Monday, December 31, 2007
I’ve seen these at the Walgreen’s since this summer but didn’t really feel like paying $3.50 for a bag of something that I can’t quite get my head around. I was hoping to try them at the All Candy Expo, but the Necco booth doesn’t really “do” samples of anything other than their most common products.
Instead I found them last week on sale along with the Christmas items for 50% off. So at $1.75 for 10 ounces, I felt like a fool not buying them.
I believe the product is called Cafe Select Chocolate Coffee Trios but there’s so much going on with the package. Things like “Made with Real Coffee!” and “Espresso - Cappuccino - Latte” and then the disclaimer, “Naturally & Artificially Flavored Crunchy Coffee Centers in Rich Chocolate.”
This is one of those occasions where I think my photos look better than the one on the package.
Basically, they’re malted milk balls, only with a coffee flavored center instead of malt. The center is amber colored with an even aerated crisp. There were perhaps two or three “duds” in the whole package (ones that had deflated or weren’t ideally sized, which is really good quality control in my opinion.
Espresso - a dark chocolate shell and a coffee crunch center. The chocolate shell isn’t very dark or rich, but beyond the “shellac” on the outside, it’s creamy and not grainy or chalky. The crunchy center is a little salty and less like a malted milk “cereal puff” and more like a sponge candy or center of a Cadbury Crunchie. The coffee flavor is mild, but since it’s not very sweet the coffee flavors come through.
Cappuccino - the milk chocolate makes this a little sweeter than the espresso one, but I can’t detect any difference with the crunchy center. I prefer the dark ones.
Latte - these are kind of freaky looking. The color is less “creamy” than I think they intend, it looks more like a rock than some foamed milk. However, they tasted richer than the cappuccino ones. These were my second favorite, but also the rarest in this mix.
Overall, I was really pleased with these. I know there are better upscale versions from Koppers & Marich, but for something I found at the drug store (and at half off), I found them really tasty and a great change of pace. I’ve been hungering for a coffee candy lately, and this just might be it.
Necco makes another variety called Cafe Select Chai Tea Trios, which also sound kind of interesting (but strangely named) but I haven’t run across them yet.
In other news, Necco was purchased by a consortium of investors and it sounds like the company will continue to make candy (I can see where folks might think their assets are more valuable than their products). Here’s a press release with more financials in it and an easier to understand article.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As I tried to document back in October, there are about 100 different varieties of Hershey’s Kisses, all issued this year in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Kiss. Some are inventive new flavor combinations, some are rather poor executions of good ideas and still others are just different wrappers.
While it appears that Hershey’s has not reintroduced their seasonal favorite, the Mint Kisses, they did do a wide release of the Mint Truffle Kisses. They’re obviously a winter or holiday item with the snowflakes on the package. While I’ve been looking around for the vexingly hard to find Malt Crunch, I’ve had no trouble finding the Mint Truffle, so I waited to buy them at the best price.
The Kisses come in either a silver foil with green writing or green foil with silver writing. Inside there’s a minted dark chocolate shell with a light green minted truffle filling.
As with many of the other filled Kisses, these are a little greasy on the outside. (The Coconut Creme were huge offenders on this front.) They feel a bit cool on the tongue, that could be the huge dose of peppermint going on there but they also melt pretty easily as well. The truffle center isn’t super smooth, it’s more like a really soft and creamy mint frosting. It has a bit of a salty note to it, much more noticeable than the chocolate shell, this cuts through what would probably be a super-sweet Kiss. I like the little pop it gives it.
There are no partially hydrogenated oils in here but 40% of your RDA of saturated fats in just 9 Kisses. This bag also seems to be more generous than some. It has 11 ounces in it, most recent bags of limited edition Kisses are 8.5 ounces (of course that could just be the size that the other stores I frequent choose to carry).
Thursday, December 13, 2007
As disappointed as I was that the Peppermint Peep Stars had artificial sweeteners, I was just as excited to see that Trader Joe’s has Peppermint Marshmallows that are not only all natural, but also Kosher! (Which basically means that they’re using Kosher gelatin, which is non-porcine.)
However, Nicole at Baking Bites already had a review of them, which didn’t say they were bad, just that she wasn’t thrilled with the flavor. I still really wanted to try them, especially because it was Hanukkah.
The large marshmallow cubes come in a little tub and weigh a hefty 7 ounces. The packaging was a bit, well, feminine with all its pink and green-ness. But it was refreshingly un-holiday, which might mean that they’d be an all-year product. When they say that they’re all natural, they’re not kidding. The pink swirls are created with red radish juice.
They’re only vaguely pink with some little streaks of darker pink inside some of them. They were very hard to get out of the tub. The first one I mangled (but put back together for the photo) so I just dumped the whole tub out and lightly teased them apart. (Perhaps some waxed paper between them in the future?)
