imported. The bag was $4.49 at the grocery store called Big Save. They also sold them at Hilo Hattie.
Macadamia nuts have the most monounsaturated fats of all nuts and are low in protein. They’re also extremely high in calories, coming in at 210-215 calories per ounce. (Almonds are about 165 calories per ounce and walnuts are about 185 calories per ounce, for comparison.) Though they were once very expensive, macadamia nuts are more widely grown and more affordable. They’ve found their way into American diets as a nut inclusion for baked goods, a cooking oil and in island inspired cuisine (like macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi).
They’re a molded Kiss, like the Almond Kisses. The chocolate is smooth and though the package said that January 2013 was their best buy date, they were in great shape. Smooth, glossy and creamy. There were a lot of macadamia pieces in most. In some it seemed like the center was all nuts and others seemed to only have a few chips.
On the whole, macadamias aren’t my favorite nut. They’re a bit on the coconut side and don’t fill me up in the same way, could be that the protein is missing or that they veer a little too close to Brazil Nut flavor territory. I liked their crispness and fatty chew, and I have to say that they go really well with Hershey’s chocolate. Sometimes I really love the stuff, I know it’s not good chocolate, it’s just candy, but I enjoy it. So I no trouble eating much of this bag by myself.
When it comes to a little taste of the tropics... the macadamia inclusions really do it for me. Of course the jet lag has worn off and I miss the warm ocean breeze instead of this walking the dog thing at sunrise in 48 degree weather ... so it could just be the vacation glow.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I mentioned a while back that Mars was going to convert all of their Dove Chocolate over to Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa this year. I saw the first bars in the store sometime around New Years and picked up this Dove 71% Cacao Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate.
The bar was on sale for $2.49, so it’s a pretty good deal for a 71% bar that’s 3.3 ounces. The nutritional panel lists that half the bar is a single serving. The 42 gram portion is 20 grams of fat. Good fat, of course… it’s made with cocoa butter which is supposed to be pretty good for your heart or at least not bad for it.
The bar looks like all the other Dove items these days. It’s seductively smooth with easy to break off domed pieces. The snap isn’t quite stiff, but not soft either. It’s, well, I can’t describe it any other way except fatty. See the above fat content for confirmation.
The Dove flavor profile is always a bit thin for my tastes, it’s like the chocolate is parallel to the cocoa butter instead of integrated. That may have something to do with Mars’ proprietary Cocoapro flavanol enhancement. Perhaps there’s some sort of process that it goes through that sanitizes it in this manner. The good news is that in this bar, that’s less of an issue. The melt is wonderful, buoyant and soft without a hint of grit. The cocoa flavors are lightly bitter, woodsy with a floral note that I don’t get from their regular dark. The melt is like a pudding, soft and creamy but still quite thick.
I had a few Dove Promises in the regular dark to compare. The regular dark is quite sweet and again, a little thin on intensity though a well rounded brownie batter chocolate flavor. I much preferred the 71% and didn’t feel like the lack of sweetness was a compromise. The deepness of the flavors was much more concentrated. I’ll be curious to see if these show up in the foil-wrapped Dove Promises line.
I know that in many stores this will be one of the few certified sustainably sourced bars, so it’s nice to finally have a choice when you’re at the drug store or a big box retailer.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Mars often teases new products months in advance, they announced the Milky Way Limited Edition French Vanilla back in August 2012. It’s supposed to hit store shelves in February, but last summer there were quite a few readers who reported it on shelves already (which could have been test marketing in select cities).
The wrapper is lighter in color, even lighter than the Milky Way Caramel bar, so it should be easy to spot on shelves. The bar is a little smaller, too, at 1.72 ounces instead of 1.84.
It does smell a lot like vanilla. Some of the vanilla notes are authentic, fragrant and round with a little alcoholic rum note to it. But part of it has a fake sweet note as well, which could be an artificial flavor in there.
The construction of the bar is the same as all the American Milky Ways, a nougat base with a stripe of caramel on the top and then a swirly coating of milk chocolate. I found the ratio of caramel and nougat a little off, I seem to recall more caramel than these had.