They felt very strange and fleshy in the hand. A little bouncy, a little latexy and not terribly light for a marshmallow. The outer texture was a little grainy, I’m guessing where the moisture of the marshmallow mixed with the sugar and dusting of corn starch. They smell like peppermint, but on the medicinal side somehow. Like toothpaste. And maybe mentholated rubbing alcohol.
The first time I bit into one I was puzzled and repulsed. I made my husband and a neighbor try it. They were both, well, not thrilled (and I had to give them something nice to eat after that). I waited a couple of days and dug around into the bottom of the tub to see if that was just a bad couple of squares.
It’s like eating toothpaste. They’re kind of fluffy, but not light. The texture is grainy, like a sugar paste. I can only imagine this is a bad batch because Nicole’s looked more like marshmallows and less like wads of chewed bread dough.
I went back and looked at Nicole’s photo and realized that this must be a bad batch. My best indication for this is that the tub weighed over 10 ounces (the marked weight is 7). So I went back to the store on Hyperion in Silverlake. All of the others on the shelf looked the same and were the same lot number, so I passed (and obviously picked up a bunch of other goodies you’ve been reading about this week). I also told the manager on duty that there was something wrong with them. I figured another store would have a different batch. So today I went off on my lunch break to the location on Third and La Brea. Sadly I didn’t memorize the lot number and ended up buying the same lot (1101071730 exp 01/26/2008) and finding the same grainy consistency (and this package weighed 9.8 ounces according to my postage scale).
I shouldn’t have to work this hard. (I haven’t decided if I’m going to take these back. At $4, I want something that’s at least the intended quality, even if I don’t like it.)
As far as buying artisan marshmallows, I’d say stick with either one of the actual artisan companies (Plush Puffs, Little Flower Candy Company & Boule are some good Los Angeles-based ones) or go for the French ones from Arnaud Soubeyran or the Williams Sonoma house brand (I tried them last year but never got around to reviewing them, they’re very dense and latexy but really satisfying). Or just get some Jet Puffed. It’s sad, because these are the first Kosher marshmallows I’ve found.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I keep seeing this bar, but only in its jumbo form shown here. It clocks in at 4.5 ounces, no mere chocolate bar, this is a plank. Like the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Filled with Creamy Peanut Butter that’s also found in this size, I was hoping I’d run across a King Size or perhaps single serve size at some point. It’s like it barely exists. It’s never shown up on the Hershey’s official Hershey’s Milk Chocolate page.
But it’s clear it exists, not only because I have photos, but also independent corroboration from Nicole at Baking Bites with her review. For a while I saw the bar at the Dollar Tree so I though there must be something wrong with it, maybe it was old, maybe it was an import. But when I saw it at Ralph’s and flipped over the package to see that it expired in September 2008, it was made in the United States and it was on sale for a dollar, I figured it was time to give it a try.
It’s a lovely looking bar. It looks like a Hershey bar, a light caramely brown with 16 segments each with the Hershey’s name on them. It smells like, well, a Hershey bar. A little sweet, a little tangy. That Hershey’s tang isn’t quite as noticeable when you eat it though. What’s noticeable is a mellow malty note from the actual corn flake bits in there. They’re pretty dense and solidly crunchy. The malty corn flake flavors develop more as the chocolate dissolves away. I could use more corn flakes.
It’s in no way as good as the Ritter Sport Knusperflakes bar, but I ate the whole thing ... all 4.5 ounces of it (I got it on Sunday) so it has to be pretty good.
It’s a nice combo. It’s a terrible name for a candy bar though. I think they should have just called it an extension of the Krackel line and called it Corn Krackel. Or maybe Mr. Cornbar.
Thanks to Patti for being the first to alert me to this possible domestic contender for Ritter Sport Knusperflake’s place in my heart.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Sometimes I really want some malted milk balls. I’ve never liked Whoppers much though, the mockolate coating simply ruins it for me. On the other hand, their Robin’s Eggs at Easter are pretty good. The mockolate layer is minimized by being far thinner, covered in a hard candy shell and of course a larger center for more malt.
Those sorts of candy coated malted milk balls used to be limited to Easter availability, but like many other items that are becoming more common for the Christmas holiday season (Cadbury Mini Eggs & Creme Eggs), Whoppers has their Sno-Balls.
But I will.
First, on the package there’s a penguin in front of an igloo. There’s also a polar bear and walrus ... which is fine, they’re arctic animals. The penguin, however, is a southern hemisphere animal. Why not just put a lion on there or a kangaroo?
Second, mockolate. Why, oh why, can’t Hershey’s put some real chocolate on here? It’s not even that much of a chocolatey coating here. The good thing, though, is that the Sno-Balls have less fat in them than regular Whoppers. A 41 gram serving of Whoppers has 7 grams of fat ... all of them saturated. The Sno-Balls have 5 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of them are saturated. Okay, still not great, especially when it’s coming from Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil. (Honestly, I can’t figure out how they both have the same 180 calories per serving though with 30% less fat in the Sno-Balls. Fat is twice as caloric as carbs or protein ... maybe there’s more fiber in regular Whoppers?)
But all that ranting aside, these are quite cute. The white spheres are speckled to various degrees with red and green. The crackly candy shell has a thin layer of mockolate below it. Both have a soft, cool effect on the tongue. The malt center is dense and crispy. It doesn’t have a huge malt or salt punch like some others, but a nice texture that melts in the mouth well.
I’d love it if they were a little bigger so I’d get more of the malt proportion I crave. What’s particularly nice about these over the Robin’s Eggs is that there’s less artificial coloring. I never cared for the pink Robin’s Eggs because they taste bitter to me. In this assortment there is no bad egg.
I’ve been eating them for a couple of days, and as long as I don’t think about how much I’d like them to be Chocolate Covered Malted Milk Balls, well, we’re getting along fine.
Friday, November 2, 2007
In the Autumn a candy lover’s fancy turns to Licorice. (Well, if you like licorice.) The cooler air and shorter days seem to beg for the earthy flavors of a good molasses-based licorice. I get that not everyone likes licorice. It’s like mincemeat and cloves ... not everyone gets it.
There are lots of different versions of licorice, but one of my favorites are pastels, which are little nibbles covered in a candy shell. (Just like candy covered chocolate like M&Ms are a great way to eat chocolate!) I’ve had at least a dozen different varieties, from Good & Plenty to Koppers to Jelly Belly. They’re all good ... but after Good & Plenty, they get kind of expensive. (I’m not sure why.)
I was pretty happy to find Kenny’s Licorice Pastels at the All Candy Expo. They do great things with licorice, including using real licorice extract and making their products affordable (you’ve probably seen them repackage and sold under house brands or in bulk bins before).
They’re made from a very thin piece of licorice, think laces chopped into little segments. Nothing wrong with that. But the coatings are irregular. Some are chipped, which may have been me treating the package like a bean bag in my travels. Still, the coating wasn’t complete on some, with little bits of licorice sticking out or appearing just below the thin veneer of sugar shell.
The color choice is interesting. White, Green, Mustard Yellow, Black, Purple and Hot Pink.
They were soft and fresh. The sugar shell didn’t have a sharp and crisp crunch like the ones I get in the little bulk tubs at Cost Plus World Market. I like that kind of shell, but this was okay ... more like the Good & Plenty side of things. The licorice inside is nice and chewy and has a good note of roasted molasses and real licorice and anise extracts. (The anise is detectable in the shell.)
The thing that spoiled it for me (and this is just me) was that there was Red #40 in them. It was absolutely detectable in the pink and purple candies. (I even did several blind tests to see if I was just being dramatic.) It made them bitter. I had to separate them out from the rest of the bag ... and not eating a third of them doesn’t really make them cheaper. (4 out of 10)
I love root beer barrel hard candies and the root beer Bottle Caps, which are pretty much the only candies that incorporate root beer well into their pantheon of flavors.
Kenny’s also makes a huge line of flavored Juicy Twists (I’m loathe to use the term “red licorice” which is like saying “unsweetened sugar”.) They come in watermelon, green apple, chocolate and of course, Root Beer.
The twists aren’t really that twisted (only a half twist per length), but have pleasant ridges. They’re shiny and rather firm (but not stale). They don’t have the firmly pinched ends that other brands like Red Vines have. But they are hollow (if you’re a straw person).
The root beer flavor is sweet and has a nice balsam quality, not as intense as some other more spicy candies, but still a good match for the flour-based twist. I’d love it if they were more intense, but this is often my problem with root beer in general. I want lots of flavor. But, as I mentioned before, I take my root beer enjoyment where I can. These are a fun change from hard candies. (7 out of 10)
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Even though they stopped airing those commercials a long time ago, they’re still a cultural reference point for people around the world.
What are Mentos? They’re simply a small mint chew covered in a candy shell. I favor them in instances where I used to chew gum, especially on planes. A little fresh breath and ear poppin’ all in one. And based on their commercials they aid in creative problem solving. Peppermint is good ... fruit is merely okay in the United States. Of course in outher countries they have far more choices.
Enter the Asian Mentos once again! I’ve had these stashed away for months from Santos.
Mentos Xtrm: Peppermint are Mentos on Altoids (if Altoids were a form of steroids). They’re called “Strong Chewy Dragee” on the wrapper.