The vanilla flavor is potent but also seems to heighten the sweetness of the nougat, the caramel and the very milky milk chocolate. The whole thing is sticky and though I found it to be passable, it’s not a bar I might eat again. Cover it in dark chocolate and throw some almonds in there, and I think we’d actually have something great. I might be more satisfied with the ratios if these were the minis. Otherwise, with some strong tea, I thought it was a nice treat.
I’m still unclear if these are out in stores at the moment or if they’ll show up. Mars also said that they were introducing Twix Sugar Cookie minis over the 2012 Christmas holiday, but I can’t find anyone who actually found them in stores. This flavor is more distinctive than the French Vanilla 3 Musketeers that came out back in 2007.
Mars is working on ethical cacao sourcing, starting with their Dove line in the United States. The bar contains soy, eggs and dairy and may contain traces of peanuts. There was no gluten statement on the wrapper. The samples I got were made in Canada, I have no idea if the final version will also be made there.
(I apologize for not getting better shots of the bars. I got two as samples in October but both were smashed in transit. I did my best to find a good angle on the best looking bar. I didn’t want to wait for them to show up in stores, as Los Angeles seems to get limited edition Mars items much later than the rest of the country.)
Friday, January 11, 2013
Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy is a New Jersey favorite, known best for their classic wrapped taffy rods, also makes some excellent peanut chews, fudge and molasses paddle pops. But what I know them for is their Creamy Mint Sticks, which I only seem able to find at trade shows as samples. So, I was pretty pleased to see them, if only seasonally, at Cost Plus World Market this Christmas.
I’m a sucker for butter mints (those soft colored little pillows), and specifically don’t buy them because I will devour them. But in the interest of the blog, I picked up this box of Fralinger’s Creamy Mint Sticks on clearance at Cost Plus World Market after Christmas for review. The mint sticks are similar to the puffy butter mint brethren, except that they’re individually wrapped and less airy.
The ingredients include no artificial colors or flavors. It’s a mix of sugar, invert sugar with a touch of palm oil, emulsifiers, glycerine and cream of tartar along with real peppermint oil.
The sticks are generous for a mint, the same size as Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy logs. They’re in a clear cellophane wrapper with twisted ends, inside that is the waxed paper with the Fralinger’s logo on it. These also bear a bar code, I don’t know if that’s for internal tracking or if they actually sell these individually. They’re a little over two inches long, are white inside and come out of the wrapping easily.
They’re soft, though I wouldn’t say that they’re damp, they’re not oily either. This is the big difference between these and butter mints, they’re creamier. The texture is like a wad of very smooth, compressed powdered sugar. They dissolve readily and have a powerful amount of mint in them. Though they’re nearly all sugar, they don’t have a throat searing sweetness to them.
The candy is extremely simple and I appreciate that. They’re a little harder to eat than some wrapped candy, it takes two hands to unwrap the ends and then carefully unroll from the waxed paper. But every one of them was in good condition, so it does the job.
I’ve had quite a few other versions of these before: James’ Butter Mint Rolls (photo) which are part of the Fralinger’s family now and Angel Mints. What I’ve noticed is that they’re best when sold in a sealed package. In the case of this box, it was shrink wrapped, and then inside the box the mints were also sealed inside a poly plastic bag. When I’ve bought them as “changemakers” or in a bulk mix they’ve been a bit more chalky and with a bit less of a mint kick. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But in this case I was actually blown away with how fresh these tasted. I can’t imagine paying the full price for these even though I know I would eat them all.
They’re exquisitely simple, and for me they’re quite addictive. Basically, I kept going into Cost Plus World Market all week long, checking to see if they were still on the shelves. I bought one box at 75% off (they were regularly 6.99 a box, but at that discount they came to $1.75) ... but then yesterday they went to 90% off so I bought another two boxes because, well, 70 cents for 12 ounces. They are best before March 2013, but I doubt they’ll last that long.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Chocolate covered pretzels are nothing new. So Sanders Candy of Michigan has come up with a new twist. They’ve created Sanders Chocolate Covered Gretzels, which are cinnamon graham pretzels drenched in our premium Milk Chocolate.
I picked up my package after Christmas at Cost Plus World Market on the 75% clearance. So instead of the $5.99 price on the tag, it was only $1.50. I should have bought more at that price, even without tasting them. (I have tasted some of their other items at trade shows but not this one.)
The box is far larger than the contents would dictate. There’s six ounces in there, but the box is filled only halfway up (and if you understand geometry of volumes, that’s actually less than half of the possible amount since the box is a square frustum). The candy is protected in a mylar pouch, which is also too big, but at least the extra bag is folder over to give a bit of cushion to the pieces so that none were broken. I get that they have to use the same box for the entire line of confections and that they all have to be the same price point, but it still irked me.
The pieces are nicely coated and look like chocolate covered mini pretzels ... the only thing that’s different is that they actually feel heavier than a pretzel.
The graham at the center is crisp and dense with a light cinnamon scent. The milk chocolate is creamy and sweet and balanced by the salty graham (there’s 200 mg of sodium per serving). The crunch is fantastic. The satisfaction quotient is quite high, with only three or four satisfying my sweet tooth.
Sanders makes a few other varieties in their Snack Box line. They include Pecan-dy (Caramel Popcorn & Nuts with or without Chocolate Drizzle) and Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. On their website the boxes retail for $6.99, so even more expensive than the regular price at Cost Plus World Market.
As it is, I would buy this again if it were not more than $4 for the box or something that works out to about $10 per pound. Paying more for what is essentially chocolate covered cookies is absurd unless the ingredients didn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils. But still, I can’t help wishing that the box wasn’t empty.
Friday, December 21, 2012
A few years ago Jelly Belly introduced a mix of jelly beans flavored like popular sodas under their Soda Pop Shoppe line. They’re sold as the pre-mixed flavors or in individual packages and even in little soda bottles.
Their newest addition to that brand is their Soda Pop Shoppe Gummi Bottles which are gelatin gummis.
Each little bottle shape is about 1.75 inches long. They’re flat and lightly dusted, perhaps with starch, to keep them from sticking together instead of being shiny.
The ingredients are quite interesting. They start with corn syrup but use potato starch instead of corn starch. They do contain gelatin, but it’s Kosher gelatin (so it’s not pork, but not otherwise identified). They also contain small amounts of coconut oil and caffeine and phosphoric acid. They’re gluten free and peanut free.
To emulate soda bottles, the shapes are “full” of color, though the flavor goes all they way to the top of the bottle. They’re soft but not quite a bouncy as many other gummis. They’re like a cross between a Swedish Fish texture and a gummi bear.
Grape is fun. There aren’t really that many grape gummis around, so it’s refreshing to see it included in a mix. It’s tangy and artificial but not quite as intense as a grape SweeTart which is pretty much my favorite.
Orange is ordinary. I only got one in my mix, so it’s hard to say more than it was just like Tang.
Root Beer is a star. It’s quite spicy and intense, much more than I expected from it’s rather muted appearance. They’re sweet, a little like wintergreen and bubble gum. It’s missing that little pop of nutmeg that sassafras often has, so it came off more like Birch Beer ... not that I object.
Lemon Lime is actually more lime. Lime soda is good, and this has a lot of zest to it and a nice tangy bite. But ultimately it’s just a piece of lime candy, which always ends up as one of the last flavors I pick when included in a mix. (Which is strange considering how affectionate I normally am towards citrus.)
Cherry Cola is, well, disappointing. It tastes to me more like Dr. Pepper, but my experience with actual cherry cola is absolutely empty. The cola flavors are mostly in the background, there’s no spicy cola bite and there’s no cherry tartness, it’s more of the maraschino flavor than a black cherry.
They’re not the first candy I’d pick up, but I love the concept and the execution is pretty good, better than the Trolli version. For folks looking for American-made candy that’s gluten & peanut free and fun for kids, this is a good mix. It’s too bad they didn’t go all the way and use natural colorings and flavorings.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.