They come in a navy blue bag and are individually wrapped (a great feature, I think, why can’t we get them this way in the States?). Each little dragee is light blue and smells like absolutely nothing.
However, after biting into it, it’s minty. Whoo boy is it minty! In the same, “Goodness it’s so minty it’s almost bitter” way that Altoids are, there’s still a pleasant sweetness to it, and of course the chew.
Mentos Xtrm: Spearmint have a lot going for them. First, we don’t even get Spearmint Mentos here. I’ve heard you can get them in Europe (I’ve had my minions look for them in the past) and definitely in Australia.
So I can’t say how they compare to the regular ones, I can only say that I love them. Yes, they’re very strong, but the spearmint flavor is so distinctive and a little more woodsy than the Peppermint. The only problem I have with spearmint in general is it later leaves me with an odd low metallic taste in my mouth hours later. This, of course, is cured by eating another one. (Sneaky devils!)
These were made in India and have no gelatin in them, so they’re suitable for vegetarians (and vegans so long as you don’t have problems with glycerol mono stearate). Also certified Halal.
They’re good. I’ve enjoyed them and I’d definitely buy them again. I carry them around in my bag and think they’ll make wonderful noveling candy (and good for road trips when you need to keep alert). However, I’m going to throw the last dozen or so into the Limited Edition Giveaway box!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I’d buy them by the tray, which was usually about 99 cents at the IGA that I rode my bike past on my way home from my art class on weekends. They seemed a suitable treat for a budding artist. Wrapped in pretty foil ... named for a mountain range in Peru, but called by the French liquor flavor creme de menthe. At that time in my life I despised alcohol, except for a drizzle of Creme de Menthe on vanilla ice cream.
Over the years those tray package became more expensive and they started putting fewer candies in there. I recently bought a box for $1.00 and it had a scant 2 ounces in it ... but hey, it was back to the original price point! The candy is mockolate with a mint confection in the middle. They make a pretty cross section of dark looking chocolate flavored coating and the light green stuff in the middle. They have a cool feeling on the tongue and of course a pleasant mintiness that doesn’t overwhelm.
Restaurants that serve them with the bill may even be perceived as classy. (Well, it’s classier than getting nothing at all!) The Tootsie site even claims that Andes Mints are the number one selling after dinner mint. I wonder what the number one before dinner mint is? I give them a solid 6 out of 10 as an adult, but back when I was a kid they were probably an 8 out of 10.
Andes has come out with a few other versions over the years ... none that I’ve tried. But I saw a display of the new Andes Dessert Indulgence at the All Candy Expo and was fixed up with ample samples. The Limited Edition Dessert Indulgence array comes in an 8.5 ounce bag with an assortment of three flavors: Raspberry Cream, Lemon Meringue and Key Lime.
Each piece is individually sealed in a plastic wrapper instead of wrapped in foil. They’re substantially bigger than a standard Andes Mint as well. Why? I have no idea. But the base ingredients are still the same: sugar and partially hydrogenated oils.
Key Lime has only two layers, a base of light green and then a top level of a lighter green with little flavor crystals which is kind of like faux zest. The scent is fresh, like limes. However, as most folks who have had both key limes and more commonly used Persian lime there is a difference. Key Limes have a deeper flavor and a strange thick consistency to their juice. Persian limes have a high intensity and clear flavored tartness and a wonderfully bitter zesty flavor. This tastes like Persian lime ... or Lime Blossom candles.
Lemon Meringue flavor should be characterized by a nice tart custard with a balancing toasted meringue that is less that a sweet complement and more of a fluffy cooling bath for the mouth. The Lemon smelled, like the lime, a bit floral and pleasant enough for me to want to stick a wick in it. The texture evoked similar feelings, as it wasn’t nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It did have a pleasant tartness to it, but not that toasted, almost marshmallow flavor to complement it.
Raspberry Cream was such a disappointment. It smelled really strong ... too strong. The ingredient list does boast “freeze dried raspberry puree” and I have no doubt about that. The waxy texture and overly sweet start is then met by a strong taste of chopsticks ... or dried grass clippings. I know what the taste is, it’s raspberry seeds. It’s that taste you get when you puree unstrained raspberries and the seeds get in there, but in this case they became a really noticeable flavor. Hey, maybe it added some fiber!
Sometimes I like “white confections” but in this case, I felt pretty sick after eating five of them while typing them up (I’ve had about 10 total since I took the photos over the weekend). They just didn’t sit well with me. I really wanted them to be something else, which is always a bad idea. I should just accept them unconditionally for what they are. But they don’t have cocoa butter in them and the flavors are just ... well, not satisfying to me, not enough to get me to eat any more of them. So into the Limited Edition Giveaway they go! They only get a 4 out of 10.
Each piece contains 50 calories (regular Andes Mints have only 25 each).
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